Bonus Material 3: Fixing the Book
And now, we set about our most monumental task: Actually figuring out how to fix this book. But while it seems impossible, that's far from the truth. I've had a lot of ideas simply while reading through. I think we can really make this new style work for you, dahling.
Bonus 3: How To Make Adventurers Wanted A Good Book
Yes, I am daring to say good.
Not merely enjoyable,
For we? We have the technology. We can rebuild it. Faster. Stronger. Less likely to induce aneurysms in wannabe writers.
As I said during my breakdown, our centralized plot isn't too bad. There's a company that actually sells adventures, in a world where "adventurer" is a career path not unlike "doctor" or "librarian" or "fireman." A seemingly ordinary teenager wanders in, signs on for an adventurer, and finds himself transported to a realm of magic to tackle one of the most fearsome evils in a thousand years, despite being an utter rookie. He's the only inexperienced one in a crew of highly-trained and well-traveled tripmeisters. How does he evolve and cope along the way?
That's not a bad starting point. But we need something to spice it up a little. Since conflict is what makes stories in the first place, let's start with our villain.
The big problem with Slathbog here is that he does nothing.
He's a living MacGuffin
. So we need to give him presence. He needs to get up in our hero's grills, either by himself or at the hands of his minions. But in order to do that, he needs some motivation. So what kind of motivation should we give him?
Since we want to enliven our world, let's differ our dragons
some. He feels a "deep longing" in the original, so let's make him looking for something.
Ah-ha! I got it! He's looking for his Fire. In this universe, all dragons have a Fire living at their heart that completes them. It powers their Breath Weapon
, but is also what gives them their near-immortality, armored skin, razor wings, and all their other fiercest aspects. It's what make them bloody dragons,
masters of any realm they choose to land in. Those who seek power seek to kill a dragon in order to bottle their Fire and use its powers for their own. But many years ago, a clever adventurer, with the help of a wizard, found a way to steal Slathbog's fire while he yet lived. Since he never knew who the wizard was, or what he bottled the Fire in, Slathbog has been personally murdering wizards and hoarding treasures in the hopes that one of them has his Fire—and in the meantime, he's been using all the magic in all the treasures he's found to artificially bolster himself in place of having his own, natural Fire. In essence, Magical Cybernetics *
. But his lust and rage have driven him mad.
He's captured all but one wizard in Vargland, and that's Whalen Venkin (who's a slippery fellow). Or... so he thought. Imagine his surprise when, one day, his spies
turn up a new
wizard has suddenly appeared from nowhere in the world. And, obviously, he and his minions can't have that...
After all, all wizards are guilty until proven innocent. And by that point, they're too dead to enjoy their freedom.
So that's our bad
guy. What do we do with our heroes?
The first and most obvious thing we need to do is cut our group down
to size. Sure, eight's a fun number. But on a trip, that's a full car even if you've got a mini-van. And some of them don't even do
anything! Five is generally a good number.
So let's slim down to a Five-Man Band
- Bregnest is our leader, so he's The Hero.
- A Skeld/Tayo hybrid can be our TheLancer. Since he's a Composit Character, we'll call him Skayo.
- Arconn has already proved he's The Smart Guy.
- And Thrang is, of course, The Big Guy. He can still enjoy a bit of stereotypical dwarfishness even in this revised version.
That makes Alex The Chick
. And since they're a tight-knit group, he's very much The Sixth Ranger
As a team, these guys go way
back. They have a long history of successful conquests. Many people have challenged Slathbog, but this is the group that stands the best chance. They're not in it for the treasure—they're in it to make the world safe for wizards and wizarding works again. In fact, they plan to destroy a large portion of his hoard so it can't fall into the wrong hands (since the original owners, who knew how to control the artifacts, aren't exactly... around
They all know each other, they're all the best of buddies, and they know each other's quirks. However, they're like a band where the drummer is never the same from tour to tour. Because the Adventurer's Board demands
that adventuring parties be five people at least
(they're a bit more Genre Savvy
in this version), the Adventuring Board always
assigns them a fifth member who never gels
, never sticks around afterwards, and, often, doesn't survive. They have varying reactions to him. Alex bonds with Arconn in the original, so we'll make Arconn warm up to him quickly and befriend him. Bregnest initially seems welcoming, but he's always incredibly
demanding of new members. Skayo alternates between cool and mocking. And Thrang? Who knows what Thrang's thinking.
Once they find out that Alex has the potential to be a wizard, that's where things get interesting. Arconn is very encouraging, though he (as the others) know that means Slathbog will be hovering like a vulture over their every move. He can't come too far out, lest his spells break when he leaves his hoard, but his minions will swarm them. Thrang mostly sees the liability, and wonders if it meets the benefits gained by having an untrained magic user. (Thrang's a bruiser, but an analytical
one. In fact, Thrang and Arconn can fluctuate in The Smart Guy
roles, sort of like how they did in the early chapters before Thrang stopped talking.) Skayo layers on the "good-natured" ribbing. And Bregnest? Bregnest immediately sees what a powerful asset Alex could be and starts pampering him... but should Alex screw up, well, things wouldn't be pretty.
This team also needs a desperate
infusion of a prominent female character somewhere,
so hey! Let's make Thrang a chick. "What are female dwarves like?" is the traditional joke, so let's play with it a little.
To the members themselves!
protagonist himself. Yes—while he may be the focal character, this is definitely Bregnest's party
, at least at first.
He's a person with vast potential as a wizard and a warrior and anything else. Everyone's shocked by him, because their world is now a wizardly wasteland
—they don't know he's not from around here, at first; they think he's just someone who's managed to evade Slathbog all this time, which would make him incredible
if true. He's good at almost everything. He can do no wrong.
And you know what? He's going to keep those traits. Because this
version of Alex—the one with personality—knows
it. Because we are making him a smug freakin' bastard.
Earth-Alex has been good at things since he was a kid, and he's got the attitude of one unused to failure. He thinks he's better than you because he is.
In his school, he's a football player and
a mathlete. He's The Ace
. He has a bit of trouble adjusting to the idea of magic, but he grows into it really quickly once he realizes it's yet another
thing he's destined to be amazing at. He accepts a staff and
a sword, because the weapons-dealer souses his potential as both right there in the shop.
All the love he recieves along the road only bolsters his inflated ego. He doesn't know why people wouldn't
love him. And that's where our conflict comes in.
Magic is not like football. Magic is not like calculus. The original story has a throwaway discussion about being careful with power. The original story has Alex's first spell be a fire spell. And if that's the way the author wants to play, then magic will be fire.
It is a force wilder than nuclear radiation. It has a mind of its own, and it sees no problem in taking over yours. Casting a spell is like trying to fill a cup from a tsunami. It takes time and practice. If you are reckless with it, it will be merciless with you.
And "reckless" is exactly what Alex will be.
Bregnest is the true leader of our party. His weapon is the sword. He is incredibly strong, incredibly talented, A Father to His Men
, and also? Terrifyingly Lawful Neutral.
He demands respect in the most literal sense. He sticks to his gut, and his gut can be very self-serving. He looks out for his own, but if he sees a chance to line his pockets, he won't turn it down. He enforces his will by any means necessary. He doesn't always act heroic solely out of the goodness of his heart. He loves being powerful and exerting that power.
Right from the start, he makes it his motto to overwork Alex, and he's not afraid to call him out. He demands that his team be a well-oiled machine, and the headstrong and foolhardy Alex does not always sit well with him. His eyes gleam at what Alex could make his team—the most powerful in all the land,
with the right training. But Alex also needs to be loyal. So he sets out to groom Alex as his personal pet. He gives him the highest rewards from battles. He always heaps praise on him. This miffs the rest of the team, because not only do they
get neglected, Alex laps it up and quickly starts to think of himself as above the rest of them. But when Alex fails him
, that fall is harsh, utterly demeaning, and possibly a little cruel. Bregnest's treatment of Alex becomes so bipolar as to seem downright abusive. And Alex, being stubborn, fails to recognize that abuse. The other members do. Although he's always been greedy, he's never acted like this.
And they start to wonder if Bregnest isn't becoming one of those who fight monsters...
Since he's a Composit Character
, he needs to blend the traits of Skeld and Tayo—and we're going with the traits Tayo was supposed
to have here, instead of his original. So what do we end up with? A Stepford Smiler
. Skayo has Tayo's backstory—Dead Wife
and all—but Skeld's hyena laughter. Thus, Skayo's laughter always seems just a little "off." Some of his jokes are sincere, but his behavior is erratic. Sometimes he laughs at totally inappropriate moments. His humor can be very abrasive to others. To those not used to him, he can seem a little imbalanced. His team members naturally know his history, and it's an unspoken rule among them that they don't talk about it.
At first, Alex is too wrapped up in being awesome at another knew thing to notice. But as Bregnest's behavior deteriorates, and Alex's clueless use of magic gets more and more dangerous, so too does his. He becomes increasingly paranoid as he worries that one of them—Bregnest or Alex—is just going to snap and kill them all. But as his Stepford Smile facade drops, he quickly becomes a true Lancer
and provides sour-faced stability in contrast to the violent and abusive moodswings of Bregnest, as he simply tries to help the group stay together (becoming The Heart
). However, in confronting his past near the end (as happens in the original), he may have the oppertunity to use his jokier side for real.
Arconn actually had a distinct role in the original story, and I see no problem with letting him keep it. He's The Smart Guy
. He provides exposition. Since Alex spent more time talking to him than he ever did with his supposed "best friend" Andy, Arconn will also be playing the part of "Alex's new best friend" in this retelling. Hard to say why, but Arconn gets along with the smarmy kid—No Accounting for Taste
, I suppose. Alex isn't necessarily mean
to other people, either—he's just an extraordinary Small Name, Big Ego
Given that he's an elf,
he's a bit more naively optimistic than others, even if he's probably older than all the rest of them combined. He keeps feeding Alex's ego, and he is blind to Bregnest's abuse until right near the very end. He is a kind soul—Friend to All Living Things
, even—but he often fails to see he's enabling things he shouldn't. In a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming
, he'll get to Call The Old Man Out
over Skayo's unconscious body, berating Bregnest for his selfish mistreatment of Alex. He would care, after all—he and the kid became real friends!
Overall, Arconn was pretty OK the way he was, and the biggest changes to him would probably be in simple dialogue and writing choices.
Thrang's biggest problem is that he just sort of dropped out of the story after a certain point. So this newer, more feminine Thrang isn't going to let that stop her. Arconn knows a great deal of things—he's very intelligent
—but he's not very worldly
and tends to be sort of naive. In contrast, Thrang is Book Dumb
, but her nature is to be analytical and to cut to the quick. Original!Thrang and Arconn were very obviously set up as foils, but never made it there. This Thrang will get plenty of chances, and in much the same way her first life did (by calling out Arconn's naivete and occassional pampering of Alex).
She's a female dwarf, and she's unafraid to speak her mind. She calls it like she sees it, and she's one of the first to wonder if Bregnest is really being fair to Alex. She's quite no-nonsense in her way, but rather than making a scene about it, she gets verrrry quiet when faced with something she disapproves of. But most of the team considers her observantness second to her skills in battle—the fight scenes are long and juicy in this one, and right alongside Bregnest, she's the one who does a lot of the ass-kicking. Alex immediately respects her, almost the same way he does with Alex, but his... attempts
on her end much
more poorly. If You Know What I Mean
And since she's a dwarf and we will
all wonder: Yes, she does often get drunk. She is also the most boring drunk in the world, since drunkenness mostly makes her slow and sleepy. She usually falls asleep mid-party.
There's our main cast, all wrapped up like a Christmas present. But what about the way the book itself plays out?
How It Would Work
The book would begin in much the same way as it does in the original version, just with better writing and our improved characterization. One major change would be made though—we would now have occassional interludes with Slathbog. Our narrator, instead of remaining affixed to Alex, now flits between our protagonist and antagonist on occassion. We would gain additional insight into Slathbog's lust for his Fire, and his growing obsession with finding Alex. But unlike with other wizards, Slathbog is given pause by Alex. He finds himself increasingly... desiring
the boy. He does not want to kill him. He wants to own
him instead. Keep him like a pet or a trinket. The subtext gets as creepy as you'd might expect,
and this time, it's intentional.
Our first major diversion from the original plot comes at the three-legged troll fight. In addition to being Slathbog-sent, and much longer, involving most of the whole team, Alex's rush to fight it and bungling kill of it get him in big
trouble. The other members of the team (save Arconn) absolutely destroy
him verbally, while Alex demands
an extra share of the troll's treasure from Bregnest. But Bregnest, though he chides him too, insists on shoving a huge portion of the treasure they reap from it (including the bags) into Alex's hands as an "honor." Bitterness stews all around.
Iownan invites them to lunch because she, too, wants to gawk at the "new" wizard as if he were a new animal at the zoo. Bregnest compliments Alex for scoring them free lunch and divinations. Another primary difference crops up here: Here crystal is stolen during
their visit by Slathbog, who wishes to use it to finally discover the true nature of the wizard who stole his fire. He fails, but this is where his first sign of obsession with Alex begin to grow. Alex, you see, attempts to stop his minions with magic. He fails, though he truly stood no chance against Slathbog's more powerful minions. But while the team is sympathetic to him, Bregnest becomes incredibly
harsh, giving Alex a verbal beatdown that makes the others recoil in horror. There's no prophecy in this version, but the Oracle tells Alex that she sees a "greatness" in him—but a greatness most terrible, a sleeping giant
that he must be most careful with. Alex just hears the "Greatness" part and tunes the rest out.
He deeply regrets this come the bandit fight. When his team is assaulted by the bandits, Alex attempts to tap into the inherent magic of his sword (he's already converse with Arconn by it at this point, since they've become really friends in this version, and it'd be stupid for Arconn to withold that info) and accidentally unleashes the flood. He seemingly transforms, becoming as much a beast as a man, assaulting the bandits with an absolute bloodlust. This is not Bloodless Carnage
is a must here. The rest of his companions shirk back in horror from the thing released from him. An Unstoppable Fury
like that seems like prime "forget it when you wake up" material, but Alex remembers every second of it—and believes that he's a great hero who deserves their praise. Bregnest provides it for the bandits, whom he thoroughly believes deserved to be slaughters—but then turns it right around for their horses,
which Alex brutally killed despite their innocence. Arconn and Thrang debate whether or not the bandits were truly deserving of death or whether they should've been taken to the authorities, while being surrounded by absolute death
begins to crack Skayo.
Our team wanders into Techen surprised—they don't remember there being a town on the map here!
It's incredibly quiet, but the food is good, and they can restock their supplies while they're there. Alex, however, is approached by an old man who seems somewhat unright in the head, and isn't sure what to think. He attempts to leave, but the old man follows him, wishing to "speak with him." He makes it to the inn safely, but the inn's workers can't stop staring at him either, and all of them want to talk to him. He's used to being praised as a wizard now, but he can't figure out where the fanbase comes from.
But as the inn closes up for the night, the old man reappears. As does the innkeeper. And the town's gatekeeper. And, behind them, all the rest of the town. They seem skinnier. And hollower—as if only a single trinket was keeping each one alive. And redder,
as if a dragon's hand had a place in making each and every one...
Cue incredible fight scene as the gang breaks free of an entire town
of Slathbog's minions, in a fashion not unlike something from a Zombie Apocalypse
They flee from Techen with incredible speed, driving their horses to the limit and past, sprinting from Slathbog's zombielike tail until they find the dwarven mounds of the Brown Hills. Thrang bangs on the door and begs in dwarf-speak for admittance. All of the dwarves turn away from her, but King Osrik (who's pretty much the same chill dude in this version that he always was) allows them in. Let a hoard of fearsome ghouls just try
to enter a Dwarf
city! Osrik allows to let them stay, and even offers to let them use his back door to escape the horrible beasties. Oooh—but is that an honest-to-goodness wizard
with you? FEAST TIME!
Laud laud laud, nom nom nom, Alex knows the pattern all too well by now. King Osrik brings up the missing adventurer first, and Alex leaps right to the bags. He's thinking: Reward plz?
And indeed, one of the bags belonged to the missing dwarf. But since he
dealt the killing blow to the troll—regardless of the fact that the others helped—he gets greedy with the bag's reward. The others turn to Bregnest for some respite (and a little bit of moolah).
Bregnest turns them aside.
The rift really opens up here. In Arconn, there is concern. In Thrang, questions concerning Bregnest's leadership skills. In Skayo, building resentment. But it's not just his usual mean teasing this time; he really is falling apart.
They sneak out Osrik's secret path, and Alex is cockier than ever. He's been praised to high heaven again, he's a rich mofo, and he's getting downright excited
about fighting Slathbog. If he met the dragon now, he'd take him head-on! But Arconn warns him about the awesome force of dragons. Slathbog is different than most, having supplanted his former power. Although he's lost many of his former skills, he's gained new ones, and one of them should still remain with him: The mesmeric power of his eyes.
Slathbog's obsession builds as Alex's desire to meet him does. Slathbog is crafty: if he cannot win by force, he will by coercion.
He sends his wraiths—the same mighty forces that stole the crystal ball—to appear to him, almost as if a dream.
Being that it feels dreamlike to him at first, Alex doesn't mind talking with them. From this, he discovers that Slathbog longs deeply to see him—as much as Alex himself wants to fight him! This draws him towards the wraiths with deep intrigue. Slathbog craves him. He craves Slathbog.
The wraiths offer to bring them together. Perhaps, Alex wonders, perhaps it's worthwhile talking to Slathbog rather than simply trying to destroy him.
After all, he is deeply
powerful, much like Alex himself.
Perhaps he can learn from the great master...
Suddenly, pain shoots through his skull as Thrang leaps in and severs the creations with her axe. The spell is broken, the beasts are destroyed, and Alex is safe.
Or Is It
Alex has been angered. And it's not good to anger Alex.
He flies into the same Unstoppable Rage
as before, slaughtering every last wraith—and very nearly killing Thrang too, but she gets out of the way right quick. It takes the entire team to restrain Alex, but he's exerted himself even worse than before. He falls into a deep coma, and the team is forced to detour in the direction of Arconn's homelands to find a healer who can pull him out of it.
The Wall(TM) stuff plays out more or less just like before. With a couple of exceptions: For one thing, Alex gets the most bipolar beatdown/heaping praise session of the book
thrown at him once he wakes up, and this time, Alex's googoo eyes at Calysto do not go unnoticed. She finds him handsome and teases him in an affectionate way, but, being a teenaged boy, he wants to go farther. Everyone else is pretty much rightly creeped out, especially since she feeds his ego. Skayo is by this point a jibbering wreck, given how The Wall(TM) itself has just become relevant. And yes, he's still operating under the Oracle's predictions about him meeting his end. But as much as he wants to score with Calysto, Alex wants even more to press on to meet Slathbog. Yes, the wraiths got in his head a little, and Thrang got them out—mostly. But even if he's no longer trusting of Slathy, the compulsion to see him is worse than ever. Arconn tries to warn him (gently) that his recklessness has gotten him into trouble before, and it'll happen again here if he isn't careful. Thrang warns him bluntly.
Skayo is too busy weeping in a corner.
The pathway to Slathbog's lair itself is fraught with combat and yet more of his minions. Alex has made no effort to control his magic, and while his Superpowered Evil Side
doesn't make another reappearance, he very nearly harms his teammates with his wild spells. They don't bother concealing themselves from Slathbog; he knows they're coming. But although he could, he does not personally assault them. In his chambers, he is too eager and too excited by Alex. He wants the little wizard to prove
himself, now. He wants to see how he fares against his minions. Alex is truly special,
and he wants to bask in that specialness.
Cocksure Alex breaks down the front door with incredible magic power, and greets Slathbog head-on. He rushes up to the dragon's chest with both sword and staff flying. With Arconn screaming at him from behind, he cranes his head upwards. He looks into Slathbog's eyes.
Immediately, he drops everything. His jaw hangs open. His body goes limp and slumps downwards, but the line between their eyes never break. Tears well up in Alex's eyes. In an instant, he has realized the truth.
He is Slathbog. He is the Fire.
None of what Alex is is truly Alex.
Great physical prowess? The Fire. Intense magical power? The Fire. Intelligence? The Fire. Everything that Alex ever was he owes to the Fire. He has never used his own skills. He's never built his own talents. The Fire did everything, and that Fire belongs to the vicious, vast, and immeasurably old dragon leering above him. And that mind—brought in contact with its source, Alex realizes thet impossible depth of that vast brain and soul. If it were take its Fire back, there would not be an Alex left. But has there ever been an Alex to begin with?
He is awakened by Bregnest's call:
"YOU IDIOT! YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF $#!%"
Worthless. Slathbog, too, turns his head.
Causing Skayo to scream:
"No! If anyone's worthless, it's you!
And suddenly, driven by an urge to simply defy,
he leaps into battle. The fight truly begins.
Alex, with his sword, is the only one who truly stands a chance of wounding the dragon. But, terrified at the sudden revelation of what he is, he hangs back. Bregnest shouts at him for not
simply rushing into battle for once. But Arconn gives him an Armor-Piercing Slap
and tells him to fight the dragon or die.
And the implication is, not necessarily at the dragon's hands. The others clamor for Alex to join him. He looks at the sword. It was Slathbog's power making it what it was.
He can't fight Slathbog. He is
Slathbog. His dragon's soul is indescriminate, and hurts everyone.
But he knows someone who can.
Throwing Your Sword Always Works
He throws the sword in the direction of Slathbog's flank. It pierces it, and the dragon lets out a howl. But the blade feel right next to where Skayo is battling. He knows what Alex meant. He wrenches out the sword and charges the dragon, just as it uses an enchanted fireball (I imagine this guy's lower jaw is basically a machine with a flamethrower built in), searing Skayo half to pieces while Skayo still pierces his heart. (And because burns are a much
better "lengthy lingering" injury than being, uh, cut in half.)
The dragon's death is very nearly ignored as everyone realizes that Skayo may be dying. Thrang and Arconn do their best to stabalize him. But Bregnest approaches and wonders if they're going to get to sorting the treasure?
Alex suddenly realizes how Bregnest has been treating him all along. Bregnest's niceness was never because of Alex. It was because of the thing in Alex's heart. The misplaced Fire. Some of the badmouthing was deserved, for the Fire he never asked to be put there? Not in the least.
What. The. Hell, Bregnest.
Arconn notes, when they're all done beating down Bregnest, that Alex—and Alex alone, may yet be able to save Skayo, using a wizard's Wall-Call spell. Alex wants to stop and tell them he's not
a wizard. The Fire now, apparently, permanently trapped with him, is. But that can wait for Skayo. Skayo's Wall(TM) scene is pretty much the same as before, too.
When Skayo awakes, his smile slowly returns. It'll take a while for him to be normal again. A long
while. But he's got one foot in the door knowing that his wife is
in fact waiting for him. He too goes hard on Bregnest. But to his credit, Bregnest is not entirely heartless, and realizes his mistake. He may be able to make it up, too, though that too will take time.
In our denouement and sequel hook, we learn that Alex's father was the adventurer who stole Slathbog's Fire, and his mother the wizard. They put it in him because they figured the dragon would never look in a person
for it. But he did... after a fashion. Reluctantly, Alex agrees to train under Whalen Vankin, last wizard remaining in this particular world—if only to learn how to control his Superpowered Evil Side
. But knowing the truth about the terrifying forces that lurk within him, Alex—and his life—will never quite be the same.
Well, tropers, whatcha think? Got any suggestions of your own? Yes, it's different from the original. It had to be, to make it interesting. But many of the core events are still there—reworked, such that the potential conflicts are not always dodged, the repercussions of actions are explored, and the characters might actually be worth reading about. Our villain has presence. Our hero has personality. Our plot has fewer holes. Maybe it's not the perfect direction for the story, no—but it's the best I could come up with. But if you think you can do better (or at the very least, no worse), than please—give me your ideas. Give me your ideas anyway. I want to know what you think.
But aside from those ideas, our liveblogging experience has come to an end.
I won't lie—it's been fun. Torturous, but fun. If that makes sense. I read an awful book, and I got something out of it besides my own personal disgust. I got a heapin' helping of snark, some hilarious comments, and, if I change some of the names around (as well as a few *ahem* minor details), an idea for a cool new novel. And, even if I didn't post it (except for that once in Chapter 17), the characters of my own
books got to laugh their assess off at the lack of Genre Savvy.
See you on the next adventure, Tropers.
Slathbog's Gold is the first book in an exciting new YA epic fantasy series and heralds the arrival of a major new talent in the genre.
"You lie!" Alex shouted. "You are full of hate and lies!