Note: This is the Editing Blog for my FFVII fanfiction Northern Lights (which you can find at the end of that link). I will be discussing a myriad of topics along with my frequently tangential and harried editing process. You should be able to garner some enjoyment and insight from this without having read the story and/or without prior knowledge of the original game, but if you’re a fan of paranormal romance and/or dark fantasy, you may find it to your liking. The story will be spoiled in this editing examination, though I will do my best to mark spoilers for any other narratives I mention. Thanks for your interest and enjoy!
Warning: Discussions of rape/sexual assault farther down in post (a bit after the break).
I have a few things to go over before I jump into the main editing portion of this entry as I missed mentioned several topics yesterday.
First I wanted to talk about my writing playlist. Music is the heart the pumps life into my words on many an occasion. I take inspiration from various songs in myriad genres with words and without. Certain ones put me in the mind of certain scenes or certain characters. Now due to this story’s particular nature both main characters already have leitmotifs.
Final Fantasy does the exceptional task of providing such for every character since, well, I started playing with VI, but I know IV does it as well. I find it both impressive and endearing. For myself; however, there are numerous songs that put me in the mind of characters or situations whether I created them myself or no. A latter part involving a train ride yields Frank Sinatra’s “I Thought About You,”
while scenes of the frozen north draw me towards Disney’s Frozen soundtrack with “Vuelie” (the opening song of the movie that sends chills down my spine).
Perhaps being a bit meta, but the “Frozen Landscape (Buried in Snow)” from Voices of the Lifestream also brings the winter,
while “God Help the Outcasts” from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame was more than appropriate for scene’s in Aeris’s church.
Now I want to return to something I mentioned yesterday in regards to the FFVII Wiki. I originally looked up Elmyra (Aeris’s adopted mother) to make sure I was correct about her house being in Sector 5. This was accurate, but then something made me click on Aeris’s entry herself just to see. Finding out she wasn’t born in the labs but Icicle Inn actually gave me chills when I realized the implications for it means the little Cetra was born beneath the northern lights.
Wikipedia provides the information that the aurora is best seen between September and March, and her birthday is in February so we can assume that the lights were evident above. She was “born amidst snowflakes and dreams,” which I place in quotes because those words came from a dream themselves. Side note because I mentioned dream lines, but the ones “You shall hold the hands of death” have been fluttering around my brain for a few days, so I think they’re going to have to be worked in to the beginning chapter.
Let it be known that I love prophecy in stories and FFVII lends itself to that. Nearly every story I love deals in prophecies, and I spent the better part of today watching Song of Ice and Fire theories, this one right here being quite exquisite.
It’s quite long so be thou warned AND make sure you’ve read all of the books, and my mind is just a whirl. It’s an hour and a half video about Rhaegar Targaryen (do NOT watch if you’re not caught up on the books). Please tell me you know what he looks like.
Yeah…that right there…
Then there’s him and Lyanna Stark.
Well, at least we have an idea what silver and chestnut hair look like together…not that there aren’t plenty of pictures of our own lovely couple.
I also think that ASOIAF may very well be another metaphor for the Book of Revelations, but I’m still solidifying that in my brain. Oh and per that video if you want to understand ASOIAF, you need to know about Ragnarok. Yup, Norse mythology (I’m going to give myself a refresher)…just like in FFVII. Midgar(d) has always been the battleground… Can I just say that whenever I see/hear that word I think of four fandoms/stories? FFVII (of course), Lord of the Rings (Middle-Earth, yo), Avengers (fyi I’m obsessed, OBSESSED with Loki, too. He’s like a very short distance behind Sephiroth in terms of how hard I love him),
and of course the source, Norse mythos. One tying factor with all of them (I’m lumping Avengers in with Norse mythology since that’s the reason I mentioned it) is the Tree of Life or the World Tree. Song of Ice and Fire has this, too, in the weirwoods that the greenseers used for their watching et al. It all ties together, every story, every song.
Just a few more quick notes before the editing starts (hopefully I’m not boring you), but I was cleaning up/organizing my Pinterest boards (yes I pin, I pin a LOT, over 15k at this point. If you click the link the very first board you see will prove that it’s me), my Gothic Beauty one to be exact. Pretty goth boys are my favorite
Ah wait!!! There’s that equivalent Sephiroth picture ♥♥♥
and I also have a board devoted to white-haired goths. You can probably see where this is going, but no, Sephiroth of course has his own board, don’t be silly.
Anyway, I was reorganizing and looking at the pictures and I couldn’t help but be inspired by macabre beauty. It took a great deal of dedication to keep at my task and not jump instantly into editing. I was truly going to wait at least a week after completion before delving in again, but alas, I can’t stay away. They call me and I must answer. The best stories are about memory…
Warning: Following are discussions of rape/sexual assault.
To the second part of Chapter 1.
One of the saddest things in this story is the rape rhetoric. Yesterday I added this line:
“There wasn’t a day the flower girl didn’t expect to be raped or potentially murdered. It was a terrible, omnipresent fact, but one can grow used to any chain. She lived her life in that reality’s shadow and ordered her days by its grasp. Always dwelling on the edges where she prayed such horror would pass her by.” Aeris lives with this unceasing threat 24-7. She is never safe at any moment. There are times when she’s safer (in her church or in her house), but never a moment when peril is lifted and she can truly breathe free without vigilance. Northern Lights is a paranormal romance set in the post-apocalyptic/dystopian fantasy world of FFVII. Why then is this paradigm something many women face every single day just as Aeris does?
My original novel The Serpent’s Tale has a similar example. It is also a paranormal romance taking place in a sort of medieval/Victorian/Edwardian setting. The female MC finds herself at the “mercy” of slavers when she wanders into the forest alone, which is a typical fairytale heroine action. Aeris has her own “do thee mischief in the woods” motif during the events of the game, but unlike most stories of that nature, she winds up dead. The ingenue doesn’t usually end up in that situation. The hero gets there in time, but FFVII is nothing if not an exercise in twisted paradigms. Going back to TST, the heroine is described by her attackers as a “rose just waiting to be plucked,” as if her actions are the reasons she’s about to be raped. She was (in their terms) asking for it. The sorrow comes not from such a presence in prose, but the fact that it exists in reality. Aeris lives her life by rules and schedules meant to keep her unviolated and alive (ugh, I need to find better language. “Unviolated,” “undefiled,” “pure.” These are all terrible terms that place the stigma squarely on the victim. “Violated” isn’t too terrible, but the other two suggest that she’s somehow “dirtied” by being forced to have sex. There’s more sexual paradigms/tropes explored later in this). The flower girl polices her own behavior because she’ll wind up raped and murdered if she doesn’t. The same can be said for women today for while justice purports to exist here as it doesn’t in the slums of Midgar, that’s really an utter sham. One of the things Northern Lights taught me was that it would be impossible to write such a story without delving into social injustice. This is not just limited to rape rhetoric; plenty more will be seen later in regards to the destitute and poor.
“No one seemed to notice the small maid in their midst, while in her head the Planet sang joyful.” Oh the Planet is super happy she is where she is. Why in the world could that be?
Les Misérable in its latest movie iteration was the inspiration for the first sight of Sephiroth in the Sector 6 slums and truthfully the catalyst for how I would start this story. Upon viewing that I then knew how Northern Lights would begin. Prior I had some amorphous idea of Aeris helping him find his true mother, but I couldn’t see the shape of how that would be laid. Les Mis solidified that with its themes of redemption, mercy, hope, and forgiveness, all ideas found in Northern Lights. This introduction of him bound in chains should give a stark implication to Sephiroth’s state of mind. This is a man who can rip apart minds and crush bars in his bare fists, and yet he’s pitifully bound on a cell floor. What but contrition could hold him there?
“She’d seen such cruelty in the slums and not just with the cats. There were mothers with eyeless children whom they’d blinded themselves so that others less gentle wouldn’t do worse. Hair too blonde would surely be dyed. But his could never have been called blonde…” I don’t consider Sephiroth blond either. I guess it could be called that, but in my head silver/white does not equal blonde.
Obviously Aeris is beyond terrified of him. Who the hell wouldn’t be? Yet, the flower girl is strangely drawn to her once murderer even without the world’s urging. He’s a piece of her long lost past.
I…HATE the part where he’s being tortured. I detest writing about torture for people who don’t deserve it. I mean I’m not overly comfortable writing about it for those who do. There’s a scene in The Serpent’s Tale where it happens and the person 100% deserves it and it still makes me ill, but I definitely can’t stand when the tortured person is undeserving.
*sigh* This is, what, my third story where the male MC saves the female MC from rape? Ugh, even more than I hate torture scenes I abhor, detest, loathe rape or even almost rape scenes. At least it happens early on instead of in TST where it’s around Chapter 11, and since I know about it, I’m in constant anticipation. Granted my favorite part of all happens afterwards, but still *shudders*
“She tried to wrench free, but he was far too strong, and he twisted her wrist so she screamed.” I wonder how much time I should devote to her injured wrist in the aftermath. I feel like I say it here, but don’t follow up. Either I should find a way to have her heal it or I should at least mention that it’s bothersome for at least this night.
“Aeris was begging and crying for mercy as he threw her down on the dirty ground. Through smeared vision and blurrier thought she cast out her mind for her friend, but the Planet must have forsaken her for no pulse lay beneath her prone form.” Ughhhhh I can’t stress enough how much I HATE this part. Things get worse before they get…better. I hate how she begs for mercy. I hate that she “has” to. It’s so disgusting (not her, the men hurting her and the situation).
“’Now.’ Her soon to be rapist made some motion around his belt. She struggled to stand until he casually kicked out her ankles. ‘You be a good girl and we’ll leave your face pretty, let you keep your eyes, and maybe even pay you, but…be a little bitch and I swear you’ll look worse than your c-‘” Ah, I almost say it, but not quite. You should all be old enough to know what word I cut off.
“The rats in the walls” both foreshadowing and the title of an H.P. Lovecraft story (ignoring the blatant and horrific racism. Wow Lovecraft, I mean, I know that was just your time, but the cat’s name, really? Unless it was just some internet asshole who updated the wiki. People do that shit all the time). Lovecraft is another inspiration contributor to FFVII itself as he was the father of the cosmic horror story and, um yeah, does the game have that element. That is probably one of the most important and also one of the more ignored factors of them all.
I do love fight scenes. Fight and make out scenes are my favorite to write with the latter slightly taking the prize. It’s a similar rush of adrenaline, which is actually backed by none other than science! “Fucking and fighting it’s all the same.”
“He made it past with entrails intact, and leapt over his friend who had not, but when his feet found the ground behind him was the shadow and a portion of steel bloomed from his chest.” Yeah…I would not want to witness someone else die the same way I’d been killed. Way to trigger a traumatic event. No wonder poor Aeris faints.
Cliffhanger ending? Yes please. My goal is to make all of the chapter ends if not cliffhangers then at least interesting enough that you’re thirsty for the next. What shall happen to our poor heroine? Will she just be skewered all over again and all her efforts be for naught? Will she be raped after all by her worst enemy, her murderer, the angel who tried to be god? What will happen to the dear flower maid when she becomes a spoil of war?
Until next time my dears adieu.