A hub for the "Book of Masks" universe.
"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!
9/19 Interactive: "The Actors' Studio"
9/19 Public: "The Actors' Studio"
|Yeah, I missed yesterday, but it wasn't my fault. There was a 36-hour internet outage in my neighborhood. I'm back, for good I hope. Here's the chapter I would have posted yesterday:
Interactive: "Homework for a Body Swap"
Public: "Homework for a Body Swap"
But I see that other authors kept you entertained in the meantime.
|Today's post completes the linking chapters I needed to write before reaching the commission proper. I haven't finished writing the commission, but I've written most of it and I've outlined the rest, so I'll start the story proper tomorrow.
You can probably guess from today's chapter what kind of a story it's going to be.
|Today's posting looks like a two-fer, but it's actually a one-and-a-fifther. The day's chapter should have ended with a lot more than five choices, so I had to split the "pick a person" chapter into two chapters that would run along parallel tracks. I've only posted one of them, however -- the one I intend to follow.
Interactive: "Theater of the Absurd" + "A Bitch Slap"
Public: "Theater of the Absurd" + "A Bitch Slap"
|Today I start a new branch, which might go long or it might go short. It depends on how much writing I get done in the next few days.
Interactive: "The Wrong Kind of Party Crasher"
Public: "The Wrong Kind of Party Crasher"
Background: After losing his magical grimoire in a scrum with some bullies, Will Prescott has mostly forgotten all about it and his life has been pretty normal. Normal, that is, until some cheerleaders—Eva Garner and her sister Jessica—start paying attention to him. As the chapter opens, he has been cornered by Eva and invited to go out to the Warehouse (an infamous party spot) with them.
These chapters are related to a commission that I have accepted but not completed, and the branch will go long if I'm able to get it done in time to my satisfaction. I have had to write a couple of chapters to set up the commission's situation, though, and if I'm not able to get the commission done, you'll have to content yourselves (for now) with the linking chapters.
|After duplicating a title yesterday, I made sure to go in the opposite direction today:
Interactive: "Totally No One's Gonna Get Hurt, Right?"
Public: "Totally No One's Gonna Get Hurt, Right?"
And that finally brings this branch to a conclusion, where the commissioner wanted it to end.
And next? Um ...
There's another commission I'm supposed to be writing, and I have been working on it, but it's not nearly done yet. It's another case, though, where I have to write some connecting chapters before we get to the point where the commission itself can properly launch. Those connecting chapters are written, so I'll start posting those tomorrow, at least.
|So, I didn't mean to disappear for a few days, but I am back (knock wood), with the next-to-the-last chapter in this commissioned branch.
Not that anything was wrong. It started with one day where I was too busy with other stuff to remember to post the chapter. Then that night I didn't sleep and was too useless to do anything the next day. And then I discovered that I just needed kind of a short break from even looking at BoM and WdC. I can't explain it, but sometimes it just happens.
Anyway, one more chapter to post in the commission and then I'll ... be doing something. I don't know. This short vacation was started by a bout of insomnia, but I think my enthusiasm needs a more serious recharging. I'll have to just see what comes next.
EDIT: Fixed "Public" link.
|Sometimes you have to get a project entirely out of your head before you're able to work on something else. I have a feeling it's going to turn out to be that way with the "Incredible Hulk" script. TBH, I'm having a hard time reading and polishing my BoM chapters—
Oh, latest now up: "Memories From Another Me" (interactive) and "Memories from Another Me" (public)
—while I've got this script inside my brain. Never mind writing new BoM stuff.
The script that I published as part of BoM was based on a watching of a single episode of the series. But I went back onto Daily Motion afterward and watched a bunch more, and found that my script was somewhat out of continuity with the rest of the series. I also found that both my version and the original episode didn't quite capture the nature of the relationship between Bruce Banner/Hulk and Rick Jones, at least as it is dramatized in the other episodes.
So that left me dissatisfied with what I'd written.
Then, too, I discovered that, far from being too short, my script was far too long. I did a partial transcription of an episode -- writing it out in the same format and degree of detail as I'd used in my script -- and found that it was working out to about 1 minute of screen time per page. [**] At 29 pages, my script was way too long for a 22-minute cartoon.
So I spent yesterday and today revising the whole thing. I started by shortening dialogue and tightening conversations. Then I ruthlessly chucked out a couple of scenes and radically truncated others while adding some new ones. By the time I was finished, there was little left from Michael Reaves's original script save for the Puppet Master's ability to spy on and copy people on the streets. It might still be slightly too long, coming in at 22 1/4 pages instead the 22 even that it should be at.
I've left the BoM version up, and posted the revised version as a standalone item in my Portfolio, for any that are curious: ""The Puppet Master Strikes!""
[**] The one-page-per-minute rule is a common one when judging movie scripts. Apparently TV scripts tend to run a little longer. There seems to be very little consensus on how long an animated-TV script should run. Many cartoon scripts are typically very detailed on shot breakdowns, which means they run closer to a rate of 2-pages-per-minute. But because I'm eschewing as much "shot" detail as possible, my script wound up running closer to the usual length.
|I'm supposed to working on a new commission, and I am working on it. Here and there, a bit at a time. But I've had a strong itch recently to work on non-BoM stuff, so that's where I've been concentrating. Using writing prompts, I've been adding short stories to my WdC portfolio.
And yesterday I wrote an action-cartoon script.
No, it's not a "Spider-Man" script, though I am still working on that project. But it is going slowly, as I have to first outline a 13-episode arc; then outline the particular episodes; then write the scripts. In the meantime, though, I decided to have some fun with a similar but smaller project.
I'm putting the SPOILER WARNING up here, in case you want to read the script before hitting the spoiler-heavy commentary track. Yes, it is in script format, though I've tried to keep it as readable as possible. I have also interrupted it in spots with embedded images taken from the original animated cartoon, with some captions.
Anyway, the script takes the form of another entry in that weird fiction collection that Will finds in Blackwell's bedroom, and it starts here: "The Puppet Master Strikes!-1"
So how did I come to write it?
A few days ago I stumbled on an episode of the 1982 Incredible Hulk animated series: "Bruce Banner Unmasked." The Puppet Master was the villain, so, as with "Superior Spider-Man," this was a story that is right in my wheelhouse. For fun, I decided to reimagine it in a case of Let's Pretend: "Let's pretend the series' story editor handed me Michael Reaves's script and told me to revise it however I thought fit." So that's what I did. No, the Puppet Master doesn't win in the end -- there's a conventional ending -- but I had a little malign fun with it in places. Also, because it is meant to be an adaptation of a 1982 cartoon, it is intentionally much cheezier than anything I'd normally try to write.
If you want to watch the original, before or after my version, you can find it on Daily Motion: "Bruce Banner Unmasked"
Okay, another spoiler warning before hitting the commentary track, which follows ...
So, the original episode is an intersection of two plots. In the first, the Puppet Master is trying to use puppets to control both Mesa City and The Hulk; in the second, General Ross and his men are trying to discover The Hulk's identity, and they succeed!
I had a real problem with the story. The first problem is that the two stories are not intrinsically related. Yes, it's the Puppet Master who causes Banner to accidentally reveal that he's the Hulk, but that's the only way they connect. Worse, neither story really develops itself. As soon as the Hulk is revealed, the Puppet Master takes control of the Army, which freezes the Hulk-identity story: Betty and the others aren't themselves, so there's no development of what happens when they learn of Banner's secret identity. And after the Puppet Master takes control of the city and army (which happens in quick order) there's his story devolves into a lot of running around and technobabble.
Also, having revealed Banner's identity, the story then has to go to work finding a way to give Betty and everyone else amnesia.
So I decided to start by cutting out the "revealed identity" story, and made Banner's plot a simple one: He has to sneak physical evidence linking himself to the Hulk out of the base, with the ironic disaster that, as soon as he succeeds, that evidence is seized by the Puppet Master and used in the attempt to enslave the Hulk.
This required another change, one to the lore. In the Marvel universe, it is enough for the Puppet Master to make a clay likeness of his victim in order to control him. I find this too absurd even for comic book hoodoo. (Not even the excuse that the clay is "radioactive" works.) The Puppet Master is plainly using a variety of sympathetic magic, and sympathetic magic typically requires something of the victim's own in order to work. So I rewrote the lore so that the Puppet Master also requires the victim's hair be mixed with the clay. This had the added advantage of pointing to an easy "trick solution" to save the day at the end.
Otherwise, most of my changes were attempts to simplify the story and give it a little more forward momentum. I made the story move toward the Puppet Master's plot to control the Hulk, instead of giving him the ability at the start, and I made it move toward his getting control of the army base instead of giving him that control in the middle. I eliminated the character of Alicia and gave her (expository) part to the character of Rio, who in the original just disappeared after being used to menace the heroes. And although Alicia has a theoretically interesting relationship to her step-father, it's a relation that isn't used to real dramatic effect in the original, and eliminating her snips off an unsatisfactory dangly bit.
As a result of these simplifications, there are fewer action scenes, many of which didn't lead anywhere in the original. But I think an episode about mind-control can be forgiven for leaning a little more strongly on atmosphere than on Hulk-smashing.
With fewer action scenes, I'm not certain the script would actually be long enough for a twenty-two minute action cartoon. I'm just going to pretend that with less frenetic action, there would be more time for mood and atmosphere in the chase scenes.
I also added a few bits to better explain the Puppet Master's quick and far-reaching success, and some personality switching, because people seem to like that kind of perverse mind-screw.
|I'm starting a new branch today, and a commission. It starts here:
Interactive: "The Unusual Suspects"
Public: "The Unusual Suspects"
The background: Will has made a mask and used it to copy the face and body of Maria Vasquez, cheerleader. But he has used up all his cash on supplies, and can't get further into the grimoire without a cash infusion. He could take a job at his dad's work, or show the project to a friend. But instead he has decided to break out of his social rut by showing the project to a relative stranger, and to make them a partner. But who? Today, at school, he alertly weighs some possibilities.
This will be a relatively long branch—seventeen chapters, and counting—but not because it's jam-packed with incident. It's going to be fairly leisurely, because it's going to take Will out of his comfort zone and into a social world that's quite different from his usual one.
|Did yesterday's entry in the Archives edition—"Hurly-Burly" —end with the promise of a continuation? I think it originally did! But now it ends with a That's all for now.
It was my turn to write a chapter for the Round Robin, and I did write it, and I was going to post it this morning. The document was opened up and I was all ready to paste it into BoM.
But I've changed my mind. I'm going to leave the branch suspended with Masktrix's "Hurly-Burly"
Why here, and why now?
Because the chapter I wrote ended the branch. Frank and Joe came swinging in, and they not only put an end to Will and Caleb's hijinks, they took all their stuff and left our protagonists tied up in the theater without so much as an explanation of who they were or how they knew about what was going on. It was a chapter with no choices and no continuations at the bottom. Just a fat, all-caps THE END.
I wasn't trying to be a jerk when I wrote it. I went round and round with myself after I got Masktrix's chapter, but I couldn't see a way not to end the branch here and in that way at. Will and Caleb had been so careless that they couldn't help turning themselves into Criminal Suspects Number One and Two for the investigating Stellae, and it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Frank and Joe to tail one of them to the theater, find the magical fire burning on stage, and drop the curtain on our protagonists.
But even though I wrote and rewrote the chapter, it didn't sit well with me, and not only because I got a little pushback behind the scenes when I told the other authors what I was going to do. The logic was cold and inescapable. But I didn't want to follow thru.
So I'm not going to. I'm stopping time; I'm freezing the scene with the off-age shit hurtling toward the off-page fan but not yet hitting it. Maybe someone will find a way to redirect it. Until then, I'll leave things here.
* * *
In the meantime, I do have a commission that I've been writing, and I can start publishing it. But I'll save that until tomorrow.
|With today's BoM chapter—
Interactive: "Retrieval Mission"
Public: "Retrieval Mission"
—we complete one round-robin of five authors. But this isn't the end of the story. We've got one more round already written, and are working our way through a third one. Stay tuned!
|Today's chapter in The Wandering Stars—"Kenandandra Comes to Oswego" —completes my latest commission. It was fun to write, but there's no denying that it was repetitive. I hope the variations, and the hints of what Will might look like with different ousiarchs, was at least diverting.
And what's up next?
Well, Masktrix has launched a new branch in Book of Masks.
Interactive: "A Night in the Basement" .
Public: "Making a Break for It" -> "A Night in the Basement"
You should definitely check it out, because this one is going to be interesting.
Awhile back, in a branch set at St. Xavier's, Masktrix and I wrote a storyline by batting alternate chapters back and forth between each other. We didn't have a plot in mind, nor did we have an end point. We just each wrote a chapter, sent it to the other, and waited for a new chapter to come back.
It was a lot of fun, so last week I organized a bigger version of the same thing, with more authors: Masktrix, Nostrum, rugal, WordSmitty, and myself. (I invited imaj and smitch to join, but they declined.) We've got nine chapters written so far, and it's been interesting. Unpredictable. A lot of fun both to write and read. And today we're launching it.
Background, so you'll know what's going on: Will Prescott has bought a book on making magical disguises, and he and his best friend, Caleb Johansson, have been playing around with it. They've made a mask of Will, and Caleb has put it on and gone back to Will's house to spend the night there while Will camps out in the basement of the old elementary school in his neighborhood. But Will was accidentally spotted by some friends of his kid brother. After running home to find Caleb, Will and Caleb are now returning to the school, and from a distance they see that the basement door is open ...
Oh, and how did we settle on this area to continue? Well, Masktrix chose "Keep investigating the book" at the end of "The Fake Book"; Nostrum chose "Show the book to Caleb" at the end of "Making a Mask"; rugal chose "Test the mask on yourself" at the end of "A Conspiracy of Two"; I chose "Go along with Caleb's plan" at the end of "You Yourself and Him"; and WordSmitty chose "Try to get home without being seen" at the end of "The Two of You." Masktrix then got to figure out how to get out of the hole that Kenny had dug at the end of "Making a Break for It," and we were off.
|If you've been following me for awhile, you might be aware that I'm something of a Minecraft addict. There's just something very restful about the game -- maybe because it's a good visual/tactile distraction for me while listening to podcasts and such-like.
The trouble is, I don't much like vanilla Minecraft. It's much too grindy for my tastes. So I play it with mods.
Two years ago, Mojang dropped a MASSIVE update that made huge changes to the under-the-hood stuff, such that mod-makers had to reconfigure their mods from the ground up to make them compatible. The changes were so big that some of the biggest and most popular mods are only NOW getting their updates out. Only was yesterday that my personal favorite -- the Thermal Expansion series -- dropped the Beta for its mods.
But now it's out.
So, um, I might have harder time meeting my commitments around here for the next few days. Or weeks. Or months ...
|As foreshadowed in yesterday's post, today's chapter comes in "The Wandering Stars" : "Arbol Comes to Oswego" I'm afraid this series will be a WdC exclusive, because there is no short path to connect it to the public Archives.
There's not a lot of background, except what can be read in the chapter immediately before. In this branch, Will has only one ousiarch -- Sulva -- and is considering which of the others he might add. To help him decide, he is being given visions of alternate worlds in which he had an additional ousiarch on a recently completed mission. To it's not going to be a story so much as a series of one-off short stories.
I had the idea for it a long time ago, but never wrote it. A reader commissioned me to continue, and I'm grateful for the opportunity and stimulus.
|Today's "Spider-Man" commentary (link in the commentary below) will be my last for the foreseeable future. I will have to write my "Superior Spider-Man" arc before I resume.
I am ending it here though I am still two episodes short of the "Superior" starting point, and with treatments of those two episodes already written. But those two treatments—of the IRL-episodes "Brain Drain" and "The Living Brain"—formally launch the "Superior" arc by bringing Doc Ock back on-stage to execute his plan. I figure it's best, then, to save those episodes for when I start publishing my version of "Superior Spider-Man."
Don't ask me when that will be.
* * *
In the meantime, I'll be returning to the BoM universe, this time in its sequel interactive, "The Wandering Stars" . I was commissioned to continue a side story in which Will explores what it would be like to have different ousiarchs. The chapters are going to be kind of repetitive, because they take the form of a theme and variations: Each will describe the same situation and fight, but will imagine how it would have unfolded differently with a different ousiarch for Will to use alongside Sulva.
There's another storyline that may be emerging real soon, alongside whatever various solo efforts will be ongoing. It's a collaborative effort involving many of the regular contributors. It hasn't got a launch date yet, but I don't think it will be long in getting published.
|"S02E11 "The Man Behind the Mask"" is about as close a paraphrase of the IRL-episode as is possible. I'm not fond of this version of Electro, but it does introduce her for future mayhem. The Chameleon's appearance is underdeveloped, but I like the suggestion at the end that he would play a major part in the upcoming arc, so I didn't change it. With this episode the convergence of my animated continuity and the IRL continuity is complete.
|"S02E10 "Trick or Treat"" closely follows "Bring on the Bad Guys, Part 3," but it almost got a major rewrite. I wasn't happy to see Jack o'Lantern show up. He is very much a Green Goblin clone, and I wanted to save Green Goblin for the "Superior Spider-Man" arc, as he is an antagonist in the comic book version of that run. But I decided to make a virtue of the similarity, and to keep JoL as a one-off who sets up and anticipates the coming of the Green Goblin.
So the only changes are: Acts I and II swap places. The character of Halloween Master is new. Hammerhead replaces Silvermane as the gangster (a change motivated by events in "S02E07 "A Game of Cops and Robbers"" ), and the final fight is with a cyborg henchman rather than the cyborg Silvermane.
|"S02E09 "The Valley of Shadows"" is another close paraphrase of an IRL-episode of Season Two. The changes:
In Act I, all the fighting was done by Anya Corazon in her Spider-Woman guise, with Spider-Man a helpless ping-pong ball who contributes nothing to his own survival. As I've deleted all the extra spider-people from the alternate continuity, I changed the course and climax of the fight and tried to give the series's title character more dignity while keeping the tone of Act I light. Because of those changes, I did have to invent (or at least suggest) some new business for Act I, to replace the IRL-episode's tedious grrrrl!-power bragging.
Acts II and III are very close to the IRL-episode, except for the final appearance of The Master Planner and the escape of Mysterio.
|I have little to say about "S02E8 "The Shape of Things to Come"" or the episodes that come after. This is where the IRL-series and my version of Season Two converge to set up the "Superior Spider-Man" arc. It was easiest just to bring the four-part episode "Bring on the Bad Guys" into my continuity with as few changes as necessary.
In Part 1 of "Bad Guys," of which this treatment is a close paraphrase, the secondary villain was originally identified as Overdrive; I changed him to Molten Man because I thought that name better fit his metamorphic tech. Also, the bounty reveal scene originally occurred at the end of Act I; I thought it better to place it at the end of the episode, and to make Hippo/Panda-Mania's appearances a running gag. I also added an appearance by The Living Brain.
I have to confess: I really like my title for this one. Besides the quotation of an H. G. Wells title, it alludes to Molten Man's shape-changing ability, and also warns that this episode is only a hint of the tribulations that await Spider-Man over the next half-dozen episodes. I am lousy at coming up with titles, so when I hit one I like, I get really pleased with myself.
|"S02E07 "A Game of Cops and Robbers"" is the last really original episode in my fanfic until the "Superior Spider-Man" arc starts. The next batch will be very close adaptations of the episodes from the IRL-series.
A lot of sweat went into this one, and I'm not sure I like it. It feels very busy and full of double-crosses and reversals that I'm not sure work. They grow out of a need to keep Spider-Man involved in a story that really doesn't concern him, and hopping from one place to another.
Is there anything of note to say?
While I was still working out "S02E03 "Spider-Man Behind Bars"" , which started the small arc which this episode concludes, I had an idea to bring back one of the villains that had fallen by the wayside in Season One, and for awhile that story was going to take this episode's spot. But then I decided that villain's return should be saved for the Superior Spider-Man arc. But the story I envisioned had a place for a rejuvenated Silvermane, so I used this one to establish Silvermane's rejuvenation. That introduced one item to motivate the gangsters—getting Silvermane his "medicine."
I also saw a chance to bring out The Living Brain and give it more attention.