Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Recommendation Tuesday: ‘Peter: A Tale From Neverland’

Last post, I said that I wasn’t going to go into how I came to pick The Neverland back up and start working on it again, and in truth, it’s partly because I don’t remember exactly what gave me that final nudge to open up the Notes file on my iPod and start writing. I think it was a combination of different things, one of which was discovering this book.

How I came across it is one of those weird series of coincidences that is actually really common on the internet, but sounds odd whenever you try to explain it to anyone. I was at work, and one of my colleagues tweeted something with the hashtag #PeterPan. Huge fan though I am, I had never thought to check out anything related to Peter Pan on Twitter, so I clicked on the hashtag and came across this very cute account: @Peter_Pan_ 

As you can see, the most recent activity is a retweet from Jonathan Wenzel about his Peter Pan novel. At the time of tweeting it was only available for preorder, but now you can buy it directly from the US Amazon. Curious, I clicked on Wenzel’s website and started reading about his novel, which is a telling of the origin story of Peter Pan.

I’ve read one other fan-created version of Peter Pan’s origin story, which is Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It’s a fun tale, but it didn’t read as a convincing canon version of how Peter Pan came into being. At least, I wasn’t completely convinced by it, and it appears Jonathan Wenzel felt the same way; in a Q&A video about his novel, Wenzel said,

“I read a Peter Pan origin story in high school, and I liked it – I liked it a lot – but I finished it, closed the book, put it down, and went, ‘That’s not how it happened.’”

Jon Wenzel shares some questions and answers about his book, Peter: A Tale From Neverland

So I knew I was dealing with a likeminded soul here. (I know it’s not explicitly stated that he was referring to Peter and the Starcatchers, but it was a pretty good bet, and I confirmed via a comment on the video which Wenzel replied to that he was indeed talking about that novel). After watching the rest of the video and reading through the book’s reviews on Amazon, I decided to buy myself a copy. (I was originally going to ask for it for Christmas, but screw waiting).

I read it on and off throughout December and finished it last night; it’s not the type of book that compels you to devour it as quickly as humanly possible, but it was a very good read. It took me a couple of chapters to get used to the author’s style, and as with all self-published novels, there are some spelling errors and missing words scattered about. But those are really my biggest criticisms.

With Peter: A Tale From Neverland Wenzel creates a complex and fully-realised Neverland complete with detailed depictions of the creatures who live there and their unique cultures. The novel’s historical (and geographical) setting is ambiguous, but that doesn’t detract from the story being told. And while you know from the start that Peter has to survive the novel, Wenzel finds other ways to raise the stakes and create a sense of risk. There are some clever little details sown through the story which are important to the novel’s endgame, and while I could tell that they were significant, I didn’t manage to guess just how they would be brought back into play.

I do find Peter: A Tale From Neverland to be a more convincing origin story for Peter Pan than Peter and the Starcatchers, and I think a lot of that is because Wenzel understands that not everything needs an explanation. The island that is Neverland and its inhabitants just exist, and there isn’t any need to explain how or why. Peter and the Starcatchers attempted to systematically tick off every aspect of the Peter Pan world and explain how it came into being, but the more you try to rationalise things, the more attention you draw to how unnatural they are, and the less convincing they become.

With that said, though, I don’t accept A Tale From Neverland as Peter Pan’s origin story. Part of the problem is that Peter Pan does have an origin story, and as unlikely as it may sound (in Peter and Wendy, Peter tells Wendy that he “ran away the day he was born” and “lived a long long time among the fairies” in Kensington Gardens), it fits with the way Peter is written and the world that Barrie created. Peter Pan in the original canon is a slightly surreal figure, not quite human, and to give him a human origin – even if fantastical things happen to him along the way – defeats the object of who he is.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the heck out of a story which imagines a human origin for him, and Jon Wenzel’s creation is a very enjoyable one. I gave it a 9/10 in my “book of books” (a notebook in which I record each book I’ve finished, the date, author and what I thought of it, including marks out of ten) and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something new to read, particularly if you like fantasy, history or are a fan of Peter Pan. (Click the image at the top of this post to go to the book’s page on Amazon).

Also, Wenzel has confirmed that there will be follow-ups to A Tale From Neverland, and I am very excited to read those whenever they are published!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Return to Neverland

Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook (from the 2003 live-action film) whirls around with his hook held aloft, mouthing "HE'S BACK!"



Normally at this point I would begin a long spiel telling you how I never meant to let The Neverland drop but ~things got in the way~, and then explain in great detail what those things were and how crazy it all was, and then what inspired me to pick the project back up and begin working on it again. But that’s pretty boring for you to read and it’s not that interesting for me to write either.

So to cut a very long story short, a few weeks ago I started working on The Neverland again, starting with some notes which I wrote on my iPod, which snowballed into plot development, character ideas and filling in some holes which have been plaguing me ever since I first attempted this story for NaNoWriMo over three years ago. (God, it’s been a while).

Here’s a brief summary of what I’ve achieved since I picked The Neverland back up and dusted it off:
  • I’ve sorted out what happens in the climax of the story, which has been my biggest persistent issue with the plot. It employs some very handwave-y computer science and I’ll probably improve on it as I come to write that part, but I’m happy with the basic idea and it ticks all the boxes of what I wanted to do with the plot climax.
  • I’ve written up a detailed plot outline to replace all the scattered and conflicting notes that formed my outline before. (Going back over all my notes with fresh eyes also made me realise what a mess they all were – and how many little details had got lost or been changed over the course of writing the story).
  • I’ve also managed to tighten up the pacing, particularly towards the end. (Leave it to me to mess that up the minute I start writing, though).
  • I’ve added to my Character Arc notes for Peter and Wendy and also written a character arc for Tinkerbell and part of one for Tiger Lily. I still have a lot of work to do in terms of developing the story’s side characters.
  • I’ve drafted part of the “Saving Tinkerbell” scene, one of the climactic scenes of the novel. It’s only a few hundred words so far, but it’s good to get my ideas down for me to come back to and expand on later.
  • I’ve broken down the plot into a series of conflicts, which has really helped me to sort out the key elements driving each stage of the narrative and not lose sight of where the story is meant to be going at each point.
Lots of progress! In general I think that coming back to the story after a break has helped improve my focus, and I’ve been able to determine which bits are just cluttering up the narrative and get rid of them to tell a cleaner and more coherent story. That’s one of the things that is hard to do during NaNo; the goal is just GET TO 50,000 BY WHATEVER MEANS, so you throw everything and the kitchen sink at your story to pad it out, but not much of that makes for a good end result.

With that said, there are some things I’ve lost in the two and a half year break from The Neverland. I remember very little of my extensive research into BBS culture and late 80s internet and technology, which is going to take a lot of picking back up and revisiting. Like I said in the bullet points above, a lot of little details I’d planned on including when I started writing the story got lost or didn’t fit as it developed, but it makes me wonder what kind of a story it would have been if I’d stuck to my original plans for some parts. I read back over some of my old blog posts before writing this, including ‘A Blast From the Past’, in which I talked about how re-reading the novel Peter and Wendy had given me a new perspective on the original canon. Towards the end of the post, I wrote:
After re-reading Peter and Wendy, I think I have a better idea of how the middle of the story is going to go. I was always pretty sure about how it would start and end, but the middle has always been sort of up for grabs.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what I was referring to or whether the idea I’d had for the middle of the story has survived in the current version. Hopefully it has!

So, what next for The Neverland? I’m happy with the level of plot planning I’ve reached over the past few weeks. There’s still a lot I can do in terms of character development and research, but I think it’s time to take the plunge and start (re)drafting the story; I can figure out the rest of it as I go along. I have a specific plan for writing the story which I will reveal in another post in a few days’ time. Also, look out the day after tomorrow for my first Recommendation Tuesday of the revived blog!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Recommendation Tuesday: My Favourite Pan-Fiction (Part 2)

Buckle up kids, we’re in for a long ride! Here we have the second half of my favourite Peter Pan fanfiction or ‘Pan-fiction’, following on from last Tuesday’s post, which you can find here.

7) Zeal - Lunamaria
‘“I’m Peter,” he announced, striking his hand out widely, “Peter Pan.” And she frowned. Her childhood was in serious danger.’

First off we have another modern-day AU, Zeal by Lunamaria. The story is divided into five parts, alternating between first person and third person for each one, which is a unique narrative choice that gives us a look both inside and outside of Wendy’s head. The author also does a couple of things which are interesting in the context of the Peter Pan story. First, Wendy (in the sections that she narrates) is very specific in saying that her childhood ended the moment she met Peter Pan and began to fall in love with him. In the original story it seems more like Peter is prolonging Wendy’s childhood, by whisking her away to the carefree shores of Neverland where she can happily forget about boring things like responsibility and parents. But Neverland represents a turning point for Wendy, because she develops feelings for Peter while she’s there, and also makes the decision to go back, grow up and live in the real world. If she hadn’t had those adventures in Neverland, she might have fought the inevitable for a few more years at least, clinging to childhood and not really knowing what she wanted from life.

Neverland in Zeal isn’t another world, just a beautiful metaphor for first love, and in fact the word “Neverland” doesn’t appear until the very last line of the fic. But the idea is there, and it works perfectly. Peter embodies innocence and youth even as an ordinary boy, and you could believe even in this modern AU that he doesn’t grow old, just moves from place to place, capturing the hearts of girls – much as in the original story. And, as in the original story, Wendy realises that she wants to experience all of what life can offer, even if it means growing up. Even though you want Peter and Wendy to stay together for the sake of the romance, to me Wendy’s decision here is no less powerful a “follow your dreams” message than in the stories where she leaves for Neverland with Peter. If anything, it’s more powerful.

8) Flying Lessons - Dorryen Golde
‘How the 2003 movie should have ended. Peter learns that he cannot run away forever.’

Last time we looked at several different fics which rewrote the ending of the story to have Wendy go back to Neverland and live with Peter for good. This time, we’ve got several which explore the opposite option: Peter coming to live in the real world for good, which of course means growing up.

As far as a “solution” to Peter and Wendy’s problem goes, which do I think works better? Well, I can see arguments for both. Wendy is a whimsical free spirit who would find it difficult to be happy in the straight-laced propriety of Edwardian England (not Victorian, contrary to popular misconception. The Victorian Era ended in 1901 and Barrie wrote Peter Pan in 1904). She shouldn’t be forced to grow up and marry for status when she’s already found a true love – and if you had a chance to stay in a place like Neverland, wouldn’t you?

On the other hand, we know Wendy as a whimsical free spirit because we’ve only ever seen her as a child, and most children are like that at one point. Who knows what her personality might be like as an adult? If she stays in Neverland, no-one will ever find out. Peter Pan never growing up works because it’s part of his entire being. He’s not just an ordinary child living in a land where time seems to stand still (as Wendy would be). He’s intrinsically linked with Neverland and the whole place changes depending on his mood, his presence and his absence. He can fly without the aid of fairy dust. There’s also a darker side to his being, which in film adaptations tends to be glossed over: in the book he doesn’t form attachments and frequently forgets about Wendy, John and Michael, often leaving them behind even as he accompanies them to Neverland. He forgets about his own adventures often minutes after they have happened, and fantasy and reality are nigh indistinguishable for him. As Captain Hook would say, “It’s part of the riddle of his existence.” So is it really possible to just remove Peter from Neverland like that? Or to expect that Wendy would be able to stay there indefinitely as he does?

When you consider it, the only outcome for the story which truly works is the one that Barrie himself wrote. But does that mean I don’t love a good fanfic alternate ending? Hell no! And Flying Lessons by Dorryen Golde is an especially good example of an alternate ending done well. It fully explores the dilemma of Peter’s situation and allows him to come to a conclusion in a way that makes sense for his character. Tinkerbell’s part is mainly as a plot device, but her role doesn’t seem entirely out-of-character either. As the summary indicates, it’s written as an alternative ending to the 2003 film and makes some nice references back to that, particularly Wendy’s speech about bravery and why her decision to move on and grow up was the right one. The title, Flying Lessons, is also a nod to how Peter taught Wendy to fly, and to the ending of the story where, in a neat reversal of roles, Wendy teaches Peter how to ‘fly’ with a kiss.

9) All Children Grow Up - Rose DiVerona
‘Peter returns for Wendy. They are soon followed by all of Wendy’s brothers, and Neverland is a happy place for a while. But things are changing – the people in London miss them. And Peter is growing up?’

Similar to Flying Lessons, All Children Grow Up by Rose DiVerona is a movie-verse alternate ending to the Peter Pan story which features Peter eventually coming to stay with Wendy for good. (You can probably tell I’ve given up on trying not to spoil you guys by now :P) It’s interesting in that it explores both solutions to Peter and Wendy’s predicament: first Wendy goes with Peter back to Neverland, shortly followed by John, Michael and the Lost Boys in an attempt to bring Wendy back whom which is quickly forgotten in favour of Neverland adventures. However, Mr. and Mrs. Darling are of course miserable without their children, and when Peter sees this, for once he is forced to take someone else’s feelings into account and accept that his actions have consequences which affect others. He has to consider whether doing what makes himself happy is really the best thing for Wendy, even if it seemed like a good idea at the time. Though the story doesn’t explicitly say so, I consider this to be the turning point at which Peter begins to grow up and out of Neverland. Discovering that your actions affect other people and so you can’t go around blithely doing whatever you want all the time is a distinctly un-childlike revelation, which leads to mature and reasoned decision-making as you grow older.

Tinkerbell’s role in this story is again that of plot device, and I don’t really buy into the speech that she gives Peter when she urges him to leave Neverland; but it’s a minor enough problem that it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. Rose DiVerona also has another fic, Straight On ‘Til Morning, which is also movie-verse but follows the original, canon ending from the book. It’s very well written and you can check it out here.

10) Borrowed Time – Put My Earmuffs On the Cookie
‘A life of obligations and rules – a life that has been set out for her. When Wendy leaves for Neverland, plans are unsettled, and consequences will have to be faced.’

Borrowed Time is the first story on this list which is still ongoing. It’s currently updating very regularly – in fact the sixth chapter came out just the other day – so this is the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon of a really good story. It also means I can’t possibly spoil the ending for you! In fact, I’m totally clueless as to where this fic is going, which is always interesting and makes for a much better reading experience than a predictable plot.

Much like the other stories on this list, Borrowed Time continues Peter and Wendy’s story on from after her first, eventful trip to Neverland and imagines that they continue their romance when Peter returns for Wendy several years later. Of course, there are complications in the form of Wendy’s family, the demands of Edwardian high society, Peter’s aversion to commitment and bad old Captain Hook. Put My Earmuffs On the Cookie has done some great background research on the English high society of the time, which gives the fic an authentic feel. The ‘obnoxious unwanted suitor’ trope returns in the form of Gavin, a well-to-do young man who is determined to court Wendy and secure her hand in marriage, but his characterisation isn’t totally cut-and-dried: he’s entitled and selfish, yes, but also feels genuine affection for Wendy and is sorry for expecting too much of her too soon. Again, I prefer this more balanced type of character to an out-and-out villain whose only purpose is to provide romantic tension and then get owned by the main love interest at the end. Though that’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see him get shown up by Peter at some point. Preferably publically. :3

I don’t go out of my way to look for crossovers, but I came across a couple of good ones on Archive of Our Own, which due to the way the site is organised appear in the same fandom category as the non-crossovers (assuming they’ve been tagged properly, anyway). I also happen to have written a few myself!

you may see her hair becoming white - Cakedish
‘Two girls and their relationships with windows and boys who don’t age. Children are still innocent and heartless.’

Anyone who is a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – or just anyone who’s familiar with the show and with the relationship between Buffy and her vampire love interest Angel – will enjoy this gorgeously written short one-shot. The summary says most of it, and the fic says the rest, so go and check it out!

Dark and Sinister Men - Nimori
‘An old friend drops in on Hook.’ [Explicit]

Yes, I’ll just say this before you go blindly clicking on the link above – this is slash (guy-on-guy romance) and it is explicit. As in sexually explicit. You have been warned. But assuming that you don’t have any major objections to the two aforementioned traits, you will love this clever and funny crossover between Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan. Captain Jack Sparrow comes to visit Hook in Neverland, and it is revealed that the two went to pirate school together:
"Why should I, James Hook, boast of second-best scores at treasure-burying, and silver medals in the heaving-to contests? Why should I wish to revisit my halcyon days of being upstaged at every turn by that poncing little--"
"Ship ahoy!" called Bill Jukes from the crow's nest, and Hook collapsed back in the chair.
"He was always better than I at sashaying," Hook said mournfully. "Top marks in swashbuckling. Could drink a barrel of rum and still find the booty he buried last term."

As you can tell, this is pretty different fare from everything I’ve so far recommended on this list. It centres around Hook and his crew, who scarcely get a look in, if they appear at all, in the other Peter Pan fics I read. There’s also no mention whatsoever of Wendy. Instead we get some very entertaining interaction between Hook and the crew of the Jolly Roger, brilliant pirate dialogue, mentions of colourful characters from Hook and Sparrow’s shared past, and let’s not forget the chemistry between Hook and Sparrow themselves. Nimori has every character down to a T, including Peter, who appears at the end for a very funny and honestly touching interaction with Hook. The relationship between Captain Hook and Peter is very rarely explored, so it’s nice to see it done so well.

Second Star to the Right and Hiei Jaganshi, Legendary Bandit – enchantedsleeper

Do we have any Yu Yu Hakusho fans in the house? Specifically fans of Hiei/Kurama? This is one of my favourite pairings in all of fandom, and I regularly go on sprees of reading lots of fanfics about them. During one such spree, I suddenly realised the similarities between their situation and that of Wendy and Peter – especially the way that Hiei is often written as entering and leaving Kurama’s room via the window, which Kurama leaves open for him. So I wrote Second Star to the Right, a double drabble (fic of exactly 200 words) which forms part of my collection of Yu Yu Hakusho drabbles, Dabbling in Drabbling. Unfortunately, the crossover bunny refused to leave me alone even after I wrote it; and so in September I began writing a fully-fledged multi-chapter crossover called Hiei Jaganshi, Legendary Bandit in which Hiei takes the role of Peter and Kurama the role of Wendy. So far I’m two chapters in with the third half-written. It was partly because of this fic that Peter Pan was on my mind when NaNoWriMo rolled around, and so it played a decent role in my decision to write The Neverland in November. Unfortunately, work on the third chapter got shelved in favour of The Neverland, and I’ve not quite managed to pick it back up again. Give it time ^^;

Saving Neverland - enchantedsleeper

Now here’s a story I hadn’t thought about in a while. I wrote this back in 2007 for the ‘Peter Pan challenge’ on Sink Into Your Eyes, a Harry/Ginny (Harry Potter) fanfiction site. It was the first fully-fledged crossover that I wrote (there was another fic I wrote back in my very early days which was meant to be a crossover but I never got around to adding the second fandom) and I had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t place in any of the competition’s many categories, but I felt like I’d done my best with the challenge and written an interesting fic with a creative plot. The premise given for the competition was that Ginny falls asleep in the Room of Requirement whilst revising for O.W.L.s and dreams that she is Wendy in Neverland, with Harry as Peter. Apart from this setup, the execution of the crossover was totally up to us. I combined elements of the seventh Harry Potter book and Peter Pan in Scarlet (the official sequel to Peter Pan, commissioned by Great Ormond Street and written by Geraldine McCaughrean) to create my plot – which might actually have lost me points in the contest given that the fics were meant to be pre-Deathly Hallows. Oh well! It’s not a favourite of mine even amongst my earlier fanfics (that is, pre-2008) but I still like it enough to admit that I wrote it ;)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Peter’s Backstory

This post will make better sense if you've read either this post or this post first. Or both. :3

Author’s Notes: I was looking back through my post history for the blog and realised how long it’s been since I posted actual story content. I admit I haven’t written anything new for some time, but months ago I wrote a prose piece about Peter’s backstory from his mother’s perspective that I’d planned to post on the blog. However, I showed it to a friend whom I’d hoped would help me edit it, and the problems that she pointed out were so intrinsic that I despaired of ever being able to fix them short of totally rewriting the whole thing. So I put it away and didn’t look at it.

But just now I thought, what the hell. I’ve already established that I’m willing to put up first draft excerpts on this blog, so why is it so important that this one piece has to be of uber-high quality? Yeah, the execution isn’t great, but it’s the events that are relayed that matter more to Peter’s character, and which are likely to be of interest to you, readers of this blog x3

Even with my newly lowered standards, though, the beginning wasn’t really worth posting xD So I’ve missed out
Peter Pan: The Toddler Years and skipped straight to when Peter is nine years old and already attending secondary school…

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Recommendation Tuesday: My Favourite Pan-Fiction (Part 1)

I’ve been wanting to do this as a Recommendation Tuesday feature for ages but have been depriving myself because it seemed “too easy” – a bit of a cop-out post – or at least something I should save for when I was totally out of other ideas. But last blog post was about letting myself have more fun with my writing and my blog and damn it, I’m sticking to my guns! Besides, this is a blog about a Peter Pan fanfic; what could be more relevant than a list of the Peter Pan fanfics that I would most recommend?

I know that most of the people reading this blog wouldn’t normally call themselves “Peter Pan fans”, and probably haven’t ever gone looking for Peter Pan fanfic (or as I like to call it, Pan-fic). If you ever wanted to get into it, I would recommend this list as a good starting primer. I didn’t get into Pan-fic myself until a few years ago, and I haven’t trawled the net as extensively for it as I have for fic from other fandoms. Nevertheless, I have a decent-length list of great fic that I can really recommend to anyone who likes Peter Pan even a little bit. I admit it reflects my tastes rather heavily since all of it is romantic fluff and all of it is Peter-and-Wendy-centric xD But even within that small field there’s a fascinatingly wide range of takes on our two main characters and their tale – some sweet, some sad, most a bit of both. I like fanfics which give me a happy ending to the story, but I also like those which don’t shy away from the reality of Peter and Wendy’s situation. Above all, I value good characterisation, engaging writing and an interesting idea.

So read and enjoy!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

On Writing Fluff

Wow, it’s been a while. I know, I’ve really dropped the ball on the regular updates to this blog so far – in fact, on having updates at all – and my own tendency to constantly switch my focus between different projects has thrown a spanner into the works, as I knew it would before too long. But I also have another theory as to why I’ve been reluctant to update this blog: I’ve been setting the bar for myself too high. Lately, at least, I’ve been trying to make each post absolutely meaningful and worthwhile on all levels – either saying something insightful about writing; containing a lot of info about, or a new instalment of, the story; or doing a kind of review-slash-informational-piece about someone else’s work for Recommendation Tuesday. And I figured it was better to update the blog less frequently with more meaningful posts than to scrape the bottom of the barrel for interesting content.

Friday, 22 February 2013

To Serialise Or Not To Serialise?

Or, ‘On Making Rough Drafts Public’.

Originally I was going to have this Friday’s post be about The Evolution of Setting, but I couldn’t remember half the points I wanted to cover, and I decided that I should probably save most of these backward-looking posts for when I’ve actually, y’know, finished a first draft or something similarly outlandish. So instead I’m going to talk about an important consideration for any writer who wants to build up a following online: namely, how polished does my writing have to be before I post it on the Internet?