You could say this is my newest HA! fanfiction in a while, but in reality you'd be dead wrong. "The Masterplan" has a long and somewhat lengthy history to it which I'd like to share, just for you to see the effort I put in to this little story before it was perfected enough to be posted here.

"The Masterplan" is a story I first started typing primarily between October 25-27, 2003. It was my first real venture in writing a short HA! story, and my first real creative writing experience since sixth grade. I was never happy with how things ended with Arnold and Lila in the series, and I was provoked to write my own story of how that crush came to an end. This story is post-confession, so Arnold knows Helga's "secret". Even though the episode "Timberly Loves Arnold" was the official ending to the Arnold and Lila relationship, this is my version of the Lila era coming to an end.

So, why did this story take over two years to be released on the Internet? Well, at the time of writing this fic, I was heavily reading Shaun Blankenship's (a.k.a. MDT) notable HA! fanfictions. Check out his fanfiction dot net profile, as he is a marvelously creative talent that deserves a lot more kudos than he usually receives. His HA! fics always entertained me, and he was my first real dose of HA! fanfiction before I discovered this place. I guess I should owe him some thanks, as he somewhat inspired me to start writing. Its ashame he doesn't seem to write HA! fics anymore, but he sure did go out with a bang. I strongly recommend to EVERYONE that you read his fic "Same In The End", the first HA! fic posted here to exceed one hundred-thousand words (and it only got a humble 65 reviews), and one of his last HA! fics to date. While others come close, his fic remains #1 on my list of all time favorite Hey Arnold! fanfics.

Like all stories I have thought of in my head, I thought of the ending first, and then worked backwards, but it didn't come out as planned. After I finished the fic, I wasn't satisfied at all. It was a good concept – but was just not written well enough to suit the idea, and the story lacked energy and wit. It was a mundane piece of fiction in my opinion, but of course when it comes to things like this you are your own worse critic. I felt it all had to be re-written, and even felt like scraping the whole thing. Soon after, I mailed the fic to Shaun basically saying I thought it was somewhat crap and if he could please read it over. By this time I had read the fic countless times over and I needed a fresh pair of eyes to access the story. I needed major help, and relied on Shaun's expertise in writing to improve my story.

Over the next couple of months, we exchanged many e-mails on the subject. He did a great deal of work revising this fic in several areas so it made more sense and ran smoother. I owe a VERY big thanks to Shaun for modifying and breathing new life into a fic I thought was a failure. And to quote him form an old LiveJournal post…

I promised this guy named Steve I'd finish revising this Hey Arnold story he did today that I've been holding on to for like two months. I've done it halfway but I haven't finished, but I've laced it full of my Shaun Blankenship-esque flare of comedy and storytelling and turned it into Pulitzer Prize-worthy material ready for acclaim from all forms of professional critics. I'm not saying it was bad, I'm just saying it's been Shaunified. Yeah! Shaunified!

I couldn't have put it better myself. Thanks for the "Shaunification".

Now, in truth, the story was practically done by April 2004. BUT, it still had small inconsistencies within it and these were preventing me from posting this fic in all its glory. Of course, I wanted to pass any concerns over to Shaun, and unfortunately his replying time to my e-mails grew greatly over that year, which grew into a big and chaotic mess of mixed up mails. I couldn't even explain how complicated it got. As for me, I was busy with the events of life (good and bad) and whatnot and the story was put on the backburner for the time being. During this time, I made sure to mail Shaun from time to time about how "The Masterplan" (as it was now called) was so close to being uploaded, I just needed to run some things by him first.

By late January 2005 I had finally gotten a reply back to a lengthy e-mail I sent out, in which had, what I thought, were the remaining errors in "The Masterplan". My last read over of the story was on (from my date of the original file on my computer) February 14, 2005. It was sometime then that I discovered some more tiny inconsistencies that needed to be fixed, and then…BANG! Everything came to a crashing halt because on March 29, 2005, my laptop's old hard drive bearing this story died a sudden and harsh death. Luckily, I still had the file on backup, but now the fic was on definite hiatus until I could get a new computer and get all my files (and head) together.

This event screwed everything up. I was still waiting on a reply back from Shaun on a mail I sent sometime in March 2005 (detailing the last things I needed to be cleared up, along with some attachments explaining some various theories pertaining to certain things in the story). I knew I had lost the attachments right away after the laptop died, but it wasn't until months later that I realized I never had a copy of that last e-mail I sent Shaun! Now I had no idea what I wrote to him, so how could I finish the story until he replied back with all the lost materials? Over the next couple months, I'd drop Shaun an e-mail every so often reminding him to please write back. Another good part of the fic being delayed was, unfortunately, Shaun's time to reply back to that last e-mail.

By September/October 2005 I had finally gotten my new computer together and was surprised how time flew. It was already the two year anniversary from when I first started typing the story, and frankly I was getting annoyed it still wasn't online. Moreover, the fandom towards HA! had taken a significant dive online and it seemed to be drying up more and more everyday. I had just about sent a mail to Shaun every month hoping he'd reply. By the start of December, I confirmed that I'd release the story on Valentine's Day 2006 since the basis of the story revolves around that day. It was perfect timing, and so I sent out another mail to Shaun in mid December and hoped and prayed he'd get back to me within the two months.

In the end, I never did get that reply. But I couldn't wait any longer to post the story, even though I still wasn't one hundred percent satisfied with it. I sent two more mails in January 2006, but no avail – it seemed he was too busy and lost track of time. Of course, if he ever did reply after the story was posted, I could always re-post everything – I just didn't want it to come to that as he had almost a year in which he could have replied to that mail. All this stuff aside, I still thank him for what he did – he made me see the story for what it was. I have become a better writer because of him, as he taught me how to write better stories and how to focus more on the "in-between" and "off-camera" moments in a story to make it feel more realistic. He liked to get things across in a character's dialogue, not author's narrative; how to work different elements into a story for it to work and read better. I learned from the best. Now the story works and I can see it clear in my head, like an episode from the show.

Now, at first I know you're going to say, "It's in script format!" I don't understand why this is ever a problem. As stated, I was reading Shaun's fics at the time and their influence is in this story – and almost all of his stories were in script format. Script format is a perfectly applicable way of writing a story that's more comedic slapstick. For more drama, a more traditional story format would be better. I also spilt the story into three parts, as it is too long to be posted as a one-shot and too short to be a chaptered story.

I know for a fact if this story had been posted two years ago, when the HA! fandom was still more active, this story probably would have gotten more reviews than it will now. But I guess I'll just have to wait and see on that, won't I? ;-)