lady_songsmith: owl (golden1)
[personal profile] lady_songsmith
NFE reveals are up, so now I can talk about my story here, instead of just nattering the ears off those patient souls who encouraged me through the process. I decided early on that the title was going to be "If You Only Walk Long Enough" from an Alice quote, but as this story wound on to deadline, I started thinking it ought to be titled "if you only write long enough." I did actually have it finished by deadline if not beta'd, so that's an improvement over last year - perhaps next year I will actually have it turned in by deadline. (Crazy talk, I know.)

So about the story itself.

The original prompt from [livejournal.com profile] snitchnipped was:
What I want: (e.g. specific ship or character, England fic, Golden Age fic, AU, set during a ball, someone falls ill, whatever, etc.)
Any or all of the following:
--Golden Age as physical adults and/or England post LWW as mental adults.
--Susan & Peridan, ideally Susan/Peridan.
--Edmund & Susan meeting of minds, beyond what Lucy or Peter could ever understand.
--Undercover Edmund being all stealthy and/or kickass with a blade.
--Edmund & Peter, brothers in arms, discussing adult things over drink.
--The horrors of having an adult mind/soul in a pubescent/teenage body.
Prompt words/objects/quotes/whatever: Edmund's sword; sehnsucht; "Enjoy the silence"; dissonance and resolution; the turrets of Cair Paravel.
What I definitely don't want in my fic: anyone "rolling their eyes" every two paragraphs or having "chocolate brown eyes". They're so overused in fic, and it makes me roll my chocolate brown eyes! Anything too AU, Lucy-centric, Susan "not a friend of Narnia," post TLB, or incest, please.

I was thrilled - there was so much to play with there, it was an embarrassment of riches. I figured I could easily cram two or three of those together for a ready-made story.... and I pretty much already shipped Susan/Peridan (well, for some interpretations of the characters, anyway). In the end I think I got everything but Edmund being kickass with a blade (did try, but it wasn't a very action-y story. Unless the sparring counts) and the adult mind/teen body (Golden Age pretty much precluded that one).

I had a piece of Susan/Peridan fic already written, which I had been tried to spin out into a full story and failed miserably, so that I had to put it aside until I came up with something that wasn't crap to set it into. I figured this was a prime opportunity to dust off that piece and see if I could work with it, given more pieces to stick on it. So from that I went to Edmund and Susan having a meeting of the minds -- and just that phrase touches off shades of [livejournal.com profile] rthstewart's fic, so naturally I jumped from there to Rat and Crow and politics in general.

I had always conceived my orphaned piece as taking place post-HHB, since I couldn't see Susan seriously contemplating marriage even for political reasons if her heart was given elsewhere. Therefore any romance would have to either post-date Rabadash or have come to naught before him. So now I had a Susan/Peridan romance after Rabadash with heavy political involvement, and Edmund dealing with the situation. At that point I started to think about focusing on Edmund and Susan recovering from their experiences in Calormen, which would have been traumatic for them both in different ways, and that was going to be the framework for the whole story. That's also when I stumbled across the Alice quote for entirely unrelated reasons, and it clicked with how I felt about the two of them -- they didn't know where they were going, just that they had to keep on, and try to put themselves back together. So I picked that up for the inspiration file and eventually the title.

I had sort of (foolishly) thought it would be a short fic - and honestly it still feels no longer than "Winterfall" to me even though it's three times longer. But I had three separate, linked threads weaving here: the romance, the emotional recoveries, and the politics - and I had to give them all proper amounts of screentime to develop. I fretted myself crazy over the feeling that I was rushing the romance, in particular, and in fact there was supposed to be another scene in which we actually saw Peridan apologize to Susan (which would have been important because it would have showed that he really 'got' why she was upset) but it just would not come right and I was already down to the wire, so it got glossed over. I'm afraid Edmund got short shrift too, as far as his emotional arc went; he never really got near resolution as Susan did. But on the whole I was pretty satisfied with the way the threads linked up.

One thing that was particularly fun for me was that this slotted neatly into the universe of my sprawling and uncooperative AU, the Nightmare Queen-verse. I changed some names in order to conceal that fact from anyone who might have read my snippets or meta on that 'verse: Navarus and Vraeld are Ymar and Evrath, respectively, and Fentel is the previously unnamed 'country B' (though I may end up swiping one of the other names for it in NQ-verse; I'm fond of Navarus). I forgot to change the name of the Captain of the Royal Guard, but I doubt anyone noticed. At any rate, this gave me an opportunity to explore the set-up for NQ-verse, the status quo ante, as it were, and gave me a lot of fodder for how we get from here to there. The antipathy for non-humans came in there, and the more I played with that the more sense it seemed to make, which was great fun.

A major factor which hung up the story forever was the question of why Susan was considering Rabadash's offer in the first place. Originally I had charted out a scene in which she indulged in guilt over being so blinded to his character, but it stuck hard when I tried to write it and I realized it was because she definitely was not that stupid. So then I had to consider why she would have contemplated him, if not for love, and honestly? there is not much to go on there. Lewis's portrayal of Rabadash is so utterly reprehensible that Susan really would have had to be an idiot to fall for him at all. I had to throw some of that characterization out before I could wrap my brain around it. Eventually I ended up just sitting down and getting Susan herself to explain it -- that's where the conversation with Peridan comes from, and also the entire fountain scene (the rewrite of the frozen guilt scene) was originally done in 1st-person - not something I usually do, but in this case it really flowed.

As for the romance - I thought about taking it further, but it would have been reaching. Susan was just not emotionally ready to get into a relationship after being burned so badly (even if it was mostly political with Rabadash), and I felt like a large part of their development was based on this mutual respect and support, so forcing it into something deeper would really have been out of character. I do think it would have developed into a full-blown love affair and possibly marriage if not for the White Stag. (Hey, I couldn't write Narnia and not put in some sort of angst!)
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lady_songsmith

July 2016

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