Doctor Who, What Are You Doing to Me?

Doctor Who S9

“Doctor Who,” that was just…cruel.

I started watching “Who” back in 2013. I needed something fun and lighthearted to watch after my mother’s death. (I’d been binge-watching “Homeland” before that–there’s nothing lighthearted about that.) Then I saw “Doomsday,” and my whole ‘fun and lighthearted’ theory was shot to hell.

You see, “Doctor Who” is a show that can tear your heart out sometimes. Not often–most of the time it is exactly that fun, lighthearted show I wanted: sometimes funny, sometimes creepy, often nonsensical. But sometimes, it’s a killer.

SPOILERS for anyone who hasn’t seen series 9, episode 10 yet…

So Clara Oswald is dead, felled by the raven. Actually, she was felled by her own increasing risk-taking behavior, and by Ashildr’s hubris. But whatever.

Clara has grown on me a lot over the last several season. As the companion to Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, she was very underdeveloped as a character–more of a plot device as a person. But as the companion to Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, she’s grown in leaps and bounds.

Her character arc put her front-and-center last season: the pull between the adventure the Doctor offers, and the love of Danny Pink (and the relatively safe, boring life that would have been). She tried to be both the companion and the lover, and she succeeded at neither–and the attempt indirectly cost Danny his life. I don’t think she ever got over that loss.

I just wish the show had made that a little more explicit. Clara’s growing sense of adventure turned into straight-up recklessness this season. It was as if, without Danny, Clara decided to wholeheartedly throw herself into her life as the Doctor’s companion, completely leaving her footprint on Earth behind. Yeah, she might have still had a job and an apartment there, but she always had one foot out the door–and on the TARDIS. And I think that was because she was running from her own grief.

But that’s my own assumption. Danny got nary a mention this season–until last night, when one of Clara’s last statements was, “If Danny Pink can do it [die with bravery], so can I.”

*Sniffle.*

(Also, one minor plot nitpick: why couldn’t Clara just pass the chrono-lock on to yet another person? Like, she was standing there surrounded by nearly-immortal people. If Ashildr/Mayor Me had taken it, her body would have likely healed itself anyway. If the Doctor had taken it, he might have been killed, but he would have just regenerated into a new Doctor, because that’s what he does. One line–just ONE FREAKING LINE–would have solved this: It can only be passed once. Yeah, it’s completely arbitrary, but so was everything else about this game Ashildr was playing.)

Although rumors have been flying that Clara would die for a while now, I had no idea how sad I would be when it happened. With that in mind, this next statement might come as a surprise…

I hope she stays dead.

One of my chief complaints about the Steven Moffat-era of the show is that things often don’t have lasting consequences. River Song dies? That was only her first episode. Osgood? Well, only one of her died, the other one is still fine–and now there are two of them, again, since her beloved sister is, apparently, replaceable. Rory Williams gets sucked into a crack in reality? He’ll be back a few episodes later as a robot, and then in another twist I still don’t understand, made real again. The Doctor is on the verge of death and on his final regeneration? Don’t worry, he’ll just get a whole new set of regenerations. Even the Time War–the catalyst for much of the Doctor’s actions in the reincarnated series–was negated by the 50th anniversary episode.

Hell, how many times has Clara herself died, in any of her timelines?

So yes, I want this death to stick. Like Clara, I want her death to mean something. The relationship between the Doctor and his companions has always been a tenuous one. Not all of the companions come out of their time on the TARDIS better for it. The 10th Doctor’s run explored this quite a bit. Rose got stuck in a parallel dimension. Donna had the memory of her time on the TARDIS erased completely, and if she ever remembers she will die. Martha Jones fared slightly better, but maybe because she realized she would forever be pining after the oblivious Doctor–and trying to live up to the ghost of Rose Tyler–and left on her own terms.

The Doctor takes his companions on grand adventures. But the Doctor will live indefinitely, and his human friends will die, so each of those friendships has to end. No matter what else the companions do or experience, it’ll never quite live up to their time with the Doctor. And humans–as the show often ignores–are so very breakable.

So Clara Oswald should stay dead, much as I hate it. Story-wise, it’s the bold choice, and it’ll give Peter Capaldi a chance to shine.

The Doctor endures, whatever his face. His companions don’t, because they can’t. This is one of the great tensions of “Doctor Who,” and I’m glad Moffat is addressing it head-on this time.

Seriously, for reals, almost done this time

DemonWithin Cover

I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for The Demon Within.

It’s been a productive weekend. I’m ironing out the draft, making sure all the transitions are clear, smoothing out scenes. I’m proud of myself, because I managed to work the title of book 2 into one scene 😉

My final deadline is December 1. I’m sure my editor will make tweaks after that, but that’s when I have to get my final in to him. That’s the version that will be going out for review. I’m hoping to be done sooner than that.

Part of my problem is that I’ve been going in the marathon pace for so long, I don’t know if I have the energy to sprint to the finish. Nonetheless, the finish isn’t far away.

After that…I think I’ll need to work on some other stuff, away from the Dale world for a while. Sort of a palate cleanser. I’ve been wanting to write a holiday romance. Obviously, even if I manage to accomplish that, it wouldn’t be out until next year, but I might as well take advantage of the spirit of the season and all the Hallmark movies for inspiration.

Problem is, I don’t know if I can write a straight romance without killing a whole bunch of people.

(Note to any law enforcement entities reading this: I only kill fictional people, I swear.)

(Addendum to note to any law enforcement entities reading this: …but I do kill a lot of fictional people.)

I miss writing for fun. I miss writing with no pressure. I need to do that for a minute before I can give myself back to Dale and company.

As for what comes next as far as The Demon Within goes…I’m not exactly sure. Promotional stuff. Reviews and interviews, I hope. Maybe a release party? This is the first time I’ve done this, folks. I am flying completely blind–and largely panicked.

This is what my next several months look like:

December 16–closing on a house
April 12–my first book gets published
July 2–I am getting married

Excuse me while I go breathe into a paper bag.

NaNoWriMo

This is me at the end of NaNoWriMo 2009. DONE!

This is me at the end of NaNoWriMo 2009. DONE!

So it’s National Novel Writing Month again.

I am not participating this year. Much as I would love to try it again, I’m still finishing up edits on The Demon Within. My final deadline is December 1, and I’m hoping to get it done sooner.

But I have participated a couple of times before, and I won back in 2009. Although that particular story never went anywhere, I always look back on that month and that time with fondness. I consider it the beginning of the “modern era” of my writing. (That sounds horribly pretentious, doesn’t it?) I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, so I had more time to write. Moreover, it was the first time since I had graduated from college that I really gave myself permission to write, and permission to live my life the way that I wanted to. I realized that the only person keeping me from the writing career I really wanted was me, and that I needed to live my life on my terms. I couldn’t let a day job or unsupportive loved ones stop me. I needed to do this for me.

In other words, NaNo 2009 was the equivalent of opening a dam. I think, had I not participated in NaNo that year, I would not have completed–or maybe not even begun–the books I’ve completed since then.

I don’t know what my words of advice will be worth, but I can tell you that a few things helped me that year. Since we’re already a week into NaNo 2015, I don’t know how much they will help. However, there’s always 2016…

Have an idea ahead of time. You have to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Nothing is more intimidating than staring at a blank computer screen, knowing you have 1,556 words to get in, and having no idea what to write. I’ve always been more of a pantser than a plotter, but before I start writing anything–regardless of whether it’s NaNo or not–I have to have some kind of idea of a beginning, middle, and end. Your month is only limited to actual story words. You can do as much thinking, as much plotting, as much outlining, as much inventing as you want before November 1.

Try to get ahead of the game early. The first couple of days, when I was all pumped up and motivated, I got a LOT of words done. That helped me later on, when I was in the sludgy middle section and couldn’t manage to force the words out.

If you don’t live alone, prepare your family for what’s going on.  I had just gotten out of a relationship when I started NaNo that year. For the first time in my adult life, I was living on my own, and it was amazing. Living alone gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and be answerable to no one.

Fast forward six years, and I am now living with my fiancé. Oddly enough, he enjoys spending time with me. As I’ve been working on the edits for The Demon Within, I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him, which is kind of a bummer. Luckily, he’s very understanding (which is, I think, a must for your partner when you’re a writer). NaNo is like that: you’re on tight deadlines, and you have you schedule your date nights and Netflix and Chill times sparingly. That said…

–Don’t forget to have personal time. It can be very tempting while you’re doing NaNo to write to the point of exhaustion, forget your friends and loved ones exist, and basically kill yourself for 30 days. Don’t do that. The point of NaNo is to get yourself writing, not to give yourself a nervous breakdown.

The year I won NaNo, I went to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Kermit almost ate my head. I wasn't sure whether I should go, but it was a unique opportunity and I didn't know when I'd have a chance again. Worth. It.

The year I won NaNo, I went to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Kermit almost ate my head. I wasn’t sure whether I should go, but it was a unique opportunity and I didn’t know when I’d have a chance again. Worth. It.

Take chances with your writing. You may have a plan. Maybe you have a detailed outline and character sketches and notes galore. But don’t be afraid to toss it all out the window, say, “Screw it,” and kill someone unexpectedly. Or whatever. This is a lesson I continue to employ in my writing now. I can’t tell you how many characters in The Demon Within ended up dead who weren’t originally killed, how many scenes popped up unexpectedly, how many characters developed out of narrative necessity. You may have a plan, but sometimes plans change. And that’s okay. If it doesn’t work, you can always go and change it back later. Don’t self-censor at this point.

–Have fun! This seems so obvious…but at times, it’s oh-so-difficult. Writing is work, and no matter how much I enjoy the process, it’s not fun all the time. But NaNo, I feel, is more like skydiving than neat, orderly novel writing. I don’t even know that you should be thinking about publication while your writing your NaNo novel (though I totally was). I feel like it should be more just getting out the words, letting them fall on the page where they may. We all started writing because we liked creating people and worlds and stories. Maybe this 30 days should be about bringing the joy back into writing again.

Like I said, that novel I wrote back in 2009 never went anywhere. I’m tempted to brush it off one of these days to see what I can make of it. But I have never regretted the process of writing it, because I know if I had not, I would not be where I am with my writing today.