My crazy, crazy process

WARNING: ASYLUM SPOILERS
It’s a long way off, but this is a pretty pivotal scene, so I would steer clear for now if you’re keeping current with Asylum. I’ll link to this again when the scene drops, though honestly, it probably won’t be until next year. I like to work ahead.

As you all know, Asylum is written in tandem with my wonderful partner. Sometimes, its a flat back and forth, like a highly detailed role playing session. Other times, we take short hand script notes like this, and work together to sculpt it into something more coherent.

My writing is always messy. It tends to come to me dialogue first, with occasional action tags if I’m lucky. If I’m not writing a direct answer in an established scene, I’ll go back after jotting down the dialogue and make a little note about where and what came previously, like so:

She comes back to find him very sunken, very hollow, as if he’s survived some sort of attack. It’s going to be very alarming, and will probably shock everything else out of her head.

“Don’t you see? I’m a ghost, a spectre– I’m not real!”

“My brother—no, my creator—is on the brink of falling into darkness, into raving madness. He’s too powerful for that. If we let him go unchecked… If there’s no one there to guide him…” Motion. “Aezir never should have let us go. I can’t–” Falls? Reaches out?

“He made me, Nica. To be a shield, a protector. To guard the thing that matters to him most. And I failed him. There’s nothing left to save.”

In this instance, I emailed that along with an invitation to play, see what came of it, or, if nothing did, to leave it for me to simmer on and I’d anchor it in the text later. Cait sent me back this:

Nica found Seth in the middle of her room, hunched in on himself, so serpent still that she wasn’t sure he was there.

But his aura… It was a tangle of emotion, a nest of coils and confusion that she couldn’t quite read.

His pain was clear though.

As she drew closer, she doubted that it was Seth – she still wasn’t certain which of them was in control at a given time. She was learning to recognize them, but right now was too… volatile. Too unfamiliar. She’d only thought Seth at first because they had made it sound as if they would talk and Seth would return.

“Seth?” She drew closer, felt the ripple of her voice on his aura.

It was like a shiver, one that drew his gaze to her, a manic despair that struck to her core.

“What’s wrong?”

He held out his hands, stared at them as if he had not moved them. And perhaps he hadn’t. This was unknown territory for her.

“Don’t you see? I’m a ghost, a spectre- I’m not real!” His voice rose as he spoke, the ties that kept him calm clearly snapping.

She moved in cautiously, one hand reaching for his. His aura was almost tangible, pushing against her skin like a hot fog.

“What happened?” She tried again, keeping her voice soft and level. She couldn’t let his pain drag her down with it.

But years of experience kept her from sinking. Her fingers brushed his wrist and he jumped, staring at her with something akin to horror.

“My brother – no, my creator – is on the brink of falling into darkness, into raving madness. He’s too powerful for that. If we let him go unchecked… If there’s no one there to guide him…” He drew back sharply, his gaze falling into the distance as he fell back into himself. “Aezir never should have let us go. I can’t–“

He hunched in on himself, his mental pain like a sharp spike into her own aura.

Nica caught her breath, falling forward. Her wings opened instinctually, cupping around them like a shield. It could only hold the storm inside, but she needed to hold him. He fell into her embrace, shivering.

“He made me, Nice. To be a shield, a protector. To guard the thing that matters to him most. And I failed him. There’s nothing left to save.”

She smoothed a hand over his hair. There was a hollow sound to his voice that wormed worry deep into her heart. 

“Hope is a fragile thing. But it is never truly broken until you stop trying. If this nest has only one truth, that is it. Everyone can be saved -” She ignored the image of Jax’s pyre that rose in her mind, forcing it away. Her own grief would not help here. “If they’re willing to try.”

 

With her words in place, I now had the framework to see the rest of the scene that hadn’t come with that first wave of emotion and dialogue. Minor changes were made, as I understood what happened when, what needed to be adjusted, fleshed out, and so on:

Nica found Seth in the middle of her room, hunched in on himself, so serpent still that she wasn’t sure he was there.

But his aura… It was a tangle of emotion, a nest of coils and confusion that she couldn’t quite read.

His pain was clear though.

As she drew closer, she doubted that it was Seth – she still wasn’t certain which of them was in control at a given time. She was learning to recognize them, but right now was too… volatile. Too unfamiliar. She’d only thought Seth at first because they had made it sound as if they would talk and Seth would return.

“Seth?” She drew closer, felt the ripple of her voice on his aura.

It was like a shiver, one that drew his gaze to her, a manic despair that struck to her core.

“What’s wrong?”

He held out his hands, stared at them as if he had not moved them. And perhaps he hadn’t. This was unknown territory for her.

What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

He slammed his palms down onto the floor, pressing like he’d meld himself to the earth. He trembled with the promise of motion, swift and violent, and the effort of holding that motion in check. His eyes were dark and hollow as he raised his face to hers.

“Don’t you see? I’m a ghost, a spectre- I’m not real!” His voice rose as he spoke, the ties that kept him calm clearly snapping.

She moved in cautiously, one hand reaching for him. His aura was almost tangible, pushing against her skin like a hot fog.

“What happened?” She tried again, keeping her voice soft and level. She couldn’t let his pain drag her down with it.

But years of experience kept her from sinking. Her fingers brushed his shoulder and he jumped, staring at her with something akin to frozen horror.

“My brother – no, my creator – is on the brink of falling into darkness, into raving madness. He’s too powerful for that. If we let him go unchecked… If there’s no one there to guide him…” He drew back sharply, his gaze falling into the distance as he fell back into himself. “Aezir never should have let us go. I can’t–“

His word cut off in a choked gasp, despair thick on his tongue. He hunched in on himself, his mental pain like a sharp spike into her own aura.

Nica caught her breath, falling forward. Her wings opened instinctively, cupping around them like a shield. It could only hold the storm inside, but she needed to hold him. He fell into her embrace, shivering.

“He made me, Nica. I’m artificial. I never should have been, but he made me… To be a shield, a protector. To guard the thing that matters to him most. And I failed him. There’s nothing left to save.”

She smoothed a hand over his hair. There was a hollow sound to his voice that wormed worry deep into her heart. She didn’t know what to say, how to possibly comfort him, but she couldn’t just leave him like this.

“Hope is a fragile thing. But it is never truly broken until you stop trying. If this nest has only one truth, that is it. Everyone can be saved -” She ignored the image of Jax’s pyre that rose in her mind, forcing it away. Her own grief would not help here. “If they’re willing to try.”

And that’s how a scene gets made in Asylum. 🙂

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