Antenna (antennapedia) wrote,

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Fic Postmortem for T&P "Initiation"

"Initiation" is Act 1 of a longer story. It jars our hero out of his comfortable life into a new situation, and sets up some interesting problems for him. In many ways, the real story begins right after this one ends. Postmorteming it feels a bit premature. And yet, I learned a lot by writing this one, so a partial postmortem here follows.

Self-indulgent crack-fic!

Kink costs a story readers, I think. It earns a dedicated group of readers who love having those particular buttons pushed, but another group will stay far away. This is technically a much better story than "Breathing", but "Breathing" is still winning the feedback sweepstakes by a mile.

But, er, it's a kink fic in the end. The initial motivation, and the carrier frequency for the modulating story, is definitely self-indulgence. I had more hardware installed at one time than I do at the moment, but I still like the bodymod thing. Buffy has a bunch of holes in her ears, I noticed. What if she was into it? And got more? Faith is shown with tattoos. What if that's typical of Slayers? I then had an image of a tattooed & pierced Giles, on his knees, marked by Buffy's will. Then I had to invent a way to get him there. Happily.

The first part is all setup for the crack. I confess it.

Where the kink will be: Piercings. Tattoos. Leather jackets and boots and faded jeans, mostly on Buffy. Dominant Buffy, submissive Giles. Giles in bondage, mostly mild but at times more extreme. (Only on special occasions or when he's been extra-good, Buffy says.) The B/G sushi restaurant thing gives you the flavor of this. She is in charge. She loves teasing him; he loves being teased. I'm not particularly interested in seeing these two into extreme pain or humiliation or any disrespect for each other. It is a working relationship at its core, requiring trust and affection. The sex is solace. And note: they aren't there yet. How they get there is the story of part 2.

And I think Angelus still looms.

Watchers and Slayers

It's a Watcher-Slayer bond story. My central interest in writing in the Buffyverse is that relationship. How is it supposed to work? What does it mean for Giles? For Buffy? Where do Slayers come from? Where do Watchers come from? In the unaired version of the Buffy pilot, Giles tells Buffy right out that it's his destiny to Watch her. How does he know? What is the Council? What does the Council do? I want an answer that isn't the stupid, half-baked set of answers the series canon gave me.

This story is one of a pair of explorations of the Watcher-Slayer bond I'm working on. The other is a much gentler story, its hero a man broken by a corrupted Council; that's the story I refer to as the Christian bond story. Like this one, the other also has to deal with the damage Angelus did to Giles. But they're very different in their approaches to destiny and to the source of the partnership. In the other, Giles' destiny to watch Buffy is the work of the Power. In this one, it's the work of man.

Watchers are made here, not born. It's savage. Choice? They are offered as much choice as the Slayer herself is. It has been done this way for thousands of years. The goal is to let the Slayer live as long as she can, because a Slayer with 20 years of experience is a deadly Slayer. The concern is not for her, or for her life, or even for the Watcher & his; it is for the battle against demons. The Watcher is a tool for her, groomed and trained and chained and eventually handed over to her. The bond is almost entirely one-sided; the demands are made of him, not of her. A frightening prospect to Giles, once he figures out what the intent of the magic was. In the end Giles chooses to submit himself, but he's uneasy with the Council's means. And he will be more uneasy yet...

The Council. Well. Hmm. It's complicated, is all I'll say here. But this is not an outright evil Council. This is a Council with politics, and history, and power struggles.

Many drafts

I started writing this in June of last year, as a story about Giles & Olivia, and how the Slaying & the Watching screw up relationships. For both Buffy & Giles. The ritual scene is the only scene that survives in any form from that first draft. And it happened almost right away. Buffy asks for a Watcher, Giles confesses, boom they do it. Then it causes problems. I also had an idea for a particular worldly approach to the Council.

Then I said, oh what a waste of a story setup. The story of how he decides to do it has got to be an interesting one. So two questions: why hasn't he done it? why does he change his mind? The story is a series of demonstrations why the Slayer needs a Watcher, overcoming Giles' objections. The next story is therefore the exploration of the benefits & costs.

Draft 1 was the 10K word version I wrote in June. G/O at the core.

Draft 2 made the order change: it builds to the ritual scene. Lurking under the details here is the Hollywood 3-act structure, conflict & plot points provided by a pesky demon that G&B can't kill because they're not working together because they're not bonded.

Draft 3 was the one I posted for a few of you to read. The story is near its final shape, but Giles and Buffy have very different attitudes towards each other. I knew I had a problem with Giles' motivation for not doing the bond, which seemed insufficient to me. There, he objects to the use of a modified slave spell as unethical and evil. (In the finished story, he still has that worry, and it was the final excuse for him to flee the Council for Ethan etc.) This draft has most of the good stuff in it already: the magic system, the sword imagery, the Scooby interplay, Junior, the Council backstory, etc.

Draft 4 introduced Angelus as a reason why Giles can't/won't do the bond ritual. He believes he can't, and the memory upsets him. For this shift, I have the insight of beta-reader emmessann to thank. She read the draft, agreed with me that I had a motivation problem, and pointed to Angelus and the fanon of scarring on Giles' back. I staggered around dumbstruck for a while, then saw how I could make this concrete. Angelus uses an obscene parody of the ritual to torture Giles. He can inflict pain, and make Giles think he's wasted his life, and therefore break him emotionally. So my variance from canon begins there. This Giles is quite unlikely to have been civil to Angel during "Amends". If Angel had the chutzpah to approach him at all, that is.

Draft 5, the one you all maybe read, finally nails Buffy's motivations. When that three-way scene with Giles, Buffy, and Stamford started working, I knew I had it right. Note the shifting conflicts in that scene, with the characters arguing with each other before a decision is reached. The weird thing was, I knew I needed this scene months ago, but flinched away from writing it until I realized I had no choice. (Still don't think it's great, but oh well. I was not up for draft 6.)

The lesson to learn is that scenes rich in conflict are opportunities, not scary things to be avoided. Also: sympathetic readers of early drafts are gold. If you have a relationship like this, cherish it. Send your reader more chocolate than you are currently sending. Ya hear me over there? Chocolate for you!

Surprise, reflection, terror. For the future.

I have a boatload of material already written for part 2, "Consolidation". I know what's going on with the Giles-Buffy bond arc. And the Giles/Olivia thing. I've recently figured out Xander. Now I just need to get the season 4 Initiative retelling segment going.

Part 2 has far more sex in it (with Olivia and some solo flights for Giles as he, er, discovers just what Buffy has given him) and more with the body piercing. And some tattooing. Bodymod!Buffy runs a little bit amuck, in fact, though there is a reason. And a reason why Giles puts up with it. Part 2 also begins the exploration of the Council, and gives more of Carstair's story. (Carstairs & Leila being the Watcher/Slayer pair who did this before Giles.)

But there's a cost. There's always a cost. He belongs to her now, and this is no metaphor. What are the consequences?

Also, I need a better icon. Gronk.
Tags: postmortem, series:tradition & protocol
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