by David Meadows 6. August 2016 23:42

I've just been sorting out some formatting problems on Heroes issue 6 and thought, "Wouldn't it be a nice idea to say some words about writing it?" Don't read this post until you've read the actual issue!

First, the title: Unity. The meaning is obvious (Temple of Unity) but I liked how it fitted with part two of this storyline, Zero, which you will read in issue 7 (and also has an obvious meaning, as you will see). Is there hidden symbolism in the title? Sometimes I try to do that with the titles, but I don't think there is here. There is certainly no unity within the team... indeed, they're barely a team at all and are trying their best to fall apart in this issue.  One of James's catchphrases will become "We're not a team, we're a group." Though I'm not sure when I'll actually work that into his dialogue in an issue.

Narration is in the form of Fred's blog. It's not likely that Fred is actually publishing all this stuff in a blog on line, not when he's supposedly on the run and keeping a low profile. But it suits the narrative purpose, so let's suspend our disbelief.

Using Fred as the narrator lets "him" tell us his background. Rather than go into great detail into his "origin story", I've shown just one scene from his past, and devoted only one page to it. But it's a vital scene, and really everything you need to know about Fred is in that one page. I may have mentioned already that Fred was created by David Allan, not by me (I need another post to explain where all this story originates...), and that page one is my "fictionalised" description of the background Dave verbally gave me. I think Fred is an amazingly deep and complex character, and that makes him hard for me to write, but scenes like this one just write themselves, because I can so clearly see in my head how Fred would narrate it, his voice is just so strong. And I can't take any credit for that.

In a couple of previous issues I've adopted the format of page one being a compact scene told in six panels, with page two being a single big panel to show a big group or action shot. I've done it here again, and I think I'll try to stick to it because I like how it works. Here there's no action, just a group "portrait".

In fact, there's no action in the whole issue, really. It's just a lot of people talking. The plot of this issue is actually really minimal: the group hears of some dodgy goings on, go and investigate, and Sara gets kidnapped. It's a simple story, but one with repercussions. It will become more apparent in part two, next issue, but there's more to the Temple of Unity than meets the eye. I put a lot of effort into working out the whys and wherefores of the organisation, and we're only scratching the surface here. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying this encounter is the start of something that will become very important further down the line.

But although the story is important in introducing the Temple, the main thing in this issue is the relationships we start to explore. I've deliberately left a lot unsaid, and hinted at far more than I've revealed. I'm not sure whether this makes readers intrigued or annoyed, but this series is planned to run for a long time, and I want charatcer details to unveil themselves naturally as time goes by rather than being dumped in massive blocks of exposition.

Page three. Fred handily recaps the plot so far. This may seem a bit redundant, as the previous issues are there for you to go and read, and anyway it's only been a couple of weeks so you've surely not forgotten what's happening. But the point isn't to tell you what's happening. It's to tell you what Fred thinks about what's happening. I could summarise the plot six times with six different narrators, and each one would be different. By the same token, as each character does something fairly unimportant on the next couple of pages, we get to hear what Fred thinks about each of them. This is why I like the rotating narrator idea, and I'll certainly be sticking with it. (Over in the Strikeforce story, I'm not doing that. I'm doing an omniscient third-person narrator, with random interjections by the Computer as narrator. But I'm doing a lot of things differently in that story.)

Did I just say the characters are doing unimportant things? That's not actually true. They may be trivial things, unimportant to the plot, but I've chosen them to say something about the characters in every case. And that's important. Consider:

James. He's writing a journal of his adventures. We learned from his narration back in issue 2 that he learned how to be a hero from his father's journals. So of course he's writing his own journal. Everything James does is to live up to the ideal set by his father, and sometimes he interprets that need too literally. Also note that in a century when everyone's using computers and phones, James is writing on paper with a pencil. Why? Well, trust me, there are important reasons. I'm just not ready to reveal them yet.

Harry. We still don't really know -- not really -- whether Harry is real or whether Paul has multiple personality disorder. Fred thinks he knows. But consider this: where did Paul, an office-bound clinical psychiatrist, pick up an intimate knowledge of vintage firearms? It's not conclusive evidence, but I'm just throwing it out there.

Chi-Yun, the shape-shifter, is printing photographs of herself. "So I don't forget when I change." Oh my God. That's just... that idea just breaks my heart. What must that be like for her? It's... no, I can't imagine what that's like. It's awful. But as a concept, it's genius. No, I didn't come up with the idea. But I wish I had. I love Chi-Yun. There's more to her than you (and Fred) expect.

We don't really get much insight into Sara here, just her reactions  to Chi-Yun. But that's ok, her time will come. I've got a lot to say about Sara, but I'll let her say it herself (starting next issue, as it happens).

And then there's Don, steady, reliable, calm and in control. He's the driving force behind the whole narrative at the moment, though for various reasons that can't continue. I'll get to that in time...

And you know what? My word count tells me I've written 1100 words, and I've only covered the first four pages, which is ridiculous. I'm going to stop this here, and if anyone really wants me to continue with the next 18 pages you'll have to tell me. But I'm not going to do this with every issue, that would just be insane.

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About this blog

The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

I am slowly documenting the Universe on this web site.

This blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of that history.

If you're new here, the series of posts listed below will explain what it's all about. I hope...

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