Episode #6.04 – Author Commentary (spoilers through 6.04 only)

Episode 6.04 Title Image

Episode 6.04 Title Image

And so the second half of “The Price of Gratitude” brings this second installment of the “Six Weeks” miniseries to a close. The whole “The Price of Gratitude” was leading up to the final three or four scenes, of course, and in a way the majority of the scenes were meant to be deceptively normal. Well, I mean, normal as far as an installment that takes place in the aftermath of a massive shooting at a wedding is concerned. Please note there are spoilers, so don’t read this until you’ve read the latest episode!

Daphne, Daphne, Daphne

The majority of both episodes is seen through Daphne’s perspective, and here I had to be careful. She can often be pretty self-absorbed, and that’s not a highly attractive quality in a POV character. Realistic for a teen? Absolutely. And for many people in other age groups, for that matter! She’s also at the cusp of adulthood–it’s revealed in the first half of TPoG that she’s had her 18th birthday while in the hospital–and thus she’s straddling two worlds.

True, Daphne is the daughter of a serial killer and a drug abuser, and once those two facts were revealed and her home life was ripped apart, she’s had to grow up largely on her own, because heaven knows her screwed-up parents weren’t doing much role modeling. Her other “parental” figure was her uncle Greg, and he was as hands-off as you could get as a temporary guardian. (Not surprisingly.) So Daphne basically felt her way around blindly, naturally making lots of mistakes in judgment–running away and kidnapping her baby sister, for example.

And yet by and large, readers have found Daphne too mature for Tyler. As I described in last week’s commentary, this was something I’ve tried to rectify by boosting Tyler’s characterization somewhat.

This week I purposely began with Daphne back in the role of a teenager. She may have gone through some serious traumas and life experiences, but she’s still a high school girl (sort of) and as she herself thinks, her injury pretty much gives her a legit reason for loafing around and watching lousy TV. Okay, admittedly this was an authorial dig against today’s soaps and talk shows. She could be doing stuff online, but I’ve never depicted Daphne as being hugely into the web. One big reason is that in my experience everything I write about the web is dated about two months after I post it. I run into this issue all the time with Jason, who’s a total tech geek and needs to be up on the latest stuff.

But I digress. So Daphne’s portrayed from the beginning of this installment as reverting somewhat to her teen persona, at least for the week she’s been home from the hospital. Before long, she’s back to taking a more proactive role in various storylines, by visiting Hannah herself to convey her sympathies about Justin (at this point in the post-wedding timeline, Heather is still alive), trying to convince Hannah to let her dad see Hope, and attempting without success to learn more about what’s going on with Ian, seeing her uncle and wondering what’s going on with him, visiting Tyler and continuing to show great concern–justifiably, as it turns out–over his condition, and finally waiting during Tyler’s surgery and the dual confrontations with Jason and Ian, neither of which she expected.

By the end she’s pretty much back in her young adult role, a girl burdened with a lot on her shoulders–weighty secrets, responsibilities, and worries. There’s really no going back for Daphne.

Avoiding a Typical Triangle

Despite giving Tyler an extremely serious health condition, and thus making it harder for Daphne to break up with him as she told Ian she’d intended to prior to the wedding, I definitely don’t want to depict the stereotypical romance plot where a woman just stays with a guy out of pity and noble sacrifice. I know that’s what the audience is expecting and I’m hoping to subvert it somewhat.

To show readers I’m all too aware of the trope trap Daphne/Tyler/Ian appear to be falling into, I added Jason to the mix. He’s a bit of the reader’s stand-in here by straight-up asking Daphne if she’s planning on staying with Tyler out of pity. I wanted to get this issue on the table as soon as possible, and Jason was the best way to do it.

Jason seems to be acting somewhat out of character, intentionally so, in how sullen and bitter he is toward Daphne. But in addition to furthering the Daphne plot, this scene, along with Charles’s observations in the previous scene from his POV where he notes Jason’s disobedience in not going to counseling, was meant to pique the reader’s interest regarding just what’s been going on with Jason. Of course, we’ll see more of that once we get to his storyline later in the miniseries. Suffice it to say that he’s been dealing with changing perceptions and a loss of innocence that I think are completely natural after his ordeal.

(Having the poor kid be trampled underfoot in the panic at the church is kind of a metaphor for just how much of a doormat he can be–honestly, I only just thought of this parallel now!)

Anyway, Daphne lies about her make-out session with Ian (can she do anything else at the moment? I mean, Tyler only just barely escaped death!), but she genuinely cares about Tyler and even if she and Ian were boinking like bunnies, I highly doubt she’d be cruel enough to reveal this to Jason, much less his brother.

At Long Last, Ian

After Daphne’s exhausting, terrifying night, which began seeing Tyler coughing/vomiting up blood–pretty harsh for anyone–she ran into the last person she expected at that moment: Ian. I wrestled only briefly in deciding whether to show Ian in this episode at all, but I thought it was vital for the burgeoning relationship. Last season Daphne had made a big decision to pursue Ian regardless of his attempts to push her away, and for the past couple of episodes I’ve shown her reverting to the “oh he doesn’t care about me so I’ll hate him” shtick.

Well, I knew I needed to end that wishy-washy behavior, and the best way to give Daphne the slap in the face she needed–and also to show her ability to keep a proper perspective regarding what’s important–was to show Ian among his family after Heather’s death. I consider it a sign of Daphne’s growing maturity as well as her feelings for Ian that the instant she saw him, while she briefly had the desire to yell at him for ignoring her for all this time, that desire vanished and she turned to supporting him–and instead of complaining about what he’d put her through, she focused on what Ian and his family were going through. I wanted to show that her feelings for Ian are far deeper than the need to ‘get back at him’ for avoiding her, and hopefully that came across.

The other benefit of showing Ian’s demeanor and physical condition was that it feels like the culmination of all the little vague hints I’ve given throughout the past four episodes, pushing the suspense about just what the hell happened to him. At long last, the next two-parter will reveal all.

The Professor and Mary Ann…

Okay, Greg and Chelsea are really bad examples of “The Professor and Mary Ann” syndrome (a reference to the theme song for the old sitcom Gilligan’s Island, for those of you from overseas–the lyrics of the song go into details about most of the main characters, and only at the very end do they cram in the final two characters who are apparently not interesting enough to get descriptions–heck, in the original version, the lyrics were just “…and the rest!” Poor characters didn’t even get names). But I did want to mention why they’re included in this episode.

Actually, it’s probably pretty obvious why they’re there. Again, one of the reasons I’m using this different format is the ability to tease different storylines by having other characters dip in and out of the main storyline in the installment. We only get hints of what’s happening with them, the truth waiting to be shown for when it’s their turn in the spotlight.

So for this episode, those characters are Jason, Doug (to a lesser extent), Greg and Chelsea. Greg performed his role admirably, because in addition to letting me tease the Greg/Rena/Chelsea/Jem quad plot, he’s also a doctor and can perform some useful exposition / explanation about what’s going on with Tyler. Now, Doug could do that–but he’s too protective of Daphne to tell her the truth; Charles, as a doctor, could do so as well, but he’s far too close to Tyler and all the emotional stakes in the scene would have belonged to him, rather than Daphne. Thus Greg filled the Exposition Fairy part, and also let me dovetail another storyline at the same time.

Further, showing Chelsea visiting Tyler is a big step that not only advances her character development, but Tyler’s as well. Ty’s already mentioned that Chelsea visited him–this despite their relationship having been almost nothing but animosity since the first season.

Then her behavior coupled with Greg’s antsiness are obviously intended to pique the readers’ interest (it certainly works for Daphne!) about what exactly is going on with them.

Readers should expect to see these moments from Chelsea’s POV down the line.

The Price of Gratitude…

So about the title. It has several meanings; Daphne owing Tyler her life (and thus perhaps feeling obliged to stay with him); Doug and Daphne feeling grateful for Nick saving Hope’s life (and being reluctant to push the Hope situation as a result); and, most importantly, Charles’s being grateful for the organ donation that saved Tyler’s life. In this case, the price was paid by Heather, Hannah and Nick.

Speaking of this final point: once it became clear in “Whom the Gods Love” that Heather was to become an organ donor, I figured readers would fully expect at least one of our characters to be recipients. I did a little bit of lampshading in the end of the second installment by having Hannah wish that Heather’s heart would be transplanted to someone close by, but revealing that this wouldn’t be happening. The whole “parents/loved ones listen in to their dearly departed’s heart now beating in someone else’s chest” thing is a melodrama staple and I wanted to sweep that out of the way as soon as possible. I’m not saying it’s not moving–one of the most touching storylines in soap opera history occured in a classic General Hospital storyline involving a baby’s death and subsequent donation of her heart. But again, it’s now a cliche, and… just, no. Didn’t want to go anywhere near that.

But there are scads of other useful organs, and there is certainly a reason I wanted to link the Nichols family to the Stanfords (in a way, it’s the least they could do after Chelsea’s kidnapping and near-death!). So I knew Tyler would be the recipient of one of Heather’s organs, and I assumed that most readers would be expecting this as well. So, rather than string it out, I got the inevitable over with by hinting that Tyler might need a liver transplant.

(BTW, he only had the injury he had because it’s possible for a young child to donate a liver to a teenager; this called for research, which I performed early this year. Among other stories, I learned about the inspiring case of Nicholas Green, a 7-year-old who was shot in the head and, when he died, his parents decided to donate his organs; his liver went to an adult. Livers are remarkable organs, actually, and can reform and grow after injury (unless the injury is catastrophic). So even a young girl like Heather could be a donor to an 18-year-old teen like Tyler.)

Because I do like secrets, I felt obliged to use a bit of obfuscation, just in case there were some readers who didn’t see the writing on the wall the instant I mentioned an organ transplant; hence mentioning Charles and Cynthia. Actually, I kinda had to mention Charles and Cynthia, and figure out why they wouldn’t be doing partial donations themselves–if you’ve got relatives with matching blood types, there’s no reason to use up an extra cadaver donor organ.

There are two usual reasons why a relative might not be a good living donor match: wrong blood type and physical health. Well, the blood type is easy enough: one of his parents is simply not a blood match. Since Charles is obviously in excellent health–or at least, he was until his whole family started getting injured!–I made him the non-matching parent. This meant that Cynthia needed a physical reason not to be a donor. The easiest reason to make her nonviable was, simply, smoking. Thus Cynthia suddenly became a smoker, which, yeah, I haven’t ever mentioned before. But on the other hand… why not? People do smoke, after all.

I admit she doesn’t seem like a smoker to me, and Dr. Charles Stanford doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d tolerate smoking around his kids. Still, nicotine addicts are stubborn and I figured, what the hell, it adds to the realism that someone in ASF smokes. Or at least, used to. I admit I felt compelled to make her a recent ex-smoker because I just feel Charles would have pushed Cynthia into quitting already.

Two other options were Chelsea and Jason. Chelsea, being a half-sibling, I figured would be easy to explain as a non-blood match. Jason… well, while I could’ve explained that he wasn’t a blood match either, I was a bit uncertain about that. It seemed unlikely that no one in this family would work. In the end what saved me was the extreme urgency of the transplant. This provided a good rationale for not moving on to other family members. Acute Liver Failure means you’re likely to die in a matter of hours, not days (thank goodness–uh, I mean, for my storytelling purposes!), and so there was simply no time for the necessary testing on other patients. Here was Heather, who just happened to die on the same day (okay, coincidence, but it happens!) and she also happened to have the same blood type (a bigger coincidence I admit). Thus, the link between Tyler Stanford and the Nichols family came to pass.

Trivia:

– While creating this miniseries I’ve been updating all the bios to make them current with the 6th season. In some cases, I’ve created multiple bios. Heather, Hannah, and Nick all get one new bio each during the brief period of time in between Justin’s death and Heather’s. So, depending where we are in the six-week timeline, Hannah and Nick may have either one child listed as deceased or two. Some will call me crazy for going back and forth between bios (for example, in this episode, Hannah, Nick and Heather each get the version where Justin is dead but Heather’s still in a vegetative state), but that’s just how I roll. Anyway, to date, I’ve updated/created a total of 48 bios. And those are just the characters who’ve either appeared or have been mentioned thus far in the season!

– Yes, that’s a new image for Cynthia. Always disliked the one I had for her. When I finally revamp the website everyone will have new depiction images, hallelujah (I’m paricularly psyched for the Ian redo), but in some cases I had to strike early. Cynthia is now suitably attractive rather than somewhat frumpy. Not that ASF can’t have ‘frumpy’ characters, but Cynthia has been described as elegant and youngish (at least, she’s younger than me, so officially you’re damn straight I consider her young!), and I figure she needs to be way more attractive than the Gladys Kravitz lookalike I was using. The same thing occured with Alicia Vasquez in “Whom the Gods Love.” Alicia got a major upgrade, no offense to the anonymous model I used for the original.

– Certain character photos have been altered so they’re no longer smiling. (At least, there are versions both smiling and serious.) I just can’t deal with seeing a happy, smiling Hannah in a scene after she’s just lost one of her kids, y’know?

– Cornwall Medical Center officially has more images depicting its various interior locales than any other setting in ASF history. Because sooo much of this entire season will be or has been set there, I knew I’d need to have more than a simple exterior shot; things would get boring very very quickly (even though it’d certainly have made my life easier!). Thus far we’ve got setting shots of the exterior, the ICU hallway, a sample ICU room, the waiting room area, the doorway to the O.R., the hospital chapel, and a sample regular corridor. As you can see, no expense has been spared in the set budget! 🙂

Finally…

And that closes this two-parter. I think it’s telling that this feels like a lighter pair of episodes than the first two, despite this one containing a possibly dying son and a heartbroken girl. I hope it turned out well for you guys, and I also hope these ruminations aren’t hugely boring.

Next up: Ian finally gets his turn in the spotlight. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll share the episode, click “like” or “+1” on Google or Tweet or comment or just click the MoodThingy option below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About Kira Lerner

I'm the co-creator and writer of the webserial About Schuyler Falls, as well as other works filled with suspense, romance, rich characterization, and a dash of (usually dark) humor. My published novels are Fierce Moon, Night Wolf, Tropical Treasure and Seduction Games, with two upcoming book series in progress: a YA fantasy quintet and a trilogy of paranormal romantic suspense novels. I'm also a developmental editor, copy editor/writer, and web designer; I administer the EpiGuide community for webfiction and webseries, co-host the EpiCast podcast focusing on serialized webfiction (available on iTunes and Stitcher), and run WeSeWriMo, the annual writing marathon for web-based serials.

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About

I'm the co-creator and writer of the webserial About Schuyler Falls, as well as other works filled with suspense, romance, rich characterization, and a dash of (usually dark) humor. My published novels are Fierce Moon, Night Wolf, Tropical Treasure and Seduction Games, with two upcoming book series in progress: a YA fantasy quintet and a trilogy of paranormal romantic suspense novels. I'm also a developmental editor, copy editor/writer, and web designer; I administer the EpiGuide community for webfiction and webseries, co-host the EpiCast podcast focusing on serialized webfiction (available on iTunes and Stitcher), and run WeSeWriMo, the annual writing marathon for web-based serials.

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