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19 September 2015 @ 12:10 pm
FK Fanfic: "Wake the Morning After" (my 2015 FKFicFest story!)  

The story that I wrote for the 2015 [community profile] fkficfest/fkficfest released very early in the game. (Thanks to [personal profile] lastscorpion for the lightning beta!) I'd love it if you read it! If you do, please consider letting me know what I should learn from this one to make the next more interesting and satisfying.

First, though, please check out all the other stories! There's something to tempt every FK taste.

  On the AO3: "Wake the Morning After
  Length: 14,995 words
  Date: August 2015
  Rating: PG-13
  Characters:  Natalie, Nick, Schanke, Urs, Lacroix, Lili; original characters; "off screen" Serena, Feliks, Enforcers
  Setting: ~2015; divergent reality; branched from canon in the hiatus between the first and second seasons
  Summary: Back in the day, Natalie cured Nick's vampirism; they got married. Two decades later, something has gone terribly wrong.
  Quotation: "Yet Nick had never stopped looking over his shoulder, never stopped expecting an ambush by the existence he’d left behind. Nick had told Natalie about many such dangers — his resentful surviving converts; hunters of vampires; cronies of Nick’s deceased “master,” Lacroix; and, first, foremost and always, the Enforcers, who kept the vampires’ secrets."

Reflections on writing this story, with spoilers


Recipient, affiliations and shades

My recipient in this year's game was [personal profile] melissatreglia! Melissa affiliates as a Dark N&Ner, and likes best for stories to include Nick/Natalie romance and "darker" content (in FKdom, "dark" traditionally means vampiric, not tragic). Neither romance nor "dark" are my own strong suits, but I thought that if I worked hard enough, I should be able to find some solid middle ground and provide something she might enjoy without upsettingly (to me) undermining my own "bright" (anti-vampirism, anti-evil) orientation, and I did have N&Ner inclinations back when I first discovered the show, and thought that I should be able to recover those.

I hope that it worked in the end!

N&Ner-ism approach

I took Chris H.'s "The Bargain" as my model of the ultimate N&Ner story. Everybody's read "The Bargain," yes? If you're interested, I can email you a DOC in which I formatted the story to optimize its display for Kindle (and to correct one installment that was out of order on the old archive); let me know. Whatever your factional inclinations, this is a very good tale of FK, and, imo, Chris's masterpiece. (If you're an N&Ner, you should hunt up every last scrap of fanfiction she ever posted; it will be worth your while. I have some on my hard drive and can email them privately, if they're too hard to find now.)

But even with Chris's example firmly in mind, "Wake the Morning After" is mainly an adventure, with just a little romance. Like many 'ship fanfics, it assumes that the characters are in love rather than showing them falling in love, thus ducking any canonical controversy, here exaggerated even more by setting the story about two decades into Nick and Natalie's marriage, by which time that initial question is moot.

No archive warnings

I marked this story "creator chose not to use archive warnings" on the AO3. That's not like me. But. I didn't want to tackle/spoil in the tags and labels and warnings that Natalie spends most of the story mistakenly believing that Lacroix is dead, and then he shows up alive, and then he gets killed (again). Additionally, the scene in the basement, when vampire!Nick is after Natalie's blood, is disturbing (to me, anyway) and is not only an attempted assault, but, like all uninvited attempted vampire bites, implicitly metaphorically an attempted rape. (By Nick! By the vampire.) How to properly warn for that? I couldn't figure it out, so I went without archive warnings.

From saga to story

Originally, this tale -- this divergent parallel reality -- occurred to me as novel-length. There would have been alternating chapters from Natalie and Nick's perspectives, with full flashbacks to how they discovered and implemented the cure, and the decision to share it, and the times Serena, Felix and Urs each took it. There would also have been more about Natalie and Nick's separation and reconciliation, and more scenes with Schanke and Joan.

But I just didn't have time within the ficathon game.

So all the planned flashbacks got dropped or condensed into the past-perfect paragraphs of the second chapter. And the reader, seeing through Natalie's perspective only, never learns until Natalie does that Lacroix did come back right on canon-time at what would have been "Killer Instinct," the second-season premiere, and human!Nick and Schanke fended him off together then, and Nick decided not to tell Natalie. Nick not telling Natalie vampire things, and Natalie not understanding Nick's feelings about vampire things, was supposed to be a theme to work out in more detail, too.

Perils of deadlines? Or only my story-eyes being bigger than my story-stomach?

Things to do better next time

From some people's very kind comments on "Wake the Morning After," I've deduced that I didn't drop all the right clues about what happened in this reality at the time that would have been "Killer Instinct." Human!Nick and Schanke fending off Lacroix together (and Lacroix vowing to find a way to take Nick back on Lacroix's terms) is clear in my own mind -- it's a flashback scene that I was going to write -- but of course when the story became all from Natalie's view, that vanished into hints and allusions. This is something to reflect on and learn from for the next story. (If you happen to spot what I could change in the existing story to decisively mend this, making for just the Goldilocks right amount of foreshadowing, please let me know.)

Similarly, a kind commentator let me know that I made the lunar kyphi too easy for the reader to deduce, thus accidentally making Natalie look less intelligent than she really is for not recognizing the solution earlier than she does. I went back into the story and reworded a few sentences, hoping to find a better middle ground between too obvious and too obscure. I certainly don't want to make Natalie look foolish, or to bore readers by having them figure it out too soon... or to frustrate readers by not enabling them to figure it out at all. That will be another thing to remember and work on for the next story in which I try to use a puzzle.

What's it all about?

Some people can begin writing at the beginning and write on through to the end, discovering the end only when they arrive. I often envy those writers! :-) I can rarely even start the journey until I know the destination. My own storytelling energy comes from a didactic end purpose, a theme or moral or answer. Hopefully, the didacticism gets buried deep, deep, deep in characterization and plot, and never bothers the reader! But for myself, for whatever my storytelling is worth, that end purpose is my fuel.

For a long time, even after I had the plot of a failing cure firmly in mind, and a rough outline of events clearly sketched, I couldn't make anything work because I didn't have the whys. Why was this happening? Why did it matter? I had no idea what the end was (that is, either the end purpose or the end scene). Then, a person who interprets FK differently than I do kindly discussed the plot with me, and said several things that sparked my disagreement. :-) From disagreement came purpose! The story became about what humanity is worth to Nick (and Natalie), and what vampirism costs Nick (and Natalie). That became my energy, my fuel, my happiness in the writing.

It also served up the "the girl or the cup" tag twist, in which Nick -- who by then I hope has proven that humanity is the right choice (at least for him) -- gives up his own physical humanity to save Urs's, demonstrating a higher, deeper, spiritual humanity. Whether he does it from his bottomless cache of guilt and reparations, or from loving his neighbor as himself... it seemed to fit.

I expect that this Natalie and Nick will begin again seeking another cure. I hope that assumption, if the reader shares it, happily recalls the "reset button" of television of FK's era, in which all the toys must be restored to their shelves at the end of each episode, lest TPTB not be able to air syndicated reruns willy nilly in any order and never expect viewers to remember what happened in a previous installment.

And so they live FK-ly ever after. ;-)


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waltdwaltd on September 21st, 2015 04:31 am (UTC)
Writing
It's fascinating to see something of how a writer goes about getting, fulfilling, accomplishing a story. Thanks for sharing that.

And, as a short story, I loved it. And rather than thinking that Natalie was a little slow on the kyphi, I was congratulating myself on being clever enough to spot it. ;->

On the whole, I think it was a clever and delightful story that could well have served as the opening episode of a second season if FK had been cancelled after the first year and TPTB decided to bring it back after 20+ years. And, I wouldn't worry all that much about a lot of continuity; just go for the second episode.

:-) Walt
Amy R.: Winbrightknightie on September 26th, 2015 02:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Writing
Thank you, Walt!

(I apologize for the slow reply. I haven't logged in to LiveJournal this past work-week.)