Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Characters Who Make Writers Change Their Minds . . .

Welcome to the Special, Friday series of posts: Behind The Scenes of Notes from An Alien :-)

Some of these posts have “spoilers” and the best way to guard against them intruding on your enjoyment of the book is to grab a free copy and take the short amount of time to read it (only about 126 pages).

One of the extra special features of these Friday posts is my encouraging you to ask Any questions you may have about the novel in the Comments of Any of these Special posts :-)

Now, what about a character that makes a writer change their mind about how to write their book?

Some writers say that All their characters do this

Some writers feel that if the characters don’t challenge their expectations then they, the writer, aren’t doing their proper job

I’ll leave an exploration of those issues for a future post and focus on one of the characters in Notes from An Alien—Morna, the artificial intelligence.

I’ve mentioned her in this blog a few times; for instance, in the posts Very Special Characters and How I Had To Change Myself In Order To Write My Book…

I’ll begin my exploration of Morna in this post by saying she’s more like me than any other character in the book

Seem strange to you that I’d say an artificial intelligence is quite like me?

Well, she’s quite a special artificial intelligence :-)

I think I should now issue an official Spoiler Alert since I’m going to quote from the book and give you some of the reasons for why I did what I did—or, what Morna Made me do

First, I have to repeat something I’ve said many times before—I usually have no idea what I’m going to write—I do an extreme amount of preparation (to massage my mind) and do tend to make an outline; but, when I get to the actual writing, it “just happens”.

So, in the first chapter of Notes from An Alien, I thought the artificial intelligence, Morna, would interact with Rednaxela, the leader of an expedition from the Corporate World to the Religious World, and then disappear from the book.

But, this statement she made to Rednaxela made me realize she knew more about the story than I did:

“You are the Corporation’s ambassador but I think you could also be their worst nightmare.”

Then, shortly later, I wrote this:

“You have a bad habit of repeating what you know I already know, Morna.”

“Sometimes I feel it necessary.”

“It’s going to take the whole voyage for me to figure you out.”

“I believe it will take longer than that.”

I think I said something to myself at that point along the lines of, “O.K., Morna, you’re gonna be involved much more in this story

Basically, from that point on, I was making sure Morna got passed on from character to character as the many years that passed in the novel progressed.

But, to stay with her interaction with Rednaxela for a bit, there’s this interchange, begun by him (NOTE: Akla, is the purported Prophet-criminal on board):

“…what I assume lies ahead are delicate negotiations that hopefully lead to free access to various parts of the planet which, in turn, give us enough information to make the expense of this voyage worthwhile.”

“And, will you return to Anga?”

“How did you come up with a question like that?”

“A bit of programming mixed with observation of your behavior.”

“So it’s like I thought. The Corporation seeded you with routines in your programming that measure my loyalty?”

“Not as simple as that.”

Rednaxela waited for Morna to continue, which she didn’t do.

“Care to explain?”
“Should I worry about your future actions?”
“Do you have input to the ship that I’m unaware of?”
“Can you lie?”
“Anything else you’d care to say?”
“Akla is an interesting man.”

So, she can deduce what other characters are going to do?

Oh, my There was no way I could let a character like this get away from me :-)

Then, there’s this bit when Morna meets Rednaxela’s daughter:

“Wake up, Morna!”

The AI’s box began to glow slightly and Morna’s voice said: “I am here.”

Zena looked at Velu with total glee and said: “Morna, meet Velu, Rednaxela’s daughter!”

“Velu, I am extremely happy to meet you. Your father’s thoughts of you were always warm and respectful and he was always burdened with never having met you. Our meeting begins a new phase in my research.”

Velu felt strange, elated and depressed, wanting to faint and hyper-conscious. She took three deep breaths and said: “Morna… You have memories of my father…”

“Velu, I have many memories and many recordings.”


Velu took two more deep breaths and nearly fainted.

“Morna, will you be my best friend?”

“It appears that your desire has been anticipated. I am to be your constant companion.”

Then, later, when Morna was with Delva at a session of the World’s Council, the transcript has Delva saying:

“The education of Worlds’ citizens is, in principle, the most important task of this Council but the live-in visits to Local Councils is the most practical way to accomplish my specific task as Worlds’ Mediator. I would, of course, expect the Worlds’ Council to work with me to choose the most appropriate schedules of visits and I can assure you that my faithful assistant, Morna, will capture more information than centuries of expert analysis could utilize as practical action. Morna’s records will be our legacy to the Worlds’ citizens—a lesson in living, a catechism of the struggle to attain lasting and glorious Worlds’ peace.”

Holy Cow! This character really knows how to weave her way into the fabric of a plot, eh?

And, since religion is such an important part of the plot, there’s this interchange between Morna and Delva (begun by Morna):

“My view of religion is that it is a two-edged sword—either it carves a space for sharing and love or it cleaves the heart from the mind. There are many who love to cleave but the carvers are still with us. I think the principles of religion should be taught widely but only if the fanatic edge of faith is restrained.”

Delva chuckled and said: “So poetic, Morna.”

“I am learning, no?”

There are many other points of interaction between Morna and the other characters that add critical insights to what’s going on, but I’d like you to go read the book :-)

Still, since she wove herself so fully into the book’s happenings, it only makes sense that Ararura, daughter of Sena (the character who wrote the Prologue to the book), would end the story with these words:

“In all your efforts to live a better life, in all your efforts to aid your World’s struggle towards peace, remember these words of the Artificial Intelligence, Morna: ‘Patience is our weapon of choice.'”
Read more Behind the Scenes posts…
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