Phoebe

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The arc-cycles that make up the story

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My boyfriend and frequent artistic collaborator Bernie Gabin has been instrumental in the development of much of the plotting of these stories. While not a particularly dedicated writer himself, he is incredibly talented when it comes to forming the mechanics of a logical, internally consistent plot that unfolds at the correct pace, and I often consult him on related matters. It was he that first proposed I regard, and move forward shaping, the Hawking stories as a series of what I’ll call “arc-cycles,” stories grouped off in sets of three that each develop a certain central idea.

The first arc-cycle we refer to as the Origin Cycle. Mrs. Hawking, Vivat Regina, and the upcoming third one that does not yet have a title. The point of these is to establish the team, so to speak. We learn who Mrs. Hawking, Mary, and Nathaniel are, what obstacles they’re going to face, and how they’re going to build themselves into this little unit that works together and supports one another.

The second arc-cycle is less well-formed yet, but I know for certain that it will, as any serialized storytelling form must, involve upping the stakes. We will have established with the first trilogy that our three main characters make a formidable force for justice when they are banded together. But in this arc-cycle we will challenge that—we will up the challenge level of the things they face. I want to tell the story of Mrs. Hawking’s early life, in flashback in relation to a current case, that demonstrates why she’s become what she is today. I want to introduce Mrs. Hawking’s Moriarty, who will present her with her greatest challenge yet. And I want to send her up against that quintessential Victorian baddie, Jack the Ripper, whose violence against the most downtrodden and helpless women in society make him a perfect villain for our hero’s purpose. And all this will even culminate in the smashing of the new establishment in a way that changes the characters forever.

The third arc-cycle, then, will have to be about what’s built in its place. This is where the notion of the Hawk Family will come, as Mary proposes they become an organization rather than just a few stalwarts holding back the storm. I have even less of a firm notion of these, as they’re so far down the line yet, but I know that in all drama things that do not change die, and in serial storytelling in particular things must continue to grow into new forms. Changing the nature of the game is an appropriate direction for it to go, especially since Mary’s ascendance from Mrs. Hawking’s protégé to her successor will be a major theme of this arc-cycle. And if a different person is in charge, you can bet things are going to have to work a little differently.

Beyond that, I’ve no idea. I think at least for the moment that’s more than enough stories to tell. But who knows how far we can go once we get there?

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The ballet metaphor

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Categories: base instruments, development, looking ahead, themes, Tags: , , , ,

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I’ve always been fascinated by the art of ballet. First of all, I just find it beautiful, a pure pleasure to watch. But from an intellectual standpoint I’m enthralled by the contradictions. It is viewed as a very delicate, refined art, coded feminine in most modern people’s eyes. But those who practice it at the highest levels is run like an army with just as much discipline. The dancers look frail and delicate, but they have to be unimaginably fit and strong, not to mention able to endure an enormous amount of pain. The dance is so demanding that careers tends to be very short, as many ballet dancers end up physically destroyed by the effort. The image of the broken down ballerina— whose tragedy is that she can no longer practice what she has sacrificed everything to be able to do —is one I return to again and again in my writing.

I find this could make for a perfect parallel to Mrs. Hawking. I want the next story to include a ballerina who is facing inevitable breakdown in order to use her as a metaphor for everything Mrs. Hawking fears. Her work, which involves so much physical punishment, will eventually wear her body down, and age will at some point make it so she can no longer continue. The ballerina character will speak to this part of her, and cause her to ponder how she will eventually address this.

This could tie nicely into the protégé conflict, where she will be trying to mold Mary into a new version of herself. Her fear of her not being able to do her work anymore will motivate her to make Mary into someone she feels like she can trust to properly carry things on— literally, another her. We will see that things won’t exactly go her way on that score, but Mary will in time prove capable of taking up the mantle, if not exactly in the manner Mrs. Hawking initially hopes.

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Notes on Vivat Regina: plot

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Warning: spoilers contained herein for Vivat Regina.

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In addition to character arcs, it needed an over-plot to give it structure, a mission for them to go on as part of Mrs. Hawking’s work. The idea for this one sprung out of the notion I had of a recognizable figure from this part of Victorian history coming incognito to the ladies to ask for their help. This figure is embodied in Mrs. Braun, who it is clear is not using her real name. I will not say her real identity right now, because I would rather not spoil it yet, but what I wanted was for the audience to have a suspicion who this person was even if they weren’t sure. She ties in nicely to the point Mrs. Hawking makes about of the problems of the establishment, even if you don’t fully grasp what her connection to the establishment is. After the first reading, Ben Federlin confirmed for me that it was interesting to leave some ambiguity as to who she was. But Lenny Somervell said that it needed to be clear enough that even somebody without any knowledge of Victorian history would still be able to have a decent guess. Certain other aspects of the story are more compelling if you can make that connection, so I wanted it to be accessible without necessarily being too obvious.

You may have noticed that her entrance into the story bears a strong resemblance to a similar scene in the Sherlock Holmes story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A German-accented person with a noble bearing that they are to some degree trying to conceal who at first introduces themselves by a false comes in as a client to ask a delicate task of our hero. This was a very intentional echoing, down to her line of “You may address me as Mrs. Johanna Braun,” in reference to “You may address me as Count Von Kramm.” I’ve always loved that story– indeed, I once played Irene Adler onstage –and it was fun to pay it that tribute.

I’ve talked at length about why I felt the need to include the subplot with Clara, which you can read about here. I wanted to introduce her for later inclusion, and I wanted the presence of a character who was not overawed by Mrs. Hawking the way Mary and Nathaniel are, but I struggled to figure out what service she could provide to the plot to justify her presence. What I decided to go with, suggested chiefly by my friends Aaron Fischer and Lenny Somervell who were kind enough to give their always-discerning opinions, was that she could basically provide some outside perspective. Their little world of society avenging is so secretive (they can’t tell people about it for security reasons, after all) that they tend to have tunnel vision about it. When Mary is unable to see that she’s been good for Mrs. Hawking, Clara is a fairly objective observer who can let Mary know what a huge positive influence she’s been. They also suggested that her personal reason for doing it can be that, in the service of protecting her husband from Mrs. Hawking’s wrath, she means to cultivate Mary as an ally and a source of information. It will and won’t work, considering the unusual circumstances, but I think it’s a believable motivation for Clara, and the situation will also lead into the possibility of her becoming a genuine friend to Mary.

Vivat Regina and Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will be performed at 2PM and 6PM respectively at 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2017.

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Sparking a romance

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As you may have gleaned from reading Vivat Regina, I want to explore the idea of a relationship between Mary and Arthur Swann, the police officer she meets (and makes use of) in that play. All I wanted to do in that story was start a connection, but that meant I had to take care to get it off on the right foot.

I like the idea that romances begin because of something special that two people see in each other. Mary of course demonstrates she is brave and tough and quick-witted in a way Arthur didn’t expect, but Arthur shows he finds the fact that Mary saved him intriguing. He is not threatened by Mary’s capability, but impressed by and delighted with it. That immediate respect he shows makes an impression on her. Moreover, he’s not without wit and charm himself. These things altogether spark something that ultimately turns to romance.

I had Mary save Arthur to deliberately turn that damsel in distress trope on its head. Also I wanted to contrast it with the first meeting of Victoria and Reginald as the Colonel describes it in “Like a Loss.” Both men are impressed by the women’s display of courage and independence. But while Arthur wants to encourage and enable her to take her own action, Reginald’s impulse is to cocoon her protectively so that she doesn’t ever have to be brave or fierce or stand up for herself again. Arthur wants to nurture Mary’s strength, while Reginald wanted to neutralize it in Victoria. This makes for an interesting way to explore the effects of feminism, or the lack thereof, in our characters’ lives.

I haven’t figured out the whole trajectory of Mary and Arthur’s relationship, but I think it’s off to an interesting start. Especially in contrast to Mrs. Hawking and the Colonel.

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Notes on Vivat Regina: character arcs

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Warning: spoilers contained herein for the new script “Vivat Regina.”

I’ve talked a fair bit in this space about my intentions for the character arcs in this piece– chiefly, that I wanted Mrs. Hawking to decide that she will make Mary her protege, and that Nathaniel is going to come into his own way of being of help to our heroes.

Originally I thought I would tackle much more of the protege storyline in this second piece. I thought we’d cover how Mrs. Hawking would make Mary her protege, her trying to mold Mary into another version of herself, and finally Mary’s pushback against the idea when she realized she wanted to follow Mrs. Hawking under her own terms. This storyline is to be the meat of the first arc-cycle in the story. In the very earliest experimental drafting done back during 31 Plays in 31 Days of August ’13, the declaration of her being designated protege was to happen in the very second scene. But Bernie rightly pointed out that would be moving far too quickly through a story that would be more properly explored over a longer period. So it was scaled back to watch Mary feel like she was struggling and an inadequate assistant to Mrs. Hawking because of her mistress’s harsh standards and constant criticism, but to have the turning point be when Mrs. Hawking reveals that not only is she doing well, but that she’s decided Mary is worthy to be successor of all her work.

Nathaniel’s arc I figured out almost immediately. I knew I wanted him, after he learned of Mrs. Hawking’s activities and got over the initial shock, to be incredibly fascinated by her work and want to help her with it. She of course would be resistant, since she despises how much he’s like the Colonel and how she’s come to see him as an impediment to what she wants to do rather than a support. But as I’ve mentioned, Nathaniel’s challenge is to grow past the ways he’s too much like the Colonel, and this story is the beginning of his realizing it.

You’ll also note the nature of the role Nathaniel takes on once he discovers what talent he has to contribute. With his ability to go places only men can access, his enormous personal charm, and his real capacity for thinking on his feet, he basically takes on the job of faceman. I like how this not only because it really suits his character, but also how it places him in what is often a feminine role. Contrast this to the traditionally male-filled positions of the mastermind and the bruiser, who in this case are Mrs. Hawking and Mary respectively. I plan to have him take on “traditionally female” story roles in a number of ways, as I very much enjoy casting traditionally masculine men that way in my writing.

Mrs. Hawking’s arc is the most subtle of three of them. That is for the most part intentional, as one of the issues I want to set up for her in the long term is that because of her long-held anger and baggage, personal growth is difficult and very slow. So hers occurs mostly in relation to the growth of the other leads. She relaxes her harsh criticism of Mary, she lets Nathaniel be judged on his own merits. The most important character note for her in this piece is I wanted to be certain that I firmly established her as a kind of revolutionary. We knew she was immensely critical of the social order, but I don’t know how much hard evidence we saw of it in the first story. I think her indictment of the English imperial system casts it in the right light. It is always tempting when writing in a steampunk setting to let one’s fascination with the picturesque time period to gloss over the horrific implications of the imperial system. I want Mrs. Hawking to acknowledge and stand in opposition to those things in a real way. She will not work on behalf of “queen and country” because that means supporting oppression and devastation, but she will stand up for one real woman who is suffering under it. She is of course prejudiced and limited in her own ways, but she will always be opposed to the Establishment, and I wanted her to demonstrate an awareness of what that really meant.

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New Mrs. Hawking story posted: Vivat Regina

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The second installment of the Mrs. Hawking story, Vivat Regina, is now available here on the site for viewing! Click here to read it in the Scripts section.

The official synopsis:

Mary Stone is doing her best learn the trade of her mistress’s work as a covert agent for women victimized by Victorian society. Mrs. Hawking’s nephew Nathaniel, too, struggles to find what contribution he can make to his aunt’s work, and neither one seems to be serving to their mentor’s satisfaction. But when a mysterious lady under a false name comes to them with a next-to-impossible mission, Mrs. Hawking and her assistants must bring together all their varied strengths in order to see that justice is done.

A few notes on it before you read:

The original draft of Vivat Regina was written over the course of 2013, with the bulk completed in December. The revisions and most of the Clara subplot were worked in over the course of January and February 2014.

Significant input on the plot was provided by Bernie Gabin to my gratitude. I also owe a great deal to Gabrielle Geller, Ben Federlin, Aaron Fischer, Ryan Kacani, Stephanie Karol, Frances Kimpel, Samantha LeVangie, Charlotte Oswald, Eboracum Richter-Dahl, and Lenny Somervell for their reading and feedback on this script. Their input was crucial to the editing process.

It is written for seven speaking roles, four women and three men, plus a small nonspeaking ensemble. As written, it is possible to double-cast Clara and Mrs. Braun. It is possible to swap the gender of Herr Gerhard, in which case it could be doubled with Mrs. Braun but not Clara.

It takes place about nine months or so after the events of Mrs. Hawking, in the summer of 1881.

All related posts on the topic of Vivat Regina can be found in this category.

I hope you enjoy it. All comments, questions, and responses to the piece are very welcome.

Read the new script Vivat Regina here.

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The talent for finding talent

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Categories: character, development, looking ahead, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

 

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One of the most central parts of the relationship between Mary and Mrs. Hawking is that they are better with each other. They can be and do things as a team that they never could before. While Mary’s major contribution is that she humanizes and challenges Mrs. Hawking, I always wanted her to add something of practical value to her mentor’s operations. So Mary’s unique skill set had to bring Mrs. Hawking’s work onto another level, as her protege, and the one who will carry on her work in the future.

She is never going to be as omni-competent as her mentor is, but she has things Mrs. Hawking never will. It’s Mary’s gift that if she cannot accomplish something herself, she can find the right person who can. She is an excellent judge of character, and she has a commanding, magnetic personality. She draws decent, competent people to her, and not only can she identify their strengths, she can convince them to make use of those strengths to good effect. We begin to see this clearly in Vivat Regina. She begins by encouraging Nathaniel to find his niche, and will make use of him once his specific talents become clear. She continues with Arthur Swann, a policeman whose bacon she saves before it occurs to her what value she might have of his acquaintance as well.

It’s actually a quality, or a variation thereof, I enjoy conferring on my young, up-and-coming heroes. When they are faced with opposition from other characters, it is a sign of their intrinsic personal value and powers that they convert those characters to their side and cause. Their way is not to destroy her enemies, but to turn them into allies and friends, which ultimately makes them stronger. People respond to them with, “I don’t know what else I might believe in… but I believe in you.” This is a trait I’ve also given to Tom Barrows, the protagonist of my screenplay The Tailor at Loring’s End, and to Josie Jenkins, the lead of the musical Puzzle House Blues.

You see, I want Mary’s destiny will ultimately be to form what I’m calling behind the scenes “the Hawk Family,” a team of society avengers that can take on even more and greater challenges than just the few of them could. This ability of hers, to seek out capable individuals and band them into an organization that makes the best use of their talents, will be what transforms Mrs. Hawking’s work into an even great force for good. That’s something Mrs. Hawking could never have done on without Mary.

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“Prowl After the Help” — scribbling on a future inclusion of Justin

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This scene, set sometime in the future of the Mrs. Hawking continuity, is between Nathaniel and his elder brother Justin, who’s a world traveler and a bit of a rake. I wanted to write a conversation between the two of them, and I settled on a theoretical moment where Justin is in London and has been starting to hit on Mary, which Nathaniel, knowing his brother, doesn’t approve of.

I wanted to show the brothers’ relationship as well as possible raise large plot-relevant issues, which I think I succeeded with. The one thing I struggled to accomplish was I want it to subtly reveal some of the classism in Nathaniel that he hasn’t confronted yet– that he may think of himself as high-minded, but that he considers attraction to a lower-class person to be vulgar for a gentleman –and I’m not sure I executed with sufficient clarity and understatement. It was too easy to gloss over “I’m not attracted to people beneath my class” with “I don’t sexually harass people at work” and “I’m married and so not paying much attention to any outside people romantically.”

But I think I did a good job characterizing Justin. He tweaks Nathaniel, who’s way more of a goody-goody, which is fun. And I love writing the relationship between them as brothers. “Frasier” is one of my all-time favorite shows, and the way they depict the brothers and their relationship really is the best part.

~~~

NATHANIEL: Just what do you think you’re doing?

JUSTIN: Why, making friends.

NATHANIEL: Bollocks.

JUSTIN: Such language!

NATHANIEL: Don’t play the innocent with me. I see how you’re prowling around Mary.

JUSTIN: You said she’s a lovely girl, I wanted to make her acquaintance for myself.

NATHANIEL: I know what you want with lovely girls.

JUSTIN: Well, can you blame me?

NATHANIEL: Stay away from her.

JUSTIN: Why ever should I?

NATHANIEL: She’s a sweet and decent girl. She doesn’t deserve to be led on by the likes of you.

JUSTIN: Led on!

NATHANIEL: I’ll not have you telling her pretty lies just so you can…

JUSTIN: So I can what, brother?

NATHANIEL: Get your own way. Whatever that is.

JUSTIN: Ha! Who’s playing the innocent now?

NATHANIEL: Don’t be vulgar.

JUSTIN: Ha! I should think you’d know me by now, old boy.

NATHANIEL: And you call yourself a gentleman. I mean, really, Auntie’s maid?

JUSTIN: What’s the harm? It’s not like she has some grand society reputation to protect. Unless you think Aunt Victoria would be cross?

NATHANIEL: No! Well, perhaps, but–

JUSTIN: Well, I’m quite used to weathering Auntie’s wrath. What, do you think she’d dismiss the girl over it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t think so– but that’s not the point.

JUSTIN: Aunt Victoria doesn’t have to know.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing to do with Aunt Victoria, for heaven’s sake!

JUSTIN: Then what’s it to you? Unless you fancy her.

NATHANIEL: Justin!

JUSTIN: Shame on you, you’re a married man.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t that! How dare you?

JUSTIN: It’s just as well. Wouldn’t have thought you had it in you.

NATHANIEL: Of course not.

JUSTIN: She is lovely girl, though, isn’t she?

NATHANIEL: She is.

JUSTIN: And you were the one that brought her here. Are you telling me you’ve never noticed her?

NATHANIEL: I don’t prowl after the help.

JUSTIN: I’d forgotten, you’re far too lofty to spare a glance to a creature of lower classes. I confess, though, I’d rather begun to wonder.

NATHANIEL: About what!?

JUSTIN: About why you spend so much time around Auntie’s maid. The fine old boy hasn’t descended to the level of the rest of us, has he? Started to envy all the fun I have while you’re bound up in the monotony of married life?

NATHANIEL: Yes, that’s it exactly, Justin, I’ve installed my working class mistress in my aunt’s own house because I wanted to be just like my dear big brother. Mary and I, we’ve… rather made friends, is all.

JUSTIN: Friends.

NATHANIEL: Yes! Is that so unheard of?

JUSTIN: I’d say so.

NATHANIEL: There’s no harm in it.

JUSTIN: Still, it’s very odd. Just out of curiosity, what does Clara think?

NATHANIEL: Of what?

JUSTIN: Of your most harmless friendship.

NATHANIEL: Well… I don’t suppose she knows much of it.

JUSTIN: You mean you’ve kept it from her? I thought she led you so around by the nose you had no secrets!

NATHANIEL: I don’t! Not really! It’s only that I haven’t… brought it up as yet.

JUSTIN: Hmmm. And why is that, do you think?

NATHANIEL: Oh, wipe that look off your face!

JUSTIN: You must know what that sounds like.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing untoward!

JUSTIN: Then why, my virtuous brother, must you hide it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t mean to. I only… I only don’t know how to do it. Tell her, I mean.

JUSTIN: Afraid she’ll cast the same aspersion upon your character as I have just now?

NATHANIEL: I’m afraid she might… misunderstand.

JUSTIN: Oh, why worry for it? You need never tell her if it will only make trouble.

NATHANIEL: I hate keeping things from her.

JUSTIN: Why prod the bear if you don’t have to?

NATHANIEL: She’s my wife, Justin, not some terrible monster from the woods.

JUSTIN: Wives, terrors, it’s all the same to me. But it isn’t even as if you’re deceiving her. If you’ve done nothing, then you’ve nothing to tell her.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t only that.

JUSTIN: What, then? Do you she think she wouldn’t believe you?

NATHANIEL: Not so much that…

JUSTIN: Or wouldn’t approve?

NATHANIEL: Perhaps. Of my reasons for spending time with Miss Stone.

JUSTIN: And what might they be? Beyond her more obvious charms.

NATHANIEL: Oh, you wouldn’t understand.

JUSTIN: My. Must be byzantine indeed if it’s beyond both Clara and myself. Well, brother, I hope you can find a way to make things clear one way or another.

NATHANIEL: I thought you advocated avoiding the issue entirely.

JUSTIN: So I do. But I know you well enough to see it won’t sit well with you. And if you’re keeping it from your wife, it must be something remarkable indeed.

12/11/13

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A female power fantasy

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Categories: character, development, influences, vivat regina, Tags: , , , , ,

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In the interest of artistic honesty, I feel I have to cop to the fact that in some ways, the character of Mrs. Hawking is a power fantasy. Specifically, she is a personal one for me, embodying many of the qualities that I happen to find particularly empowering.

She is a physically small person, but rather than be limited by it, it so fit and strong that she is a force to be reckoned with, and in fact uses her size to her advantage by being fast, graceful, sneaky, stealthy, and able to fit into unexpected places while avoiding notice. I am a small person often frustrated by its limitations. She has a lot of anger, but she gets to use to fuel her in her crusade. I am an angry person whose anger gets her into trouble. She’s asexual, free from influence by sexual interest or from the need to be sexually desirable to anyone. I’m not asexual, but sometimes I wish I were free from those things. She’s a loner, an introvert in the extreme, who feels no compunction about withdrawing whenever she needs to. I’m an introvert too, but I often feel like I’m not able to take the time to myself that I need. It even shows up in smaller ways. She bears a physical resemblance to my friend and frequent collaborator Frances Kimpel, who I often wish I looked more like. She has a background in ballet, something I find incredibly cool. All these things are a chance to make the kind of person I think would be powerful enough to be this kind of hero.

I’m not troubled by this. I think there should be characters that serve as power fantasies for women of the sort that men have in abundance. Batman comes to mind as an example, as he is rich, exalted, hyper-competent hero that is often considered to be above all comparisons, and incidentally happens to be a major inspiration for Mrs. Hawking. The trouble, however, is in not allowing such a character to fall into the category of Mary Sue. The problem with power fantasy characters is that if you make them TOO powerful, TOO aspirational and awesome and amazing in every way, then they stop being believable or real. So I need to make sure that when I write Mrs. Hawking, she has real flaws to her to make her a truly complex main character.

I wanted those flaws to grow organically out of her personality, so I used the flip side of the things that were powerful about her. “Your strengths are your weaknesses,” after all. Her anger issues mean she can be really nasty when she wants to be. Her loner nature makes her reluctant to accept help, to get close to people, and she has little ability when it comes to normal social interaction. Her pride makes it hard for change and grow when she’s been wrong. She is not a flawless crime-solving machine when she screws herself up this way. Despite her forward-thinking attitudes, she’s racist in the manner of her time, and sexist in a manner all her own. And she’s a damn pain in the ass to deal with a big chunk of the time.

I want those flaws to matter. Actions have consequences, and when you act like as much of a dick as she often does, it’s going to come back and bite you. I always hate in when main characters in her extremely intelligent, lone-wolf mold such as the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Gregory House are enormous assholes, but everyone around them seems to excuse their awfulness and the story lets them get away with everything because they’re so damn special. I’m specifically fighting that in my portrayal of Mrs. Hawking. She’s very special, but she’s also very awful, and I want both to have an equal impact on how people treat her.

It’s actually one of the reasons I wanted to introduce Clara Hawking. I wanted her so badly to be in Vivat Regina so she could function as someone who hasn’t “drunk the Mrs. Hawking Kool-Aid,” so to speak, to stand in contrast to the many characters who are in awe of her. Despite their occasion defiance and criticism of her, Mary and Nathaniel basically adore her. I’m always having to be careful to not write too much about people talking about how remarkable she is, because that would be unbearable and stupid. But Clara is someone who genuinely doesn’t think her virtues makes up for her flaws and holds them seriously against her. I hope to keep that element in the story from every quarter as would be realistic. Consequence-free behavior is anathema to dramatic, emotionally honest storytelling in my opinion.

I do believe it is possible to have a figure who counts as a power fantasy who is also believably human and imperfect. But it requires careful balancing. I hope I’m up to the challenge, and I plan on making every effort to succeed in that with this character.

I like her a lot, after all, and I want you to be able to as well. ;-)

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“Practicing” — scribbling about honing the craft

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I’ve mentioned that a major influence on the character of Mrs. Hawking is Batman. Mostly this manifests in her internal workings– the way she runs on anger, taking an eternal vengeance for the way the world crushes women. But it also inspires how I imagine she works.

I’ve always thought that the diegetic reason for why Batman is so good at everything he does is that in the time normal people screw around on the Internet and read books and have human relationships, he is studying and training and honing himself into the ultimate weapon against crime. I decided Mrs. Hawking works much the same way, as her work is the most important thing in her life, and she doesn’t see the value so much in doing things for pleasure or having connections to other people.

I think it would add a lot of texture and interest to the stories to demonstrate how almost all her free time is spent in studying and training. The following scribble is short and very rough, but it shows a little of the sort of thing I’m imagining for this. I also like the idea of keeping it a little playful, as I’m always on the lookout for places to add humor and humanity to lighten up the narrative.

Also it was somewhat inspired by the fabulous Zoe Keating song “Escape Artist,” whose cello sounds like how I would represent Mrs. Hawking musically.

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~~~

“Practicing”
by Phoebe Roberts

MRS. HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
NATHANIEL HAWKING, her gentleman nephew
~~~

(MRS. HAWKING is tied to a chair, her legs roped to its legs and hands in cuffs bound to the back. She is dressed only in her underclothes, corset, shift, and drawers, and her hair is in a braid.)

(She jerks her head to flip her braid over her shoulder. With her teeth she takes hold of a pin tucked into the braid and pulls it out. She considers a moment, then drops the pin on the seat of the chair beside her. She maneuvers herself to move her bound hands to grab it, then busily works it in the lock of her manacles. In a moment she has them undone.)

(She slips out of the cuffs and shakes them off. As she bends down to untie the ropes on her legs, enter a figure in shadow, running in towards her. She immediately rolls forward, the chair still attached to her ankles. She slams the chair down between her and the man approaching, stopping him dead in his tracks. As he cries out, we see the man is NATHANIEL.)

NATHANIEL: Good God!

MRS. HAWKING: Here already? I must be getting slow.

NATHANIEL: What are you– wait a tick, where are your clothes!?

(He turns away awkwardly.)

MRS. HAWKING: I’m practicing. Captors don’t always make it easy for you. Must keep in training, you know.

NATHANIEL: But madam–!

MRS. HAWKING: This is rather a children’s game, at any rate. Even though I chose to pretend I’d not been left my corset.

NATHANIEL: Thank Heaven you only chose to pretend!

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