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I have completed this challenge for the seventh year in a row! It pleased me enormously to see my chart fill up with one more row, which is the reason I insist on doing this year after year, even when it’s not necessarily the best use of my time. This time, however, it was all about completing a specific piece.

31P31D 2018 was about the practical generation of writing that I needed immediately for a project in a way it never really has before. I needed to finish Mrs. Frost, and given that I was a month behind were I was with the previous installment last year, it was very much the priority for any writing I was doing. I think this was the largest percentage of scenes posted from any one current project in progress, even more than Gilded Cages. I actually ended up posting more than I wanted to initially, for fear of spoiling important moments, but I didn’t have time to write other things to post instead. I probably ended up doing less work than I typically do, as I spent most of my time generating scenes I would actually use in the piece rather than placeholders for posting. I tend to end up with a lot of extra material this way, meaning I get even more for the “one scene per day” buck, but I just didn’t have the time when there was so much of the import piece still undone.

The statistics:

Projects written for:
1. Mrs. Frost – 18
2. Hawking – 10
3. Gilded Cages – 1
4. Jeeves Takes Charge – 1
5. Ripper – 1

Characters written:
1. Victoria Hawking – 11
2. Nathaniel Hawking – 10
3. Mary Stone – 9
4. Reginald Hawking – 7
5. Elizabeth Frost – 6
6. Clara Hawking – 6
7. Malaika Shah – 4
8. Arthur Swann – 4
9. Roland Davies – 3
10. Ambrose Hawking – 2
11. Justin Hawking – 2
12. Terrence Enfield – 1
13. Charles Dearborn – 1
14. Sarah Hemsworth – 1
15. Reginald Jeeves – 1
16. Bertie Wooster – 1

Because of this, it ended up being another near all-Hawking month, with only thirty as opposed to last year’s thirty-one. The only non-Hawking piece was a scene from pilot idea I had for a reboot of Jeeves and Wooster. I intended to do more of those for this month’s challenge, but finishing Mrs. Frost took precedence. I also didn’t work very much ahead on anything, though given I don’t know much about anything past part six, there’s not a lot of ahead I’m prepared to work on! It does mean I’ve drafted five installments of this series, and even though it needs a lot of editing before it’s finished, I’m really proud of that accomplishment.
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And I have done it— accomplished another 31 Plays in 31 Days! Most of it consisting of scenes of the newest Mrs. Hawking play, part V: Mrs. Frost. This last one is a flashback though, not from the play, but another scene from the dumpster fire that was the Hawking marriage. It's not entirely unrelated, as technically Frost makes a very oblique reference to the events of this piece at one point in part V.

SO GLAD TO BE DONE. That's seven years in a row!

Day #31 - Hard Truth )
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I have a policy of not reposting later drafts of scenes originally generated for a previous 31P31D. I have posted other sections of Mrs. Frost's interrogation of Nathaniel before, so even though they are vastly, vastly different at this point in the piece's development, they still violate that rule. This piece, however, is not the direct descendant of any previous piece, so I'm going to use it.

This feeds into at least the current version of 2017's Day #8 - "From the Queen's Archive." Bleh. Caught up now. Just one more to go.

Day #30 - Psyop )
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Blaaaargh, why am I posting this stuff? Don't wanna. Just need to finish, and God forbid I break my streak of completing an arbitrary challenge structure that's not actually all that useful to my finishing work anymore!

Day #29 - Round Two )
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This scene seems really bland divorced from context. But it's the only way to not make it totally a spoiler. Whatever. Just punishing to finish.

Clara works her magic.

Day #28 - Troubled )
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Finding myself posting Frost scenes I really didn't want to spoil here. So I'm kind of chopping them down a bit, so that they still have a mostly-complete arc, but don't necessarily continue into the most dramatic part of the scene. It makes them all less powerful, but I'm trying not to totally give them away before even the first reading. Especially since they're going to go through an editing process, and will be much stronger and better executed then.

Day #27 - Taking Risks )
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This is only half a scene. I didn't want to be posting a lot of this Mrs. Frost stuff, but since I'm behind on posting, I'm not going to have a lot of time to write additional scenes. So I cut this at a shifting point, before the really high drama kicks in and they hash things out, because I don't want to spoil it.

Day #26 - Leviathan )
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I am ridiculously behind. Mad that I was on top of this for like twenty-two straight days, and then Bernie comes to visit and I completely lose my stride. Scrambling to catch back up before the end of the month.

This follows immediately after Day #10 - "Undercover."

Day #25 - Caught )
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Blargh. Didn't want to post this. But need to post something, and I'm behind, and I have to finish the goddamn draft.

Day #24 - How Long )
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Grumble. I'm behind. Bernie is visiting and I didn't have a chance to post for the last couple of days. Also I'm VERY close to having a complete draft of Mrs. Frost and don't want to post things that spoil it. But here's one of those "plotting scenes" which has proven to be the trickiest for me— the ones where the team is pulling apart the mystery, and how they get from problem to solution.

This piece immediately precedes #21 - "The Force of Her".

#23 - Crossing Kingmaker )
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Sigh. One and a half scenes of Mrs. Frost to go. Being so close is nerve-wracking. And I want to finish in enough time to take a few days away from it, so I can polish it up in time for the reading dinner. I've just got one real problem left to crack, then I can push through. But I'm feeling twitchy and nervous about it; I really want to make it good, but I'm not feeling great about anything I've generated recently, which is stressing me out.

This isn't a Mrs. Frost scene. I feel like I'm basically out of Mrs. Frost scenes that aren't spoilers. This is an idea of something to include in a possible flashback audio drama focused on the Hawking marriage. It's the last time Victoria and Elizabeth saw each other before their paths diverged. Semi-spoilery for Gilded Cages.

Photo by Steve Karpf

Day #22 - Bottom Drawer )
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This is a very important scene from Mrs. Frost. When the new team is struggling to work together, Malaika takes note of Mary's struggle and offers her a warning based on her experience. In turn, Mary asks her if Malaika really has no choice but to walk the path alone. It was very tough to write, and I think it's going to need a lot of editing to get exactly right. It's also a moment that helped me make the decision that, when I wrote the full pilot for the television version I'd like to have produced some day, to write Mary as an ethnically Indian girl. I feel like this moment would work even more strongly as an elder female superhero of color speaking to an up-and-coming young female superhero of color.

Day #21 - The Force of Her )
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Photo by Steve Karpf

The last part of the opening scene of Mrs. Frost. It comes immediately after yesterday's Day #19 - "Time and Strife", which in turn continues from Day #20 - "Disguise". I think I feel a little better about this part than I did when I posted yesterday's, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm either repeating myself, being too obvious, or not hitting the real point. I guess that's normal for a first draft. But as is so often the case, I feel like I know what I OUGHT to be saying, but can't figure out how to say it. It's hard to foreshadow without spoiling, it's hard to be clear without being too obvious or repetitious, and it's hard to be focused without giving away the game.

But that's what second drafts are for.

Day #20 - Until the Bell Rings )
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Garbage. Awkward, unspecific garbage that I've been banging at for like three days and I still hate it. It follows immediately after Day #16 - "Disguise", and it suffers from the same issue I had with that one of not knowing how to convey the important backstory the audience needs to know, without drowning them in details or making the characters say things they'd never naturalistically say. Thinking now, I have struggled with the scene where "the current state of things" is articulated in parts III and IV as well— that ended up being a slog to write that I left until almost last both previous times as well.

Day #19 - Time and Strife )
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A sad moment from early in the Hawking marriage. Originally this was written to directly connect to Day #13 - "Waiting". But it felt kind of abrupt as an immediate follow-up, like the whole thing was rushed. It would probably work better in a cinematic style, where cuts can imply the passage of time rather than the way theater tends to suggest things are happening in the time in which you are seeing them. Especially since I think this came after hours and hours of stressful suspense.

Content note for stillbirth.

Day #18 - A Boy )
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This one is fun because I actually have an audio recording of it! Today I posted the scene as performed by Jeremiah O'Sullivan and Christian Krenek, as Nathaniel and Justin respectively, to the Mrs. Hawking website. They did an adorable job performing it, so I'm going to refer you over there to listen to it.

On "New audio recording - "Last Night Before"

Base Instruments 2018-121

This piece is another bit from earlier in the Hawking timeline, with Nathaniel and Justin celebrating at the end of a stag night just before Nathaniel's wedding. It comes out funny and touching at once, which is what I always go for with these two characters. I highly recommend listening to the recording, as the actors knock it out of the park.

Day #17 - Last Night Before )
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An early scene from Mrs. Frost. One thing I've managed to do pretty well up to this point with the Hawking plays is make it possible to follow each play without necessarily having seen the others. For the first three, each case more or less stands alone, with the continuity providing depth but never being necessary to understanding the story. I kind of figured as long as it was always clear that Mrs. Hawking and Mary had a Holmes and Watson thing going on, you had the basics of what you needed to know.

WIth part four... that started to break down a little. Gilded Cages is a story ABOUT history, and while I don't think it was totally inaccessible, it did involve building on things we'd established before— Mrs. Hawking's unhappiness in her marriage, the stillbirth they had, even a reference to an old case. And since everything about part V grows directly out of part IV, I'm concerned the problem will be more serious here. I can't allow it to be unclear what the scenario is going in, or have it rely on having seen the last installment; then the Continuity Lock-Out will set in. But I don't want to be drowning the audience in details they don't absolutely need, which will not only bore them and slow things down, but spoil part IV for those who haven't seen it.

In scenes like this one, there are places for mentions of the past. But I absolutely HATE when characters recap details they ALL ALREADY KNOW for the sake of the audience, in a manner that no human being would actually talk. But there's got to be some clarity, or it won't make sense.

I'll have to find the right level. It may be that the audience doesn't NEED to know everything. Maybe I just need to figure out what the bare minimum is to make the story clear. But I am concerned a LOT of detail is needed, given it's not just about setting up the central conflict— superhero versus super villain —but the nuance of it, old friend versus old friend.

Hm. Putting it like that, maybe it's simpler than I thought. Thinking of it like that may be useful to me.

Day #16 - Disguise )
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This one I'm not quite sure about. It's another illustration of an important moment in the Hawking marriage. It's something that I'm pretty sure happened in one form of another, but finding the right way to depict it was tricky. Their marriage had its screaming fiery period and it had its icy withdrawn period, but it consistently never had them really being honest with each other about their problems. That can make it really hard to decide what they say— like, maybe they wouldn't say anything at all? But if this is the one moment where something on this subject busted out in twenty years, they've got to say something. But what are the right words for them to use? What would they actually say? This is a particularly low moment, where I have a bit more leeway for them to be more emotionally extreme than usual, but I want it to feel true to the nature of the characters.

Content note for recent stillbirth.

Day #15 - Gutted )
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Today's piece is from Mrs. Frost again, a little bit different in form. I generally don't write monologues into the shows-- I tend not to like them, as I find it unrealistic when people speechify for that long, and they often get boring to listen to. But this is for a character who was never listened to when she was young, so now that she has power she talks as much as she wants. And this is in the form of a letter, with the intention of staging it so the actor enters adiegetically to speak the words of it out loud. I count a monologue as basically equivalent to a scene "of at least one page" because the number of lines is roughly equivalent.

Day #14 - Loving Sister in Arms )
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I've been posting a lot of scenes from part V: Mrs. Frost, mostly to prove to myself and others that I'm working on it. But I'm feeling like the majority of that piece is one huge spoiler— shockingly, even more so than part IV, which practically had a twist ending —if only because of a structural oddity it's developing where the climax is protracted and builds up over the course of many scenes. I kind of don't want to post many scenes for fear of spoiling that.

I find myself writing a lot of scenes from Mrs. Hawking's past, specifically during the course of her marriage to the Colonel. There's just so much deliciously twisted drama to be wrung from their situation, a miasma of resentment, unrequited love, and silence. I've been toying with the idea of collecting the scenes I write about it and recording them as a formal, polished audio drama about their marriage, just because I think I've gotten a lot of really good stuff out of it. It's a bit out of the tone of the normal plays, but it would be cool to be able to do something with these scenes that I'm actually pretty pleased with. Today's piece might be one of the ones I would include in such a thing. I'll have to think on this more.

Day #13 - Waiting )


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