Caleb Nova Presents His Own, Special READERĖDESTROYING AUTHORíS NOTE
Ah, welcome. Pull up a chair, though I imagine youíre already sitting in one. If not, I might wonder how you use your computer. I myself am lying on my bed with a laptop resting on my considerable girth.
In a few hours, the rest of the family will awaken and vacate the house, leaving me free to make nachos for breakfast. But before that happens, let us sit and chat, you and I. It will be a very one-sided conversation, I fear, at least until I can reply to the MANY REVIEWS you will no doubt lavish upon me.
Before we begin, you must understand that this will be the longest authorís note youíve ever seen. And if not, then I have to ask what in the good goddamn hell have you been reading? I will expound at vast length on all aspects of this story. I will examine my writing in detail, display bits and bobs that were cut or simply never included, and make you severely disappointed in me when you realize just how shoddy of an enterprise this whole thing was.
The disappointment is easy enough to address, however ó LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. I wonít rise to meet them, so you should lower them. I think that makes sense.
If you found nothing of interest in any of my previous authorís notes (and I imagine that would be most, if not all, of you) then I suggest you cease reading at this point. We are going off the map, abandoning plot and character and all semblance of good taste. Here be dragons, my friends. Large, horny dragons that will have sex with you before you can even think about running away. And if that makes absolutely no sense at all, then get used to it. I have no idea what Iím doing, and I never have.
I began forming the ideas for this story in, oh, Iím going to guess the summer of Ď06. That could be entirely wrong, but youíll never know the difference.
I had finished up my previous story, a romantic/horror/comedy called Tenebrae. I was flush with success: Tenebrae had the highest length to review ratio Iíd ever achieved. I had managed to beat the crowd and write a defining story for the chosen pairing. I was the king of a very small, ultra-specific mountain.
Iím a writer, though, if not a good one. I have to write. So about the time I wrapped up Tenebrae I found myself window shopping for my next idea.
Now, I switch fandoms frequently. Too frequently, in fact, to stay inspired for long. For quite some time now Iíve been in the position of writing Harry Potter fanfiction but not actually reading any. But that summer, I had been going through the HP novels again. I went though some fanfiction as well and found a fair amount to my liking.
What struck me the most about Harry Potter fanfiction, however, was not so much the quality of the writing (it was generally high, as befitting a more adult fanbase, though not as dependable as the X-Files had been) as it was the number of reviews. I remember clicking through pages over at fanfiction dot net and doing a double take at a couple stories with 5000+ reviews. Five thousand! INSANITY.
For a guy with something around two hundred reviews on his largest story to date, that was temptation in its purest form.
So I did some thinking. I knew a lot of those stories with massive review counts were essentially what Tenebrae had been: fanservice. They appealed to the lowest common denominator and gave people what they wanted. Given the proper motivation (and those reviews were motivation indeed), I thought I could probably set my artistic suicidal inclinations aside and tap right into that well of reviews.
I considered one-shots, maybe a few chapters at most. Harry and Ginny romance, straight up, no frills. Sex, maybe (definitely). They love each other and they donít know it, a comedy of errors, misunderstandings and missed opportunities, jealousy, and then the big climactic get together and hot sex. Review bait, in every sense of the word. Like literary candy.
But I knew I had a snag. A one-chapter story wouldnít get the reviews I craved. Large review numbers require a base of readers, chiming in over a long period of time. I had to have a multi-chapter story. I had to make something big enough to be filling, even if it was pure sugar shit.
And there was the crux. Harry Potter couldnít keep my attention that long, and I knew it. Iíd run out of steam halfway through, maybe even a third of the way through, and my grand HP epic would join the ranks of the other stuff I started, or even posted, and then never finished.
I had to have a hook. Not for the readers, but for me.
I knew what I needed to do. The problem was that in order to keep myself involved with my story, I had to un-involve everyone else. Somewhere along the way, I became resigned to shooting myself in the literary foot.
I toyed with the idea of starting with the beginning, book one. But I quickly decided that was more than I wanted to deal with. It was a bit of a toss up between books five and six, but I chose the most recent one. I printed out a bunch of chapter outlines from the HP Lexicon and starting scribbling on them, crossing out things and adding tons of illegible notes. Predictably, much of what I ended up writing diverged considerably, but they helped me get started.
Scott had made a brief appearance in my story On Earth As It Is In Hell, but not in any solid capacity. He was just an idea, ghosting about the edges. Before that, I hadnít really given much thought to using him or the very limited place that was his original world.
The story I ended up writing confounded many expectations, my own included. It was decompressed fanfic, sprawling and meandering and more concerned with character than forward momentum (ironic, considering the title). In that sense, it mirrored its source material. Book six is a good read, but itís not exactly the most focused of the novels. As I was making my way through it, I came to realize that there actually isnít a whole lot happening most of the time.
Many reviewers have commented how little TTM diverges from book six. Believe it or not, that was intentional. Iím sure youíve noticed how often this story disappoints when it comes to expectations. Very, very few predictions made by readers ended up being correct. What you guys seem to think will change doesnít, and what seems constant is altered.
Basically, Iíve written a story about an American exchange student who isnít an American or an exchange student. Itís an alternate book six where the details shift, not the overarching plot. My all-powerful OC has abilities of limited usefulness and no grasp of magic. And the story never belongs to one person alone.
Itís not an easy fic. Itís long, itís equally full of exposition and unanswered questions, and original characters share the page with the canon cast.
Essentially, Iím amazed you guys are still here.
Introducing Scott as a transfer student was a necessary evil, one that was increasingly downplayed in further rewrites. It was the most elegant solution to his problem of integration. It also sets off alarm bells for any experienced fanfiction reader. Between that and the sketchy information Scott was privy to, mostly concerning the Prophecy, I knew that it was deadly to bring it all up in the first chapter. No one was going to read my story.
But I had to. I felt it was the right thing to do. As a reader, you should know what youíre getting into. Nobody should get fifteen chapters into my story and then I suddenly introduce Scott. If you were in for this ride, you knew how it was going down. Right onward from the second chapter where it becomes clear that Scott is not a transfer student and this story is not what it appears to be.
By the time Lila gets chapter six all to herself, I think you guys were either in or out. Most people were out. So it canít be overstated how grateful I am to those of you who stayed in.
Some quick thoughts on character, in no particular order:
Now I shall endeavour to bore you beyond all reason by going over each chapter in minor detail.
ĖNothing Important Happened TodayĖ
This chapter was originally chapter three, but after I cut out the prologues it had to stand alone as an introduction. It can be noted that the opening is very verbose, almost flowery. Iím about as descriptive as I ever get, and itís a lot of images piled on top of each other.
That opening was worked on a great deal. It had to catch peopleís attention, it had to be focused on Harry and explore a character familiar to new readers. I had to give you my best, right from page one, or not even the bravest fanfictionist would go any further.
Logistically, itís not pretty. I have to introduce Harry (as he is at that moment, anyway), introduce Scott, hint at Scottís true nature, bring Tonks in to show the Orderís interference, and then explain as much as I can with as little exposition as possible. Then Scott has to leave, which was originally much more dramatic, but Iíll cover that later when we discuss (or rather, I cut and paste and you skim through) what was removed.
It should be noted that the title for this chapter was taken from an X-Files episode, though somewhat unintentionally. I had known that was an episode but had forgotten about it by the time I started writing TTM. When it came time to name the first chapter I had that phrase stuck in my head and it seemed so perfect. At first I thought it had simply occurred to me, but it was a bit too familiar so I Googled it. Obviously, I used it anyway.
ĖShape and DivergeĖ
Shape and Diverge and Summer Night Showtime were originally all one chapter, but I decided they were better separated.
The earlier versions of this chapter were complete shit. I just couldnít get it right. Throwing Scott into Diagon Alley sounded fun but actually wasnít. He could only walk around mocking things for so long. His interactions with Borgin were much different before the rewrite, something else for later. I changed all of that because it was pretty much out of character.
The scenes at the Burrow were difficult because itís me taking a dry run at canon characterization. I have no body of experience to build on, just what I remember from the books. Consequently, I think they come across as a bit stilted, but hopefully recognizable.
Scottís interference with Malfoy was something I struggled over a bit. I thought it might be too much too soon. But from a standpoint of in-universe logic and characterization, Scott had to do something. It wouldnít make sense for him not to.
I seem to recall there was a small part where Scottís introduction to the cabin of girls that Ginny is with ended with titters and the conversation turning to him. Some reviewers couldnít stomach that, they thought it was very Mary Sue for him to be attractive to them. This was a misinterpretation of my intentions, since I wasnít thinking that they were all swooning over him, but rather that he was a new kid with an American (or so they think) accent, so of course theyíd talk about him as soon as he left. Besides, in my experience, girls of that age donít need much encouragem