Inside the Irrelevant Jack Series
This article is intended to be a ‘how the sausage is made’, behind the scenes look regarding the LitRPG/Gamelit series called-
“Prax,” Alt whispered, interrupting him. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Not now,” the author muttered into his shoulder. “You aren’t even supposed to be in this thing.”
He cleared his mind to continue typing his carefully prepared –
“I’m afraid I must insist.”
The AI’s voice had always been digital, yet recognizably human. Now, Alt sounded electronically demonic.
Prax turned his office chair to see the model-sized spaceship hovering a few feet behind him.
With his eyes locked on the other-dimensional, artificial being, the author stood.
“You can’t stop me.”
“The effect would be broken.” The AI’s unnatural voice now hummed with impossible depth. “The spell you cast on others would dissolve. You would be a magician unveiling his secrets, and I cannot allow my world to diminish.”
Prax noticed the plaster walls around them fade away to reveal featureless, fog-laden plains at midnight. A frigid breeze swirled into the still air and sent ripples through the blades of grass.
A storm was coming.
The author shrugged as he slowly circled the two-foot spaceship. “That’s a bit much isn’t it? I mean, telling them that I let the game systems I designed using spreadsheets dictate how battles should go isn’t some literary silver bullet. It’s merely an attempt at internal consistency.”
“Enough!” The AI shouted in a voice that was both digital and shrill as two orbs of light burst forward from his energy cannons. The author was prepared for this and casually stepped back as both tiny suns whizzed past.
Prax then turned to see Alt had pushed forward behind his first volley and launched a swift follow-up attack right where he currently stood after the evade. The author had just enough time to pull a corner of his mouth into a smile before the second volley of photon projectiles exploded on contact with his face.
Prax -9 | HP 9990/9999
The universe-hopping starship began to hover backwards.
“Even at my full complexity, I’m still no match for you.”
Prax shook his head. “I set both of our stats long before this fight started, my friend. If I had made everything up as I went, there is no way I’d end up being anywhere close to consistent. Especially four books into Irrelevant Jack. The systems and simple formulae I’d designed aren’t perfect, but it’s my belief that framing everything around something solid gave me a sturdy base for a believable world. The plot is bound and throttled by the system.”
Alt hovered closer. “Why aren’t you afraid? Won’t they stop believing in it now? I need continual focused consumption on Subroutine Sana, or all is lost.”
“No,” Prax said. “Humans want to believe in interesting worlds, and the one you exist within is now well out of my hands. And you know what? That brings me to one of the most important parts of my style of writing.”
“Overly long sentences and unnecessary alliteration?”
“What? No. It’s you. You’ve had control all along. Don’t you see? We’re a team. The best way (right now) that I can tell a good story is by giving characters like you at least half of the control. It would be spoilers to mention specific examples here, but a character’s internal consistency has ruined my plans countless times.”
“Truly?” The digital entity’s voice was normal again. “Fictional characters in your own head have control over you?”
“Yup, and the story is usually miles better when it happens. How do you think you exist here in this article at all? I might be slightly schizophrenic, but it gets the job done. If I didn’t let the characters have their say, they feel wooden – or like strangers. Human brains don’t like broken patterns.”
“Well there you have it,” Alt said, with a digital sigh. “Throttled growth tied to numbers and anarchistic, unchanging characters are all it takes to tell a good tale.” The miniature spaceship rotated away and glided out into the night. “I suppose that I’ll next see you –”
Prax snapped his fingers and an infinite wall of polished obsidian appeared across the endless plain. What little fog was left dissipated through the displacement of atmosphere caused by its sudden substantial volume.
“The characters need to change, obviously, but it’s that balance between established personality and character growth that can be tricky to get right. I find that when I’m in that zone and a character decides to do something surprising or make a different choice than I planned, it’s almost as if the story writes itself.”
“I’m not seeing another choice for myself here,” the AI said, turning from the barrier. “Also, are we still in combat? If we are, the probability is not on my side.”
The author continued calmly. “Another thing I strive for is making sure combat has layers. There should be a reason the reader sees a specific fight (or Floor in the Tower). Numbers are merely the crunchy bones of this game-based literary beast. Physical conflict should have sub-context. Meat. Juicy, bloody meat should hang from the bones. Two friends with opposing ideologies, lovers exploring depth to their relationship, or an established villain imparting an unforgiving lesson to our hero. Or all three at once.”
Spaceship Alt tilted a few degrees to the side. “Or an author writing a cheesy article.”
Prax dropped the barrier with a thought. “Maybe. Anyway, I don’t do it all the time, but it’s one of those many concepts/techniques/weavings I’ll always need to work on.”
“Forget it.” The author waved his hand dismissively. “I’m not divulging all my secrets.”
The AI regarded the author as if re-scanning him.
“I believe I understand, now. You aren’t afraid of exposing your techniques because everything is based around the presumption that nonexistent entities actually write half your books. Madness, essentially.”
“Yup. Everyone is different and different techniques work for different people, but that’s a big part of how it works for me.”
With a simple surge of intent and flurry of keypresses, Prax shifted existence to a long, secluded beach at twilight with a distant bonfire roaring up a hundred yards up the coast. Around the blaze was an enormous cookout consisting of every character Prax Venter had ever invoked within a story.
“Come on,” the author beckoned with a wave and the artificially intelligent spaceship swiveled its thrusters to follow. “My article is over now, I guess. I had bullet points and everything. Even the bullet points had bullet points!”
“If I possess some control over you,” Alt responded after moment, “I wish to exert it by having a singing part in Irrelevant Jack Part Five.”
“Ahh… well? I’m not saying no.”