Author Archives: Simon Jones

ADoF writing notes: Interlude #1

Unexpected narrative shift! Unexpected not just for readers but also for me, as this was a rather late addition to the story. There’s a broader story going on in the background of ADoF which I wasn’t going to reveal until much farther down the line, but it occurred to me that ‘Nurture’ was such a good cliffhanger that it’d be good to string it out just a bit longer, while also ramping up the stakes a bit by glimpsing behind the curtain.

The idea is that ‘Interlude #1’ raises more questions than it answers. Stylistically it’s a departure as well, shifting to 3rd person, and riffing a little on the unnerving mundanity of that first scene in Cabin in the Woods.

The idea also is to make it entirely clear what exactly the motivations of these guys are, and whether they’re to be considered bad guys or friendly. Simultaneously, it raises a few red flags about Cal himself.

Who you gonna trust?

We’ll return to Kay and Cal next time…

Soundtrack: Witcher 3, still.

ADoF writing notes: Nurture

The specifics of the fight in this chapter remained fluid even as I wrote it. Originally the actual fighting was going to be more protracted and ‘actiony’, rather than a mostly accidental flailing about with lots of accidental injury. But, really, ADoF isn’t about cool, heavily orchestrated fighting. It’s more about stumbling around and trying not to get hit.

This is one of those point-of-no-return chapters, which is going to have major ramifications in plot and character going forward. As such, it’s a little terrifying writing it as part of an on-going serial, without having tested the waters farther downstream.

Kay’s father is dead, and that’s going to shift things around substantially. My main concern is actually one of tone – the show’s been fairly light so far, despite a couple of gruesome moments, and throwing in something as dramatic as what happens in ‘Nurture’ takes things down a darker path. The trick now will be in retaining a pulpy sense of fun adventure while not shying away from the consequences.

Soundtrack: This chapter was written in a bit of a rushed haze, and as such I have no memory of what I was listning to. I’m sure it was exciting, though.

ADoF writing notes: Nature

Interesting thing here is that it’s the first time that I changed something after publishing.

The mention of ‘slushy romance novels’ was originally about kids adventure books. It felt wrong when I wrote it, so I tweaked it, it still didn’t quite seem right, so I published it. First comment I got back was that the juxtaposition of Kay’s thoughts at the window and the books she read as a kid was a bit weird. Obviously.

Now, if that had been the intention, I’d have left it. Done deliberately, that would introduce all kinds of interesting aspects to Kay’s personality. But that wasn’t what the scene was supposed to be about, so it got yanked and replaced with the slushy romance novels, which bring it back to the point I was originally trying to make.

It’s an example of the Wattpad publishing process being embraced, with post-release patches to published material. Subsequent readers will only ever see the patched version. Wattpad and its ilk bring the publishing of fiction much closer, from a distribution perspective, to that of software.

I mean, sure, print books are often tweaked or corrected in subsequent printings. But the initial run containing the errors will always be out there. With Wattpad, nobody would ever know, if I hadn’t written this blog post.

It’s great and awful. Great because it lets the writer finesse the work ad infinitum. And awful because it obfuscates the writing process, and makes the cultural timeline really blurred.

Soundtrack: The Witcher 3 soundtrack. Mainly because the game had just come out and I was entirely obsessed. Though it did add a certain sense of pace to the writing.

ADoF writing notes: Morphology

Cal was originally going to be entirely delirious, and remain injured for a long while. The idea of having the injury fall off along with the wings came about during the writing.

That also, typically, put a spanner in the works for the following episode, which then required a bit of shuffling. That’s something which got a bit hairy with this episode: juggling the long-term story while in the middle of publishing it. It’s an interesting feeling, being locked into a certain path due to the chapters already released, but still open to alternatives down the line – but not having much time to iterate.

This chapter was fun to write because it’s all about setting up genre tropes, then subverting. It’s a little mini-joke, with the punchline being Kay’s general attitude. It’s also pretty much a line in the sand, given the potential for dubious furry fan fiction within this world. That ain’t gonna happen.

Soundtrack: Wolfstack Lights (Sunless Sea score) by Mickymar Productions, and Epsilon Indi (Starbound score) by Curtis Schweitzer

ADoF writing notes: Alpha

With this chapter, it was all about racing to catch up with the publishing schedule, while assaulted on all sides by unavoidable crap things.

So on top of a hectic work schedule, I had a blocked sinus/cold thing which developed into a full-blown migraine, a child with chicken pox, an eye inflammation…you get the idea. Nothing too awful, but lots of things which add up to not really being in quite the right state of mind for writing.

None of this would have mattered if I’d kept up with the 2-3 episode buffer that I started with, and then let immediately erode, such that I’m now writing each week to publish the week after. Not ideal. Hopefully I’ll be able to speed up and build up that buffer again soon. This is the first time I’ve tried episodic releases, and publishing a story before I’ve finished writing it.

It’s kinda nerve-wracking.

Anyway – Alpha is a big one as it connects Kay with another very important character, and starts to bring in what will become the main plot.

Mostly, though, it’s about Kay and her house and parents. It’s about finding out where she comes from, which will go on to inform her actions down the line. Before things really kick off, it’s important to know who she is when things aren’t kicking off.

The cemetery out the back of the house was originally the car park of a supermarket. I went back and forth on that one for a while (they’re more-or-less the same thing, right?), but eventually went for the more gothic option. Not least because my own house has a cemetery right out the back and, you know – write what you know.

Still enjoying dropping in little snippets of information about the different genotypes in this universe. The fun is in presenting it as being utterly normal. It’s that nonchalance which is hopefully making it entertaining and amusing to read.

Soundtrack: I listened to Star 6 & 7 8 9 by The Orb while writing this. Ambient electronica is good for writing.

ADoF writing notes: Prey

Action is always easier to write. That’s why the word count on chapter 3, ‘Prey’, is almost double that of the previous two sections.

After the gentle everyday stuff (plus weird science fantasy gubbins) of the first two chapters, this is where we first catch a glimpse of what will become the main plot.

Having every single character be super-powered is an interesting writing challenge. From a social point of view, it results in a society in which powers aren’t special. The culture has already adapted – hence the police are equipped to handle all kinds of convoluted threats.

It also means that sequences such as this one are pretty fun, with different characters countering and negating the abilities of others. This is still a pretty simple introduction to that kind of stuff – I’m intending to have some truly crazy action later in the season.

By this point the anachronistic nature of the setting should be extremely apparent, with familiar elements mixing in with the fantastical stuff. That’s not just there to be contrary: it has purpose.

Soundtrack: Can’t remember what I was listening to when writing this one, so let’s just go with A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke. Listen to it while imagining the whole chapter playing out silently in slow motion. Go on.

ADoF writing notes: Survival of the Fittest

Having the word/phrase definitions at the start of each chapter wasn’t planned as such – it just seemed fun at the start, and I’m now kinda stuck with it, at least until the end of the season. Got to keep some kind of consistency, right?

So there’s the thing: I’m planning this out, loosely, on season arcs. Although I’m mostly writing by the seat of my pants, there is an idea of where this is going. There is direction and purpose.

That’s mainly because unformed stories always reveal themselves. Even the knowledge that writers are making it up as they go can undermine a story’s worth. Novels and movies are inherently completed by the time you see them: when you start reading a novel, you know that it’s been finished, and that it is as the author intended (for better or worse).

Television, comics and other serialised forms don’t always have that luxury, and it often undermines their storytelling authority. Take Battlestar Galactica, which hinged its plot on the antagonists “having a plan”. As the show reached into its third season it became apparent that the writers didn’t have a plan, and were in fact backing themselves into a corner. It remained a well produced show, but its ending was never truly satisfying.

Let’s not even bother getting into LOST.

Contrast with Babylon 5, a show which was planned from start to finish, over five years of TV storytelling. It didn’t go entirely according to plan due to actors leaving and networks meddling, but it had purpose, and knew what it was doing. Importantly, you knew when watching season one that the creators already knew what would happen in season five, giving everything a connective resonance that added up to more than the sum of its parts.

So, with chapter two of season one of A Day of Faces, I already had a vague idea of where it would be in season four. It wasn’t mapped out in huge detail, but the broad strokes were there.

Survival of the fittest’ is about expanding the world more, encountering more genotypes, showing that these people live pretty normal lives. It’s also about finding a way to use the word ‘nictitated’.

Soundtrack: Let’s go with anything by Nine Inch Nails. That’s what the Black Jasmine would play.