anachronauts bonus: lf02’s horrible outline

10 10 2010

As a way of saying “thanks!” for all the folks who repli’d and poll’d, I figured… why not drop something hopefully vaguely interesting on y’all? Here’s my original outline for london’s fog 02, which changed in several ways when I actually sat down to write the thing. The differences, they are a-tellin’.

Obviously: SPOILARZ. Also, check out sa07 and feedback before proceeding. Thanks!

Commentary on why things were changed follows each scene note, in italics.

THE ACTION

* Gang arrives in Morroco, the Dread Stormrider pulls up alongside them. Penny’s here to give them an escort into the city, so everybody understands they’re under her father’s protection. (Not that this doesn’t cause some initial discomfort.) Intro scene ends with her jumping Gilbert. “Err. Penny? This is Jesse. My wife.” “Hallo.” Resumes snuggling. Jesse KILL.

The name of the ship changed to the Dreadnacht. Also, Penny’s father is now dead, rather than presumably alive. The whole “what’s up with Captain Dreadful?” subplot complicated matters way too much without adding anything.

* Description of New Tortuga, the two ships in skydock. Wandering the streets, explaining Penny/Gilbert’s past… the con, the companionship, etc. End of scene, spot a wrapped up mutie beggar. Chloe stays behind to try and offer him something, but he runs away. She follows; Benny stays with, not wanting to leave Chloe alone while the others walk away. They’ll catch up.

This scene was moved to the drydock itself, and the pastry table plays into the transition with the beggar. We also don’t see Benny follow, so that his arrival is more of a surprise later.

* Corner the mutant. He’s afraid of girls, Benny explains; breeding is a rough deal for the mutants, most kids stillborn, so the women have considerable power and handle the eugenics program. At least, they do NOW… look, it’s a long story. She doesn’t have anything she can offer, so Benny offers up some toaster pastries.

Benny doesn’t explain the truth behind the ‘Matriarchs’ because I decided to save that for a later reveal. He hints at it to the reader, and he does explain it all to Chloe, but that happens offscreen. That way she’s armed with the knowledge going intot he finale. Also, no notes about the bread falling out of the basket, or why Chloe rushed off… that was improvised and helped a lot to explain “New Chloe”. Remember, I revamped my approach to her later.

* Raiding ship Identiform demonstration with Penny’s engineer; identifying symbols and decorations swapping in and out with clockwork precision, new draperies falling over the gasbag, etc. It’s not perfect, but it passes an inspection at a distance, which allows the pirates to slip by or close to targets. They always run the Jolly Roger first, of course, if raiding. Captain Dreadful insists. Where is the good Captain? “Where he usually is… in his private cabin, planning our next score. Not to be disturbed under any circumstances. Penny handles the go-betweenin’, anyways.” Jesse’s distracted. Penny pokes. She’s just thinking.

Basically the same, but I excised the Captain Dreadful Senior plot. Also, I inserted the Jesse/Penny throwdown here, because the ‘romantic tension’ was gonna be totally forced and silly if I didn’t kibosh it early.

* Retiring for the night in the Mermaid. Jesse’s trying to puzzle out who sabotaged the ship. Ponders various factions back home… but comes back to the thought that it could’ve been someone on the ship. Greatly suspects Chloe and Benny. Gilbert’s a little tired of the suspicions; he points out that if they don’t trust each other this mission’s not going to go very well. Parallels to the previous mission two years ago, patience to wait for trust to build. Jesse points out they could’ve died here, and he’s not taking this seriously enough. He notes that the mirror option was always there. If anything the saboteur did a kindness, making sure the system broke down inside Esrever’s range. Maybe on purpose? Anyway, get to bed. Jesse can’t sleep and considers questioning Chloe. “She seems like a weak link. If she did it, or knows who did it, she’ll break easily…” NOW Gilbert’s steamed like tea, they shout back and forth, and go to bed unhappy. …which Penny observes, from her grapple and listening funnel outside their window. Smiles.

This ENTIRE scene got the axe. Jesse speculating about the saboteur and the couple fighting felt a bit forced and lame, as was Penny scheming upon overhearing. I wanted the audience to LIKE Penny; in the original draft she was the mastermind behind the kidnapping scheme. In the final, the engineer took the fall, since he was disposable.

* Shopping day; they need to load up on disguises, clothes that’ll let them pass in British society. Chloe’s Eastusa pantsuit is NOT going to work, and much to her disgust, Jesse’s not going to be able to wear her battle dress or sword. So, they’re at Madame Bonnechance’s Outfitters, looking through stolen clothes to buy, trying them on, etc. Before Jesse goes off to the changing room, she gives Penny a “Watch it, bitch” glare. Penny makes a face back, Gilbert oblivious. “I don’t think she likes me very much.” “Jesse isn’t really an I’m Okay You’re Okay sort of lady, afraid.” Penny wants to reminesce, admitting that even though they were pulling a con on the House of Gears, she did enjoy her time with Gilbert. He was her first, apparently. Gilbert uncomfortable. Jesse emerges, with her ‘umbrella’, which she demonstrates… waving it in Penny’s general direction. “Now that this silliness is done with, I’d like to get on with our affairs. Are the modifications to the Mermaid complete yet?” “Nn…o. Not yet. It’ll still be a few hours, so father’s suggested I take you to all to a fine restraurant, as honored guests of Captain Dreadful. Won’t that be fun?” “Fun is a word, I suppose. And where have our resident demon and spook gone off to?”

Since the business with Penny was concluded, there wasn’t a need for a Penny/Gilbert moment anymore. I did retain some of the ending bit, though, and the general idea of concealed weapons.

* Benny pacing. He looks good already, after all. Chloe emerges with her gothic lolita. Benny. “Again with the halloween getup? And did you add MORE eyeliner or something?”
Twirls her black parasol. “I like it. It’s very me.”
“How is it you? I’ve never seen you manically scrawling prose-poetry about the woe and despair of existence.” ”
Hard to explain. Looking like this… it keeps me grounded, I guess.”
“As in grounded with no phone or internet for a week?”
“No, grounded like a lightning rod. Stable. Being mysterious and offputting to others helps remind me that I am mysterious and offputting. Reminds me to keep an open mind about how strange things around me can be, too. I say when you start desperately trying to fit in, when you’re complacent about how normal everything /should/ be, you won’t spot the strangeness until it’s too late.”
“Like spotting that beggar today?”
“Maybe. I notice the things other people overlook. …I told you before. I get weird feelings when there’s weirdness afoot. I know when something doesn’t fit.”
“And why didn’t you sound that alarm before the ship broke down the other day?”
“Well… it’s not like it’s a perfect superhero power. If it was reliable and made sense, it wouldn’t be strange and mysterious, would it?”
“Hmmh. Whatever. …well, on the upside, if you dress like living death, you won’t have letches grabbing your ass.”
Eyeroll, parasol twirl. “C’mon. The others are heading off to dinner, I don’t want to be late. I’ll walk you there.” “Excuse me, I can defend myself, thank you.” “How?” Pistol slots into her hand from her drapey sleeve. Benny nonplussed. “Right. Ever actually killed a guy?” “Well, no, but… I’m good at the FBI firing range…” “Excellent. Next time you’re assaulted by black and white paper targets, you’ll be ready to rock. For now, let’s just go tandem and get some food.”

This scene changed DRASTICALLY. I didn’t like the overall tone of “Oooh, Chloe’s weeeeird and uniiiique, that’s so interesting” because it forces reader interest in a character they may not have interest in. I didn’t like the goth look being because she feels weird, either; in the revamp, she dresses like living death because the world’s troubles sadden her. That’s a character powered motivation instead of a plot coupon. Finally, the hidden weapon didn’t come into play as “I’d prefer not to use this”, it was “I could, really!” which isn’t what I wanted for her.

SKETCHY

. gas assault at dinner; Jeeves grabs Chloe and runs

I wasn’t entirely sure what to do for the dinner scene. The “gas” attack became a psychic attack. The only thing I knew for sure was Jeeves was going to prioritize grabbing Chloe and running, which was going to be a shock since if he only could save one, he should’ve saved Gilbert or Jesse. However, that felt way too contrived, so I changed things to having both of them be taken by the mutants, but since they wake up in the same tent, the plot works anyway.

. gilbert wakes up on the Dread Stormrider, which has already set sail; Penny claims the rest were killed, and she was lucky to get him out of there. Gilbert doesn’t believe it and wants the boat turned around. Captain’s orders. Very well, we’ll just talk with the captain, then! He storms in, much to the crew’s horror, has a shouting match with the captain… before figuring out he’s a puppet. Confronts Penny, who confesses, and says she needs him to keep the charade going. Gilbert refuses. Well… fine, then he’s kidnapped, and he WILL help! He’d sooner dive over the side. Desperate, Penny just wants him to be with her again. …he softens. Says that the past is the past. And if she has any compassion for him, any respect… she’ll help him with his future. Because his future is running out; she sacrificed her life to extend his. That’s a bond that can never be broken. Penny sigh-collapses and agrees. But it’s going to be difficult, considering where they are now.

Having Penny be the culprit in the kidnapping plot, and involving the whole “The captain is dead and Penny’s been puppeting him in the shadows” thing was really… uh. Bad. Lame. And put Penny in a terrible light. The Engineer made a much better fall guy, especially since I could tie it more easily into the sabotage plot.

. Jesse wakes up at the slave breeding pen in a mutant camp. Normally, waking up stripped and tied (and without her monocle) would be terrifying. Except she’s a witch, and all this does is multiply her rage. Benny can’t get close enough to the fire to be of any use; he’s there too. He’s just thankful they apparently didn’t nab Chloe. “So, what is this, then? Some wasteland tribe of bandits and thugs, following the alpha male? I’ve dominated the likes of them before. This will be no different–” Matriach enters. “…or perhaps it will be different.”

Similar to what we had before, but I moved some of the confrontation with the Matriarch into this scene.

. Chloe in an abandoned warehouse. Must be cold; she can see the steam in her breath. …except, no, she’s hot. Maybe she’s sick from the gas? Jeeves carried her away. She’s not happy about this; why did he save her, and not Gilbert, or his master’s wife? She’s not important. Jeeves can’t say. Or won’t say. …? She figures out he’ll do anything she tells him, despite not being his owner. “Fine. Then you’re going to help me save Benny, Jesse, and Gilbert. …I’ve got a feeling for the mutants, now. How they don’t feel right. I think I can find them. We’re going to need a vehicle of some sort–” Converts to personal conveyance mode. “…well. Alright, then. Go go robot butler.”

Functionally, this works the same. Chloe is feeling strange, Jeeves is there to help, together they head off after the party. However, putting it in the mutant camp makes more logical sense in terms of Jeeve’s behavior, the travel time required to join the scene, and further expands the “Mutants are all about justifying atrocity in the name of kindness” thanks to the doctor’s lines.

. The Matriarch explains the situation. Says they’re going to help the tribe’s breeding stock, and it can either be pleasant or unpleasant; women hold power here, but they can easily hold that power over an outsider woman who refuses to share the power willingly.
“I find it disgusting that a fellow woman would stoop to operating a rape camp.”
“You’ve never been as desperate as we are, then. Between British raids and the Amazon tribes gaining power, we’re rapidly going extinct. Nobody wants the mutants. We only have each other, and once we are thinned enough, we will all fade and perish.” ”
Uh, lady? Hi. Benny the Broker. You don’t want my seed. I’m a demon. Malevolent entity from the pits of hell. I’m not even sure I COULD fertilize one of you…”
“All the more reason to try. If you’re a supernatural creature, your strength could result in strong offspring. If anything you’re a more important resource than the woman.”
“I’d feel flattered, but my services are not cheap. You may think you have me over a barrel — so to speak — but rest assured the Broker can depart whenever he feels the deal has gone sour. So. Let’s get dealing. What would you be willing to offer me in exchange for, let’s say, three breeding attempts?”
“…are you… NEGOTIATING with this vile slavemonger?”
“Why not? I may be merely a man, but I’m a man who has something they need. All business is a matter of balancing needs to ensure mutual satisfaction of all parties. She DID say we could have a pleasant life here, and I’m all about having a pleasant life.”
The matriarch motions for him to be unchained. Benny rubs his hands. “I’d like my coat back before we proceed. It’s a bit chilly.”
The matriarch’s suspicious. “If you’ll examine it, you’ll note it’s a completely ordinary garment. Search the pockets, if you like. Just please, no tearing. It has sentimental value.”
After a check, they toss it to him.
“Right. Now then, I think my friend would like to have a word with you.”
He withdraws a spellbook and holds it open in front of Jesse’s eyes.
“DESTRUCTION!”

The latter half of the scene is identical; I pulled dialogue right from my notes and tweaked slightly, but otherwise, identical. The lead-in has more exploration into the mutant situation and mentality and gives Jesse more time to shine.

. The Dreadful Stormrider sweeps in on the camp… which is alight with chaos and explosions. Gilbert smiling. “She’s alive!” “How do you know?” Massive explosion. “Because that’s what happens when you insult my wife. Poor kidnapping bastards. I almost feel a bit sorry for them…” Penny draws her sabre, to rally the troops. “Raiding party! I want this to be a controlled sortie. We retrieve the prisoners, we take anything valuable, and we are gone by morning light! For the glory of the Dreadful Brigade and Captain Dreadful!” “FOR THE BRIGADE! FOR THE CAPTAIN!” Blades in teeth, ropes flung over the sides. Gilbert: “Tally ho.” And off he goes into the fray.

Pretty much the same, with the additional note that Gilbert knows this probably won’t work, but he’s going to die trying.

. Benny impressed/terrified of Jesse the Lady of War, who despite her undress, has begun laying waste to all around her with well placed spells and her ignited spellblade. The pirates catch up, repelling a wave that was about to jump them. “Good timing,” Benny said. “Is Chloe with you?” “We thought she was with you. What about Jeeves?” Explosion. “They’re not here. We can figure this out later; we aren’t going to hold an advantage on the ground for long. We’re better off in the sky–” A sweeping wave blasts through their minds. Oh, right. Telepathy. Which is also good for calling a nearby tribe, which would have taken about… THIS long to show up for reinforcements. The mutants surround them, nets in hands, ready to take more prisoners, when…
“GANGWAAAAAAY!” A brass comet slams into the crowd, goes flipping and transforming in the air, and Jeeves comes down hard in the middle of the group. Steam blasts from his rear vents… like wings. And Benny understands. /Oh. Oh crap. THAT’S why the Mister was so terrified of this thing…/ Jeeves clearing house, while Chloe… fires her gun in the air, just to clear a path and join them. “Benny! I’m here to save you!” “Me?! What the hell were you thinking, charging into a warzone?” “You’re welcome, Benny! How kind of you to thank me!”
The mutants pouring in now. Pirates holding a defensive circle around them, as the ship ahead tries to manuver, to lower ropes… and then it explodes into flame. Oh, right. Pyrokinesis.
Pirates running, trying to get out of the way of the wreck. Penny jumps and Gilbert catches her. The Dreadful Stormrider coming down hard, likely going to explode when it hits ground, the aetheric steam in his gas bag leaking and spewing everywhere.

Nobody’s going to survive this, Chloe realizes. Humans, mutants, demons, nobody.

I’m too useless to do anything to stop it. I can’t do anything.

I dress weird because I am weird, and I need to remember that.

I need to remember…

Chloe closes her eyes, and remembers.

Brilliant wings of pure white steam burst forth from her back.

The village is engulfed in flames from the crashing airship.

The basic idea remains… the group getting together, the big ‘ol fight, Chloe “saving” the day. But in the original draft, she recalls more of what she is rather than doing it on pure instinct, and, well…

. Gilbert roused by his wife smacking his cheeks. Pirates are starting to come to… the wreckage is all around them. All AROUND them, in a perfect circle, beyond which is debris and destruction and mutants running for the hills. The ground they occupy is a perfect circle of safety. “Okay. So. How did that happen? Even if by some miracle every bit of flaming debris missed us, I’m fairly sure the laws of thermodynamics would disagree with our survival…” Waves a hand, to try to clear up the misty air. “It’s not entirely clear. Everything just went… white.” Penny. “Hey, uh, I think we need to get moving,” she said. “The muties freaked out and ran for it, but let’s not push our luck. New Tortuga’s not that far away; if we salvage what we can and get going we can make it before we have to worry about daylight and dehydration.” “Right. So… wait, what happened to Chloe?” She’s unconscious, with Jeeves protecting her. Jesse’s unimpressed. “Guess she fainted in fright. Honestly, I don’t know why Eastusa felt THIS was the best representative they could’ve sent…” “Love? Let’s not bicker. She DID come to try and save us. That bravery has to be worth something, yes?” “…hmph. I suppose.”

…Chloe threw up a giant FORCE FIELD to protect them. I guess that’s in line with ‘guardian angel’ but as I was thinking about it, I realized that’s WAY too useful an ability to have her pull out of her ass and potentially have to rewrite plots around later. I hit the idea of “Penny talks the slavers down, but accidentally starts a civil war in the process” late in drafting, but it works much better, putting a bittersweet cap on it all. Plus, this way, I don’t need to mass-murder the mutants. I’m trying to keep as much blood off my heroes hands as possible.

. Morning, on the Mermaid. Chloe wakes up in her bed. Jeeves is at the bedside. OW OW OW splitting headache… a knock, and Benny leans in.
“Hey, uh–”
JEEVESGLARE. Chloe puts a hand on his arm. “S’ok. You can leave us. He won’t hurt me, Jeeves.”
Jeeves edges his way out, being sure to make it hard for Benny to squeeze in.
“I’ve had a weird dream. Weird even by my standards.”
“Oh?”
“I saw… a city. A silver city. And there were… all these people, flying around. Not with wings, exactly, but–” ”
The idea of wings. Like light, hovering, floating along with them. Wings of mist.”
Chloe sits up. “How did you know that?”
“I was there, once. Before I fell. Chloe… I can’t exactly say HOW it’s possible, but… I think you’re an angel.”
Chloe groans, lies back. “Don’t be stupid. That’s not possible–”
“Listen. I’m the subject matter expert, here. You’re a guardian angel. It makes sense; it’s why you get the weird feelings, why you’re able to smell out danger. Some part of you wants to protect good people. …and for some insane reason that includes me, considering I wasn’t vaporized in that protective dome of mists you summoned up…”
“I don’t remember summoning anything!”
“I know. That’s the weird part, that you can’t remember. …beyond the facts of the matter, none of this makes sense. But I’m going to sort it out, I promise. I’ll help you figure it out.”
“And… how much will that cost me, Mr. Broker?”
“Har har. Like I’d bill you, kiddo….”
Benny’s ruffling her hair and smiling before realizing he’s doing it. Withdraws his hand, quickly. “…um. …gonna… go and… research. Problem solving. Right.”
“Benny–”
He hustles himself out of there.

The final scene is very similar, but with a couple important additions (and changes to omit mention of the mist dome). Benny doesn’t freak completely out when he treats her like a kid sister, for starters. He also clues into why Petersen may have sent Chloe along. The two of them come to more of an understanding.

The final Jesse/Gilbert scene about the saboteur was not in the draft. It’s one of the stronger scenes in the story, I don’t know why I didn’t think to do it in the drafting process. Plus it’s the only way the conflict of this chapter makes any damn sense, so… *shrug*

The two ships, flying away from Tortuga. The Dreadful Wavecrest, second ship in the fleet, now with a bit more crew than it’s used to… but it’ll manage. Gilbert, Jeesse, Penny. “Awful shame, my father dying in the wreck. I’m glad the Brigade sees me as rightful heir. …guess I was worried for nothing that they’d dismiss me as some dumb kid.” “You’re a clever one, and a brave one. Just be true to them instead of using them, and you’ll do fine. Now! Here is where we part ways. Until next time?” Jesseglare. “R-Right. Until next time. …you take care of him, Jesse. He’s a good man. Better than any I know.” Planks are withdrawn. Penny leaning on the railing, watching the Clockwork Mermaid depart. First mate. “Yer orders, Captain Dreadful?” She thinks. “Rally to Tortuga. We’re going to need more men. More ships. …in fact, call a meeting of the Pieces of Eight.” “Err, ma’am? Are you sure? You’ve rightful control of the Brigade, true, but I doubt the other pirate lords will take so quickly to the notion…” “The future waits for no one. And I think things are about to get a little crazy for our old enemies in Britain, now that Gilbert Gearhaus has his sights set on them. It’s the kind of crazy I want in on. Make sail! We’ve a fleet to rally, and Keys of Fog to find!”

This was supposed to cap the “Captain’s actually dead” subplot. Cut due to lameness. The ‘Keys of Fog’ were shuffled to the dinner scene and renamed. Generally this wasn’t that hot of a scene, so it basically got nuked.

Chains, clinking in the darkness. A network of chains, woven throughout the room, bolted down to seven iron plates two hundred years old…

I’ll excise the final bit, because it was word for word copied into my notes. I added a few things, but it’s not worth analyzing.

So, there you go. That’s the insane process it takes me from my sketchy outline to the final. I use the outline as a launching point, adjust where things don’t work or don’t make sense, and improvise, improvise, IMPROVISE the living hell out of things until it’s all done.

I’m doing the same on sa07; the outline for that one’s even sketchier and nastier. I wasn’t even sure I’d be using Agent Morales for quite awhile, figuring The New Guy would take on her role, before realizing The New Guy had no real purpose when I had a perfect candidate already lined up, and the finale wasn’t decided until two days ago, and, and… oi.

It’s a tap dance, folks. A crazy, manic tap dance. And in the end, presumably, it all works.

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2 responses

10 10 2010
lucilleliu

The level of thought and detail that goes into this is astounding and staggering…and makes for some hella good reading.
“Jesseglare” Lol. I’m going to incorporate this into my everday speech just so I can be horribly ridiculed. But I don’t care. This word is AWESOME.

10 10 2010
jengagne

Yeah, I laughed at the “JEEVESGLARE.” too. XD
Thanks for the Director’s Commentary outline, Stefan. It’s always interesting! Sounds like a good decision to cut out all the captain puppet stuff and to make Penny a not-horrible person.

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