This is the one I was most anxious to save from the Pit of Voles. As it turns out, I'll have to strip more than I thought out to meet their new regs, so I'm glad I tackled this first.
For people who are interested, this version has been tweaked in some areas, mostly for egregious crimes against grammar, some lazy writing, and a couple of conversations that had logic holes big enough to drive a truck through. If any of you out there have saved this story to harddrive, you might prefer this one.
However, I didn't do a wholesale re-write like I wanted to. It isn't that it's bad, per se, but I kept telling myself, "You know? I can do better." I had to keep reminding myself that it was the best I could do at the time.
I have to point to this Peter David quote to explain what I mean. When First Knight was republished after it had been out of print for years, David explained in his foreward that he re-wrote much of the book. He didn't change the plot or the structure or anything like that. He changed the style of the writing to more accurately reflect where he where he was now as a writer. As he put it: "When I wrote this, I was still writing like a journalist."
In looking over Whisper, I know exactly what he means.
The style of writing is far more neutral than my current style. In fact, I'll agree with some people who've pointed out that the style in my earliest fanfic stories (of which Whisper is one) is almost bloodless to the point that it turned some people completely off. In fact, one kind soul pointed me to a board where one of my stories had been recommended and one or two people there had said they found my style cold and off-putting to the point where they just couldn't warm up to my fanfic.
A criticism that I think is very much fair, especially in light of my recent re-read of Whisper.
The beginning is actually fairly cold and very, for lack of a better word, like a journalist. I'm telling people instead of showing. I'm reporting it like I'm writing for a newspaper.
In my own defense I have this: up until the time I wrote Whisper, the majority of my writing experience had actually been writing for newspapers, trade magazines, and trade newsletters. The writing that makes you a good reporter, however, can make your fiction very, very dry reading.
Do I think I've improved? Yes. I think my style has gotten more informal over time. The downside of that is that sometimes it's so informal that it trips over the line to lazy writing and excessive use of the passive voice. It's something I very much have to watch and it still is something I struggle with every time I sit down to write.
Another thing that strikes me is that I really don't have the best handle on the Buffy characters in this story. Part of it is because I had started it before S7 aired and I was guessing at how the character arcs would go.
I had assumed that Buffy would have a rougher exterior as opposed to a hard edge, but that she would also have compassion underneath. I never expected the bloodless Generalissimo that we actually got.
I had assumed that Willow would start integrating her old geek personality in with her witch-y one and that she'd be more confident about her abilities as a witch. I did not expect Willow to fall apart every time she was asked to pull a bunny out of a hat, forget how to use a computer beyond using Google, and forget how to speak Latin.
I had assumed that Spike would play a very different role than what he did. I thought we'd have a souled vampire trying to find who he was independent of Buffy's opinion of him and becoming a more integrated member of the Scooby gang along with the full interaction that came with it. The fact that Spike played Heathcliff and used as Buffy's sole support (so "Buffy" kept telling us...no wonder why the Scoobs got pissed enough to stage a coup since they fought by her side for seven freakin' years) and never actually fully integrated annoyed me to no end.
But most of all, I had assumed that the Xander would now be expected to live up to his full potential, especially since he had proven his unique worth on Kingman's Bluff. I did not expect him to be tossed in the background and forgotten until it was time to poke his eye out or he was needed to fix the windows or serve as a plot point for other characters.
However, even aside from the fact that I completely misjudged where ME was going to go, it's pretty clear that I have a very shaky grasp on everyone's character but Xander's and, of course, Dolly, my OC. I finally found Anya's voice somewhere in the middle of the story. Giles's brief appearance reads fine as does Dawn's. Buffy's voice doesn't even sound vaguely like hers until near the end, but I still call it a complete miss. And Willow? Pffffft. A little two-dimensional for my taste. The less said about Spike, the better, although he sounds somewhat like Angel-era Spike.
There are also some things in Whisper that I'm shocked I used here, because it hammered home that I use them quite a lot. Both "Xansel in distress" and "inner Daddy Harris" show up for the first time in this story and it strikes me that I actually use both phrases in almost every story I've written about the Big Lug. There are even some lines of dialogue that have shown up in other stories (although I can't remember the examples off the top of my head).
The other thing that strikes me is "the form follows function" situation. Many of the sections of Whisper are no longer than several pages. A lot of that is because my primary mode of getting this story out to the fanfic-reading public was the Pit of Voles, a format which doesn't encourage longer chapters. In fact, I'd say the average length of the parts was approximately five pages, with some outliers as long as twelve. My average length for parts on LJ for Living History and Water Hold Me Down, by contrast, is fourteen to twenty-two pages.
I don't know if I'm writing longer because I'm a little more confident, the stories I'm writing now are a little more complicated, or if it's because the LJ format is simply better for posting long parts. I simply don't know.
In either case, aside from cleaning up some grammar and dialogue problems, I reformatted the whole story so it fits into the LJ format, which shrunk the number of parts down from 45 (including Author's Notes) to 13 (including Author's notes).
In addition, I know some people are not happy with the conclusion the story reached (Hi, Set!) and re-reading it, I can definitely see the point. I don't agree with it 100 percent, but I can definitely see the point. And for the record, that FB (yes, looking at you Set) ultimately help a great deal with creating Catherine, J'Nal, Ruda, and Charlie for Living History. The thoughtful FB for Dolly highlighted problems and red flagged some trouble areas that I needed to work on to create the happy timetravelers from the future.
Despite my own concrit above, I just wanted to say, Whisper still remains my favorite child. It was my first novel-length Buffy piece, I learned how to create a complicated mystery plot, and it ended up being the unintentional jumping-off point for characterization of the Scoobs in Living History, Water Hold Me Down and No Myth, a cycle of stories that take place one after the other that I've semi-affectionally come to call the Whisper-verse.
After all, there was a promise made in the last chapter of Whisper. And something in me enjoys playing with that promise—as well as the intended and unintended consequences of that.
So for all of you who started reading this waaaaay back in the day, thank you for sticking with me through all my fumbles and stumbles. For being kind when I messed up, for giving me concrit feedback, for letting me know what you liked and didn't like, and yes, for pointing out typos, spelling errors, grammar follies, and lazy writing. I may not have always agreed with you (well, at the time anyway), but I was always able to take away something from what you said.
Whatever I have given you, you've given me that back times ten. Without you, I couldn't improve. Without you, there'd be no point in writing.
After all, what's a storyteller without an audience willing to listen?
And now that I sound like an self-important ass...
I found out last night that three of my stories have been voted into the Better Buffy Fanfiction Archive. All three of those stories require acknowledgement to other people.
For Ishmael Sings of the White Whale, I must thank hernewshoes for issuing the challenge as part of the Faith-Fic-A-Thon. Her request forced me to write outside my comfort zone and resulted in this story.
For Cuckoo in the Nest, I must thank nwhepcat, who led to me writing it in a round-about way. Her birthday challenge resulted in Water Hold Me Down. Since Tony Harris's ghost hangs over the story (very deliberately I might add), I wrote a lot of notes on what I think Tony Harris is like. Those notes resulted in this story.
Thank you all three of you. These stories would not even exist without you because I would've never thought to have cook them up on my own.
I have to walk away from the computer for a little bit, but I'll start posting the entirety of Whisper in the next half-hour.Go here for Part 1 Or go here for the full chapter list.