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Since it's almost halfway through the summer, I thought I'd give a report while I actually have a moment.

I've been at my new job with Evil Overlord Games for almost a month now, and I think it's going well! I am definitely enjoying it, and I'm working very hard to do well. I've produced an enormous amount of writing, though I'm still getting used to the situation of doing it for a set time for an entire workday. Creativity on a regular schedule takes some adapting! But I'm enjoying the challenge, and I am very determined to deliver good work. This past week I was working as fast as I could in an effort to meet a deadline, so it will likely call for a lot of editing, but getting it down on the page is always the biggest challenge for me.

I've also been working on drafting Mrs. Hawking part 4, tentatively titled Gilded Cages. (I'm not crazy about that title, but I'm not sure what else to call it.) What I've got so far is very rough, but I've made a good start-- as I've mentioned, I've got to just get some garbage on the page in order to have some material to work with and improve. It's been a bit harder and weirder, given that I've got so much other writing to do lately, but having my day job provide way more writing responsibilities is actually a pretty good problem to have.

I'm also in tech week for Murders and Scandals, the PMRP double feature of Murders in the Rue Morgue and A Scandal in Bohemia. I must say, it has been quite some time before I've had a tech week that was this low-intensity, given I've been doing the piece-heavy Mrs. Hawking shows. We open this coming weekend at Responsible Grace in Somerville, so check out our schedule of performances to see which show you can make!
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New post on!

"Completed outline for Mrs. Hawking part 4!"

I have hit my first milestone in my process of putting together the fourth Mrs. Hawking story!

For the month of June, Bernie and I worked on creating a complete outline with all the story events with the proper structure. Our goal was to have it done by the end of the month, and we completed it with one day to spare. That means I can successfully move on to drafting it, which is in some ways more fun than planning, but in other ways more challenging— because I have to move on from theory to actual execution.

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New post on!

"Our important new character in Hawking part 4"

I am busily working away at my plan to have Mrs. Hawking part 4—tentatively titled Gilded Cages —ready to go into rehearsal by the end of the summer. That means all this month Bernie and I have been working on the outline for the story, as I like to get the structure and shape of it down before I actually start drafting.

As I’ve mentioned, one of the toughest parts of this piece is dealing with the presence of Victorian colonialism. It’s a major factor in this story, and I want exploring the issues that stem from it to have an important place in the story’s theme. Without revealing too much, I will say we’re including a character who is an indigenous resident of a colonized place in Asia. It is incumbent upon us to be as respectful as possible in that character’s portrayal. This is particularly challenging because we will be adding this character to an already established cast, where the protagonist is a white woman. Even under the best of circumstances, there is a very real danger of what I refer to as my theory of The Problem of the Protagonist— in short, where the centrality of your main character necessitates subordination of any other character’s story, which can result in those supporting roles’ marginalization or dehumanization.


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New post on!

"The plan for scripting Mrs. Hawking part 4"

So now is the time that my collaborator Bernie and I are seriously buckling down on the script for the fourth and next installment of Mrs. Hawking. We’ve been at work on it for a while now, but the demands of production pushed it to the back burner. But now that it will be time to debut part 4 for the next Arisia in 2018, we have made a plan to get it completely scripted.

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Bernie and I have begun work on Mrs. Hawking part four, and we're running into some challenges. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as we've had this happen with each subsequent installment, but this one has presented some difficulties that are thus far unique.

The biggest thing to deal with is the fact that we're writing a colonial story. Part four is going to be split into a present day case in 1885, and a flashback story to Mrs. Hawking's youth in the colonies. We haven't decided WHICH colony, though, as we are still doing research to figure out if there are any historical features that would serve our turn. What I'd really like to display is that some terrible event that happened during Victoria's childhood demonstrated to her how corrupt and broken the system is, which helped to shape her worldview in the present. A natural possibility is witnessing something of the horrors of Victorian colonialism. But I really don't want to just turn the suffering of the local people to be just a lesson for my white hero, or make her into a white savior for those same. And I definitely don't want to sidestep the issue and just end up tell a story set in a colony that's only about the white invaders.

What I've got here is a Problem of the Protagonist, to use my own theory-- when the need to centralize a particular character ends up objectifying or dehumanizing other characters. Because my hero is white, it runs the risk of turning any characters I include of the local people into objects who exist only to facilitate my protagonist's story. And I definitely do not want to do that with characters of color.

I'm going to put in the work on this. I've got a lot of researching and developing to do yet. But I do know a good way to keep a character human is to give them their own arc, demonstrating that their story is one worth following, and affording them agency in the story, making them take actions in the service of achieving their goals and needs. So, while I'm by no means certain yet, my current idea I'm exploring involves having a local character whose personal mission is the central arc of the flashback's story. This character, who'd probably be female, could have the protagonistic qualities of wanting something, taking actions to pursue it, and driving the plot with their efforts. Perhaps if she drives the story, and other characters are in the position of being reactive to that, I can avoid making any such person being subservient to Victoria's development.

I'm not sure yet. I'll have to do more work. But I'm resolved to figure out how to do this in a respectful, conscientious way.
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I hate how this turned out. It was written too fast and without the planning that it needs. It's an important scene from Mrs. Hawking part four, but it messes all the important parts up.

In the flashback to Mrs. Hawking's youth in the Asian colonies, I want there to be some injustice happening there for her to want to deal with. But I need to be careful about what it is, as I'm telling a colonial story and I don't want my white protagonist to be some Mighty Whitey standing up for native people who are used as a faceless or token plot device. I haven't done enough research to figure out how to deal with that yet. So there's some vague "problem" in this scene alluded to, but I don't know what it is yet so it's non-specific and totally meaningless.

The second problem is, I want an element of this story to be how the young Reginald Hawking has just established a reputation as the hero of the Indian Rebellion. But anytime somebody brings it up, he tries to avoid having to talk about it-- implying without coming out and saying it that he is uncomfortable with what he did there and would prefer not to dwell on how they treated him like a hero for doing something awful. In this, it makes it way too blatant, taking out the speculation as to what he's feeling. I did it completely inelegantly, so it'll have to be completely rewritten.

This will ALL have to be rewritten. Bah. But I'm almost done with 31P31D 2016, so I've just got to fill the quota.

Day #28 - Loyal Servant of the Empire )
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For Mrs. Hawking part 4, a big part of it is going to be revealing more about the relationship between Mrs. Hawking and the Colonel. Most of it is going to be seeing their interactions in the past in flashback form. But I also want to have a little bit in the present-- a rare moment where Mrs. Hawking talked about him in different manner than her usual anger and resentment. Her feelings are complicated, but she's usually so mad at him that she doesn't like to think about him with any nuance, much less discuss him that way.

I don't really know what the plot of part 4 is going to be. But I needed a set up for this scene, so I wrote it on the assumption that the client discovers, in the course of her case, that some bad decision her husband made brought about the death of her child-- which I guess would be the focus of the case itself. I don't know if I actually want to go for that, but it was a convenient assumption for this moment.

Something I want to establish is that, other than when using his full name, she never refers to him as "Reginald"-- only "the Colonel." So when she does it here, it's meant to be striking and meaningful.

Day #17 - Reginald Managed It )
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A Mary and Arthur scene! This is hastily slapped together because I had to do two today to catch up. This scene probably wouldn't happen like this. But it would be for Mrs. Hawking part 4, where Arthur would first run up against the fact that the more he knows about Mary's work, the less plausible deniability he has to not be obligated as an officer of the law. I would want to explore that, plus set up the growth of Mary and Arthur's relationship to contrast with the much more screwed up relationship between Mrs. Hawking and the Colonel.

This scene is sloppy and not totally thought through. I think Arthur would feel more tension between wanting to help Mary and his devotion to being a good policeman, which gives him a more interesting complexity. In future drafts I need to take that into account more than I did here, when I was needing to finish something to post for the challenge today.

Day #11 - Bloody Great Fool )
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Every year since 2012, I have participated in a playwriting challenge called 31 Plays in 31 Days, where you write a play of at least one page in length every day for the month of August. The focus is on encouraging generation, with as much rein to be creative and free of restriction as possible. In the past I've found it extremely useful, whether for simply generating new work, building up my portfolio of ten-minutes, or making progress on larger pieces I wanted to get drafted.

August is right around the corner, so I find myself with the option of putting myself to the test again. But I'm wondering if it's the best use of my time. Right now it's not terribly useful to me to just be writing random new scenes-- I have enough projects already planned on I'd rather be devoting my time and energy to. The obvious move in that case is to use 31P31D to force myself to make progress on one of those projects. That's basically what I did last year, when I mostly focused on getting a complete draft of Base Instruments, and it proved to be very effective.

Last year, however, I'd spent the previous several months plotting Base Instruments out and making an outline of the events. I believe structure is very important and my work tends to involve a lot of plotting, so figuring out the shape of events beforehand is really necessary to my process. Right now I don't have that prepared for anything I want to work on right now. Well, except for my Robin Hood-inspired heist show pilot. But I'm two-thirds of the way done with that right now, and I'm aiming to have it completely finished by the 8th, so it wouldn't provide me with much to work on for the month.

The other thing I'd be thinking of working on this year is the fourth Mrs. Hawking play. But as I said, I haven't been able to do all the extensive plot structuring and outlining I really like to do before I actually draft. I don't know if I'd be ready to actually write many scenes for it by August. Plus that piece is going to involve a lot of historical research beforehand anyway, which I definitely have not had a chance to do. So I don't know if I can manage that.

The other alternative is to change the nature of the challenge. I could decide to hold myself to a different standard, such as doing X amount of writing-involved work for a piece for each day of August. I've been reluctant to do that, as I said when I was pondering this last year around this time, because it's harder to measure and quantify, and it's very difficult to display results of any kind. I kind of like having a little thing I wrote to post every day.

I'm not sure. I really do like doing the challenge, as it's been useful for me every year so far. I'd love to experience that kind of productivity boost again, but the circumstances may just not be right for it this time. Maybe I'll do it anyway because it makes me feel good, or maybe I'll decide it will take too much time and effort away from more productive writing work. Haven't decided yet.
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My thoughts have been turning to the fourth installment of the Mrs. Hawking series ever since the end of part three, Base Instruments, came in sight. That piece is going to be all about HISTORY-- while part one told Mary's "origin story" as a hero, part four will flash back to tell Mrs. Hawking's, the moment where things changed for her to put her on the path she travels ever after.

To keep with that notion, the repercussions of things past that shaped the world of the present, I thought it might be interesting to bring back characters that we'd met before, but weren't necessarily part of the recurring cast of the heroes, Clara, Arthur, and the like.

That made me think of Lord Brockton, the villain from part one, the blackmailer who they have in a Mexican standoff by the end of story. It occurred to me that if you've got a blackmailer under your thumb, he can be used as a source of information-- which would be a good reason to bring him back. Also, I connected it to the notion of double-casting I want to facilitate with the story, the idea that people from the past story can be played by the same actors as characters in the present to convey meaning. The idea came from the most important double casting I'd like to do, present-day Nathaniel with the flashback-era Colonel. When I realized that the imposing older man who represents the broken establishment aspect of Lord Brockton meant that actor could also play Mrs. Hawking's father, whom I also plan to include, that clinched it. I think it would work to have the character of Lord Brockton recur.

To that end, I scribbled out the scene in the last few days. It's light on specific plot details-- as these things tend to be before I figure out the overarching strucutre of the piece --but it conveys the vibe I want for the interaction. I think it could be very cool.

Read more... )
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When I was doing 31 Plays in 31 Days, I felt slightly guilty that I ended this scene, #29 - How You Hated Him, on kind of an abrupt note. I knew there was more to that scene, but I was having a busy day at the time, and I didn't feel prepared to do the rest at the time, so I ended it there. But today I decided to take a crack at writing the next bit of it. So this little scenelet picks up where 31P31D 2015 #29 leaves off. It's super-rough, but I like a lot of the ideas in it, and there's a few good line as well.

I think this would be used in Mrs. Hawking part 4, which will be all about family history, and explaining Mrs. Hawking's origins. Which includes how her relationship with the Colonel came to be.

Read more... )
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Again building off of this blog entry, which speculates about the Colonel's work in the years between the loss of Gabriel and his death. I'm thinking of working this notion into Mrs. Hawking 4-- God, why is the process of editing Base Instruments making me want to skip right on ahead to writing installment 4? --as relating to Nathaniel's part of it. That story is going to be about HISTORY, and way the characters are affected by history both that they're aware of and not aware of.

Day #29 - How You Hated Him )
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This is messing around with an idea I've alluded to a lot in the Mrs. Hawking stories, the first moment when Victoria and Reginald met. The fourth installment of Mrs. Hawking will involve telling her "origin story" in a manner of speaking, demonstrating what set her on her life path, which includes how she came to marry the Colonel. I plan on telling that story in flashback, juxtaposed with an adventure in the present day-- then, 1885.

This is a very bare-bones, rough pass of the scene. The real version will likely be more in-depth than this. But I'm just trying to bang stuff out for 31P31D.

Day #25 - Black Eye )
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This is an odd piece, one I'm not sure where it would fit into the Hawking continuity. It grew partially out of the idea of visiting the Hawking family graves, and partially out of this musing on the Colonel's doings during the period in the marriage where he was spending a lot of time abroad without Mrs. Hawking in his military service to the empire. I thought it might be neat if the Colonel was offered a knighthood, but for some reason desired to turn it down. Mrs. Hawking never asked him why, which would really disturb Nathaniel once he found out. When I was struggling to find a reason why they would visit the family graves, I thought thinking about that might be a nice motivation.

Day #9 - Gravestones )
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For day 8, I have a scene for the fourth Mrs. Hawking story. I laugh at myself, as I am seriously spoiling at lot of story to come with these, particularly with this one. I find it's easier to know how to emotional/character moments will go without totally understanding the whole story than anything plot-dependent. This is more or less an idea of the climax of Mrs. Hawking 4, involving her old friend Mrs. Frost.

I love writing Mrs. Frost. She's such a unique presence in the universe, and she gets to smack Mrs. Hawking around in a way few other characters ever get to. :-)

Very spoilery, I'm afraid.

Day #8 - Old Friends )
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New blog post on!

"The problem of Hawking family resemblance."

We know from "Vivat Regina" that Mrs. Hawking can't get past Nathaniel's resemblance to his late uncle. But how to make the audience see what she sees?

Drama is a visual medium; what the audience sees can do as much to tell the story as the words the characters speak. And it just so happens that Nathaniel’s appearance, if not those imagined details specifically, has had an explicit effect on the plot. In Vivat Regina, Mrs. Hawking tells him that it’s hard for her to learn to let down her guard with someone who looks so much like the Colonel, the man from whom she spent years hiding everything that was important to her.

Mostly the discomfort of that would have to be informed. This kind of bothered me, as it’s always better to make the audience feel the emotions rather then just tell them about them. But then it occurred to me that there’s a theatrical way to make the audience see what Mrs. Hawking sees– eventually, at any rate.

Read the rest of the entry at!
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Finally a new bit including Mrs. Hawking's Moriarty, Elizabeth Frost! Or rather Elizabeth Danvers, as this scene takes place when they were young together in the colonies. (Told you I'd try to include one, [ profile] staystrong62805!)

This is intended for eventual use in the fourth story, which will deal in large part with flashbacks to Mrs. Hawking's origin story, her youth abroad, how she came to be married to the Colonel, and what turned her into the angry crusader for women's justice that she is today. What's fun about it is that when our hero was young, she was very different-- less disciplined, less honed, more a creature of reaction and emotion that did not fear the consequences of her actions. This much more callow Victoria didn't know how to strategize and weigh her choices to achieve the things she wanted; in fact, she relied on her slightly older friend and companion Elizabeth Danvers for that. This is a fun, fascinating dynamic to write because the older Mrs. Hawking is always the smartest, most capable person in he room, but here she's the supplicant, the one who needs someone else to bail her out of trouble.

In this scene, I don't know what crisis will have happened as I haven't figured out this story's full plot yet. But I like it as a moment for Elizabeth to tell Victoria what's what, because at this point our hero just doesn't get it. I hope it contributes to explaining why she turns out the way she does when we meet her as the honed, harden crime fighter that we know her as.

Day #22 - "The Hand You've Been Dealt" )
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More stuff from early in the history of the Mrs. Hawking story. This takes place in New Guinea, sometime in the late 1850s or early 1860s.

I think this would be an early scene in the prequel. They say first scenes should suggest the questions for the rest of the play, as well as draw people in right away, so I tried to do that a little.

Day #28 - "A Force of Nature" )
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Yesterday's piece was about a future supervillain of Mrs. Hawking's, a woman who was her friend growing up in New Guinea, who is as smart as she is but choose to manipulate the system rather than fight against it. Today's piece shows them back when they were young Victoria Stanton and Elizabeth Danvers, before they were married and became Mrs. Hawking and Mrs. Frost. I think I will reproduce an awesome comment here by [ profile] staystrong62805, because she perfectly summed up exactly what I was going for:

"...Mrs. Hawking up against someone who can meet her on even footing. Seeing her actually sort of lose her cool and lose that sort of detached mentor-ish tone she always has with Mary (and, to a slightly lesser extent, the nephew), is refreshing. I like that Frost gets her worked up, gets inside her guard and gets to her in a way we really never have seen anything else do. I especially like that Frost sort of clucks her tongue and shakes her head and looks down on Hawking, who is always so aloof and above it all. There's condescension and even, or at least how it reads to me (and how I would read it), a touch of pity. And not because of how she was forced into a life she rejected. Not for what was done to her. But rather for what and who she is."

You'll note I am naming the major female figures in the Mrs. Hawking universe after the queens of England. We have Victoria and Mary already. Mrs. Hawking's nemesis and opposite, then, is Elizabeth-- one of the most powerful and brilliant of them all.

Day #27 - "The Difference Between Us" )
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A Hawking backstory scene! Back in the day, a young soldier by the name of Reginald Hawking tells his older brother Ambrose of a remarkable young woman he's just made the acquaintance of. I'm not sure this actually would work with the timeline-- because Reginald would have to be stationed in the colonies, and his older brother would already have been married and settled by then and likely not living close enough to have a real-time conversation with. (He's Nathaniel's dad, by the way, and Nathaniel might have even been born by this point.)

I'm using this as an exercise about getting the point across even though the characters do not have an accurate assessment of the situation. See how well I do.

Day #24 - "The Leftenant's Daughter" )


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