Friday, December 16, 2011
MASKS Commentary Track: Chapter 22
This chapter was unusually difficult to write, for a fairly stupid reason.
When I began writing stories as a child, I was usually pretty good at what I now call “character work.” I had a pretty good sense of how people felt and how they would react to the events of the story. Vividly realized characters were my forte, beginning with a large cast of imaginary friends who followed me to school and amused me by making faces behind any teachers who dared to bore me (which, sadly, was most of them).
But I wasn’t any good at complicated plots. I enjoyed reading them—I just didn’t have the sort of brain that naturally came up with them. It’s why I didn’t gravitate toward writing mysteries or thrillers. While I work very hard on my plots—a lack of natural talent is no excuse for mediocrity—it is work in a way that character work really isn’t. And every once in a while, I hit a complicated bit of plotting or design that just knocks me flat, because it really belongs in another genre.
This is a very long way of saying that I have a couple of consultants helping me design my deathtraps.
The design of Trevor’s prison—the tiger cage inside the shipping container—was the work of John Konecsni, author of the very complex and plotty A Pius Man, among other tales. It’s really one of the better trap designs I’ve used, given the resources I handed him and the needs of the project. Cobalt’s impromptu prison had to be something he could construct out of commonly available materials, for starters—when you’re trapping superpowered kids, you have to assume that part of the trap will get trashed from time to time, so you’ve got to make sure you can replace any damaged elements. The trap also had to be modular; because, as he says, he’s selling the kids to the highest bidder, he needs the ability to put kids in and take kids out without interacting with them too much, and also keep them from working together too easily.
And if you’re not impressed, just wait a couple of weeks; you haven’t seen the entire trap yet. Trevor will find out more about his prison when he actually has to get out of it. Remember, there’s a whole world outside that shipping container that could have anything in it …
This chapter also marks the point where Trevor finally starts to revise the way he thinks and acts. While I never intended Masks to be a navel-gazing sort of story, the changes in Trevor’s and Rae’s characters are a major driving force, and some of Trevor’s changes are particularly intentional. He’s going to work his way back to being more of a traditional superhero, and that process starts here, locked in a cage next to an angry werewolf. After all, what’s the point of self-examination if it doesn’t come with face-clawing?
Random note: if you’ve never seen Otter Pops, you can find out more about them here. I knew Cobalt wasn’t stupid enough to give Trevor anything hard to work with, so that meant his water couldn’t come in anything made of glass, metal, or rigid plastic. An IV line would be too much trouble, and for reasons you’ll see later, Cobalt can’t come throw a bucket of water over the cages on a regular basis. Otter Pops were my solution. And for the record, Sir Isaac Lime was my favorite flavor, so there.
This week’s soundtrack is (what else?) Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”