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This is a discussion post for A House Already Haunted at AO3 (story first posted for the December 2013 Holmestice). Discussion will contain spoilers.

I have a few things to say, for my own reference, about the structure of this story and how it evolved, but I've been feeling weird about getting into it in public, unsolicited. I'm happy with not having an audience, and I'm *almost* fine with making an ass of myself, but I'm not entirely sure what purpose it serves a novice to expound on their own ~~~writing process~~~.

Still, I always want a place to bat around ideas and questions related to any given fic, mine and others'. Perhaps it would be useful to hook up a sort of discussion sidecar to AO3 fics. I'll try it for a while. I don't know about you, but I feel more free to express myself on LJ than on AO3, especially when I'm nitpicking or have questions that might make me look silly.

I'll edit this post later with my thoughts on structure and action, or perhaps say something in comments. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or comments about what's going on in this particular fic, please have at.

I believe anon commenting is on, and critique is always welcome. I frequently make minor edits to AO3 posts.

(Been meaning to do this, then suddenly had to get on the ball - thanks very much for the rec, [livejournal.com profile] holyfant!)

Date: 2014-01-28 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ficklepig.livejournal.com
One of the things that I thought a lot about after the fact (to be frank, the story was a malformed lump until a very short while before the deadline, and unfolded rapidly over a period of ~12 hours; as a result, all thinking happened after the fact) was how on earth the story came to be told from an OC first person point of view, and what possessed me to address the reader directly.

I've seen it done, but usually from the POV of a villain performing their wickedness upon a whumpable canon character. I had no intention at all of doing that. It was meant to be John's POV, or perhaps multiple first person points of view, or maybe a third person narrator removed to a chilly distance. As I toyed with scenarios - John is a real ghost, John is not a real ghost, there is a ghost that is not really John, John is not really dead; Mary and Sherlock get together, don't get together, are reconciled or not, don't need to be reconciled; Mary is or is not possessed and has to agree to or not agree to perform a heartrending confession of love and longing to Sherlock on John's behalf; Sherlock does or does not believe in John's ghost; John dies violently or from illness, ridiculously or gently or dramatically; John's death is or is not Sherlock's fault - one constant was a desire to create something mysterious and a little scary. I figured I'd do that through atmosphere, make the ghostly experience as eerie as possible and force the characters to deal with a frightening but beloved presence. I was looking forward to that part. Getting into the feel of a scene is fun, even if I can't maintain high quality in every paragraph (it's a lot of work! draining and requiring practice, mental resources (I run to the end of the short chain of my vocabulary every day), and emotional resilience. who knew?). But I went round and round the plot options, and the voices, and the order of action, and only came up with gluey clumps of derivative blah.

I noticed that I kept wandering by Mycroft, of all people, and I thought ooo, maybe he can tell it in his Mycrofty way, but he wasn't interested. Finally I said fuck it, go with a self-insert, talk to Mycroft since you seem to be so in love with him (reader, I am), and see what he says. I'm going to psych myself up by describing him, give myself a privileged relationship to him (reader, I did), find out what he thinks about the whole business, and erase that mortifying shit before anyone sees it.

Except obviously it didn't work out that way.

Asking who am I, really? while thinking about my relationship with an impossibly elderly and increasingly inaccessible Mycroft resulted in a great sense of loss and inadequacy. That level of emotional engagement opened up the cobwebby door behind the bookshelf, and behind the cobwebby door were a number of unhappy but thrilling realizations, and I did literally yell OH MY GOD! a couple of times (John going overboard was a supremely unpleasant surprise). In my defense, it was hour 6 or so of an all-nighter.

Date: 2014-01-28 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ficklepig.livejournal.com
The slightly elevated diction (which fell apart here and there) happened as I developed the Mycroft scene. I fought it, then gave in. I'm glad I did, because as I wrote I wondered who the hell talks like that in fan fiction, and then I realized who did and yelled OH MY GOD. The rest of it came relatively easily. I continued to tell the story as a somewhat-detached writer/observer, acknowledging that I couldn't know what happened in other people's heads before I was born, which I like to think worked out for the best.

The intercut scenes were a big fat cheat. Well. Yeah, OK, they were a cheat. I couldn't decide what really happened, and I wrote a bunch of scenes to describe what might have happened, and then I decided it was more fun not to know and turned over the responsibility to the reader. To be fair to myself, I did limit the possibilities to keep things simple, and tried to make the story logical no matter what you believed (is Helen the reincarnation of John? was John's ghost actually there? does it matter?), and made a few facts the real facts (Mary miscarried John's baby; Helen is Sherlock's biological child and everybody knows it even if they don't want to). I struggled a bit with where to put the miscarriage (which did happen when Mary ran to the bathroom to barf, so maybe John did it himself! if he was there! maybe because he really did actually want to have ghost sex with Sherlock and make a baby with him! maybe! oh, hell, I don't think so today, but you decide). And my indecision forced me to flesh out more of Helen's experience than I'd have otherwise been inclined to, and I think that worked well.

So there I've written half a story's worth of crap about a moderately effective bit of fiction that isn't even fully mine, when I could have been finishing a long-neglected omegaverse angstfest. It's a navel I'm still gazing at because of the process by which it came to be. I think I have some lessons to absorb from what did and didn't work, and it helps me to try to describe what happened.

Date: 2016-03-01 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ficklepig.livejournal.com
The problem with Holmestice and really with a lot of fan fiction is that it's mostly first drafts, and sometimes only rough drafts. There's potential in this one, and the emotional underpinnings are fab, but it's got a lot of lumps in it.

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