Norwescon 42 Follow-up: Choose-Your-Own Adventure Panel!

It was a glorious weekend full of programming and cosplay, but now we are home, unpacked, and ready to reflect. Part of that includes fulfilling my promise to share the notes from the “Choose-Your-Own Adventure” panel, hosted by the teen track and described thusly in the guidebook:

Audience participation mayhem ensues as our troupe of fearless authors guide you through writing the world’s fastest three-act young adult melodrama. Learn a little something about archetypes, plot devices, and hoisting oneself with ones’ own petard along the way.

The following suggestions were taken from the audience and curated by the panelists.

#

Using the three-act structure, we started the first act with three characters (who would then rotate first-person POV, chapter by chapter.)

  • STEVE – Robotic mobility aid, acronym for “Systematic Transportation Entity, Version 81”
  • Rhonda – an off-worlder archeologist (dependent upon STEVE)
  • Khaiden – a mechanic

With STEVE’s help, Rhonda is investigating a dig site when they unearth an artifact that compromises STEVE’s communication abilities. (At the end of the panel, this was revised to include time passing and Rhonda continuing to struggle to work on her research despite his malfunctions.)

Khaiden is sent by The Research Facility to make what repairs are possible. Khaiden is native to the planet, and would normally be disinclined to help any off-worlders, but he is currently indebted to the Research Facility, because his sister (dubbed “Freckelina) is being held/jailed by the Research Facility for theft of an artifact that she refuses to return. (This was revised during plot development; originally, The Sister character was in peril due to illness/addiction/some combination of the two.) Khaiden is trying to work off her debt, so he has no choice but to head to the site.

Shortly after he arrives, there is a catastrophic collapsing of the tunnels that traps the three of them underground. Khaiden mentions there have always been rumors about The People Who Live Underground—his sister believed in them—but he’s never seen one.

Character arc development/stakes for the three main characters during the second act:

  • STEVE: the McGuffin artifact raises his consciousness to make him aware that there are, in fact, native peoples living underground, and that the digs are threatening their lives. STEVE then refuses to follow certain direct orders from Rhonda (in defiance of his programming.) But if he cedes the intelligence gained from the artifact—the O/S of the underground people—there is the chance he will lose his newfound consciousness
  • Rhonda behaves selfishly in the beginning, only concerned about her own research. She must learn to prioritize the needs of others over her own (both for STEVE and for the underground people)
  • Khaiden is still working to return all STEVE’s communicative functions when he spots a footprint that doesn’t belong to any of them. His wrench has also gone missing. This leads to the discovery of the underground people. His conflict then becomes save the many (everyone underground) or the few (his sister.)

By the end of the third act, STEVE opts to stay with the underground society, which means they can return the artifact stolen by Khaiden’s sister, who was trying to help them maintain stability of their tunnels. Freckelina will be released from debtor’s prison, and Khaiden will work to develop an alternative to STEVE for Rhonda’s mobility issues. Rhonda will remain quiet about the underground society, deciding to save the many rather than benefit only herself.

#

Thank you, if you participated, and I hope this made sense to those who weren’t there! Also, my gratitude to fellow panelists G.S. (Gabrielle) Prendergast and Astrid Bear.