Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For those who came in late ... hi!

I have a confession to make. I love walking in on the middle of things.

When I was sixteen, I randomly started watching the anime Gundam Wing at episode 15 of 49. Why is that important? Because for about ten episodes after episode 15, none of the five main characters are addressed by name. Really. None. They’re all undercover, or using false names, or in prison and identified by numbers. Somewhere around here I still have the notebook where I kept my notes as I tried to figure out what on earth was going on. I gave the characters nicknames—I forget what I called the first pilot, but it was Sparky for the peppy pilot of the second giant robot, Iceman for the ever-calm pilot of the third, Junior for the pilot of the fourth (who seemed to be about eight years old), and Bruce for the token Chinese pilot, who mostly seemed to run around kung-fu-ing people to death. I had lots of fun trying to figure out the characters’ backstories and whatall. I think I enjoyed speculating more than I enjoyed the actual anime. Actually, I know I did.

Similarly, I enjoy walking in on the middle of good comic-book storylines and trying to figure out what’s going on. It adds an element of challenge to an already entertaining story, and I can get a good mental workout trying to reverse-engineer all the plot threads. Double the entertainment value for money.

I will actually stop people from trying to catch me up on the plot of a show I’m joining mid-season. I have been known to pick up volume four of a five-book series and become absolutely obsessed with it. I’ll walk into a movie 20 minutes late, too, although these days that means I still catch most of the trailers.

There are several reasons to do this, of course. For one, it demands less responsibility on my part—I don’t have to show up on time, track down the previous volumes, read the show’s Wikipedia page, etc. For another, it makes the story more challenging, as I said, and if the characters are engaging, I’m motivated to come up with intriguing back stories. Mostly, though, I like having the room to imagine. Half the time, my fanciful beginnings are more interesting than the real thing, and they often inspire stories of my own.

Why do I mention this? Because I’m about to give all your friends the chance to do just this.

Tonight at midnight Pacific time, Chapter 7 of Masks goes live on Pocket Coyote. If you’ve been following along with the free chapters I’ve been posting (and if you haven’t—why not? See above re: free), you know that Rae and Trevor need a forensic laboratory to analyze some evidence, and Rae thinks she knows one she can sneak into. Three guesses where that is—that’s right, she’s going back to superhero school, and this time she’s getting into trouble.

Titled “The Gremlin,” the chapter includes most of the elements I look for in a walk-in point. It’s got strong characterization, a nice balance of action and thought, and a few funny bits mixed in with a mystery. If your friends have been putting off reading Masks because they don’t want to bother with the early chapters, or because they think I’m going to start charging for access, this is their wake-up call.

But do me one favor. If you decide to give my characters funny nicknames, please comment on the chapter so I can enjoy the nicknames too!

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