Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A novel idea....the Dragon Matrix

It's probably way too soon to get excited about it, but I am excited. I'm excited because I had a new idea for an organizing principle for my novel this week.

This started when I was talking about titles with my friend Bill Woodburn, an excellent writer himself, and he remarked that any story for which he'd had trouble finding a good title never seemed to gel.

Cue ominous music and a raspy voice. His words sounded dangerously like destiny where my current project, "The Wonder Kid", was concerned. "The Wonder Kid" is only the best of a bad string of titles that started with the working title "Elf and Troll." And I'd floundered for a central organizing principle, and so it never seemed to set up.

But I decided not to treat this as destiny, and to apply the theory in reverse: to try to find a title that did work, and thereby come up with an organizing principle that would help the story to congeal.

Yeah, I could go for some jello right now.

Then this week I was doing some world building, something I'd somehow not let myself do much of for this story, and was working with ideas about gems that you store auras in. All the magic in this world, which I refer to as my Elf Refugee Setting (the world itself is called Hame), is based on auras, and auras are described as patterns of threads, strands, or tendrils.

There's nothing terribly unique about gems that store magic, but what I'm working with are gems that serve to store aura patterns and thereby store information. I'm thinking of a gradient of possible uses, starting with bare info, moving through memories, and going all the way up to a full recording of someone's aura, which would amount to storing their soul -- or a copy of their soul -- in a gem.

That led to the idea of calling the stored patterns "matrices", but that's what the magic gems in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels are called. So I may come up with something better.

But the matrix idea, the idea of the pattern of someone's aura being a separate thing, a copyable/storable thing, led to my new title idea and organizing principle: the Dragon Matrix.

I've already spent a thousand words just setting up this anecdote, so I'll try to get to the point. In this story, there's a danger of someone reaching a state where their aura becomes a sort of vortex that sucks in the magic of everyone round them, absorbing and destroying people in a wide range. When this happens, that person is called a dragon, because of the way they flare up and burn out the people around them. So, their aura, when they achieve that state, would be a Dragon Matrix.

I like that a lot. When you tie it to the idea of storing or recording auras, then you have a dangerous and powerful thing that someone unscrupulous might want to capture. So the matrix becomes a useful macguffin for the plot. And everything in the story can be tied back to the dragon matrix.

I have a lot of work to do with this. I'm expecting that I will find, as I try to integrate this with the plot that I already have, that it will break six or seven things. But that doesn't stop me from being excited now.

Art from Emil Blichfeldt, licensed under Creative Commons.


  1. I like this. It blends certain elements of science fiction with longstanding tropes of fantasy.

    Gems could be embedded into objects, creating magical artifacts that contain the personality/memories of the person stored in the gem.

    I've been thinking about spirit-binding aspects myself in my fantasy setting.

    Plus you can really play around with the aura aspects.

  2. Oh, and Dragon Matrix is a good title.

  3. Oh it's no accident that there are parallels...after all, I love your stuff.

    I think this will end up not quite being spirit binding, more of a copy of the pattern one's aura makes. Then we can play with what makes an entity have a soul. There are ideas like this in the Liveships books of Robin Hobb, actually.

    Note that the current plan magic items in the traditional sense. You can store aura patterns, but you can't make a fire wand. But you COULD make a wand that made it EASIER to do something. My thought is that objects can be tools for magic, but cannot store magic energy itself. Umm. I think I contradicted that in something else I wrote, but that's where I'm going with this.