Nano 2017 Lego Thing Part Nineteen
“Oh no it’s nighttime, I’m writing at nighttime,” typed Alex into his computer. Fortunately his friend was online.
“Haha, is that a problem?”
“I don’t normally write at nighttime! I’ve broken the whole thing! To top it all off, it’s Sunday.”
“Do…do you not normally write on Sundays?”
“No I have to in order to stay on top of Nanowrimo…but on Sundays, the Beanland closes early, so I’m at one of the chain coffee shops in town. Not even the one that’s around the corner from the Beanland, but the one that’s down the street.”
“Haha, and this is a problem?”
“I…well it very well could be! The nighttime is different! It’s all dark! And this coffee shop is strangely busy, and full of outlets just like the other one. I’m going to get my phone out and take a picture of the outlets for you.”
“You don’t need to. I believe you that there are outlets. The ones here have tons of outlets too.”
“It’s insane! And people are using a bunch of them! I wonder what the electric bill for a place like this is like? And also, does anyone here have power at their house? Or is everyone just charging their devices in public places now?”
“Is this part of your writing process?,” asked Alex’s friend. “Musings about outlets until you drive yourself nuts?”
“It very well could be! And next to me, there are two guys talking.”
“Oh no! The horror!”
“It gets worse! They were here for some kind of stupid book club meeting, and then the rest of their book club left, and they stood up…and kept talking. They’re standing next to the table they were just sitting at, talking. No one else can use the table. They both probably want to leave, since they’re standing up, but I bet neither of them wants to be *rude* and be the first person to walk away.”
“Okay, now that does sound a little annoying.”
“Hah!,” typed Alex into his computer. “I finally justified myself! Okay, time to get writing.”
“What’s today’s chapter about?”
“I don’t know yet. I have so many plot threads going and I’m in this different weird environment that I’ve already written too many words about. The men are still here talking.”
“Maybe Sauron needs a backstory that’s better than: he’s an evil man from a volcano? Okay yeah, let’s go with this…”
Lego Sauron was an evil man who lived in a volcano.
“I clearly have no inspiration today.”
“Why don’t you just wait till tomorrow to write today’s part?”
“But then I’ll get behind and the numbers will stop going up! Nanowrimo is all about the hollow achievement of making some numbers go up while you churn out terrible drivel in the vain hope of tricking yourself into having a daily writing habit. I’m pretty sure I already talked about this earlier in this very book!”
“But this isn’t even a *real* book right? You’re not going to do anything with it other than post it for free on your web site, and it’s already a weird pile of strange random fanfiction—“
“So why should it matter if one chapter is a little funky? Whether it’s a weird meta commentary about the loudness and strangeness of a nighttime coffee shop, or a bad backstory for the main villain in your story, it shouldn’t matter right?”
“That’s the great struggle at the center of Nanowrimo,” typed Alex. “On the one hand, it’s quite freeing to just type words at a breakneck pace and pretend to be some kind of free writing super genius. But it’s so hard not to care about your work. And I think that’s a terrible dichotomy to put people through, sometimes.”
“Well, I’d love to hear more about the backstory for Sauron.”
Lego Sauron was designed chiefly by a Lego Designer named Lisa Mildred Whippleberry. Lisa didn’t much like her last name, so she usually just went by Lisa W.
Lisa loathed Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. Before those movies came along, Lisa got to work on al kinds of original Lego products. She got to make space characters. Pirates. Vikings. Regular men and women that just wanted to drive taxis around Lego City, or whatever. She was free to craft characters that were completely original, bound only by the loose guidelines of the standalone Lego Universe.
But then the Lord of the Rings movies took off, and Lego needed lots of licensed products quickly. The designers on the licensed side of the company made good money…but they were so much more limited in what they could do. Everything had to comply with the whims of the license holders, and sometimes the tiniest things would get sent back and forth endlessly for revisions that Lisa was sure the average customer couldn’t hope to notice or care about.
For years, Lisa resisted doing any work for the licensed side. But Lord of the Rings was her favorite series of novels as a kid, and she thought the first movie was very beautiful. So when a position on that team opened up, she finally leapt at the chance…and upper management was all to happy to have her because she was one of their most talented designers.
Lisa W thought she might get to work on some of her own original Hobbit creations, or maybe some fun buildings, or weapons…but the license holders were very strict. On the plus side, Lego was able to secure the rights to the movie license and the book license, so they were allowed to create characters that didn’t necessarily appear in the movie franchise. They had meetings to pour over the different books, and create a big outline of everyone they wanted to make…that the license-holders then spent a couple of months arguing over.
Designers loved to have as much time as possible to work on their creations, and sometimes these license negotiations ate up all the extra room in a project. So now, instead of having six months to create a complete set of characters to get them approved by the holidays, they now had three. Lisa so desperately wanted to go off into a corner and work on her own Lord of the Rings creations, but since she was among the best and they knew she could get things done quickly….they gave her Sauron.
A Sauron minifigure had to be out by Christmas. He was the big bad guy of the universe, and to make things worse, he barely actually appeared in the movies except as a large flaming eyeball on top of a tower. When he did appear as a more humanoid figure, it wasn’t in a way that was really suited to a mini figure design.
He was all pointy and full of nonstandard shapes, and it would be hard to simplify that detail down to minifig form. Lisa reluctantly took on the challenge, but mostly because she didn’t have any choice.
Back and forth she went with the license teams, furiously turning out designs and having little things about them rejected.
“Oh, this helmet is too pointy. Kids might hurt themselves on this helmet. And what if they pop it off and lose it?”
“Yes,” said a frustrated Lisa, “but his helmet is very pointy in the movie, and in the books…and this design is more or less accurately mimicking his look. Plus, lots of our characters have tiny hats that might be easily lost of eaten or poke into something.”
“We want you to make this helmet slightly less pointy, somehow.”
“Okay fine,” said Lisa through gritted teeth.
“Oh also, do you think that you could maybe create a face for him?”
“Uh, what?,” asked Lisa. “We never see him without his helmet in the films, and unless you really want to dig into the deeper and more unfinished Tolkein lore, I’m not really sure what the book people will want his face to look like.”
“Just take one of the faces from our earlier designs for a fantasy setting and slap it on his face. It’ll be fine. Make him a vampire or something.”
Lisa took a bunch of notes, nearly breaking her pencil in the process. She went through ten different designs for Sauron’s face and helmet before everyone finally agreed. Unfortunately, at this point it was too late to submit something to get it out in time for Christmas.
But! They were able to make some demo units to send out to Lego stores across the country, in order to entice people into being excited for their release. The first year of Lego LOTR sets was disappointing to most collectors, containing a handful of hobbits, some carts and horses, a decent random castle, and a pretty good Gandalf. But you couldn’t really recreate any of the scenes from the movie.
The Mount Doom and Sauron playset was what everyone really wanted, and the store displays were working their magic, enticing people to buy them whenever they happened to finally make it out. Lego store employees enjoyed hiding random things inside the cavity of the mountain, and that’s how our villain, with his random pile of weapons and world-crushing ambitions, was born. Thanks to a Lego store employee named Sadie, he had everything he needed at his fingertips.
“So…does this mean that your story is set in like 2002?”
“Umm….yes?,” typed Alex. He took a sip of his peppermint hot chocolate.
“But aren’t these bits that are set in these various coffee shops set in the modern present day of 2017?”
“And aren’t the Lego bits set after the release of Lego City Undercover and Skyrim and some movies and whatnot?”
“Uh. Look there’s a time orb, and…and maybe that Sauron display that we see in a store was there for a VERY long time before Sauron became evil!”
The particular display that housed the Sauron that would eventually become evil and try to take over the world sat dormant for 15 years before any of that happened. It took a while for these evil thoughts to develop inside a plastic toy, after all.
“There, I fixed it. Also those guys finally left.”