When writing For Her, I will admit that I was terrified at the prospect of writing a full-length story of this size. All I had was an idea and a nagging thought one day to just sit at my computer and write. And write I did. The reason why I'm tacking on this part to the story is so you all can view my stream of consciousness while working on For Her and maybe will inspire some of you to develop your own stories in the future. Grammatical errors may exist…but whatever.
When developing the story, I had to find a way to effectively introduce the time period and the setting. I figured that I should start out in a military base, just so that the audience could get used to the prose and the fact that this would be a radically different story that most Mass Effect FFs out there. It probably could have been expanded a bit more but it will suffice, for now.
This is where it probably got the trickiest for viewers. Many of them were probably expecting a story featuring Shepard as the main character. There are a number of reasons why I did not do this. Firstly, to have Commander Shepard in this time period, not as a galactic marine or even a soldier in general, made no sense whatsoever. As a character, he would have been vastly out of place and would be considered inferior to many more of his counterparts portrayed on print. This is why I chose to create an entirely new character for said purpose, creating an AU. The character needed to be a bit more…relatable to the audience in terms of age and physical capabilities. He also needed to have a name that wasn't quite so complicated. Taking inspiration from actor Alec Guinness and Civil War general Robert E. Lee, I combined the two to create Alec Lee, our audience surrogate (always kinda figured he looked like actor Michael Biehn).
I wanted to spend the bulk of the story set in Connecticut because it never has been portrayed much in popular culture. I didn't want to revert to cliché by having such an event as First Contact take place in California, DC, or a small town in Kansas. The town of Danbury fit the bill and I had prior knowledge of the area because I have family that I visit there on occasion. That and a quick scan on Google Maps does wonders.
One thing that I do regret was the inclusion of so many of Alec's friends in the beginning of the chapter. I wanted to make it clear to the reader that the character had a stable social life but I was eventually unable to develop them all and they eventually reverted to being background noise. I could have accomplished this just by having only two friends, cutting others out, and it would still be just as cohesive.
Not one of my favorite chapters. I find that the dialogue is a little clunky in some areas and that I just breezed through some scenes that were crucial for development. I would get to make it up with all of the descriptive lines about Alec's lifestyle but we all have to make some sacrifices…
I chose the long gap in the middle of the passage to move past the college years and into a period where Alec would be back in Danbury, at his job. This was to make the character seem more mature through his shared experiences and build up his interest in the quarians overall. Could I have done it better? Ehh…we'll see.
A little more description here. This was all to get the audience settled into the fact that, "Hey, this isn't the Mass Effect universe that you're used to. " It's all part of drawing in the audience and the banter between the humans in a realistic manner only exemplifies that. Plus, we get to see how quarians would be integrated into our society should this event ever happen.
This was also the chapter that I took to introduce the villains. Overall, I'm not happy at my ability to write villains. They tend to be one-note and not very interesting apart from their physical prowess. I tried to make them seem threatening and sadistic by their violent actions against quarians in general, but I can't help but feel that they could have been fleshed out a bit more. Inspiration for these guys mostly stemmed from the Westboro Baptist Church, due to their blind hate against anyone they deem to be unworthy. I merely took the next step and thought, "What if they went a bit further? What if they started killing?" I took that idea and ran with it…and ended up in an interesting place.
Although, I did like their catch phrase…even if it was TDKR inspired.
Writing dialogue between Alec and Tali was one of the toughest parts of this story. It's hard to script a conversation without making any of the sentences seem corny or forced, especially when the two will eventually be romantic partners. You have to make sure that they establish a natural chemistry, make it feel more real, for lack of a better word.
Even so, it was rather cool to write out these scenes for my favorite ME squadmate ever (yes…it's Garrus, you've got me there…)
The idea to have Tali so interested in music was a concept that I flirted with in the previous chapter but I then went out and wrote it so that she would eventually develop an interest in Star Wars (grand-daddy of sci-fi, why not?). I thought it was a cute way for the couple to find out more about what the other was interested in, and develop their relationship without springing it upon the audience at the last second.
I skipped a few months on the timeline because I was just lazy and trusted the audience would believe that Alec and Tali were getting closer based on the events of last night. I did make an effort to explain how far they had gotten in terms of their friendship so it wasn't too sudden. Still not entirely convinced if I didn't screw myself over.
Got a chance to show off Alec's angry side here. You don't mess with a guy and a gun, especially if you've threatened his girl (not yet, but still…). Whatever, I liked the tension that the scene provided.
This was a pivotal point in the story. It basically confirmed that both Alec and Tali think of each other as really good friends and we got a chance to see both of their sensitive sides. Not every character has to be stoic and manly, they can cry. I think it makes them more human, I like my characters to be as three dimensional as possible.
The final text actually made me tear up when I wrote it. Go ahead and laugh.
These chapters devoted to long conversations are always the toughest to write. It's just how they are. That's not to say that they aren't important, just caution has to be used when you're writing this so you don't alienate (heh) your audience. I eventually went back and corrected some of the more cringe-worthy dialogue so that it sounds a lot better. Crichton I am not.
Now we got into the darker side of the story. I was partially influenced by the film Casino Royale when writing this, trying to emulate that atmosphere of helplessness. This is where that M rating started to come into play, with all of the violence done to Alec and the sinister nature of the group, language be damned. Did like how the exchange between Daniel and Alec turned out, very vicious sparring between the two.
I did say "violence," didn't I?
Battle scenes always go by the quickest for me. I had a lot of fun detailing the gruesome ways that Alec did as he killed his way out. Slit throats, cranial removal, neutered by shotgun, it was extremely satisfying. I also took the chance to show that Tali wasn't just a character that was only capable of crying in every single scene as evidenced when she started stabbing and quickly gaining the confidence to rush into a fight. It fit with the character well and I hope it is considered justice.
Ach, you know what I'm going to talk about.
Scenes like the one detailed in this chapter are incredibly, incredibly hard to get right. Whenever I read about a love scene, in FF at least, I usually end up rolling my eyes at the ridiculous antics on the page and just stop reading altogether. There are a few rules that I put down that I wanted to differentiate this love scene from:
1. No crazy positions
2. No mention of fluids (ANY fluids)
3. And no specific descriptions or a vague reference to explicit body parts (NONE!)
Following those rules, you get a pretty tender and emotional scene. Why be cliché and just start detailing every single facet of a person's body? The audience doesn't need to know crap like that. They're smart, they can fill in the blanks. Why make a scene raunchy when you can make it passionate? It seems like such a simple order, yet most (emphasis on most) FFs constantly get this wrong. I would have to go back later and add a few more lines so that I could emphasize the erotic nature to separate it from its peers. I don't care if it isn't realistic in this manner, I only care about if the audience feels attached to the characters and not grossed out by sounding out every single conceivable action during sex. (Really, is it that necessary?)
Mood Music: "Conversation by the Window – Love Scene" from Brad Fiedel's soundtrack to The Terminator
Well, with their relationship pretty much culminated, I took the time for them to spend to be even cuter, as I was skeptical of continuing the story at that point. Might as well spend as much time with them as possible, right? This chapter pretty much set the stage for the final one, even though I did enjoy the concept of Tali in leather. (Missed opportunity there, Bioware!)
The fight between Alec and Daniel was always going to end up in a knife fight. I like the idea of personal battles, one on one, that are violent and intense. Knives were the weapon of choice for this story (reminiscent of The Abyss) and I had fun scripting Daniel's over the top death. It made my job harder in the sequel when I was figuring out how to top it. In any case, it closed off most of the plot lines and would have served as a nice story all on its own…until I got restless.
This was written primarily to close out the story and fill in any plot lines if I wasn't going to continue. It made for a cute ending and the change in setting would provide a bigger challenge in the sequel.
(Would recommend closing out to College's "A Real Hero")
All in all, the development of For Her was an enlightening one, but quite stressful. It was written in three days and based on the number of grammatical errors at the start, that part was easily noticeable. Mental note, never write three chapters in one day, it isn't good for your sanity. I was actually expecting a total number of say…twenty views in the first month. I had no idea that over 4,000 views would accrue within the span of a month. I'm shocked to say the least, especially when I was writing this mainly for myself (yeah, I can be selfish too).
Enjoy the rest of your time and check out Second Stage, the sequel, if you haven't already.