As promised, time for some post-writing notes. Call it the Hangover Cure, in my ongoing tradition of witty post-story writer note titles. Product was delayed because being sick isn't fun like that. Also, writing towards the next project.
What's the origin of this idea?
'Breakthrough' was originally conceived as a bunch of shorts for Jaune and the RWBY heroines, each a stand-alone but all grouped together with the idea of 'how to convince Jaune that, yes, you're really interested.' Different styles, different genres, and of course different methods, it was supposed to be a bunch of shorts grouped together. Each would have it's unique take- what with Weiss hiring mexican minstrels to serenade outside a window (don't ask), Ruby rehearsing for a late night mugging (really don't ask), and Blake writing blatant self-insert porn, among other things. (Okay, that last one almost makes sense.)
I may or may not (probably won't) ever get around to them, but if I ever do they'd be much, much shorter than Yang's.
What's the hook?
Yang's hook, if it wasn't blatantly obvious by now, was flirting. Each heroine was to get a moral of the story at the start, and a new moral at the end. It didn't work out that way for this one, but Yang's was 'keep trying until you find the pickup line that works,' with the end-story moral being 'flirt, but don't tease and leave.' Like I said earlier, the story got built around pickup lines rather than the other way around. That affected it's flow and structure- if I'd been willing to cut them down, I could have shorted it a great deal. But where's the fun in that?
What kind of story was this meant to be?
Structurally, this was a seven beat story. It's also a great demonstration of why seven beats aren't necessarily evenly spaced. In some stories, the Black Moment is a huge chuck of the tale. Here, it was... the first third of the last chapter? And some meta-foreshadowing? Point is, it was late, and short- but not necessarily bad, since 5 whole chapters of Jaune angsting about Yang leaving would have been a bit much. Despite the serious elements, this wasn't that kind of story. I would say the pacing ebbed and flowed here- the post-aura melding period where Yang starts working Jaune with pickup lines and alcohol dragged on- but it also provided a depiction of gradual, and accelerating, change.
Yang's, like, creepy towards the end. Why?
Parts of this story were deliberately intended to provoke unease and discomfort with certain types of people. If you hold a view or go to a school of thought that says consent can't be given while drunk, Yang's uncomfortable. She knows what she wants, and goes for it, and doesn't exactly adhere to the letter or the spirit of the law. For some people, that makes what she did with and to Jaune wrong- that because he was drunk he couldn't give consent even if he really, really wanted it once his more stupid barriers to going along with it were forgotten. Some schools would say that it was even rapey. For the rest of the world, sex and booze mix all the time, and I'm quite comfortable making people uncomfortable by reflecting that. If I only wanted to write uncontroversial and comfortable things, I wouldn't write fanfiction. The entire genre revolves around making characters suffer for our amusement, and Yang's character introduction in canon is to basically attack a civilian establishment. A lady to follow the spirit and letter of laws of propriety she is not. Yang's direct, aggressive, and occasionally reckless even as she's well intentioned, and that's what I wanted to reflect.
What's the deal with the backstory? What actually happened?
The backstory is never elaborated for two main reasons. The first is, it's better kept vague to let the reader fill in the gap for what makes the most sense for them. An explanation you come up with is better than anything I give. Second, though, is the fact that Breakthrough (as a series) was never meant to set up a romance per see- only carry it out. I don't have the patience or perseverance to do a start-to-finish romance arc of that sort, and it wouldn't have played well here. Rekindling old flames has its own appeal.
To clarify what happened in the backstory, which some people asked... well, not too much I can say, for reasons above. Sorry, Arkos fans, but Jaune's not traumatized by the death of Pyrrha. Greater apologies to Lancaster fans, like myself, for making Ruby the catalyst/cause for problems. She's just too good for it- a useful combination of cute, careless, and friendly enough with Jaune that you can almost believe it. Without getting into specifics- again, feel free to imagine what fits best for you- what happened with Ruby is that Ruby never explained why she started showing interest in Jaune until it was too late. A good part of the reason Jaune's so willfully oblivious with Yang is that the last time he assumed anything with the Beacon crew, it went that bad because the interest displayed wasn't serious.
Obviously I played it up for comedic effect, and to use a few dozen more pickup lines, but part of the intention of letting Jaune succumb when drunk was to show that he wasn't actually oblivious- he just really, really didn't intend to make the same mistake with a friend. If I had to change anything about it, I might have considered implying that Ruby slept with Jaune a few more times- unwilling to say no, but unable to to explain why it wasn't going to work out even as Jaune got invested- but ultimately that clashed with the 'one night stand' and 'morning after' points that needed to stand out.
Why did Ruby do what she did? What were her feelings?
Her reasons were what were said by Yang- she was still a virgin, about to be an adult, and kind of worried about how she'd eventually lose it. You can read the lighter side of it- none of her teammates were virgins, and she wanted to be more like them- or you can read a darker side, about why and how she might be afraid to lose it after Beacon. Either way, Jaune was familiar, Jaune was safe, and Jaune was a friend. And she didn't know what Yang was feeling, because if she had she wouldn't have.
After the fact, though- Ruby's perspective isn't directly relevant, but she pretty much regrets it as a mistake. She hurt a friend she cared about, enough so that they almost lost him. She met Jaune since, but whatever happened clearly didn't resolve things. She eventually figured out Yang's feelings, and got to feel bad about that as well. And, if you read it just right, it's implied she's as emotionally messed up and afraid of a relationship as Jaune. Ruby's alone, and if we're being optimistic I'd say that Jaune moving on would finally help her move on.
If were weren't being optimistic, and I ever wrote a sequel, it'd probably entail Ruby living a good life alone with worse regrets and loneliness, wishing she could restart things with Jaune for a real try at something, and instead finding Jaune quite happy without her and Yang quite unwilling to let go. It probably wouldn't get any happier than that.
But hey! That's if we're not optimists, right?
Why'd you draw out the story as long as you did? It takes, like, one night.
Pacing. If the entire story was read at once, a lot of the suspense and graduall buildup would be loss. The sense of mystery about the backstory would be lost if you read the answer in five minutes, and the tension/frustration of Jaune's resistance to Yang's flirts wouldn't feel quite as frustrating if you didn't sit through nearly a week of it. Even the annoyingly drawn out parts of the second half filled a role in making you feel, well, impatient with Jaune.
Aside from 'how long can I get away with telling the story of a single night,' the main experiment of this story for me as a writer was the use of meta-manipulation. I played with the reputation repeat-readers have of me, I kept the summary and indicators vague so that people were still wondering if Yang was mooning after someone else as far as six-eight chapters in (a solid idea, actually, just not the one I wanted), and I even played with the genre tags. The fact that the genre tags didn't say 'romance' kept a lot of people confused at first, and putting up 'angst' as a tag for the finale helped prime them for Yang's apparent abandonment. But, not everything worked as intended. Some of the chapter end/'cliffhanger' reactions weren't what I intended, which is to say people took away things I hadn't even thought of. I didn't mean to suggest that Yang would kidnap Jaune to the reunion, for example. A lot of people thought the second to last chapter was the last chapter, when I was intending to end with suspense/concern befitting the black note of the story. Etc.
What was with the aura mixing? Booo! Uncanon!
Guilty as charged. Totally headcanon- and something I thought would be nice. It's actually a bit borrowed from different ideas that will never be written- where aura-coating something puts your heart on your sleeve so to speak- and emotional broadcasting was an entire semblance I had thought of for the Arcs as a family semblance. (This was before Season 3 actually told us that family semblances were a thing.)
Instead, I used it as a way of conveying things that they characters were feeling, but wouldn't say, without just using incredibly long narrations of their emotional feelings. Instead, it became subtext of the conversations they were having, allowing back-and-forths that worked on multiple levels.
Bottom line is- feel free to make shit up, as long as it serves the story well. In this case, it did- playing Yang's prosthetic, the idea of inability to say what they meant but coming together anyway, and some sweet, sweet emotional entanglement (literally).
The end was all a dream? If so, when did the dream start?
Only the last chapter is a dream.
I'll admit, I threw that in there very last moment. Originally it wasn't- Jaune made the joke about it being a dream and wanting to wake up properly, but that was it. Then, towards the end as I was fiddling with words, I thought it could work as a sweet sort of thing, and set up a cool little play of words. The lines
"He woke up."
"And then she did."
Are deliberately ambiguous. You can read it as 'and then she did' as 'And then Yang woke up'- or as Yang fulfilling the promise she'd made to Jaune just before. Ie, showing him warm smiles, filled sheets, and the morning after, ie happy end.
Before the dream sequence came it, it was just straight happy end. Sadly, not many seemed to notice that grammatical ambiguity, and instead just took the more literal 'woke up.'
So, happy end confirmed?
Well... if you want to believe that Yang left Jaune, and woke up on the bullhead to Beacon as he woke up alone and abandoned... I won't stop you.
I got it! When they finished doing the horizontal tango, Jaune's Aura resonated with Yang's arm while they were asleep, allowing them to share the dream. Meaning, even if the whole 'morning after' thing was a dream, they both dreamed it and shared the dream.
It also explains the Feeling Brackets! And why Yang woke up immediately after Jaune!
That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!
But am I right, College Fool?
I won't say this diligent reviewer is right... but I will say that if I ever commissioned an image for this piece, it'd be a shot of Jaune in bed, a prosthetic arm draped over, with fingers intertwined as he slept.
So... yeah. I never intended for this to have a sad ending. But if you want one, go for it!
And that's it. Overall, satisfactory story. Longer than intended- and probably broke the whole 'Breakthrough' concept- but still enjoyable to shift through and write, and hopefully enjoyable for you to read.
Please leave a review, share your thoughts if you haven't already, and have a good day.