Monday, June 6, 2011

The Seeds of a Character: Naros Miir, Part 1

Writers often get asked where they get their ideas from. This is not an easy question to answer, because the ideas that a writer uses often percolate and bounce between various forms before settling. Some ideas come to fruition quickly. Others simmer for years before finding expression, and then get shaped over time.

Naros Miir, the founder of the city that bears his name, is one of those long-running ideas that grew over time. I'm going to take a trip back through memory lane and try to piece together the bits that fashioned him. Be warned...this might be a bit like a magician explaining how his tricks are performed. I hope I don't disillusion you too much.

Sometime in 1997-1998: I'm getting ready for work early in the morning, so this was a summer job (since I was still in high school). I have MTV turned on and this is before it stopped playing music videos entirely but after it started relegating all the rock videos to the buttcrack-of-dawn timeslots. On comes the video for Nine Inch Nails "The Perfect Drug." This is my first exposure to NIN. I like it a lot. I watch for the song again so I can figure out what the song is called, who it's by, and where I can find it. I buy Lost Highway Soundtrack on cassette tape. This song gets a lot of play on my tape deck. The image of Trent Reznor in full goth mode is an image that sticks with me. The seed has been planted.

December 1998: The New Years issue of InQuest Gamer magazine, issue #45, arrives. You can see the eye-catching cover right above. I used to play a lot of Magic: The Gathering, so InQuest was useful to me as an MTG mag. However, by this time I was starting what would be a long relationship with roleplaying games, and InQuest also had a lot of RPG material in it at the time.

One of the columns is called "Legends." It's a column devoted to presenting ideas of places, objects, and people for use in RPGs. All of these articles include stats for use in various games, as well as a mock-up Magic: The Gathering card. This month's Legends has a picture of what looks like a building eating a person. The title of the article is "The Necropolis of Miir."

The article describes a genius loci--a living place. In this case, the Necropolis is a tower in the center of a city that was built by a sorcerer named Naros. The tower became sentient and has ruled in Naros' name ever since it ate the sorcerer's mind. Using rules and decrees it had the city built around it in three concentric rings with the nobles close to the center and the slums on the outskirts.

This is where the idea for Miir caught and held my attention. This is where I was first introduced to Naros. I didn't know at the time that the name had been borrowed from Jack Vance's Tales of a Dying Earth series--I'd learn that much later. It was this seed that grew into the Miir you see in The Tale of The Exile. But there were several more seeds to go.

Six months later: Another InQuest magazine brought a "Legends" column on Gruamm's Cathedral. The Order of Gruamm was a corrupt church that built an emotion battery into their cathedral. The idea was to store and playback emotions as a way of influencing the flock. However, the clerics of the cathedral found themselves addicted to the emotions they gathered, vicariously experiencing the feelings they stole. They needed their fix, so the priests were taking ever more risks influencing the flock to convert more members. They were also building new cathedrals in other cities to gain converts.

This would eventually provide me with the idea for the Heart of Miir, though that would come much later. Several years, in fact.

In between 2004 and 2005: By this time I'm in college and frequenting a roleplaying chat site called Shards. I decide to create a horror setting, and use the half-remembered InQuest articles as a basis for the seat of a family of vampires known as the Kajes that I've been playing on the site. The first posts I have set in Miir take place in February of 2004. The initial description is filled with cliched and overwrought language that I thought was really good at the time, talking about a city where the shadows occasionally ate people. Here's an example:
Miir, the City of Shadow, is aptly named. The great city lies nestled against the Black Mountains, a treacherous range of sharp and jagged peaks. The city follows suit, with monolithic Noble Houses extending like claws above the wretched huts and hovels of the commoners who live below. Great, spidery shadows fall everywhere here, and many folk, though they never speak of it, believe that things live in those shadows, and that, if one is unlucky, one would be swallowed up and never seen again.

 If this seems familiar, it's because I didn't modify the language much when I had Miir make the jump from Shards to Aldora. It was during this time that I developed the concepts of The Shadows, the Noble houses (not yet this point I didn't even know how many there were), Miir's location as a mountainous desert city, the ruler being named Damien many things. If the InQuest articles were the seeds of my city, Shards was where it sprouted.

I can even give you the exact point at which Naros Miir, in his current incarnation, was born. I have the chat logs.

[10:58 PM 12/20/2004] Damien Kaje (Narration) - "It's a sad sight to see, isn't it, madam?" says a cultured voice from behind her, breaking her reverie. "All this dust and nothing. It isn't what I intended for the place."

[11:05 PM 12/20/2004] Lady of Tears - Visibly tenses for a moment, but it melts away.. The sudden sound after all this disturbing sights could make anyone a bit on the edge, even though she found such normal logic as that to be cowardly thinking. " Indeed it is.." Closing her eyes to focus on her composure for the time, before they open and gaze toward his feet. " What else would you expect of it, Kaje? Everything has it's prices.."

[11:09 PM 12/20/2004] Damien Kaje (Narration) - whoever the figure before her is, it certainly isn't Kaje. Oh, he has the same sharp cast to his features, the same long, shiny raven-black hair, and the same sense of pride and confidence the vampire exudes, but where Kaje is large and chiseled, like a block of cold marble, this man is softer and more delicate, more like porcelain. And, of course, Kaje isn't transparent. He chuckles. "Funny. That's what I told the vampire, when he first came here. He didn't listen to me, either."
[11:15 PM 12/20/2004] Lady of Tears - Eyes shift lightly, the curiosity almost overriding her sense of judgment on what could be a very delicate situation.. " And.. Who, exactly, are you if I may be so bold, Sir?.." Canting her head, assuming it was a noble who spoke, but would look toward this new arrival as it it were a peasant until further notice of this individual..

[11:17 PM 12/20/2004] Damien Kaje (Narration) - He bows. "My lady, I am Lord Naros Miir, First Master of the Tower." he smirks a little at himself, as if thinking of some obscure joke that only he found funny. "Or what's left of him, at any rate."

 This was the first appearance of the character that would develop into Gaven's nemesis. Naros Miir was originally just a projection of the sentient Heart of Miir, and the Shadows were originally just nebulous extensions of the Heart's will. The Shadows were just shadows that ate people, and Naros was a ghost. This would develop quite a lot later on during the next stage of Miir's development.

I'll get to that next time I post.

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