Friday, August 19, 2016
Scenes From A Story
I've been trying to work my way through Second Class this week, but it's been slow going.
The original idea for this story was that the Black Moon Maidens, led by Black Dahlia, expand into two teams of superheroes. Part of the story is that Nina Ballerina leaves the League of Two-Fisted Justice, and after some time wondering what to do next, she winds up heading a second team of Black Moon Maiden members. Another part of the story was Dahlia's struggles to be an effective team leader. I had envisioned her team having to deal with two major problems at once, which inspires her to form a second team with Nina as the lead.
I had a few scenes written and a lot of ideas. It was kind of a mess.
I wrote a new first scene. Originally I began with Dahlia talking to Jay in her office, and complaining about the types of villains they face, and how they're not treated as a serious supergroup. And then at some point -- maybe in a different scene -- Jay asks her to investigate the murder of one of his superhero operatives. This all seemed rather static and boring, so my new scene opens with the Black Moon Maidens fighting their arch nemesis Lord Ciprian Calimate, the Count of Calamity. And then, on a ride back from the fight (provided by Jay and Dog Is My Copilot), Dahlia gets to complain about the quality of the villains her group faces, with Calimate as a prime example.
Now, all of this came about by accident, but I'd noticed a trend. Early on I'd written the story Magic Is A Bitch, in which part of the joke was that a villain was trying to marry Fire Maiden, who had used a spell to become a woman strictly because he/she liked the name Fire Maiden and it was one of the few "fire" names available -- and the spell wears off. This was the first time I'd come up with a villain for the Black Moon Maidens, and it made sense in the context of the story that he was trying to marry Fire Maiden. I imagined him as a kind of Doctor Doom, a cybernetic-armored ruler of his own small European country. And I decided that he would be their major nemesis -- there were no other candidates for the position, after all.
Later I wrote a story called Four Weddings And Nine Hundred Funerals. This was one of those stories where the title was the original idea, and then I built a story around it. I needed four weddings, and I needed enemies with lots of minions to crash each wedding. Two of the weddings involved DarkFireNinjaCatgirl (she gets divorced after the first one). I came up with two different rivals for her affection to crash the first wedding, and a crazy anti-gay preacher with an army to crash the other one. So this gave me three more enemies of the Black Moon Maidens -- two of whom were interested in marrying DarkFireNinjaCatgirl.
Like I said, it was by accident -- the nature of a story about weddings led to me creating that kind of villain, because who is going to object to the wedding if not a romantic rival? But it occurred to me that three of the four known villains of the group were people who wanted to marry members of the group. That seemed excessively patriarchal, and something Dahlia would complain about.
So I wrote that scene. So far, so good. My next scene was where Jay hands information to Dahlia, but it seemed like I should write instead a scene where they investigate the scene of the murder. So I did that. So far so good. They find an iPhone at the scene, but it's been in a fire because the villain would have tried to destroy evidence. Ah, but Jay has a computer hacker expert in the form of The Ritsy Cracker, one of many former sidekicks to Grandpa Anarchy! One of my ongoing themes in the original version of the story is that Dahlia is reluctant to add a new member who is not a tech expert, and the Ritsy Cracker almost counts -- but she's basically a super computer tech/hacker, not really good for anything else. Still, this seemed like a great way to introduce the character.
I finally sat down to write the scene where Jay supplies Dahlia with vital information pulled from the nearly-destroyed iPhone -- and I began thinking. What if the phone was too far gone for even a super-hacker to retrieve anything from? That seems more believable, after all. What if, instead, the Ritsy Cracker were keeping tabs on every one of Jay's operatives, and hacking their phones and online information? She would then have all the information they need from the dead operative, but only because she was spying on everyone. But that sounded like a much more plausible idea, and also a kind of insight into this character that I haven't explored very much.
So I rewrote the scene to have Jay explain how he got the information, but that wasn't interesting enough. I realized that the moment Jay finds out what the Ritsy Cracker is up to, that's the scene I need to write. The only important part of the subsequent scene is when Dahlia realizes what the villain is attempting to summon.
Anyway, this is why my writing is sometimes slow. I write a scene where two people have a conversation, and it seems boring, and eventually I realize I'd much rather demonstrate the problem Dahlia is complaining about in a dynamic fight scene. I write another scene where two people talk, and it's boring, and I realize I need to backtrack and show the most interesting bits as more dynamic scenes. It doesn't always occur to me what makes a good scene until after I've written a bad scene. ^_^