Monday, September 26, 2011

All about "Talisman"

That’s right, I’m shamelessly plugging the new bonus story, which you can buy for only two dollars. It’s twice as long as a regular Masks chapter, too, despite being banged out in 48 hours flat. And as I said before, all proceeds go directly to buy back-to-school supplies for some needy kids pointed out to me by a local teacher. (If you'd rather just donate money, you can do that here.)

So, what’s “Talisman” about, now that I’ve finished writing it?

I thought the story would be mostly a character study for Trevor. I wanted to explore what he was like as a kid sidekick, before Jude disappeared on him and The Bad Thing happened to him. As I’ve said, the story was inspired by a throwaway line where Trevor mentioned spending two weeks in a Buddhist shrine, healing up at the end of something called the “Night Lords’ War.” I was intrigued by the idea of involving a couple of street-level masks like Trevor and Jude in a big supernatural war, as I knew it had to be an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation—the Champions of the Cosmos calling in reserve members, including those without powers and those with no aptitude for magic. This conflict had to be huge, and I love throwing my characters into huge situations because it shows how wonderfully they work the small details.

But to my surprise, “Talisman” turned out to be mostly about family.

This part came from another throwaway line—Trevor mentions in a late chapter of Masks that he doesn’t really have any clear memories of his parents, even though he was six years old when they died in a car accident. I don’t know about you, but I have at least a few solid memories of being six. I mean, I was in kindergarten when I was six, and I remember plenty of that. Yet Trevor’s memories essentially begin with his parents’ funeral. I had already included a scene in Masks where Trevor handles his parents’ wedding rings, and as I wrote “Talisman,” I found Trevor’s attention returning to the question of these people he should remember, but doesn’t.

So while the plot of “Talisman” is about monsters attacking the shrine, and a badly wounded twelve-year-old Trevor limping out to save the day or die trying, the emotional through-line is all about family. Trevor is worried that he’ll be “fired” as Jude’s sidekick because he got hurt—Jude is his only family now, and he’s afraid of being disowned. He’s frustrated that he can’t remember his real family, and fiercely protective of the only artifact he has from them. He finds himself having to be a protective big brother to a boy named Bobby, the four-year-old son of the superhero Behemoth (most of the Champions of the Cosmos left their loved ones at the shrine for safekeeping, protected by the talisman in the story's title).

And the question of why Trevor doesn’t remember his parents becomes central to the resolution of the story. There isn’t an obvious physical cause, even accounting for the terrible medical science found in fiction—he wasn’t in the car when the accident happened, so there’s no convenient head trauma or anything like that. He hasn’t been exposed to any telepaths with a reason to erase his memories. His mom and dad were, by all accounts, nice people who loved their only child and would never abuse him. There’s no reason in the world Trevor shouldn’t have at least a few memories of his biological family. So why doesn’t he remember them?

Well, you’ll have to buy the story to find out, of course. But if it’s any consolation, you’ll also get to see Jude and Trevor kicking serious monster butt, and find out a lot about what Trevor’s world was like back in his sidekick days. And for those of you who have been wondering just what Trevor’s mentor was really like in person … well, your wish is my command. He's here.

I’m still working on getting permission to tell you more about the kids “Talisman” is going to help. I’ll keep you posted on that. Until then—superheroes! Monsters! What could possibly go wrong?

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