So, that's it for Silver Gray, at least for the moment. It clocks in at about 87,000 words and took slightly over 8 months to complete. To my knowledge it is the longest Claymore fanfiction written to date (at least in English) and it twice as long as the next longest story on (not that length is a measure of quality or anything, just kind of a funny stat).
I'm actually really proud of this story, at least as proud of any fanfiction or even original fiction I've ever written. It was a real challenge to do and do well, but I think I succeeded with most of the goals I set out to accomplish, which is good, and I made a story that was worth reading, which is even better.
I was inspired to write this because I was just so very impressed with Claymore as a creation, with how much could be taken from this ultimately relatively simple idea, and I really just wanted to get a chance to explore that world some. So this piece was really written in tribute to Claymore, which separates it from much of my other fanfiction, especially the Naruto stuff, which was written rather out of disgust. The story I set out to write here was one that I hoped, if Norihiro Yagi was to ever read (obviously that's not going to happen, but hypothetically) he'd think, 'yeah, this fits what I was trying to do.' So the themes I was writing about are mostly the ones in Claymore itself, the isolation of the half-human half-yoma, their struggle to keep themselves together, suspicion of everyone and everything, and so on.
Obviously this story is different from the fanfiction norms in that it involves entirely original characters and is in fact set years before the main storyline occurs. That was partly out of tribute to Claymore as well, I simply did not want to interfere at all with what was happening in the main plot, I like it too much, but it was also out of a sense that by telling it earlier I could have something significant to the world happen without having it seem like nothing compared to the whole Abyssal Ones thing that's presently happening. So I went with the whole Yoma+Humans crisis, which I think worked out very well, and interestingly, when humans do end up fighting an awakened being as in the most recent manga chapters, they use similar mass fire tactics to the ones I put out, which is a nice thing to have happen.
There were two really big challenges to this story beyond getting the feel of Claymore correct. The first was the characters, more detail on that later, and the second was how much of a mystery much of Claymore is. There's an awful lot the reader does not yet know about the world, like what the men in black are, where the yoma come from, what the wounds on the front of the Claymores look like, and so on, so working around all of that, and making believable things happen within the mystery was really tricky, but I think I hit on some good solutions.
About the characters:
Obviously, this is a character-focused story so the characters were the key, and the trickiest part. I'm a guy, so it's always hard to write believable females, especially when they're so altered but are still supposed to be 'women,' and this was made doubly difficult by highly similar nature of so many Claymores. So, some things worked excellently, and some things didn't work quite as well. I mention character themes for each character because I find it fitting and inspiring.
One thing of note: as some people may have guessed, Tyrin is inspired by a character in the game Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria, or actually two. Specifically Tyrith, and Celes, (obviously, her sister Celeca takes more from Celes). In point of fact, almost all the Claymore characters draw at least a little something from that game, with the exception of Katherine. This is mostly cosmetic stuff, since the Einheriar characters in the game only have a handful of in-battle lines, but it was useful to come up with hairstyles from something that was already designed for medieval warrior women, and led to some cool minor inserts, and it gave me something to work with for Tyrin's armor and weapons.
Sylvia: I'm quite proud of Sylvia as my lead character. She's a complex and involved person, and I think I was able to gradually convey that while still allowing her relationships with others to be real and even have their own established quirks after a while. Sylvia's inspiration is her relative formality, how she doesn't cuss or bark out and tries to speak with good diction, which I felt was interesting for a Claymore. She's also an analytical character, always thinking and considering, and hesitating to a degree that's really not seen in many of the characters in the actual manga. She's not physically powerful and even though she achieves some very heroic things in the end, it's through adopting the tricks and skills of others in a way that fits her. I tried very hard to make her not be a knock off of Clare but have her own identity and I think that worked.
Sylvia is very loosely linked to Sylphide in Valkyrie Profile Silmeria, essentially they have the same hair and similar figures, but otherwise she's all original.
Sylvia's theme is Bare Grace Misery by Nightwish
Tyrin: Ah, Tyrin. It's interesting, when I started this I knew I had to have a human character, because I story about Claymores just bouncing around with other Claymores doing what they do wouldn't work very well, because they've all been trained to act and think in sort of the same way. However, I didn't want a character like Raki, who could do nothing but be there for relationships. Tyrin is instead based a lot off the two warriors of Rabona in that she's very skilled in human terms and able to help and even tip the balance occasionally in Claymore fights, but is ultimately very vulnerable. I wanted Tyrin to be female from the outset because I wanted to avoid casting the story in terms that were at all romantic. I was going for friendship, not lovers, and that was the simplest way to do it. It worked out well because it allowed for a few cool things like Sylvia and Tyrin switching roles and so on. Tyrin is a more dynamic character than any of the Claymore's because her personality is broader, she has a greater range of moods and expressions than they do, as I strived to make her seem like the natural, ordinary, level-headed one because she's not fighting yoma instincts all the time. It makes her a little mysterious as well, because the story being told from Sylvia's perspective never really pierces what Tyrin's truly thinking.
I suspect some people may be disappointed that Tyrin died, but I felt it was necessary, and I knew I was going to do it from way back in the beginning. It's part of the crux of the relationship, is that neither can truly see the other fully until they're ripped apart from each other, also Sylvia needed Tyrin's skills and her sword in order to survive.
Tyrin is strongly inspired by Tyrith from Valkyrie Profile Silmeria, as she looks like her, wears her armor, and fights like her, though Mist Phantom, the trick attack that plays a large role here, is actually one of Celes' moves (they have the same general style as Tyrith claimed to be Celes' descendent, which is why Tyrin's sister is Celeca).
Tyrin's theme is Glory by Kamelot
Lynne: Lynne ends up being a minor character in the story, simply because she dies fairly quickly. However, I was happy with her relatively brief appearances and how she played off of Sylvia. Lynne's direct nature and even recklessness is in direct contrast to Sylvia's caution and formality. I also wanted to have two Claymore character's who simply did not get along but worked together anyway out of a sense of responsibility. I was very proud of Lynne's death sequence, which was a bitter challenge to compose.
Lynne is based loosely of Lwyn from Valkyrie Profile Silmeria, and they share looks and to some extent I drew Lynne's personality off of a few brief quips. The line Lynne says before she dies 'And you can tell me how great I am later' is one of the lines Lwyn uses when she's victorious in battle (it was just too fitting there).
Lynne's theme is All That I'm Living For by Evanescence
Jessica: to hunt an awakened being you have to have a single digit, which brings me to Jessica. I chose to build Jessica as a quiet, stoic character largely because I didn't want her to dominate the action. By having her avoid conversation I could let the others get into more natural conversations, as opposed to just taking her orders all the time, similar to how Miria often doesn't talk that much around the canon group because they tend to fall silent when she speaks. Jessica's role is small as a result, but I tried to make her endearing in her relatively few speeches and through creative use of her silence and her expressions. I also worked in the idea of her as the sort of the 'Claymore ideal' in that she doesn't question, doesn't act up, and generally just kills things like she's told to with nothing greater to it than that. Jessica's Whirling technique is sort of based of Jeanne's, just extending to move sideways in large arcs instead of really tiny ones. I was actually quite proud of coming up with that as it seemed fitting for the setting but not copying something someone else was using.
The demands of the story, somewhat unfortunately, call for Jessica's death, and I tried to do it in a way that didn't make her look awful, just like someone who was deceived at the wrong moment. I'm not sure how well that worked out.
Jessica is based off, well, Jessica, from Valkyrie Profile Silmeria, and has the same hairstyle and same very slender profile. Her personality is essentially her own though.
Jessica's theme is Silent Goddess by Kamelot
Racquel: the defining feature of Racquel is that she's young, which was an idea introduced with Priscilla, but one I wanted to explore more, since all of the other Claymores in the series tend to be somewhat veteran (except for Clarice, but she's largely defined by her weakness). I'm quite happy with what I was able to do with Racquel and how the story carried her along even if her overall role wasn't that large. Having a fresh-faced Claymore to whom this was all somewhat new and frightening was helpful and was also useful to set up a contrast of how Sylvia had to try and deal with this person who was nominally her superior, but really wasn't ready to take that role socially, which was a fun wrinkle. Racquel's nature also made her very well suited to survive through the end without pulling the focus towards her in any major way.
Racquel is based off Richelle from Valkyrie Profile Silmeria, and shares the fact that she's extremely good looking and the silvery hair with that character, as well as the sense of innate grace.
Racquel's theme is Eva by Nightwish
Katherine: as the villain of the piece Katherine is the character I'm probably the least happy with. I feel she's a bit too erratic and monstrous, but there was no really effective way to go beyond that. Her final little conversation with Sylvia and some of her actions hint at this, but ultimately the threat she represents is far more the plan she's concocted rather than the woman herself (which was why she came up with the plan in the first place). Much of the problem here is I don't feel I described her well enough in awakened form, but that's such a tremendous descriptive challenge I'm not sure how to do it better at this point.
Katherine's theme is Violator by Son of Rust
Luny: five girls and one guy who's probably not human, how's that for a gender balance? Yet, strangely, though he was the hardest character by far to deal with, given the great enigma that is the men in black, Luny is perhaps the character I'm most happy with. Though he only bounces in and out of the story, all his appearances are significant and I was able to evolve a distinctive philosophy for him that defines his character. He's different from some of the other men in black in the series, particularly Rubel, in that he's up front as opposed to manipulate to the Claymores. He doesn't string them along or toy with them, he just want the job to be done. I like how that worked out as I felt it made several scenes, especially Lynne's death, much better because of it.
Luny's theme is Amaranth by Nightwish
That's all for now, but I'll say this for those who had the patience to read this far: while this is an ending to a story, it is not necessary the final ending. I'm not sure if or when it would happen, but I may eventually get around to writing more of Sylvia's story, which extends further on and starts intersecting with canonical events fairly soon (ie. Luciela's awakening), but there's no promises for the present.