ailis_fictive: Ailis (Default)
Ailis Fictive ([personal profile] ailis_fictive) wrote2012-12-24 01:47 am

"The Wrong Ground To Hold"--Author's Commentary

This one...oh, dear.

This one takes a bit of explaining. And probably a disclaimer; this is not the sort of thing I usually write. Which is to say, please don't hang out here expecting a lot of explicit kink, because you won't get it--conversely, if this horrifies you, I promise you won't see much of it!

Modern AU's and crack-fic are two things that are very hit-or-miss for me. When they don't work, they really don't work, so they're not something I regularly seek out. As a result, when I started reading all the Vorkosigan fanfic I could lay hands one, one of the last things I got around to was [ profile] lannamichaels ' Barrayar Expects That Every Fall Will Do Their Duty: Excerpts From a Fandom. (If you haven't read it, a) what are you waiting for? Go, go! I'll wait! and b) all you really need to know is that she creates an imaginary TV show (and movie franchise) called "Barrayar" which I'm playing with here.)

I loved it, read it straight through twice, and then went back a few days later to read it again.

A number of the comments mention that they'd love to read some Barrayar fic. I agreed happily, and hoped someone would write it--but not me, because it's not the sort of thing I write.

Which is, of course, tempting the gods. Five weeks later I started coming down with a story--fifteen minutes into a four hour drive, alone in the car with no paper and no time to stop. I finally got a notebook at a supermarket at ten to eleven at night, got to my step-daughter's house and wrote until two in the morning, then drove and stopped and wrote and drove all the way home. I spent five days with my head completely in this story, which was a very strange experience.

I should mention in passing that my husband probably deserves a sainthood for putting up with me during this. He helped me with world-building (being much better read in mil-sf than I am) and listened to a stream of questions, many rhetorical, about character and plot and story-shape. (He also twitched a lot; we have an unconventional relationship but "my wife is writing kinky slash fic" is a little out of his comfort zone. Sorry, love!) The last thousand or so words of this was written in on the first four hours of the five hour drive to my parents' for Thanksgiving--he both drove and dealt patiently with me breaking off to scribble for a bit and ask "does this make sense?" at odd intervals. (He also set a hard limit--which I agreed to!--that I would stop working on it before we got to my parents' house. Luckily, I finished it exactly on time and set it aside to marinate for the weekend, so I didn't have to try to think about it in my childhood bedroom...)

I wrote this in a rather odd order. It arrived as three scenes (with intro and transitions), and I wrote the first two paragraphs and the reference to Vortalon in the first scene with Hazelbright (because I needed the setup), picked up with Varadar Tau finding himself outside Vortalon's cabin and wrote those two scenes through to the end, and then went back to pick up the beginning and write the intro and first scene. I realized at the last possible moment that I was right about the emotional movement but completely wrong about the actual action and blocking of the first scene between Tau and Hazelbright (the last thing I acutally wrote) and managed to correct course before I broke the story.

It turned out to be a surprisingly interesting (and tough) writing challenge--especially for something that was supposed to be just a kinky little episode tag. Tau was fun but exasperating to write--especially in tight-third person. He's so set on Not-Thinking during most of this--registering present action but not emotion (which he's never very good with--aside from irritation!), motivation, or above all the past. It was sort of like writing around a very large rock; I had to try to shove back-story, emotional motivation, and some of the more subtle character details around the block of Tau's Not-Thinking. Some of it, I think, makes it though (Hazelbright shares some characterization with a friend who read it and, to my great pleasure, saw all Hazelbright's emotional motivation that Tau couldn't acknowledge); some of it doesn't, but I hope it comes through at least in story depth. (While I don't have enough of the world or enough of the plot to write the actual episode, I did end up finding a thousand-word scene from the episode that I could tell, in part to add back some of the depth that Tau's Not-Thinking took away. It'll go up as soon as I have it formatted.)

I was also, just on a technical level, trying to make sure the story felt right. I wanted it to be readable without any more of the background than "this is a tag for an episode of a series that doesn't exist"--hasn't everyone wandered over to read fic for a show you've never watched, because it's a writer you like or hits a bullet-proof kink? As a result, I had to try to get enough of the general world though for things to make a basic level of sense, and play with the world of all the sci-fi shows we know--my visual model was mostly Babylon 5, with some Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, and there's a handful of terminology borrowed from the Vorkosigan books, since that is the base source. There are some easter eggs for the astute and geeky reader--one B5 and one Star Wars reference (I couldn't find a space for a Star Trek reference, alas), two Vorkosgian-verse references (besides the few bits of vocabulary), and one thing that is an easter egg of sorts for the keen reader of "Barrayar Expects..." with the information that this is first or second season of the new series. The title is a quote from a Vorkosigan fanwork--one of Alys Vorpatril's Clerihews--because if I'm going to do the crazy meta, I might as well take it all the way.

I had two-and-a-half beta readers, without whom it would be an unreadable mess--Lanna spent a lot of time sorting out some of the basic issues (like the fact that apparently I prefer to write visual fandoms...well, not at all, but when I do write them it tends towards present tense; this suffered some serious tense shift issues!) and clearing up some of the character problems caused by the fact that all three of my main characters are coming out of an episode that's put them into an unusual emotional place, and the real reader doesn't have the baseline character knowledge that the imaginary fan-reader does. Sara read it from the PoV of someone with only passing familiarity with the Vorkosigan universe (or my fan-fic models), and helped me make sure that all the important plot details were somewhere on the page. And, as mentioned above, one of Hazelbright's models reassured me that the emotion also made it to the page, even if Tau wasn't admitting it.

I'll be utterly thrilled if someone else takes this and runs with it--it's fun! It's a challenge that will stretch you as a writer! There has to be someone out there as crazy as I am!