Noble: Bloodlines – A Nod to 16-bit RPGs?

Squaresoft's 1995 classic: Chrono Trigger
This has been an exciting week for me. I sent off the Noble: Bloodlines manuscript to my editor after six months of writing, editing, beta reading, and tweaking. The expected completion time for first round edits is about three weeks away, so, that gives me a little free time. I thought, what better opportunity to start talking about the book in preparation of its March release!

Bloodlines is the second book in the “Noble” trilogy. I waited almost a year after the release of Noble before attempting to write it. Not only did my brain need a vacation from Miller Brinkman’s universe, but I wanted to properly address some of the criticism I received from my debut novel.

Readers were split right down the middle about my choice of using a first-person narrative in Noble. While I still believe it was the right decision, I also saw the limitations of it. With Miller telling the story from his perspective alone, there is much about the other characters that didn’t get fleshed out as well as I’d have liked.

Then I asked myself, “What other characters?” Miller’s world felt too small, consisting only of him and a few bit players. So, with Bloodlines I decided to make the switch to a third-person narrative. I think it works very well for the next chapter in Miller’s life.

They say in the movie business that a sequel must be bigger and better, which is the same philosophy I adopted for this book. Over half of Noble took place in Miller’s home town of Ashley Falls. He traveled to different locations, but most of his tasks were resolved within a single chapter. To address this issue and improve the pacing and plot progression in Bloodlines, I relied on inspiration from an old friend: The 16-bit RPG (Role-Playing Game).

Some of the greatest stories I’ve ever encountered came from the heyday of video games in the mid-1990s. By today’s standards, the mechanics of the 16-bit RPG are archaic and plodding, consisting of choosing actions from a menu and watching the story progress through non-interactive cut-scenes. But, we played them for their rich storylines and character development.

No matter how different the stories may have been, 16-bit RPGs all shared a common structure: Receive a quest, the quest goes awry, travel to the next town, find a new ally, fight a boss, and repeat. I implemented this strategy when creating the outline for Bloodlines. Below is an example of how I applied the formula to my book.

SPOILER ALERT: The following text contains minor spoilers for my upcoming book. If you want to be completely surprised, turn back now.

RECEIVE A QUEST: A call comes into the station from a concerned citizen reporting suspicious activity happening in an alley. Miller and two police officers are dispatched to investigate.

THE QUEST GOES AWRY: It was a routine investigation until the officers stumbled upon the crime scene of an elusive serial killer within a penchant for rifles. Officer Jenkins is slain in pursuit.

TRAVEL TO THE NEXT TOWN: Miller is called upon to lead a special task force assembled by the FBI. His first assignment is to travel to Savannah, Georgia and…

FIND A NEW ALLY: Recruit Special Agent Roscoe Jacoby to join the task force. Jacoby refuses to join up with Miller until…

FIGHT A BOSS: Miller assists him in taking down a deranged scientist who’s been concocting lethal toxins and distributing them to revenge-seeking everyday Joes.

In using this structure to fill the pages of Bloodlines, I was amazed at how much thicker the story became, and the stream of new ideas that popped into my head because of it. Not only does Miller’s story deepen thanks to this approach, but so too do the stories attached to Miller’s new friends and enemies.

I am very proud of the form that Bloodlines has taken on, and I believe whole-heartedly that this book will represent a major evolution; both in the quality of the series and the maturation of my writing ability.

I will be posting book excerpts, concept art, and other goodies here on my blog over the next few weeks as we count down toward launch day. I hope that you’ll return to check it out and join me during this very exciting time!


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