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by Seuzz
Rated: 18+ · Book · Other · #2156493
A hub for the "Book of Masks" universe.
The Interactives
"The Book of Masks: A high school student discovers a grimoire that can make magical disguises.
"The Wandering Stars: Sequel to "The Book of Masks."
"Student Bodies: A high school student is turned into a blue goo that can possess people.

For non-WdC Members
"The Book of Masks: Archives: Dodges the "Servers Busy" barrier!
"The Book of Masks (Abridged): Introductory storylines for new readers.

"BoM/TWS Message Forum: Community for readers of the interactives.
"BoM/TWS/SB Wiki: Notes and documentation for authors. Spoilers!

Current Polls

The Latest
9/19 Interactive: "The Actors' Studio
9/19 Public: "The Actors' Studio
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January 15, 2021 at 12:17pm
January 15, 2021 at 12:17pm
I had a 24-hour stomach bug yesterday. That's how come you didn't get a chapter.

Right, yes, it's not like it takes a lot of work to publish a chapter. But I felt like crap in the morning, when I usually publish, and just decided to skip a day. Besides, I wasn't doing any writing, so I decided to make a complete holiday of it.

But we're back on track now. Today's chapter—

Interactive: "A Meeting of Minds
Public: "A Meeting of Minds

—ends things on a cliffhanger. I'd say that I definitely want to come back to this one, but I usually feel that way about most of the branches that I suspend work on.

One of the reasons I did a delete-and-replace here was because I saw an opportunity to attach some more recent inventions from the interactive to early chapters that have lain dusty and ignored. That is something that I will be keeping an eye out for as I continue to mow through the early chapters of BoM—a chance to link up early lore to more recent invention.

As for what's coming tomorrow: I'm swinging back around to the first of the three commissions that I've been working on, with a sequel to "Feminine Wiles and Feminine Denials. Will has lost track of the grimoire—last seen vanishing into the school's drama department—but he's made up for it (maybe) by becoming acquainted with a number of girls who seem to be interested in him: Elle Moore, Laura MacGregor, and Leah Simmons. Alas, there is more drama than one would like even in a drama department, for both Elle and Laura are now denying that they've been hanging out with Will nearly as much as he says they've been hanging out with him ...
January 9, 2021 at 12:29pm
January 9, 2021 at 12:29pm
From a commission—

Interactive: "Room Services
Public: "Room Services

—to another palate-cleanser.

As I've said, I've been going through old chapters to clean up the continuity, and where I have deleted chapters or branches (because of continuity issues, or because I plain don't like them), I have been trying to write short replacement branches, so that the clean-up is not merely subtractive. That's why for "palate-cleansers" you've gotten short runs starting with "An Army of One and "Picking a Brain the Old-Fashioned Way.

Tomorrow's 5-chapter run is similar, harking back to a branch that was first written many years ago. It begins as a sequel to today's extra Archives chapter, "The Buzzin' Cousin

Will and Caleb have been making masks, and have succeeded in copying Eva Garner and Jeremy Richards into a pair of them. (They also have a copy of Lisa Yarborough's mind laying around, but they are loathe to do anything with it.) They have also just finished making a golem. But they need money to continue, so at Caleb's suggestion they have shown the masks and book to Caleb's college-age cousin, Dylan. Dylan likes the stuff, and wants to buy the golem and some masks from Will and Caleb ...

Much of the first two of the coming chapters may feel familiar, as they reuse and repurpose material from chapters I deleted, before it twists off into a new direction.
January 7, 2021 at 12:16pm
January 7, 2021 at 12:16pm
Here's something extra for readers of the Archives: "Dirty Omens, the first of three maybe-new-to-them chapters. Background: Will and Caleb have been playing around with the Libra, and after making a copy of Jeremy Richards they have scored a copy of Eva Garner. What kind of fun can they have with a mask of her?

I'm adding these chapters to the Archive because when I finish publishing the current run of chapters I will be switching to a run of chapters in this other area. So I need to add some chapters to the Archive in order to connect chapters that are already there with chapters that will be coming.
January 3, 2021 at 11:59am
January 3, 2021 at 11:59am
There seems to be some confusion still about the revisions I'm making to Book of Masks—the whys and the hows—and also about what exactly the "The Non-Canonical Book of Masks [NC-BoM] is supposed to be. This is surely my own fault. So, let me try explaining it again.

When I started writing Book of Masks all those years ago, there was very little lore. I knew the structure of the book, and the contents of the first seven spells. But I had no theory of magic. I had no setting (except the name of the town and the schools and the bookstore), and I only knew the names and stereotypes of half a dozen characters. And though I tried to keep various branches in continuity with each other, each branch tended to develop on its own.

Eventually I began constructing notes for myself. Character sketches, class schedules, a worked-out magical theory, even a map of the city. The lore developed. Some early ideas were dropped and some later ones expanded.

But as things developed, two large fractures opened up in the continuity.

The first fracture opened after I started keeping outlines of each branch, detailing when events happened, so that I could keep track of the same events across different branches. Storylines written after I started making outlines are kept in a close continuity. Storylines written before that are probably all kinds of screwy in terms of when things happen.

The second fracture separated an important change in mask lore. In early chapters it was assumed that anyone who put on a mask would get the memories instantly. Later, I adopted a suggestion that only Will should be able to get instant memories, and that other people would get them very slowly. This marks a huge difference between the kinds of plots that developed before the change, and the kind of plots that developed after.

One consequence is that I never return to branches written on the early side of either of these divides. I like having strong continuities, and I don't want to write sequel chapters that align with early chapters but contradict developed lore, or sequel chapters that contradict early chapters because they align with later lore. This means there are a lot of storylines that I don't really have a chance to return to.

So I am going back through the interactive and trying to close up those gaps. Where I can heal the contradictions by rewriting chapters, then that is what I am doing. But where a chapter revision will not work because the contradictions run so deep, I am copying the original chapters to the NC-BoM and deleting them from BoM. That way the original chapters are not lost, but the contradictions disappear from the revised version.

And, I confess, I am also getting rid of some branches that I just don't like anymore.

So I am only excising two kinds of branches: Those that contain technical "errors" (errors, that is, from the standpoint of latter-day lore) and those that I just don't like. This is NOT an attempt to establish a "canonical" storyline. It is only meant to segregate chapters that, for technical reasons or reasons of personal taste, are now problematic.

Also: I am, to the best of my abilities, only doing this for branches that I have written. I am NOT checking/reviewing or removing chapters written by other authors, even if they contain contradictions. [**] This may change in the future, when I get into branches that contain lots of sub-branches by other authors. But those decisions and negotiations will be made when I get to them.

So, if you think you've got a pretty good handle on how the lore currently works, please do continue to add to BoM, and if you're not sure about something, email me to ask. What I'm doing is localized and very specific housecleaning, not changing the rules.

Also, if you want to add chapters to NC-BoM, please do so. It is not intended to be a special, read-only archive.

[**] Okay, yes, with one exception. I cut out the "vore" branch. That one was REALLY out of place, and it is ancient.
January 2, 2021 at 3:37pm
January 2, 2021 at 3:37pm
The brief branch that concludes today with—

Interactive: "The Cheerleader Proxy
Public: "The Cheerleader Proxy

—was a palate cleanser. Now it's on to the third commission I've been working on over the last few weeks.

Like the other two, it's a sequel to "The Hot Potato, in which Will has taken the grimoire to school, intending to dump it into the class time capsule. But instead of selling it to Jack Li (as he did in the other two commissions), "A Clash of Values has Will stumbling onto three guys who have a better idea for what he should put into the time capsule ...
December 28, 2020 at 12:06pm
December 28, 2020 at 12:06pm
Today's chapter—

Interactive: "Drama in the Drama Department
Public: "Drama in the Drama Department

—ends on a familiar sort of cliffhanger, and it ends what is technically only the set up for a new commission. But I'm going to break away here for awhile and return later to wrap up the commission itself.

In the meantime, here's another palate cleanser!

It starts with "Joey and You and You. Will has been experimenting with the grimoire, but he has been looking for help. He found it (to start with) with Jenny Ashton, who then introduced Will to a home-schooled friend of hers named Joey Tartaglione. (Joey, despite her name, is a girl.) Jenny got freaked out by the book and quit even before she learned the basics of what you could do with it, but Joey is fascinated by it ... and she might equally be fascinated by Will. At any rate, after making a mask of him, she has put it on. So that when Will went over to her house, it was his twin who answered the knock ...

* * *

Meanwhile, I've decided to get back into updating my writing blog over on Tumblr  . I fell out of the habit of updating over there, and even out of the habit of doing the stuff that I used to post about. You won't find me talking about Book of Masks over there, except in a veiled way, but you will be able to gauge how active I've been at writing BoM stuff, and what I'm reading and watching.
December 21, 2020 at 12:03pm
December 21, 2020 at 12:03pm
Today's chapter—

Interactive: "Of Experiments and Test Subjects
Public: "Of Experiments and Test Subjects

—concludes a short, 5-chapter run. Yeah, there wasn't a lot there (though I hope what was there was fun), but it was always intended as a palate-cleanser.

That's because the three commissions I am currently working on all have very similar storylines, employ an overlapping cast of characters, and all take place in the same general area of the interactive (the chapters following "The Hot Potato). Given these similarities, I think it would be a little confusing if I jumped from one commission straight into another, so my plan is to publish these little palate-cleansers in between the commissions. These won't run more than five chapters at a time, though I hope they'll be entertaining as they extend some other storylines a little further.

So tomorrow it will be back into "Hot Potato" territory and some characters who were lately familiar, but with an alternate take. "Other People's Projects opens with Will selling the grimoire to Jack Li, and it ends with Will's father asking him to try getting it back. But Will's going to make a different choice tomorrow, leading to different complications ...
December 16, 2020 at 11:45am
December 16, 2020 at 11:45am
Today's chapter—

Interactive: "Feminine Wiles and Feminine Denials
Public: "Feminine Wiles and Feminine Denials

—brings this commissioned branch to a temporary resting point. It's not quite a resting point, but the weirdness should be ramping up a little bit.

It's going to have rest there for a couple of weeks as I take a break to publish some other things. I will be returning to this general area and cast of characters in a week or so with a different storyline for a different commission, but before that we're going to be hearing more from Jamie Rennerhoff as I pick back up with a sequel to "Do As I Do. The story so far:

Will, quite accidentally, has partnered with Jamie Rennerhoff, one of the hyenas who hangs out behind the school. Jamie is not nearly as bad as Will has imagined, but he has surprised Will with some of the things he likes to do with masks, such as getting Will to wear a copy of his (Jamie's) mother. He also has a thing for MILFs, and as this chapter opens, Jamie is repaying a major favor Will did for him by meeting Will at a motel. Jamie will be wearing the mask of one of his favorite MILFs, and has asked Will to wear a mask of himself (Jamie) ...

* * *

In the meantime I have some overdue thanks to give people, not just the guy who commissioned this branch (and paid for it early) but those who have been sending me gift points as it has run: Easy, DarkKing, and the-knight-croisant (whose GPs were actually for a different chapter, but technically arrived while this one was running.)
December 11, 2020 at 6:41pm
December 11, 2020 at 6:41pm
... to update the current storyline after posting 5 "classic" chapters in the Archives. Right after I posted those, my ISP decided that actually I didn't need the internet for most of the day.

That might have influenced my choice of chapter title to give today's entry ...

Anyway, today's chapter is up:

Interactive: "A Game You Can't Win
Public: "A Game You Can't Win
December 7, 2020 at 12:02pm
December 7, 2020 at 12:02pm
Today's chapter—"The World, Your Cafeteria; interactive only, until the archives catch up—finishes a short five-chapter run. You can probably now guess why I wrote it.

I chopped a huge number of chapters off that branch because they were out of continuity with the most recent developments in the interactive. In parallel branches the Durrases had moved to Westside, and the original branch didn't take account of the investigation that they would be sure to launch. And it would be very easy for Frank and Joe, with the latter's truth-telling technique, to track Will down. They would talk to Gordon (who is really Dane), who would send them to Dane (who is really Chelsea) who would send them to Chelsea (who is really Chen), who would send them to Will. It would only take them a few days to roll up Will's operation, ending the story.

So these five chapters were designed to close off their investigatory path. Will has discovered the "golem" paste just in time, and I used these chapters to seal up some key people so that Joe's truth-technique, which doesn't work on golems, wouldn't lead them to Will. They can still interview Chelsea (as Dane) but that would only lead them back to the fake-Chelsea, who would be a dead end. They are now stymied, even if Will never realizes that they were a threat, so that this branch still retains possibilities.

I had two other purposes in mind in writing the branch.

The first was to set up possible schemes for Will to execute. The deleted chapters, I felt, had wandered around without direction. Today's chapter explicitly sets up some possible goals and therefore storylines. But it also sets up a continuation of the simple drug trade storyline, so that, with some editing, it might eventually be possible to return most of the deleted chapters to this continuity.

The second purpose was to put Frank and Joe onto Will's radar as potential impersonations. That's always a fun possibility.

* * *

Tomorrow I return to the branch I was working in before, for a nine-chapter run. It got suspended here:

Interactive: "Why You Should Never Dig Up Your Mistakes
Public: "Why You Should Never Dig Up Your Mistakes

Will has lost the grimoire, but he's made some new friends. But the current crisis is that he was caught on video helping Caleb dig up the class time capsule, and an anonymous person is taunting him about it.
December 4, 2020 at 12:19pm
December 4, 2020 at 12:19pm
Yada yada yada, new chapter is up: "The Pleasant Phucker

In the last blog entry, I said I wouldn't be adding this run to the Archives, because it's mostly a housecleaning exercise, and I would have to add 40+ chapters in order to reach it. Aside from the labor of adding 40 chapters (which involves no heavy lifting but is pretty tedious), I preferred to save the storage space for new and upcoming chapters.

But it turns out that I have a LOT more storage space in the Archives than I thought I had, and since the Chen branch is a pretty major one, I've decided to add it. I won't be posting it all at once, but at a rate of five chapters a day. This way, besides parceling out my efforts, I give Archive readers a daily 5-chapter chunk of possibly new material spaced out over the course of a week.

Today's dose starts here: "Change for a Chen

The story so far? Will and Caleb have been messing around with the grimoire, and thanks to bad improvisation, they have trapped Will in Dane Matthias's body, Dane inside Gordon Black's body, and Gordon inside Will's body. (None of these disguises come with memories, by the way.) Will, as Dane, is now in serious trouble with the drug-dealing Gary Chen, who has been given permission to hurt Will to any degree short of outright killing him.

But Caleb, in cracking the next spell in the book, seems to have found a solution: a dingus that can copy memories. With such a dingus, Will can move into another body (one with memories) and hide from Gary Chen.

And where better to hide from Gary Chen than as Gary Chen himself?
December 2, 2020 at 11:39am
December 2, 2020 at 11:39am
Today's chapter—

Interactive: "Why You Should Never Dig Up Your Mistakes
Public: "Why You Should Never Dig Up Your Mistakes

—brings a temporary halt to this branch. It also brings a slight change in my publishing plans. So if you've commissioned a storyline from me, and I gave you a schedule in a recent email, well, consider this a public update.

The chapters I've published so far have been intended to set up two separate commissions which happen to take place in the same general area. Both of them are pretty extensive, and I'm leery about publishing two long commissions, dealing with similar situations, back to back. I think people get a little wearied of it. So I'm going to be mixing things up.

So now, having completed the set-up for the commissions, I will be haring off into quite a different patch of ground for ~5 chapters. After that, I will return to this branch with a 9-chapter sequel to today's chapter. That will take the first commission to the halfway point.

After that I will take another break for a 5-7 chapter run in some other part of the interactive (exactly where, I've not decided yet) and then I will turn to the second commission. Only after I've published the second commission and also done an unrelated and distant run of chapters will I return to finish the first commission. This way, I hope, readers will get some variety instead of a block of ~40 chapters of two stories that are rather similar to each other.

* * *

Okay, so, where will tomorrow's brief storyline commence? It begins with "Too Many Dumbasses. The background?

Will's life is a mess. Thanks to a series of unfortunate improvisations, he is now impersonating Gary Chen, a drug-dealing lowlife at Westside High. Who else is an imposter? Well, Chelsea Cooper is now having to impersonate the drug-addled Dane Matthias; Dane is inhabiting Gordon Black's body; and Gordon is pretending to be Will. (None of these people know how the body-switch occurred, and none of them have the memories of the people they are impersonating.) Meanwhile, the real Gary Chen, who figured out what was going on, has blackmailed Will into putting him into the body of Chelsea Cooper. And, thanks to upheavals on the basketball squad, which have threatened to undermine Chelsea's social position, Will has had to swap his friend Caleb into Seth Javits's body (putting Javits into a memory-less copy of Caleb's body) so that the fake Chelsea can have the socially prominent Seth as a boyfriend.

This summary doesn't even touch on the drug ring that Will has been forced to run, or on the other body swaps (Tanner Evans <-> Eastman's Chris Trantham; George Mendoza <-> football junior Kevin Hall; Joe Thomason <-> swimmer Andrea Varnsworth) that Will has had to make in order to ramp up his sales under pressure from Chen.

In "Too Many Dumbasses, Will (whose disguise as Chen is becoming more and more permanent, it seems) is meeting with his disguised minions to discuss business. After that, he goes off to talk with some other lowlifes. One of them jokes about selling whores instead of weed, and that sets Will (his brain now almost perfectly merged with Chen's) thinking about how to make money off of fembots ...

* * *

What follows, starting tomorrow, is a revision of this entire branch. I warned a couple of weeks ago that, for continuity reasons, a huge chunk of this branch was going to have get moved to the NC-BoM interactive. After some reviewing and revision, I've determined that this chapter would be the best divergence point. (It's about fifteen chapters further in than the divergence point I'd originally settled on.) Sometime tonight all of the sequel chapters to "Too Many Dumbasses will get moved to the NC-BoM installation, and "Too Many Dumbasses already includes a link to where NC-BoM will pick the story up. Tomorrow's storyline will start a 5-chapter replacement branch in the new continuity.

NOTE: I'm afraid I won't be adding the coming 5-chapter run to the Archives. There are 40+ chapters I would have to add in first, and I'm not sure it's worth it for what is, basically, only a housekeeping exercise for the interactive.
November 27, 2020 at 3:23pm
November 27, 2020 at 3:23pm
Today's chapter is now up, a little later than usual. But it is the holidays around here:

Interactive: "Other People's Projects
Public: "Other People's Projects

Not a lot happens in this one, I admit. Will parts with the grimoire, and so it looks like his involvement with it is over. But not it's on the loose in side Westside, so I think you can guess what kind of story is likely to develop.

Several stories in fact. This branch is a commission, and right after took this job on I was commissioned to write another storyline that would also be of this type, so when it comes, it will also be in the same general area. This chapter and the next few that follow are all intended to set up a common root out of which those branches will sprout.

So it will be a few days before things really start rolling. In the meantime, Will's got his friends to keep him stirred up.
November 25, 2020 at 11:34am
November 25, 2020 at 11:34am
Yesterday's chapter, "That Voodoo That You Do Too Well, ended with a tough choice for Will: tell Katy what really happened to Hannah, or let her continue thinking that she and her friends were responsible. When I came to this point, which was a last-minute improvisation, I honestly did not know which direction to go.

So I went in both of them. That's why you're getting two chapters today:

Interactive: "Coming Clean with Katy Conlee & "Katy Takes Charge
Public: "Coming Clean with Katy Conlee & "Katy Takes Charge

For now, these are the end of this line on this branch, which people seemed to like. (I got emails and some gift points from multiple readers.) And because you get two chapters today, I will be taking tomorrow off. Publishing will resume on Friday.

I will be starting up another commission then. (Well, laying the groundwork for it.) It will be early in the story, a sequel to "Bids for Attention. The background?

Will has found a book of magic in a used book store. Freaked out by it, he has shown it to his dad, who has pronounced it a "trick book" with a spring mechanism that works a hidden compartment, and has asked Will to leave it with him. But Will still needs a contribution to his class time capsule, and has taken the book back and taken it to school. On the way inside, however, he has shown the book to some other people, who have shown an interest in buying it. Will now has to decide whether to sell the book, or to take it in to his teacher.
November 20, 2020 at 10:07pm
November 20, 2020 at 10:07pm
The editing continues, and tonight wound up in a mess. If you've seen chapters appearing and disappearing, it's because I messed up. But by the time you read this post, it should have reverted to the way it was.

With one very important edit to one chapter.

I'm working in the branch where Will swaps places with Gary Chen. It's one of my favorites, but if I'm going to stick to my principles, I find that I am going to have to chop about two hundred chapters out of it. There's big continuity issues with it, as I worried there would be.

One problem is with the mask-memory lore. This branch was written before it became canonical that people other than Will have a hard time getting the memories when a mind-band is glued into a mask. As I went through, I was able to fudge the issue at a couple of points with some light edits. But "Criss Cross Consequences could not be fixed with edits: at this point the plot requires that one of the confederates get a lot of memories pretty quickly.

I suppose that a complete rewrite of the chapter, and revisions of subsequent chapters, could have handled it. But there was a much bigger problem.

Frank and Joe.

When I wrote this branch, I didn't worry or wonder what they were up. I was uneasily aware that they were loitering in the background, but powered through anyway.

Eventually, though, when it came time to write "The Sophomore Candidates and its sequels, I decided I couldn't ignore them any longer. They play basketball at Eastman, which means they would be privy to gossip about the WHS team, and Gordon Black's personality change would naturally catch the attention of the EHS squad -- and it would excite the interest and suspicion of the Durrases. So in "The Sophomore Candidates" I bit the bullet and gave them an entry point: by a certain date (October 20) they would be enrolled at WHS and sniffing around the body-swapped Gordon and Dane.

As I was reading the "Gary Chen" branch, then, I was keeping track of dates in order to make sure that I kept consistent with "The Sophomore Candidates," and I discovered that I would actually have to move the Durrases' arrival up by a week, because Gordon's quitting the squad occurs a week earlier in the "Chen" chapters than in the "Sophomore" chapters. (That's a knock-on effect of Will fighting with the real Chen.) And that meant that the Durrases would be entering sooner rather than later, forcing a massive and unavoidable change in the story. Because that change was coming up fast anyway, I have decided that it will be better to break off the branch with "A Musician's Transposition, which is the last chapter that will not run into serious continuity issues.

I have not lopped off the rest of the branch yet. It will be the work of several days moving chapters over the NC-BoM version.
November 16, 2020 at 12:01pm
November 16, 2020 at 12:01pm
Today's chapter is posted:

Interactive: "How to Scare a Girl for Fun and Profit
Public: "How to Scare a Girl for Fun and Profit

And the Archives now includes all the chapters that lead up to today's chapter, starting with "Tackling a Teacher. So if you've been using the public version of the story to keep up, you've got a bit of reading to do! Eighteen chapters plus today's!

I said yesterday that today would start an eight-chapter run. I didn't like where the eighth chapter ended, so I wrote some more. It's up to 9 chapters now, and it will go to 10 and maybe to 11.
November 15, 2020 at 12:08pm
November 15, 2020 at 12:08pm
Today brings the latest commission to an end, in two chapters:

Interactive: "Return to Self + "The Bit That Comes After the Credits
Public: "Return to Self + "The Bit That Comes After the Credits

Well, one-and-a-half chapters. The first is the actual conclusion. The second is the denouement. I couldn't fit both into one chapter, so it's split.

This was a challenging commission. It was inspired by a comment I had made about the YouTube crew getting ahold of the Libra and using romance and rom-com tropes to push people into becoming a couple. Originally the commissioner wanted it to be Will and Stephanie as the couple, then wrote back to offer some other alternatives. I did set up some of those alternatives at the start of the commission proper but decided to go with Kelsey Blankenship (one of the alternates) instead of Stephanie.

It was tough, and I knew it would be, and I think I cautioned the commissioner that I might not even be able to set them up with the desired "couplehood" conclusion. Will and Kelsey are not a very compatible couple, not without some personal growth. (Will needs to mature and get some self-confidence; Kelsey needs to temper her sense of privilege.) Did I succeed? Shrug. That's not for me to judge. I will say that I surprised myself at being able to write something that resembled a romantic conclusion for them.

That was after a weird twist in yesterday's chapter (whose title I have since changed), which I know threw the commissioner for a loop. Why'd I do it? "Intuition," I told him when he asked, and couldn't explain further without divulging spoilers. And it really was just intuition that led me to write it. I got to "No Strings and "The Things You'll Do to Not Be Lonely and thought, This is too smooth of a landing. There has to be one final twist. One disaster that threatens to destroy everything at the last moment.

If you want a reason other than "intuition," then I think the answer has to be found in one of the "Storytelling Catechisms" that I have in my portfolio: "Three Ways to End a Story (Good and Bad). A story's has to be a disaster for the protagonist from which he is rescued by a miracle that is in its own turn motivated by a change in the protagonist—the change that was the point of the story. That is, the protagonist has been evolving through the course of the story, so that by the end he or she is able to make a choice that he or she couldn't have made before. The reward for this growth is, first, a disaster that threatens to permanently blot their existence, followed by a miracle that reverses the disaster -- but it's a miracle that itself is caused by the character's growth and evolution.

If I had to justify what I wrote, I would say that Will has grown to acquire the maturity and self-confidence that he needs, and that by his example (sometimes his negative example of acting with Kelsey's own overweening self-assurance) he has also caused Kelsey to evolve. (And she has influenced his evolution as well.) At the very end, Will makes the kind of disastrous choice (sleeping with Patterson) that Kelsey would make, but now he has the wherewithal to try reversing it by running back to Kelsey. Her forgiveness of him is a kind of miracle, but it's one that reflects her own evolution away from selfish arrogance. And so the final disaster is what propels the final, happy ending.

Now, I did not plan any of that out. As I say, it was intuition. But when I analyzed the intuition -- when I asked myself "Why does it feel right for Will to screw up at the end, only to have it turn out miraculously right?" -- the above is the answer I came back with.

Maybe it works formally. (Maybe!) Does it work aesthetically? That's a different question, and again I can only shrug and observe that it's not for me to decide.

But that's the longer answer I need to give to the commissioner, and it's one that I'll share with other readers because they might have had the same question.

* * *

What comes next? I need to get back to my Spider-Man project. But I do have an eight-chapter run that is finally (for once) not a commission. It picks up where I truncated an earlier branch as part of the recent pruning: "It Could Be Magic. I said that some of the branches I lopped off might get new versions, and this is one.

The story so far? Will has been playing around with the "Libra", and has successfully made a mask of a P. E. coach. But he has lately been distracted by an unexpected romance with a basketball player, Katy Conlee. She and her friends are planning to prank another girl with some fake voodoo, which has led Will to think that maybe he should share his own book of magic with them.

In the original branch, it led to Will showing the book to Stephanie Wyatt, and the story went in one direction. I didn't like that evolution. I think I like the new one better.
November 10, 2020 at 8:41pm
November 10, 2020 at 8:41pm
Earlier today I lopped off a chunk of chapters in the branch that starts with "Tackling a Teacher. While keeping the earlier half, where Will copies a P.E. coach, Cathy Schell, I took out the chapters where he got caught up first with Katy Conlee and then with Stephanie Wyatt.

I never much liked those chapters. They felt like they wandered off, and I didn't much like the way things developed with Stephanie. It felt like a wrong turn.

I got a little pushback in the comments to the last entry in this blog, so I went back and read forward a little more, and found the spot where I felt that the branch had first started to weaken. I rewrote that bit, and then found that after polishing another chapter there were half-a-dozen further chapters that with no changes to only minimal changes could be (IMO at least) salvaged.

So the run of chapters that I just published -- "Picking a Brain the Old-Fashioned Way through "It Could Be Magic aren't new chapters, they are just old chapters that have been edited and relaunched.

Most of the changes reduce the amount of "magic" involved -- it was the pointless use of a mind-band on Yumi that I thought marked the first place where the branch weakened -- and I have set up different choices in some chapters. The main change comes at the end of "It Could Be Magic. That was, for me, the second and decisive place where the story weakened, because it took the focus off Katy (where it has been building) and shifted it onto Stephanie, for no better reason (that I could see) than to pull her into hijinks.

So these six chapters now serve a different function. They are a transitional sequence where the focus changes from Will as he probes the early spells in the book, to Will as he begins to formulate motives and goals that don't have anything to do with the Libra but which might be served by it. The particular through-line that I've followed is one that aims Will pretty decisively at Katy. So, to me at least, it feels like it has more focus.

(That being said, there are off-ramps in the middle of sequence that would make it a transitional phase that reorients Will toward Stephanie. Just in a different way.)
November 8, 2020 at 2:32pm
November 8, 2020 at 2:32pm
Those of you who visit the forums have probably seen the thread about the seventh spell in the Libra (and the debates about what to even call the Libra), and might have detected in my own posts a prickly unhappiness with the state of canon in BoM.

I do think that I (and everyone else -- thank you all!) have done a pretty good job of keeping this gigantic hulk reasonably consistent over the decade. But enough gunk has crept into it that I've finally decided to give it a bit of a scrub.

This is not going to be a short job, and it's not going to be a very thorough job either. Shoring up BoM is going to be a bit like painting a suspension bridge. You start at one end and you keep going until you reach other end, by which point it's time to start over again. It's going to be done a little bit at a time.

I've already made a start with some chapters, going through and fixing some of the lore (and polishing it up in places) and this will be a long, slow job -- maybe at the rate of four or five chapters a day -- whose results I hope will be largely invisible.

The big changes will be in the branches that I saw off.

Yes. I am going to get rid of some chapters and storylines. Some are ones that are too hopelessly out of step with the current lore to be salvaged, while others will be branches that I am just unhappy with and wish weren't there. Branches that trailed off into nothingness, or just didn't work out. Branches that embarrass me when I find them.

I don't want to get rid of them completely, because I understand that some people might still enjoy them. So although they are disappearing from this, the "authentic" interactive, I am preserving them in a new interactive: "The Non-Canonical Book of Masks. It will include not only the branches that I cut off, but also the chapters that lead up to those branches, so that the complete storylines will still be available and in their original forms. And here in the authentic interactive, I will edit in a link at the cut-off point, so that readers can find their way to the de-canonized branches.

For instance, if you go to "Braydon's Big Distraction, you will find that it now includes a link to "Hijacking Gillian in NCBoM so that you can continue the story that was originally published. The choice "Turn Gillian into a golem" meanwhile has been restored to an unwritten state so that it can be continued in a way that is (maybe this time) an improvement on what had been there before.

My plan is only to remove branches that I'm unhappy with. I do know that there are other authors who are unhappy with some of the stuff they've written, and they are free to move some of their chapters to NCBoM. (Or to ask me to move them.) I might also ask some of those authors for permission to move some of their branches, but if so it will be for lore/continuity reasons, not because of quality.

Also, NCBoM will open and available for people to post chapters in. Just be aware that I won't be reading it, nor will I be publishing anything there -- unless I publish it in BoM and subsequently decide to move it.

I hope this will be a reasonable compromise between preserving some possibly beloved warts, and cleaning the place up a bit.
November 7, 2020 at 6:31pm
November 7, 2020 at 6:31pm
I haven't run a poll in a while, but rugal has one for you guys:

[Poll completed and deleted.]

It's part of his "Getting Izzy" branch. There's a mystery afoot, and it's up to you guys to decide if it gets tackled by Will as he's pretending to be Ophelia Wilmot or Mary Occam.

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