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.
  • Current Music: Airwave vs. Rising Star : Sunspot (Don't cry my love Mix) : Sunspot
I think you're right about kink!fic only getting to a select pool of readers. But hey, what great kink fic it was!

This was a really interesting analysis of how the story came to be, and working in Angelus scarring Giles really worked for me. Seemed totally plausible. I'm really looking forward to seeing where you take this.
:) Glad it worked. And I hope to provide some outright pr0ny fun in this series as well as sword-heavy plot.

I totally stalked you last night, btw. Read a huge amount of Foot Saga. Ouch ouch ouch sympathies! And good wishes for continued weight-bearing walking pain-free feet.
hehe...tickled to be considered stalk-worthy. The Foot Saga started, man, 7 or 8 years ago, long before I had a LJ. But yes, ouch is a pretty good way to sum it up. I try to write about other things on occasion.
I am in such admiration for you, that you could discard so many previous drafts of a story like this.

Oddly, I find scenes built around conflict easier to conceive and write-- especially, I just realized, those where at least one party is in denial/ deep avoidance about it all. Really, the whole first section of the nano thing I posted in November is built around this dynamic with Giles. That's where the emotional resonance was for me. Not that I would have any firsthand knowledge of dealing with seething cauldrons of denial or passive aggressive games. Seriously, I guess you write what you know, at least sometimes.

Am looking forward, as always, to more from you. And if you ever need another sympathetic reader, count me in. Heck, for you, I'd even do it Without the chocolate.

Though I'm not sure how helpful I could be with the higher sexual content material. But I will say while this fic definitely pushed the envelope of what I feel comfortable with, you made it work, at least for me. I totally buy Buffy's need to mark herself to control and transform inner pain by creating an outward manifestation of it. I also really liked how you didn't automatically assume B and G to be an exclusive Couple after this very intense ritual, as many writers do after similar events in their fics. It's more complicated than that and I like that Olivia is going to figure in the next part and complicate it yet more.

I like your questions. But now, sadly, I have to go trim down some of mine-- I posted a prompt
for the upcoming tenyearsofbuffy ficathon and apparently went way over the 4 specs limit. Darn it, can I help it if I'm verbal?


Thanks as always for these postmortems.


See, I think being willing to read a draft and say "that's not working" and analyze why not is a crucial skill. And then being willing to re-write to fix. How important is that story? How much work are you putting into it? If it matters to me, I think, it matters enough to be fixed.

Sometimes I say "good enough" and bail. Or I run out of time for ficathon deadlines and so on. But if it's a project I'm working on for my own satisfaction, then I'm going to try to get it right. It's all malleable. Learning to hammer it into the right shape is why I'm here.

I am increasing of the opinion that the advice should be not "write what you know", but "write what you want to read".
I rarely have to re-write like you describe here, because usually by the time I actually get around to typng a story up all of the crucial scenes have gone through umpteen drafts in my head. I have many, many plot bunnies and little time to write, so the ones that get written are the ones that are most interesting to me and that I've acted out in my head most thoroughly. If it works in my head, it almost always works on the screen. The one time I've had to do really serious re-writing, it was for an original fic (not on the web anywhere). I was about 2/3 of the way done with it when I realized that another story I'd been working on for a while in my head was actually a subplot of the main story, but since I hadn't gotten to the point where the main character and the main character of the subplot met yet, all I really had to do was go back through the main story and insert scenes of the subplot.

But everybody writes in different ways.

BTW, I totally second the idea that you should write what you want to read. If it's not something you want to read, there's not much chance you'll be dedicated enough to finish it or put in enough effort to make it good. Although, if what you want to read is not what you know, it does need to be something you can research.
The interesting thing for me with this postmortem was that *I* rarely have to rewrite to this degree as well! It was an unusual experience for me. But it was a useful experience, in that it forced me to focus on a couple different aspects of craft as I went. First, structural, then character & how it's shown in conflict.

At one point I was feeling overwhelmed by how much work it was turning out to be. Was encouraged by the beta reader, who said, more or less, but won't it be cool if the crack-fic transcends crack to become something better? Dunno if it did, but at least I learned something in the attempt.

I think you do way more dreaming-it-through in advance than I do. I will go into that mode at various times while writing. Usually just after reading a story draft in the bath or just before falling asleep. Trying to kick the unconscious into helping, pretty much.

But I love how different our processes are as writers. So many ways of reaching the goal of story.
Wow-- yeah, and somebody even commented on it a bit ago. Amazing. Certainly brightens an otherwise awful day. A "Throw in a little rectal surgery, and it's my best day ever!" day.

No, I was supposed to have a visit with my other kids today, and I didn't know about it. Until they called me from the place and asked where I was. Where I was was coming out of the shower, son still in his pj's eating breakfast and no way to get there in sooner than half an hour. So of course they cancelled it and sent them home. I feel so terrible that my three other kids were looking forward to it and I let them down. And I worry that their adoptive mom will decide this is the perfect excuse to just get rid of these every 3 month things entirely because I'm such a damned flake.... But I honestly didn't know they'd really taken my request to heart and scheduled it. I was also informed in no uncertain terms that the agency doesn't have the staff to do reminder phone calls. But then, this agency usually does supervised weekly/ bi weekly visits for non custodial parents-- this every 3 month thing is very unusual.

Sorry for venting. It's been an awful day. Thanks for letting me know about the rec.

*yoinks chocolate*

It has been an honor and a priviledge to be there for every step of this. I think I was one of the first, if not the first, to read the earliest drafts. And I'm quite happy to say it's all my fault.

It continues to surprise me how the piercing kink gets less squicky with each reading. And more hot. Interesting to say the least. I look forward to more in this 'verse and would be honored to read more early drafts.

*nibbles chocolate* *hugs*
Ooh, chocolate.

To me, I love doing the early draft reading because I get such a kick out of seeing how it differs from the final.

And in re: kinkfic getting less readers: yes. Entirely.
It's true what you say about kink fic. I don't write it (unless you count h/c) and rarely read it, but I have sufficient faith in your storytelling and characterizations that I was willing to give T&P a go. And I was very happy I did so.

I have to say, that is quite a progression. It's always interesting to hear what came first and what only evolved later. For instance, I'm somewhat surprised that the Angelus angle came later - it's such an important part of the story that I assumed it had been there from the beginning.

I need to start doing post-mortems. I know I've said it before, but then I got lazy/busy and didn't do it. But if and when my poor sick computer gets well and I start writing again, I vow to do them faithfully.