I like writing about writing.
The Space Between was the story I kept telling myself I shouldn’t be writing, because I had made an unofficial promise to myself that Some Fantastic would be my last fic before the second series started. There was once a time when I used to keep my promises. I’m not sure what happened. I started writing this two weeks before series two, and I posted the first part February 18 (after the first and second episodes aired, woo!) Unfortunately, I still can’t say that Some Fantastic was my last fic before series two, because I got inspired by the suggestion that Sam is a wimp and wrote the self-mocking, Sam-mocking Poor Diddums. The notes for that one would actually be longer than the story itself, so I won’t go much into that, except to say that it was a reaction to my own stupidity and deep vehemence against John Simm calling Sam a wimp – which has an interesting parallel with how this story got started.
In his interview with SFX, John Simm said “[t]here are times when they're that far apart and times when they can't really be without each other.”
Before the article came out, I was talking about Sam and Gene as my first (and possibly only) OTP and I said “I can relate to the distance between them just as much as I can relate to the bond.”
I was struck by the similarity of our statements. We both used space as a metaphor. Our concept of their relationship was on the same wavelength, except that John would always be “not in that kind of way” and there are occasions when I am “yes, in that kind of way, mmmm.” Thinking about these two statements and their similarities inspired me and I found myself up late one night writing a scene where Sam and Gene aren’t connecting. This turned into the first part of The Space Between.
In many ways, this story is all about how I see Sam and Gene. This is it – my pairing manifesto. This is them for me 90% of the time. There are things about each other that they just don’t get, and never will get, and perhaps never should. But they manage to make things work anyway. They compromise. They each push their more selfish natures to the side for the greater good. And when they do understand each other – when they’re connecting, when they’re getting, they’re fantastic together.
There’s a lot left unsaid in this story. Sam never articulates why he constantly tries to raise Gene’s hackles, mostly because he doesn’t know himself. I’ve said before that I don’t think Sam’s a very self-aware or self-reflexive person, and I still think that. He has his moments, of course, but overall, I think he concentrates on external and extrinsic motivations. It’s strange to be so self-involved and yet completely clueless. Similarly, Gene never says why he’s trying to reach out to Sam. He’d also never admit that this is what he’s trying to do, despite the fact he clearly is. I purposefully tried to show off Sam and Gene’s respective unlikeable sides, although I still think Sam comes off as less likeable, because by now we’re used to Gene being a bully. Still, sometimes you need to dislike your protagonist for a little while. I think it’s painfully obvious that I love these characters to death. And maybe that’s a bad thing. Loving your characters too much can have a detrimental effect on your writing. But, let’s be fair, they’re not my characters. They belong to Matthew, Ashley and Tony and I’m just borrowing them for my own nefarious purposes.
I knew straight away that I wanted to completely ignore Sam’s coma/insanity. Perhaps the story would have been more layered with those elements added, but there are times when they bore me. I didn’t want to have them there simply as a token, especially since they were never going to be the driving force of the story. It felt easier and more straightforward to be honest with myself and either have all of that occurring “off camera”, or just not happening at all within the three days the narrative is set. I still made reference to the future, because that’s part of the space between Sam and Gene – integral - but not the be-all and end-all of everything that causes conflict between them.
As usual, I didn’t write in a linear fashion. I hopped all over the place. But really only within the different segments, so not as crazily as usual, where I’ve been known to write the ending before the second act. I didn’t actually know much about how I was going to end the story until just before I started writing the final part. I had decided from the beginning that it was Jenkins, the old man who had made the call, who had ‘killed’ Christina, but I hadn’t decided on a motive. It was the motive that I found stopping me from beginning the final part.
The possibility of it being an ambiguous thing – a question of murder or suicide, only came to me as I was sat watching V8 supercars go speeding around a race track. I figured, in this way, both Sam and Gene could be right, but neither of them actually were. So, like the show, then. This is called lazy writing, by the way. Not the show. Just me. I have Sam and Gene discussing the possible motive if it were murder just to clear up that I am aware this was terribly weak of me – this is a variation of ‘hanging a lantern on it’. And yes, that’s clearly deus ex machina, with Chris suddenly giving that vital bit of evidence, but I do reference this happening earlier in the story (predicting that I’d fall back on an old friend.) I love using all of those writerly terms. Jargon! Fun for me and you! One of these days I will write a story where they actually properly solve a case, I promise. Or, you know, I won’t, because I’m like that.
I think it’s fairly obvious that the story isn’t about the plot. None of my stories are about the plot. Character is always going to be the important thing for me. I don’t see anything wrong with this, either. I think a lot of fandom is character-centric. We’re here precisely because we love the characters. But there’s nothing to say that you need to sacrifice character for plot and I know that, I’m just not brilliant at getting the balance right yet. I want to move into writing proper character-driven plots, but obviously that didn’t quite happen with The Space Between.
I was much, much better at attributing my dialogue this time around. I didn’t simply block out all of my dialogue and leave it for me to add in detail later. I tried to think of what the characters would be doing at the time and write appropriately. I think it comes off more naturally, but maybe that’s just because I know. I still have a problem with description. I mostly write for myself and I can make do with swathes of unattributed and description-less dialogue. I see it all in my head. Realising that I’m making my writing available for other people to read as well sometimes comes as an afterthought.
I did something I haven’t done for a long, long time – I posted the story in installments. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure why I did this. It is, in some ways, a regression. I had moved away from that approach, at least in practice. But I think it’s harder to shake than I had originally anticipated. Both of my longer stories – Forgetting Tomorrow and Every Little Counts still read as if I had posted them incrementally. So perhaps I was just being more honest this time.
I asked bakednudel to beta-read for me and sent her the parts as I completed them. She’s a wonderfully supportive beta. I felt much more confident about the story once she’d read it, especially since she didn’t find any massive problems. I got both my brother Nick and my mum to help me as well. They often edit and workshop my gen fiction with me, but as they’re not as involved in the show, they wouldn’t necessarily pick up on all of the inconsistencies. Mum and Nick listen to me rambling on a hell of a lot. I’ve been known to sit down and start talking about characterisation and development of plot and pacing (my darkest curse) to anyone who’ll listen for a good hour or so. Poor people. I find talking about writing helps me immensely. It’s probably intensely pretentious and wanktacular, but it helps me delineate which areas I need to work on and why. I’ve long come to accept that I’m a pretentious person.
The final story is not entirely what I intended when I started. This originally started with the hope of being the story. That one that is everything I want it to be and things I couldn’t even imagine. It’s not. That’s often what happens during the writing process. I still like how it turned out. As usual, there are things I’d change, but I’ll catalogue them for next time.
Finally, the title is, of course, just a description of what the story is about, as most of my titles are. But, I think you could make a successful case for it being followed by “my ears”.
Here endeth my notes for The Space Between.