Plot or pants?

As I develop my writing, I’ve become more and more convinced of the benefit of planning a story out. A first draft without structure ends up as just that – a rambling mess. Maybe some people can write that way. Maybe as I develop further, I’ll be doing that part internally rather than externally. But right now I need to have the whole storyline laid out.

Then as I write, I add flesh to the skeleton, and that flesh might change the structure a little. That’s fine – it’s easy to adjust a plan. It’s not so easy to adjust a completely written draft.

I’ve currently become distracted from my novels into fanfiction, writing a complete episode of a TV series while waiting for the episode itself to appear after the winter olympics hiatus. For this, I developed the structure in Scrivener, with chapters and scenes. I wrote a short paragraph for what has to happen in each scene. In some cases, I discovered that other scenes were needed. In other cases, I had to go back and add to previous scenes.

Once it was all planned out, it was straightforward to build up the story. So the end result was that the start of the writing was slower than pantsing it, but once I started the writing part it went smoothly, with no nasty surprises as I write myself into a corner.

I’ve also developed an increased appreciation for show writers through this exercise. It’s incredibly difficult to write an episode with a complete story, including the character development of the regulars, a believable plot line and good balance between all, and above all keep it short and sweet.



Insecure Writers time again

86044-insecurewriterssupportgroupWell it’s the first Wednesday in the month again, which means Insecure Writers Support Group time. I’m already well into nano, having hit just over 12,000 words late last night. That puts me well above target for finishing the 50k by the end of the month (and also pushing on to finish the whole manuscript, of course).

So how’s it going?

In one sense, it’s going well. I have a lot planned out, I know my characters, I know where they’re going, I know what has to happen in every scene.

In another – not so much. I haven’t found the spark yet. It’s hard work. I see my writing as weak, trite, clich√©d, uninteresting.

So why continue?

As part of my preparation and thinking about the writing to come, I looked back on one of my fanfiction stories. It was over 32k words, published a chapter at a time, as it was written, over a period of a couple of weeks to a month. The writing looked good, the characters well portrayed, the descriptions fitted and did the job they should do. And my author’s notes that I put in at the end of each chapter told another story: the one of the writer. The one whose characters were so real that they took over, doing unexpected things that changed the plot slightly. It reminded me of the extreme buzz that I can feel when a writing project goes well, that elusive high that leaves such an impression I can’t help but chase it. I likened it recently to a drug, that I’m addicted to and constantly looking for. I know it exists, because I’ve felt it. That compulsion to write, to get a story out of my head and into words, to a form I can share.

I’m constantly making up stories. I don’t often get to the point where I put them into shareable form. But that knowledge of the personal pleasure that comes from writing that’s going well – that’s enough to get me trying every now and again. And I suspect that the more often I feel it, the stronger the urge will be and the easier it will be to find.

So I’m going to keep going with this novel, maybe trying to slow down, concentrating on feeling the story rather than just purely chasing words – or maybe the opposite, waffling as much as I can in order to get the rubbish out of the way and find the real story. I’m not sure at this moment whether Scrivener is helping or hindering – the ability to jump around from point to point can cut two ways. It can enable me to pick up somewhere more interesting for a while, but it can also allow me to back off instead of pushing on with tricky sections.

So maybe I’ll just waffle and see what comes out of it. Editing’s easier than the first draft, right? Or put it another way, I can’t edit what I haven’t written.


So what’s your excuse?

One of my excuses has always been I don’t have time to write. Then I came across this blog entry from Elle Casey, in which she describes how she has written 18 books in 15 months. She must be a full-time writer, I guess – except no, she works 2 days a week as well. She must have found the secret of avoiding social media – but no, she has an active presence on facebook and on her own blog, and she takes promoting her own work seriously. No family? Sorry, husband and kids.

It can’t be any good, right? Not written at that speed. Sorry, wrong again. I knew within the first few lines of the first book of hers I read that she knows how to write and her books are well edited as well.

So what’s her secret? She reveals in her blog post how she does it. She admits it won’t work for anyone, but the fact is that it can be done. And a large part of that secret is just to sit and write.

Damn, that’s that excuse blown out of the water then. You can create high quality writing in high quantity without locking yourself away in a room away from everything. What other excuse can I use?

There’s the two-pronged excuse of … you know what? I’m not sure I can even put it into words any more. That double edged sword of not wanting to expose my writing to scrutiny, and not wanting to write if no-one will read it.

The best writing I’ve done has been to get stories that stick in my mind out into words. In a way, it hasn’t mattered whether they’ve had readers or not. Some have, some haven’t. A couple that I’ve put onto as I wrote them were never finished, as the impetus died away. Every one of them has taken my writing skill a little bit further, but only a little bit because I didn’t keep writing.

The trouble with publishing fanfiction like that is that it becomes like a drug: all the reviews you get encourage you to push out more and more, and then the quality can fall because you’re too interested in publishing and editing becomes an irritating delay.

I think it’s time to get back to when I first started writing fanfiction, when I would put down ideas onto paper just to see if they work out or not. It’s not lack of ideas that’s the problem: it’s actually going through the process of getting them down, fixing them into words. I have so many stories that come to me in a flash, and I can see the whole story arc, but just can’t be bothered to actually do anything about them. I’m sure that if I encouraged them I could quite easily put out large amounts of fiction. Sure, the quality would probably be poor, at least to start with, but it’s only by writing that we learn to write.

Half an hour a day maybe? How much can I write in that time? How much can I write and edit in that time? Only one way to find out. Then I suspect it’s like running: the more you do it, the more you feel like doing it, the more you notice the results and the better you become.



And so that was Christmas…

…and what have I done?

I started out this holiday with certain intentions. I was going to run, paint, draw and maybe even write, and generally concentrate on unwinding and resting.

I’m pleased that I managed to keep up the running, so that I’ve at least maintained fitness if not improved it over the holidays. I’ve done a couple of 6k runs, as well as parkruns, and been to the gym a couple of times.

Drawing – well no. I’ve done a few sketches on the ipad, but haven’t actually put real pencil to paper, let alone got the paints out, although I did find my painting bag and was sorely tempted. In the end, though, there was just not the time.

What I did do was start writing again. Over the past few days I’ve written over 15,000 words of a fanfiction story, of which I’ve posted a new chapter each day for over a week. The final episode of Merlin on Christmas eve was so good in some ways and so irritating in others that it tormented me into reaching for the keyboard and writing my own version, which is still ongoing. I’m just hoping I can maintain at least some momentum on it over the next days and weeks.

The other thing I’ve done, linked to this, is rewatch very nearly the whole series of Merlin, all five seasons (65 episodes!), to remind myself of storylines and characters and background research for my writing. Thankfully, most of the time it’s been a case of working on one screen while watching the other with half an eye ūüėČ I’ve also been reading Merlin-related books, to get the general feel of the mythology and the era.

I’ve slept fairly well, mostly, so can only assume that I’m well rested. So now it’s time to sort myself out and tackle the term ahead with energy and determination, reminding myself of all that’s best about my job and tackling and taming the negative elements.

And hope that I can find a way to maintain creative and relaxing time throughout the term rather than having to crowd it all in to the holidays.

Here’s hoping for a good 2013!


Time to develop a plan

Image of my timeline planningThree chapters posted of the story already, and I’m only just starting to plan? Well, truth be told, so far most of what I’d done was just¬†novelization¬†of the episode, including an extra scene or two that was missing from the original. It’s interesting to note the differences between stories that are told in images and stories that are told in words, and the different techniques used and messages conveyed. Now, with the characters starting to take over and direct me, it was time for me to draw a rough map of my intended route through the story.

The trouble with fanfiction is that like nanowrimo, there’s little time to go back and revise. With chapters posted as they are written, it’s easy to write yourself into a corner and find that you’ve set up situations in earlier chapters that given hindsight you would have rearranged.

And so I set out to plan the events and timeline that the story needs to follow.

First I went through the original episode, which I had already transcribed (it drops off iplayer tonight and my DVD set isn’t released for another three weeks) and wrote down the order of scenes, categorising them into Merlin/Arthur, Camelot and elsewhere. This enabled me to see the flow of the episode and how the three areas of activity intertwined.

I numbered these, giving each a multiple of 10, following original computer programming convention. This served two purposes: first I could easily tell which were the original scenes, and second I could add in other scenes, with the intervening numbers, and had enough numbers between original scenes to allot to them. I also needed to work out which extra characters I would need to develop to carry the story through, tying it with previous episodes where I could and trying to stick to the style and structure of the original characters and storylines.

I then had a rough list of events, and the order they needed to occur in. ¬†The next job was to colour code these to show who would narrate them, as my story is written in first person but jumping from character to character for each section, each clearly prefaced with who is speaking. The challenge is to work out who in each scene would tell the story best. Sometimes there is an overlap between chapters, as the same scene is told from the POV of two different characters, but only where I feel the second POV adds something to the storyline, or where I need to paraphrase to skip past a bit we’ve learnt about from someone else already.

I’m finding generally that my way of writing changes a little with each character, as I hear their voices in my head and picture them on screen. Even the vocabulary can change. This gives more interest to the story, but I still need to learn how to get deeper into their heads and I know one weakness of my writing is lack of description.

Ah well, I can’t guarantee a story update every day, but now I know where it’s going things seem to be going fairly smoothly.

The story is over 6000 words so far, by the way, with each chapter over 1000 and the longest chapter so far being 2250.


They escaped…

My story was going to be a roadtrip story, with Arthur and Merlin telling the story alternately. The trouble is, they had other ideas.

I was trying to work out how the next chapter would go. It should be Arthur’s turn next, but he wasn’t completely sure he could tell it right. ¬†Merlin was willing to go again, but then a quiet voice spoke up: the third character who was present, who kindly offered to tell the next part from his point of view.

And so just three chapters into my story the characters have taken me hostage and are starting to write their own story. It’s hard to describe what’s going on when that happens: it feels like I’m not writing the story but channeling it. ¬†Like the story already exists and it’s telling itself to me, for me to write down. I might feel like I’m in charge, and I might be able to influence it, but if it feels hard it’s because I’m heading the wrong way, or telling the story from the wrong POV, or just not listening properly.

That’s the magic of storytelling for me, and the feeling I’ve been chasing without knowing how to find it. Now it feels like I’ve pulled a loose thread and my brain has come unravelled, throwing up story ideas so fast that I can hardly recognise them as such, let alone deal with writing them down. As though they’ve always been there, lurking in the corner, but now the light has been turned on I can see them, and they’re clamouring for attention.

Apologies for the mixed metaphors; the stories may present themselves to me, but it’s my responsibility to vocalise them. This is where I need to call on and develop my storytelling skills, so that I tell the story in a way that others can follow, my description skills so that others can picture the story as I picture it, my vocabulary so that I can find the right word to conjure up the sensations reactions effect I want.

I think this is part of why I’ve avoided writing for a while: this feeling that my life has been taken over, that I’m a slave to the story, that there is either me or the words, and no place where the two can exist comfortably side by side.

Or I’m just a melodramatic idiot who likes to pretend these things ūüėČ


And we’re off!

I posted the first chapter of a Merlin fanfic last night, and after dreaming about the story overnight the second chapter was written and posted this afternoon. That’s the way a lot of fanfiction goes: it’s published as it is written, chapter by chapter, and reviews and comments on earlier chapters can influence later parts of the story. ¬†In one sense, a story can be written as a collaborative effort between reader and writer.*

Fanfiction is addictive. ¬†The instant feedback from readers urges you on to more, and the stats provided are compulsive viewing. ¬†A lot like blogging, really. ¬†I’ve already had over 170 visitors to my story page. ¬†Part of the issue is that many people are dissatisfied with the official ending of the series, and are hungry for more stories, preferably extending the story well beyond canon. ¬†Interestingly, a lot of my audience seems to have come from the states, where they haven’t even (officially) seen the last season yet. ¬†I’m loving the role reversal – usually it’s me in the UK watching desperately as those in the states get TV episodes first!

The trouble is that having started, it tends to feel like a snowball rolling downhill. ¬†I need to know all sorts of facts about the show; there’s a merlin wiki, but the trouble is I could really do with having all 983 pages from it embedded in my brain, ready to pull out any fact I need.

I don’t know enough about British history. ¬†I want to write in another threat to the kingdom, but don’t have a good enough grasp of the geography and history of the location yet. ¬†At least it’s set in Britain, so I don’t have the usual handicap of trying to write for an American setting/characters.

I’ve just got the Crystal Cave and Mists of Avalon, so I can research the original stories. ¬†Then hubby mentioned le mort d’arthur, which is apparently the original original source of the stories. ¬†So that’s the myths and legends research sorted. ¬†I still need to figure out how I’m approaching the historical side of research. ¬†I have Merlin seasons 1 to 4 on DVD, I’ve ordered season 5 which is released mid January and it’s currently available on iplayer, so that’s the tv series research available.

Then I need to work out what’s happening with the story. ¬†It started as Arthur’s point of view within the final episode, then chapter 2 was from Merlin’s point of view, taking the story on a scene or two, but I realised as I started it that I needed to start his story a little earlier, which made for clumsy flashback. ¬†Then I discovered that the timeline in the episode doesn’t make a massive lot of sense, so I was forced to juggle things and make up things to make it flow better. ¬†I could continue with just these two characters, telling the story of the episode in greater depth from their POV, with an intent to continuing the story after the point where I want to change from the original storyline. ¬†Or I could expand it to include what’s happening back at Camelot too, and make it a much more epic story, in which case I risk losing momentum as time runs out and I head back to work. ¬†Whatever I choose, I need to work on keeping all the characters true to the TV series, while adding in enough extra to keep me and my readers happy.

So many decisions, so much power.  I literally hold the power of life or death in my hands, at least in respect of my characters.  I can influence the course of the kingdom.  Kings and queens take power or lose it, at the tap of my fingers.  I wield the power of magic and decide on the future of magic within the realm.

Ooh err! ¬†I think this is all going to my head. ¬†Maybe I’d better just focus on what will happen in the next chapter or two first! Whatever direction this does end up going in, I know one thing: as long as I am actively writing, I am improving my skills, as I develop plot and characters, try out different writing techniques and hone my writing practice.

*One memorable fanfiction project I was witness to, if not actively involved in, took part on a mailing list for a TV series. One writer wrote a part of a story from the POV of one of two characters. ¬†Another writer then took on the story, starting partway through the first chapter but from the other character’s POV, and continuing the story a little further. ¬†The first one then took up her character’s POV again, and so the story went on, told alternately by the two writers/characters, with no contact between them except the story segments posted by email to the mailing list. It was great fun to witness and must have been great fun to write as well.

Holding out for a hero?

What makes a hero?  What characteristics do we look for in those we admire?  How do we create a character that people will love?

These questions, among others, have entertained me for many an idle hour. ¬†If I were to write about my perfect hero, what would he be like? ¬†In the meantime, I seek heroes in the world around me, not usually in real life, but in books, TV, movies… I might make up stories about those heroes or just enjoy watching/reading about them, but while they have been wildly different in many ways, there’s usually a common thread, which makes me wonder if I can pick it out. ¬†Such heroes are present in literature and on screen regularly, so it seems it’s not just a personal thing.

Young, male, good looking – all those are fairly standard, although it doesn’t have to be classic good looks. ¬†For me a quick intelligence is far better than physical power. ¬†Rich is useful, but not anywhere near as important as a really strong sense of integrity and nobility. ¬†But there has to be a major flaw somewhere. ¬†The best hero in the world means nothing if he has no weakness, and I’m not just talking kryptonite. ¬†As well as that vulnerability, Superman also had the separation from his parents as a baby, the knowledge while growing up that he just didn’t fit in. ¬†Spiderman had his love for his girlfriend, that he didn’t dare indulge for fear of opening her to harm. ¬†Merlin has the knowledge that he’s different because of his magic powers, and the haunting feeling that he has to work to protect his best friend, while understanding that if his friend knew the truth he would be repulsed and possibly order him imprisoned or killed. ¬†You get the idea. ¬†Or maybe their vulnerability is in their personality; House drives people away from himself, as well as constantly suffering pain from his leg. ¬†Rodney McKay is so focused on his science that he doesn’t notice the human and social needs of those around him. ¬†But the bottom line is that all of them are fiercely loyal and will always come through when they need to.

To really make things work, though, there has to be at least one person, maybe a few, who know the secret and see those vulnerabilities, who watch the hero’s everyday life while understanding what life’s really like for him, how he struggles every day and how the appearance of normality is just that; who are prepared to get past the outer facade and deal with the real person inside, because they know that he’s worth the effort, and who become, even if just for a short while, part of the hero’s inner circle.

You see all these not only plain but magnified in fan fiction Рthe most popular type of fanfiction will torture the hero to an extreme degree either physically or mentally. In the genre of Stargate SG1 fiction, the phenomenon was known as Danny bashing, after the hero Daniel Jackson, whom writers just seemed to love to torture.  There is a whole style of fanfiction known as hurt/comfort, which follows this pattern.  Face it Рwe always hurt the ones we love!

This brings to mind a very strange, disjointed scene in a series a few years ago: they tried to do a remake of The Professionals, two men who formed a partnership in CI5, Criminal Intelligence 5.  Very early on in the first episode, we see one of the pair calling on the other, who is fast asleep and dreaming of his wedding day Рwhich is broken up by a gunman gunning down his bride and all the guests, leading to him waking up obviously seriously distressed from a nightmare.  This was never explained or referred to again, from my memory, but set the character up as one with a hidden past full of tragedy, a classic trick for a writer wanting to give his hero a boost.  Christian Grey, the current hero of fashion, has his own tragic past, and the appeal of the books for many readers is the character and needing to know more about him.

I’m bearing all this in mind as I try to create my own hero. ¬†You see, if I create my own I can adapt his story to be whatever I want. ¬†No having to stick to the canon, as in fan-fiction, so the safety of the original structure is gone, but I can build my own structure, and play with it however I want.

I know a bit about my hero, but not enough yet. ¬†I know roughly what he looks like, his name, but not his complete backstory. ¬†That’s what I need to work on, but in order to have a complete picture of him I need to know his vulnerabilities and also his supporters, his sidekicks for want of a better phrase.

From what I know of psychology, though, I suspect most people have a hero inside them, whose vulnerabilities can sometimes make life difficult, and we also have a sidekick, because we can watch ourselves, understand what makes us vulnerable and support ourselves as best we can.  We can be our own best sidekicks and cheerleaders, if we can only figure out how to support ourselves instead of putting ourselves down all the time. And that, to my mind, is at the bottom of our fascination with this sort of hero.  Because when it comes down to it, we all want to believe that we are good and we are loveable, and that we have friends who are willing to see past our flaws and prepared to be there for us, whatever happens.


I love fanfiction

I love fanfiction. ¬†I love the way I can watch an episode of a TV show, and then go to somewhere like to see other fans’ views of that episode – what happened behind the scenes, what happened afterwards. I love the way I can then leave comments on their stories saying what I liked and what didn’t quite work, and get a message back saying thank you, you’re right, I reviewed my story and that bit didn’t quite fit so I’ve cut it out. ¬†I love reading essays about the dialogue between the creators of shows and the fans of that show, as they negotiate and argue about essential issues. ¬†I love the way that even in the hiatus between seasons there is material to be found, to enjoy and pick apart and maybe build on. ¬†I love that there’s such a thin line between writer and reader that sometimes they’re the same person, and that there’s real dialogue, to the extent that feedback from the reader can influence the writer and words from the writer can affect the reader deeply. ¬†I love the way that private imagination can become public entertainment on such a personal level. ¬†I even love it that some of the fanfiction is of poor quality, because it means that even young writers, or unpractised writers, or young unpractised writers, are pounding the keyboard in an attempt to share their writing.

I even confess to thinking that maybe it’s time I started writing properly again.


The Stuff of Fairytales

I dug out some of the really old stories, the first fanfics that I wrote. ¬†I’ll post them here over the next few weeks. ¬†Don’t think I’ll bother editing them, they stand as they are; just remember that they were written around 12 years ago!

These stories are based on characters from Stargate SG1. Enjoy.

The Stuff of Fairytales

Disclaimer: I don’t own them, I’m not making any money out of this. ¬†I just enjoy playing with them for a while, and hope you enjoy reading the result.

AUTHOR: loopy
CATEGORY: Action/Adventure
SPOILERS: Children of the Gods
WARNING:¬† Character Death.¬† But it’s Daniel, so you know how it’s going to end, right??

“Wow,¬† this is amazing!”¬† Daniel moved his fingers excitedly over a small wooden box he had found hidden in the ruins of the old temple they had discovered.

“If this inscription is true, then maybe even the fairy tales on Earth are based on real events!”¬† He lifted up the small tape recorder he had been recording his observations onto.¬† “The language appears to be some combination of Goa’uld, Babylonian and something I’ve never seen before.”¬† He continued to talk to the machine about the inscription on the top of the box, trying to analyze exactly what language he was dealing with.¬†¬† He lifted his head and looked around briefly.¬† Sam was still not in sight.¬† Probably exploring the other half of the temple, which seemed more or less intact.¬† Daniel was much more interested in the artifacts to be found amongst the ruins, while Jack and Teal’c had gone to look around the forest that surrounded them.

Daniel bent his head to his work again.  The inscription seemed to talk of some poison.  Daniel wondered if it was within the box.  Maybe the box itself was poison Рbut if that were so then he would surely be dead already.   Daniel shook the box gently.  It was about the size of a shoebox, made of some kind of dark wood, and with a tight fitting lid.  Curious to know what was inside, and vowing to be very careful, he took his knife out of his pocket and began to prise gently at the lid of the box.

Suddenly a noise startled him, and the knife slipped, cutting his hand.¬† He muttered something under his breath, then sucked his hand and looked round.¬† He had thought Sam was behind him, but all he saw was some kind of animal slipping back into the forest.¬† Daniel cursed again, and stood up to look for the first aid kit, then staggered suddenly and fell back to his knees.¬† His head came up abruptly as he looked at the box, and then his hand.¬† Frantically he grabbed for the tape recorder.¬† “Th-th-the b-b-box was p-p-poison,” he stammered. ¬† “Pins and apples, Sam, pins and apples,” then he fell forward amongst the rocks and lay horribly still, the tape recorder at his side still turning, recording the noises of the forest and the sounds of Daniel’s last breaths.

About forty minutes later Sam returned from the temple, where she had been taking notes of a new set of cartouches on the wall. ¬† “Daniel,” she called, then spotted her friend slumped over a pile of rocks.¬† As she moved closer, she spotted the box that she had left him working on, now with a smear of what looked like blood on the corner.¬† That and the knife lying beside Daniel’s blood-covered hand told its own story.¬† The top of the box contained some sort of inscription, which Daniel had been trying to translate, but the box itself was empty.

Sam bent over Daniel, then dropped to her knees as she took in her friend’s blue-white face.¬† “Daniel?” she whispered, and felt for a pulse on his neck.¬† Even as she did so, she took in from the cold flesh that she was far too late.

As Jack and Teal’c returned to the temple even Teal’c was out of breath from the steep climb.¬† “I’m glad we traveled light on this mission!” Jack gasped as they finally reached the ruins.¬† As they turned the corner past the largest pile of rocks, Jack became aware of Carter sitting on the ground, cradling Daniel in her arms.¬† As she stroked Daniel’s hair gently the Colonel cleared his throat.¬† “Not interrupting anything, are we?” he began cheerfully, then dropped to his knees beside them as he saw the tears which ran down Sam’s face.

Sam looked up at him.¬† “Daniel’s dead.”

“What? How? Were you attacked?”¬† Jack looked around quickly, looking for signs of disturbance, of anything which might be responsible for his friend’s death.¬† He saw nothing except a wooden box with a smear of blood, and a knife lying open on the ground.

“I left Daniel working on translating the inscription on this box.¬† I was working in the temple, but when I got back I found him like this. ¬† He’s dead, Jack.¬† He was already cold when I found him.”¬† Sam took a deep breath and tried to hold back the tears that had flown unbidden.¬†

“How long were you away?”¬† Jack knelt down beside them. ¬† A quick check of Daniel’s pulse confirmed Sam’s story.

“About an hour.”¬† Sam looked down at Daniel, who other than being a strange blue-white colour looked as if he might wake up at any moment.¬† “I don’t understand it, Sir, there seems to be nothing wrong with him other than that cut on the hand.”

Teal’c bent over the box without touching it. ¬† “That is very similar to goa’uld writing,” he reported.¬† “I am unfamiliar with most of it, but I can see the symbol for poison, and that symbol there is similar to that for the word death.”

“Well, that would explain why he would apparently die from a small cut on the hand,” Jack grunted.¬† “I’m certainly not going to touch it.”

He looked down at Daniel in despair.¬† To have gone through all the adventures, all the battles they had faced together, and then for Daniel to be overcome by a goa’uld poison! He shook his head, erasing all thoughts of the courageous way Daniel had faced up to Ra, just when Jack had written Daniel off as a useless geek, and the innumerable times since then that they had fought for each other – and the times Jack had had to drag Daniel out of some kind of trouble.¬† Jack shook his head sadly.¬† “I’m sorry, old friend,” he whispered quietly. ¬† “I wasn’t around this time to keep you out of trouble.”

Sam reached for tape recorder lying by Daniel’s side. ¬† She found it had run to the end of tape, so she rewound it and pressed play. ¬†¬† “Maybe there’s some kind of clue on here,” she suggested.

It was painful listening to the archaeologist as he muttered to the tape about the origins of the language on top of the box.¬†¬† Then they heard Daniel stammering about the poison being on the box, and Jack’s face grew grim. ¬† “What was that last part?”¬† he asked.¬†

Sam shook her head.¬† “It sounded like ‘pins and needles’, Sir,” she replied.¬† “I guess that’s how the poison felt to him.”.

Slowly the team packed up ready to leave.¬† Teal’c lifted the box gingerly and packed it in a plastic bag.¬† Maybe the scientists on earth could find some kind of clue as to what the poison was.¬† Jack somberly split Daniel’s load between him and Sam, while Teal’c slung his comrade’s body over his shoulder.¬† He had mentioned that it was Jaffa custom to bury the dead where they fell, but Jack gave such a scowl that it had not been mentioned again.

They set off down the hillside, helping Teal’c steady his load.¬† Teal’c strode on in silence, remembering the time when he had first met Daniel, the time when they had entered the palace at Chulak and found Sha’re, now taken over by a Gou’ald.¬† She had used her goa’uld weapon to knock Daniel unconscious, and it had been Teal’c’s job to carry the sleeping archaeologist to the dungeons.¬† At that point he had no idea that his burden would one day be one of his closest friends. ¬† Since then he had carried him other times, but always before there had been hope. ¬† Now there was no hope, and the burden seemed the heavier for it.

Sam carried Daniel’s glasses in her pocket;¬† she checked them to make sure they were still safe, then remembered that there would be no need for them anymore.¬† The number of pairs of glasses Daniel had got through in the time she had known him!¬† However had he managed on Abydos, with no optician in the nearest town?¬† She smiled at the thought, then the smile faded rapidly, as she helped Teal’c over a rock.¬† It was hard to believe that Daniel was really gone, that he would never come into the room bounding in excitement as he made a wonderful new discovery. ¬† Daniel was the one who had made the gate work, and had always seemed central to the project.¬† Now the project would continue without him, and if they ever did manage to rescue Sha’re, there would be nothing for her.¬† Sam shook the thoughts from her head and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.

For the most part Jack walked a few paces in front, checking the path.  He looked through the forest at a small clearing, where there was an abandoned hut, and remembered how Daniel had shot over there, while Jack stood helplessly, his M16 in his hand, still checking the area was clear.  Would he ever learn to think first?  But it was too late for him now, his chance had gone, and Jack would never again have to worry about what his friend was doing, whether he was putting himself or someone else in danger.  His life would be much simpler now, he supposed Рbut he would give anything to have Daniel back, pain in the ass that he was!

When they stopped for camp that night they all sat eating silently, not looking at each other, and all pointedly avoiding the heap that lay at the edge of the clearing.  It was still another day and a half back to the Stargate, and all of them were dreading the return to Earth, and the questions that would follow.

Sam dreamed that night of Daniel, lying calling out to her. ¬† “Sam, help me, please, come back!”¬† She woke up in a sweat, and stood up, looking round at her friends’ sleeping forms.¬† Then she noticed Jack rolling over to look at her.

“Problems, Sam?”¬† he asked.

Sam sat down beside him.¬† “I can’t help feeling responsible,” she admitted.¬† “If I’d have stayed nearby, I would have heard him call, maybe I could’ve helped – “

Jack sat up.¬† “Sam,” he said gently, “don’t go beating yourself up over all this.¬† If the silly bastard hadn’t tried forcing the box open – the one thing I learnt after Charlie died was that it’s useless to keep going over and over what might have been different.¬† You can’t change anything, you just have to learn to accept it and go on from there.¬† That’s one thing Daniel taught me…” his voice trailed off.

Teal’c joined them.¬† “I too learned from Daniel Jackson,” he said.¬† “I learned that it is possible to forgive, and to be forgiven.¬† I never thought that I could be forgiven for the crimes I committed in the service of Apophis, and Daniel should have been the last to forgive, but instead he became my friend, and trusted me with his life, and I trusted him with mine.”¬† He sighed deeply.¬† “And now he is no more.”

The three friends sat in silence for a while, together in body but each alone with their memories of Daniel, then Jack slapped his knees. ¬† “Come on guys,” he said in an attempt to sound normal.¬† “We have a long walk ahead of us tomorrow, we need to sleep.”

The day on P3X878 was longer than that on Earth, so not wanting to stop while it was still light, it was nearly 24 hours later that the team stood at the DHD.¬† Jack stood beside it, his hand hovering over the controls.¬† This was usually Daniel’s job.¬† He looked around him at the others. ¬† “Ready?” he asked.¬† They nodded, and he took a deep breath. ¬† “Here goes.”

The General was shocked at the sight of the team coming back through the Gate.¬† “What happened?” he asked grimly, as he accompanied them to the Infirmary.¬† Teal’c lowered his burden onto a gurney.¬†

“It’s Daniel, Sir,” O’Neill said shortly, as Dr Frasier hurried over to them.¬† “He’s dead.”

Dr Frasier examined the body.¬† “How long ago?” she asked.

“About two days ago.¬† It was a long walk back,” O’Neill replied.¬† “As for what happened, we don’t know.¬† He was on his own for about an hour, and he cut his hand trying to get a box open. ¬† Apparently the box contained poison.”¬† Jack shook his head, “he was already cold by the time Sam found him.”

He sat down heavily on a chair nearby, and put his head in his hands.

A few hours later, after some rest, Sam sat in the lab, waiting for the test results on the box.¬† She looked up at her team mates. ¬† “It shows up as remarkably similar to our puffer fish poison,” she told them.¬† “Its result would be to paralyze the body completely.¬† Being unable to breathe, he would have simply suffocated, unless his heart stopped beating first. ¬† Either way it’s deadly.¬† And there’s more to it, as well.¬† I can’t figure out what effect the other ingredients would have.”

“Dr Frasier is doing the post-mortem now,” Jack replied.¬† “Maybe she can give us some idea.”¬† Just then the phone rang.¬† Sam answered it.¬† “Carter. ¬† Okay, I’ll be there in a few minutes.”¬† She turned to the others. ¬† “Dr Frasier wants me in the infirmary.”

Frasier was frowning over Daniel’s body when Sam arrived.¬† “Tell me again, how long ago did he die?” she asked.¬†

“Two days ago, why?” replied Sam.

“I’m not sure.¬† It’s strange.¬† I can find no evidence of decay in the body, It’s like – I can find no signs of life, but I can find no signs of death either.”

“How is that possible?” Sam asked, looking down at her friend’s white face.¬† Daniel lay as if asleep, his blond hair surrounding his face like a halo.¬† In death, Daniel seemed even more vulnerable than in life, although Sam knew from experience that he was much more capable of taking care of himself than people gave him credit for.

“I don’t know.¬† It’s not possible.¬† But all I do know is, I’m not happy about cutting him open to find out why he died if I can’t find signs that he’s definitely dead.”

They gathered around the briefing table.¬† General Hammond was frowning, not liking the uncertainty surrounding Daniel’s death. ¬† “Well, Doctor, is he dead or isn’t he?” he demanded.¬† Frasier shrugged.¬† “Sir, I can find no signs of life.¬† There is no brain activity, no heart activity, everything about him says he is dead.¬† And yet – Colonel, how long did rigor mortis last?”

O’Neill opened his mouth, then closed it again. ¬† “Uh – I don’t think I noticed any – ” he looked around at the others, who shook their heads.¬†

“Well, that’s worrying, but means nothing on it’s own.”¬† Frasier looked round at the others.¬† “I need to know everything about where you were.¬† Anything, however small, that could give a clue as to what happened to Daniel.”

O’Neill cleared his throat.¬† He ought to have known that the archaeologist would be as awkward in death as in life.¬† “Carter, you were the last to see him alive.¬† What was he doing?”

Sam frowned.¬† “He was looking at that box.¬† I think he was trying to translate the inscription on it.”

“Do you know if he had any success in translating it?”

“He didn’t say.¬† Wait a minute, we have his tape recorder.¬† There might be some clue on that.”¬† This time they rewound the tape fully and listened to Daniel firstly recording his impressions of the temple from the outside, then looking at various artefacts.¬† Every time Daniel turned his attention to something new he gave a brief description, so it was easy to work out when he came to the box that had caused his death.¬† Daniel’s comment about fairy tales caused Teal’c to raise an eyebrow enquiringly.

“What is a fairy tale?” he asked.

Jack turned to look at him.¬† “Well you know, Teal’c, it’s – ah – ” he looked to Sam for inspiration.¬† “It’s the kind of story you tell your kid at bedtime, ” he finished.¬† “You know, the kind that start ‘once upon a time’ and end ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’¬† I used to love listening to that kind of story.¬† It was always the type of thing that would never happen in real life.”

“So what did Daniel Jackson mean when he said fairy tales were based on real life?”

“Ah hell, how should I know?” asked Jack impatiently.¬† “You know – knew – the man.¬† Always with his head in the clouds.”

Teal’c looked at Sam, who shook her head.¬† “If this is a fairy tale, then I guess Daniel must be Sleeping Beauty,” she commented, trying to raise a smile.

As Teal’c’s eyebrow raised again, Jack explained, ¬† “In one fairy story, a princess called Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on a pin and fell asleep for a hundred years.”

“That certainly describes him,” agreed Frasier slowly.¬† “It’s just as if he’s going to wake up at any minute.”

Sam went pale, and stood up so abruptly her chair shot back. ¬† “Or Snow White,” she whispered.¬† “Holy, Hannah, Janet, it wasn’t pins and needles he said after all.¬† It sounded like it, but maybe he really said ‘pins and apples’.”

As she looked at the blank faces around her, she repeated, “Pins and Apples.¬† Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on a pin and slept for a hundred years.¬† Snow White ate a poisoned apple and lay as if dead.¬† That’s what Daniel was trying to tell me.”

Now Dr Frasier had turned white as well.¬† “That’s incredible,” she said.¬† “You mean the fairy stories are based on truth?”

Sam spread her hands.¬† “I found that part of the poison is like one on earth that mimics death.¬†If the other ingredients work to preserve the body so that it needs no oxygen – the Goa’uld were on this planet thousands of years ago.¬† I can just about picture a scene where the stories are handed down and turned into fairy tales, but with a basis in real events.”

Jack looked from one to the other.¬† “Does that mean you can revive him?” he asked cautiously, getting to the heart of the matter.

“I don’t know.¬† Anything’s possible, I suppose. ¬† I would have said it was impossible for him to be in this state, but the number of times you’ve all found something new to amaze me…”

Teal’c stood up.¬† “Shall we move to the infirmary, then?”

A few moments later, O’Neill, Teal’c, Sam and Dr Frasier were all gathered around the bed on which the body of their friend lay.¬† “Any ideas?” asked Frasier.

“I suppose you’ve thought of trying the obvious,” Jack commented.

“How were the victims revived in the fairy tales?” asked Teal’c.¬† Frasier and Sam looked at each other.¬† “With a kiss”, they said simultaneously.

“Then should you not try that first?”

Jack snorted.¬† “I suggest that one of you ladies tries it.¬† I’m not sure what Daniel would think if it were one of us…”

Sam nodded.¬† “Janet, you try.”

Frasier looked at her, then stepped forward.¬† She bent over Daniel, imagining she could feel the cold radiating from him.¬† This was not the usual treatment for patients who were brought into the infirmary dead.¬† Slowly she moved her head down, then pressed her warm lips onto Daniel’s cold ones and kissed him.

She took a step back.  Nothing.

O’Neill frowned.¬† “I hope it doesn’t have to be his only true love that wakes him,” he commented.¬† “Otherwise we’re stuck unless we find Sha’are.”

Sam shook her head.¬† “No, Sleeping Beauty was woken by someone she’d never met before.”¬†

“I thought she’d already met the prince?”

“Only in the Disney version,” Sam grinned, feeling that the situation was now completely unreal.¬† Here they were, gathered around the body of the colleague and friend who only an hour ago they had been mourning, but now they were discussing fairy tales and Disney films.

Teal’c stepped forward.¬† “Is there anything else in these fairy stories that would help?” he asked.

Sam shook her head.¬† “I can’t think of anything, ” she replied, looking round at the others for assistance.¬† “They were both woken up by princes who fell in love with them and kissed them.”

“Then maybe the kiss should be a little more passionate?” suggested Teal’c.

Sam looked at him, then at Daniel.¬† To think of kissing her friend’s dead body – and yet Teal’c’s suggestion did make sense.¬† And after all, if they were just clutching at straws, if there was no hope of reviving him – at least she would have had the chance to say goodbye properly.¬† With this thought, before she could change her mind she stepped over to the bed, gathered Daniel’s limp body in her arms, and kissed him passionately.¬† Holding him for a couple of seconds, she searched his face for any kind of response, then laid him down again despondently.

Sam rubbed her hands over her face, then turned to the others.¬† “Any other ideas?” she asked.¬† But they were busy staring past her, at the bed.

Slowly, Sam turned round.¬† Daniel had opened his eyes, and was staring around him in surprise.¬† “How did I get here?” he asked weakly.¬† Dr Frasier moved over to him.¬†

“You were taken ill, Daniel,” she said briskly, taking his pulse.¬† “But now you’re going to be just fine.”¬† She busied herself checking him over, to hide the tears that were welling up in her eyes.¬† Of all her patients, Daniel was the one who managed to cut things finest…

Jack gave a broad grin.¬† “Space monkey,” he said affectionately.¬† “I oughta have known they couldn’t kill you off.”

Daniel looked from one to the other in complete amazement. ¬† “What’s going on?” he asked.¬†

“That’s a long story, Daniel,” replied Jack.

Even Teal’c broke into a smile as he replied “It will make a good bedtime story, Daniel Jackson.”