Episode #6.05 – Author Commentary (spoilers through 6.05 only)

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode 6.05: Via Dolorosa pt 1

About Schuyler Falls Webserial, Episode 6.05: Via Dolorosa pt 1

In “Via Dolorosa, Part 1,” readers at last learn just what happened to Ian Nichols the day of the church massacre and subsequent weeks — a puzzle that seems to be one people want solved already. Well, you all know the expression “Be careful what you wish for…”

This pair of installments (it’s possible it may grow to three, but I think I can keep things within a total of 16 scenes) was one of the most difficult to write, on a par with the Hannah “Whom the Gods Love” episodes. If you haven’t read this half yet, consider this fair warning that things are not pretty. This is a dirty business and Ian is one of the survivors who gets the closest to the center of it.

Spoilers, as always, are ahead.

Y’know, all evidence to the contrary, I don’t like making characters suffer–not this much. Sure, I’ve been cruel to many characters, with extra dollops of sadism ladled out to Martina, Tristan, Frank and Jonnie. You may now add a new character to that ill-fortuned pantheon. In fact, poor Ian might just be deserving first place in the line for hugs anyone may want to dole out. Dude goes through some hardcore suffering.

Hence the title of this multipart installment. For those not up on either Latin or Christianity, “Via Dolorosa” can be translated in a few different variations of “The Way of Sorrow,” “The Road of Suffering,” “The Way of Grief,” and so on. In Christianity it is a literal road in Ancient Jerusalem, the one taken (according to the New Testament) by Jesus as He carried the cross to His own death by crucifixion. The path becomes a hugely important pilgrimage particularly around Eastertime, and along the route are what’s known as the nine Stations of the Cross (basically, if rather crudely, ‘milestones’ that Jesus is said to have passed on the way, such as the Trial by Pilate, meeting Mary–Jesus’ mother, that is, certain points where Jesus “fell” or was prostrate during the ordeal, and so on). Maybe I’m doing a poor job describing it considering I’m not Christian, in which case I’m sorry.

I should mention that the people in my family are hugely empathetic–it’s not a religious thing, though I daresay empathy is one of the most important aspects of Judaism–but I’m just referring to my family’s psychological makeup. We are ridiculously empathetic, I mean, to the point where it sometimes becomes crippling. (Killing bugs, for example. I cry if I accidentally harm a fruit fly.)

The point is, despite not being Christian or even religious in any way, I’ve always found Jesus’ story tremendously poignant and meaningful. The term “Via Dolorosa” also has an external meaning, which of course comes from its original usage. It means a rite of passage through intense sorrow and suffering. Honestly this could have easily been used as the title for Hannah’s episode, but while I’m hardly comparing Ian to Jesus, at least Ian’s tale includes a bit of resurrection to it–by the end he’s free, anyway. Besides, I also really loved that quote from Menander — Those Whom the Gods Love Die Young — and using only a segment of it allowed me to keep an element of surprise regarding its true meaning, at least for those who don’t recognize the quote out of context.

Okay, so, speaking of suffering. It was a conscious choice to go this graphic with the violence visited upon poor Ian. I did some cutaways, and much of the violence is told through exposition rather than shown (usually a big no-no in fiction), mainly because while I would have no problem depicting everything full-out, I don’t want to repel people or think I’m doing torture porn a la the “Saw” movies.

Besides, the point of the torture scenes in this is to further Ian’s path in this arc; as in just about every storyline, I prefer to focus on the follow-up and how the character is affected by their experiences. While this does mean I have to show those experiences, I don’t think it’s essential to describe in gory detail the actual scene of Taggart using pliers on Ian’s fingers.

I even added a reader advisory/warning to the episode, which you may have noticed. ASF is considered “for mature audiences” anyway (that’s always been on the homepage as far back as 2001), but for some very few episodes, when I move things past the usual boundaries I’ve given the series, I figure it can’t hurt to add a little heads-up.  Actually, some of the advisory is related not to anything that happens on screen, but the sadistic, vulgar and graphic way Taggart describes Becca, which of course he does specifically to torment Ian.

This may bring up a question. Is Taggart really this sick? Is he willing to commit statutory rape just to mess with his enemies?  Well, a good question is, is having sex with a nearly-sixteen-year-old girl consensually THAT out of bounds considering we’re talking about criminals who murder and torture one another?  But that’s a discussion best left waaay elsewhere, though I wanna make it clear that I’m not advocating anything pervy.  Trust me, I tend to fall on the less liberal side of this argument (I’d be fine if the age of consent were 18, for example, although I’m not all that militant about it, honestly).

Getting back to the issue of what, if any, boundaries Taggart has in this war, and what his repulsive remarks to Ian were really about: let’s look back at last season’s finale for a second, because there was kind of a similar situation.

If you read that final episode, specifically the flashback just as Laurie was saying her vows, Adele warned Laurie that, should Laurie actually run off with Jonnie, Adele would initiate her alternate plans to ‘invite’ Laurie’s young sisters to take Laurie’s place as the Nichols Family Prostitute. While this seems a viable threat to Laurie, it was merely highly effective intimidation. Adele wouldn’t go through with it because she knew she wouldn’t have to go through with it. Laurie would never allow it to happen. It was the perfect trap.

So, am I saying Taggart is completely full of b.s. as he revoltingly relates his plans to seduce a fifteen-year-old? Well, I don’t think I’ll reveal that yet.  🙂  But it is icky, isn’t it?  He’s good at being bad.

Speaking of which, I was pleasantly surprised while writing this episode to find that I’d developed Tag into a villain who matches Danielle in sadism, which is kinda nice. Still, they’re very different personality types and psychological studies. I wouldn’t call Tag a sociopath, while Danielle absolutely is one. Tag is an unpredictable, vicious thug who’s reacting to (or taking advantage of?) the brutal murder of his own father, someone with whom he had a pretty conflicted relationship. Danielle would never shoot up a church of people, that’s not interesting to her. She might take a set of pliers to someone, but her attitude while doing so would be one of a sadistic scientist, coolly taking mental notes. Tag’s motive is that he wants to hurt back way worse than anyone has hurt him.

I’m hardly excusing him–I find him disgusting and scary (but fun to write, I admit). I just also think of him as the prime example in ASF of an angry, wounded, warped psyche with a desperate need to raise himself up by clawing viciously up the backs of others.

The other surprise for me in this episode was how much I wanted to delve into Cameron’s mind. I don’t think we’ve had a Cam POV scene more than two or three times in the entire time he’s been on the canvas. And each time he was cool, collected, very much the master of all he surveyed. I wanted to tear him apart and see what happened when the edifice he’s built around him came crumbling to the ground. (I guess I wanted to give him an edifice complex. Ha ha.)

Where he’s always been nothing but surface, in #6.05 and #6.06 Cameron is far more open–well, he has to be if we’re to see things from his perspective–and, dare I say it, even vulnerable. His scene with Hannah was the first example thus far of seeing a scene that I’d already shown, except this time viewing it from an alternate POV. In the original version (back in #6.01), Hannah was focused like a laser on Nick, Justin and Heather, and she was furious with both her husband and Cameron. Cameron had almost nothing to say, except (oddly–so it seemed to Hannah and presumably the audience at the time) volunteering to arrange Justin’s funeral. Four episodes later, we’re seeing exactly why Cam is so uncharacteristically tired and sad, and even lonely. I found myself writing his first meeting of Hannah, which let me show a new bit of backstory for both characters.

I do want to stress that he isn’t reaching out in a romantic way to Hannah. He’s just that scared for his son’s life that he needs someone to connect with. Can you imagine trying to get empathy out of Danielle? Her interest in Ian is purely opportunistic, a way to wield her power; there’s no love or concern for him as a human being. Deep down Cameron knows that (though obviously he doesn’t know the depth to which Danny’s sunk). Adele does truly love Ian, but the Cameron/Adele relationship is distant. I haven’t done a good job of exploring that yet, and it is high time I did; if I’d done so by now, it would have better explained Cameron’s loneliness in this episode. He can’t even commiserate with Nick, not that he and Nick are BFFs or anything, but Nick’s daughter was kidnapped once and Nick would certainly understand how Cam feels.

And yes, yes, of course I intentionally included the fact that Cameron has been on the other side of the kidnapping business–Chelsea’s situation only happened (in ASFtime) in early- to mid-January, so we’re talking just over a month ago. Thus, only a month ago he was perfectly fine with capturing Chelsea, taking Jem’s money, and blowing up the building with her in it just to teach Jem a lesson. Karma’s a bitch, huh? Although the karma isn’t very karmalicious, since it’s Ian paying the price most directly, not Cam. I guess I equate Cameron with Charles in this scenario. He put Charles through hell, and now Cameron is getting a big taste of the same medicine. Interesting that they’re both married to cold fish redheads, now that I think about it, both of whom are stepmothers to the kidnapped child. Although here the parallels end, because as much as I dislike Cynthia, she’s not anywhere on Danielle’s level. She does love Charles. Danielle couldn’t begin to comprehend what love is.

Anyway, this was Ian’s episode with a side of Cameron, and I really had “fun” utterly destroying poor Ian by putting him in this cruel situation. I almost wish his captivity had lasted longer–in fact, I think that’s why I had to make it so very intense and horrible; I knew I needed him home by a certain date (which you’ll see in Part 2), and that meant he couldn’t be in this circumstance as long as I’d rather have kept him there, ideally. Why am I rushing things when my instinct is to extend them?  Well, that’s exactly the point. Part of this miniseries experiment isn’t just exploring a single storyline at a time, or playing with temporal mechanics by hopping back and forth and dovetailing storylines. Part of it is seeing just how much I can push storylines forward without angsting about showing every little detail. At no point in ASF’s history have I managed to run through even as much as twelve days in only seven scenes. So that, at least, has been a success for me. I only hope it’s working for you too.

Thanks again for reading! Please do get in touch by the comments below, Facebook, our message board, or the mailing list. I really want to know what you guys think!

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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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