I wrote this on 15 December 2008, but never posted it here. It discusses a plot revision in great detail that I ended up liking a lot and still has changes being calculated in my brain.
It was meant to be a short post, but ended up being giant. I told myself I'd edit it down to size, but never did. Nevertheless, I'll post it anyway the way it is. Several names are used here, some of which may be obsolete or unfinalized, but it shouldn't detract from the discussion.
The ASE verse has had many plot revisions over the years. It started off as sort of a cliche fest and has transformed a lot since then, but still pretty much has kept the same thrust of what is going on.
Sometimes, there are plot holes because some details remain the same through transformations and they don't really make sense any more. What's awesome is a minor change to one of them not only plugs the hole, but it also adds sense to a whole bunch of other, seemingly unrelated things (generally as secondary and tertiary effects of the change; unintended consequences become awesome the more I look into them).
The first huge one I can recall is finally having a justification for the A'millian holocaust, which randomly came to my mind back in like 2005, prompting me to immediately make a big post about it in one of the PW OOC threads.
The holocaust has been a part of the story almost since the beginning, but its old justification was a poor one: the villains did it just because they were evil; the motivation was essentially little more than racism, which the evil characters held just because they were evil.
The idea of pre-emptive defense really added to the event itself, and gave me a new drive to flesh out the years prior; I got to add events and such to make their fears more believable. There is still a chunk of the old racism (on both sides), but adding some coldly rational basis for the extreme actions really helps it make more sense; a racist fuck might be the one who "pulls the trigger", but the people around him can go with it out of a more noble intent.
I recently had another change in a minor detail that makes a whole lot of things just fit together. One little change here:
1) doesn't force the characters to do something stupid (endangering the welfare of a child; not really believable at all) or bizarre (husband stays home alone for trivial reasons... despite spouses never being separated needlessly anywhere else in the canon (and me making a big deal of that being a part of the culture))
2) Increases the realism of the event and its consequences
3) thus it gives me more to write about to flesh out an era
4) and gives the characters better reasons to do what they did during that era
5) Explains previously unexplained or poorly explained details from previous chapters in a new way.
6) And in doing so, adds some beautiful foreshadowing and introduces the opportunity for some (nay, many!) nice parallels of old and new.
All these benefits come about from one little change: Lucrecia stayed home
For this to make sense, let me explain what I'm actually talking about.
The climax (if you will, I guess) of the main plot comes right at the same time as the holocaust. Our main characters take a starship to face off with their old friend turned traitorous evil guy on his new home world/colony. They have their encounter with him and his lieutenants and henchmen then go home.
They arrive home to find that the holocaust took place while they were away.
The relevant characters here are:
- Adam and Leila - our heroes
- Michael - the old friend turned bad guy
- Traci - Michael's evil second-in-command; his Dragon and psycho bitch.
- Mathias - former teacher and fairly good friend to Adam and Michael
- Lorelai - adoptive daughter of Adam&Leila, orphaned during the First War. Sees Michael as kinda her uncle; she's known him almost her whole life. Wife to Luke, mother of Lucrecia.
- Luke - adoptive son-in-law of Adam&Leila, husband to Lorelai and father to Lucrecia
(The above two characters have been there since the beginning, but only recently got their names; they are named for Gilmore Girls characters. And it fits in beautifully with my love for L names.)
- Lucrecia - daughter of Luke&Lorelai, young child at the time of the above events; only about 2 years old.
A'millia - most everyone's home world
Wivillia - the place to which Michael defected; A'millia's enemy during the Third War.
This climax plot has gone through several revisions over the years.
First off, the (original) video game like plot, recall the science was soft and magic very common in those days:
Traci comes to A'millia and encounters our heroes (boss battle!). She casts a slow death spell on Lorelai and escapes. The party rushes her back to the hospital, but there is nothing they can do; she dies.
Luke goes nuts and tries to freeze the world with powerful magic. Adam goes alone to stop him; they end up having a swordfight in the snow ending with both severely wounded. Leila follows and picks them up. Luke gives up and dies. Adam recovers a few weeks later. Leila ends up taking care of Lucrecia.
The party, including Princess Jessica as an official representative to make it legal, then launches to Wivillia to put an end to this. Everyone goes on the ship, including young Lucrecia. Jessica stays on the ship with her (she'd be a worthless fighter anyway; dead weight for the party.)
They journey through Michael's fortress, first defeating Those Three Guys, then right before the end, killing Traci (boss battle + brutal murder cutscene). They face Michael (kickass boss battle; the fight is time limited since you swordfight while falling down a huge pit to Hell!
). The fight+talk ends when your characters spare him; you don't finish him off and go back up while he falls to hell. (Setting up the sequel.)
You go back to the ship and ride home. It turns out that those of you who were off world at the time were the sole survivors. (Actually, there were a few more in the first
draft, but I quickly changed that.)
Next major revision came when I hardened up the science. It was no longer possible for The Dragon to go to A'millia and get away; she would probably be apprehended by Starfleet the moment she jumped into the system.
So things had to change. The main stuff wouldn't change though: the same characters must live and die. So it went like this:
Our party goes to Wivillia (now a space colony rather than a whole planet) to take care of Michael. The party now consisted of Adam&Leila (of course), Mathias (still an old friend), and now Lorelai (also still and old friend of Michael) and Lucrecia (see below). Jessica didn't come this time, as her presence didn't really make sense in the first place; you don't need to send a royal just to make an arrest/on the spot execution official.
Jessica survives the holocaust by being off world for other, nearly unrelated reasons at the time. (She was officiating the peace treaty ending the third war, which has some relevance to minor details.)
Lucrecia came along simply because she had to survive the holocaust, and thus had to be off world at the time. Luke still needed to die to preserve the timeline, and leaving him behind was the easiest way to accomplish that. Traci still needed to murder Lorelai, so bringing her along would make that happen.
So anyway, our party takes a starship to Wivillia. While there, Traci pops out and simply shoots Lorelai in the shoulder. Subverting the "only a flesh wound" trope, she very quickly bleeds to death; with proper medical care, she might have made it, but no such facility was available for an A'millian in the human colony, so she was out of luck.
Deciding it is too dangerous to continue, Leila takes Lucrecia back to the ship and Adam and Mathias proceed into the fortress. The brutal swordfight killing Traci still happens much the same way, then they encounter Michael. Yelling match ensues, then it is resolved without further bloodshed. They decide to just go their separate ways.
They get home to find everyone dead. (The news of which didn't reach them sooner due to the lack of FTL communication.)
There are a number of problems there, the main one being: why the fuck would they bring a young child into something they must have known would be dangerous? The second one being why did her father stay home?
Some answers for them might be "they didn't think it was dangerous; Michael is and old friend and they were going to talk some sense into him, not fight. The war was over!" (Additionally, maybe seeing the cute kid would change his mind, but that is really fucking weak.) and "he stayed home for work or some horseshit."
The former seems passable on the surface. The latter might work too, but fails when you consider that forced separation of spouses in the A'millian kingdom was prohibited by law
, so if his boss said 'if you leave we'll fire you' he could have just sued them. Furthermore, is it more important to stay home and do some stupid job or go and support your wife and daughter as they do something important to them? Obviously the latter.
I really didn't like his reasoning there, and the former falls a bit apart too when you consider that the peace treaty was very fresh, they should have known Traci was a cunt, and of course, space travel itself isn't the nicest thing for young kids; it should probably be avoided whenever possible. Combine with the fact that if something went wrong, if she got sick or something, they would be weeks away from the doctor's office. Not a good plan.
There is one thing that fixes almost all of it though: if Lucrecia stays home, none of that is still a problem.
Lorelai goes because she wants to talk to Michael too, having known him for some 750 years. But they decide it is too dangerous to bring the kid along, so Lucrecia stays home. She can't stay home alone though, so her father stays with her.
(She probably could have alternatively stayed with other members of the extended family, but her father is a pretty obvious first choice. Now, of course he wants to be with his wife and support her, but that want can be outweighed by a few things coming together: 1) caring for the kid, of course, 2) maybe he hates space travel, so he really wants to avoid it in the first place and 3) he wouldn't know Michael as well as the others (to him, he is 'my father-in-law's old friend who rarely comes to visit anymore anyway', so he'd have less of a stake in the outcome and 4) they'd only be gone for a couple weeks to a month at most; he'll live.). All this combined makes his staying behind become pretty believable.)
The events once they arrive stay pretty much the same. Thundercunt can still shoot and kill Lor, then they kill her and proceed in. It gives it a better flow too: rather than kill her, then worry about the kid before moving on, they worry about the shooting victim, then immediately proceed onward. Without much cooldown time...
Slight change: Leila is there to witness or participate in the revenge-murder. She'd object to it normally, but circumstances here change things a bit. (Its not strictly
a murder either, as she was killed at the end of a fight to the death. But it didn't need to end in death; it was conceivable for them to find another way. Just things happened so fast, I just lost a daughter, I was in a fight... my old training took over and I instinctively went for the kill when it opened up. The others didn't get involved, since trying to step in with swords swinging was simply too dangerous to everyone involved.)
A few other minor changes may be made there, but are generally unrelated to this change itself.
But, this seems small enough, right? Ah, but consider the out of universe reason she was taken in the first place: so she can survive the holocaust. If she is on the planet, how will that happen?
Simple: she is immune to the biological weapon used to implement it!
We got benefit #1 above easily, and here comes benefit #2: it is unrealistic to think that the bioweapon would actually even work on everyone, much less to think it would have its devastating effects all around the kingdom in such a short time.
By making some people in the population naturally immune to it, you get some natural and realistic evolution taking place (consider the high school biology experiment of dropping antibiotics on a dish of bacteria. Most of them instantly die, but invariably, a few live, and then continue to grow. Evolution in action.). Previously, I handwaved this by saying that the A'millian population was simply too small and lacked enough genetic variation to have a significant amount of this, and I stand by that mostly, but not entirely.
Some fraction of a percent of the population does have a random genetic immunity to the function of the weapon, thus it did not effect them. Lorelai happened to have that gene, and she passed it on to her daughter. Since genes are never limited to just two individuals, it means there must have been many survivors of the initial holocaust.
This leads to benefit #3 of this tiny change: I now have those survivors to write about! This leads directly to #4 as well - my other characters have an objective reason to stay on A'millia rather than move into the Koreallian Inner Capital - to tend to these survivors. (Moving to the Inner Capital would have made the other reason for the government continuing on much easier - their duty to their human subjects. That duty explains the monarchy surviving, but it fails to explain it staying on A'millia, and very much suggests it should move. Previously, I said that was just Adam's dislike of leaving the homeworld, which was and still is certainly valid (to an extent; he did leave home for various lengthy missions previously, so it makes sense that he probably should this time too), but throwing in local survivors is much, much, much, much stronger of a justification.)
Benefit #5 comes from considering the following: if Lorelai has this gene, surely at least one of her biological parents did too? Perhaps any siblings or more extended family?
Something I haven't outright stated in any of these threads yet, but I hope is somewhat obvious from the plot summary post (at least when combined with knowing what is happening here), is the First War was started by experiments creating and testing this very weapon!
Lorelai was orphaned by the bioweapon's R&D people. Some of her family made successful test subjects. The test failed on some of her family though, who were going to be kept around, along with her, as subjects to use in further refining the weapon. Then the Knights came in and broke up that plan. The older members of her family were simply murdered to cover up what was going on, but some of the researchers showed pity on the little girl Lorelai and let her live, leaving her in an unlocked cell to be discovered by Adam and Michael as they swept the building.
The pity explanation is nearly the original one (very old versions have her being found near a burnt out village rather than in a cell, again spared and abandoned by the human parties. They might be genocidal monsters, but still couldn't bring themselves to kill a little kid when face to face with her.)
This explains why her entire family was killed though: they were still alive and knew what kind of things were being done to them, and were all slaughtered outright to cover their tracks when they saw the soldiers coming. (If they lived, they could tell what kind of things they endured and possibly give enough info for the government to realize what was going on and if the Crown found out what was happening, they probably would have executed the research teams and redirected several asteroids to Earth right there and then.)
Other subjects were either in the success bin (killed by the weapon and their bodies incinerated to hide the evidence and keep the engineered organism contained) or the not yet tested group, who were rescued about half and half alive and hastily murdered - the latter killed only to throw investigators off the tracks of the one entirely killed family; it makes Lorelai appear to be unlucky rather than special. (Note that she wasn't infected with the weapon yet; she was being held merely for future tests.)
Finally, having Lucrecia survive on the planet gives me benefit #6: nice parallels of her situation to her mother's. Both survived the weapon and lost the rest of their families. Both were found in an unlocked room by Adam and subsequently adopted by him. (Both would also do the same thing when he comes in - run up and hug his leg, happy that they were finally found by someone
One little change, having her stay home, and all this huge story benefit from it. I just love it when a plot comes together!