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Snippets: Before Worm

December 28, 2013

Author’s Note:  I’ve decided on the story I’m going ahead with, and need to take some time to set up the site and rewrite the first chapter.  There isn’t much use in continuing with samples, so… something else!

I started to write ‘An Über and Leet Christmas’, and it wasn’t fun, funny or Christmassy.  It wasn’t enjoyable, even.

So I was left to think about what other things might be of interest… and I consider this idea kind of a penance.  It’s penance because it’s awful and it’s embarrassing to put it out there.  A lot of it is really awful.  But I think it’s interesting to see where things came from.  I’m picking out the strongest or most noteworthy story from a given set of years.

Presenting: the (terrible) stuff I wrote in the superhero genre before settling on Worm.  Be warned, these stories don’t have endings (Worm was the first thing that did), so they sort of cut off.

There’s actually a lot of words here.  Don’t feel you have to read all of them in one sitting – you’ll hurt yourself.  For a sense of what other stories were written, and my (off the top of my head) framing for many of them, see this comment and the follow-up comments on Worm, a while back.

A bit of history, and an insight into how things evolve over the course of building a world through multiple stories.

Runechild (2002) – The first superhero story I really wrote, back in 2002.  After the bit I posted, it went onto a tangent with Faultline and never got back on track with a main story.

I personally find it interesting to note the elements that are present.  Narwhal, contrary to what I remembered, was the first canon character who was introduced and who stayed with the setting.  Runechild, the protagonist, was supposed to be a novice Doctor Strange, but wound up being a telekinetic with a few gimmicks.  There was more at play with the ‘is it magic or something else?’ question.  In the end, she was the only real character I wrote who didn’t really make it into Worm in one form or another. I would return to it once or twice (the second story featuring her helping Dragon vs. the Dragonslayers, to help circumvent the AI limitations) before deciding that magic didn’t work, and that Ottawa was a crappy place to set a superhero story.

TELUTT (2004) – AKA, ‘the events leading up to that Thursday’.

Not the first draft of TELUTT, the story switched between Faultline, the Triumvirate and Guts & Glory.  It was an attempt at tying everything in together.  I like that there’s one scene in there (At the end) that was pretty much copied exactly and inserted into Worm, even though I haven’t opened these documents in a long, long time.  The nature of Faultline’s meeting with her ‘crew’ is essentially what happened in canon.  That said, wow, are my protagonists a pain in the ass to read this early on (arrogant/annoying).  At this juncture, I was still figuring out a way to make powers interesting.  I was bored with many of them, and I was lapsing into some of the ‘standby’ powers, like tinkers without anything interesting to them.

Guts & Glory (2006ish) – Panacea and Glory Girl.  This could count as canon, almost.

Some names have changed since.  I recall that Amy would have been Annie if I hadn’t changed my mind a few minutes before Interlude 2 went live, in Worm.  The nature of the story would have involved a stronger relationship between Amy/Annie and Brett/Gallant, her finding her way, and ultimately led up to her incarceration.  It was too dark, though, and there wasn’t anything to salvage it.  All those people who talked about what would happen if Amy had gone to the wrong prison?  The other drafts (which are unfortunately handwritten) went into that, and it was ugly, with her basically going full-on Class-S threat.

The Travelers (2007ish) – See the Migration arc.

Basically any drafts I linked would be worse versions of Worm’s arc 17.  I wrote them for a while after a friend suggested I was too fond of the ‘crummy powers being used well’ trope.

Circus vs. Elite (2008ish) – Circus was a character I wrote for a while, but she doesn’t feel like she has a lot of personality, looking back.

Hey, Bitch is there, in her first incarnation!  And a variant on Bonesaw (who made it into every elite team before settling in the Slaughterhouse Nine)! Chuckles features in a fight as well.  This was around the time that I started to conceptualize what I was looking for in a protagonist.  I started to write Grue as a protagonist for a short bit before I finally stumbled on Taylor’s character.

Myriad  (2010) – Worm, second or third draft.

Oh, man, did I ever write a lot of drafts of Worm, covering a lot of bases.  Oh man, do they not feel right, rereading them.  This is going to feel really redundant, but hey.  I’ve alluded to this before, but I started off trying to emulate other serials, and I was writing too little (600-900 word entries), and it really hurts the flow.  I was still finding a voice and an identity for characters at this point.  Eight or nine drafts followed this over the months, as I searched for those voices, tried to figure out where to start my story, and struggled to find my stride.  Then I started Worm.

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44 Comments
  1. bobusdoleus permalink

    It takes a lot of courage to post early work that you have improved out of.

    It’ll probably be helpful to people who want to know more about writing and the process of learning writing. So, thanks!

    • Mike permalink

      Yes I agree whole heatedly. It does take a lot of courage.

  2. Landis963 permalink

    That Myriad draft has that ghostly feeling of “what might have been.” It’s kinda cool to see where and how exactly Worm started. Especially recognizing the “Emma was once my best friend” wham that was the very first in a long series of cliffhangers (:P), the trigger event discussion, and the “Asian Bad Boyz.”

    • Landis963 permalink

      Also I see why you didn’t go with TELUTT. My god is Disaster Area annoying.

      • Tell me about it. It’s like seeing Faultline through Tattletale’s eyes, maybe. 😉

        I’m annoyed by her and I wrote her, haha.

      • Landis963 permalink

        Please tell me Faultline was a touch more civil when recruiting her crew. Disaster was an arrogant b**ch in that scene and they were all like “teach us, O master.”

      • I actually liked the way she was written. I wouldn’t have enjoyed an entire series based on her character written like that, but I enjoyed that segment and I could see how she could grow as a character if the series had followed her.

  3. George Maddux permalink

    Cool, thanks, only, well… which did you choose!?

    • Landis963 permalink

      If you don’t already have a good guess (e.g. “I think it’s gonna be Pact, howzabout you?”), then tap into the stores of patience that Worm has instilled in you. Hopefully.

  4. They were all had some potential, in fact I’ll be invariably disappointed no matter which story Wildbow picks.

  5. theant87 permalink

    Oh fuck yes I was hoping to read these drafts when you first mentioned them long ago. Look forward to reading your new story.

  6. Probably the most shocking thing here is that we almost had Grue as the protagonist of Worm. That would be… weird.

  7. Gotta hand it to you Wildbow, takes a lot of guts to actually post these early drafts. I cringe super hard every time I glance at some of the stuff I wrote a couple of years ago.

    It’s pretty amusing to compare Myriad and Worm though. A lot of the ideas are there, just not presented as smoothly. Tattletale sounds way better than Deduce, btw, you made the right choice.

    • OH MAN YOU SHOULD HAVE TOTALLY KEPT THE WHOLE TATTLETALE GOING TO TAYLOR’S SCHOOL THING.

      IT WOULD HAVE BEEN WORTH IT JUST TO SEE LISA/AMARA DESTROY THE BULLIES MENTALLY.

      • endgame permalink

        Thankfully, that can still be accomplished via fan fiction.

  8. l3wis permalink

    I dont know if you are still considering outside votes, but I really really want to see face continued! The intro (imo) was absolutely amazing and sounded like a really cool idea with tons of room for expansion.

  9. You made a lot of good decisions between Myriad and the version of Worm you published. It’s amusing to see big plot points (that in the actual story were resolutions to mysteries the reader had been wondering about for ages) figured out instantly, or worse, given as part of a paragraph long info dump.

    All the same it was fun to take a look at the pre-Worm stories. You’ve mentioned them more than a few times in the comments.

  10. I have to admit that none of your new snippets really had something that grabbed me and wanted to read them yet. Well, looking forward to your new projects.

  11. Oh man… This is going to be interesting…

  12. Okay, Runechild… wasn’t there a telekinetic villain under Hookwolf named Rune? Also, magic is interesting to play with, but you need to think in terms of linear barbarians and such. In TANH, an accomplished mage is infinitely more powerful than a regular superhuman, simply because of the sheer versatility. Like that, they can break the power scale. At low levels, they’re too weak to make a difference. You have to find the balance with that.

    • Landis963 permalink

      Yeah, Runechild eventually morphed into Rune.

      • But Wildbow said Runechild didn’t cross over…

      • Landis963 permalink

        “Morphed into” I said. Rune is very obviously not Runechild. (for one, Runechild is presumably not “Sabrina the Teenage Nazi”) Only the power transferred over.

  13. MinuSeveN permalink

    I’m still starting to read this, but I find it pretty funny that Annie/Amy from G&G has a physical description very, very reminiscent of Taylor. Long curly black hair and stick thin. Did you pick these traits up again for Worm or was the (female) protagonist always imagined like this?

  14. Jobastion permalink

    I would have totally read TELUTT. Faultline bitchslapping heroes (and villians) for not being properly prepared and/or too drunk to do their job is great.

    Myriad’s most interesting bit to me was how aggressive GG was in going after Taylor without evaluating the situation.
    Was she safe to make assumptions like that because her mom’s a lawyer, and it’s unlikely a newb would have the resources to get a civil suit through court? Do they have superhero insurance for cases of mistaken association in a crisis situation?

  15. Walla permalink

    can i ask what you did with your pre-worm stories?
    did you write them just for yourself? share with friends? a writing group?
    how did you motivate yourself to keep writing on stories you weren’t publishing to an audience on the web?

    • I’m curious about this too. Were you just writing for yourself? Or was the assumption that you were going to get a good archive going first before publishing online?

    • I’ve always been a writer. I started writing when I was in middle school. I was the unholy trifecta of geek, nerd and cloudcuckoolander, a disabled kid, and I was miserable. For me, writing started out as a way to vent, like some people hit punching bags or scream or go running. I was inspired by Buffy, so I started out writing modern supernatural stuff and it was basically me writing the most messed up stuff I could.

      But even before that, when I was a kid (and up until we were ten or twelve), I used to play ‘imagination’ with my brother, in a kind of roleplaying game where I’d tell a story and he’d make the choices for the protagonist. I could sit down and spend hours drawing characters or making up stories.

      I’ve always been creative. Back in middle school, I couldn’t see as well as I should’ve been able to and I certainly couldn’t hear (I’m severely to profoundly deaf, wear hearing aids & a cochlear implant), and socializing with my peers drained me more than it gave me (when my peers weren’t actively being hostile or ostracizing me), so I spent my time daydreaming (see the cloudcuckoolander label above) and doodling in notebooks, making point form notes for stories and so on. I think, in a way, I didn’t get trained out of that childish imagination that we all have as kids.

      I can’t envision a scenario where I wouldn’t be writing down ideas, doodling, conceptualizing games or whatever else. I have ideas in my head and probably always will. Put me in a situation where I had a nine-to-five job and had a wife and kids demanding my attention when I got home, with no time to myself to address those ideas, and I’d probably lose it or slip back into that cloudcuckoolander mode I described above. It’s a part of how I’m put together, writing is what wound up coming most naturally to me, so that’s the route I ended up taking.

      • Kathryn permalink

        Yeah, I’m a profoundly deaf engineering project manager, which means I spend my days on the phone or in meetings. And I have a two-year-old. So I don’t have any energy left at the end of the day. I keep trying to find time for writing, but no luck so far. I have been able to find a little time here and there for painting, though.

        It was very interesting reading the precursors to Worm and seeing (from a distance) how your ideas developed over time. Thank you for sharing!

  16. I’ve always loved Circus’ power set. And its interesting seeing what your first draft of Faultline’s Crew is like.

    Also, I think I learned a ton from just comparing your past work to your present work, and seeing what you changed.

  17. TELUTT… Hmm. Siberian seemed more human in that one, for sure. Faultline, rather, disaster was great. Lots of fun to read. I think she would have been a great protagonist, I love reading about arrogant assholes.

  18. Guts and Glory…. awwww…. That’s sad… It’s good, though.

  19. Circus vs. Elite was pretty good. Circus was rather passive, and you made an allusion to his/her sexuality which you could have gone without, but it was decent. Not for a full story (by your standards, f course), but for an interlude or such.

  20. WyldCard4 permalink

    Hm…

    Some thoughts on Guts and Glory as posted.

    Given I’ve been writing Panacea Quest and hence been spending more than a month thinking intensively about Amy, Victoria, and all things related to that I am probably the least objective reviewer in the world.

    The most obvious feature would be Victoria’s character in the posted snippet. I don’t see a lot of the love and the anger that is conveyed in her scenes. The whole thing doesn’t seem as affectionate and developed as they got even very early in canon.

    I actually really like the girl in the story, but she doesn’t seem a lot like Victoria as she developed later.

    Then again, this is a rough early draft from many years ago, so the things changed from the early draft that made me end up loving the character would be compliments, hopefully.

    I find it interesting that there seems to be no implication of Nick/Neil’s depression in the story.

    • In the initial drafts, I think the aim was for Nick/Neil to run across Murder Rat (who was a full fledged member of the Nine at first) and get pretty much disemboweled. Cue the dramatic scene where we see life from the bystander’s perspective, with Victoria and Amy waking up late at night to Carol returning alone, bloody and exceedingly upset.

      This occurred prior to Victoria & Annie/Amy triggering, and basically changed the tone of things fairly dramatically, shaking Victoria’s faith and instilling Annie/Amy with a fear of the cape business. Nick/Neil would eventually be healed when the S9 attacked a mall (and Annie/Amy triggered out of a desire to help save Glory Girl), but proved angry and bitter in the aftermath. In this, the same disconnection between Nick & Amy occurs, but it’s more visible, active and onscreen.

      • WyldCard4 permalink

        With some more time to mull over and talk about it, I think 6 Victoria feels more like Worm Victoria than 14 Victoria. A lot more of her personality seemed there. The playful sibling jabs just didn’t feel right, though they were significantly younger and didn’t have several of the formative experiences. They really seem noticeably less close.

        I think of Victoria triggering around 12-14, where she has not triggered at 14 here. You’ve mentioned the aura relating to Amy’s infatuation hitting her as an impressionable age, and earlier in puberty seems to fit better for that.

        Annie does seem to have the infatuation without the aura here. It’s at least implied if you know the Worm context. That is particularly interesting.

  21. Reveen permalink

    Wow, ten years of writing and cobbling together stories and concepts to come up with an end product that ended up entertaining a pack of schmucks like us. It’s pretty humbling, really, to realize how much creative energy and time is put into producing something that the consumer might just burn through in a couple days. Unless you’re like Stephen King and have a really good coke dealer.

    I do notice from skimming the snippets that you tended to spend time describing character’s appearance and such, whereas in Worm you didn’t really bother with that crap other than to give a core idea. The advice for other aspiring writers kind of speaks for itself.

  22. An Über and Leet Christmas? Worm almost had a Christmas special? I honestly can’t see that as anything but awkward.

    • Someguy permalink

      “The Star Wars Holiday Special” level of awkward.

    • Landis963 permalink

      Especially given that it’s Uber and Leet. I can’t see that as anything but annoying, TBH. Good thing Wildbow agrees, and we got his earlier drafts of Worm instead.

  23. Runechild was neat. I’d be interested to see what happens next. I take it that this was still when you were working out where powers came from? Powers are also a bit less…defined in this. I can’t imagine Runechild being anything but one of the top parahumans in Ottowa, if she can get over her usage limitations. (And given that she draws multiple movement runes in quick succession in the fight scene…)
    Despite what you say about Runechild not making it into the story, take out the non-telekinetic powers and the restrictions and you’ve basically got Rune. I’m surprised you didn’t notice that.
    Not so many comments, probably in part because I wasn’t writing them up as I read them.

    Melanie’s university sounds like a terrible place to be. The amount of noise in the dorm rooms is worse than in my dorm’s rec lounge. Disaster’s contrast with Faultline as she ended up is kinda amusing. Disaster’s power is a lot less focused, a lot flashier. Similarly, she is a lot flashier. To borrow a useful term from the Indian capes: Disaster is a hot cape, Faultline more cold.
    I was a bit amused at how easily Dauntless was beaten up, seeing as he was one of the more powerful capes in the Brockton Bay area in Worm. I kinda expected Disaster to accidentally drop a building on him, though. Kinda surprising that Parahumans Online is used by…you know…parahumans, capes. It seems like they wouldn’t use something so public to organize themselves. Maybe a .onion site? I’ve heard a bit about those, seems like supervillains at least would head there.
    Is it weird that I feel sorrier for Slug than Gregor the Snail?
    Bastion reminds me a bit of Stormtiger–aerokinesis, with the ability to compress and release air.
    I noticed a mention of “psychic attacks”. I take it you hadn’t decided on the lack of telepathy just yet?
    The fight with bastion ended interestingly. Surprising that Bastion was still that lucid for that long (seems Newt got a bit of a power upgrade when Worm came about) and that Disaster still didn’t drop a building on anyone.
    Glad the Rhizome got explained.
    That last scene…neato. Kinda odd to see Exalt instead of Eidolon and/or Hero at Alexandria and Legend’s sides. Kinda didn’t fit with the rest of the narrative, though. Interesting to see how characters must have been changing, with Alexandria worried about breaking bones and the Siberian talking.
    Was the canon!Crew brought together something like this?

    The Marquis figure was amusingly calm. “I’m a bit annoyed at you. Do you have any idea how much it costs me to keep replacing skylights?” Kinda sad how he was different from Marquis, like being unnamed, undefined, implied to be a crappy parent, and pathetic overall. Marquis you could be afraid of; this guy probably didn’t need half of the Brigade to take him down.
    Annie reminds me a bit of Taylor. Makes me wonder what things would have been like if…actually I can’t think of any plausible circumstances under which Panacea and Skitter would have had reversed positions.
    “I thought that was clear. It’s a date, but it’s by the rules you set. Group dates until we’re sixteen, ten pm curfew, bed by ten thirty, no vigilanteism.” You know, it took me two reads to realize that she was talking about general rules, not just date-specific ones, which makes the last one make a lot more sense.
    The story definitely had potential.

    The Travelers stuff…yeah, not much point in posting that. Although I’d like to note that “crappy powers used well” is a pretty decent schtick to have.

    The CvE story was kinda neat. It’s always neat to see these…fetal characters, early in development. Perhaps a bit representative is how Newter’s changed. First he just had a tail (at least, that’s all that was mentioned), then he got green-white skin, multicolored eyes, and red hair, and by the end his eyes were blue with square pupils, his skin orange, and his hair…I don’t remember.
    The Elite remind me of a slightly more open version of Cauldron…much more so once the Number Man was mentioned, although around the time Cherish (with some monsters…Mother’s creation or “Crawler”, maybe?) was mentioned, I started thinking of them more like the S9.
    Interesting that this Coil formed the Crew. And then betrayed them. Since everyone who knows him knows he’s a bastard, he seems a good sight different than Worm’s.
    “Dragon Corp”? Huh.
    “Guts”? You were seriously originally naming Panacea “Guts”? Thank you for changing that. Sad that Runechild made it this far before being “cut”. Interesting that Aegis got a gender flip (probably because you realized that you had made too many female capes?). Relatedly: “Star City”?
    Rexcalibur presumably became Gavel? Put him in Australia and give him a hammer…it fits.
    I agree with your note in the intro about Circus. She didn’t have much more personality here than she did in Worm, arguably less.

    SRT…I’m guessing that the term “parahuman”was another thing that got changed shortly before it got mentioned in the story?
    ProtoSkitter’s mask seems overly complicated.
    Even for Glory Girl, that bit at the start of Squashed was violent. “Hey, there’s someone in a black, armored bodysuit. Glory Girl, start pounding her into the ground!” And they’re going to put her on trial for…what? Loitering around a bank robbery? Being a parahuman dressed in ominous colors without a license? The trial could be ended in five words: “I was planning to help.”
    Also, Dee? And Bitch being the medic? …Actually, that could have been kinda neat.
    Also a bit annoying that they were basically telling the new kid to join. Understandable, when they mention how much money they’re getting, but I like how it was handled in Worm much better. Good call.
    “I just had to look at you to know your name. When I heard you talk, I knew you were a Cancer, what school you went to, and a whole bunch of other stuff.” How the hell did Deduce manage to figure any of that out from what she had? Does her power tell her random stuff? I have to agree with Myriad here–that IS unfair. Then again, Coil’s precognition (or did he get proto!Dinah before the bank job?) is pretty scary, too.
    Bitch owning a chihuahua…bizarre thought.
    You know, given all the data Dee has on Dragon, you’d think she could put two and two together and guess she’s an AI, power or no. “Unusually young, one parent, genderless, not an alien”…hell, even clones have genders. Heck, Dee saying “Sounds kinda like an alien, but that can’t be right” sounds rather out-of-character for Tattletale, and probably Dee from what we’ve seen.
    Huh. Taylor’s mom isn’t dead yet. Wait, that came out wrong.
    The Minions sound like a neat idea, but why are dedicated adolescents the best help in the Bay, especially considering its economic condition?
    I see Aegis is still a girl.
    The woman at the front desk stood up as I approached. How the heck did she know Taylor was Myriad?
    Shadow Stalker’s identity reveal was…sudden. Not to mention, why the heck was she wandering half-out of costume, into a room with a(n inexplicably) suspected villain? Not to mention…without knowing about her trigger event–or even knowing about that–it seems odd that she’d go with four supervillains–two of which were, by internal admission, mentally unstable and the other two of which were stated to be varying degrees of “not nice people”–over one bully and a team of heroes. Even Taylor mentioning the bullying next bit doesn’t make this make more sense. “Oh no, she helped steal my clothes and sent me nasty e-mails! Much worse than those supervillains.” Heck, even the trigger event doesn’t explain this adequately.
    I couldn’t be a hero without resolving this misunderstanding… Then solve it!
    Shadow Stalker used to turn invisible? Then…why bother stalking from the shadows?
    “Our Bitch is in school…” She is exactly the Undersider (?) I’d least expect in school, secret identity or no.
    Regent, too. When Amara had told me how his power worked, I had been revolted. He didn’t go out of his way to use the full extent of his power, making him arguably the least powerful member of the team with just the ability to disorient people, slow their reflexes and give them headaches. Still, he had used his real power before and that really shook me. I tried not to think about it. Kinda mean to drop this on the reader and not elaborate.
    Overall…the action moved too fast, the characters acted irrationally, and things just grated a bit. It didn’t seem very good, although it’s hard to say how much of that was just me comparing it to Worm. I’m glad you made the changes you did.

  24. Doug permalink

    wildbow,

    Have you read any Worm fanfiction?

    Goof Night,
    Doug

  25. Lena permalink

    Did you get any inspiration for your characters from real people or characters from other stories/forms of media? If so, where did inspiration for Tattletale come from??

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