When I was first designing my Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning–under a different name, mind you–I had maps drawn and things labeled. I had a location in the middle of Maine for the school, towns that the students could visit, and interesting things that could be done in and around the area–which, to be honest, was pretty much all wilderness.
During the process of transplanting my Salem school into another world, I started thinking, “Having it in Maine makes no sense. But where can I put it so it’s close to Salem?” Fortunately for me Goggle Maps exist, and I found the perfect place: the middle of Cape Ann, a small island where the town of Gloucester is located. I could come up with all sorts of interesting ways to keep the school hidden–after all, what’s the point of writing about a huge, world-encompassing organization if they can’t hide a large group of buildings in plain sight?–and, if I set my mind to it, I could make the school bigger. Much bigger.
That’s where I got into Blender and began doing a little three dimensional modeling. I came up with a whole new layout for the school, while keeping the central area–The Pentagram, the Coven Towers, and the Great Hall–all right where they belonged. So I started thinking big–really big. And a whole new school was created out of the old.
Constructing a model of the school and the tunnels that run under the school took weeks. In actuality, I probably tweaked this model for a few months–in fact, the labels you see in the picture above were put there last month, and this included labels I put on one of the cross-country race tracks–the Green Line–so when people say, “He lost it in the Northwest Passage”, I know where it’s at.
How big is the school The Great Hall is 175 meters from the north end of the library to the main entrance at the south. That’s 574 feet if you don’t do the whole metric thing. That means The Pentagram is much larger–each of the walls between the towers are between 220 meters (722 feet) to 240 meters (787 feet). And yet when you look at this structure, it fits nicely inside the walls. From the north Polar Tower to the southern wall next the Gloucester Entrance it’s about 5.5 kilometers (or 3.4 miles), and a good part of the school is about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) across. Like I said, it’s a big place with room to move.
Now that I had a place, I was almost ready to start writing the pre-novel, The Scouring. I just needed to do a little modifying of some of the characters . . .
All of the characters were developed around a starting 2011 time frame, but a lot of them were teaching back in the year 2000, the time of The Scouring. Not only there, but a few of the current teachers in the work in progress were students. So you know what was needed? Time lines.
As you can see, I know that Erywin, Jessica, Madeline, and Ramona were teaching in 2000, and that Isis, Deanna, and Wednesday–who work at the school in the current novel–were students then. I also see that Coraline came in as the school doctor on 30 April, 2000–the day after the time of the Scouring. This is where a time line comes in handy: it lets you know what people did went, particularly if you’re working on multiple story arcs. And you also see just about when all the main characters–and a few side characters–were students. The nice thing here is that Aeon Timeline allows you to export part or all of a time line as an image, and then you can insert that image into a Scrivener file. So if you don’t want to have two programs up at the same time, just bring in your time line and view it when you feel it’s needed.
Now, one last thing, and it’s about my characters. I’m an old role playing gamer and GM, or Game Master. I love making characters, and I like to make them as real as I can. When I started putting the characters for these stories together, I not only did a little bit of history on each, but I assigned a “face” to them, something that, when I’m first starting out with the character development, I get an idea of how they looked. Sometimes–like I did for Her Demonic Majesty–the faces are of people whose pictures I just find. And then there are times, like with the character in The Foundation Chronicles, that they sort of become celebrities in their own right.
Here are the people I picked for each of my characters for The Scouring, and I’ll show you were I altered them.
Jessica Kishna, Mistress of Transformation. She came from a picture I found of an African-American runway model, with a big helping of the wonderful Angela Basset.
Ramona Chai, Self Defense and Weapons. Ziyi Zhang.
Matthias Ellison, Music and Arts Director. Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Madeline Palmescoff, History. Mary-Louise Parker.
Erywin Sladen, Formulistic Magic. Joanna Lumley.
Isis Mossman. Chloë Sevigny, but with changes. Since it was stated in The Scouring that her mother was Egyptian, that meant altering her features and complexion slightly.
Deanna Arrakis. Deanna was difficult because she’s Iraqi, and it took some time to find good pictures of women from Iraq. Eventually I settled on a combination so that she has a slightly large nose, a strong chin, large brown eyes, black hair, and a slightly tanned complexion.
Wednesday Douglas. Here I went totally meta, because I literally came up with the actress first. That actress is . . . Christina Ricci. And who is Christina known for playing?
There you have it: Wednesday Douglas, who will have a daughter named Tuesday and a granddaughter named Friday. And who is one of the best little witches to come out of Salem in a long time. She doesn’t have pigtails, though. She hates them. Now you know why.
And lastly, Supporting Characters:
Helena Lovecraft. She’s a Kiwi, so I wanted a Kiwi as her “face”, which means I picked Lucy Lawless. she’s gone through a lot of changes, however: I kept the body and her intense look, made her half-Māori, darkened her hair and complexion, and gave her “black shark’s eyes”. All and all, I have always loved Helana, and I have her back story with Erywin, her partner and companion, thought out and down pat. One day Erywin will even tell Kerry about how she met her “pretty girl”.
Coraline Gallagher, the new School “Nurse”. Coraline is modeled after Christina Hendricks, thought the young character that Wednesday meets is more like Yo-Saf-Bridge from Firefly (with red hair, naturally) and not Joan Holloway from Mad Men, the person Annie and Kerry meet. This is also why when “Red” meets Coraline–as she likes to call him–for the first time he doesn’t know how to describe her except as “curvy”, which is his way of being polite. Coraline is a huge romantic and a hell of a fighter–I still have to publish that except of her and Madam Chai going at it–and Kerry doesn’t know it yet, but he and Nurse Coraline share a birthday. There is a reason for that . . .
Now that we have all that out of the way, tomorrow I can get into outlining a small novel.
The big one comes after that.