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Fic Commentary - Signals (2/?) - dorsetgirl
July 6th, 2008
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Fic Commentary - Signals (2/?)

I fought against having a change of pov here, but I couldn’t find a way round it. Having made the Greek look down, I had to give him something to look at. Also, we have large chunks of Gene pov before and after this, and I felt we should hear from Sam, even if only briefly.

 

Sam only realised he was thinking about Gene again when he felt his cock twitch and noticed the man next to him glance down. Summoning up visions of Ray and Phyllis, Sam climbed the tower for his last dive. The Greek, noticed only by Gene, watched him all the way. This being Sam pov (more or less), and him not noticing what was going on, I had to find a way of telling the reader that the Greek was very interested in Sam, and that Gene had seen this. Also, that Gene watches Sam more than he would ever admit, and notices what goes on around him so he can protect him.

 

Sam surfaced at the edge of the diving area and swam another length before clambering out of the water near the cafe. The Greek guy has to have time to climb all the way up to the top board and do his own bit of posing, so this gives Sam something to do while that’s happening. Also, the diving board is at the other end of the pool from the cafe (so Gene isn’t trying to peer straight up in the air) and I wanted Sam getting out of the water near Gene. Because he would. He raised a hand to Gene, who had temporarily abandoned his paper to watch, and indicated the changing rooms. Gene nodded in acknowledgement as Sam walked away, while behind him the Greek entered the water with rather more show and splash than most people would consider necessary. There’s an awful lot happening in this supposed Sam-pov section that Sam doesn’t actually notice. Ah well. But the description of the Greek’s lack of style is what Sam would have thought, had he seen it. The Greek guy just wants Sam to keep on noticing him, but I wanted to show that Sam had forgotten his existence and was totally focussed on Gene.

 

* * *

 

And now the coffee is ready for its close-up.

 

Gene reached for his coffee when the Greek followed Sam into the changing rooms, intending to follow straight away. Then, thinking better of it, he put the cup down unfinished. He’d allow a few minutes for things to develop before he intervened, make Sam see for himself what he was so good at stirring up. He might even be wrong, though he doubted it. Because he never is.

 

Five minutes later, Gene finished his coffee then walked casually round the pool and into the changing rooms. It wasn’t that Gene didn’t trust Sam; he did, totally. Yes, I know the reader already knows that. But I think Gene would re-state it to himself at this point. And, good copper that he was, Sam wasn’t likely to get into a situation he couldn’t handle. Gene just thought he’d better get there before Sam handled it in proper Hyde fashion - caution, cuffs and all. I don’t think that was the original flavour of this part, but when I thought more about it, it became clear that Sam wouldn’t be a DCI back home if he couldn’t handle himself against all-comers. So it became more about the risk of exposure rather than the risk of injury or infidelity.

 

Pushing the door closed very quietly, he could hear Sam’s side of an intense conversation. The other man’s voice was a low, dark-voiced mutter. Because I didn’t have a bloody clue what he was saying.

 

“...no, sorry mate, you misunderstood.”

 

“---“

 

“Well you were wrong. I’m not...”

 

Gene heard the man laugh mockingly.

 

“---“

 

“Really, I’m not interested. Sorry. Hey!” The guy is big, and handsome, and confident of his charms. And in those days, in my world at least, big, handsome, confident guys knew that a quick grope was the way to convince you they were worth going to bed with.

 

Gene grabbed the door quickly and let it bang shut. “Sam? You in here?”

 

Walking round the corner Well, duh, otherwise they’d have seen him, right? he saw the Greek step away from Sam and glance towards Gene. Gene hooked both thumbs in his belt and stood looking at him. “On your way. He’s not interested.”

 

The Greek looked back at Sam who didn’t seem to know where to look. Because he’s conflicted, and he just knows Gene is about to say “told you so”. And he doesn’t want to admit it. Receiving no encouragement the man walked out angrily.

 

“You OK?” Gene kept his face blank and his voice light. He knows Sam well enough to understand that Sam isn’t going to be happy about him intervening, like he can’t look after himself.

 

Sam walked forward and faced up to him, pointing a finger at his face. “Do you mind not talking for me? I was just about to send him on his way.”

 

“Thought I’d better help you sort things out before you started arresting him, Gladys.” Gene took the locker key out of Sam’s hand and turned away. I felt that a fair amount of this conversation might take place with them not looking at each other, so I had to give Gene something to do. Also, the whole business with the key and the bag, and Gene getting Sam’s towel out for him demonstrates their close domestic relationship. Gene is absolutely not stepping over any boundaries in going to Sam’s locker, and in opening his bag and rummaging through it.

 

Sam spoke to his back. “Help me? What, you think I couldn’t handle it?”

 

Gene took the bag out of the locker and shoved it at Sam. “I know you could handle it, Sam, it’s just how you were gonna handle it. You go telling him you’re a police officer and you’d never have been able to come here again. Gene has few illusions about Sam; he just knows he’d be an arrogant prick with the guy, not only rejecting him and denting his alpha-male pride, but totally pissing him off as well.  He’d be down here all the time, provoking the bendy copper, trying to get you to react until you end up arresting him or something. Because he has a bit of a short fuse. And then how are you going to explain what you’re arresting him for?”

 

Sam sat down and looked at Gene mutely. Poor bugger just hadn’t thought that far. He still has the mindset that if anyone doesn’t like gays that’s just their problem and it doesn’t have to be anyone else’s. Gene could see he was thinking about that one and spoke more gently. “You’d have ended up being approached everywhere you went, Sam. So unless you actually want to stand up at the Town Hall on market day and tell everyone and his missis, this is the best way. Let me handle it.” Gene knows this world, and he’s learned how to survive in it.

 

One of the things I always forget is to have the characters moving about. I go through the thoughts and feelings and dialogue, and then I read back and realise no-one has actually moved for about three pages. So I have them pacing the room, or Gene lighting a cigarette is a handy stand-by. Here, though, we have that delectable body still clad only in swimming trunks, and he must be pretty cold by now, on account of the freezing cold draught these places always have.

 

Seeing Sam shiver in his wet trunks, Gene opened his kit bag and started rummaging, glancing sideways at Sam. “ ’Sides, if you’re going to start arresting every man that fancies you, you’ll need to give us time to build some more cells.”  And finally, I remember to give Gene something Gene-like to say.

 

Sam gaped at him.

 

A lot of this fic consisted of Gene explaining things to Sam about his new world, and I had to decide where to place each subject. In terms of venue, there were three obvious choices – right here in this changing room, in the Cortina, or back at home. What I found much more difficult was to decide what order some of these things had to be said in. It was always my intention to get some hot sex in this fic somewhere, because after all, Gene’s being thinking about it all the time Sam’s been strutting about in his trunks, and I thought that some of the most intense discussion might come immediately after the sex, because by the time I’d finished writing this conversation, it was pretty obvious what Sam was going to do to restore his male pride.

 

“What, d’yer think I’m the only man in the world that fancies you?” Gene found Sam’s towel in the bag and passed it over. “Look, get dressed for God’s sake, this isn’t the best place to be discussing this.”

 

Sam stood up and started to dry himself off quickly, still looking stunned. As this is all Gene pov, I had to fight my tendency to ignore the non-pov character apart from giving him words to say.

 

Gene laughed at the look on his face and said “Yer gorgeous, you bloody idiot, haven’t you seen the way they look at you?”  And I wish I hadn’t said that.

 

So here’s the sad thing. I actually have a table in my Signals folder for this section: in one column there is a list of the actions – Sam puts on his trousers, Sam does up his shirt buttons, they leave the changing room, they reach the car – and in the other is the dialogue, broken down into neat chunks to make sure the conversation lasts the right amount of time.

 

He leaned against the wall and watched Sam pull up those tempting trousers.  “Why d’you think I stick so close all the time? If Rathbone was 20 years younger...”  Rathbone was the obvious candidate here. It had to be a senior officer, and preferably one that the reader knew already. I didn’t want to use Harry Woolf, firstly because in general I try to avoid setting my fics in any recognisable time-scale relative to the series, and secondly because I’m sure Gene felt a lot more for Harry than simply respect for a superior and I didn’t want to introduce that whole complicated dynamic.

 

“What, you don’t trust me, you’re making sure I don’t get a chance to talk to anyone else?” Sam paused with one arm in his shirt. “Hold on a minute – Rathbone?”

 

Gene ignored him. “Of course I trust you, and I wouldn’t try to stop you talking to whoever you want. I’m just protecting you, you great twat.”

 

Sam starting doing up his shirt buttons as he asked again. “You said Rathbone. And what do you mean, protecting me?”

 

Gene took Sam’s jacket out of the locker. He doesn’t want to be looking at Sam when he says this bit. Doesn’t want to see his face in case he looks pleased about it. “He fancies you.” He held onto it, subconsciously inhaling the Sam-smell as he turned back to face Sam. I wanted to reinforce the idea of how totally close these two are, because Sam doesn’t bat an eyelid at Gene snogging his jacket. ”Can’t believe you hadn’t noticed”.

 

Sam shuddered (that’s a relief for Gene) before asking “How the hell do you know?” He sat down to put on his boots, not sure he wanted to hear the answer. Bugger, a pov cock-up.

 

“Can see it when he looks at you, Sam”.

 

Gene could see Sam practically gag at the idea (happy Gene); he was right, it just didn’t bear thinking about. Sam grabbed his bag and jacket and headed out of the changing room. Gene grimaced, following his thoughts unerringly, but waited until they were outside the building before reassuring him: because he knows Sam isn’t going to like it.

 

“He’s not going to touch you, Sam, don’t worry. For one thing, you’re probably too junior – best to only go down one rank, it’s far too dangerous else. This is something I remember well from my own days (1970’s – 1980’s) of being naughty at work. Needless to say, I was always the junior party. And for another thing,” Gene hesitated and took a deep breath, ”He knows you’re mine.” No way was Gene going to say something like that inside the building.

 

* * *

 

Sam stopped dead. “You told him about us! Gene!”

 

I couldn’t begin to imagine the conversation Gene and Rathbone would have had, then I realised that words weren’t necessary. Phil Gene has such an expressive face; he’s perfectly capable of having two or three things going on at once in just his eyes, so I decided he’d use that.

 

“Of course I didn’t tell him, you daft twat! I just saw him looking at you and I - looked back. I had no choice. He thought nobody knew about him, but I’ve known for years, because Gene knows everything and now he understands that, you’re safe.” Rathbone has far more to lose than Gene – all the social status etc that goes with the rank, for a start.

 

Sam couldn’t move. All this time, he’d thought this was private, nobody’s business but his and Gene’s. And Gene was boasting about it to the likes of Rathbone! Sam’s so gob-smacked he’s not listening properly. I seem to use that quite a lot when I want Gene to spell things out.

 

“Come on Gladys, you’re gonna get cold.” Gene said, pulling him towards the car. It comes naturally to Gene, to look after Sam. I think it’s the being smaller and younger bit, also because Sam is precious to Gene. It’s certainly nothing to do with Sam being technically junior, because in canon neither of them particularly act as if Sam is junior to Gene. “He hadn’t guessed about me, ‘cos I’ve never been with anyone from work before, but he’s not going to say anything; he’s got more to lose than I have.”

 

Most of this went past Sam as he still struggled with the idea that Gene was ...protecting... him; exchanging little signals with people about him. This was the beginning of an idea I wanted to write about – how can you complain about, or defend yourself against, things you don’t actually know are happening? Again, from my own experience in the 70’s/80s, when I only found out far too late that pretty little girls were never taken seriously for promotion, no matter how hard they worked or how good they were at the job. And no matter how much they didn’t think of themselves as pretty, or little, or girls.

 

He said “Don’t you think you’re taking a lot on yourself here, Gene? Telling people like Rathbone? Warning people off? What happens if I want to ... talk to someone else? He doesn’t actually want to ...talk... to anyone else, but he seriously resents the idea that Gene might want to stop him. As anyone would.

 

* * *

 

Gene flinched, wishing he hadn’t opened Sam’s eyes to how many people fancied him. It took guts to do that, but he knew it had to be done. Protecting Sam again. Still, he’d have worked it out eventually.

 

“I’m a bloody police officer, Gene, d’you think I’m going to fold up if someone talks dirty to me? I can handle it for God’s sake, just butt out.” I don’t normally give Sam modern sayings - I think he’d be very careful about that – but he’s pretty worked up here, so I figured he wouldn’t be watching every word.

 

They were at the car by now, and Sam was practically yelling. Because he wouldn’t yell anywhere near the building or anyone else. Not about something like this.

 

“You’re missing the point, Sam.” Gene got in the car and leaned over to open Sam’s door. Do we see this in the show? I’m pretty sure the Cortina didn’t have central locking! As Sam got in he continued “You have no idea how many important people would like to shag you, and if you piss ’em off handling it badly, it won’t be them all over the papers, it’ll be you. I know you can handle it, of course I do, but it’s how you handle it, and how much you have to handle.“ Because Sam wouldn’t be tactful, would he. He’d go reporting people for harassment and be amazed when even Gene wouldn’t back him up publicly. And he’d go ballistic when it was made clear to him he’d just fucked up his promotion prospects for ever.

 

“I’m just trying to say, Sam, you need to be careful. Since you’ve been with me you’re attracting a lot of attention.” This was just an idea I had – that starting a relationship with Gene would have changed Sam in some way that other gay men would notice. Given him some sort of a happily-shagged glow or something. Gene looked away uncomfortably and stared out of the windscreen. “It’s your pretty arse in those tight trousers. I mean, I love looking at your arse, who wouldn’t. But that’s the point, isn’t it. People see you parading around in those and they think that’s a message. And then you smile at them and they know it is.” Gene has known Sam long enough to know that Sam won’t like this, but he’s big enough and honest enough to say it anyway. You have to applaud his moral strength and understand his fears while remembering that’s exactly how it was for women. Yes, more of my 1970’s bitterness coming through.

 

Gene dried up, not wanting to acknowledge even to himself how he’d like to keep Sam covered up, away from the gaze of men who might be a better catch than he was. I adore Gene, and so does Sam, but for all Gene’s breath-taking front, I don’t see him as being that confident in his attractiveness in a sexual way.

 

“I smile at them? And wear tight trousers?” Sam looked as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “And they think I’m encouraging them?”

 

“Well, it’s enough for some people” Gene answered. “Me mam would have got a smack for less.”

 

I wrote that line and only then realised how Sam would take it.

 

Sam looked blank, then disbelieving. “Are you threatening me, Gene?”

 

“For God’s sake Tyler, you always have to make a drama out of everything. ‘Course I’m bloody not; I’m just saying that’s all. It would never occur to Gene to hit Sam. Well, not like that, anyway. I’m not me Dad, I’d never ...well, only at work, and only scum. And they deserve it,” he finished defensively. Poor Gene, he can see the difference so clearly, but he just can’t make it sound right.

 

Sam now looked incredulous, which was only a fancier word for the same thing, so feeling on slightly shifting ground, Gene tried once more to get the point home. I wrote the “incredulous” bit along with a load of complete gibberish while more than half asleep. Next morning I nearly deleted it, but I decided I quite liked it.

 

“I’m just saying, be careful who you smile at.”

 

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. We’re not discussing this any more. Take us home and I’ll show you you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Sam just can’t begin to understand or accept what Gene is really talking about, so he focuses on something he can fix.

 

“You’re still missing the point Sam,” Gene snapped, starting the engine. ”I’m not trying to protect my interests - I’m trying to protect you.” And that’s the bit Sam can’t understand. He’s still a DCI inside – why on earth would he need protecting?

 

* * *
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[User Picture]
From:mikes_grrl
Date:July 9th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
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Heh, I loved the "supposed Sam POV" issues...oh, I know that feeling! But you did a great job, and I don't think I would have picked up on the waffly nature of that POV without you pointing it out.

I love seeing this kind of thought process:
I don’t think that was the original flavour of this part, but when I thought more about it, it became clear that Sam wouldn’t be a DCI back home if he couldn’t handle himself against all-comers. So it became more about the risk of exposure rather than the risk of injury or infidelity.
Because that is TRUE, but yeah, sometimes I veer off into OOC territory for the sake of a little drama (emo!Gene, anyone? No?) and it is very cool to see that other writers trip over the some ideas I do, and make changes for those reasons. Cool. Especially how in the end the change makes the message of the story far more clear and realistic.

And now that I think about it, this rings somewhat with what is going on with "Appearances," because it is very difficult to write jealous!Gene who is, at the same time, utterly convinced that Sam would not cheat on him. Conundrum, anyone? So I've had to mine the whole 'afraid of discovery' as well as 'Gene's innermost self-loathing and fears' while still keeping it all tied together as a strong, loving partnership between them. *fail* And you make it look so easy!!!!

This is your strength in your Sam/Gene writing:
Also, the whole business with the key and the bag, and Gene getting Sam’s towel out for him demonstrates their close domestic relationship.
Showing them as a couple is something you lovingly and effectively. It is neat to see how you were thinking it through as you wrote the scene.

So here’s the sad thing. I actually have a table in my Signals folder for this section: in one column there is a list of the actions – Sam puts on his trousers, Sam does up his shirt buttons, they leave the changing room, they reach the car – and in the other is the dialogue, broken down into neat chunks to make sure the conversation lasts the right amount of time.
OMG, you REALLY do? OMG! I am in awe. I do NOT have the discipline to do that. I can only imagine how much better my work would be if I did. *stands and gapes at you in raw fascination and envy*

And that’s the bit Sam can’t understand. He’s still a DCI inside – why on earth would he need protecting?
I love that observation, but I have to say it was a totally unnecessary comment because your fic does a great job of SHOWING that. Still, given how much of my work drives out from my subconscious fully loaded and raring to go, it is neat to see how you tapped this idea from the start and worked everything around it.

Will be getting to part three later!



[User Picture]
From:dorsetgirl
Date:July 14th, 2008 09:00 am (UTC)
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You often talk about your emo!Gene, but I don't believe I've ever seen you write a Gene I thought was emo to the point of being OOC. Where have you pushed him over that line?

the message of the story

I know I've talked big about deciding things, but a lot of that is ideas that have become clearer with distance. When I wrote this, I really had no plans for messages or issues, just a story. It's odd that my commentary makes it sound as if I planned things; I can only think that some of this stuff was going on subconsciously as I was writing.

*stands and gapes at you in raw fascination and envy*

Hah!!! Seriously, it's not a question of discipline, it's the only way I can do it. I don't have "vision"; I can't keep the overall shape of things in my mind, so I have to do it step by plodding step. I can't remember two things at once, for example whether Sam has put his trousers on yet and what he's going to say about Rathbone. So I go through the bits in individual strands, getting them each in the right order, and then I entwine them, hoping the joins won't show. (If you think this is disciplined, you should see some of the early planning for An Unhappy Man. In fact, do - for the accident at the end I'm emailing you the table of actions and the multi-coloured first draft, so you can have a good laugh and gape at me some more, because I don't know if I'll ever get round to doing the commentary - there's just TOO MUCH!)

And you make it look so easy!!!!
Well, thank you, but the key word here is "look". I read an interesting comment once, made to a person with severe confidence issues: "You're comparing your insides to other people's outsides."
[User Picture]
From:mikes_grrl
Date:July 14th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC)
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emo!Gene...remember the "suicide by perp" in Shadow Box? That was originally part of Appearances, where Gene was convinced that Sam was cheating on him and ergo decided life wasn't worth living. Riiiiiight. Just ridiculous, yes? Oh ghod yes. But I loved the set up and refused to dump it, even when Drayce was screaming at me about OOC emo!Gene. So presto-change-o, I dropped the emo bit and shoved it into Shadow Box and it worked. But that is WHY you don't see emo!Gene in my stories, because I won't let him see the light of day. (I suspect my next epic, Legacy will actually tip into emo!Gene harder than I ever have before).

I understand what you mean about retro-grade planning, still, it is clear from your comments that those ideas were knocking around there somewhere. It's just fascinating to see that.

Hopefully I'll get time at work to get to the rest of your commentary today. My internet connection was shut down at home so, gahhhh, I'm UNMOORED! aaaiii!!!

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