From The Writers' Room Featuring Bookburners

Max Gladstone on writing Bookburners Ep 16: “Siege”

Building the ship as it sailed.

And so our first season of Bookburners comes to an end.  Thank you all for joining us on the ride!

When Mur, Brian, Margaret, and I gathered around my dining room table in late 2014 to scheme about this project, we had only the sketchiest idea of what we faced.  We’d all traded notes on a first draft series bible, so of course, in time-honored writer tradition, the first thing we did in the story summit was gather those notes, douse tBB ep 16hem in gasoline, and set them on fire.  Don’t tell my landlord.

We all came from different storytelling traditions, and brought different perspectives to the table.  But once we realized we shared a storytelling language from gaming, we were off to the races.  (Racing away from the burning series notes, I suppose.)  As we pinned notecards to our corkboard, Season One became the story of a team coming to terms with itself through hard work and self-discovery, despite differences in temperament, history, and conviction. We gave our characters a much harder time than we had ourselves, of course.  And fewer meat golems tried to stop us, unless there’s something Brian would like to share with the rest of the class.

We built the ship as we sailed it.  When the time came to write our first round of episode outlines, I, inveterate seat-of-pants storyteller, felt quite proud of my ten meticulously agrammatical bullet points—until I opened Margaret’s outline and found a detailed four-page scene-by-scene breakdown. But Margaret’s outline was undoubtedly more useful than mine, so when time came for the next round, I forced myself to write in complete sentences.  Mur’s humor and knack for pacing kept us all on point; Brian kept dredging up weirder horror to throw at our heroes from some terrifying subconscious subregion.  We’ve built a weird, cool pirate ship, and we’re sailing it off into uncharted waters.

The end of Season One finds our team whole and shaken at once, confirmed in their faith in one another, suspicious of the organization that supports them, and uncertain how to confront a world where magic’s on the rise.  On one hand, Team Three is stronger than ever: they’ve vanquished magical and bureaucratic opponents, and come to terms with their respective secrets.  On the other hand, our heroes can’t stay reactive any longer.  They have to start shaping events.

Sal and Liam and Asanti and Menchu and Grace have won themselves a bit of rope.  Time to try climbing.

I hope you had nearly as much fun reading Bookburners: Season One as we had writing it.  Watch out for Season Two.  Saving the world was the easy part.  Now we have to keep it saved.

< >