Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another Crazy-long Author's Note

Well, it’s been nearly a month since I posted my latest chapter, and I’m finally getting around to the Author’s Notes post! YAY! But before I get in to that, a quick heads up on where I’m at with my current writing.

I’ve been getting longer shifts at work, which means I get lunch breaks. Now, it only takes me about 5 minutes to eat the sandwiches I bring from home, so the rest of the half-hour breaks are spent writing. I bring in my netbook and just get to it. I have almost a full page written so far.

Once I get home, however, I spend the rest of my day watching Merlin on Netflix and working on a pixel-art I’m making for the cover picture of my main Facebook account. I suck at drawing – especially pixel-art which is surprisingly hard, and so it’s a week-long project. Now I just need to think of what to do for my cover picture for my Lyco Rogue FB account. *Sigh*

But in the meantime, here are my extended Author’s Notes. Be warned, this might be as long-winded as the A/N for my Valentine's Day Story. Mainly because – as some of my long-term readers might know – I like to sneak in a lot of subtle jokes and such in to my stories.

We’ll start off with the names in the story. As I stated in multiple previous A/N, since the writers for Hey Arnold! used name parodies throughout the series, I like to continue that tradition. The parodies aren’t meant to be too hard to figure out though, so I’m sure you were able to get that Vanessa’s Boudoir was supposed to be a take on Victoria's Secret. I even included Victoria’s signature pink polka dotted dog and turned it in to Vanessa’s purple striped cat. 
Now, I recently discovered that the dog plush DOES come in a variety of colors and patterns - including stripes - however, the most well known version of the dog is the one with polka dots:

Similarly, one of the shows Arnold watched during his insomnia was “Police” which is supposed to be a parody of the famous reality show “Cops”. The other shows he watched were all from the series itself. 

The last name parody was done in a similar manner as Mickey Kaline’s name. The name of Arnold’s favorite baseball player was created by taking the first and then last name of two Hall of Famers: Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline. Therefore, when I created the song Arnold danced with Helga to I wanted to come up with the singer’s name as well. Over a year ago I decided to merge together two famous singers from the golden age of music: Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, creating the singer Ella Holiday for my story. I felt using Fitzgerald’s and Holiday’s names would instill in the reader the bluesy, jazz, big band sound I wanted to come across for the song Arnold picked to dance with Helga. I’ll talk more about this song in a little bit.

Other names that showed up in the story were derived from the names of people involved in the series. The store Geek Bait being on Bartlett Ave. is a clear nod to Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett. Actually, I went to write a false street name and Bartlett Ave. wrote itself on the paper. I then went back and realized what I wrote! The name of the college Arnold is going to attend – Purdy University – relates back to one of the show’s writers Joseph Purdy. And the university being in Tuckerton hints at one of the show directors Tuck Tucker. Coach Aggie MacNeille’s name was birthed from two related sources. Tress MacNeille is the name of the voice actress who played Arnold’s Grandmother. I then took the first name of another famous character MacNeille voices: a character from The Simpsons, which was a show birthed from the mind of Craig Bartlett’s brother-in-law Matt Groening. On The Simpsons MacNeille is most notably the voice of Principal Skinner’s mother Agnes.

Now, aside from my Original Characters, there was one last person I named: Peapod Kid. As much fun as it is to keep him Peapod forever, it just felt more realistic to give the poor boy an actual name. Based on his looks and speech patterns, I wanted a more sophisticated name, but still being age-appropriate. With his premature deep voice and elevated language it just didn’t feel right to name him something like Josh, therefore I picked Xander. I was originally gonna go with Winston, but I couldn’t remember if there was one already on the show. Plus, Xander is frequently just the shortened form of Alexander, so it felt natural that he could have just as easily gone with Alex, but felt Xander was more his liking. I had also debated with Topher – short for Christopher – and Liam – short for William. Xander just FELT right though.

As for the OCs of this chapter, I admit I stole a little bit from life and the rest from The Big Bang Theory. For instance, Marco’s awkwardness around women is based on the character Raj who is incapable of speaking to women he’s attracted to – which is pretty much every woman except his mom and sister. I didn’t want Marco to be a complete rip-off, plus I needed him to talk to Robyn and around Beverly, which is why he’s toned down to just awkwardness. As for his looks, well, that’s basically the description of one of my husband’s close friends. The boy could be a true looker, but he doesn’t care enough to be one.

Janalee is very much like her The Big Bang Theory counterpart Amy. Amy is socially awkward and desperately tries to get Sheldon – who might as well be asexual – to like her. I thought that was a fun dynamic to play with in the Prom scene. She wasn’t originally like that. Originally she was based on a friend I had in college; in fact, this friend is Janalee’s namesake. However, after watching The Big Bang Theory nearly every night on TBS, the Amy personality crept in and it was too much fun to not keep.

When it comes to names themselves – aside from Janalee whose name was blatantly stolen – I followed suit when it came to the show. That is to say, names that weren’t terribly run-of-the-mill and yet more-or-less “normal” names. I think Hank and Rebecca were the most day-to-day names I came up with.

Speaking of which, for the girl sitting next to Arnold during graduation, I wanted something that would be reminiscent of Rhonda without it being as blatantly obvious as “Rhoda” – which I couldn’t use anyway since it was already used in the "Arnold Visits Arnie" episode. ChibiSunnie can attest to the fact that I was wavering with Rebecca. I didn’t think it was close enough to Rhonda, but I couldn’t think of anything better. She reassured me though:

“I like Rebecca--it's still an R name, but not crossing into that line of ‘too many coincidences, so it's no longer believable as a plausible thing in the real world’ as it would if you had something really similar to Rhonda like Rhoda. Plus, Rebecca is a really common name, so that further makes it believable that this coincidence would happen.”

We both agreed that having Rebecca be the rebellious punk/goth type also explained away the fact that she had the same black hair as Rhonda. So, yay!

As for the tipping point of Arnold’s tango in gym, I wanted his partner to be as similar to Helga as I could make her without it being too heavy handed. Basically, if the gym class incident occurred without any of the proceeding events, it would be believably coincidental. Luckily, I’m dealing with Helga and not Lila, because one is far more likely to find a bunch of blondes in high school than to find a group of redheads. Therefore, having Arnold’s dance partner be blonde wasn’t too hard to do. The trickiest part was for her to have a name that felt like the same style as Helga. Unfortunately, the show already had Hilda, so I couldn’t use that name. The only other thing I could think of was Heidi. Hope it felt the way I intended.

Finally, we have Middlerose. I honestly can’t recall how I came up with the name of the college town Arnold moved to. And it just hit me that I could have had Arnold go to the college I have Miles working at - most faculty students go free. Derp. Oh well, perhaps it just wasn't the "right fit" for Arnold, and he got scholarships so it doesn't matter. That sounds plausible, right?

Anyway, I just recall thinking I want something similar to Hillwood – very nature-centric – but still sounds like a town. With some thoughts thrown about I stumbled upon Middlerose and liked it.

Now for a bit more in-depth stuff.

Geek Bait was one of the hardest things for me. I wanted Arnold to hear the phrase “Geek Bait” – mainly for the song lyric “Every sound I hear is the sound of your voice”, but I couldn’t figure out how to put it in conversation. With a whole bunch of failed attempts I finally came up with it being the name of a store. I then wondered if it would be a comic book, video game, table-top game, LARP, or anime/manga store. After thinking of the different Farmer’s Markets/Indoor Flea Markets that pepper the area where I grew up, I decided that it would be cool to have a strip-mall like that which only included geeky things. Thus Geek Bait – the perpetual convention center – was born… and now I wish it were a real place. It sounds like heaven! Oh, and yes, Wednesdays ARE “New Comic Book” day, much like how Tuesdays are “New Movie Home Release” day and Fridays are “New Theatrical Release” day…

Moving on to the Prom scene, the way I described Janalee as well as Arnold’s mental image of Helga were based on how Helga dressed up in “Dinner for Four”; complete with the up-do and tiara. It just felt very Prom-like. Also, about the song…

I mentioned this in my A/N for my “Lady In Red” chapter, but I wanted to create a new song for my story since all the songs in the show were original. I certainly should NOT quit my day job… 
when it comes to song writing. I’m a horrible poet which translates to horrible at writing songs. :P Either way, I based the song I wrote off of the styling of “One Fine Day” – the Natalie Merchant loungey version. Here’s a video using clips from Smallville that I quickly found. The black and white scenes – as well as similar scenes from Lois & Clark:The New Adventures of Superman – were the inspiration for the speakeasy description in both my “Lady in Red” chapter and my “Haunting Me” chapter.

Moving forward to Arnold’s breaking point in gym. First of all, since I missed stating so after the rooftop scene in the “Lady in Red” chapter, I want to state that my high school actually did teach formal dance. We learned Greek and Jewish wedding dances, Boot Scoot ‘N Boogie, The Bunny Hop, Tap, Ballet, and Tango.

In regards to so many girls liking Arnold in this chapter, I felt like I needed to cut the kid a break in the love department – especially after seeing all the fangirls squee over him. Poor Arnold spent his childhood with crush after crush and not a single girl liked him back. I just thought it would be fun to have all these girls pine over him and Arnold is all aloof because he’s unknowingly still in love with Helga.

*cue the “awww” *

Moving on to the finals section. The “inspirational cards” that Miles and Stella gifted Arnold were directly stolen from my own life. For my first ever high school finals, my mom gave me a few inspirational cards to try to help me stay positive. One in particular I still have and now tell a lot of my betas. DarkAngel1326 knows this quote well: “So many people believe in you; make sure you’re one of them.”

Trucking along to the graduation and you have a few more things ripped from my life. First was Middlerose’s school colors, which match those of my college. Then it was the concept of the guys all being in one school color and all the girls in the other. Also, my high school graduation robes truthfully resembled the cheap, plastic “cloth” that is used to make tablecloths for picnic tables. Finally, Hank and Robyn switching caps and the teachers raging over it. 

As we lined up for my high school graduation two of the “anarchist” students decided that they would show off their individuality by switching their caps. They were legitimately threatened with not being able to walk at graduation unless they switched back. 

Aside from figuring out how to get Geek Bait to work, and the actual dialogue associated with the Romeo and Juliet scene – the first draft of that conversation between Arnold and Hank was horrendous! The most challenging part was the epilogue where Arnold talks to Miles and Stella about traveling to Hillwood the very next day to visit Helga.

Originally, I had this very sweet epilogue where Miles and Stella understood and agreed to help Arnold out. They go to the airport and get him a flight on a 4pm plane to Hillwood and they all go home thinking they had one last morning together. But, alas, Arnold can’t sit still that long and decides – in the middle of the night while his parents are sleeping – to cash in the plane ticket and use the money to fund his cross country drive. The end.

Then Chibi burst my bubble on multiple things: mainly the fact that it’s silly to drive for two days straight rather than just wait for 16hrs and see Helga the next day. Plus, the random act of rebellion in regards to cashing in the plane ticket and leaving in the middle of the night like that. Usually Level-headed Arnold wouldn’t do either of those things.

Then I burst my own bubble by realizing something when I reread my first chapter to make sure everything came full-circle nicely. 

I discovered it didn’t.

I THOUGHT I had something to the effect of “Arnold should have just taken the plane…” only to discover this sentence: “…it was almost worth it for Arnold to have purchased the plane ticket.”

That’s right. Not “Take the plane” or “Keep the plane ticket” or something along those lines. In my first chapter I established that Arnold never even HAD the plane ticket in the first place. Whoops.

Back to the drawing board with the whole epilogue. Either that or I go back to my first chapter and retcon the whole thing – which was very tempting, believe me. I now understand why a lot of authors wait until their story is complete before publishing - even online, that way they don’t have to worry about plot holes like this. Especially, since I just remembered another one: Arnold’s graduation party.

I couldn’t figure out what to do with that. I didn’t want Miles and Stella to put all this time and money in to a graduation party – believe me, I know the money and effort that is put in to one of those, especially for an only child. I didn’t want all these family members to schedule to fly/drive out… only for the party to be cancelled because Arnold went on this journey. Also, as much as he loves Helga and wants to be with her… would he really ditch his own graduation party?

Besides that, if Miles and Stella were hosting, why would Arnold expect his grandparents to be home – as established in the first chapter...? 
*sigh* Dammit.
Wouldn’t they have flown out for the graduation? Then extended the stay for the party? They wouldn’t have to worry about the boarders since they all probably would tag along. And if Arnold’s grandparents DID fly out, and had returned home two days later, why didn’t Arnold just join them on the return flight? 

So since I shot myself in the foot with Arnold not having a plane ticket and expecting his grandparents home, I needed a reason for them to not attend the graduation. I didn’t touch upon it in the chapter, but I was gonna do so in the spin-off. 

Oh right! Quick reminder. This chapter became so epic that not everything I wanted in it could possibly fit - yes, 24page chapter and there was MORE I wanted to write! So I'm going to make a spin-off/companion story that turns each scene - i.e. The Prom or The Geek Bait scenes - in to its own full chapter. This way I can do more with my OCs - which will only appear in this chapter unless I revive them for Arnold's grad party - and can include the Robyn/Marco subplot I sort of glossed over.

Anyway, back to what I was saying about Phil and Gertie not attending Arnold's graduation...

Basically, I relied on my high school’s “invitation only” policy for graduation. To make sure there were enough seats, each student was only allowed three tickets. Meaning, three guests. This would make Arnold either mooch a ticket off of someone, or exclude a grandparent – and then there’s the boarders being left alone to worry about. So Arnold ends up donating his third ticket, Miles fails at videotaping the ceremony, and so Stella takes the camera and does a masterful job.

I then had his grandparents make up for the lack of attending by offering to throw the graduation party. Arnold wouldn’t have one for all his high school buddies, but he could attend theirs. Plus, this way the boarders and all the PS118 kids could attend Arnold’s celebration. I then pushed it back to July 4th so they can have a combined party, and also so they could give Arnold time to attend his friends’ parties – even if he never actually does so.

Then we have the plot error I forgot about until now. In the first chapter, when Helga answers the door she asks Arnold what he’s doing in Hillwood – not expecting him at all in the summer because there are “no birthday visits". Since I hadn’t thought of the graduation parties I didn’t have Helga comment on that instead. Now knowing the whole Independence Day/Graduation party plot point I should have had Helga say “What are you doing here, Football Head? Your party isn’t for another month.” Or something along those lines.

Oh the temptation to retcon!

OK, well going back to Arnold’s traveling and how to fix that. If Arnold never had a plane ticket in the first place I had to figure out how Miles and Stella were gonna get themselves cross-country to Hillwood. Then Chibi and I thought “RV Roadtrip!” It’s just adventurous enough to fit The Shortman Clan. A week-long RV trip to see the sights as they traveled back to Hillwood. Everything was set. Although it might have been as much money and effort to put the trip together as it would a party, for some reason I don’t feel as guilty having Arnold skip out on it. Mainly because I decided Miles and Stella would take the trip anyway – no other way to get to Hillwood – and Arnold promises they can re-do the trip next summer, or at least enjoy the return trip together.

There! Took care of the graduation party, why Phil and Gertie weren’t at Arnold’s graduation, and the reason Arnold didn’t even have the stupid plane ticket in the first place. The last thing was why drive a beaten up pick-up instead of taking a bus or train – or Arnold paying for a plane ticket himself. I think I had those explained fairly well in the chapter, so I won’t repeat myself here.

My final comment on the chapter content itself relates to Arnold's realization that he can't just sit and wait to see Helga:
“When someone realizes they are in love, they don’t wait around to let the other person know!”

Dear lord, the first time I wrote that paragraph I nearly stole Harry’s full speech at the end of When Harry Met Sally.

Granted, the whole clip sort of relates to the story, but if you just want to jump to the speech I nearly plagiarized skip ahead to about 3 minutes in.

Come to think of it… my whole story is kind of a “When Harry Met Sally” crossover. Perhaps someday I’ll do a true “When Arnold Met Helga” story, but I bet there’s one already out there that is really good. If any of you know of such a story, feel free to link me to it, I’d love to read it.

So now we conclude this 3700 word A/N post by stating that this chapter was amazingly appropriately named. The damn thing haunted me for MONTHS. It started about August or September when I went to a club with a few girlfriends of mine and a cover band was playing – one of those Jukebox bands that could play a song from nearly any artist. And they start playing Stabbing Westward's "Haunting Me" – the song I used for this chapter, and the song I had picked out for this chapter since I started the story in August 2010! NO ONE EVEN REMEMBERS STABBING WESTWARD, let alone randomly hearing the song like that! It was very much a similar feeling to Arnold hearing the jazz song at the Prom – just not such an extreme reaction.

Then I start hearing “Life After You” on the radio again. The Daughtry song was the inspiration for the first chapter, and this story as a whole, but after 2010 I pretty much never heard it on the radio until September/October rolled around.

Then a bunch of new songs popped up on the radio that seemed desperate for me to make it in to its own chapter. Gavin DeGraw's "Not Over You" is one such song, another is the song I’m using as the parent to my next chapter – although the song is a year or two old, it has been on the radio a lot again lately.

When I was writing the insomnia/Babe Watch scene I was struck with my own bout of insomnia for the first time in my life… creeeeeeeepy!

Finally, while I was working on the gym/tango scene I saw a Master Card commercial about a traveling couple going out to tango the night away. That day was the first and only time I’ve seen that commercial…. CrEeEeEeEeEpY~!

So, needless to say, I’m beyond glad that I have the chapter figured out, done, and actually pieced together with but one tiny plot hole sneaking through. BOY was it a challenge to create this last chapter using what I gave myself to work with in the first chapter. 
In the foot….

Well, no more flashback chapters. The rest continue on where the first chapter left off. YAY, FULL CIRCLE!

Until next week, my friends. Same Place. Moderately Same Time. ^_^

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