Yes, I am here writing notes only I will ever be interested in. Still, I find them useful.
Okay, so believe it or not, Thanks, That Was Fun started out as a Gene/The Missus story. Er, yeah. I am not entirely sure how I was going to work it either. All I know is that I started in medias res with the complement/compliment dialogue and somehow expected this to fit into a story about how Gene hides his work from his wife. Then I looked at the 'your eyes are really blue' line and decided that Clara could wait for another day. What I really wanted to do was slash. I wanted to write a story which had a sex scene. I wanted it to be believeable in the context of the diegetic world. And I wanted it to be relatively cheerful.
Now, there's a problem here. I don't realistically think any sexual relationship between Sam and Gene could be remotely cheerful. It was only legal for two men to engage in sexual practices with each other after 1967, when Gene would have been thirty-eight. Yes, of course these sexual practices still occurred and there was hardly any enforcement against them, but there was the overarching climate of homosexuality being wrong and that's what he would have grown up with. I don't necessarily think Gene's as homophobic as you could interpret him as being in the show, though. He never really condemns Warren for being gay, he condemns him for being a criminal. He makes light of Warren's sexual proclivities because he knows he has his own problems with them. Still, Gene is married, and in my heart of hearts, he loves his wife.
You also have established canon that Sam is attracted to females, but hey, we don't have any canon which disproves a homosocial/homosexual leaning. However, the unreality and reality aspects of Sam's life are problems to contend with. I usually write from the perspective that Sam has travelled in time, and this was no exception. I had to write it from that standpoint, in order for the relationship to not be ten times more disturbing than it already was. In a couple of my stories, Sam's not sure if he's travelled in time or if it's all in his head, but this time I had him being quite sure that he was in 1973 and not in his own psyche. The Test Card Girl, to me, is a hallucination - but I did have it open so that you could also see her as being a supernatural agent. After all, travelling in time is supernatural in and of itself.
Basically, in a realistic setting, I see any relationship between Sam and Gene being fraught with power-plays and angst and ultimately two extraordinarily unhappy people. So, I knew I was in for a challenge. Unfortunately, I am a die-hard romantic, so investing that much time in a story only to have it be a sour ending wasn't an option. I would argue it's quite an open ending, though. You can think they go on their merry way all happy, or you can forsee doom, doom.
But, back to the beginning. I'd just written my complement/compliment dialogue, I'd decided on slash, and I knew I wanted a story. I didn't just want a PWP. Originality and world-building aren't my strong suits at this stage, so I thought I'd build some more on canon. After all, crime shows do often recycle similar storylines. We've got the whole planted evidence aspect in episode two. Ahah. So this is my homage to episode two. Of course.
I realised I'd already written the complement/compliment section from Sam's point of view (so how it was ever to be a story about Gene's homelife, I've no idea.) It's easier to write from Sam's POV, I have to admit. In Life on Mars, Sam is essentially the viewer. We're often in his head (or always, depending on which theory you subscribe to.) We see almost everything from his perspective (with some minor notable exceptions.) It felt quite natural to write from him. And it meant that Gene's motivation would be more mysterious, which is always good.
I built up more on Melanie and questioned what her role would be. I didn't do any research into how you speak if you're from Birmingham, which was awful of me, and means I've got a great big inconsistency there. There are some things I take for granted. I know Mancunian pretty well, I'm not bad with Liverpudlian, different sections of London are fine, and East Yorkshire - but I really didn't know exactly how Brummies spoke when writing and I winged it. Badly. I am kicking myself about this, because I usually do a lot of research, but this was very much "pick a city". Well, I'll know better next time.
So, after working on that scene, I went back to the beginning, like I had with Forgetting Tomorrow, and started writing chronologically. I didn't do a plot outline, I just had a hazy idea of where I was going. This is probably where some problems and inconsistencies crept in - like the issue of searching Terrence's flat, which watervole brought up in her fantastic constructive criticism. It made sense to me, but then, I knew everything behind the inner workings of my mind. Let this be another lesson that beta-readers are good and next time I shouldn't be afraid to put myself out there and beg for one.
I did my first draft and then did more planning after that. I looked at where I wanted events to happen (there was a bit of shuffling involved), I fleshed out certain scenes. Test Card Girl came as an afterthought, and I am really glad she did because I think she's an integral part of the story. I knew I needed an extra element, and when she came to me I was pleased.
I started writing after Give and Take - so, the 27th August. It took two days to write the first draft and then after that it was second draft, third draft, edit, edit, edit. I am very much one of those writers who has to get it all down as quickly as possible. I just do. I lose my flow otherwise. I'm the same in my academic work. Teachers hate me.
With the structure of the story, I tried to balance the light and shade. I attempted to build it up over time. I would start with a fairly innocent round of sparring, get into Sam's righteousness and how it affects both of them, with building sexual tension. Then there's the sexual explosion, which I thought had to have some violence incorporated. I didn't want it to be just one man forcing himself on the other. I wanted it to be fairly equal. Because, in my mind, they are equal. I know that some like to think that because Sam's seen as more sensitive, this somehow makes him submissive, but I don't. I hope he didn't come across as overly submissive in the story. He gives as good as he gets.
I gave a lot of attention to the sex scene. Perhaps too much attention. It's the second explicit sex scene I've written. I was emboldened by the feedback for my due South story Get a Grip on my Boy Racer Rollbar, which was my first. As for why I wanted to do the sex scene... well. The reasons are complicated. It's all about progression and wanting to play with the Big Girls and rah-rah-yah. But also, I do want to get to a point where I'm not quite so repressed and mortally embarrassed when it comes to sex. It's been such a part of my personality for so long, I need to take baby steps. What better than the healing power of porn?
As it is, I was still giggling a lot at using the word "cock" without saying "cocked it up" or "the cock crows at dawn", so there's my maturity level right there. I got a couple of my figurines and tried to work out positions, to see if what I was saying was logistically possible (accounting for the increased flexibility which always appears in porn, you understand.) It had to be the sofa because the cot would fold in two - though I still don't think the sofa would be very comfortable. I don't think writing sex will ever come naturally to me, and I'm not sure it ever really should. Still, I thought this was more successful than Eddies in the Dust of Rage and it was a damn sight more explicit in the action.
The ending was the second hardest part to write. I didn't want it to be overly mushy. I may be a romantic and sentimental, but I do have my limits. Originally I had a line about Sam looking forward to more encounters (an echo of the first paragraph, where the long day is not the type you look forward to), but it just didn't sit right with me. Far safer to just have Sam not know what the future would bring, I thought. After all, he really doesn't (and neither do I.) The title "Thanks, That Was Fun" has a double meaning. It has the sarcastic meaning present in the Barenaked Ladies song, but it is also supposed to be seen as relatively cheery too.
So. I have another imperfect story up for all to see. Some more lessons to be learnt. I did, actually, have a good time in the process. It was quite challenging and I'd like to say I'll be avoiding that sort of undertaking again - but then, I said that after Eddies in the Dust of Rage too, so I know I'm lying. I do think that this is, overall, my most successful story for Life on Mars. It has character, it has atmosphere, events unfold (though I'll admit, some of them do so nonsensically.) I enjoyed writing it, and I know that once I've distanced myself from it, I'll enjoy reading it, even if I'll want to re-edit. I won't re-edit, because I know that all of these imperfect stories tell me a lot about my progression as a person who writes. They tell me what I can do relatively well, what I need to work on, which conditions work best for me. All of it is really useful knowledge, and if I go back and retroactively change that, I'll lose this valuable information. We're meant to make mistakes, it's how we learn.
I look forward to tackling the Gene/Clara ideas I do have. Hopefully I won't get sidetracked again. I've actually already written another short gen story involving Sam and Gene which I want to post first. I don't know what it is exactly about Life on Mars, but it makes me want to write, and I've only just scraped the surface of what I could explore.