Saturday, September 10, 2011

On completing a Perry Mason multi-chapter mystery fanfiction story

I’m very shortly going to put up the final, epilogue installment of my first major Perry Mason fanfiction project and second Perry story overall, The Case of the Persecuted Prosecutor.

My first story for the fandom was a oneshot piece that served as an addendum to The Misguided Missile. Being a devoted Simon Oakland fan, I was heartbroken by his character Captain Caldwell’s needless death and wanted to write something to cope.

It’s been quite an interesting process. When I wrote my first piece, I was concerned about capturing the characters’ voices properly and wondered if I would be able to do so. Although the focus was on Major Jerry Reynolds and Captain Mike Caldwell, Perry and Paul appeared as well (mostly because I hoped they would boost reader interest). Their dialogue flowed, encouraging me as I considered the possibility of undertaking a multi-chapter idea.

Always disappointed by the lack of stories featuring Mr. Burger as a main character and exploring his complex friendship with Perry, I knew that any Perry mystery of mine would have such elements. And I was gaining a vague plot idea, which I eventually decided I would try to write. I wasn’t even sure if I would end up finishing the story, but a clear plot outline in my mind and the enthusiasm of readers has inspired me to keep it going until its completion.

I’m not a stranger to writing mysteries; I composed a series of mystery stories for the Japanese anime Yu-Gi-Oh! that, I must say, seemed to be popular with fans. My main inspiration for their structure was Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, although everyone and their dog seemed to think it was Scooby-Doo. (Scooby-Doo was probably partially inspired by Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys too, actually.) Recently I started to wonder, however, what influenced my epilogue chapters, wherein all the loose ends were tied up. When I wrote the epilogue of my Perry mystery, it was so similar to that of my Yu-Gi-Oh! mysteries that I had to start pondering on whether Perry Mason was the inspiration for those epilogues. I was definitely familiar with the show and the characters at the time I started writing the Yu-Gi-Oh! mysteries (2002).

It’s always an odd feeling when I finish writing a multi-chapter venture. I feel triumphant and pleased that it’s done, but sad that it’s over. Soon, however, I’m usually involved with another. And though I hadn’t planned on writing more for Perry, I find I have a couple of other mystery ideas in mind now—one of which will be Halloween-themed if I write it.

I loved writing for the characters in The Persecuted Prosecutor. I didn’t include a lot of silent monologues, as I tried instead to have the characters discuss the problems out loud and work on the solutions, just as in the series. But every now and then I inserted some type of monologue for one of the characters.

The mystery itself was confusing, twisted, and I hope surprising. I always take great pride in crafting something like that. Sometimes I worry that I’ve thrown in too many clues, but I usually end up discovering that I stumped my readers after all.

After finishing the initial first draft I was more familiar with the characters than when I had begun, and I determined that some additional dialogue would benefit the overall effect. I went back over the story, fixed a couple of embarrassing discrepancies, and set about adding any scenes I felt should be included.

The basic plot of the story, for those who have not looked at it, involves a series of mysterious and apparently connected deaths. Mr. Burger appears to have been one of the victims. He is later shown to be alive, but for a while Perry and the others believe him dead.

Two important parts that I added are the expansion of a conversation between Della and Paul in chapter three and an entirely new scene between Perry and Della in chapter four. Both scenes involve said characters talking about Mr. Burger when they think he is dead. The part from chapter three features Della and Paul discussing how Mr. Burger’s untimely demise is affecting both of them as well as Perry. The scene in chapter four is Perry giving a rare glimpse into his feelings and memorializing his friend and rival to Della. I have also added a silent monologue for Lieutenant Tragg, which appears in chapter four as well. I’m afraid I increased chapter four’s word-count exponentially compared to the other chapters!

Throughout the story I have been making other, small tweaks to dialogue and narration. And, as always happens, I have been finding more and more loose ends to tie up in the epilogue. But I believe it will be ready to go online as the weekend approaches.

I have been bowled over by the number of people who have been visiting (and sometimes re-visiting!) my humble story. It’s a great honor, especially for one just newly integrating into the Perry fandom. I sincerely hope I can continue to entertain my fellow Perry fans, both with future fanfiction stories and with this blog.

Next topic, unless something else comes up: Deputy D.A. Sampson, how he is a complete contrast to Mr. Burger, and why he is both the most irritating and the most interesting of the long parade of deputy D.A.s in season four.

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