Lighthouse: Author’s Notes 1

How Septemus hijacked my story

My original plans for this story, as evidenced in the first chapter, centered around a peripheral narrator. Initially, I wanted to tell a third-person story, but I also wanted to incorporate a reflective, slightly nostalgic tone. Having a narrator who wasn’t one of the central characters would let me achieve this. One of my favorite works of SimLit, Trip’s Eight Cicadas, makes use of this style of narration, and I wanted to try my hand at the wistful distance this approach can create.

I was aware of the challenge: How do you tell events from the perspective of someone who wasn’t a witness? But I was eager to give it a try.

I decided early in the planning stage that Sept, in disguise, would run a café, and I wanted to use a game-assigned barista for the narrator. I planned that readers wouldn’t recognize Sept in disguise immediately (You did!), and I hoped that the slow discovery of Max Culper’s true identity would provide one of the main fuels for the plot.

I guess Sept knew you all would be so smart, for he chose that this would be a love story, just as much a spy story, refugee story, or climate change story.

The Barista

Anya, an old friend of Sept’s, was the first barista the game sent. I thought she would make a good narrator. I like using an elder for a narrator, since I’m a hop, skip, and a jump away from that life-stage myself. Voice changes after fifty, and I love the rich timbre that comes with age.

The game sent Mallory next. She captured my attention the moment I saw her standing in the street, feeling very flirty, while Max, in his cute tight bell-bottoms, trotted up the steps.

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Then, the more I watched her, the more I loved her.

I think it’s her eyebrows.

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It became evident from the start, from Mallory’s gaze, expressions, body language, and use of physical space, that she was attracted to Max/Sept. Initially, he had eyes for Caleb (who, alas, thanks to MCCC, was also married off to another guy, just like Lucas!).

But through the next few days, this shifted. Max/Sept began closing his eyes when they hugged in greeting. He chose to be near her, to joke with her, to fire her up. And he was always watching her, with a smile and a glint in his eye.

And then, the night of the Romance Festival, he rolled the whim to flirt with her. I didn’t pin the whim. I had to think through my plot and my plans, considering how many changes becoming romantically involved with Mallory would entail. And while I was considering, Septemus greeted her by kissing her hands. That was the whole enchilada, right there, and I had to watch my plans sail away!

As an aside, have you noticed recently that autonomous greetings have become meaningful? I remember reading in patch notes a few years ago that greetings were relationship-specific (hugs for close friends and relatives, smooches for romantic partners), but I’d only noticed it happening recently with Sept. I just got a powerful new laptop, with loads of RAM, so maybe now my computer had the power to handle the smooch-greeting! Oh, and that movie-style kiss on the porch when Mallory first comes to Max/Sept’s house? Autonomous.

Up to this point in the story, Mallory has been an NPC (non-playble character). I’ve only played Max/Sept up through the last chapter. I’ve really enjoyed having the narrator be a Sim which I can’t control. Mallory lives with Sept now, so I’m back to a more traditional Simming/writing approach. I’m considering writing another piece, or maybe series of short stories, narrated by an NPC–perhaps a gardener, a ranger, or a mail carrier.

About Autonomy…

If you’ve read Goofy Love, you know that I follow a prime directive*  when I play Sims, even when playing saves for stories with plot.

*Spoiler alert: The post behind that link contains mega-spoilers for Goofy Love. If you ever plan on reading it, you might want to resist clicking.

In short, my prime directive is this:

 To let Sims be fully actualized digital beings with the right of self-determination.

This means, in part, that they choose whom and how and when to love.

While Sept obviously shared chemistry with Lucas and Caleb, Mallory is the first Sim he rolled romantic whims for or autonomously engaged in romantic interactions with. She’s his choice.

But why pan?

When Sept was child, I often thought he’d grow into a panromantic/pansexual. He has this way of connecting with the spirit of those he loves in a way that is beyond gender and sexual identity. When he was a teen, he developed a grace that made it easy for me to interpret him as gay.  And he had obvious chemistry with Lucas and Caleb, both of whom, in my game, are very gay.

When Sept showed romantic interest in Mallory, I considered making him bi. This defintion of pansexual seems to fit Sept, though:

“People who self-identify as pansexual do so with purpose, to express that they are able to be attracted to various gender and sexual identities, whether they fall within the gender binary or not.”

What is Pansexuality?

I can easily imagine Sept feeling attracted to anyone, of any gender and sexual identity. My identifying him as panromantic/pansexual is in no way intended to be a form of bi-erasure.

How does a Panromantic Asexual write about love?

Apparently with a lot of references to woolly mammoths and prokaryotes! What, flagella aren’t sexy?

I thought that this might be a bit of a love story: Sept did role “Soul Mate” for his aspiration, after all. But I had intended that the story of his courtship would be told through Mallory’s eyes, as she read his personal blog, “Looking for Love.” I’d hoped it would be funny, a little corny, and endearing.

I didn’t intend for romance to take center stage for the first part of the story. It’s a lot easier for me to write about spiritual attraction and spiritual connection than sexual and romantic, so I hope you’re forgiving in regards to my floundering prose! We’ll be moving on to other plot arcs, if Sept and Mallory allow.

And also, I’m sorry

I know a lot of us really enjoyed gay Sept, and I especially liked the friendship dynamic between Max and Mallory.

It can hurt readers when a favorite gay character stops being gay. I’m sorry if Sept’s self-identification as pan has hurt any of you.

I guess my main point in this author’s note is to say that if I could have continued to identify Sept as gay, I would have. To be true to my Simming prime directive, I had to let him choose.

If my narrative has been insensitive or if the way I’ve handled this has caused hurt or uncomfortable feelings, please know that I respect your perspective and I’m very open to making revisions. I welcome suggestions or thoughts about how I might handle this better. I know it’s not your responsibility to educate me. I’m also grateful for anything you feel moved to share with me in regards to this.

Thanks so much for reading!

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Septemus: Author’s Notes on the Challenge

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At this point in the game-play, the challenge, which ends on the extra-terrestrial child’s Young Adult birthday, was nearly over, but I still had so much story to tell!

I decided that on the eve of the YA birthday, I would turn aging off, play according to challenge rules up until 3 p.m. on what would have been the birthday, and then declare the challenge done, while continuing with the save, challenge-restrictions lifted, until this arc of the story reached its conclusion. (There is a sequel planned to pick up after Sept becomes a Young Adult.)

During the challenge, we can’t click on the extra-terrestrial child’s portrait, check his needs, assess his skills, or direct his actions. So once 3 p.m. Sim-time came, I was curious to see what I’d find!

I’d directed Sebastion to do a lot of character-building interactions, from “teaching about…” to “influence to…” to “reinforce.” And the approach worked, leading to four values within the traits level, and the fifth very close to it.

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With “influence to…” do homework combined with “reinforcing doing homework” and “reinforcing getting good grades,” Sept was a great student. Another trick I used was to “influence to work on school project,” then once Sept started, I had Sebastion help him. This way, even when Sept stopped working on the project five minutes later (Sim-time–usually to go check to see if there were any dishes to wash! 🙂 ), I was able to have Sebastion complete the project, yet since Sept initiated it, he received full credit for it! I used that technique twice and Sept received some generous grade-boosts from it.

One thing I love about doing homework is that it increased responsibility–of course, the flip-side to that is that higher responsibility contributed to Sept’s persistent dishes-doing activities, even with no dirty dishes on the premises!

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Sept rolled Soulmate. It fits! I was really pleased and surprised to see that he’d gained 1,075 satisfaction points! I decided to save up to 2,000 and buy “Incredibly Friendly” with them. I will be switching aspirations temporarily to have him complete “Friend of the World.” That’s one of my favorite early aspirations to complete, since this way, with the reward trait, we don’t have to worry about the Sim losing friends when he gets too busy to socialize with all his friends. (Note from Future-Me: It’s harder than expected for Sept to complete this aspiration–we’ve run into a batch of xenophobes, at present, and so the usual “Friendly Greeting” + “Get to Know” + “Brighten Day” = Instant Friend isn’t working.)

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I’ll switch Sept back to Soulmate after Friend of the World is done, and I might have him also work on Body Builder and maybe the writer aspirations simultaneously. (I love switching between aspirations!)

Sept’s skills aren’t bad for an autonomous Sim. He seems naturally gifted in Logic and enjoys it greatly. Fitness accompanies his “Active” trait, which he acquired as a teen. Rocket Science was achieved quickly through helping his dad build the rocket. The lot traits facilitate that!

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Reflections on the Challenge

I love this challenge. It’s obviously another Pinstar Classic! (I mean, look at all the awesome stories it’s spawned!) This has several features which I adore in a challenge:

  • It’s short.
  • It lets the Simmer learn about Sims and, especially, Sim AI.
  • It doesn’t mistreat Sims or force them to do things that they wouldn’t do on their own.
  • It provides ample inspiration for stories.
  • And the best part about this one is that we’ve created a rich collaboration from it! (Never thought I’d be spending my weekday evenings translating English into Vingihoplo! LOL!)

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Plus, the single-most enjoyable aspect of this challenge, for me, are all the heartfelt moments between care-giver, child, and the Simmer. TS4, like no other iteration of the game, can create rich emotional interactions. I have fallen head-over-heels with Septemus–and I don’t feel I’ve invented him. He is, in game, the way he is in story. Truthfully, I feel it’s an honor and privilege to get to have him in my game and to get to know through their stories all the other pagotogo!

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Get ready for more! The story continues! Thank you, readers and collaborators, so much, for being part of this! 🙂

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New World Symphony: More Gossip

Oh, boy! I was so excited to see this mixologist at the bar, especially when his first action was to flirt with CT!

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It must have been a low-key flirt, though, because while they became friends right away, and full-green-bar friends within an hour or two Sim-time, they didn’t gain a romance bar.

I played CT for a while, just free, loose, fun playing, with no story in mind, just old-style, have-fun play. We invited Davion the mixologist over a lot, and they continued to be great friends. But not once did he come over flirty, and not once did CT roll a whim for any Davion-socials other than the usual friendly ones.

About this time, I realized that Davion looked a lot like gnome. It tickled me because he showed up as a mixologist, and that’s how Jaclyn, our hobbit-elf, came into the game.

When Cypress invited CT to hang out at the bluffs with the other members of Greenies, Cypress’s gardening club, CT asked Davion to come along. CT was chatting with Cypress, ShannonSimsFan, and John when I noticed that Jaclyn, taking a dip in swimming hole, and Davion seemed to be having a very friendly conversation.

During the next game-play session, I decided to play Davion. I realized that it made sense, story-wise, for him to be moved into a house, especially if he is indeed a gnome, here to help Jaclyn with her mission of ushering magic into the New World. Also, I wanted to see if maybe Davion were rolling CT-related romantic whims.

Imagine my delight when I looked at Davion’s relationship bar and discovered that he and Jaclyn were lovebirds, all on their own! How divine is that!

In addition, Davion was rolling romantic whims for Jaclyn!

Now Davion is gloomy, creative, and loves music. Jaclyn is a goofball, noncommittal, and loves outdoors. Goofball and gloomy Sims are compatible, for goofballs (and cheerful Sims) can listen to gloomy Sims share melancholy thoughts without being brought down themselves, and the playfulness of goofballs helps to cheer up gloomy Sims when they’re feeling sad.

I was curious to see how Jaclyn’s noncommittal trait would affect their romance. After Davion initiates a romantic interaction, Jaclyn will often talk about her fear of commitment. During the early stages of their relationship, this increased their romantic relationship.

When Davion sent Jaclyn a happy text, she invited him to the park. And then, autonomously, she asked him to become her boyfriend! I was so happy, since I never like to push noncommittal Sims into romantic partnerships. At this point, when Jaclyn shared her fear of commitment, their romantic relationship went down a bit–but they always bring it right back up again with a few autonomous flirts and tickles. Most of the cuteness that you see between the two of them in the previous chapter happened all on their own, with me just sitting back and snapping photos like a paparazzi.

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It’s even more magical to me that it happened on Valentine’s Day! I just love this game and the magic it brings! Who could believe that it would create a gnome for our funny little hobbit-elf, and that the two of them would fall in love, all on their own?

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New World Symphony: A Simself Interlude

Last week, for Miss Penguin’s birthday, I threw a big party at my cottage. There were so many people, that we could hardly find room to dance! But we danced anyway. We were just all so happy because it’s Miss Penguin’s birthday, and we love her. She’s a regular part of the family.

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All the Boughs were there. Jaclyn came, and so did the members of Cypress’s garden club. Sharon Pope came–you’ll get a chance to know her better later on down the road. She shows up everywhere, all the time. She’s great friends with the Boughs, and her kids are beautiful. They’re in Jaclyn’s merry band. Here’s a picture of one of her daughters:

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Sabreene came, and so did Eddie and Shannon SimsFan and her husband, John. JRose catered. Of course, Miss Penguin was the guest of honor. With all the Boughs, we couldn’t fit any one else in! We’ll have other parties for other friends.

Even Mesquite came to play the piano.

“Are you gonna make a wish and spin?” Cypress asked Miss Penguin. We all waited for her answer.

“No,” she giggled. “I like this age just fine! This is more an honorary birthday than an aging-up birthday!”

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The day before had been Sabreene’s birthday, and I invited her over for tea.

“Banana slugs!” she said, when she arrived, referring not to the slug making its way through my flower beds at that moment, but to the mascot of our beloved alma mater.

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“You really both graduated from the same college?” Cypress asked Sabreene over the roar of laughter and music.

“We did!” shouted Sabreene. “It’s such a wonderful school.”

I think the Boughs would love UC Santa Cruz, especially Cypress and J. P. Well, all of them really! The university has eight colleges within it, each with their own style, and so there’s one that would be sure to fit each of the Boughs.

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This was the first time the whole family had been together since Sugar and Ren’s reception. Soon, they’ll gather again for J. P. and Floyd’s wedding or reception.

“Where is your other brother?” Nathanael asked J. P.

“You mean the man soon to be my husband?” J. P. responded. “More lover than brother,” he added, under his breath. “He stayed home. He’s looking through baking books, trying to find a good recipe for marzipan for the cake.”

Ren had decided to stay home, too. Sugar realized that she didn’t often come to these big parties. She enjoyed each of the family members in small gatherings, but Sugar realized that when they whole gang was together, it could be a bit much.

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onezero and Sugar took advantage of the party to catch up with each other. Since onez had joined ZenPines, J. P.’s wellness club, they’d been seeing each other more often, but onez was realizing that she missed seeing Sugar every day.

“I always go around looking for you,” onezero said.

“And do you find me?” asked Sugar.

“Yeah, I do,” said onez, and I think she’s right. Whomever I’m playing, if I take them to a community lot, first we see Sugar, and then, in the opposite direction, we see onez. They don’t often find themselves in an actual conversation, but these two have other means of communicating.

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At the party, they kept each other laughing, while Miss Penguin and Shannon SimsFan danced in the crowded kitchen.

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“I might need to get a bigger house if I keep throwing parties like this!” I said to Miss P.

“I don’t think you need to,” she replied. “Just look! We’re having a great time!”

“If there’s room to dance, there’s plenty of room!” said Shannon SimsFan.

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Cypress stayed behind after the party ended and everyone else went home. Since she and I share two traits–goofball and loves outdoors–we have become fast friends.

“I just want to thank you,” she said. “You made my dream come true.”

She spent the golden hour out at the easel.

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“You recognize this, don’t you?” she asked, as she completed the painting.

It was one of Cedar Bough’s favorite subject matters: The magical owl.

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New World Symphony: About those last three chapters…

I wrote the last three chapters because I wanted to explore the lives of some of the children that are in Jaclyn’s magical merry band.

Starting with Jennifer Harmonson was a natural choice, since she’s Squid’s best friend. When I went to play her family, I was so surprised to see that Jennifer was at Cradle Rock, and even more surprised to find her standing at the fridge with a big plate of breakfast scramble. She then, quite happily, marched to the back bedroom, where Redbud was sitting, and sat beside her. It was then when I noticed how much alike they look.

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So that’s where her story came from. I remembered as a child sometimes when I’d find myself with a woman–maybe a friend’s mom, maybe a neighbor–with whom I felt a sense of the kindred: maybe we looked similar; maybe we both loved the outdoors; maybe we both just understood each other and fell into a natural sense of sympatico. When I saw how happy these two gluttons were with each other, I thought that maybe Jennifer would wonder if this was her true home and her true family. That would explain to her why she and Sempervirens became best friends so quickly, and it would explain to me why she was hanging out at Cradle Rock on her own.

Of course, she isn’t really related to the Boughs–that’s just her imagination. She is the daughter of Jayden Harmonson and Solomon Portillo; she is indeed the twin sister of Bridget. I was happy to see that Solomon was her dad. He was one of the Park Boys of Cypress’s childhood, and I’ve always had a soft spot for him. He and Jayden are soulmates, with completely full pink and green relationship bars. While I was playing the family, though, I received notification that Solomon married Christian Parker. There’s an MC Command Center complication for you!

No matter, I figured. He can still be a good dad to Jennifer and Bridget! Bridget has the insane trait, so maintaining close relationships is a challenge for her. Like many insane Sims, she will periodically yell at those she loves the most. Jennifer is very loving and patient with her: she takes her supportive role as a sister seriously. Jennifer and Bridget really do look alike: just give them similar hair, and they will look like twins.

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I was curious to learn more about Christian Parker, the new wife of Jennifer and Bridget’s dad. I knew her as the mixologist with the two-toned braid, and I was surprised to see that she’s Mikaela’s mom. Mikaela is one of my favorites of Jaclyn’s merry band.

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I adore the way she looks, and she is every bit as sweet. Like most slobs, she’s got a rambunctious enthusiasm for life.

I had assumed that Solomon was her dad, but when I played the Parker household, I discovered that Craig Cho (who is married to Alysia Carey) was her dad, and Solomon was her stepdad. That put Mikaela at the center of a very complicated family configuration. On top of all that, one of Alysia’s traits is jealous. When I first went to play this household, Solomon was visiting the Harmonsons, and Alysia was very tense about his absence.

I discovered, too, that Solomon hates children. His other traits aren’t bad: Loves the outdoors and loner. But because he hates children, he’s often tense when kids are around. Mikaela picks up on his tension, and then she feels tense, too.

It was interesting to see the sudden change that Mikaela went through as soon as she left the house and ran outside–she just felt free and happy, with all the complicated dynamics left behind! I found it a curious coincidence that Jayden Harmonson happened to be fishing near their house.

The bit at the park with Jaclyn happened when Mikaela wanted to send a happy text; I had her send one to Jaclyn, who then called her up to share an outing at the park. At the park, I was only playing Mikaela, so all the others who showed up were there on their own accord.

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Poor Pierce! His and Mikaela’s dad, Craig Cho, is mean. Even when I tried to cancel actions from his queue, he still persisted in mean interactions with Pierce. There seemed to be no reason for the meanness: one moment he’d be hugging Pierce, and the next, yelling at him, while whimming to help Pierce with his homework. No wonder the little boy doesn’t believe in magic and does believe in dragons!

Pierce’s mom, Alysia Carey, is lovely: she’s an art lover, materialistic, and something else that I don’t remember, but which isn’t malevolent. And Craig Cho is crazy about her.

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Christian Parker, Mikaela’s mom, is in a precarious position for a jealous Sim: her husband has children with another woman (whom he still loves) and the father of her daughter (whom Christian still loves) is married to and has a son with another woman. Not a comfortable spot for a jealous wife and lover!

The kids, as kids do, seem to pick up on the tension. No wonder Jennifer feels that she belongs to the Bough family, which, though it has plenty of its own complications, is simple in comparison.

If you look at the Table of Contents for New World Symphony, you’ll see that I’m dividing this work into movements: these three chapters belong to the Rondo Capriccioso movement. A rondo is like a round, and capricciosos can be capricious: structurally, these three chapters follow a round, and in mood, they’re very capricious.

By the way, all this complication was created through the settings I’m using in MC Command Center. Blame it on the mod!

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