Dan Melson: November 2017 Archives

Praxeology - Something I Love

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Praxeology is the deduction of what someone wants from their actions. It's actually highly relevant to author skills - I use it constantly.

Praxeology has very little to do with what someone says. Most folks in most things have a public agenda and a real (private) agenda. They'll say what supports their public agenda, but they will *do* what supports their real (private) agenda.

Praxeology is rarely an immediate and certain knowledge of what someone wants. Most often, its immediate result is certain knowledge that their private agenda differs from their public agenda. But figuring out what that private agenda *is* generally takes an extended period of observation, and even then it may not be what mathematicians call a 'unique' solution. In short, it can be wrong.

Military planners and strategists use praxeology routinely. What our rivals and our allies are really after can be far more accurately ascertained by watching what they do than by paying attention to what they say.

One of praxeoogy's favorite sayings is "What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say."

I do outline. Not as thoroughly or obsessively as some, but I do have character sketches and a firm idea of where the story is going and the significant events on the way before I start writing.

And then, partway through the writing process, one of the characters stands up and says to me, "I thought of something better." More in character. Smarter for that character to do at that point in time. A better response to what happens to them. And it's usually better for the story than the original idea.

I call this hijacking the story. It's happened at least once in every novel of mine but the first. It happened twice in my most recent.

It also seems to be a sign that I'm not only tuned into the character, but that I'm onto a good story. So I'm happy every time it happens.

Book Two of Rediscovery. Follow the links to the right - only $2.99 in e-book! (Paperback available at Amazon)

I woke up suddenly in the dark. There was somebody in the room with me. I heard Riley bark once, then go silent. The shape of a woman resolved itself in the closet door. It was dark, but she wasn't much bigger than I was. I grabbed for the little blaster in my bag, but she interrupted, "Don't bother with the blaster; it won't work on me anyway. How did you get it and what happened to my brother?"

"Your brother?" I replied. I hoped she had something to do with ScOsh, but wasn't certain.

"His name was Osh Scimtar. He probably called himself ScOsh. There is a Mindsword in this box that shows his pattern, but he wasn't known to have a Mindsword or be capable of forging one. It's inactive, which means he's dead, and you're operant with at least some training. Did you somehow manage to kill him?"
"First explain what you did to the dog and my parents!"

"They're asleep. Nobody is going to interrupt us. Now start explaining!"

"Oh, I am sorry!" It took a while for my brain to get going sometimes. "I knew there'd be people looking for him, but he told me there were so many people in the empire I never thought it would be family first. He gave me a log for the whomever it was. Have you found his log yet?" She gave a little noise towards the end of the sentence, which meant she had as soon as I mentioned it. I watched her face fall. She must have accessed something that told her ScOsh was dead. It was like a hammer hit her, but she maintained her presence of mind.

After that pause, "Are you Grace?"

"That's me," I replied. Since I hadn't yet given her a name, that meant she read it off the log or out of my mind.

"I'm sorry," she said, "But Osh was close to all of us. A surrogate father whenever Father was gone. I'm Anara Scimtar di Baryan. Call me ScAnara." Unlike ScOsh, she emphasized the connection enough that I caught the soft cee and figured out that the beginning was an informal patronymic of sorts. "To expect him to be here so I can harass him about an error he made, only he's gone, dead, it's just going to take a few moments. He thought a lot of you, evidently. Enough to leave instructions concerning you in his log. Would you like to come to the empire with us?"

"Yes, I would." I had already made up my mind on that score. "How long do I have?"

"We need to verify that he did kill all of the stons that were here. And we're going to run an astral survey, compute a temporal ephemeris, drop a beacon. As long as we're here, let's do what we need to in order to keep track of a planet with seven billion humans. That will also insure you can find your way back, incidentally. Eight hours at least. ScOsh's log says our hours are about one point seven of yours so thirteen and a half hours." I looked at my watch, just to be sure. It was 5 AM. I had until 6:30 tonight to say goodbye

"You'd better be nice to me because I'm going to be the Queen!" And she was quite the piece of eye candy - petite, upturned nose, dimples, green eyes, golden blonde hair, pert and ample breasts, well turned backside. Too bad for her she said it with King Edvard only a few feet away.

I'd spent a couple hours after my return building a simple trap. It wouldn't do any harm to those who triggered it; all it would do was light up the location of any active magic on tower visitors. A simple trigger of matra as a detective together with kored to light up the specific location. I even extruded a nice silver frame for the visitors to walk thorough into the tower. It wouldn't last forever, but it was almost foolproof in its simplicity. Particularly at the level of the local talent.

King Edvard, for his part, wanted to get a good look at how his prospective brides treated his veterans, so he was dressed simply as one of his officers. He watched calmly as the door guard - Magni - explained to the young woman in question and her father the wizard that his instructions were that all visitors were to pass through this portal upon entering the tower. Her father - a wizard who styled himself Heffinglass - demurred, and so did his daughter, heaping abuse upon poor Magni.

Finally, King Edvard, still posing as the lieutenant in charge of the watch, took charge, "My instructions from the king are explicit. No visitors are to enter the tower without passing through the silver portal. If you do not wish to attend the king's invitation under such conditions, my lord Heffinglass, then you and your daughter may depart without fear."

"But the portal is enchanted! What is its' function?"

"I cannot say. We were told only to take careful note of the location on your persons of any illumination such passage provokes. The king's wizard is here; perhaps you would take it up with him?"

"Sir, I demand to know the nature of the enchantment!"

"The nature of the enchantment is quite simple; all it does is alert the observer to the presence of active magic. But since you seem to have difficulty and I happen to be standing right here, I will report what I see directly."

"Well, that would be welcome, since I am not doing any magic currently."

"Lord Heffinglass, that may be the truth in that you're not casting any spells at the moment," I replied, "However, it's intentionally misleading. In fact, this woman is not your daughter, she is your concubine, and she's already pregnant. You've bespelled her with a simple glamour any apprentice should be able to spot. Do I need to demonstrate, or would you rather retain what shreds of dignity you have remaining and retire from this spot, never to return?"

"Preposter..." he began huffily, as if I was impugning him, then finished weakly "...ous" as the glamour vanished, the young woman being replaced with a significantly older but still attractive woman, dark hair beginning to gray, everything else significantly aged.

This is an excerpt from the story I'm working on now. It will be my first fantasy, a riff on Zelazny and Moorcock.

"Returning to the original question you asked me, though, marrying a wizard's daughter or even a wizard herself would be a wise move. Not only would it give you a new ally, other wizards would be less willing to try and take your place if you've got wizards on your side. They might also be more willing to live in a city or kingdom ruled by someone not hostile to their kind. Finally, it's possible that one or more of your children could be a wizard."

"Against that," he responded, "We have the issue that one of the reasons people want to become wizards is power. Too many of them aspire to power no matter the consequences, or the cost to others. What you're saying has merit, Alexan, but I'd need to be very careful about taking a wizard for a queen."

"That's one of the reasons it would be a very good idea to have many wizards around. Where there are sixties or hundreds of wizards, they will keep each other in check. And the wizard who thinks magical power is the ultimate force is going to be mortally surprised when they discover it's not. Maybe in a duel between two wizards it would be. But when there are too many other wizards for anyone to fight, political power is the winning argument."

"I still don't understand why you are willing to create a situation where you are not the ultimate power. Why don't you want to rule?"

"I told you, Your Majesty. I've been a ruler. It's not something I'm looking to repeat at the moment, because rulers are not free to do as they wish. Even if you're not interested in being a good ruler, the requirements of being a ruler will catch you. Furthermore, having many other wizards around gives me opportunity to pretend to be nothing extraordinary. If there are sixty or a hundred other wizards around, all trying to convince everyone they're the biggest, baddest wizard out there, people will have no reason to bother me, as I have no such intention or need. Finally, the place I come from taught me many things in a lifetime that's been significantly longer than you probably believe, and I've had opportunities to hone my craft. I doubt anyone will be able to challenge me for at least a human lifetime. I hope you enjoy being King, Your Majesty, because the truth is that the constraints of being ruler have you snared already. I suspect you will be a good king, and if you accept my counsel when I offer it I will help you become both happier and better, but your latitude of action is less than many would believe."

"And you would advise?"

"Send messengers to the noble houses and to the wizards. To the former, invite them to send their daughters of marriageable age to Treemount. To the latter, add an invitation to the female wizards who wish to be considered and an invitation to relocate to Treemount regardless. Once they start arriving, see if you can find one you get along with. Any of them will do for an alliance, but finding one who will help you as an ally and a friend is worth doing if you can."

"That's appealing, Alexan. I'd like to marry someone who's a friend, or at least friendly. But those who want to marry me for power may not give up their ambitions so easily. I'd hate to put a prospective friend in the way of a jackal's path to power. You don't owe me anything, but I dare to hope we've become friends, you and I. Will you help your friend protect the woman who might help me rule?"

The set up

This essentially re-tells the biblical story of the rise of David with a few additions. It is the first in a series.

The good: The writing is clear. and most people should know the background of the story

The needs improvement: Lots of telling, not so much showing

What else you need to know: It does take liberties with the biblical story of David. Although it is largely compatible with the Christian mythos, some of the Christians I know would likely have issues with some of the scenes with Jezebel, particularly with allowing children to read it. It is written in a style comparable to the bible or the prose eddas. If you don't like the style of those, or had issues with the Silmarillion, this book is probably not for you.


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