Author Topic: When you are writing  (Read 1795 times)

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Offline shester

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When you are writing
« on: April 11, 2009, 05:12:31 PM »
about an injury or sickness that one of the characters is experiencing how much research do you do?   I was reading COTN (I can't help it I just love this story) and when they decided to take John to Delvia he looked at Aeryn and his eyes were purple where he had hemorrhaged.  Do you do a lot of research about the body and what it can and can't take?  John was so damaged and I wondered how you even thought of half the stuff that was wrong with him.

Sybil



Earth.  Terra Firma.  Seems forever it's filled my thoughts, been my goal.  And now...I'm here.
John Crichton-Terra Firma

Offline KernilCrash

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Re: When you are writing
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2009, 08:40:20 PM »
Look out!!! Loooonnnnnnngggggg answer!!!  :laugh:

It kind of depends on the injury and the situation.  For CoTN, I wound up doing research twice ... both times AFTER I'd written something.  I sort of go with my instincts initially, concentrating more on pace and drama than accuracy, and then in the editing stage, I start thinking things through.  Obviously there's a drawback to this, which is discovering that you've totally screwed up the science (or physiology) and being forced to rewrite miles of a story.  :tantrum: 

The first of two things I wound up researching for CoTN were exactly how synapses and neurons and the human nervous system operates because I wanted a better grasp on what the torture might have done to him physiologically and what sort of rehabilitation might be necessary.  Pretty much the only time that particular bit of research actually shows up in a really explicit fashion is in Chapter 9.  "Daaren, the healer who specialized in physical maladies, had been summoned repeatedly to address problems affecting John’s electrochemical and neurotransmitter levels, overseeing a non-stop effort to maintain some sort of balance as his body struggled to adjust to the reawakening impulses."  I wouldn't have known to use the words electrochemical and neurotransmitter if I hadn't been rummaging around on the internet.

The other place I got some help was when John get injected with drexim.  I had already written that section, basing his physical response on something that happened to me when I had a severe reaction to some medication, and was lucky enough to get it right on the first try.  I didn't have to rewrite anything.  :veryhappy: 

The hemorrhaging in his eyes came from knowing just a little about competitive weight lifting.  I know that those guys will often pop a blood vessel in their eyes when they're straining.  I figured if John had been tortured that badly that the same thing might have happened to him only worse.   

Overall, I tend to draw on two things. 

First, I've managed to bang myself up quite a bit over the years.  So I often take what was a far less serious injury, and then imagine what it might be like if it were 100 times worse ... or just take it to an extreme.  I've got plenty of personal experience to draw on.  ;) 

For instance:  When I was in my teens, I got hit in the head VERY hard, and my memory was a bit squirrelly for a while.  I knew what I was doing from moment to moment (reasoning and cognition were okay), but my brain wasn't forming new memories so I couldn't remember something that happened five minutes earlier.  Then I'd be okay for a short while, then lose things again.  I didn't remember getting hit, so I had no idea why I was so screwed up and confused.  I finally went into sort of an emotional meltdown, but because of the memory problem, I didn't know why I was so upset.  I think you can hear a lot of what I wrote about recovering John right there.  My situation only lasted a couple of hours, and the disorientation was downright nightmarish.  Expand the injury so that the recovery lasts for weeks or months, and the frustration and emotional volatility is probably going to be right off the scale. 

The second thing I draw on is stuff that I've read.  I read a LOT, and not just fiction.  So I simply start pulling from that trash heap of information that I've dumped inside my skull.  ;) 

What I love about writing science fiction though, is that I'm not stuck with human science.  CoTN is a perfect example.  I used an alien device to mess John up, so I wasn't restricted to keeping things 100% accurate, and then I got to use alien skills to heal him.  It's like legalized cheating.  :laugh: 

The science that I totally screwed up was in Foot Falls.  When I wrote the first draft, I wanted it so that Aeryn didn't have to worry about her or the boys catching the disease.  I figured that was just one thing too many for her to worry about, and it was something I didn't want to have to address in the story because I felt that it detracted from her primary concern for John.  I didn't want the distraction; I wanted Aeryn focused on John almost to the exclusion of everything else.  So initially, I had it so that she was immune, and that the boys had picked up the immunity from her.  That's entirely feasible, and it works out just fine scientifically.  The only problem is that if she's immune, then her body is likely to contain what Rygel's researchers need to stop the dermifolica and cure John.  They wouldn't need Scorpius' blood, and they wouldn't need to cut a deal with Braca.  My betareader and I went around in circles a couple of times, hoping we could find a way to have our cake and eat it too.  In the end, I had to slash out several chunks of the story and repair it as best I could. 

Sometimes I'm just taking a stab in the dark.  Birthright was like that.  While I'd read a fair amount about Alzheimer's, I'd never seen first hand what it does to a person.  I did my best to keep things accurate, but I was more concerned with getting the story written than making sure I had the symptoms 100% correct.  Basically, I didn't care if my depiction was a little off.  Since then, I have become close to two families who are in the process of losing someone to Alzheimers, and I have seen the devastation and indignity of that disease first hand.  I am fairly sure that I never could have written Birthright if I had truly known what I was talking about.   :'(  That was a terrible thing to do to John!!!  :weeping:

« Last Edit: April 11, 2009, 08:43:53 PM by KernilCrash »
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Offline shester

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Re: When you are writing
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2009, 12:44:13 AM »
I love long answers. ;D  Sorry it took so long for me to get back to this.

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The first of two things I wound up researching for CoTN were exactly how synapses and neurons and the human nervous system operates because I wanted a better grasp on what the torture might have done to him physiologically and what sort of rehabilitation might be necessary.  Pretty much the only time that particular bit of research actually shows up in a really explicit fashion is in Chapter 9.  "Daaren, the healer who specialized in physical maladies, had been summoned repeatedly to address problems affecting John’s electrochemical and neurotransmitter levels, overseeing a non-stop effort to maintain some sort of balance as his body struggled to adjust to the reawakening impulses."  I wouldn't have known to use the words electrochemical and neurotransmitter if I hadn't been rummaging around on the internet.

That was one of the things I was wondering about.   That was sooo brutal and I don't know a lot about that kind of "injury" and what kind of torture could cause that to happen.  Well, of course, in Science fiction you can make it happen.   What made you think to use the same machine the Scarrans used in WGFA?  Since it didn't really torture him like you had it do in CoTN?  Obviously the Scarren thought Kelvo 10 killed him and we know Scorpy did that just to fool the Scarran but it wasn't as brutal.  So what made you want to use that machine to up the "ante" and let it devastate John's body?

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First, I've managed to bang myself up quite a bit over the years.  So I often take what was a far less serious injury, and then imagine what it might be like if it were 100 times worse ... or just take it to an extreme.  I've got plenty of personal experience to draw on.  ;)

For instance:  When I was in my teens, I got hit in the head VERY hard, and my memory was a bit squirrelly for a while.  I knew what I was doing from moment to moment (reasoning and cognition were okay), but my brain wasn't forming new memories so I couldn't remember something that happened five minutes earlier.  Then I'd be okay for a short while, then lose things again.  I didn't remember getting hit, so I had no idea why I was so screwed up and confused.  I finally went into sort of an emotional meltdown, but because of the memory problem, I didn't know why I was so upset.  I think you can hear a lot of what I wrote about recovering John right there.  My situation only lasted a couple of hours, and the disorientation was downright nightmarish.  Expand the injury so that the recovery lasts for weeks or months, and the frustration and emotional volatility is probably going to be right off the scale.

So that is why you had John have a hard time remembering things?  I liked that and I love what you had Rygel tell them when John was going berserk and tearing things up in the maintenance bay. Rygel is a lot smarter than he seems and he has a great grasp of what motivates people.  Gotta love Rygel.

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The second thing I draw on is stuff that I've read.  I read a LOT, and not just fiction.  So I simply start pulling from that trash heap of information that I've dumped inside my skull.  ;)

What I love about writing science fiction though, is that I'm not stuck with human science.  CoTN is a perfect example.  I used an alien device to mess John up, so I wasn't restricted to keeping things 100% accurate, and then I got to use alien skills to heal him.  It's like legalized cheating.  laugh

But wouldn't you have to be pretty realistic when it came to "human" injuries?  Although John had some crazy things happen to him in Farscape that couldn't happen in "real life".  So maybe not.  I guess that is the fun of writing science fiction.  To be able to put them through impossible things and get by with it.

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The science that I totally screwed up was in Foot Falls.  When I wrote the first draft, I wanted it so that Aeryn didn't have to worry about her or the boys catching the disease.  I figured that was just one thing too many for her to worry about, and it was something I didn't want to have to address in the story because I felt that it detracted from her primary concern for John.  I didn't want the distraction; I wanted Aeryn focused on John almost to the exclusion of everything else.  So initially, I had it so that she was immune, and that the boys had picked up the immunity from her.  That's entirely feasible, and it works out just fine scientifically.  The only problem is that if she's immune, then her body is likely to contain what Rygel's researchers need to stop the dermifolica and cure John.  They wouldn't need Scorpius' blood, and they wouldn't need to cut a deal with Braca.  My betareader and I went around in circles a couple of times, hoping we could find a way to have our cake and eat it too.  In the end, I had to slash out several chunks of the story and repair it as best I could.

Does that ruin the story for you just a bit when you can't have it the way you planned?  When you read it after changing things were you as happy with it?

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Sometimes I'm just taking a stab in the dark.  Birthright was like that.  While I'd read a fair amount about Alzheimer's, I'd never seen first hand what it does to a person.  I did my best to keep things accurate, but I was more concerned with getting the story written than making sure I had the symptoms 100% correct.  Basically, I didn't care if my depiction was a little off.  Since then, I have become close to two families who are in the process of losing someone to Alzheimers, and I have seen the devastation and indignity of that disease first hand.  I am fairly sure that I never could have written Birthright if I had truly known what I was talking about.   :'(  That was a terrible thing to do to John!!!  weeping

I have known people who have had Alzheimers and it is a devastating disease.   Birthright is a good story and it tells of the devastation of the disease.  My heart broke for everyone who had to watch John go through this.  I loved that he got a longer life when he was cured. 


Hope some of this makes sense.  I have been up almost 24 hours and I don't feel the least bit tired.   :rolleyes:


Sybil




Earth.  Terra Firma.  Seems forever it's filled my thoughts, been my goal.  And now...I'm here.
John Crichton-Terra Firma

Offline KernilCrash

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Re: When you are writing
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2009, 09:05:11 AM »
I love long answers. ;D  Sorry it took so long for me to get back to this.

No worries.  I'm not always 'punctual' with replies, and responses are never mandatory.  ;)

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That was one of the things I was wondering about.   That was sooo brutal and I don't know a lot about that kind of "injury" and what kind of torture could cause that to happen.  Well, of course, in Science fiction you can make it happen.   What made you think to use the same machine the Scarrans used in WGFA?  Since it didn't really torture him like you had it do in CoTN?  Obviously the Scarren thought Kelvo 10 killed him and we know Scorpy did that just to fool the Scarran but it wasn't as brutal.  So what made you want to use that machine to up the "ante" and let it devastate John's body?

First of all, it's not the same machine.  ;)  They try the mental one and it doesn't work.  John beats the machine this time, which I love envisioning -- him taking each of their mental tricks and turning it around on them.  It had actually been a lot of fun through the first stages.  He was starving now, but he could clearly remember the taste of the pizza and beer.  They had used Aeryn again, and he had taken enormous liberties with that little delusion and gotten something far better than a meal out of it.  He lay on the floor where he had collapsed and smiled at the implanted memory.  That's when they resort to something far more brutal.

The problem with me attempting to explain why I made these choices is that there are often no choices involved during the process of dreaming up the story.  The whole thing can, under certain circumstances, be a great deal more fluid than conscious choices.

When I first began dreaming up CoTN, I had two scenarios inside my head that I wanted to play with and write:  I wanted to do the mind-melds with the other members of the crew, and I wanted to do the sex-in-Unity scene.  That's really all I had in terms of a 'goal'.  What came next was a vague sort of process of considering how to get John into a catatonic state.  I really did NOT want to torture him.  I considered head injuries, poisoning, some sort of telepathic interference, and anything else I could dream up, and when I plugged them into the bare bones of my story, every single alternative felt ... blah.  Drama and "cost" was missing.  By cost, I mean what is at stake for the characters.  I decided that if John's very existence was at risk -- and by that I mean Aeryn getting John back -- that the drama would be maximized.  At that point I sat down and started writing, and kind of let the story go where it led me. 

The point I'm having trouble making here is that the torture had to be SO bad that even after accounting for the physiological damage John would make the decision to withdraw completely.  I couldn't see any other way to have him fairly lucid while in the mental meetings with Aeryn and the rest of the crew and yet basically catatonic.  I had to come up with his 'peaceful dreaming place', and brutalizing him was the only thing that seemed to work.

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So that is why you had John have a hard time remembering things?
 

Again, there wasn't a strong sense of purpose behind it.  It just sort of made sense and 'happened'.  Imagine what the story would have been like if they had gotten John to the Delvians, they had gone through that group 'Meeting' where everyone finds out what was done to John, he emerges from the catatonia, and *ping* he's all well again.  What an abrupt, anticlimatic end to the story.  Half of what works about CoTN is that rehabilitation process and the question of whether he's ever going to make it all the way back, and whether he'll ever be John Crichton again.  To provide that tension, I had to damage him both on a psychological and on a physiological level.  Thus, the brain injury, and the problems with his memory.  I pulled from my own experience because I knew how frustrating and upsetting it can be to not know what's going on, and then tried to imagine what it would be like to have to cope with that long term.  The rest just appeared on the page as I went along.  ;)

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I liked that and I love what you had Rygel tell them when John was going berserk and tearing things up in the maintenance bay. Rygel is a lot smarter than he seems and he has a great grasp of what motivates people.
 

I adore Rygel.  I think he's one of the most under-appreciated and misunderstood characters on the show.  In one episode, he says something about how he has made every correct decision that the group has made ... and to a certain extent, he's right.  He's selfish and has made some incredibly self-serving decisions, but he understands power, negotiating, and what motivates people.  As for John tearing up the maintenance bay, that was to a certain extent an exercise in blowing off an excess of self-restraint.  I'd been writing him so dependent and trusting for so long, I was in the mood for some illogical, explosive behavior.  :laugh:  And it fits because -- as the Delvians said -- as he began to sense who he should have been, his frustration would become extreme. 

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But wouldn't you have to be pretty realistic when it came to "human" injuries?  Although John had some crazy things happen to him in Farscape that couldn't happen in "real life".  So maybe not.  I guess that is the fun of writing science fiction.  To be able to put them through impossible things and get by with it.

I think you've already answered it, but to expand a little ... What I don't have to be realistic about is how the injuries are inflicted, and whether they can be cured or overcome.  I cured Alzheimer's in Birthright.  ;)  Jack even says it.  If John were on Earth, it would be incurable.  Same thing with the brain injury.  We don't have the technology to restore that kind of extensive breakdown in the synapses.  But the Delvians can do it.  ;D 

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Does that ruin the story for you just a bit when you can't have it the way you planned?  When you read it after changing things were you as happy with it?

It doesn't ruin it.  :disagree:  I normally throw a temper tantrum in private when I realize I screwed it up, but I'd much rather rewrite it and have that portion of the science right (even if I use alien-science to fix it) than to leave it wrong.  In Foot Falls, Aeryn's concern over the boys just cranks up her anxiety and exhaustion one extra level, and in the end serves the story better.  I hadn't finished writing the story when I realized the science was wrong, so I didn't know how it was going to FEEL at that point.  I go back and read it now, and it feels like I don't breathe through the entire story.  What I was trying to avoid (one more worry for Aeryn) belonged in the story after all.

There is only one "patch" or flaw in a story that I can come up with off the top of my head that I wish I could have handled differently.  In The Changeling, I honestly believe that there isn't any way in the universe that John and Aeryn would have taken the baby with them to the planet.  One of my betareaders brought that up, and was extremely adamant that they shouldn't take him with them, and she was absolutely right.  The problem I hit was that if D'Argo/DJ/Deke was safely on board Moya, John would have put all his energy into finding a way off the planet, and the real story -- which was about what it would take to turn John Crichton into a cold-blooded, willing killer -- went right out the window.  So I patched the flaw the best that I could, and chose to live with it. 

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I have known people who have had Alzheimers and it is a devastating disease.   Birthright is a good story and it tells of the devastation of the disease.  My heart broke for everyone who had to watch John go through this.  I loved that he got a longer life when he was cured.
 

Birthright was a weird story for me to write because it's a Jack story, and I generally don't like those.  It was bizarre to have that one come to life all of a sudden inside my brain.  :laugh:  That's another story that grew out of the collision of two separate story ideas:  the one I mentioned before (John coming down with a fatal Earth illness) plus a very strong visual image of John, Aeryn, and their son walking off into the night, dusters blowing a little in the autumn wind and the sound of their feet in the leaves.  I wrote that right after we learned about the cancellation, so my mind was very much on what John says to Jack at the end of Part 5 (the original end of the story ... before I added Part 5-3/4):  John pointed into the night sky.  “Look up.  We’ll always be there.  Even if you can’t see us, we’ll be there.”    I wanted them to always be out there, amongst the stars.  I still believe they are there, and probably always will. 

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Hope some of this makes sense.
 

It all made sense.  I hope I made some sense.  :laugh:

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I have been up almost 24 hours and I don't feel the least bit tired.
  

:yikes:  Ummmm ... why?  ((((((((Sybil))))))))

I hope you've gotten some sleep by now.

:seeya:

« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 09:07:17 AM by KernilCrash »
Happiness is not a destination.  It is a method of life. -- Burton Hills
Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain. -- Vivian Greene

Offline Nette

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Re: When you are writing
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2009, 06:23:37 AM »
Just a quick drive by and I come across this wonderful conversation.  I haven't checked in for awhile   :(  sorry!!  I will try and stop by more often.

I love all your writing explanations, they always add to the already fantastic story.

Thank you Sybil for asking Crash these interesting questions and thank you Crash for letting us inside your head   ;)


Nette

Offline Iscascaper

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Re: When you are writing
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2009, 11:22:13 AM »
Wow - fascinating insight, Crash.  Thanks also to Shester for asking such an interesting question.  Funnily enough, I have just been reading COTN!  I'm just coming to the end (one of the most "interesting" bits of the story!).

Actually, I was also wondering if you (Crash) were going to add some more Wingnuts to COTN? 

Did you do some research into the psychological results of torture (such as the nightmares (mind you, I suppose that would be a given, anyway) and the not wanting to be touched)?  I know Patrick Stewart did some research with (I think) Amnesty International about the results of torture on the mind for the two-part story "Chain of Command" in ST:TNG.

One thing I would love to know - what were D'Argo and John arguing about as they were joining Aeryn at the transport pod for their trip down to the planet for some R&R?  Had D'Argo had to resort to getting John into an argument in order for him to get over his fear of going planet-side again after his last experience?

Thanks, in advance
Isca.

Offline KernilCrash

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Re: When you are writing
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2009, 05:31:06 PM »
Wow - fascinating insight, Crash.  Thanks also to Shester for asking such an interesting question. 

I love Sybil's questions.  They make me step back and think about how I put a story together, and spend some time assessing what did or didn't work.  It often provides me with insights I didn't have before I tried to answer.  I regret that too many of the answers ultimately come down to "I made it up" ... but that's fiction!!  :laugh:

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Actually, I was also wondering if you (Crash) were going to add some more Wingnuts to COTN? 


I hadn't planned on it, but I would not rule it out.  I'll add wingnuts as I think of something that I believe will be interesting to the reader.  As it stands right now, I'm a little short on anything insightful about the rest of CoTN. 

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Did you do some research into the psychological results of torture (such as the nightmares (mind you, I suppose that would be a given, anyway) and the not wanting to be touched)?  I know Patrick Stewart did some research with (I think) Amnesty International about the results of torture on the mind for the two-part story "Chain of Command" in ST:TNG.

No, I didn't.  I've read some stuff on it, and I've learned a bit about the symptoms of any kind of physical trauma, but it was mostly just making it up as I went along. 

The one subject I have done some reading and research on are the reactions that men have to being raped, and I did that because I got it a bit wrong when I wrote Cholak's Demon.  Someone who read it had experience working as a rape crisis counselor for men, and he explained how a man's reaction will be different from a woman's.  There are certain similarities revolving around the concept of being violated, of course, and every person is going to react differently, but there are certain differences between men and women.  I was annoyed at myself for getting it wrong, and went in search of information. 

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One thing I would love to know - what were D'Argo and John arguing about as they were joining Aeryn at the transport pod for their trip down to the planet for some R&R?  Had D'Argo had to resort to getting John into an argument in order for him to get over his fear of going planet-side again after his last experience?

I never had anything particular in mind.  :disagree:  Despite Aeryn's concerns, I envisioned it NOT having anything to do with going to the planet.  It was just John and D'Argo in one of their typical bickerfests, arguing over absolutely nothing.  Probably who made the other person late getting to the hangar bay, and both of them accusing the other person.  ;)  That's what Aeryn realizes once he gets to the hangar bay.  Although I didn't state it explicitly, she's happy that it's one of their inane squabbles and not anything having to do with a relapse.

They both started accusing each other at the same time, a tangle of voices backed up by aggressive postures and more wild gestures from both of them.  She watched John’s energetic movements, the enthusiastic participation in the pointless squabble and saw all the strength and confidence that had been missing for so long.  He turned toward her, leaving D’Argo still bellowing his point of view, and came toward where she waited at the bottom of the steps.  “What are you looking so happy about?” he asked.

She took two steps up and turned to look down at him.  “You.” 


:seeya:
Happiness is not a destination.  It is a method of life. -- Burton Hills
Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain. -- Vivian Greene

Offline Iscascaper

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Re: When you are writing
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2009, 07:17:31 AM »
Thanks for the reply, Crash.

Now I'm just sitting on the edge of my seat waiting (impatiently) for your next story!

Isca.