Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

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Thoughts on serials great and small

Reposted from my old Easyjournal:

God, I'm so tired I can't even sleep. I was a basketcase yesterday, trying to get 20 pages of Black Ribbon (first installment) ready for workshop, and then I realized I hadn't even explained why the story is called "The Black Ribbon" (you don't find out until the second or third installment--depends on how the installments are going to be divided). And now I don't know how I'm dividing the installments--I have about 75 pages, but it'll probably be closer to 100 by the time I'm done, so roughly 20 pages an installment, right? Well, there are specific points in the story that are just begging for a cliffhanger cut, but... there's only three of them. And they're not evenly spaced. And I don't know what to do. I've got to put up BR#1 October 3, and I thought, gee, I'll have extra prep time if I need it for subsequent installments, but... how will I know where to cut things if the whole thing isn't finished?

(In case you're wondering about my modus operandi... I write desperately out of order. In fact, I'd say the fifth installment is the most polished, and the first was the roughest and least filled-out--which is why I nearly had a stroke trying to get it ready for Tuesday night. Of course, the upside is that you keep the story loose enough that you can easily go back and add/complicate things at the beginning. When you (if you) read BR#1 next Friday and you get to the two Mr. Beasleys? They totally didn't exist at all until Monday night. Pansy Radcliffe? Was going to be mentioned two, maybe three times--and now she's a supporting character. And both Rachel Carey and Nell the maid became bigger characters as I worked on the second half of the story, and now I get to go back through and weave them into the beginning. Not a bad way to work. IF YOU CAN FINISH ON TIME.)

But I did take a break after fiction workshop last night--after something like two months of waiting (and waiting... and waiting...), LOEG V2 #6 had finally come out and I got my eBay lot from a seller in Canada--the whole volume 2 series, because by the time I started reading League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the first series and all but the last issue of the second were already out, and the second series was sold out everywhere I went. I paid more than I would have at a comic shop, but since no comic shops (on- or offline) had them anymore... you do what you have to do.

I'm not gonna lie; LOEG (not the movie, which I haven't seen, but the changes from the original story made it look pretty dismal) has been a big influence on Black Ribbon. I'd had the Rose Hannah and West characters in mind for a while, but it was this whole new concept of steampunk that showed me the directions I could take them in. And I'll be really honest with you: I'd already completed two novels before I hit college, and they were both catshit awful. But the first one was a Gothic Victorian novel I wrote when I was 13/14/15 (I was a huge Vic lit geek; it was the kind of story where "darling" and "my love" get thrown around a lot; you can stop laughing any moment now, you know), and I know it's awful, and I don't even want to try to resuscitate the story now, but... I still love that period. I feel bad that that story was just not meant to be, that I was too young to do much more than turn it into Anne Rice-wannabe dogspew. What if I could go back and do it over? And so there are exactly one and a half characters who are crossing over from that godforsaken "novel" into BR, and only as minor characters, and their function is completely different. Only now it's not just a pastiche of every scene I liked in classic novels; the steampunk element gives me this great license to create something new.

Or, at least, that's the plan.

So LOEG was extremely helpful just in terms of seeing how it's done, and how to pace a serial. Of course, now I find myself reading it with a critical do-it-yourselfer eye ("the Martian plotline takes way too long to ramp up, and then the climax is predictably inevitable if you have any cultural awareness of War of the Worlds, which is slavishly referenced throughout the story, and I'm really gonna have to go back and read volume one to see if this whole Hyde-Mina thing is believable..."). But that's when you have to break out the Nerd Spray and hose me down, because it's a great series and I literally could not sleep until I had finished all six issues. I was investigating LOEG early on to see what it was all about, before I decided to actually go buy volume one, and so I'd accidentally gotten spoiled on a few plot points. I knew about Griffin's awful demise, for example, although it's a testament to the comic that I was totally rooting for Hyde by that time.

And I knew about Quatermain and Mina getting their freaknasty on, because I'd seen the cover of #5. The only thing is, I had no idea they were going to get their freaknasty on in graphic detail for three pages. So... uh... that was kind of interesting. Oh, and Kevin O'Neill? Thanks for stressing how incredibly old and decrepit Quatermain is in the illustrations. Thanks a lot, buddy.

The last page of #6 was so bittersweet and beautiful, but at the same time... see, I knew that Quatermain and Mina were totally going to hook up sometime back in volume one; the foreshadowing was done that well (or that bluntly, depending on how you look at it). And the trajectory was really interesting to watch, from loathing and bickering to... well, the freaknasty. But I really liked it when everyone in the League just roundly hated each other. There was something just really refreshing about that. Occasionally you'd get some grudging mutual respect, but Griffin was a sociopath; Hyde's--well, he's Mr. Hyde, for chrissakes; Nemo's mostly cool but he's got a raging chip on his shoulder; Quatermain's a washed-up addict; and Mina's an alpha bitch. Well, "alpha bitch" is putting it a bit strongly; she comes off more as the snippy librarian who was always giving you the stink eye in the school library, but I think she's awesome. Nemo's the only other Leaguer you can trust to get anything done...when he feels like it; everyone else requires a foot up the ass just to get moving. It's all Mina's show, and it's awesome. And so then we start to get cuddly on one side and homicidal on the other, and before you know it, the League is no more. Fortunately, I've seen advance art for Volume 3, but... it's not the same, you know? I really dug the Island of Misfit Toys at Each Other's Throats vibe the first volume had going...

Anyway, I ought to go get some sleep now. I'd really like to print out Jess Nevins' LOEG annotations to have them as I read, but I don't think I have that much ink. So off to sleep it is, and worrying about next week's Black Ribbon workshop later...
Tags: backdated, black ribbon, books, graphic novels, league of extraordinary gentlemen, reposted, steampunk, writing

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