Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Making of "Shelly's Story"

Today, we're going to discuss the nuts and bolts that went into "Shelly's Story". You can click the link if you need to refresh your memory as to what it was all about.

The "Shelly Ericson" character was created in high school as the partner/assistant/bodyguard/love interest of Captain Satellite. During those days (1986-1990, if you are keeping score at home), I toyed with a lot of story scenarios. One of those was called "Shelly's Story", and it would have gone into some depth on her background. But this tale went unwritten, as did virtually all of the Captain Satellite mythology.

Shelly was intertwined with the origin I finally conceived for Captain Satellite, involving her foiling an assassination attempt on his civilian identity and his subsequent decision to assume a costumed persona to fight the baddies gunning for him. This story also never got written, but there was at least an attempt made. I sat down in college and tried to set it down on paper, but it just never clicked. Displeased with what I had, I abandoned it, and filed Cap, Shelly, and the rest away again. They reappeared sporadically, but never in any kind of narrative.

That began to change in 2007, when I drew portraits of many of my character due to a lot of interest from some people. This seemed like a good opportunity to also flesh out some of the ideas in my head, so I wrote profiles for a few of those characters. However, I didn't take it further, as other projects demanded my attention.

Skip ahead to the beginning of this year, and I began rolling out the Captain Satellite profiles on this blog. It didn't seem right to just leave them as they were, so I modified them as it suited me. I even began to create new ones both for characters that had previously lacked them, and brand-new characters I was launching. You'll be seeing those folks here in the months ahead.

Anyway, this burst of productivity prompted my friend Kabuki Katze to inquire a couple of times whether this was all leading up to something. Well, in all honesty, no, it wasn't. I have commissioned her a couple of times with regards to this set of characters, but mostly, I was just looking for content for the blog and my art account.

Still, you can blame/credit her for inspiration, because I couldn't get the thought out of my head that maybe I should attempt something beyond the profiles. It all came together on April 12, 2010, when this story essentially wrote itself in my head at work. I ended up taking notes to make sure I hit all the high points. This was one of those times when I couldn't get in front of the computer fast enough.

I serialized the story in chapters on my deviantArt account that day and the next. I think it works better in that fashion, but I elected to just post it here as one big multi-part piece and not draw it out over days. There have been some minor editorial fixes here and there, but nothing that changes the heart of this tale.

I'm quite proud of "Shelly's Story". It took a lot of fine-tuning, and there are portions that could be better, but overall I feel like I got exactly what I wanted from it. It's true to my vision of the characters, and it balances the fantastic with the more realistic aspects. I attempted to write it in Shelly's "voice," and I like to think I did a reasonable job communicating a character that was unlike me in gender, age, and personality.

For those of you who like to analyze these things, I will cop that there are allusions to a lot of different women who have been in my life over the years in this story. None of those ladies are Shelly, though. It has taken a lot of time and thought, but Shelly has finally found a life of her own apart from just being a simulacrum for whomever has caught my fancy at a particular moment.

Some technical stuff, if you are fascinated by the process :

  • Shelly was established as being from Texas in 2007, but from where? It's still deliberately vague, but "Boonland" is her hometown. I arrived at this fictional (?) town by mashing together the southeast Texas towns of Buna and Nederland. You can draw your own conclusions.

  • "Major City State University" (located in my equally-fictional metropolis "Major City") serves as the college Shelly attended and the location of her first meeting with Paul (Captain Satellite) Mann. This was also an attempt to diversify that burg, since I figured it had to have more institutes of higher learning than the elite MTI established in the profiles.

  • The tale of Paul and Shelly's first meeting, and the job offer over dinner, is perhaps one of the oldest bits of story ever concocted for these characters. It has been expanded greatly, if only to make something that is rather far-fetched seem vaguely plausible.

  • "Chez Cafe" is an altered version of the name of an actual restaurant in my local area. Truth can be stranger than fiction!

  • The background info regarding Roxanne Prize, and the origin of the "Captain Satellite" moniker, are also things that have been bouncing around for some time. Though it is not mentioned in this story, Roxanne Prize would go on to become the super heroine Firegirl.

  • The declaration of Cap and Shelly's love was a recent invention, and depends heavily on her recent growth as a character. I don't see myself even attempting something like that back in my teens and twenties.
So, anyway, this is all vaguely surreal to me. I had decided a couple of years ago that, if I ever wrote this story, it would be from Shelly's perspective. She is, after all, the anchor to reality for Captain Satellite and thus the reader, too. And now? Now it has come to pass. I've set down the first ever story of Captain Satellite and Shelly Ericson, and related their origins to the world.

I hope everyone likes it.

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