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Vox Mentis Discussion
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tronn
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Thank you for the read, it was a rollercoaster thriller from beginning to end!

What evil masterplan Thoreau meant to use the bareword for?

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Tale of a small lizard on the big sea!
05-24-2017, 08:51 PM
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Douglas
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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(05-24-2017, 08:51 PM)tronn Wrote: What evil masterplan Thoreau meant to use the bareword for?

When Thoreau acquired the bareword, he was struck by the impermanence of everything his life was built around. The Organization's knowledge meant nothing in the face of this thing that could circumvent all their rules. So he found meaning in permanently altering the world in such a way that nothing could erase it: "building a tower". In order to do this, he would need to get people to serve him. The bareword was a convenient means to that end.
05-24-2017, 09:04 PM
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Schazer
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Following on from the question I asked you in Discord: How compromised was Eliot?
05-24-2017, 10:14 PM
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Douglas
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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(05-24-2017, 10:14 PM)Schazer Wrote: Following on from the question I asked you in Discord: How compromised was Eliot?

Eliot was compromised, but not in the overt "words" sense of the term. He was compromised by the job, a consummate company man that believed in what he was doing, until Thoreau went off the rails. This compromise led him to make what was probably the most pivotal decision of his life, with Jane: Terminating her pregnancy. This would cause a tear in his heart that would compromise him in a different, conflicting way that the Organization compromised him. He saw Elise as a surrogate daughter, and allowed himself to feel for her, creating conflicting "commands" in himself that, ultimately, resulted in his death.

So he wasn't compromised by words - he was, as he said to Jane, "persuaded without them saying a word".
05-24-2017, 11:17 PM
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Schazer
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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The surrogate daughter-figure was the angle I was thinking of, yeah. Nice

A bit of worldbuilding geekery I have to get out of my system: Thoreau chooses the names of graduating poets, right? What was his reasoning behind the names given that we saw in the story (particularly of interest to me are Plath, Eliot, Austen, and also the author of the final supplementary material)

Can you share one work by each of the poets "resurrrected" within this story? Like a playlist but for poetry????
05-24-2017, 11:24 PM
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Schazer
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Nippon
Bonus question (for everyone actually): Which poet name would you have ideally and which one do you think you'd actually be given if you were in the Organisation?
05-24-2017, 11:29 PM
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a52
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Holy. Shit. That ending did not disappoint. Wow.


Similarly to Schazer's question, why was the fact that Elise was named "Woolf" such a big deal?
05-25-2017, 04:08 AM
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☆ C.H.W.O.K.A ☆
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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i'm rad as hell, and i'm not gonna take it anymore

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05-25-2017, 04:42 AM
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tronn
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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I read Eliot's hesitation as him realizing that shooting Woolf wouldn't change a thing, but letting himself get killed might lure out Thoreau. As he said seeing Danny would make it impossible to know what she'd do, but it might end up with her killing Thoreau so he sacrificed himself for that slim chance. Am I off the base here?

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05-25-2017, 07:18 AM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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After reading Douglas' post above, my understanding was that he just couldn't bring himself to kill her.
05-25-2017, 07:40 AM
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Douglas
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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(05-24-2017, 11:24 PM)Schazer Wrote: A bit of worldbuilding geekery I have to get out of my system: Thoreau chooses the names of graduating poets, right? What was his reasoning behind the names given that we saw in the story (particularly of interest to me are Plath, Eliot, Austen, and also the author of the final supplementary material)

Can you share one work by each of the poets "resurrrected" within this story? Like a playlist but for poetry????

The way I saw it was that there was a sort of "board" at the Academy that handled naming of poets when they graduated. However, Thoreau could overrule/step in for cases that he took a special interest in... like Elise.

While some of the names had in-story reasoning behind them (like Woolf), many were chosen because I wanted to evoke a feeling about the character via the poetry of their, uh, poetsona, or present a sort of irony. For example, a Very Good poem by the real Thoreau is Friendship. This poem very much encapsulates one of the main "rules" of the story, which is revealed at the end:

Thoreau Wrote:In such case only doth man fully prove
Fully as man can do,
What power there is in Love
His inmost soul to move
Resistlessly.

If villain Thoreau had actually understood and internalized his namesake's outlook, he may have gotten a lot farther in taking over the world.

Woolf: The naming of Elise was very much a power move, and probably a sort of vain wish-fulfillment, by Thoreau. It's also a bit of foreshadowing for the twist that Woolf was acting under Thoreau's orders, in his thrall, consciously or otherwise, for much of the story.

Note these lines in this article:

Quote:Woolf saw Thoreau not as a misanthropic hermit trying to hide from society in the woods, but as a “noble” rebel attempting to teach his fellow man his unique philosophy on life through his writing and actions.

It was as if she saw him as she saw herself, a misfit trying to invent a new way of life...

(05-25-2017, 04:08 AM)a52 Wrote: Similarly to Schazer's question, why was the fact that Elise was named "Woolf" such a big deal?

Since the Organization dealt out poet names based on how good at word wizardry you were, getting the name Virginia Woolf would be seen as an absurdly high honor, since IRL Woolf had such a deep understanding of how words work.

Eliot: The Hollow Men is one of my favorite poems, and imagery from it ends up worming its way into pretty much anything I write at some point. You might notice echoes of post-bareword Broken Hill in there.

Though he would never say it, Eliot very much views himself as a failure. At the end, he realizes he let the Organization control him so much that for most of his life, his actions were not truly his own. He was a hollow man, a stuffed man, headpiece filled with straw. He failed to save Jane, he failed to save Elise, and in the end, his world ended: Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Austen: The reasoning behind the naming of Austen was twofold: I wanted to evoke an initial sense of "high society and prim and properness" when she is introduced, but then reveal that there is a bit more to her as you dig deeper throughout the story. The second reason might be more clear if you understand Jane Austen's writings as a model of Aristotelian philosophy/ethics. This is explained pretty well in this article. To briefly summarize the idea, Aristotle had the thought that "do excellent things, have excellent things happen to you, and vice versa". Austen's novels tend to show this as good guys ending up with good endings, and bad guys getting shitty endings. Karma, essentially. Jane represents this idea for Eliot. His own "compromised" state by the Organization leads to him doing bad stuff, which ultimately makes Jane, and what she represents, unattainable for him.

Plath: This one isn't super deep, but I think both real Plath and story Plath were quite troubled people. I also think her poem The Colossus hints at what are her underlying feelings about working under Thoreau: The sense of helpless servitude, her fear of the power he wields.

Dove: You might have noticed that the "front" for Labs was the Rita Dove Institute of Psychological Research. Behind the scenes, Rita Dove was the poet in charge of Labs, and became basically the highest-ranking poet left following the "shakeup" at the end. I wanted a fairly recent poet name belonging to someone who achieved a decently high level of fame (but not so high as to compete with Thoreau). Her IRL critics also thought "she valued an inclusive, populist agenda over quality", which I think speaks to her viewpoint at the end - stick to Organizational norms, don't shake things up too much, stay with what works.

Hopefully that sheds some light on a few of the thoughts behind the characters!

As far as a "poetry playlist" goes, here's my recommendations for the main poets from the story (that also played a role in the drafting of the story):

Thoreau: Friendship, Inspiration

Woolf: No poetry, but I recommend listening to this.

Eliot: The Hollow Men, The Waste Land

Austen: When Stretch'd On One's Bed

Plath: The Colossus, Words

(05-25-2017, 07:18 AM)tronn Wrote: I read Eliot's hesitation as him realizing that shooting Woolf wouldn't change a thing, but letting himself get killed might lure out Thoreau. As he said seeing Danny would make it impossible to know what she'd do, but it might end up with her killing Thoreau so he sacrificed himself for that slim chance. Am I off the base here?

(05-25-2017, 07:40 AM)Dragon Fogel Wrote: After reading Douglas' post above, my understanding was that he just couldn't bring himself to kill her.

Yes, that's exactly it. He couldn't do it. Regardless of Thoreau, Woolf's kill order, anything, he couldn't bring himself to kill someone he saw as his daughter. To kill her would be another mistake in a long line of mistakes.
05-25-2017, 06:50 PM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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That "hollow man" comment makes me think of how Eliot deliberately tried to control his desires. There were some very disturbing passages about that, and "hollow" feels like a good summary of that whole aspect to him.

He wanted things - needed things, as Thoreau was aware. He tried to deny those desires, regulate them, and the result was an empty life.

And the end, it didn't even protect him.
05-25-2017, 07:10 PM
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Schazer
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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(05-25-2017, 06:50 PM)Douglas Wrote: You might have noticed that the "front" for Labs was the Rita Dove Institute of Psychological Research.

Lmao nope I didn't! Thank you for your response though it's everything I wanted and more. I've already mentioned how much of an "oh shit" moment it was for me when I looked up that recording of Virginia Woolf, and the metacontextual sweetness of your protagonist-poet being shaped not by the written words of her author-insert (Schadenfruit) but the only remnant of her spoken word. I still think that's cool as heck.

I naturally started seeing what Rita Dove's poetry was like when her name showed up in the "epilogue" and I thought Ars Poetica fit Vox Mentis really well:

Spoiler: Ars Poetica, Rita Dove
Quote:Thirty miles to the only decent restaurant

was nothing, a blink

in the long dull stare of Wyoming.

Halfway there the unknown but terribly

important essayist yelled Stop!

I wanna be in this; and walked

fifteen yards onto the land

before sky bore down and he came running,

crying Jesus--there's nothing out there!

I once met an Australian novelist

who told me he never learned to cook

because it robbed creative energy.

What he wanted most was

to be mute; he stacked up pages;

he entered each day with an ax.

What I want is this poem to be small,

a ghost town

on the larger map of wills.

Then you can pencil me in as a hawk:

a traveling x-marks-the-spot.

And looking that up directed me to Horace's similarly-titled poem from the year 19 BC about "how to write good poems+drama", which was where phrases like "in media res" and "ab ovo" were coined. Vox Mentis seems to follow most or maybe all of the rules Horace laid out so I guess there's an ancient Greek poet who'd be pretty pleased with you???

Either way, I thought Dove's poem sharing a title with that of an ancient poet tied really nicely with what you said in Discord, about Dove's letter showing the Organisation hadn't learned the important lesson from this mess and was inevitably going to make the same mistakes down the line
05-26-2017, 12:03 AM
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Schazer
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Nippon
Deadly serious bonus question: which branch of the Organisation did William Shakespeare work in?
05-26-2017, 12:09 AM
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☆ C.H.W.O.K.A ☆
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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so who WAS afraid of virginia woolf
05-26-2017, 12:29 AM
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Douglas
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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I'm decently familiar with Ars Poetica - good catch! Fun fact, Ars Poetica was the working title for Vox Mentis when I was developing it for a bit. I ended up thinking it was a bit too on the nose. I liked the Latin though, and I liked having the title be something that didn't entirely have a clear meaning until the very very end.

(05-26-2017, 12:09 AM)Schazer Wrote: Deadly serious bonus question: which branch of the Organisation did William Shakespeare work in?

Oh boy, Shakespeare was definitely the head of the England branch at one point. I'm gonna say in the 1920s. Unfortunately, he and most of the England branch were wiped out when they unwittingly tapped into a different sort of bareword language than we're familar with, effectively erasing themselves from existence. The England branch has never been able to reattain its former glory.

(05-26-2017, 12:29 AM)☆ C.H.W.O.K.A ☆ Wrote: so who WAS afraid of virginia woolf

Why, Virginia Woolf, of course ;)
05-26-2017, 02:49 AM
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Smurfton
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Were any poets actual notable poets before they became poets? Did they get to keep their names?
05-26-2017, 08:44 PM
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Douglas
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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(05-26-2017, 08:44 PM)Smurfton Wrote: Were any poets actual notable poets before they became poets? Did they get to keep their names?

Probably not - the reason the poets take their names is to become invisible online. Can't Google someone you met with the same name as a famous poet and get anything meaningful - if a real famous poet was recruited, they would either not be able to become invisible, or everybody would be wondering where they went!
05-29-2017, 12:25 PM
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Mirdini
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Caught up and finished yesterday - too late to do any suggesting, but thanks for the ride Douglas! It was a really good read, and I'm glad I could be a part of it for at least the earlier segments.

You've mentioned that the story's been on some rails, but I'm curious at what point you had some of the important plot points nailed down - particularly that Elise would be compromised into going back to Broken Hill, and the finale in general.

Were those already mostly set by the time we got to Elise's meeting with Thoreau, or were things still up in the air at the point? (I'd assume by the time Elise was in Broken Hill/meeting Danny things came together pretty fast if they hadn't already).
05-31-2017, 07:52 AM
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Douglas
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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According to my notes, the basic beats that I knew from the start I wanted to hit were:

-Nick and Eliot make their way to Broken Hill while fighting off rogue poets in a variety of scenarios. Use this to introduce the "mechanics" of the words, with Nick as the outsider audience surrogate. Nick and Eliot are the framing device for the meat of the story. Obscure the motivations of all parties until revealed in "flashbacks".

-Introduce Elise as a crafty street magician with a history of being used/controlled by other people and wanting agency, but having none. Have her recruited by the organization but portray her as underpowered.

-Have Elise scheme her way through the Academy. Explain more about word theory when possible.

-Have her screw up irredeemably, then exiled to Broken Hill. Introduce Thoreau as a catalyst to this.

-Have her meet Danny/Nick and fall in love. Make them really different to avoid tipping off the twist.

-Have Elise put down roots in Broken Hill.

-Bareword is discovered. Pull Elise out and put her in an office job. Confirm she is Woolf.

-Have Elise discover clues about the bareword's existence (planted by Thoreau, but don't make this obvious)

-Have Elise gain poet skills through this period

-Have Elise infiltrate the Organization with a fake identity and steal the bareword

-Have Elise return to Broken Hill/Danny. Danny does not respond to the bareword. Audience should realize for sure that Danny is Nick now.

-Elise leaves, then Thoreau's programming kicks in and Broken Hill is destroyed. Drive home that Elise has never acted of her own free will this whole time. Her whole life has been controlled by others.

-Danny saves Elise from the carnage, but is badly injured. Elise makes him forget and become Nick. Hint at the underlying language of the bareword being the mechanics here.

-Reveal more information about Thoreau in flashbacks as we catch up to Nick and Eliot. Timelines converge when Nick retrieves bareword from Broken Hill.

-Reveal that Elise returned to kill Thoreau with the bareword, but he defeated her and enslaved her.

-End with Elise finally breaking free of Thoreau's control as she reunites with Nick, and as her final act, one that she truly chooses of her own free will at last, have her use the underlying language to order Nick to kill her.


So yeah most of the main beats were already there - but a lot of the in between stuff was developed as we went along. Eliot wasn't originally planned to be as deep as he was, but I really liked writing him for some reason and wanted to make him a tragic character. His backstory was fairly fleshed out in my mind by the time we got to the ranch fight, but I didn't settle on the "surrogate daughter" angle with Elise until a bit later.

Most of the stuff in the academy was made up as we went along. My one rule was that I wanted to seed later plot points as much as I could the whole way through to make the whole thing cohere as much as I could by the end.

By the time Elise met Thoreau, I had a very clear understanding of what I wanted to happen from then on out.
05-31-2017, 03:54 PM
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Mirdini
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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Neat, thanks for the insight.
05-31-2017, 04:16 PM
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Zephyr Nepres
 RE: Vox Mentis Discussion
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So the death of Lee was one of the most satisfying things I've ever read.

Does really cute mice people, vibrant characters/backgrounds and the most adorable art style you've ever seen interest you? Read Great Haven.

Have you ever wanted to save a bunch of kids from dying horribly in a nightmare dreamscape? Read Lucidstuck
07-15-2017, 01:29 AM
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