Sunday, February 19, 2012

Epic Author's Notes are Epic

Alright, so I totally meant to have this go with my last post, but as I stated, it got really long. Also, there are a lot of things about For Whom the Bells Toll that I want to talk about. Making this not only my largest story post, but also the longest corresponding Author’s Notes. That being said, this post turned out to be like six pages! Hence my decision to split up the two posts. Quick little side note: For those who missed it, I goofed and didn’t post last Sunday. I DID post Monday for my weekly update, and I recently posted on Friday as well. We all caught up? Cool-beans! :D

Alright, so let’s move through the story and I’ll MST the Author’s Notes in.

Front and center, let’s talk about the title of the story. For the majority of the time that I worked on the story I had the working title of “Ignorance is Wedded Bliss”. I liked my little turn-of-phrase. Since I normally suck at coming up with titles, I was actually proud to come up with that little nugget! ……….and then I realized that neither character was ignorant – which was kinda the point – and only one thought of having wedded bliss. The title just didn’t work with this story. I’ll have to slot it away for another time though. Anyway, I thought and thought about what I should permanently call this sucker. I then thought of the doom-ridden title of Hemingway’s story “For whom the bell tolls.” I then shifted the “s” because there is typically only one funeral bell, but there are multiple church bells that chime at a wedding. I also wanted to leave in the “ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee” feel. Sorry, Eugene, those church bells are chiming for you.

OK, enough about the darn title! Moving on to the actual story!

First up is my “easter egg” about Helga. I took meticulous care that the actions in my story matched perfectly with the parent episode “Married”. However, when we see the opening of “Married” we see where every kid is except for Helga and Brainy – whom we could perhaps assume was always in that trash can he creeps on Helga out of… So, I am setting the scene to match the episode and realize I don’t know what to do with Helga. Genius strikes! Helga is voiced by the super-talented Francesca “Franny” Smith. Franny also played multiple characters in the Disney show Recess. One of these characters is simply known as Upside-Down Girl.
As you can see, the girl has some similar traits compared to Helga.
Both girls have blonde hair in pigtails. Both are in pink sleeveless dresses with a white shirt underneath. Most importantly, both are voiced by Franny!
When trying to figure out what to do with Helga how could I NOT use this nod to Recess. For those who picked up on this subtle “easter egg” I give you each 1,000 points!
Anyway, continuing with the “meticulous care” train of thought, I want to comment on different points in the episode where we see Eugene and Sheena.
When we first see Sheena she’s at the picnic table already, and Eugene is at the hopscotch board. I built the opening scene from there. Then the scene shifts away from them. Then we see Eugene bolt past Arnold – making him and Sid the first ones in the door. Sheena is the last to enter the building. Both have smiles on their faces. Why does Eugene have a huge grin now, when not even a minute ago he was panicking over the marriage prediction? Why is it that not a moment before, Sheena was holding Eugene’s hand, and yet the two don’t go in to the school together? Why is it that the same thing happens the next time we see Eugene and Sheena? When Rhonda is giving Peapod Kid his prediction, Eugene runs down the front steps. The scene continues, and then about a minute or so later, Sheena exits. Plus, Sheena’s smile is replaced with a blank look. Granted, all of this “Eugene in and out first verses Sheena’s in and out last” plus Sheena’s blank stare were all probably because the animators were concentrating on Helga and Arnold. As much as I love Hey Arnold! I have to admit that not a lot of thought went in to the “behind the scenes” details. I mean, the TREE IN FRONT OF HELGA’S HOUSE MOVES!!!! ‘Nuff said.
HOWEVER, since Eugene and Sheena ARE depicted as stated above, and we treat ALL details of an episode as canon, I had to then get in to these characters’ heads. Why is it that Eugene separated himself from Sheena? Why is he the first one in to the school and first one out? Why does he have this huge grin after being in shock roughly thirty seconds before? Why is Sheena smiling as she enters the school, but zombie-like as she leaves? And then at the end of the episode, why are Sheena and Eugene sitting separate from each other, but still only one seat away? These annoying details the animators probably didn’t think about, and now I had to. So THAT was a fun little task.

Sticking with this concept of “staying true to the episode,” I wanted to have the story read – as I try for all my stories to read – as if it were a part of the series, and yet independent from it. I always strive to write my stories with enough information that you don’t need to remember – or even know of – Hey Arnold! in order to enjoy the story. I try to work in the character dynamics and looks so that it feels natural and non-redundant to someone who is as obsessed with the show as I am, but at the same time gives enough information for those who have never heard of the series. Therefore, I wanted to really recreate that opening sequence with the marriage predictor. I hope I did the scene justice, and everyone could see it in their heads as if they were watching the episode. I just wish a segment that took perhaps a minute-and-a-half of the show’s time didn’t take up about three or four pages of my story! Insane, right? It kept me six pages and a THOUSAND words just to get to the dreams that make up the meat and potatoes of the tale! Stupid attention to details….

Speaking of the “Meat and Potatoes” of the story, I had the hardest time dealing with the formatting of DeviantArt and FanFiction! I would kill to know how to get a friggen Tab Indent for either of those sites! The story was so much easier on the eyes in Word. I would group the paragraphs together and tab the first line so the paragraphs were still “defined”. I would double space to insert a time break. And I put a line to break between the “real world” and the “dream sequences.” It was neat, it was easy to read, and it jaded me. Having to put those stupid ~*~ExS~*~ symbols to insert a time break looks so ugly! But I didn’t know what else to do. Since there is no tab indent, I break paragraphs by spacing them, therefore I can’t space paragraphs to show a time jump. I also didn’t want to use the line break, since that was the easiest way to jump in and out of the dream worlds. I attempted using just a line of ~*~*~*~*~ like I would on DeviantArt, but FanFiction just deletes lines like that. *grumbles* Stupid formatting.
The formatting was even worse on DA! I couldn’t even put in spaces to separate the paragraphs. I mean, TECHNICALLY I could format exactly like on FF, but when I spent like an hour doing so I was then informed via a bright red notification message that the story was now too long and couldn’t be posted! GAAAAAAH! Back I went, away the spaces went, and up the hard-to-read-large-blocks-of-text post went. I’m surprised people are actually reading that thing on DA!

Alright, so let’s move on to the dreams, shall we? I tried to make Eugene’s dream mimic Arnold’s, but with Eugene’s own little twist – hence the black-tie eveningwear wedding. I also had Sheena towering over Eugene in his nightmare because one of the things that kept getting brought up by everyone I talked to was “Sheena’s like twice his height. He might have a nightmare worrying about her always being taller. A lot of guys hate the idea of being shorter than their wife.” Yes, in Arnold’s dream his mind properly “grew” him and Helga so he was a little taller. Yes, it was HELGA who neglected to take puberty in to account and therefore had her dream self still taller than Arnold. Yes, having Sheena STILL twice as tall as Eugene would make her like eleven feet tall. However, if it were an unsolicited, re-occurring suggestion by everyone I asked, and if Snee-Oosh could ignore details like that, why couldn’t I use it? Just forget how tall Sheena would have to be… LOL!
Sheena’s wedding is kind of a merger of my uncle’s wedding and my own. I had a Celtic-themed wedding. Very earthy and pseudo-wiccan. The wood nymph description would be me – well, more accurately, how I described what I wanted my flowergirl to look like. The part of them getting married in the woods in the middle of nowhere is TOTALLY what my uncle did. His wife just had on a simple sundress much like Sheena, my uncle was as casual as Eugene’s outfit, and they got married in a Redwood forest.

Moving on to the honeymoons; that was hard to figure out where they’d dream of going. I didn’t think a simple-things kinda girl like Sheena would want the extravagant, overtly romantic honeymoon like “travel the world…have a perfume named after us” Helga. It kept a little bit, but I finally decided on her dreaming of honeymooning at a national park somewhere. Even though Arnold didn’t have a honeymoon portion of his dream, I just NEEDED to injure poor Eugene, and getting injured on the honeymoon just seemed like a plausible fear of his. The final decision was partially ChibiSunnie‘s. She was the one who suggested Eugene’s honeymoon injury after the torment we put the guy through in our script last year. I just couldn’t decide HOW I was gonna beat the guy up – and then I saw the Geico commercial with the pig on the zipline. BINGO! There are ziplines EVERYWHERE these days – my hometown has a zipline attraction about forty-five minutes away. I figured I could just say “zipline” and let the reader figure out where they honeymooned. YAY, LAZY WRITING!

In the actual episode of “Married,” Helga was more interested in the idea of aging with Arnold, and her maturity I think is why she had outfit changes throughout the dream. Arnold isn’t as mature in that matter, which is probably why he and Helga never changed out of their wedding dress and tux. I wanted to parallel that, so I had Sheena change up the outfits she and Eugene wore. It was tough trying to switch it up though! Eugene got stuck in khakis a lot! I did want to keep an element of Sheena’s wardrobe, even if Helga didn’t keep her signature bow. That’s why I had Sheena continuously having her hair secured with some sort of daisy hair accessory. I wanted to keep the flower Sheena wore on her shirt.
Continuing with the paralleling, I wanted Eugene to not be as creative with the “costume changes” throughout the nightmare. However, I didn’t want them stuck in eveningwear the entire time. That’s why I had Eugene revert everyone to their normal outfits. Plus, it’s funny to think of a twenty-something wearing those elementary-age outfits. I’ll leave it up to the readers to determine whether or not Adult Eugene still has his polo tucked in to his underwear. LOL!

Following Sheena’s dream all the way to the end now….
The playground scene is based off my favorite date with my hubby. I have a video of it on my facebook. :D During a visit with my Now-Hubby-Then-Boyfriend about six or seven years ago, he took me to the local playground. My friend had driven me to Hubby's hometown, and the three of us were the only ones on the playground at the time. We enjoyed playing tag throughout the structures – as well as laughing at the fact that my six-foot-four boyfriend is trying to run through tunnels built for ten-year-olds! Towards the end of the outing, I wanted to go down the slide, but the summer sun made it too hot for my bare legs. Hubby was wearing pants despite the heat and offered for me to ride his legs down the slide. With my friend filming us, we awkwardly slid down together and then went on the swingset. We did the “how high can you swing” challenge; then Hubby jumped off and lost his footing on the woodchips carpeting the playground. He teased that he was going to push me off the swing so I would "jump" as well. It turned in to him sweetly pushing me on the swing before stopping it and us kissing. My friend stopped filming then… LOL! The part about the fireman carry is from Freshman year of college – when I met my hubby. For some reason every guy I knew Freshman year had this impulse to fireman carry me! I was carried EVERYWHERE like that – kicking and flailing about every time.
The rooftop garden was thrown in when I realized Eugene’s nightmare was at least thirty-three percent longer than Sheena’s dream. The sequence sucks in my opinion, but I didn’t really know what else to do. The garden design is partially based off of Harold’s design for HIS rooftop garden in the episode “Aptitude Test” and mostly based off of the rooftop garden at the end of the movie “Just Like Heaven.”
I kinda touched on the Freddy Awards in my main Author’s Notes, but I wanted to go further in to it. As I stated, I wanted to have Eugene and Sheena at the Tony Awards. However, I have never heard of “Eugene, Eugene” and so I assumed it was a musical created for the series. Based on that, and the fact that it’s supposed to be a well-known musical, I figured the majority of the non-classic plays in the Hey Arnold! world would be parodies. So why wouldn’t the Tony Awards be parodied? I was debating on just out-right parodying the award show, but then I remembered that my high school participated in a ceremony called the Freddy Awards. Essentially, this is a high-school-level version of the Tonys. With a “parody” so neatly handed to me, how could I NOT use it!? Plus, 2012 celebrates the tenth annual Freddy Awards. Again, how could I resist? Where the Tony Awards got its name from actress Antoinette Perry, the Freddy Awards gets its name from the fabled ghost Freddy that haunts the State Theater, where the Freddys are hosted. The Tony Award is a silver medal with the Comedy and Tragedy masks. The Freddy Award is a glass statuette of the masks. Both shows are televised – Tonys on CBS, Freddys on local broadcasting. It seemed a natural fit. Now, I was REALLY gonna tip my hat to this great High School Drama acknowledgement by keeping it in the State Theater. However, since the places in the Hey Arnold! world are fictitious, I just went with a parody of the theater the Tonys are now being held: The Beacon Theatre. I couldn’t really think of a good parody of “Beacon” that still sounded like a name of a theater, but eventually I decided on “Lighthouse Theatre.”
The play titles of “Madam Mayhem” and “Someday, Susan” were just simple two-word alliteration phrases that popped in to my head. Most old-school musicals were titled kinda like that, so I went with it simply to move on. Eugene’s play, however, was a super-loose parody.
When I decided I was going to have Eugene serenade Sheena in front of a live audience I wanted actual lyrics so that the readers could "hear" Eugene sing – a decision I’ll discuss further in a moment. Therefore, I decided on a song from the musical “Crazy For You”. Based on the plot of the play, I came up with the Parody title "Baby, Please.” Now, what WAS my train of thought here? Well, I just thought that there was just not enough dancing and show tunes for a Sheena and Eugene coupling. The amount of times Eugene randomly breaks in to song, and there wasn’t a single one in my story!? Plus, Sheena’s dream needed more mushy stuff – another point I’ll get to in a moment. The Freddys present the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” and “Best Actress in a Leading Role” nominations by having the nominees sing a showcase. This gave me the idea to have Eugene perform a song from the musical he was staring in, and somehow manage to serenade his wife at the same time. I really REALLY need to stop having the HA! characters sing to each other! I SUCK at writing songs! WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS TO MYSELF!? Anyway, I figured if I just made a show tune parody instead of work from scratch than the whole process wouldn’t be so bad. Recently I had the song “Embraceable You” in my head – my high school performed Crazy For You and I just adored the musical. I figured, “embrace me my sweet embraceable you” was a simple enough line to re-write. In fact, the whole song is nothing but simple lines. I assumed the re-write would therefore be a snap. HAHAHAHAHAHA…. no…. The simplicity killed me! I sat with a thesaurus going “HOW DO I REWORD THIS!?” I mean, come ON! I just… I need to stop with the songs…. *sigh* I DID finally get it though! And I’m proud of myself because it still fits the melody of the original song. SCORE! Also… apologies if anyone was offended by my changing “brings out the gypsy in me” to “makes me Spanish”… I was going with the whole “Spaniards are seductive” thing….
OK, so now going back to the Sheena’s Dream is Mush-Central idea. The first day posted, I already had a reviewer on FF and another one on DA both comment on how Sheena’s dream has TONS of kissing! Even more than Helga! Gah, whoops…. I didn’t realize that Helga only kissed Arnold twice. The rest of the time she either Eskimo Kissed Arnold, or was interrupted by Lila. Oh well, Helga’s dream was drama-filled, which cut down on the kissing. Sheena wasn’t showcased enough for the audience to truly know how mature she is when it comes to kissing – in comparison to Helga at least. However, Sheena didn’t seem too upset with the idea of “kissing a boy” in the Romeo and Juliet episode, so perhaps she’s perfectly okay with the idea of a makeout session. Plus, peace-lovin’ Sheena wouldn’t really dream up the drama, therefore leaving more room for kissing. If Helga wasn’t interrupted I think both dreams would have had about the same amount of smooching. The fact that Eugene is constantly giving Sheena flower-themed pet names just goes off the “Sheena would dream up mush” thought process, coupled again with my flower-child vision of the girl.
Last thought about Sheena’s dream… I had to give her SOMETHING to aspire to besides marrying Eugene, and so that’s why I had her be a Freddy nominee as well. I wasn’t sure where to put her at first, but after seeing how she fixed/replaced that horrendous Juliet costume Helga made, I figured, "what the heck…"

Okay, FINALLY getting to Eugene!
The fact that they have Mighty Pete as their marital home was the FIRST thing I thought of when it came to Eugene’s nightmare. For the longest time it was the ONLY thing. When I asked Chibi for help she told me “[You] HAVE to keep the Mighty Pete thing because I giggled for a good 5 minutes. That's PERFECT for Sheena.” And if the girl who “commissioned” the story liked Mighty Pete, Mighty Pete stayed. LOL. A lot of people seemed to like that idea, so hazzah!
I then thought a small treehouse wasn’t bad enough, it had to be crammed with people – which is why Eugene also got three kids. It would be cramped, and the biggest issue boys seem to have about marriage is the kids. I’m not entirely sure why I aged them instead of keeping it Stork-Delivered triplets like in Arnold’s dream. Maybe my subconscious thought Eugene’s subconscious would picture him and Sheena growing old together. At the very least we know they’ve been married five years in Eugene’s dream.
ChibiSunnie was the one who thought to also add in Earl, “Crazy Uncle Earl might be a fun nightmare scenario--I mean, he talks in sailor-speak already, but what would happen when he's old and senile and living with them….So he might do crazy things like dig up the yard looking for treasure or stand on the roof calling "land-ho!!" or go around with a hook saying any misbehavers will have to walk the plank.” HAHA, that girl comes up with some of the funniest stuff, I swear! Like this depiction of Eugene’s reaction to the marriage predictor, “Eugene was clearly uncomfortable when Rhonda paired him with Sheena. His face when Sheena is running to him is like a scared cat when a little kid shouts 'kitty!!!' and goes after it.” I DARE YOU TO NOT SEE THAT THE NEXT TIME YOU WATCH “MARRIED”!!! DAAAAAAAARE YOOOOOU!
Anyway, the Squirrel Fishing idea was actually mine; brought over from a webcomic idea I had a few years ago – when the Somali pirates were all over the news and Pirate Verses Ninja was still a valid internet meme/debate. I had a strip where two college students dress up as a pirate and a ninja, and the hijinks that occur in their off-campus house. I never got farther than five strips in, so who knows if the comic will ever see the vast interwebs.
The idea of the collapsible foot stool that Eugene would carry everywhere was actually part the Sheena Is Friggen Tall plot point, and part me. My husband is a foot taller than me and so he loves teasing that I can’t kiss him unless he WANTS to be kissed, since he can just straighten his back and be out of reach. Also, all the “important” items in the kitchen are on the top shelves so it’s easier for him to reach – since he does the cooking. This of course means when I put the most-frequently-used dishes away I’m constantly climbing up and down a step ladder. When I put groceries away; up and down the ladder. When I put away his towels; up and down the step stool. And to save space we do have one of those collapsible foot stools. With the suggestion of Sheena being so tall, I almost instantly envisioned Eugene not only climbing up and down as often as me, but enough that it’s just easier to always carry the damn stool!
Well, as I mentioned WAY before, I couldn’t have Eugene – EUGENE – have a nightmare without getting injured. Heck, even in SHEENA’S dream the guy was still a bit of a klutz – although never harmed. With Eugene always on that foot stool I couldn’t resist knocking him off the thing and injuring himself. It was Chibi’s suggestion that Eugene isn’t the only klutz in the family – which is where the “I’m Okay” chorus came from. LOL.

To round out this ridiculously-long Author’s Notes post, I want to briefly talk about the ending. Once again – because I’m incapable of writing anything without her it seems – Chibi came up with the idea of continuing past the end of the episode and having Eugene comfort the distraught Sheena after Rhonda breaks the news about the voided predictions. The mini-speech about being too young to know if they will or won’t get married is about ninety-percent her. I just polished things here and there, and added the kiss and hand-holding interaction. So let’s send props to Chibi for all the fantabulous ideas!
The end daydream of Sheena and Eugene growing old together is supposed to parallel Phoebe’s daydream about Arnold and Helga on the lighthouse. The fact that Eugene also dreams nearly the same thing is supposed to indicate that perhaps they WILL get together one day, instead of finishing with Sheena’s wishful thinking.

*Wipes brow* Dear LORD this was a long post! I should have split THIS one up in like three! :P
Thanks for sticking with me until the end. I hope you at least enjoyed this over-the-top commentary about the story. I also hope you not only appreciate all this behind-the-scenes stuff, but it also clears up some questions I’ve gotten in my reviews.

Now off to Beta read for a new author in my “clientele,” have a writer’s conference with DarkAngel1326, and WORK ON MY DARN STORY!!!! Here’s hoping I have SOMETHING for you guys before the end of the month!

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