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talking about good things & singing the blues
better late than-- 
5th-Nov-2014 11:13 am
ferris wheel
Can you still do this meme if you haven't posted anything in...[meep] six months?!

Pick any passage of 500 words or less from any fanfic I’ve written, and stick that selection in my ask/fan mail. I will then give you the equivalent of a DVD commentary on that snippet: what I was thinking when I wrote it, why I wrote it in the first place, what’s going on in the character’s heads, why I chose certain words, what this moment means in the context of the rest of the fic, lots of awful puns, and anything else that you’d expect to find on a DVD commentary track.
Comments 
6th-Nov-2014 05:26 am (UTC)
Oo, my selection is from The Shortest Way Home.

The hungry child from the train platform has taken Brad by the hand. She leads him through the aisles, between the beds, but the far wall of the hospital is gone, bombed out. He tries to stop her, to explain that it’s not safe, but he doesn’t know the words in German and she is so strong. Her feet are on the very edge of the torn floor, one more step and she will pull them both over, into the open air and—Nate. When Brad opens his eyes, he sees Nate, smiling fondly down at him.

“I guess you got my postcard,” Nate looks vaguely piratical with a bandage over one eye. That’s when Brad realizes that he is not dead. He’d simply fallen asleep, stretched flat on the floor beside Nate’s bed. Brad sits up, still disoriented and hazy with exhaustion. He hasn’t seen Nate in weeks. Nate had signed his postcard Sincerely. Brad doesn’t quite know where that leaves them. But while he is trying to smooth out the worst of his uniform, Nate leans over the edge of the bed, still flushed warm with sleep. The kiss is sweet and perfect.
6th-Nov-2014 09:15 pm (UTC) - thanks for commenting :)
The hungry child from the train platform has taken Brad by the hand. She leads him through the aisles, between the beds, but the far wall of the hospital is gone, bombed out. He tries to stop her, to explain that it’s not safe, but he doesn’t know the words in German and she is so strong.

I wrote this opening to be disorienting, but not immediately so. It picks up after a section break, we’re still in the Soviet hospital and it refers to the child who was a semi-distinct character in an earlier section. Brad’s initial reaction (threat assessment) is as you would expect. Basically, I wanted it to seem like maybe this is really happening—until the reader starts to wonder why the hospital has suddenly been bombed, where this child came from, how she found Brad. It is meant to become increasingly implausible…

Her feet are on the very edge of the torn floor, one more step and she will pull them both over, into the open air and—Nate. When Brad opens his eyes, he sees Nate, smiling fondly down at him.

Until [smash-cut] we realize it’s a dream. I hate the “just a dream, or was it?” trope and have used it exactly ONCE before in fanfic. It’s a cop-out, but it’s a classic for a reason: it’s also a great way to show the internal anxiety of a person with no external tells. Brad is a professional warrior and he’s been pretty insulated by the military. He does a job, he does it well, he doesn't get emotionally involved. Except with Nate, and then all of a sudden, he gets a letter from Nate that shakes everything up. Nate is hurt, but no one knows the details, Nate is not where Brad expected him to be, Nate signs his letter “sincerely.” Do they have a “sincerely” kind of relationship? Has Brad been wrong about this the whole time? And then, on top of everything, Brad sees first-hand exactly what kind of damage total war does to a civilian population. Only Rudy really picks up on how much that upsets him. Overall, the entire first part of the story is basically written to rattle Brad more than he can admit or express while he’s awake. The sleep-perchance-to-dream thing comes back in the third story, where Nate responds to stress by sleeping the dreamless sleep of the just and Brad’s nightmares return. (In other news, I once read the ‘falling dream,’ where you wake up right before you hit the ground, is a vestigial memory from when humanoid monkeys lived in trees.)

“I guess you got my postcard,” Nate looks vaguely piratical with a bandage over one eye. That’s when Brad realizes that he is not dead. He’d simply fallen asleep, stretched flat on the floor beside Nate’s bed. Brad sits up, still disoriented and hazy with exhaustion. He hasn’t seen Nate in weeks. Nate had signed his postcard Sincerely. Brad doesn’t quite know where that leaves them. But while he is trying to smooth out the worst of his uniform, Nate leans over the edge of the bed, still flushed warm with sleep. The kiss is sweet and perfect.

Part of Nate’s nonchalance is because he’s unflappable in his pirate eyepatch. But the bigger part is that Nate is honestly not surprised Brad made his way across
a wartorn country to find him. He always knew Brad would come.
10th-Nov-2014 04:52 am (UTC) - Re: thanks for commenting :)
Oh, I wondered if that child was from before.
Thanks for talking about the reason you chose Dream trope. It worked so well in this. Brad definitely does not have external tells, but this let us see what was going on with him. I hadn't thought about it that way before.

In response to other news, I have had falling dreams before... so interesting! I really want to find a good dreams dictionary.

But the bigger part is that Nate is honestly not surprised Brad made his way across
a wartorn country to find him. He always knew Brad would come.

Perfection. ♥
11th-Nov-2014 02:43 am (UTC) - Re: thanks for commenting :)
I remember spending a kind of inordinate amount of time deciding whether this section should begin "A hungry child" or "The hungry child." I went with "the" because I liked the idea that Brad recognizes her immediately. It is always the same child haunting him, even though she never has a name or a story.
6th-Nov-2014 01:11 pm (UTC) - Yay, I'm game! ;)
From Brevity Codes:

Comprehension dawns on the Reporter’s face. “You were mis-informed!”

That’s not exactly how Brad would put it, but he’s already tired of the conversation. “Sure, okay.”

“No! It’s like…Have you ever seen Casablanca? Somebody asks Rick—that’s Humphrey Bogart’s character—how he ended up in Casablanca. And Rick says, My health. I came for the waters. And then the other character says…” the Reporter is now excitedly sketching the whole scene with his hands, “What waters? We’re in the desert! And then Rick says—totally deadpan, Bogart is great— I was mis-informed.” Rolling Stone looks delighted by this punchline and Brad wonders if the guy thinks in terms of storylines and good dialogue all the time, if that’s what it means to be a writer. He wonders what movie the Reporter has mentally cast them all in. Probably something suitable for John Wayne.
11th-Nov-2014 03:07 am (UTC) - Re: Yay, I'm game! ;)
Sorry for the delay; I was out of town for the weekend...but am always glad to write about this story! thanks for asking:)
Comprehension dawns on the Reporter’s face. “You were mis-informed!”
That’s not exactly how Brad would put it, but he’s already tired of the conversation. “Sure, okay.”


I’m not sure where the idea for this story came from. Doesn’t fit with the rest of my GK stories, or really with the rest of the fandom, really. It is a story about miscommunications and misinformation: everyone is talking, and no one succeeds in actually explaining or understanding anything. Brad has climbed under his vehicle just to get away from the damn noise…

“No! It’s like…Have you ever seen Casablanca? Somebody asks Rick—that’s Humphrey Bogart’s character—how he ended up in Casablanca. And Rick says, My health. I came for the waters. And then the other character says…” the Reporter is now excitedly sketching the whole scene with his hands, “What waters? We’re in the desert! And then Rick says—totally deadpan, Bogart is great— I was mis-informed.”

Here’s the link for that scene (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2inLcR_1jc). The Reporter is here looking for a story, which means he’s trying to match this new experience up with stories he already knows. At first, I was really just looking for a desert story. T.E. Lawrence seemed too academic, the Crusades seemed too distant, the First Gulf War seemed too obvious…but the idea that the Reporter would find something pop-culture-y as a movie is perfect. Especially if it is not really a cool movie, and particularly if watching the movie wouldn’t actually help you understand a damn thing about fighting a desert war. Isn’t there a scene in the mini-series where he gets some ridiculous deflective maneuvers from a movie or a TV show or something? There is also the idea that Rick, like the Marines, have been lured to the desert under false pretenses (when maybe they should have known better). And Casablanca is, of course, also a movie about people giving up their personal romance in order to further their cause in wartime, so that could mean something if you want to put a slashy cast on this story.

Rolling Stone looks delighted by this punchline and Brad wonders if the guy thinks in terms of storylines and good dialogue all the time, if that’s what it means to be a writer. (yes, it is.)

He wonders what movie the Reporter has mentally cast them all in. Probably something suitable for John Wayne.

Brad rates the Reporter a step above the chaplain, here. He thinks the Reporter is too easily fooled by the romance of war. But he’s also a little curious about how the Reporter is going to make any narrative sense out of the chaos around them. Ultimately, though, he dismisses the Reporter, as he does all of his conversational partners Nate shows up and—uniquely—asks him for information. And then, of course, it’s Brad’s turn to mis-understand the question.
11th-Nov-2014 09:06 am (UTC) - Re: Yay, I'm game! ;)
/or really with the rest of the fandom, really/ - Oh, but I just love this story and I actually always thought it fit perfectly: the charming theme of Brad hiding under the Humvee (just like the initial scene from the forth ep.) and Nate being the only one able to reach out to him and stop his sulk reminded me a bit of On How Sergeant Colbert is Nothing At All Like Winnie the Pooh, and Other Important Lessons That Can Be Learned While Observing the Sergeant Laying under a Jeep by sparky77.
/At first, I was really just looking for a desert story./ - Oh, interesting!
/Isn’t there a scene in the mini-series where he gets some ridiculous deflective maneuvers from a movie or a TV show or something?/ - OMG, there totally is, I forgot. So cool!
/There is also the idea that Rick, like the Marines, have been lured to the desert under false pretenses (when maybe they should have known better). And Casablanca is, of course, also a movie about people giving up their personal romance in order to further their cause in wartime, so that could mean something if you want to put a slashy cast on this story./ - Wow, yes, so many parallels, I didn't realize! Yes, so perfect! *nods*

Edited at 2014-11-11 09:09 am (UTC)
11th-Nov-2014 09:12 am (UTC)
Wow, hearing your behind-the-scenes thoughts was sooo interesting! Would you mind if I give this game another go and give you another passage? *_*

From Landmarks in Space:

The article is little more than a compilation of other news clips, but it becomes evident that over the years, the Core Council had filled its mid-level positions with the disgruntled and disenfranchised. Just goes to show the value of keeping your friends close and putting your enemies out the airlock, since several of these disgruntled bureaucrats had been lying in wait, biding their time until something came along to destabilize the council. That something had been a report about a distant planet named Miranda, where the Alliance had made a terrible mistake. The exact source of what the press is calling the Miranda Memo is still unknown—it had been broadcast from some sort of multi-band signal satellite—but maintaining public support outside while fighting numerous internecine enemies from the inside had proven too much for the Alliance. (Serenity’s unintentional role is the second unexpected thing about the end of the worlds. Mal wonders if this means he wins the war.)

Jayne squints at the picture. “Like a gorram mountain, the Allliance was. All big and…mountain-ish.”

“It did seem like a fairly permanent arrangement,” Inara concedes.

“Like a tornado,” Kaylee suggests, “Like those wind storms we had back home, just comin’ along, sucking things up, putting ‘em down wherever it pleased.”

Simon nods, “Like some kind of vast, intricate machine.”

“Like a cup!”

Mal waits a moment to see if River’s comment will make more sense given time. Nope. “How’s that, little one?”

River looks at him like they have never met. “Where’s Zoe?” she asks.

“River, the captain asked you a question,” Simon interjects. He glances over the top of his paper and might have pursued it, except that Zoe enters right then. Jayne, who’s been odd around Zoe since Wash died, jumps up to give her a seat (Mal has wondered, in passing, if the mercenary hit his head on something during all that ruckus on Mr. Universe’s satellite). Like most of Jayne’s courtesies, it doesn’t quite work: he jostles the table, knocking over a bowl of rice and Kaylee’s teacup. The cup—one of a decorative set given to Inara by an admirer—shatters in a spray of tea. They never really get the stain out of the tablecloth and the whole crew is left picking up random glass slivers for days. Between the cursing and the mopping, Mal never does get an answer to his question.


Edited at 2014-11-11 09:12 am (UTC)
11th-Nov-2014 02:24 pm (UTC) - Ok, this one is really long
The article is little more than a compilation of other news clips, but it becomes evident that over the years, the Core Council had filled its mid-level positions with the disgruntled and disenfranchised. Just goes to show the value of keeping your friends close and putting your enemies out the airlock, since several of these disgruntled bureaucrats had been lying in wait, biding their time until something came along to destabilize the council.

This is some vague political-handwaving to explain why the apocalypse has happened. (Originally wrote this for an apocalypse challenge). I skimmed over this bit because I was much more interested in what the characters were doing in this government-less void than in enumerating the exact series of riots and counter-coups that toppled the Alliance. To cover this up, and because when this story happens, the decline and fall of the Alliance is all so recent that no one has had a chance to define the “true” story, all the information is second-hand and poorly detailed, one step above rumor. I imagine this as a sort of Soviet-Union style collapse from the inside, where the weight of maintaining appearances finally just topples the whole edifice. It is certainly not a revolution: if there had been any organized resistance, Mal and Co. would have been part of it. And Mal and his Browncoats couldn’t win beat the Alliance years ago, no one can. Plus, Mal putting people out the airlock is one of my favorite character notes to contemplate.

That something had been a report about a distant planet named Miranda, where the Alliance had made a terrible mistake. The exact source of what the press is calling the Miranda Memo is still unknown—it had been broadcast from some sort of multi-band signal satellite—but maintaining public support outside while fighting numerous internecine enemies from the inside had proven too much for the Alliance.

Hah! See, our little ragged band plays a role in ‘Verse politics. We obviously know the source of the hologram broadcast from Mr. Universe’s satellite, but it must have seemed very strange to everyone else. The movie never shows us the aftermath. That’s what this story is for. (Again, vague, undefined internal enemies vaguely “prove too much” because political hand-waving)

(Serenity’s unintentional role is the second unexpected thing about the end of the worlds. Mal wonders if this means he wins the war.)

When I wrote this, I liked the symmetry of starting the story with one “unexpected thing,” and then introducing the second when the reader has almost forgotten there are two. Now I really don't like it. Too late! The last line just sounds kind of like Mal in my head, practical but wistful and kind of dryly sarcastic (picture it delivered in the same tone as "someone’s gonna fall and die and I ain’t cleaning it up").

Jayne squints at the picture. “Like a gorram mountain, the Allliance was. All big and…mountain-ish.”

Well said, Jayne. Well said.

“It did seem like a fairly permanent arrangement,” Inara concedes.

This is the “blind men describe the elephant” scene, where each character defines the Alliance monolith in his or her own terms. And they are each right, but no one is completely right.

“Like a tornado,” Kaylee suggests, “Like those wind storms we had back home, just comin’ along, sucking things up, putting ‘em down wherever it pleased.”

Kaylee is a country girl at heard. And if she is Dorothy, and Mal is the man behind the curtain, Jayne is the Cowardly Lion.
11th-Nov-2014 02:25 pm (UTC) - Re: Ok, this one is really long (sooo long)
Simon nods, “Like some kind of vast, intricate machine.”

“Like a cup!”

Mal waits a moment to see if River’s comment will make more sense given time.


Mal does this a lot.

Nope. “How’s that, little one?”

River looks at him like they have never met. “Where’s Zoe?” she asks.


This is what conversations with River are like. Mal is really curious: how is the Alliance like a cup—-not big, not intricate, not machine-like or dangerous? But River has already jumped on to something else. Later in this story, Mal will describe her as having “a brain like a busted clock.” River’s mind is the real vast, intricate machine in this story, and what was once a beautifully complex mechanism now functions erratically. You never know when she’s going to spit out something brilliant (or something that would be brilliant if we knew the whole story) or when she’s just talking nonsense.

“River, the captain asked you a question,” Simon interjects. He glances over the top of his paper and might have pursued it, except that Zoe enters right then.

Oh, Simon, mother-hen. He seems like the least parental of all the characters (possibly excepting Jayne), but he tries so hard. Also, did River somehow mentally summon Zoe? Did she predict the future, or are things sequenced oddly in her mind, like someone living backwards? Or was it just a coincidence that she asked for Zoe right before that character entered the room? What do you think, dear reader? (hint: with my River, it’s never coincidental).


Jayne, who’s been odd around Zoe since Wash died, jumps up to give her a seat (Mal has wondered, in passing, if the mercenary hit his head on something during all that ruckus on Mr. Universe’s satellite).

I do not explain why Jayne has been odd around Zoe because I didn’t want to belabor the point. Maybe I should have explained it better, but their relationship is not a huge part of this story. For awhile, I thought that he (like Inara) might have some sense that she’s pregnant and that would definitely weird him out, enlightened male that he is. I decided it would be funnier if he’s completely blindsided by that bit of news, though. Mostly, I think it’s that although he’s a little ashamed that Wash, the pilot, is dead, while he, the mercenary, is not. Also, he’s a little awed by Zoe’s determination to carry on. Although Jayne is pretty comfortable with violence and the idea of violent death, he doesn’t have to see the aftermath very often. It makes him a little squeamish. I think he’s probably a little superstitious, too, and fears that upsetting Zoe will somehow bring her bad luck onto him. He’s trying to be extra nice, to expiate his guilt, yes, but also to protect himself. Mal, not without reason, assumes Jayne behaving civilly must be Jayne concussed.

Like most of Jayne’s courtesies, it doesn’t quite work: he jostles the table, knocking over a bowl of rice and Kaylee’s teacup.

I like the idea that Jayne shows his discomfort by actually adhering to basic social courtesies. (Later, when “Jayne mumbles something that might be the traditional ‘thousand good wishes,’ further evidence that he was not, all appearances to the contrary, raised in a gorram barn” it’s part of this trend). And I really like the idea that, though he tries to be polite, he can’t quite pull it off.
11th-Nov-2014 02:26 pm (UTC) - Re: Ok, this one is really long (stop typing, 2!)

The cup—one of a decorative set given to Inara by an admirer—shatters in a spray of tea. They never really get the stain out of the tablecloth and the whole crew is left picking up random glass slivers for days. Between the cursing and the mopping, Mal never does get an answer to his question.

Do I need to say that the shattered cup is the one River was referring to when she compared the Alliance to a cup? I really agonized over that question and re-wrote the scene a few different ways. Is it too obvious? Too subtle? Too unclear? Does the punchline, as it were, come too long after River initially introduces the idea of a cup? Firefly fans are generally pretty close readers, so in the end, I left it. If you make the connection, it shows that River’s comments often do make sense, they just tend to operate out of sequence (I explored more of this in another of my Firefly stories, Prep for a Flight). She mentions the cup, as she asks for Zoe, before those things become relevant. The right answer, but at the wrong time, and so no one is listening.

River’s simile is the closest, if anyone understands what she’s saying. The Alliance is, to all appearances, a nice, upper-class sort of arrangement, but more fragile than it looks. It breaks easily and completely, it stains what surrounds it, and it leaves a lot of painful little shards long after it’s gone. Mal does get an answer to his question, he just never realizes it. If a reader gets that, great! If not, no matter: it just seems like River says weird things sometimes and Jayne is a clutz—both of which statements are true.
11th-Nov-2014 03:42 pm (UTC) - Re: Ok, this one is really long (stop typing, 2!)
OMG, soooo interesting!
/The last line just sounds kind of like Mal in my head, practical but wistful and kind of dryly sarcastic (picture it delivered in the same tone as "someone’s gonna fall and die and I ain’t cleaning it up")./ - Oh, yes, that bit sounds *exactly* like him! *nods*
/with my River, it’s never coincidental/ - Oh, so cool, I didn't notice that River might have actually known that Zoe was going to come in. *_*
Oh, your insight into Jayne's character is extremely interesting!!
/Do I need to say that the shattered cup is the one River was referring to when she compared the Alliance to a cup?/ - LOL, would you believe me if told you I didn't catch that the first time I read the fic? :D It's just so brilliant! Though I'm sure, it's not the writing being unclear, it's me being a bit dumb and not paying the necessary attention... :D
/it shows that River’s comments often do make sense, they just tend to operate out of sequence [...] The right answer, but at the wrong time/ - Sooo brilliant! *_*
/River’s simile is the closest, if anyone understands what she’s saying. The Alliance is, to all appearances, a nice, upper-class sort of arrangement, but more fragile than it looks. It breaks easily and completely, it stains what surrounds it, and it leaves a lot of painful little shards long after it’s gone. Mal does get an answer to his question, he just never realizes it. If a reader gets that, great! If not, no matter: it just seems like River says weird things sometimes and Jayne is a clutz—both of which statements are true./ - OMG, yes, it's a perfect explanation!
Eheh, this was great, thank you for taking time to write me this.
Definitely have to check out "Prep for a Flight" now. ;)
12th-Nov-2014 11:17 am (UTC) - Re: Ok, this one is really long (stop typing, 2!)
haha--do you know how much time I spent on the stupid cup thing? And even as I was writing it, I knew I was paying more attention to it than any reader would...or should!
12th-Nov-2014 11:24 am (UTC) - Re: Ok, this one is really long (stop typing, 2!)
Well, but that's the way writing goes, doesn't it? You have all these little details in your head that never make it into the story but they still exist and inform this particular universe you're writing.
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