Hooray! We made it to Chapter Two!
If you read the first blogpost, you know that I started writing this story back in 2015. My partner has read the manuscript multiple times, but the parts that have changed the most over the course of several edits are these first few chapters. Originally, Alexis and Lizzy were going to be staying in Los Angeles for a longer period of time than just a few days, and Alexis and Terry were going to have a few meetings where they chatted and got to know each other as people in a less intense environment. Unfortunately, the pacing of that didn’t work for my beta readers, and the number of locations, situations, and characters was just too much—so all of that got condensed into Chapter Two, where Alexis and Terry navigate a bunch of really new territory really quickly.
One of my favorite things about this chapter is how self-aware both Alexis and Terry are of how out of the norm this situation is, and how easily the situation could be misconstrued by the other. Terry’s line about him wanting Alexis staying to be what she wants is one of the most important things to me, because it’s what pushes Alexis over her reservations about trusting him. Up until this point, we’ve seen how Alexis’s anxiety has been screaming danger about men and particularly sexual assault in the back of her head this whole time. Showing that Terry is one of the trustworthy men out there who really cares about affirmative consent in all situations—especially since he’s really aware of how much he means to a fan like Alexis as a creator—is one of the most important things I wanted to accomplish in this chapter.
For some readers, this might not seem like an issue, because fiction is supposed to be about having a good time. While I agree (never will I ever write a story that doesn’t have a happy ending, I promise you) I also feel that art needs to reflect real world issues. In my own personal consumption of media, there are a lot of things I don’t feel comfortable consuming anymore because they gloss over conversations that should matter. I stopped watching Voltron cold turkey because Pidge and their pronouns weren’t discussed—even though Hunk and Lance had only ever known Pidge as a person that used he/him pronouns. Brains like categories, and they don’t unlearn them quickly. Even if they wanted to use different pronouns for Pidge, Lance and Hunk would absolutely still call Pidge by those pronouns sometimes. That would undoubtedly lead to one of them asking which pronouns were the right ones to use (because Lance is brash and wouldn’t think anything of a question like that, and because Hunk is kind and would absolutely think of a question like that). The lack of discussion around such a hot button topic when we’re having legislation wars about where people are allowed to pee was too much for me. I want to indulge in media that makes me feel safe and that takes sides about these things—not media that offers me a vague situation that I can self-project onto just so it can make money off bigots as well as me.
I start to set that precedent of taking sides on big issues like that for Author X Audience even in Chapter One. Terry is nothing but charming and accommodating, but Alexis is still very anxious and aware that he could still be a threat even underneath that. People can be very different in public, and predators use lures. Unlike a lot of other books that center around a relationship, I refuse to give Terry the benefit of the doubt as the author, and so does Alexis. Even as she decides to go with Terry, we see her set up emergency plans with her sister just in case something goes wrong.
For some of my male beta readers, this was really jarring. They said they had never really understood how prevalent this mindset was when a woman was meeting a new man for the first time. For my female beta readers, they commented on how true to their own experiences Alexis’s fears and anxieties were.
Alexis’s fears are brought into even sharper focus for the reader when Lizzy brings up her own past sexual assault. Not that Alexis doesn’t have her own traumas, but understanding that her sister is a survivor of sexual assault gives the reader more to understand why Alexis is so aware of the potential danger Terry is. This might seem like a heavy thing to drop right at the beginning of a book, but Chapter One is really there to show that Alexis is dealing with a lot in her life—both with her familial situation, her anxiety, and her professional aspirations. It also serves to set the mood: this book does not skim over real life. It confronts the ugly things, and deals with them in an effort to help both the characters and my readers process and carry things they’ve experienced. When under stress, I look for stories that help me make sense of the world around me. I wrote Author X Audience to be one of those stories—for myself, and for you.
Chapter Two takes the pressure down a notch in regards to Terry, even as situational tension builds. Away from the public eye, we see Terry still concerned with Alexis’s comfort, and actively trying to respect her even as I throw them into awkward situation after awkward situation. It’s the self-awareness of how awkward and out of the ordinary the things they’re doing are that really makes this scene feel real to me. Whirlwind fairytales don’t just happen without people going “Am I dreaming? Is this real life?” and I wanted to be true to that. By the end of the scene, they’ve both gotten a little more comfortable with each other, and both reader and Alexis can trust Terry as a real nice guy.
With that tension gone, we move immediately into a different kind of tension when Alexis steals Terry’s script page from his desk and spoils herself for a future episode of Serenity Peaks. Remember that our story revolves around the themes of creator and fan interaction. What do we owe each other? How should we interact? In Alexis’s case, because she is a singular fan that has impressed Terry with her breakdown of his show and that he’s trying to get to know, he takes pity on her and walks her through how the spoiler she found fits into the story at large. It’s a very kind thing to do—especially given that he told her not to read it and she did anyway.
When content or parts of content out of context are leaked before they’re ready, that’s not often how things go down. The best creators extend an olive branch of some kind and issue a statement asking people not to share or view the leaks and to trust the creator’s vision. The worst engage combatively with fans, telling them they don’t know the whole story and are bad people for not waiting and consuming the content as it was intended to be released. The accessibility of creators on social media is almost wholly responsible for how creators interact with their fan base in moments like this. Some creators stand back and let interviews and PR do the talking for them. Others take big stances. Being on social media also opens up creators to fan critiques and fan support.
Chapter Two of Author X Audience doesn’t have an answer for how creators can best deal with moments like this, but I do think that the kindness and empathy Terry exhibits are a good thing for creators to bear in mind when fans react poorly to information out of context. Narrative points without build up and context don’t make sense—that’s why it takes so many drafts to get a story right! And, as I talked about in my last blogpost, fans’ relationships to fictional characters are often as real to them as their relationships with family and friends. Even though it’s all pretend, the hurt and betrayal of having your favorite character killed off in a way that doesn’t make sense can be very real; and that’s what I was trying to capture with Alexis’s reaction to the death of Grunkle Alex.
Alexis also has some other trauma when it comes to death, but we’ll get into that in the coming chapters! (Insert maniacal writer laugh here!)
All in all, I hope you enjoyed the second chapter! Don’t forget to share it around wherever you live on the internet, and if you’re looking for more Author X Audience content while you wait for the next chapter, check out our Patreon for all sorts of bonus content and extras—including access to the monthly author Q+A where you can ask me anything, the playlists I listened to while writing the book, and early access to the next chapter!
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