5 Feb 2015

Unruly: The New Girl - Chapter 1 - Commentary

Welcome to the commentary!  Please read the chapter first before continuing.  Things might make more sense.

November first hit and I was ready to go the second midnight hit.  Amazing, since it took several false attempts at working on the idea to figure out what form it should take.  If you've read Beaver Flight, you'll know that I realized that it wasn't a novel.  Posting previous works, though, reminded me of the serialized story.  That's when it clicked in my head.

Unruly never really fit as a novel.  Every time I tried to figure out where it was going, the story kept being a number of arcs, following the girls through their schemes and problems.  I wanted to focus on different groups as needed, whether it was Caitlin and her roommates or another batch of Unrulies.  The opening, though, was always in mind and came out more or less as envisioned.  A dark sedan arriving at the school, Laura with two men in black inside.  The picture was a picture, the black sedan arring at the Academy's gates.  Unruly could have gone the webcomic route if I could draw.  Since I can't, I wrote it.

Laura is the reader's avatar, at least for the first arc.  She's the newcomer entering the school.  The Academy is a big, scary place, so as Laura discovers aspects, the readers do.  The idea of the first arc is to give enough of a idea of how the Academy operates as well as introduce Laura's classmates.  Naturally, the first person Laura meets is the Academy's headmistress, Elspeth Stone, a graduate of the school.  The grounds aren't well kept, but that's partially for security.  Think of the field full of velociraptors in Jurassic Park II, except this time, the raptors are near-feral teenaged girls.  The men in black discovered that the hard way.

The four rules were made not long after I worked out how Laura's arrival would look.  In summary, the rules are:
#1 - Always wear your uniform.
#2 - The Academy is never to get involved.
#3 - Always support your sisters.
#4 - Don't get caught.
The rules exist to try to limit the characters.  They can't get away with murder; that would get the Academy involved.  At the same time, Rule 4 exists to force the girls to think creatively about murdering others.  Have I mentioned that the Unrulies aren't nice people?  They aren't.

The blurb at the beginning about the history of the Academy came about after some research on Oshawa's early settlers.  Ulrich P. Gephardt doesn't exist.  Any school mentioned in Unruly doesn't exist.  I did research the naming conventions in Oshawa to work out a few names that would fit.  Gephardt started the Academy as a way to reform troublemakers into proper ladies.  When that failed, he decided to turn the troublemakers into his own personal army.  When that failed, he suffered a nervous breakdown caused by constantly looking over his shoulder for a waif ready to pounce on him like a raptor.  Gephardt did not understand the psyche of the adolescent girl.  Yes, that is a lot of work to put into an element that gets a paragraph at the start of an arc.

I did introduce a large number of characters in the first chapter.  In part, this was to make sure that they were around already and that character dynamics could be shown.  In part, the early introductions were to show the size of the Academy.  And, in part, having the neighbours introduced let me set up some conflicts later, notably the Caitlin-Cassie dynamic.  Laura's roommates - Caitlin, Skye, and Autumn - have a dynamic where they get along for the most part, mainly through Skye and Autumn saying, "Yes, Caitlin," a lot.  With Cassie, Vamsi, and the twins, the dynamic changes.  Vamsi is the fixer, the middle-woman with contacts that can get her anything she asks, short of nuclear payloads.  Cassie is the annoyance, the thorn in Caitlin's side.  Cassie has nicknames for almost everyone.

Finally, I hinted at Verity.  Verity will show up next chapter, but there's a history between her and Caitlin that will come out at some point.  Caitlin's the plotter, the schemer, and she always has something in motion.  Never play chess with her; she'll always be several moves ahead and will use tactics to distract her opponent.

The idea for the preview at the end came what I did serializing Beaver Flight - picking out choice lines without context.  The preview was inspired by the old serials and series like the Battlestar Galactica remake.  Whether it works or not depends on the reader, so let me know in the comments.

Tomorrow, The New Girl Chapter 2, "The Girls of St. Dymphna".
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Mrs. Columbo.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Hook.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.


  1. This was your most recent NaNoWriMo, right? A few thoughts. There was good atmosphere and external description, setting the tone. Guys with guns, Laura is presumably in witness protection, possibly a criminal herself, it invites questions on the part of the reader. She also seems to be using her real name? I question a bit why her protectors being attacked is "meh", but as long as Laura's unflappable, I'm going to say it goes to personality. There's also some good "show don't tell" like with Autumn and her tech, or Skye and her height. The rules are straightforward, if a bit cryptic, but Laura's confusion nicely mirrors ours.

    Now a few possible alterations. You mention how you introduce a large number of characters so that you have them around... I feel like it's too much for the single part. In particular, there's even mention of characters who aren't present, when I'm still trying to get a handle on the ones I can see. I'm not going to remember all the incidentals, so hopefully they get a form of reintroduction later. Maybe if Laura was brought next door, but the scene continued with the recently established characters, like Caitlin? Or if it wasn't a second dorm scene so soon after the first, they meet in the foyer or something? Maybe it's me. Speaking of the foyer, it's sort of like the budget was spent on all the exteriors - once they get inside, we only get that it's "better maintained". (And technically, the first person Laura meets is the secretary.) The first indication of a window is Laura seeing the sedan, which we presume hasn't crashed into the building. Incidentally, "Ulrich F. Gephardt" is such an odd name that I wondered if it was an acronym, but I suppose not. Well done on your research.

    Also, I think the preview idea works.

    1. This was, yes - NaNo2014. The attack on the protectors gets explained later, but it was there to add to the oddness.

      I could have introduced the neighbours a few chapters later. Each one gets a better intro, one-on-one. Part of it was me wanting to make sure that the Academy felt populated, that there were people in the hallways.

      The foyer was where the original vision stopped. ^_^;; From there, I went from a visual reference to a character dialogue scene, where things... faded. I need to work on that. There was research done on odd things that never really come up - again, stuff that took more time than deserved, taking away time for stuff that's needed. I do like your idea from the Beaver commentary about sketching the setting. I had in mind a layout loosely based on a floor plan from a book I have, but that may not be coming out well.