The Sighing Game Series

The Sighing Game Series was my first try at stories with complex plots. The Sighing Game was written in the summer of 1997 and the last part of High Noon was completed I think at the end of 1998. In the middle of writing the 4 parts I was also writing a bunch of other fic, and I think my style changed pretty noticeably over the course of that time. So one of the oddest things for me when reading the series is seeing that change. It's almost too bad because you have to go through the earlier, not as well-written parts to get to the later, better ones. Not that I think the early parts are horrible, if they didn't have some redeeming qualities I'd have taken them down, but I really don't like to read them now.

I won't spend too much time talking about The Sighing Game because let's face it, there's not much to talk about. It was my first Buffy fic, it's short and simplistic and reading it now makes me cringe. It was motivated by nothing but me being disappointed that the first season ended with Buffy and Angel not together. I really didn't plan to turn it into a series, but after I got my first wave of feedback I thought...okay, actually this is a good jumping off place because now I've got Buffy and Angel together and I can go from there.

Nights Like These was the first real *story* of the series, with a plot and everything, instead of just the short vignette that was The Sighing Game. There are a lot of things that make me cringe about Nights, for one thing I think a lot of it is too melodramatic and the dialogue isn't great, but the plot I still like. I started with two things I wanted to explore. First was the idea that Buffy and Angel would face disapproval and opposition both from the human side and the vampire side. I wanted to make it clear that it wasn't just Buffy and Angel themselves that would have a hard time being together, the rest of the world would make things even harder for them. And second, I wanted to take Angel to the edge of his control. I wanted to deal with his bloodlust and have him face the ultimate test of drinking from Buffy. This became an overarching theme of the whole series. I wanted to prove Buffy and Angel COULD be together. And I thought the best way to do that would be to test Angel's limits, have him face all the temptations and difficulties that are part of his being a vampire, and show that he was strong enough to deal.

So, the problem became, how am I going to tie these two things together, and how is this plot going to work? I'm a writer who'll start writing with a very basic outline of the major plot points and incidents I want to happen, and as I write, I fill in the plot holes and blanks. I don't start out knowing everything that's going to happen in the story because I need the detail of the written parts and the direction the story is flowing to open my eyes to possibilities and help me see connections I can't make with just the outline. So I started writing with the idea that the rest of the vampires were going to try to force Angel to kill Buffy, and that Buffy was going to be getting flack from Xander and from her mom. As far as villains go, my first thought was that I wanted to use the Anointed One because I saw a large amount of potential in him (and I am still disappointed that they completely wasted him in season 2...even though I love Spike and Dru.) So that was my first huge leap in the timeline. I had set The Sighing Game right after Angel, but in a way, the rest of the series is set after Prophecy Girl because the Master is dead. I think that was kind of a screw-up on my part, but luckily people were willing to go along with me.

I decided I wanted to make the main villain female because there weren't as many good female villains first season. And I wanted her to be someone who didn't necessarily *look* powerful, but who unquestionably was. Sort of like how the Anointed looks like a little boy, but is more powerful and evil than the others. So Lily was born :) I wrote the confrontation scene with her and Daniel in Angel's apartment before I knew she had been a Slayer. That part of her character came up because I was wracking my brain going... Why is she so powerful? Why is she more powerful than the Anointed? Why is she pretending to follow him? And finally I realized, Slayer... combine the power of the Slayer and the power of the demon. This was a huge realization for me. I hadn't read any stories with vamped Slayers at that point (it was still the summer after season 1) so I was thrilled with the idea. I remember jumping around the house in excitement, and trying to tell my parents what I'd done, even though they had no clue what I was talking about. :) After that, the rest fell into place. Angel obviously wouldn't kill Buffy, which meant there had to be a way for him to get rid of Lily without fighting every single vampire in town. I figured under the Master, there were certain rules, protocol, vampire rituals, etc. so it wasn't a stretch to think that a version of a duel could be part of that. And with Lily an ex-Slayer it made perfect sense to me that they would need to combine Slayer and vampire to beat her, which set up the need for Angel to drink Buffy's blood and the test to his control.

Stuff I loved about writing Nights Like These: The big action scene for one thing. It was my first big action scene, and I discovered I really enjoy writing action. I just get a kick out of it, and for some reason having Angel tear out Lily's heart was a big old thrill. heh heh. I also had some fun with the torture scene too.

Stuff that's not so great: Like I said, some of the dialogue isn't great. At times it doesn't feel like the show. Some of the description is too repetitive and childish. And a lot of it is overdramatic. Also, one of my big regrets is that I think I wasted Lily. I think she had tons of potential that I never explored because she really was only in two scenes in the whole story. If I were rewriting the story now I'd probably extend the amount of time involved so that Lily could have a more active role.

I almost ended the story right after the fight, but at the last minute I decided to write in the dancing at the Bronze, and spark off the very beginnings of the Willow/Xander thread. I also intended for the series to end there. I never planned for The Morning After while I was writing Nights. But got me to thinking. And there were other things I knew Buffy and Angel would have to face if I wanted to really prove they would work.

So...The Morning After. First of all. I knew they were going to have to deal with sex. I felt like that was a situation where Angel could lose control, and I wanted to make him face that. (One thing I like about the SG series is that on the show they ended up dealing with a lot of the same sex and having Angel drink from Buffy...which makes me feel like I was on the right track as far as what I was predicting would be big deal milestones in the relationship.) Besides the sex thing, I knew I wanted to start developing the Xander/Will romance, and bring the Anointed One to the forefront as the main villain. I also knew I wanted to pick up the connection I'd hinted at in Nights between Buffy and Angel, where his drinking from her had caused her to feel or sense some of what he was feeling. That was basically all I had. Not that much to go on...

This is another case where a major plot point wasn't figured out until after I'd started the story. I didn't know Buffy's vampire symptoms were going to include the vamp face. That ended up springing from the shared feeling thing. I had always planned to have her experience the vampire feelings, because I felt like she needed to really know what Angel was if she was going to be with him. I had her bite Angel's lip as a part of that originally, and I had already sent out the part, and then I'h...because it was an exchange of blood which is technically how a vampire gets made. And I didn't want her to be a real vampire. Then I realized it was perfect because if the vampire tendencies extended to a visual appearance that would be a great way to deal with the Anointed One's trap.

I also remember I had a block while I was writing this one. I couldn't figure out what the Anointed One's problem was. I needed a good reason why he would be after Angel. It took me a couple weeks to figure it out, and the story was just sitting around because I couldn't continue until it was resolved. I also scared a bunch of the people in my dorm because I was asking everyone I knew whether the fluid that's in the eye was flammable. heh heh. I finally realized, on a vampire it would be since vampires are by their nature extremely flammable.

Unlike the first two parts of the series, I can still read this one today and enjoy it. I like the plot. I had a ton of fun doing an even more complex fight scene. By this time I had a much better handle on the dialogue. And overall, it's a much better story.

The sex part at the end still makes me squirm because writing smut really isn't my forte at all. Reading it I can do, but I have no talent for writing it. Plus I'm torn. In a way I don't like the way I set it's very contrived with the picnic and everything. But I did want it to be a situation where Buffy was making a conscious choice, not getting swept up in a moment. This was a big deal for her for several reasons, so I wanted her to go into it fully aware of possible consequences, etc. So, in a way it HAD to be contrived since Buffy was the one who was contriving it. The condom was another decision. Melinda Dawney was beta-reading for me, and I remember her pointing out that a condom really wouldn't be necessary given that Angel's a vampire (the show hadn't confirmed at that point that vampires are sterile, but I figured that was the case). I decided I wanted to keep it in there anyway. Aside from thinking it would be funny to write the awkward buying scene, I felt like Buffy's life during the week had been flying out of control, her emotions weren't really under her control since she was sharing Angel's feelings, and I felt like having the condom would be one way for her to grab onto something, control something a little bit. I thought she'd want to make absolutely sure to protect herself since she didn't know what the consequences would be.

Unlike the other two parts, I knew at the end of The Morning After that I would probably write a sequel. It wasn't 100%, but it was certainly an idea I was entertaining.

High Noon. I was writing this one during...hmmm...I guess it was the first half of third season? So I had seen all of season 2, and I wanted to bring in some of the elements from that season. I wanted to bring Spike and Dru into the story since they're my favorite villains. I also wanted to give the Anointed One a better send off, because even though I love School Hard, I thought it was awfully easy how they killed the Anointed. And I wanted to deal with the Angel/Angelus thing WITHOUT taking Angel's soul. That damn curse loophole is one of my pet peeves, because it came out of nowhere. Up until Surprise/Innocence, the implication was always that Buffy and Angel couldn't be together because of the danger inherent in Angel being a vampire. The idea was that he might lose control, and that's what The Sighing Game series is based on. The loophole was in my opinion a cop-out because it removed all responsibility for Angel's actions. He couldn't really be held accountable for what the vampire did when his soul was gone.
So anyway, I wanted to set up a battle between the Anointed and Spike/Dru, I wanted to drag Buffy even more deeply into the bloodlust, and I wanted Angel to lose control with soul intact. I had a better idea of my plot for this story. I knew I was going to have Buffy and Angel on opposite sides of the Anointed/Spike struggle, and I knew I was going to use the Anointed's power to join with a vamp to link Buffy to him. I also wanted to deal with Xander's lust for Buffy once and for all, because I didn't think Xander and Will could have a real relationship until that was out in the open. I think one reason it was easier to plot the story was because I'd had two previous parts...I'd already developed the hard stuff like explaining how the blood linking worked and what the Anointed's power was, etc. All I had to do with this part was let everything fall into place.

I remember one of the worst parts about writing High Noon was the pressure I felt over doing a fourth (and final) part to the series. I'd gotten such nice feedback and support in writing all the other parts, and in some ways that made it harder for me to motivate myself to write the last part. I think in the back of my mind I was worried I was going to do a poor job and end up ruining the rest of the series for everyone.

Some things about High Noon: I actually had 9 betas for this story. I've never had that many betas before or since. Basically, I asked for volunteers and that's how many people answered. The good thing about that was that if one person couldn't get to a part right away, someone else would. And I liked having a range of reactions. But I think in some ways it's easier when you've just got one or two people you trust. Some of my betas were just saying...great part! and while that was nice when I was doubting myself or worrying about the story, it's better to have betas that are going to nitpick and question you.

In the original version of the first part I was writing out Spike's accent, trying to spell out the dialect..."I don' think you're gettin' it, mate"...but I ended up deciding that was making things to hard for myself...everyone knows what Spike sounds like and reading dialect can be disruptive.

The fight scene in High Noon was probably the most complicated one I've ever done because of the number of people involved. I usually just visualize a fight scene in my head, and sometimes I'll act out something if I want to make sure it's possible :) But it was harder to keep everything straight in my head when I was trying to juggle Giles and the others on the top floor, Buffy and Angel fighting through the crowd of vamps, and Spike and Dru finally killing off the Anointed. It was also harder because it can be difficult to sustain an action sequence when it's that long. If you're writing a one on one fight, it's going to be fairly concise and there's not a huge danger that it's going to grow tedious. With a longer fight scene, it all has to be very clear and keep that energy up or I think the reader will lose intrest. The Buffy/Angel part of the fight was hard in itself because I wanted it to be very vicious, but I also didn't want either of them to get permanently damanged. It was sort of hard to find that balance. Although I liked how it turned out.

So that's the series, in a nutshell, sort of :) Any questions? *g*