Loz (lozenger8) wrote,

Write to be right...

Writer's notes: Forgetting Tomorrow

I am well aware that no-one will be remotely interested in reading these, but I wanted to put them up for myself anyway.

Okay, so I started off with fandom_deja_vu - which basically gave you three possible plot outlines to work from. Tada!

I originally wanted to try and do a story which incorporated all three plotlines (um, I'm ambitious?) It didn't quite work out, and that story idea became Like a Good Time That's Never Been Had. Which also didn't quite work out, but that's a different narrative.

The plot I finally decided upon was;

The Amnesia Challenge
Necessary Characters: A and B

1. Setup: Reveal a conflict between A and B.
2. Before the conflict is resolved, character A gets stress amnesia. (The amnesia can affect all or some of their memories. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, extreme emotional stress, and thwaps on the head are all examples of potential forms of stress amnesia.)
3. A crisis occurs which requires knowledge, experience, training, or ability that only A has. This, however, is currently part of their memory loss. B must help them regain their memory.
4. How the crisis and the conflict between A and B are resolved is up to you.

I decided straight away that Sam would be my A and Gene my B, even though I'd really enjoyed writing as Annie in Like a Good Time. I also decided I'd make it Gen, even though I really am in the Sam/Gene camp most of the time. Thing is, I like thinking about Sam/Gene - but the style I primarily write (fluff), doesn't quite gel with how I perceive their relationship. I prefer writing them as somewhat adversarial friends and find that the complications in their relationship would make for something considerably darker than I'm willing to invest that much time in. So, it was to be Gen - but with loads of obvious innuendo, just because I could. The G rating was mostly accidental. I'd got half-way through and realised I hadn't had much swearing to speak of, and hadn't been overly graphic either. The nature of the plot also lended itself to be third person with shifting points of view. That wasn't so much a conscious decision as a necessary one.

I knew that this was going to be longer than my usual fiction, the base plot from fandom_deja_vu dictating it should, but I expected around 10,000 words. I was pretty surprised when I went well over that. I was watching something on television and I realised that I have seen so many crime shows, and read so many Agatha Christies that I owed it to myself to write a murder mystery. I didn't want it to be too fancy, with too many twists and turns. I'm fairly sure it's obvious from the get-go who the murderer is (Nick, my brother, knew straight away when I was workshopping it with him, and he never saw my plot notes.) The point was in seeing how the characters got to the point where they knew who the murderer was. I almost always solve the murder long before the detectives do in the things I watch, and I still enjoy doing so - I figured others would be the same. I went with cliché and convention - writing what I know, in a style I'm comfortable with. No real experimentation. But I think that's fine, because I have also written and will continue to write experimental pieces.

On July 20th I made my plot outline. I made a post about it. I think you should know that the first lines of my plot outline were "Sam has amnesia./Forgets he’s from 2006./Hilarity." Somehow, the hilarity didn't quite make it. I realised as I was writing that I didn't want it to be an all-out comedy like it could be. I was trying to get back to that time where I used to write lightly amusing narratives just for myself. Which is how it turned out, actually, so there's my consistency there.

On this plot outline I had a lot blocked out, but it also changed considerably from this to the final product - much like my lesson plans and actual lessons when teaching.

Here's an example of part of my plot outline;

 Investigations of scene confused and inefficient.
 Sam taken home by Gene – who notices the problems and how different Sam is acting. Uncomfortable sofa.
 Bright and early to the station.
 Gene finds a card among the personal effects of the body for the local Realty office.
 Goes to investigate.
 Gene gets Annie to help with Sam. Annie fails.
 Enter Charming Woman and Sleazy Realtor. (Celeste and Les?)
 They talk about meeting the girl only the day before – she was interested in applying for a job as secretary.
 Investigations are going no-where. Gene realises he needs Sam and his ‘forensic approach’.
 Investigations continue. Having had identikit taken off the murder victim (Trisha), Gene gets information that slightly neurotic late-teen who is obsessive was seen talking to victim 2 hours before her body was found.
 Interview, Gene is convinced it is the teen. Sam looks at times and evidence and concludes it can’t be, even with his memory loss.
 Gene and Sam have long discussion. Gene more forceful about needing Sam’s expertise.
 Gene spends time trying to get Sam’s memory back. Ray and Chris remark that he is concentrating too much on this, should concentrate on the case – Gene is insistent that he needs Sam to solve the case – after all, he was there at murder scene. Also, he does all of that scientific mumbo-jumbo.

There's actually more later on which changed drastically. Mostly, I took the solving of the case off of Sam. In my original notes, Sam who has just come back to us looks at the evidence and sees everything his 1970s colleagues missed. On further reflection I felt that this was quite narrow-minded. Policework is about collaboration, and it seemed unfair to me that Sam should swan in and solve everything off the bat. I changed it to have the solving of the case be a more natural thing - that they got more information and sorted it through together. When it really comes down to it, no-one actually solves the case. There isn't an epiphany moment of "yes! it must be them!" They just kind of fall into the answer.

I started writing July 21st, and I started in medias res, with the Annie and Sam scene, before going straight to the beginning and working mostly chronologically. As time skipped on, I mostly wrote in a linear fashion, but about 3/4 through I wrote the ending and then had to go through to write the scenes towards that conclusion. I still think the reveal scene of the murderer is a bit rushed, but it pretty much had to be - since the story was definitely due August 7 as far as I knew. As it turns out, I could probably have given myself another week in which to write. C'est la vie.

I knew that throughout the story I wanted lots of little details drawn from the show but also used in a self-contained referential way. I had Sam singing Pulp songs specifically so that I could make a joke about it later. I had to mention "Gladys" early on, to make the "Sam's back!" part work out. The inclusion of pirates was mostly just because pirates amuse me, but also because I like cyclical stories (we start with a reference to pirates, we end with a reference to pirates).

I've also noticed that most of my Life on Mars stories are each a kind of homage to specific episodes. Like a Good Time is episode 6 in another context. Mr Blue Sky is very much working on the atmosphere in the first part of episode 4. Thinking in Reverse is also partly episode 4 - but the later part. For My Automolove harkens back to episode 5. This was clearly episode 7. It's a completely unconscious thing as well, it just sort of happens.

I liked writing Sam with amnesia a lot. Half of me wanted to push it a little bit more, but I decided not to. One thing I feel about Sam is that he is a perfect expression of repression - so I wanted to do away with some of this. Essentially I wanted him to be the same character - so I had him being automatically resistant towards Gene, a little bit whiny, angry and confused. But I also wanted him to be a different character, otherwise what's the point? So I had him flirtatious in a truly horrible 1970s way. I wanted him to think of himself as a product in the 70s, not of the 70s. In some ways he was acting as he thought people expected him to act, but taking it further as rebellion.

The repression got transferred onto Gene, who, despite desperately wanting to knock someone's block off, did a pretty good job of keeping his violent temperament in check. This was to make his fight scene with Sam even more obvious and effective in the scheme of things. Also, I don't think Gene really is all punch and no pull - even though I do sometimes write him like that. Gene was the driving force of the story. He was the one trying to solve the case. He was the one protecting Sam. A lot of it is from his point of view, even though we don't go very deep into his thoughts.

Annie and Chris were mostly incidental, and Ray I practically ignored like usual (though he does have the honour of saying one my most favourite lines.) One of these days I'm going to write Chris the way I want to, but at the moment I'll make do with half-there. I was glad that I had him being proactive and useful, though, instead of only being a one-joke wonder.

Character-wise, I think I was mostly in character - or at the very least, I was internally consistent. I attempted to show motivation, but when that didn't happen, I told it; as with the "because."/"because?"/"because I'm scared" scene (you can't just have your characters say how they feel - that makes me feel angry!) I like the Sam and Gene dynamic in the story, even though it's not a Sam/Gene dynamic. I especially love the one truly useless scene in there where they bond over fish and chips - because it's useless, it really is - and it has Gene having a truly ridiculous name - and it appeals to my warped sense of humour.

As I was writing, I really enjoyed myself. I knew that it was a labour of love and challenge as opposed to something that would garner me a lot of feedback or glory because a) it's gen, b) it's g-rated, c) it's over 19,000 words. I'm fine with that. I'm happy. I like the story. I can see where it needs some improvements, and naturally, less of a time restriction would have made that easier. If I was one of those people who goes back and completely revises their fan fiction, there are a few things I would do. As a story, it is cliché and it is conventional - but I enjoy cliché and conventional things.

I feel proud. This is the longest story I have written since Swapping with Snape, and that took me 2 years for around 39,000 words (I thought it was 46,000, but it turns out I was wrong - must have been thinking of my Mary Sue story Green Eyed Flame.) This took almost 20 days. I think I'm finally getting to a point where I can write the way I want to. I've tackled the whole plot thing, now I can start doing it in a way where there's more dimension, more atmosphere (which is basically what I think is missing from this), and hopefully something a little more unique.

Tags: life on mars, writer's notes, writing

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