10. The Plot Thickens

The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

I looked into my sister Dahlia's eyes and saw the tears hovering there. She was pale with emotion, and the rings under her eyes indicated that she'd lost sleep, presumably over this issue. My heart ached with my need to help her, as my other half, my closest confidante, my family. Being separated hadn't lessened that connection, if anything it made it sharper because it had seemed lost and was now restored.

“What can I do?” I repeated, taking her hands and gently squeezing them, trying to comfort her.

“I did some research and found out you're studying string theory,” she said. “I even read some of your Master's degree papers. Are you still working on the Higgs boson and particles?”

My eyes widened. “Wow, you're thorough, how did you even get a hold of that stuff?”

Dahlia shrugged. “Trust me, you don't want to know. Just tell me that's what you're still working on.”

“Yes. Next week I'll be visiting the Large Hadron Collider, one of the projects at my school will be analyzing the data. I have a lot of ideas but I want to see what they have in person.”

“What do you know about tachyons?” she asked.

“They're currently theoretical only, it would be nice if we could find evidence of them using the Collider. Some people consider that highly unlikely. Why?”

“Just bear with me. They can theoretically defy causality and travel through time, right?”

“In theory, yes, but the practicality of that...” I said, going monotone as I started to process data in my mind to answer the question. Dahlia saw it coming and cut me off.

“I don't need the technical details, I'm a layperson. I just wanted to be sure I understand the general sense. I have this crazy plan, but it requires your help. I'm asking as my sister, to help me save a life. Will you trust me?”

“How can you ask that?” I said. “Of course.”

“I didn't...” she sighed. “I feel bad asking, because we've been apart. It's a big leap of faith.”

“You're my identical twin sister. I don't care where you've been, I trust you. That doesn't change.”

Dahlia cried and hugged me close across the table. I patted her back when she was done, and waited for her to dry her tears.

“Okay, so what's your plan?” I asked.

“It's going to sound crazy, but I want to convince a man that you travelled through time in order to get his money.”

“You're right, that does sound crazy.”

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Okay. Now I'm beyond

Okay. Now I'm beyond confused. How does this fit with what we know she knows, and what we know she doesn't know, based on Calla's journal. Unless Calla's journal, as a 'historical document' has been edited to censor trans-temporal meddling. Which puts us into a new and much less palatable form of unreliable narrator.

Is it strange that I object to being lied to, in fiction? Presenting false information to a character is onething. It helps us empathize and bond with them. But lying to the reader, that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe it's been too long since I've read them, but I had the impression that Calla was conspiring with Bianca to fleece Frank.

Now, the implication is that there's an even deeper conspiracy between her and Dalia, in order to bail Matt out of his gambling debts. Which doesn't make sense, as I don't recall Matt reacting with familiarity when they 'first' meet, which he would likely do had he spent enough time with Dalia for her to egg him on into millions of dollars of debt with the mob.

You can only nest so many plans before thing start to seem ludicrous.

Where's the confusion?

I realize this is a long story so there might be plenty of places to get confused. But right here Calla is with Bianca and states in the narrative that Dahlia is acting according to plan:

http://gavinwilliams.digitalnovelists.com/node/974 -- That's Entry 17 of Calla's Journal in September 2008, the night of her first kiss with Diggory after their dinner at his mom's. I don't see what's unreliable about showing the background of what was already mentioned in passing.

They meet in the art gallery here: http://gavinwilliams.digitalnovelists.com/node/954 and Matt might not react with familiarity, but he certainly uses his usual smarmy "charm" like he would on anyone else, familiar or not. He's not the nicest character.

Whether he and Calla ever actually met, is a different story -- same with whether he knows about Dahlia or her plans. That will have to wait -- but if people go back to the Trial chapters it might make certain mysterious things make more ominous sense, don't you think?

As for ludicrous nesting -- Zebediah manipulated Denny into becoming Dempsey Franklin, had Dempsey raise his child like a tyrant, thus giving Diggory a hero-complex, used the CIA and FBI to nurture his heroics, killed Dempsey to show Diggory he was dangerous, had Diggory save Dahlia from Zebediah himself, leading to the CIA training Dahlia to get her sister Calla involved with Diggory so they would fall in love, leading him to heroically sacrifice himself to save the city, which inspired her to build the time machine that made it all possible.

I think "ludicrous" and "meticulous" nesting just became synonymous -- whether it's enjoyable is subjective. It took a lot of work.

I'm certain planning it all

I'm certain planning it all out was no small feat, and your prose has always been excellent. Making it all come together over the course of, how many years now?, is downright impressive.

A lot of the problem comes with Zeb. His plan works. We know his plan works. Anything he looks back on as 'history' is pretty much causally required to work out the way he believes it should, either because he instigated it, tweaked it, or because that's how it already works out. He's basicly omniscient, and has the potential to be omnipresent as well.

So, we have an undefeatable villain who is going to win. And yes, he is a villain. He's not trying to make things better, to change things. He's doing everything to maintain the status quo, ensuring that his version of utopia rises from the ashes, instead of trying to stop the world from burning. Could he do it? We'll never know, because he WON'T do it.

Now that Dalia has become his puppet, through a combination of pragmatism, information control, brainwashing, and her own analytical (and some might say sociopathic) nature, there's not much room for drama. She's doesn't seem conflicted about her mission at all, and there's no one to help her break free of her indoctrination, assuming breaking free is even the right thing to do.

The story is still interesting, but not really exciting. Basicly, we know too much for our own good. Maybe there's more room between the lines than I think. Maybe we're just in a low point, before we ramp things up again. Maybe you're a bit burnt and want to work on other projects for a while. Only time will tell.

I think the other big part of the problem is that you're spoiling your own dramatic reveals. It's like Star Wars. If you watch the Prequels first, you've completely ruined Empire Strikes Back's pivotal scene. At the same time, if you watch the Original Trilogy first, you've spoiled the much darker drama to be had there. The best solution I've heard is actually to watch them 4, 5, 2, 3, 6. Extended origin story flashback, after the big reveal.

What? No Phantom Menace, you say? Ya, nothing important happens in that movie that doesn't get recapped in the others. Save 'The Misadventures of Qui-Gon: Worst Jedi Ever' for Bad Movie Night, have a triple feature with Ewok Adventures and the Holiday Special.

Pardon my ramble. It's been one of those days.

I can see that

As the writer, I found writing the Survival Test fun. That was the last part of the story I considered "exciting" -- and that was okay for me because not all of the story is action, some of it is characterization, and some of it is set-up for fun stuff later.

As for Dahlia -- I've let her story at a key juncture to concentrate on Calla (because seeing this from Calla's perpsective will have one effect, and from Dahlia's another -- and I want that reaction later instead of now). However, up until now she's been a teenager taught by adults to believe one thing -- and there's been no evidence to the contrary. If anyone noticed the last few Dahlia centred chapters, she may have hit upon a path that shakes that worldview -- because what happens if someone who knows Calla and Diggory reads their diaries?

My goal with the Calla chapters has been to cast a new dramatic light on what happened to Diggory -- and it takes patience, unfortunately, because nine times out of ten the events are the same. It's only when you see her motivations that those scenes change -- and her motivations are in flux as she's having real feelings for her target. I think there will be plenty of "dramatic reveals" and fun after this -- it's just a matter of getting there.

I'm trying to see ways to keep things interesting in what even to me seems like lags -- and that might be some "burn out" because work has been busy and raising twin babies is sleep-depriving. But I'm building steam, I hope, so keep your eyes peeled for fun times -- and let me know if I pull it off, okay?

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