Story Behind The Story: The Girl Who Died Backwards Part 1

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Well, it’s been far too long without an update. There are several reasons for this, but I must admit one of them begins with “Sky” and ends with “rim.” I’m not a huge gamer, to be honest, but my life has been sucked away recently by a couple of great games. The other reason though was that I wanted to give a little more time between the release of the last story and before I started this series of blog posts.

I’ve already went through the origin of Grace & Witherbloom in general. Those were spoiler free. These, however, will not be. So please do not read this unless you’ve read The Girl Who Died Backwards. If you haven’t, click the title, download it and then come back here later. 🙂

Seriously. Spoilers Ahoy!

The Girl Who Died Backwards

As I detailed in the blogs about the origins of G&W, I had decided to turn the planned web comic into a series of novellas. After some reflection, I thought the concept would be more successful this way. Having completed it now, I can definitely say this is true. Certainly from a creative standpoint. I had made some drastic changes from the web comic already, including making Helen a young girl, doing away with the character of Kathy, and setting the story in Victorian England versus the present day.

I knew that I wanted the series of novellas to function a bit like episodes in the season of a TV series. I wanted little threads to pop up in each story that tied them together and ultimately culminated in the final story. Basically, I wanted the stories to be more connected than just a series of random adventures with the same characters. So I hit upon the idea very early of having these anachronistic devices seeded by the “villain” character that G&W had to shut down. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted those adventures to be. I had some ideas swirling around in my head that had been there for a long time. One of these was the plot that was going to be the first story of the web comic. But I didn’t want that to be my first novella. For one thing, there were some difficulties present in the idea for the story. I felt like it would require more explanation that would be desirable in an introductory story just for people to understand the main plot. This isn’t great for a first story as you also have to introduce the main characters. I was able to work through these difficulties, however, as the basic concept for the web comic story became Book 3, The Village That Sleeps. Of course, there is some irony that this was one of my worries about using this plot, as it could certainly be argued the mechanics of The Girl Who Died Backward are not that much easier to explain! But we’ll get to that in a moment…

So, I needed a plot! A month or so before I decided to write the novella, I had been kicking around the idea of pitching to Big Finish to write one of their Doctor Who audio adventures. For those who have not heard of Big Finish, they are a fantastic company who produces these amazing audio plays complete with a full cast, dramatic music and sound effects. They really are so well produced and I’m a huge fan. Sadly, after just a day or so of thinking up ideas for adventures that would work well on audio, I found out that BF do not accept unsolicited submissions. However, one idea that I had for a Doctor Who audio adventure was called “Retro.” I had only just sketched the concept out a bit in my mind, but it involved the Doctor having to work through a story’s events in reverse. It’s one of those things that I was surprised hadn’t been done before with Doctor Who as I thought it was a novel way to play with time travel as a device.

So I decided to use this basic concept for G&W. In fact, the story was called “Retro” for a while until I decided that the title didn’t really fit the feel of the series. The idea of it being a sort of “mystery” that G&W had to solve appealed to me as well. Every mystery, in essence, is a time travel story. It just a thought process. You find clues and have to mentally work through events to reconstruct them. So the psychochronal projector is a sort of literal extension of that idea. I had always intended to put a twist on the mystery though. There is no clear “killer” in the end. Just a procedure that went horribly wrong. The crime was really more in the cover up than the actual death. Some readers have found the ending a bit perplexing. I must admit, I liked the idea of not having it be too clear. In fact, in an original draft it was even MORE obscure. I never say the word “abortion,” for a start. Not that I was avoiding the word, just that it felt odd to spell out in the context of the story and the time period it was taking place in. I had actually done quite a bit of research into how abortion was practiced at that time and the public perception of it, which led me to treating it a bit obscurely. To make matters worse, in the original version I left it something of a question as to whether Mary had died because of the botched procedure or whether she had taken her own life over being depressed when she thought Helen had learned her secret. This was a mistake and made it too muddy. So I did make it as clear as I could (without over-explaining) that Mary had likely died because of an abortion gone awry. At this point, hopefully readers will realize the title of the story was a play on words.

I was a bit nervous about the whole abortion angle, though, I must admit. The series was generally meant to be a fun (though not juvenile) adventure series. I sort of liked how that touch of realism crashed into the fantasy world of G&W, though. And it certainly wasn’t something I’d ever read about before in that sort of context. It’s easy to romanticize the past, and certainly Victorian England is romanticized, for the most part! I mean, if you think about it, even the seedier sides of Victoriana are pretty much embraced and romanticized these days. So having a little of why living back then wasn’t great creep in seemed effective to me. But abortion is a touchy subject, to say the least. I didn’t want people to feel like I’d used it as a gimmick, and I hope I’ve treated it thoughtfully here.

I’ll continue on with story behind the story of The Girl Who Died Backwards next time, where I’ll focus on the development of the villain of the series, and how needing someone to open a door led to the creation of one of the most important characters in the series…

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