Time for another book recipe! This time it’s steampunk, so trade in your smartphone for a fancy bit of clockwork and grab all the goggles you can find. Let’s get started!
- A big ol’ pile of cogs
- One sickeningly quirky scientist
- A spunky heroine
- Corsets worn on the outside of your clothes
- A rare and mysterious plot device
- A thinly veiled rip-off of the Victorian era
- A bounder and a cad
- Airships, probably
- Take your thinly veiled rip-off of the Victorian era and glue cogs all over it. Ta-dah! Your scene is set.
- Introduce your spunky heroine to the reader when she’s doing something thoroughly disreputable, to prove how spunky she is.
- Describe not-Victorian London for a bit.
- Introduce your delightfully quirky scientist, preferably with bangs, puffs of smoke or mysterious things bubbling in tubes.
- Your scientist needs a rare and mysterious plot device to create his great masterpiece. Your heroine wants a rare and mysterious plot device for reasons. You know what this means…
- Time for a hilarious clash of personalities when your scientist and heroine meet. Sure hope they don’t end up working together!
- But uh-oh, what’s this? Could it be…the villain?
- Turns out the bounder and/or cad is also looking for the mysterious plot device, but like, evilly. Whatever shall our protagonists with literally nothing in common do?
- Team up, that’s what.
- Have some shenanigans during a brief interlude where you meet a quirky side character.
- Go on a mini-quest to get a thing that will let you find the mysterious plot device. Make sure to point out all the eccentric side characters you meet!
- The scientist and the heroine bond over their mutual tragic backstories. D’awwww.
- Have another run-in with the bounder and/or cad. Your protagonists think they’ve escaped, but they don’t know we’re on step thirteen and need to start wrapping up the plot here.
- Yay, you’ve finally found the mysterious plot device! But wait, what’s this?
- It’s the villain! They’ve got one of your protagonists alone and are trying to bribe them into handing over the mysterious plot device.
- Mope a bit about whether one protagonist should betray the other. Luckily they can’t use the mysterious plot device yet, because reasons, so the betrayal would have the maximum dramatic effect.
- Just when the protagonist decides they can’t be bribed, who should crash in but the villain! They’ve gone back on their deal and are here to ruin everyone’s day.
- Have a super dramatic fight. Banter with swords! Swing from ropes! Get up on the rooftops for some reason!
- Your villain has protagonist #1 on the ropes when who should swoop in to save the day but protagonist #2, accompanied by the power of friendship.
- Hooray! Your villain has been brought down. Your heroine agrees to forgo her claim to the mysterious plot device In The Name of Science, but in a way that also gets her pots of money and lets her stay pals with the scientist.
THE END. Serve steamed, of course.
- Don’t worry too much about exactly when your steampunk adventure is set. It can be an alternate history in the past, or it can be a version of the future, or in a totally fantasy world – the important thing is that it is covered in cogs.
- Don’t forget the tiny hats!
- If you have the opportunity to turn one of your characters into an old-fashioned cyborg, FOR GOD’S SAKE TAKE IT, THIS ISN’T AMATEUR HOUR
- Make sure at least one of your characters reacts to important news by taking off their glasses and going “My God…”
- Sprinkle in long and unwieldy names and a smattering of fancy titles. Your characters will then ignore them and insist that everyone calls them by their super-cool and very modern nickname.
- Always make sure to include a stuffy old guy who will describe things as “most irregular”
- No need to bother with explaining how the science actually works. Basically, just make it all exactly like modern technology, but encased in teak and covered in brass valves.
And here’s one I made earlier…
“Ah, Lady Lloyd-Latimer. So good of you to join us.”
Lady Persephone Jessamine Lloyd-Latimer – Percy to her friends – tugged her arm out of the enforcer’s grip. She glared across the mahogany desk, into the smirking, aquiline face of Langdon Gresley.
He waved a careless hand at his henchman and Percy caught a brief glimpse of wooden fingertips and brass knuckle-joints. “Leave us,” he drawled.
The henchman lumbered out of the room and closed the door behind him. Percy glanced around the study. Mahogany bookshelves, a reclining leather chair, a view of the airfields of Grimton from the window. Gresley’s personal airship was moored at the edge of his estate. If she went through the window, she could shimmy down the drainpipe and reach it in a matter of minutes…
“No doubt you are wondering why I have brought you here.”
Percy tossed her head imperiously and her tiny top hat fell off. “Nothing good has ever come from a summons of yours, Gresley.”
Gresley got up with a clicking of gears and walked around the desk. Close to, Percy could see that the rumours were true – he had turned his body into a living arsenal. His elbows had been replaced with pointed copper blades. One knee had been replaced with a cannon, the other with a flamethrower. He dug around in his ear with a fingernail and a bullet popped out.
“On the contrary, dear lady,” he said, “I believe that on this occasion, we can both benefit from our mutual association.”
Percy bent down to pick up her tiny hat. On the floor, she noticed a discarded cufflink – emerald, if she was any judge. She pocketed it, just to make herself feel better.
Gresley went to his drinks cabinet and Percy shoved the cufflink down her corset. She sidled over to one of the shelves, where a silver and glass astrolabe sat there, glittering.
“You are, I believe, acquainted with the alchemist, Leander Sixsmith.”
Percy nearly dropped the astrolabe. She fumbled, but caught it just in time to shove it down her corset. How did Gresley know about Leander?
Gresley handed her a drink, sparing a brief glance at her slightly lumpy-looking corset. Percy shook her magnificent mane of raven curls again, just to draw his attention away, and her tiny hat fell off again. “So what if I am?”
Gresley bent down with a grinding of gears and picked up her tiny hat. “Then you will, of course, know that young Leander is on the verge of a breakthrough in discovering the Cog Particle.”
Percy gave him her most charming smile. “Is that so? Dear me. I’m afraid you’ll have to explain that to me, Gresley. I never had much of a head for science.”
Gresley banged his drink down on the table. Some of the whiskey slopped over the side of the glass and got on his mechanical hand; it started fizzing and sparking. “Do not play the fool with me, Lady Lloyd-Latimer! I know you and Sixsmith are working together!”
Percy spotted a tiny clockwork monkey on a bookshelf, with bright diamond eyes and a tail of gold filigree. She thought, I’ll have you.
“Why, Mr Gresley,” she said, pantomiming shock, “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean!”
Gresley closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Percy’s hand shot out and grabbed the monkey. She shoved it down her corset; it was surprisingly roomy in there.
“What I mean, my lady,” he said through gritted teeth, “is that I know you helped him discover the secrets of the Cog Particle. I know that you are the notorious thief known as The Whisper and I know that you stole the Forbidden Texts from the Great Library at the University. Sixsmith is a dabbling alchemist of no special talent. There is no way he could have discovered the Cog Particle without access to the most arcane knowledge – or without the friendship of a very talented thief.”
Percy – who by this point had a crystal goblet, a silver inkwell and all Gresley’s pens shoved down her corset – went very still. She panicked, then decided that being loudly and aristocratically indignant was probably her best way out.
“Mr Gresley,” she said, drawing herself up to her full height, “I have never been so insulted in my life! How could you even dare to –”
He cut across her. “Would you be so good as to pass me a pen?”
Percy stumbled mid-tirade. “What – why would I have a pen? I’m a lady.”
“Just pass me one.”
“I don’t have any. They’re on your desk.”
“Give us a pen.”
“You should check the drawers. I bet they’re in the drawers.”
“You should check the drawers, though.”
Gresley looked at her for a moment, a fine haze of steam drifting out of the valve on his neck. Then he gave her a brittle smile and turned back to his desk. The moment his back was turned, Percy fished out a pen from the depths of her corset and lobbed it onto the desk. It rolled across the desktop and clattered to a halt.
“See?” she said, edging towards the door and grabbing several priceless books as she went, “it was there the whole time.”
My full book-cookbook can be found here. Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.