Notes on “For a Season”

March 20th, 2011 § 6 comments

I’ve written before about my love of, and my firm conviction of the possibility of, the Edward/Carlisle romantic relationship. It’s something that I feel is a tension that underlies everything they do–that the reason they became father and son in canon is because that was what they both needed and desired, but that it could’ve easily gone another way. So it was easy for me to write “A Very Different Gift,” implying that Edward was with the Volturi, and miserable there, at least in part because he suffered unrequited romantic feelings for his sire.

I also embraced the pairing for an FGB piece still in progress, “The Last Days of Socrates.” This one is set in 1918-1921, which I’ve always felt was the canonically appropriate time where a relationship might have bloomed between the two of them. But “Socrates,” it turns out, is a very difficult piece to write—one of the commissions I was given by those who donated on its behalf (and one of the facets I wanted to stick to myself) is that it meld as closely as possible to canon. To write a Carlisle who is sexually involved with his young charge, and eventually will drop him for a female mate, while still keeping him as a redeemable character is a difficult task, to say the least. It’s happening, though, in slow bits.

So needless to say, the CarlWard contest, sponsored by  caught my eye. And I thought, “Hmm. This would be fun to write for.” I asked on A Different Forest if Cap and Deelovely, two of the judges who are also contributors to Team Socrates, would forgive me if I wrote a CarlWard for this, knowing that the piece for which they donated is still coming. Their response was enthusiastic, so I set out figuring out what to write.

When I sit down to write an AU, the key piece is exactly what the “alternate” part of the “alternate universe” is going to be. My goal in AU writing is never to bend the characters to what I want them to do, but rather to find the moment where, if one or two things in canon went differently, the characters would naturally have changed course. In this instance, I ran into an issue—the first place where I think canon could’ve diverged to produce an Edward/Carlisle story is already underway in “Socrates,” so I was going to have to find another moment to set this AU.

There was one other moment I thought *might* work. Several months ago, malianani asked me a question on Formpspring: “What would Carlisle do if he ever lost Esme?” I found I didn’t have a good answer then, but as I turned this moment over in my head, I thought, “Hmm. Maaaaybe.”

So as I’m wont to do, I tested the idea. I turned to sleepyvalentina on gChat and said, “What do you think of a BD-AU where Bella and Esme die?” And she was excited, which cemented it in my head. I liked the idea; it’s a true challenge. It’s one thing to write Carlisle/Edward before Esme, before the father-son relationship ever took root; it’s quite another to move them from a father-son relationship into a romantic relationship without triggering the “incest! incest! incest!” alarm in the minds of my readers.

In order to do make it work, this was going to have to be very clearly Carlisle’s journey. It would have to ring his voice so true that there would be no question that he could possibly have feelings for Edward, even given their background of relating to each other as family. I knew that what I pulled out of this story had to be the deepest exploration of Carlisle I’d ever done. It would have to go beyond Ithaca, beyond Stregoni, beyond “Socrates” or “Sensitivity” or any of the other stories I’ve used in my attempts to unravel him. I turned to Carlisle and said, “My friend, I am giving you the reins.” And I did. I gave him his first-person voice; I gave him control over every piece of dialogue spoken and how it was interpreted. I asked him to share with me his sorrow, and to tell me about what his life is like if Esme and Bella are killed.

And so he did.

We flew through this story in four days, which is practically unheard of for me. There were moments when things went down on the page that I firmly believe I had nothing to do with—the memory of all the music, for instance, was almost a free-write. I know next to nothing about these musicians; but Carlisle remembers standing next to Edward as he screamed at a CCR concert. Much of this story didn’t come from me, it came through me—it was Carlisle answering my call to give me the best he had. When I finished, it left me breathless, surprised, and very pleased.

As a writer, you learn to judge your own writing, to look at it with at least somewhat of an objective eye. Without learning that, it’s nearly impossible to edit well—you feel that everything you’ve written is so good, or that it is so dear to you, that it’s hard to cut the parts that don’t work. At the same time, when you’re able to look somewhat objectively, it becomes easier to tell when you’ve written one of the best things in your personal repertoire. I say with confidence that this piece is one of those.

What I set out to do here was not to write Carlisle and Edward getting it on hot and heavy; in fact, I nearly cut the sex scene entirely. But the sex itself is less than 3% of the entire story—228 words, to be exact. The story here is not about sex, or gay sex, or even a coming out—it’s the story of two men grappling with their own grief and learning to love again with someone with whom they’ve always been able to share everything.

In the end, Carlisle and Edward come full circle—back to the one who has always loved them, and the one who always will. miaokuancha in her review said in only a few words what it took me almost 8,000 words to say in the fic, so I’ll leave her poetic commentary here as the end to my own as-usual-too-lengthy ramble:

I love the ‘and’ instead of ‘either or’, that in the end we all are beings and love is our highest calling and families can be woven in many kinds of ways. A very Cullen thing to do, actually.

It’s a very Cullen thing to do, indeed.

I hope you enjoy “Season,” and thank you, as always, for reading.


(And yes, it won. 1st place judges, 2nd place popular vote. Many, many thanks to all of you who participated in advertising the contest and voting.)

§ 6 Responses to Notes on “For a Season”"

  • arfalcon says:

    I read the story several hours ago on, and it resonated so deeply that I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. You are so generous to share your notes here, giving us this peek into your creative process. The most gratifying thing for me as a reader is your confirmation that this is indeed one of your best pieces.

  • ashling92 says:

    Congrats!!! And thanks for sharing the fascinating history of this story. Carlisle sharing and telling you…I almost envy you. But considering how much time you have spent with him, studying him, building a relationship, I guess you have earned it.

    Btw, how is your ankle?

  • I’m so delighted that your story did so very, very well in the contest. It was absolutely beautifully crafted and I was left feeling as bereft, desperate, hollow, lonely and, eventually, hopeful as your characters.

    Your characterisation stunned me. Really. I don’t have time to read a lot at the moment, and I rarely bother with reading contest entries but I’m so glad I read the early entries to the Carlward C2. I enjoyed some of the other entries almost as much as yours — there was a lot of good stuff there. Some were extremely touching, or clever, but damn. Just damn. The pain. Wow.

    If I could write with similar impact I would be so extremely happy. I’m just a beginner, so I’ve re-read your story a few times now, trying to untangle the different threads you used. Isn’t that the amazing thing about writing? We (fanfiction players) use exactly the same threads and yet our cloth is always different, and sometimes unique in a way that makes you think “Want.”

    So well done; enjoy knowing that you made me cry, and that I enjoyed it tremendously.

    Kate x

  • Capricorn75 says:

    I should have known that not only would your fic writing be so far above anything I could imagine, but that your comments on the writing process would be as well.
    ‘For a Season’ touched my heart so deeply. All I can say is thank you so very much for writing and submitting it.

  • miaokuancha says:

    You have to know that it was your story that pulled those words out of me. You have to know that.

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