Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Case of the Macabre Mansion

This has been a little project of mine the last couple of days: a trailer for my story The Macabre Mansion. Several fanfiction authors have made trailers for various series they write for, and I decided maybe it would be a good way to get news of my works out there more.

These days, it seems the norm is to begin Christmasing as soon as Halloween is over. Feelings on this are mixed, but personally, I love it. That gives me nearly two months to enjoy Christmas music, instead of the one month I’d have if I started at Thanksgiving time. I’m writing this post to the background music of my local station, which typically switches to its Christmas format the first weekend in November.

The one thing that makes it somewhat confusing and awkward is attempting to write a creepy story with happy, magical, and spiritual songs playing. The process becomes an odd celebration of Halloween and Christmas at the same time.

Such is the case with my third Perry mystery, The Case of the Macabre Mansion. I had wanted to write a Halloween-themed story for a while, but this one was not what I originally had in mind. I had intended to write something involving a fake psychic, but somehow I don’t think that will come into play here, unless it’s as a small element and not important overall. Instead it involves Mignon Germaine, from season 8’s The Fatal Fetish, and the strange goings-on in her godson’s family’s house. Mignon comes to Hamilton asking for his help in discovering whether someone is trying to rout them out, and if so, who and why. Hamilton agrees, and before long everyone else is involved as well. It doesn’t help that an old enemy is back and is preying on them again, alternately flirting and trying to turn them against each other.

The old enemy is Vivalene, a character I created many years ago for stories I acted out with my mom. In those escapades she was an anthropomorphic skunk, but in all the stories I’ve written online for different fandoms she’s a human. Originally I created her to be a sweet girl, but somehow that changed to a flirt and then a deadly femme fatale.

It’s the latter template that I’ve used in my stories. Her only true loves are precious gems and money, and to get both she uses people in the most devious, distasteful ways possible, then discards them when they’re of no further use. When she met the Perry Mason characters three years ago she tried to make allies of them. Failing in that, she made up lies and tried to make the men suspicious of each other. She failed there too, and is failing again upon meeting them during the current events of The Macabre Mansion and utilizing her same tricks. But her plans don’t stop there. She will play a large part in the story, particularly as the climax draws near.

Part of the story idea was inspired by season 7’s The Shifty Shoebox, another of my favorite episodes. The central focus concerns a young boy, and Perry’s interaction with him. For my mystery story, I decided I wanted to see how Hamilton would interact with a kid around that age or a bit younger. I like writing for young kid characters, especially after I had close association with kids for a couple of years teaching them music. In the past I did rather poorly writing for kids, giving them dialogue far beyond their years. I hope I’ve greatly improved on that by now, as I’ve made a conscious effort to do so.

I also realized that so far, although my mysteries try to rotate the spotlight on all of the main cast, I have been attempting to explore different character relations with Hamilton in each one. There was an emphasis on Perry’s and Tragg’s interaction with Hamilton in The Persecuted Prosecutor. Della and Hamilton were heavily explored in The Memento Mori Murderer. And Paul’s and Mignon’s relations with Hamilton are being investigated in The Macabre Mansion. It was not a conscious effort to handle things in this way, although it was very conscious to have Hamilton be highly important to the plot of every story. There should be more fanfictions featuring him!

As I grow more comfortable writing for the characters, I notice I’m far more likely to refer to Mr. Burger by his first name. I scarcely did so in The Persecuted Prosecutor and semi-frequently did so in The Memento Mori Murderer. With The Macabre Mansion I almost exclusively call him Hamilton, unless I’m writing from the point-of-view of a character who likely would not do so.

This story marks the first time I’ve written for Mignon Germaine. I love her aloof, serious behavior; she’s a type of character I feel very much at home writing for. In chapter 1 she goes to Hamilton for help, and mentions that she is certain it’s a human disrupting the Peterson family’s lives; she doesn’t sense any ghosts in the house. I debated for a while on whether or not she should be able to sense such a thing; while I believe in ghosts, I don’t want to give anyone unusual powers in a Perry Mason story. I determined at last that in this case it’s more of a heightened sense than a sort of power, and that considering Mignon’s interests and personality, maybe it would not be too off-kilter to think that she would have perhaps decided to learn how to sense the presence of spirits.

There were at least two times on the series when supernatural concepts were explored (in The Meddling Medium and The Fatal Fetish), but both times logical explanations were then presented. I don’t intend to deviate from logic and actually display the supernatural. Of course, who knows; I might decide to have something unexplained and benign happen at the end and leave the possibility open that that time it was a ghost. I doubt I would take it further than that, however. Aside from my little oneshot piece The Case of the Captain’s Ghost, which I wrote to help cope with Captain Caldwell’s death in The Misguided Missile, at this time I would prefer not to introduce anything genuinely supernatural into these stories.

As much as I love The Fatal Fetish, it seems to have given some misinformation about vodun—the religion commonly warped into voodoo—and the usage of the infamous dolls. That is not surprising, considering how Hollywood has more often than not painted everything connected with vodun to be evil and dark. After doing a bit of research, I cringed at the misrepresentation and knew that I did not want to perpetuate that if I could help it. In chapter 4 of The Macabre Mansion, Mignon explains a bit about the religion to Hamilton. The dolls do play a part in the story, serving their common creepy goals, but using them for ill purposes will not be connected with mainstream vodun.

I had a bit of a problem determining what to do with the unseen Leon, whom I had decided should be around. I had already listed Miss Miller as Mr. Burger’s secretary in The Persecuted Prosecutor, but I’m still not sure if she might just be a stenographer instead. Leon certainly seems to serve in the capacity of secretary. In The Macabre Mansion, both he and Miss Miller are mentioned, but neither is expressly said to be Mr. Burger’s secretary. They both handle answering the telephone, however.

I am tentatively planning that Andy will play a larger role in this story than he did in The Memento Mori Murderer; hence his presence (albeit brief) in the trailer I made. I don’t want to reveal future spoilers, but if all goes as I am planning, his inclusion will make things very intense.

With five chapters done so far, I’m a lot further from the climax while writing this than I was when I wrote the entries concerning the other two mysteries. I have a vague outline for how the rest of the story may play out, and I’m hoping it will come together the way I’m imagining (or even better).

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