One of the most common questions I hear about the creation of a story (any stories, not just my
own fanfiction) is: Why? Why did someone choose to write a particular story? Why did they take
the characters on a particular journey?
That is as good a place as anywhere else to start this Wingnut for The Changeling, and it goes the
farthest in discussing my choices about the plot and what I put John through over the course of
The Changeling sprang into life one evening when I was watching La Bomba. The scene at the
end, when John and Aeryn are sitting together and he delivers the line, "Guess what I did at work
today? I wore a bomb ... a nuclear bomb in a field of flowers," is part of a recurring theme in
Farscape. John makes choices -- often difficult, occasionally selfish choices, that sometimes
involve violence -- and beats himself up over them afterwards. John's sense of guilt and his
depression after the fact, and his efforts to NOT kill are what caught my attention.
I began to ask myself: What would it take to turn John Crichton into a willing killer? What would
he be like if he became a cold-blooded, remorseless killer?
The difficult part was figuring out how to do it without completely transforming him into someone
other than John Crichton. I have said a number of times that I like to 'give the characters back
the way I found them', which meant that I didn't want to knock John on the head, give him a
permanent traumatic brain injury, and turn him into an intergalactic Jack the Ripper. The drama
comes from watching the descent of someone we know and love to a hellish place where wanton
killing not only becomes possible, but becomes the key to his continued survival.
So the challenge at that point became figuring out what would drive John to that kind of excessive
behavior. I decided that he would have to lose everything. Both John and Farscape are all about
hope. As long as he had a little hope left, he would continue to focus all of his efforts on getting
back to Moya and the people that he loves. That, in turn, meant that I had to kill both Aeryn and
D'Argo (the little one), or at least make John think that they were dead. If I left either one alive,
then John very quickly began looking for ways to steal a ship in order to get off the planet. No
writing effort on my part was involved. When I tried the alternative (not killing LIttle D), I would
go out to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and when I came back, John was sneaking about the
charrid base, looking for some way off the planet.
At the same time that all of this was going on, I was dealing with a very strong desire to get John
incredibly dirty and then clean him up. I confess that this desire grew out of a scene in
Speedbump's exceptional fic, The Resurrection of Man. Speedbump got John far filthier than I
ever have ever dreamed of, and then devoted a single paragraph getting him clean again. While
the abbreviated description was entirely appropriate to Speedbump's story, by the time I got
around to dreaming up The Changeling, I had spent several years yearning for more time in the
shower watching John get rid of a beard and layers of dirt and grime. Now was my chance!!
The rest just sort of grew on me ... slowly, and painfully. The Changeling was one of the most
difficult stories I have ever completed. I deleted it completely and rewrote it from scratch THREE
times before it began to feel the way I wanted.
I would like to point out the largest flaw in the story because it was something that I spent a lot of
time discussing with one of my betareaders, CrystalMoon, and eventually had to resort to slapping
a patch on it and leaving it alone. John and Aeryn never would have taken Little D down to the
planet with them. CrystalMoon pointed this out when I was writing the story, and she is
absolutely correct. I agree completely. But I needed to have John think that his son was dead,
otherwise he would expend every last bit of his energy trying to get off the planet and back to
Moya instead of taking revenge on the charrids. So I had him admit that it was supremely stupid,
and left it.
CrystalMoon also wanted me to walk the reader through John's lust for revenge. This is the
essence of the rule about showing the reader what is going on instead of telling them. You have
her to thank for the scene where John is in the charrid encampment actually killing them.
Another example of how betareaders can be invaluable during the creation of a story is the entire
segment that describes how John has defined himself in terms of what he is doing at any particular
moment: Sleeper, Hunter, Explorer, and the Idiot. I was going to take that part out. I cannot
remember why I was going to do that. I think it had to do with the levity, which I felt might be
inappropriate, or because I thought it might be more devastating if he was defining himself in more
animalistic terms. In any case, PKLibrarian told me that it was better with those parts, and I
wound up putting them back in. She was right, of course. I especially enjoy the idea that John
would refer to himself as the Idiot. Aside from being in character, it illustrates that there is some
vestige of John Crichton still alive inside this vengeful, vicious feral being.
Even though it was a tough story to write, there were those special moments when words
appeared on the page without any impetus from my brain. Those are the special moments for a
fanfic writer, when the characters take over and begin doing things on their own, and the writer
once again gets to wallow in the universe that is Farscape. One such moment was when John
carved J+A=3 into the bodies of the dead charrids. It appeared on the page without any volition
or intent on my part, and in retrospect, it feels perfect.
The frequent shifts between what John is dreaming and his reality is another facet of the story
that was not planned in advance. This was why I kept throwing out earlier versions and rewriting
it until it began to feel right. Basically, I knew how I wanted the story to feel, but I did not know
enough about writing at that time to go after a certain effect with premeditation. The outcome
was worth all the work, and taught me a lot about influencing the reader. The constant insertion
of better times into the midst of John's current hideous reality makes his loss real to the reader.
It's right there, almost tangible enough to reach out and touch it. He dreams about a relatively
minor but special moment with Aeryn (the card game), and then he wakes up to discover it is time
to go kill charrids. Looking back, I know why it works so well. I was feeling my way through it
when it was being written.
The only other thing I'll mention about this story that is a little unusual is the shift not only in
POV, but also in tense that occurs between Parts 3 and 4. I go from John's point of view and
present tense, to Aeryn's view and past tense. The POV shift doesn't bother me. I fought the
change in tense for a very long time. It did not seem "right" to me. The story insisted, however,
and I eventually gave in. It was simply refusing to be written in present tense once they got back
Over time, I've decided I like the change. I might be making excuses for what I consider lazy
technique, but we go from watching John, who is living moment to moment, very much in the
present, agonizing over the past and certain that he doesn't have much of a future, to Aeryn, who
is "chronologically intact". The moment John sets foot on Moya, his past is restored to him, and
he has to start thinking about the future again. The verb tense seems to work well with that
As for that long shower scene that I had been aching to write for a couple of years, that got away
from me completely. I had intended to tack on a one-part 'Addendum', starting in the shower and
winding up with John and Aeryn in bed together. Then I hit about 15 pages, and cut it into a
two-part Addendum. Then the page count reached the mid-20's, the soap suds had only just
begun to slop onto the shower floor, the Addendum was headed into the 3- or 4-part range, and
I didn't even have them in bed together yet!! So at that point, I hacked the entire thing off of the
end of the The Changeling, deleted the replies I had saved to post it at Terra Firma, and
christened it a story in its own right.
Which means that it is time for another wingnut.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *