The Journey of SILVER BROWN

On Characters That Speak No Recognizable Human Language

In many a blog post of yesterweek, I’ve mentioned Act One of SILVER BROWN is pretty much complete. I’m not ruling out the possibility that it still might undergo a few more nips, tucks and organ transplants, but at least it’s at a point where I’m more or less satisfied with it. Acts Two and Three are both in an early-to-intermediate stage of their development. Like literary vestigial limbs. They will surely evolve into glorious eldritch tentacles dripping with digestive sucker juices and territorial musk, but for now they’re just stumps. Act Two is a little bit more than a stump, though. It’s the one I’m presently editing.

These chapters have something of a different feel to them compared to Act One. Act One details a critical moment in Florys MacNab’s career as a witch, and most of the supporting characters are other witches. Act Two sees Florys venture out into worlds beyond the Sisterhood to learn a host of horrifying cryptic truths her Lodge has hitherto kept from her. The supporting cast has almost completely changed. Characters that were only mentioned in passing or casually alluded to in Act One become much more prominent in Act Two. This blog post will focus on one of those characters in particular. Kent Fairholt’s trusty sidekick, the utility program Sherman dot Quebec Lima niner.


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This is an approximation of what Sherman looks like, although it might not be an actual picture of him.

It was established from the earliest drafts that Sherman can and does speak. His function within the narrative is as a voice of reason. A foil and counterpart for Kent Fairholt, frequently correcting him when he’s wrong. Kent’s conscience, personified. Or more accurately, mustelified. When Sherman speaks, Kent is the only human who can understand him. To Florys and other humans, Sherman’s utterances just sound like a series of clucks, squawks and chirrups. Hence, Sherman’s brainy sayings (at least the ones relevant to the plot) must necessarily be translated and interpreted for Florys (and ultimately the audience) by his significantly less brainy friend. The results may vary.

Throughout the editing process, I experimented with several different approaches trying to find the best way to represent Sherman’s utterances in the text. The earlier stages of the book’s evolution would feature Florys including phrases like “the ferret clucked and squawked” or “the ferret clucked and squawked some more” in her narration of the story (she seldom refers to Sherman by name, mostly out of disdain for Kent). The result was that Sherman came across like a one-dimensional character, saying the same old shit over and over again. After about the fifth time the ferret clucked and squawked, he started to get on my nerves. So in order to make him less Jar Jar Binksy, I found it necessary to expand his vocabulary a bit. That, and to present more of his lines of dialogue in an onomatopoeic manner as opposed to giving verbal descriptions of his utterances – a cue I probably took from the fight scenes in that old Batman series from the Sixties starring the late great Adam West…



His vocabulary would be expanded further still when Our Lady of 420 whispered in my ear one morning and casually suggested that he ought to be equipped with a vast internal library of sound effects. An idea completely compatible with the nature of the character and the premise of the book.

Sherman looks like a ferret and is frequently referred to as such by Florys, but beyond superficial appearances there is nothing ferrety about him. He’s actually a musteline utility program running within the Environment. An artificial intelligence, in other words. Like a walking Siri with fur. Hence, having a library of sound effects tucked away somewhere in his brain wouldn’t disrupt the suspension of disbelief too much. The sound effects come into play when Sherman is trying to accentuate a point he’s trying to make to Kent, using them almost like auditory emojis. Any selections from the library that take more than one word to convey are given in parentheses in the text. I think I recall J.K. Rowling using a similar technique a few times in the Harry Potter series, although I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head specifically in which chapters of which books.


Squawk! Roar, meow. Bark! (Screech of an eagle). Chirrup, cluck-cluck (something that vaguely sounded like a dump truck backing up). Coo, squeak.

– Sherman dot Quebec Lima niner

 

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The Journey of SILVER BROWN

Sweet N’ Sour Sixteen

J.K. Rowling once said in an interview something to the effect of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire being a particularly agonizing book for her to write. One of its chapters had to be rewritten a whopping thirteen times; there was a recurring plot hole that needed a baker’s dozen attempts to get rid of. Chapter Sixteen of SILVER BROWN didn’t have to go through that many rewrites, but it was pretty agonizing. For starters, it’s now Chapter Seventeen; I had to chop off its head and make the head Sixteen. The editing work this chapter and its severed head needed had more to do with cutting away superfluous elements and finding balance in the story than resolving any plot holes, though. But at long last, these chapters are complete. I might do a few more tweaks here and there to make Crocus Acadia even more unnerving than she already is, but all the main organs are functioning at least. They could survive if they hatched tomorrow. But they won’t hatch just yet. Maybe during Yuletide.

A couple of the characters I’ll be introducing to the audience at this point in the story had to undergo a few nips and tucks during the overall editing process, most notably Crocus Acadia. In the earlier drafts, she was a character clearly in the antagonistic category, one that was always quick to throw the book at Florys for every perceived transgression against the Lodge. Now she’s more of an Osiris-like entity. Not necessarily a villain. Attentively listening to all sides of an argument with equal impartiality before issuing a judgement upon a mortal soul, but never hesitant to fling you like a booger into the waiting sulfuric maw of a ravenous demon if your beating heart should tip the scales unfavourably against the feather of truth. She also sits upon a throne composed of fire – an idea which didn’t exist in the earlier drafts. Fire doesn’t hurt her. She’s a witch. A learned and experienced witch at that. You don’t get to be Vizier-Queen of any Lodge without being learned and experienced.


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The Journey of SILVER BROWN

Acid Rain Black

My former boss went insane and stabbed a dude. It made headlines throughout Canada during the annus horribilis that was 2016. I’ve elaborated on her insanity in excruciating detail elsewhere on this site, although at this point I can’t be arsed to dig up the link. [EDIT 4/23/2019 17:20 UTC-5 I guess I can be arsed now. Here it is.] In retrospect, it’s a good thing I abruptly quit my job and got the hell out of Toronto five months before the boss completely snapped. If I hadn’t, she probably would have stabbed me instead of the doorman. I had to get treatment from a shrink for a period of three years after quitting, but at least I made it out of there in one piece. More or less.

I couldn’t have done it alone, though. To all the people who lent me a helping hand along the way, I sincerely thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You know who you are. Even if said helping hand was not lent out of any particular concern for me, you still have my eternal gratitude for getting me out of a terrible jam.

Silver Brown is first and foremost an exercise in self-therapy. Like the writingcraft tends to be for a sizable portion of its practitioners. It’s just an added bonus that some people actually find this crazy yarn entertaining. There’s something exhilarating about taking a life experience that was beyond painful for me personally and turning it into something that makes people happy. Speaking of which, it’s only natural that my former boss (who has since become worm chow) would become the basis for at least one of the characters. There are actually bits and pieces of Ellis Kirkland splattered across several characters, but this blog post will focus on one in particular.


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This could possibly be a visual representation of Ruby Lapp while she’s in the process of transubstantiating into her war-animal. However, I mostly decided to post it here because it’s psychedelic as fuck.

The chapter I’m editing now sees Florys being interrogated by a Sister who she considers to be her archnemesis. Ruby Lapp. Head page of the Executive Cabinet, and the obvious darling of the Lodge. Ruthless. Powerful. Ambitious. Destined to take over the Vizier-Queen’s job someday, with absolutely nothing standing in her way. Just ask her loyal and ever-honest toadies, The Lads…


Two squirrels in Hyde Park London.

“You will be our Vizier-Queen, My Precious Buttercup, if Your Dagdaic Majesty you ne’er will be.”

Snow White was always being followed around wherever she went by a retinue of woodland critters. I’m not really sure why. Because she was all pure and innocent? Some horseshit like that. A few drafts into the writing of this tome, I gave Ruby Lapp a woodland critter retinue of her own. Partly to be sarcastic. But The Lads don’t follow her around and kiss her ass because she’s pure and innocent. Hell, no. They do it because kissing her ass is their job and they’ll be permanently deleted if they refuse, for they are but worms and peons who only exist to serve their master.

It can be said Ruby Lapp is the opposite of a Snow White – an Acid Rain Black. Any musicians reading this are welcome to steal that for the name of their band.

Ruby Lapp can also be considered Draco Malfoyish. She considers herself a true Sister, because she comes from eleven generations of cybermagickal practitioners. Florys’ pedigree is nowhere near as impressive; her father (whose current whereabouts are unknown) was an Orycteropian pitchman who pimped the Aardvark’s wares to the masses every Lisasday morning. In the world according to Ruby Lapp, this makes Florys and her kind a lower form of life than the tardigrades who inhabit pond scum. Scum that most certainly will be wiped from the face of the Lodge when Ruby Lapp is enthroned as Vizier-Queen. That glorious day shall come to pass. Maybe not tomorrow or the day after, but someday.