Ben Bones

writing & worldbuilding

Snowman Story Notes.

A section for all the notes related to 'the Snowman' story concept.

Index - chronological order, oldest at the bottom.


  • WOOF. It's been hectic irl. However, I do think I have some stuff locked down on this idea.
  • First off: opening scene should have nothing to do with the Snowman at all. We see a children's snowman in a yard - and it so happens to be watching world events. At the moment I'm thinking war, but specifically one close to ending: that exact moment of confusion where some people have agreed to stop fighting, but others haven't got the message or are unwilling to hear it.
  • We let this world event inform the Snowman's position, and the political tensions the magic university is sitting alongside, but we don't actually have the characters fix it. Our story is about the Snowman. (Hell, maybe his original goes off to end the war, I don't know. It's because the original's story also seems interesting, that the dismissal of it has so much power. It goes both ways, too! If we focus on events from the original's perspective, leaving the Snowman alone to struggle and pretend to be him, and yet turning away from it to try and do some greater good in the world... yeah, that's the core of the story right there).


  • Figured out why the story wasn't working. Couple of reasons. First, the themes raised by the Snowman concept aren't easily dissembled by the classic type of adventure story. It's the current opening - the way it goes from 'home' to 'government mandated attendance of magic university'. To switch gears in the opening act of magic university would stall the narrative. "We just got to magic university, and you're saying we have to leave?" We'd need to introduce the timeskip Snowman, introduce the magic university and its characters, introduce the world, and then also introduce the quest - no. It's too much info to dump on an audience that early.
  • In addition, the concept of 'you're not you' that we actually want to explore is overshadowed by a standard adventure structure. It's definitely possible, don't worry. But it's not where the story starts.
  • The conclusion I've come to is to combine a couple of ideas. First, we make it an episodic thing, instead of one long continuous narrative structure. Each episode is entirely standalone, meaning the series will be more accessible to a newer audience.
  • The second idea is this: we make it a detective series, with the twist being that these murders are committed magically. Magical Murder! However, this would require a rock hard magic system. So much of the appeal in detective novels is in the details. Also the audience needs to have all the peices - the way that Sherlock Holmes works. Would also be taking inspiration specifically from House here, because I have very limited medical knowledge. It might as well be magic to me. But the show still manages to make it engaging to a non-medical audience. However they do that, we would need to do the same.
  • An audience needs a thorough knowledge of how the magic system works, allowing them to leap to conclusions of their own... but since each episode is standalone, this also means we need to re-introduce it every episode. So something intuitive is best, like bending in Avatar the Last Airbender.
  • I also just like detective stories hahaha.
  • This is good. This works. Snowman and the Detective - the main conflict being that the detective is always at risk of discovering the Snowman's nature, with disastrous consequences. Buddy comedy.
  • You know, I like this. It's hard, but sustainable, and more immediately satisfying.


  • A good base for the snowman's theme song. I imagine it starts with the classical winter scene, charming snowman, snowflakes falling. Then the fuzz in the background climbs until it's almost overwhelming. This melody is charming, but discordant, we would need to write our own. But a good base. A good start point.
  • The current snowman plot goes: the original escapes, but promises to return in a set amount of time. However, the snowman gets called out on a mission at this exact time, and so he follows. Potential for original to want the simulacrum dead, too.
  • Opening scene being called down a back alley for illegal surgery, after coming back from a mission? Or some kind of graduation/promotion?
  • I find Witch Hat Atelier has 100% the kind of pacing and worldbuilding we are after, so need to note their process. What are they doing that works? How can we do it? Discuss.
  • Also maybe snowman being bought into goals of the academy. Maybe more of a bottled environment. Hm. Pressure cooker.
  • Someone finds out what he is? He slips up? Someone blackmails him into doing certain things? Hm.
  • I reckon he should fall in love (unrequited). Doomed love is my favourite to read about.


  • What if massive polar bear person? If statting, would follow goliath or minotaur.
  • Adding layers is all about multiple levels of detail. So in the prologue, we also have his parents as a pin to tie string to. What level are they in the culture? I find the lowest of the low to be most interesting: one of those people upon who society relies. I find I can't relax in a fictional world unless I know A) where food comes from, and B) what the average day-to-day of chores looks like. I found Tamora Peirce's 'Circle of Magic' to be adept at this. Setting it inside a temple of some kind, with a community of dedicates, allows for this self-contained microsm of the wider setting, and how the society works anthropologically - as well as showing what the options are for those left adrift from the traditional structure of community. Orphans, ex-criminals, the dispossessed, those without meaningful skills. It's of value for a society to put these people to work, even if only temporarily. Convents, mining, working on the docks, clearing wilderness, helping harvest. Jobs nobody really wants.
  • Given we really want a strict heirachy, we're going to run across the issue of slavery sooner or later, so we might as well incorporate it. That said, it makes me deeply uncomfortable for personal reasons. A solution I saw in 'the Apothecary Diaries' (which is a really interesting manga and anime) is for slavery to have been recently abolished. This means a lot of the structures around it are still in place, and it still effectively exists in the form of indentured servitude and compulsory correctional labour. So, you know. Pretty close to the modern day.
  • Ideally, the official structure probably looks something like: slaves, menial workers, land-owners, merchants, established 'families'?, ????, ????, and then a bunch of government people, culminating with the ruler at the top. This poses its own problems though, in terms of 'it's boring' and 'what happened to this being fantasy'. As such, we may adjust certain societal values to allow for a more unique and interesting political structure. For example, what if it was a theocracy, with priests as rulers? It's still simple, but it's more interesting.
  • As a note, mages would sit around the same place as indentured servants or criminals serving time. Always on thin ice, no pun intended.
  • I like idioms as a worldbuilding tool. "Don't rock the boat" communicates a positive value assigned to 'complying with expected behaviour to avoid destabilizing a present peace' in the culture, and it also tells us boats are a thing.
  • I also really enjoy in-universe epistolary excerpts. Even when I otherwise don't enjoy the book... (looking at you, 'Fourth Wing'). I think it works best when the universe engages with the archive in the story: the way that the main character studies the idiom 'look for the centre of the circle' in 'The Fifth Season' - and specifically, why it's innacurate! A universe that lies to you. Wonderful stuff.
  • I find kitchens so intimate. A great place to have over-involved conversations at one in the morning. And have you seen those videos where a person builds a miniature house? I grew up reading Beatrix Potter, so a cozy miniature domestic scene is very appealing to me. Hobbit holes. That said, I do write too many kitchen scenes. That said, if I can figure the reason it works for me, and apply it to a different scene...
  • You know, I also like in-universe puzzles. Emily Rodda's puzzle box in Deltora Quest comes to mind, as well as Phillip Pullman's wooden puzzle alethiometer case in The Secret Commonwealth. The reason these work is because they're plot relevant. In saying that, Lemony Snicket is the king of this sort of thing, and a wonderful point of reference.
  • Tamora Peirce also delivered a very colorful snow setting in 'The Circle Opens - Cold Fire'. Despite the icy landscape, the place feels warm and alive. Worth noting.
  • I enjoy bottled heirachies like the Horde in She-Ra, the empire in Star Wars... oppressive environments with hostile ideals, that nevertheless are comprised of humans like you or me. Empathy for the enemy allows us to understand why they are how they are, and more importantly, the ways we could easily be the same if circumstances were different. I mostly enjoy the human aspect of it: for example, playing cards (and specific card games), gambling, sex and dirty jokes, drugs and alchohol, black market for books or valued rations, prostitution, food and cooking, casual competitive sport, hobbies (sewing, knitting, painting, etc), public entertainment (like the circus), private religion, ghost stories, parties, dancing... all of which suddenly runs up against the wall of cold reality. Death and taxes.
  • Speaking of! I want there to be some kind of psychopomp. Maybe a Valkyrie. Maybe a trickster. Maybe just death itself. I always like that.
  • In this regard, I think we've figured out the main conflict though: in the existence of a strict system like this, there would naturally be rebels and defiant people who seek to change the status quo. And so it would be interesting if the 'magic finder'character was one of these underground rebels. It puts them at odds while keeping them friends, because our Snowman naturally wants to conform, but is in his heart too kind to truly thrive in a society like this. That would be very meaningful to his rebel friend. And later down the line, we see how the rebel changes in service to their ideals. It's less about 'destroying the system through violence is bad' because I think that's it's own issue, and its certainly been done. If asked, I think the Snowman would agree that the system could only be destroyed through violence! But he would in his heart be too compassionate to be an effective at it, and so his rebel friend could never really be on the same page as him.
  • The rebel friend going bad is such an overdone trope. I guess that's because the alternative feels worse - for instead the Snowman to never acknowledge the system he exists in, and to have no agency in changing it. As such, I really want to do that now. To have these deep political undercurrents, but for the main conflict to be instead about the intensely personal agony that results from them, without ever actually investigating the bigger picture beyond what's directly in view. I think of the way Ghibli movies do it - there's a war in the background, there's details that clearly show the times the characters are living in, but the characters seem to take them as granted, and rarely set out to change them. It seems so much more human, somehow.
  • Maybe his friend is in a different story, one where they can make a difference. But the Snowman is disempowered. His goals are far less lofty: he probably just wants to help people and have a good life full of people who love him. And this is also, in its own way, an impossible goal.
  • So this outlines our plot, I think! We need to put the two of them in a situation where these goals are at odds with each other, without ever saying one way is better or worse than the other. Ultimately neither can escape the facts of their upbringing.
  • Also, what massive fantastical creatures would be fun to include? It's not a fantasy novel without a massive talking animal, in my experience. That shit always rules. Whale? I love boars and bears, but they've very much been done. Is that fine? Hm. Badger, crow, mammoth, octopus, tiger, sheep, parrot, chicken...
  • Fundamentally, this is a world in which humans are outnumbered by monsters and beasts. The world of 'Monster Blood Tattoo' and the Edgerunners series has the correct feeling - humans are hunted, and while their civilisation is vast, on the outskirts they are fighting a constant battle, and losing. It's aiming for the same vibe as Arriety, and Watership Down, this feeling of having to run and hide to survive. It is also, however, a colonialist mindset in some respects.
  • Oh shit, got it! Of course there's a way this guy can conform to society and help people at the same time. It's obvious when you think about it! All he has to do is make a copy of himself out of blood and snow, and have that construct live at the magic campus in his place.
  • Origins of the Snowman, unlocked!
  • I like that it's a trick. He swaps himself out with a copy, and dissapears into the streets. He finds a back alley somewhere, sets up a clinic. Maybe meets someone nice! Maybe gets married, has a life! And all the while the simulacrum plays the part of him, and no-one is any the wiser.
  • To this end, need to do a couple of things. The magic finder maybe mention to him, as a child, "Don't tell anyone your constructs can act independently from you". Or maybe have it happen in a more subtle way - have the finder ask "Your snowman... was it acting... outside your control? I've seen constructs go haywire, but that was... new", and this said in a tone of uneasy dissaproval. To which the boy rushes to put his captors at ease, and have them like him. And given that he's read how to make them, he would know about constructs going haywire, and what causes it. So he'd stammer something like "I don't know... I know I didn't arrange the 'sye-nan sigils' right, could it have been that?" and the magic finders would lean back like "Ah, yes. You're just a boy, of course, so you won't know this, but the Synon sigil controls the motor function of the construct...". And the boy would relax, as they would be warm and understanding again, and he would let them explain things he already knew.
  • Also, as an adventure, trekking across a cold landscape is natural. Stopping to make camp, collect firewood, and having general group conversations happen around a cozy campfire in the deep snow.
  • In regards to the Snowman scheme, however, there is the meta question of spell-slots. It's fine if the Snowman is just being a doctor - that's skill checks, it can do those all day every day. But it makes sense for it to have a limited volume of magical energy, and thus it would deeply need to conserve it so as not to arouse suspicion. Finding out mechanical ways to do that is going to be so much fun!
  • Ooh, what if it's a 'saga'. We throw traditional narrative structure away for the most part, and make it an episodic thing. That way we can stop and start and come back to it, and have it be more or less self-contained as we do so. The fact that it's a simulacrum works in our favor here! Because his character shouldn't be changing at all, that actually helps for consistency.


  • A good song for 'leaving home' scene in a movie. Very cinematic. The musical soundscape up until this point having been very reserved: lots of long, meaningful tones, but few melodies. A twilight scene of floating away off a cliff seems to come to mind, visually, with connotations of being at odds with the culture leaving behind, while still loving it. A departure from something very meaningful and sad.
  • Good song for 'putting the peices of the mystery together'. Quiet close-ups, measured scenes with a dark earthy background palette. Not sinister, no tension or current threat - more of the unravelling of a personal mystery.
  • I wonder how feasible a fully self-produced movie is? Expensive, I imagine. But let's say - extremely basic storyboards, re-usable assets, only using elaborate musical composition in select narrative scenes, minimal scripts (less lines to record)... I wonder.
  • Given the title, it would make sense for the first scene to be about a literal snowman in some way. Perhaps a childhood scene, where the original makes a friend out of snow, lacking a home or social life. His home is then visited by magic-finders, who take him away. The magic-finder thing is a personal concept of mine - a theoretical preventative measure against 'adventurers' in the ttrpg sense. This would be paid government servitude, with level of compulsion dependent on skill level of the mage. A very strict heirachy, the better to pit them against each other. Our main character would find connection in it that he would have lacked as a child, giving him a goal to strive for within the rules of the system.
  • And yes, as previously stated - to go against type, we'll have him become a doctor. Someone is injured in front of him to demonstrate the harshness of the world he finds himself in. This would either be meta, or literally a demonstration at the magic campus. And rather than be hardened by it, and resolve to better fit what they ask of him, he would quietly and firmly take steps to learn healing instead. In being unable to prevent harm, he would set about learning how to cure it. You know the scene right? "Oh this place is so harsh, that random guy just ate shit on the training course made of spikes!" or "the dragons we're riding just roasted NPC Dave!" or "the infighting is so cutthroat, a girl was poisoned" or "another candidate jumped off the north wall rather than face The Unnecessarily Lethal Test". And the main character has the internal monologue of 'if I don't watch my neck, I'll be next!' and there's some exiting tension from it. And then they go on to become the best and coolest mass-murderer, the most powerful weapon, with secret other weapon powers the others don't have. They get to be a rebel while conforming to the ideals of the system. And that's fine, but it's been done. The choice to be a doctor is more a personality thing. Because he does want to conform to the system, but his heart is kind, so he's looking for the part of the system that lets him not hurt people. And he finds it to be a very small and unwanted part of that system. So the struggle of his youth is in learning to navigate from a disadvantage, being looked down on. His position being appreciated when necessary, sure, but not valued.
  • Also, the doctor is always the first point of call in A) murder mystery and B) survival horror, the two best genres.
  • Carol of the Bells is always a sick theme. This kind of subtle remix also is good.
  • I love the human pressure cooker of a bottled environment, in stories. It raises intensity.
  • Yeah, there's a way to make the childhood creation of a snowman a gutwrenching scenario. Yeah. It reflects loneliness, foreshadows that he will later create a copy of himself. But as the child, we get the shared core experience between copy and original, shared memory. The fundamentals of their personality. I imagine him sneaking out, perhaps to the woods. The shouts of a fractured home, perhaps, in the distance? Or a subtler hostile environment, perhaps more personally linked to one of his parents. Maybe he just wasn't loved. Maybe it was an incomplete love. At any rate, we see a very warm boy, very open and kind, but with the beginnings of quiet intensity which will grow into the adult versions of him. He races out down a narrow path, finds a clearly established 'kid nest' inside a hollow oak or something. Some kind of warm and private place, in the freezing cold. And he reads a book - better yet, a book about magic! Perhaps a childhood story. And maybe in the story, or the magical text, he comes across this tale of a mage who made a man from ice and blood. Or perhaps he has been trying to do this for a very long time, and only recently has been able to steal the right kind of material component. He has a goal beyond Frankenstein in this, of course. He should have something he can only do with two people sitting nearby, ready to go. Perhaps a chess board, perhaps a pack of cards. Perhaps he wants to dance with a partner. He wants, of course, to be held. That's the final scene of this prologue: him tentatively climbing into the arms of the snowman, and placing its arms around him in a cold fascmicile of intimacy. So hey, maybe he made the snowman a while ago, and is already treating it like a friend! So as he runs into the hollow oak, we see it littered with clearly magical texts, and astronomical tools to focus the power of the constellations, and wrapped in a warm coat in the corner, a half-melted snowman - like C3P0 and Anakin - that behaves as an independent but shoddy entity. It raises its head to follow him, and nods when he speaks, and clearly loves him dearly like a dog loves its master. But badly constructed, a child's work: it moves its head too quickly as the boy climbs the ladder and nearly tips, and the head slides down its chest. And this is played as a tense moment, the way an older person falling down is a serious event: the boy drops what he's doing and immediately runs to fix it. To show that he cares very much about it. We see the worry in his face, the tender clumsiness in how he pushes the snowman's head gently back on. It doesn't move for a moment. The boy's reaction tells us to panic, that it could be dead. But then it jerks slightly, recovering and turning towards him, and the boy relaxes.
  • And the next part of this scene is that the magic finders come for him: this could have been seeded earlier by them visiting the boy's home before he ducked out the back, or passing through town and he saw them from a distance while on his way to the hideout. But they come for him at the hideout. Maybe his parents are there, maybe not. Either way, the situation is new to him, and frightening. He will have to leave and go somewhere with these harsh people. And one way or another, they attempt to take him away on the spot. And the snowman rises up! It takes two shuddering steps forward, and tries to shield the boy from the magic finders, getting in between him and the closest one. And this is visibly unstable and damaging to it, but driven by loyalty, it ignores the boy's requests for it to stop, holding him close and away from the strangers, even as he pushes and fights it.
  • Here, the magic finders reactions tell us this is an uncommon thing for a construct to do. They specifically dont engage with the idea of sentience. That's not a word their language has. Instead they might say, with shock, something like "An independent minion? But he's nine!" suggesting it's an advanced but not impossible technique. Then another might reply, "It's unstable - the form is collapsing." The first magic finder would then naturally try to pull the kid away from the unstable wild construct, causing the snowman to lash out even further. The boy would be pleading with it to stop, that it was falling apart. And for a moment the snowman would let its guard down, and turn towards him with a primitive sense of love, confusion, and loyalty: in frozen time, it would tilt its head to the side like a dog, and then pause. The last moment between them is one of love. It would stop attacking. And one of the magic finders would at once seize the opening, and knock it apart. It would be easy to do. Perhaps the snowman would even be on the verge of putting itself back together, the way it did to begin with. A terrifying tremor, off balance, trying to push itself up on shaking stick arms. And then unceremoniously smashed, and come apart like only so much snow.
  • To make the snowman more of a personality, it could have been anticipating the boy to bring something back for it. For example, maybe it wants cool metal springs to play with. Or another mug (we see it put it to the side, among a massive collection). If a peice of metal, we see it hold it up to its face in twiggy, delicate fingers, turning it over with absorbed curiosity. Or maybe they're halfway through a game of chess, and the snowman keeps demanding he come over and make the next move, as the boy flitters up and down the oak tree arranging some stuff in the hideout. If chess, could have the snowman sneakily pushing peices into its torso when the boy isn't looking, and have the boy be genuinely confused why he's losing.
  • Whatever the option, as the snowman is killed, some kind of small item (mug, metal spring, chess peice) falls out of it, and this is all the boy is holding when the snowman melts apart in his hands. Play the scene like the death of a parent, as the well-meaning but strict magic finders take him up and pull him away from the scene. Maybe in a blur, because he's still looking back over a shoulder at the lump of snow and ice melting in the hollow oak, with the crooked coal smile slipping down, still smiling wistfully up at him as he's pulled away. The only thing that ever loved him has just died, and he's inconsolably sobbing. In the background, his parent signs him over without ever showing concern for his distress, it happens like a market purchase, blurred and out of focus. The boy breaks free of the hold, runs back over, and from the corpse of his best friend he pulls The Story Item, whatever it ends up being. He grips it to his chest and sobs. This time when they pull him away he is limp and unresisting. In a movie, we would zoom out to title here. But I wonder perhaps if we could also cut to him swaddled in a blanket in the back of a cart, moving somewhere in a quiet haze. Silent except for movement. And then someone might say how impressive it was that the snowman moved at all. The praise would land, but he probably wouldn't answer. Then they'd go on, saying he clearly put a lot of work into making it. That he must have cared very much, and that were all those magic books his? To which he'd nod, despite himself. The magic finder would let him absorb this, pausing just a moment, and then tuck the blanket even more securely around him wordlessly. It would be comforting.
  • Here though, we get some nice layers: the boy would be desolate and in need of comfort. In addition, he would not have experienced much human warmth before, and it would be a wonderful and terrible shock. He would say, with surprise 'you're warm'. The magic finder would then say 'here' and make a small fire out of magic, to warm him. And all of this would be to the purpose of soothing him, of indoctrinating him, of establishing a new bond as fast as possible after severing his old ones. And it would work: the boy leans in and is soothed, though still grieving, and his hand clenches hard around the token his snowman left him.
  • And from here we can go wherever we like. The magic finder maybe tells a story about a graduate from the place they're going, to keep him entertained and to, once again, get him indoctrinated. Maybe we cut once again to him being educated - though this doesn't feel natural to me. I think what works best is if it's a cut to the present day, with the boy all grown, and yet still clenching his hand hard around the snowman token. We would linger there, to show how he's changed in the years since. And the next thing we'd want to do, and the thing that makes the most narrative sense, is for him to use that item as the core of our Snowman. But that would be a ritual, and there would need to be a side-goal before that, some kind of day to day business as a graduate of the magic academy that would demand his attention. Coming too quickly back to the main storyline would be too heavy, we'd need something much lighter here. Maybe something intellectual, too, something cold - maybe the expedition, maybe a detective case, who knows.
  • It's a good cut, but it poses the problem: how can we make a smooth transition from childhood to adulthood via the token, and yet still have the token be the heart of the Simulacrum?
  • A: We can't. Unlike the childhood snowman, we need to show the Simulacrum getting made. The ritual, the alterations to the somatic components that would allow for a greater degree of independence. It has to happen as soon as possible, because the story's about the copy, but too quick and it weighs down the story too much. Ideally need a day's worth of events in between.
  • A thing we do have to work with here is the bond between the boy and that particular magic finder: as an audience we are attached to them as well, and so having them there again in the present day - having changed as well, to reflect time passing - gives us an 'in', a linear emotional thread to follow as the story shifts suddenly to something new. I wonder who this person would be? We can work it out another day, I think, but my initial instinct points to 'older brother figure', combined with 'work colleague I'm friends with outside of work too'.
  • Creating the simulacrum would, emotionally, be partly a betrayal of this brother figure though, as those two compete for the same spot in the original's heart. A grim but interesting way to go is for him to find he prefers the warmth of another human being, when faced with the choice. Besides, he has at this point deeply entrenched connections to the other indoctrinated mages that hold him to the system. He would have to choose between caring about his Snowman, a construct with imperfect sentience, or real living human beings. And forced to choose, he would choose the latter. Which is where our story begins: in the mind of a copy of the boy, who exists to comfort 'himself', and is ultimately inadequate to it. Now we're getting to the good stuff!
  • Oh, got it! The Snowman's coat. It's both ironic and meaningful. The ice snowman wearing a coat to 'keep warm' is a classic. And also, if instead it's the coat he clutches to his chest, when he runs back to the fallen construct; if instead it's that same coat the older magic finder wraps around his shoulders as a comfort, that tightens things up nicely all round!
  • Also it's a bit fucked up, but maybe the magic finder who comforts him is another good egg in a strict system, and later on once they're both graduated adults, perhaps instead of a brotherly relationship it's a more romantic one. Could get pretty interesting! Especially if the other mage has plans of his own.


  • Useful and relevant thought experiment, the Wax Argument. That one's the best, but I also found these others interesting: the Teletransportation Paradox, the classic Ship of Theseus, Radical Translation, (and as a side-note: Inscrutability of Reference), the concept of personal identity, the Münchhausen trilemma, Molyneux's problem, Kavka's Toxin Puzzle, Further Facts, the Cartesian self, the Beetle in a Box argument for linguistics, and Buridan's ass.
  • Nothing much else on this for today, except a quote from René Descartes, 1911 edition of The Philosophical Works of Descartes (Cambridge University Press), translated by Elizabeth S. Haldane (via Wikipedia). "Perhaps it was what I now think, viz. that this wax was not that sweetness of honey, nor that agreeable scent of flowers, nor that particular whiteness, nor that figure, nor that sound, but simply a body which a little while before appeared to me as perceptible under these forms, and which is now perceptible under others. But what, precisely, is it that I imagine when I form such conceptions? Let us attentively consider this, and, abstracting from all that does not belong to the wax, let us see what remains. Certainly nothing remains excepting a certain extended thing which is flexible and movable."
  • "We must then grant that I could not even understand through the imagination what this piece of wax is, and that it is my mind alone which perceives it."
  • Also damn, I got this far and didn't think about the Thing? Man I gotta go watch that movie.
  • Relevant post.
  • Also, I saw a screenshot of the nonbinary aunt type character in the Owl House. It seems they have a cool dynamic with the main character (a divorced witch). Best friends, estranged, genuine personality clash and disagreements - interesting stuff, I like the vibes. Haven't seen the show. But the screenshot I saw, they had a couple characters. A young boy with similar colored hair and a scarred face, aforementioned they/them auntie (lit warmly, as if in a domestic scene, but shadowed and smiling, as if hiding something sinister), and a taller older person with the same hair color again and strange growths around the eyes. Now, haven't seen the show. But it would be interesting if they were all the same character at different points of their life, and that their personal goals had changed them irrevocably. I like the trope of the best friend becoming the main villian once the sub-villians have offed themselves. Like if you can't solve this relationship, it will be the one that dooms you, you know? Intimacy heightens hatred wonderfully. Plus it's-


  • Detective stuff. It's always a hit. I've got this 'Snowman' idea on the brain, so I'm combining two great tastes here. Had some books on polar exploration lying around too, and throwing that in the plot led me to this beautiful project. I'm waiting a week to order it, because I know in my heart I'm so far down the rabbit hole I'm talking to the cheshire cat, and I don't want to make an impulse purchase on tangential research alone. It looks really nice though, and I do want it.

    Anyway, Jesus, tangents. Detective stuff and polar exploration = a classic 'murder in antarctica' story, the slaughter of a crew-member mid-expedition, with everyone a suspect. The constant winter darkness, bottle-pressure, forced intimacy and social isolation... it might hit the horror genre. Jacob Geller did that wonderful video on Fear of Cold which I find comes to mind.

    But while reading, I also discovered a fascinating story: in 1866 the General Grant shipwrecked off the Auckland Islands, carrying 73kg worth of gold (today about $8 million). And despite pirates and treasure hunters (and one particular guy who seems really determined on a cursory google?), over a century later the shipwreck's location is still a mystery. It's still fucking down there. It reminds me of the 1958 Tybee Island mid-air collision - when an F-86 fighter plane collided with a B-47 bomber carrying a nuclear bomb, which they then had to eject as ballast to save themselves from crashing, which then landed in the ocean and was never recovered. There's been a lot of people saying they found it, but mostly hoaxes. That kind of thing is so fascinating to everyone, I think.

    My initial idea is that something like this happens, and then the story itself is about the cultural reaction, the race to try and recover it? So unravelling the history of what happened before is part of what happens next... but hmmmmmmm. I can't put my finger on why, but this isn't clicking, narratively. There has to be some other angle on this when combined with the other 'Snowman' themes.

  • Detective novels allow for just a really intimate look at every character in a story. The reasons they might have to commit murder - always really powerful, always really personal. If they did it or not, you're still interrogating them on the page, you want to know who they are. It's like making everyone in the cast the main character on some level; it's a lot of work. But really fun to read.
  • Elementals are valid monsters on this sort of expedition. Yeah. Giant balls of pure magic hunting in the constant polar winds, shrieking balls of glowing light that trail after ships in the fog, hungry for non-corporeal food, like 'human willpower' or 'need to prove yourself'. A buffet of deeply specific emotional shit. Engaging with complex ideals by making them magical realities. Idk spitballing here.
  • Oh yeah bunch of other Snowman stuff I want. Warm and cozy. As a theme. To make the temperature side of things 'cool', no pun intended, could have a temperature dependent mechanism as the magical engine of the ship? Something like the Edgerunners rocks, if anyone remembers those. But the cinematic scene goes like this: caught in a massive storm, racing to escape a titanic wave. The simulacrum's standing next to the engine, and it's running too hot. They're not going to make it. So the Snowman plunges his arm deep into the engine core, dousing it immediately in water as his arm melts, which kicks the engine into instant acceleration, shooting the ship across the water like a bolt being fired from a crossbow, with the immediate lightning crack of the mast snapping like a twig from wind pressure alone, as the speed of the boat goes beyond what it was structurally built to handle. Something like that would be sick as all hell, especially with consequences. Like, he never gets that arm back. Gone, for the rest of the story - but really super worth it.
  • Also want corruption. Essentially, obviously want the Snowman to be able to change. That's without question. It's the core conflict, because he exists as a creature incapable of change, and yet he's also alive, and to live is to be changed, so. He can't escape it. So my concept is that it's something incredibly horrific for him, very violent. And so if his personality veers from what he originally started as (this brief snapshot of the person he thinks he is) that's reflected physically, and explosively. Classic shapeshifter stuff. I imagine a giant snow creature, prowling through the woods, out of its mind and monstrous. He's not built to be able to change, and so it's done badly. Having it start small feels right, like half his face melting off if he smiles when he shouldn't. Essentially, the only human form his body knows is that of his original, and if he acts in a way antithetical to that original personality, his body doesn't hold that form. But then this means he can put his face back on if he acts properly. So as a character we get this very tightly controlled personality, this constant internal war. And the more human he becomes, the less human he appears.
  • Snowman murders someone. Straight up. Not sure why or how, but it happens. Reading into polar exploration makes me wish someone had strangled the first guy to think of the seal fur trade? So maybe he can live that dream. Plus, there's so much cultural phenomena around creepy murder snowmen anyway, it's not a stretch.
  • How did I get this far without mentioning Narnia? I used to love the PC game for that. Loved Tilda Swinton, too.
  • I think the core appeal of snow and winter is that of the warm cottage, tucked away in the woods underneath like, a half fallen tree, or in the hollow of a dead oak. Wind in the Willows shit. That's got more pull than a massive ice castle at the north pole.
  • Need to stay colorful. Literally. Maybe, fuck, there's a giant crimson lake. A massive, bright gold skeleton from an ancient species of megafauna. A forest with candyfloss pink pine needles. When you set an adventure in the desert or ice or any wasteland, you run the risk of drab scenery ruining the vividness of the story. So add that incandescent sandstorm, you know? Fury Road it. Add the orange sky, on fire from horizon to horizon, as the rising sun catches the smog and makes it burn bloody red. Or even humanity! So what if the landscape is endless white? The sled station is a cluster of warm earthy buildings, with stained windows in foggy gold and greens. The lintels are well-worn, the blue paint has chipped, and the sign by the door advertises sleds for hire at exorbitant rates. Visual focal points to mark narrative events.
  • I will say though, this subject raises an interesting inter-play with the weather phenomenon of whiteout.
  • Last note for right now is that the Snowman's 'original' works well as a doctor. Both culturally, in terms of it would make sense to duplicate a person with those talents, and it would also make sense to send the duplicate on any potentially dangerous missions (where the bodily health of the crew is still a big concern). It also works narratively, because coming at an adventure novel from the healer's perspective isn't really done? At least, browsing the shelves of the fantasy section usually turns up more warriors and secret magic users, if you know what I mean. I feel it would be more common in more serious novels, but they're not the ones I usually read, so I can only speculate. In any case I'd be aiming for a more fantastical adventure anyway, structure-wise. In those novels, the healer usually exists for the main character to visit at certain points - either when they've been knocked unconscious for a transitional section, or if they were injured in training and we need to focus on their self-destructive tendencies... not judging by the way, if it works it works. My point is more that healers usually only exist as worldbuilding. And that's not a bad thing. But it could be more.
  • What if we had the novel start as a basic transport expedition carrying gold, which swings hard into sudden survival drama as the ship wrecks?
  • What if someone on the missing ship was an important person - like the son of a duke? So it became a rescue mission?
  • What if it wasn't a ship at all that crashed, but some other kind of transport, making it an overland journey?
  • Fuck, is this going to be a sci-fi journey to a planetary sattelite? I want to do more fantasy stuff.
  • Just realised we're essentially building a thought experiment here. It would obviously be a variation on the Swamp Man thought experiment, with the added distinction of it being an 'unchanging version of you'. As such, our story needs an in-universe explanation for the physical warp caused by the Snowman changing in any way.
  • Am I in the weeds here? Does this matter?


  • I want to write a story called 'The Snowman'. Ideally it's going to be about a simulacrum, because in 5e DND they're essentially a lifelike copy of a person made of living snow.

    I feel like that concept would be interesting to explore in all the usual ways (the Swampman philosophy, clones, robots, memory vs the soul, disposable sentient beings) in addition to the physicality of being made of snow: having no body heat, not needing to eat the same things as animals would. Perhaps minor frost magic, who knows? Here's the spell on wikidot - there's some very particular wording here, the section about 'a simulacrum lacks the ability to learn'. So the appeal in comparison to clones is in being an unchanging version of yourself. Metaphorically, this naturally leans towards a 'cold' personality, stoicism, stubbornness. The 'snowman' being a Capricorn, in other words.

    It's a very sci-fi concept for a fantasy world, but I know the guys on certain sci-fi forums wouldn't get the appeal. The spell has hard limits they wouldn't be able to ignore. However, I find the interplay of believed rules and magical effect in the service of humanity as more interesting than hard limits. In other words, if we take the wording of this spell in terms of observed effects resulting from a certain invocation of verbal, material, and somatic components, we come into an area where those limits can be tweaked. More on this later, the noise in this library is INSANE and I can't concentrate.

  • You know what's interesting? The cultural impact of simulacrums. In DnD they usually get played as complete non-entities, a copy without a will of its own. It's assumed they follow general orders - guard this area, stay in this tower, that sort of thing. But in combat the line gets blurrier: if I don't issue specific verbal commands, would it still act intelligently to defend me? Some DMs would rule no: that it would just stand there blankly. It's a construct. But humans are social creatures, so what would be the cultural impact of entities like this? How common are they? Given both the magical and literal price tag, they'd be more common in thaumocracies, and then only in the upper classes. Here's the thought experiment: the construct has all the memories of a certain person. But it also knows it's not that person. So would there be people in this society that regard the construct as a person in its own right?

    All of this is pretty boring laid out like this. For it to be interesting, it would need a story that plays on and contrasts these themes. Obviously a winter landscape feels right. The thoroughline of the story would be oncoming summer, which is how long the snowman has to live, although this would never be stated outright. Funnily enough, Kazuo Ishiguro wrote a novel about clones, didn't he? Lean on that. You know, writing out what's needed in this way really brings to attention how much of my ideas are internalized, and what needs to be stated outright for the concept to be appealling to a stranger.


  • I'm interested in the sympathetic side of frauds, especially in positions of power. Like a ship captain: someone likeable and competent, but very untrustworthy. What's it like to be them? Could explore that.
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