Oct 05

Resident Evil: Tangled Web — Evolution of an Idea

My love of the written word is the one thing that rivals my love of video games. I have been reading and writing as far back as I can remember. While I have yet to get anything published, I have spent years honing my storytelling craft.

The majority of my writing has centered around fanfiction, which began when I wrote an extensive – but mediocre and nonsensical – series of stories based off the Nightmare on Elm Street films. I started these works of fiction just after the fifth movie was released and I made it up to part 21 before it fizzled.

My later stories, based off such mediums as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Transformers: Armada, and a lesser known horror film called Phantasm, improved my writing style by leaps and bounds. While I kept coming up with ideas – all-original stories I formulated or fanfiction based on film or TV franchises – I had neither the time or the motivation to put all those ideas on paper. What’s worse, I fell into a serious dry spell sometime between 2011 and 2014; a Transformers fanfiction piece called Sky Dancer I had been writing failed to get an ending as a result. That particular story is still begging for its last ten chapters.

Inspiration found me midway through 2014, but in a way that proved it can sometimes be a fickle creature. Sometime in August 2014, I joined a writing group called Deadwood Writers, and I started a story based off the Resident Evil game series. I had thought that being a part of this group would get me motivated to finish Sky Dancer, but it is possible I needed a change of pace after obsessing over my long-neglected story for several years.

I never intended to write a Resident Evil story despite being an avid fan of the video games. I didn’t have a plan when the idea for the Prologue came to me. I wrote the rough draft of my opening chapter for Tangled Web pretty quickly. I hadn’t even settled on a name for an original character who would serve as one of the leads and a romantic foil for Claire Redfield. I can’t recall why Elliott was the first name that popped into my head before I wrote it down at the end of the Prologue. I imagined I would change it at a later time. Nevertheless, it stuck.

A cover illustration I put together to go with the story. (photo credits at end)

The premise for Tangled Web was fairly straightforward – Claire had been abducted by Wesker, had been held captive for almost two years, and was having a baby when her brother finally found her. Much of the story is filling in what happened during those two years. But for the first few chapters, I was literally making up the narrative as I went along. This resulted in a few tangents that didn’t really have a place in the story. At one point, I planned for Claire’s cat to somehow mutate into a horrific monster. A friend advised me to keep it simple and get to the abduction scene as quick as possible, but a small part of the mutated feline setup still made its way into the story.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started to conceptualize the ending, but I gained more of a focus as I was writing the first act. Once I had figured out the basis of my climax, I had to go back and rewrite several of the early chapters. This led to the addition of a character known as RogueChild, a mysterious figure who sent Claire a vague email “warning” her of the upcoming kidnapping. I didn’t have a clear picture of RogueChild’s role in the story when I wrote the chapter where the character first appeared, let alone who RogueChild would turn out to be. Some of my early and downright ridiculous ideas were that RogueChild could be either Claire’s unborn child or Claire herself come back from the future. At one point, the character’s name was going to be The_Immortal_One instead of RogueChild.

When it came to the chapter where Wesker informs Claire she was exposed to a mutagenic virus, my initial idea was quite different. I had thought about having her be infected with the T-Veronica Virus even though I had seen that premise used in a number of other Resident Evil fanfictions. Inspiration struck again when I watched the anime film, Degeneration, and gave quite a lot of thought to it. It helped that I didn’t see any other works of fanfiction where someone was exposed to the G-Virus and immune to the negative effects. The idea of tackling an idea that had never been explored before was exciting and helped me figure out the exact direction to go with Tangled Web. A great portion of the storyline and the ending was built around this idea.

My next hurdle was hammering out exactly how Wesker would behave toward Claire and Elliott during their captivity. Before I determined the best way to spin it, the scene where Claire finds out she has rapid regeneration abilities played out quite differently:

Wesker stepped around the desk, tracing the surface with one gloved hand as he moved. Claire tensed at his approach. “I never would have dreamed that you, Chris’ little sister, would possess such a rare genome,” he said. “Unfortunately, studies of your DNA can only reveal so much. It doesn’t tell us if you reap any of the benefits of the virus. Specifically, rapid healing.”

Claire jerked spasmodically once Wesker’s words sank in. A protest was on her lips, but Wesker moved too fast. The combat knife that Jessica had been holding was in his hand, and he had Claire’s wrist in a viselike grip before the latter could even process it.

Elliott started to rise from his seat, but Raymond surged forward, forcing Elliott to stay put by pushing down on his shoulders. The blade was drawn swiftly across Claire’s outstretched arm in the same instant, eliciting a scream from her.

When Wesker released his hold on her wrist, Claire withdrew her arm, hot tears escaping her eyes. She pressed her other hand to the gash in an instinctive effort to staunch the blood flow. Elliott echoed the foremost thought on her mind. “You son of a bitch!” Elliott said. Claire looked over at her companion. Even though Raymond had let go of him, he didn’t seem inclined to get up.

Wesker passed the knife back to Jessica, who promptly sheathed it. He paid Elliott no heed, his gaze remaining on Claire. “My apologies for causing you harm, Miss Redfield,” Wesker said. If his voice hadn’t lacked inflection, she might have considered forgiving him. “But it was necessary. When you feel ready, allow us to see.”

Claire didn’t move her hand. “Go to hell,” she growled before she could stop herself.

Wesker’s hands half-curled into fists. “Do not test me, Miss Redfield. Your friend’s life depends on it.”

Claire closed her eyes. It took everything she had to calm herself. She slowly uncovered her wound, but couldn’t bring herself to look. The blood on her arm and hand was already feeling sticky and made her nauseous. The smug smile on Wesker’s face intensified the ill feeling.

Excella looked pleased as well. “Not even a scratch,” she said. “You are definitely going to be one of our best investments, dear.”

The above scene as initially written didn’t sit well with me. After several days, I determined that Claire would surely be broken if subjected to two years of this kind of torment. And Wesker’s actions contradicted something he stated in an earlier chapter. The revised scene set a far different tone for the story and was one I was much happier with:

Wesker stepped around the desk, tracing the surface with one gloved hand as he moved. Claire tensed at his approach. “I never would have dreamed that you, Chris’ little sister, would possess such a rare genome,” he said. “Unfortunately, studies of your DNA can only reveal so much. It doesn’t tell us if you reap any of the benefits of the virus. Specifically, rapid healing.”

Claire jerked spasmodically once Wesker’s words sank in. When she saw Jessica holding the knife out toward Wesker, Claire shook her head in a panic. “No!”

Elliott started to rise from his seat, but Raymond surged forward, forcing Elliott to stay put by pushing down on his shoulders. Meanwhile, Wesker cocked his head to one side, looking amused by his captives’ reactions. Though Wesker took the knife, he gave no indication that he would use it. “I thought you would know by now that I always keep my word, Miss Redfield. I stated in our initial meeting that I had no intention of physically harming you.” He rotated the knife so that the hilt was facing her. “I leave the choice in your hands. Just know that if you attempt to attack me or my colleagues, there will be serious consequences.” Wesker’s eyes flicked towards Elliott during this last statement to exemplify who would suffer the consequences.

Claire hesitantly took the knife. “And if I don’t heal immediately?” she asked.

“Then I shall see to it you get the necessary medical attention,” Wesker said smoothly.

Claire paused, wondering at the wisdom of playing with fire. “Will I still be useful to you, if this doesn’t go the way you hope?”

Wesker shifted his stance, looking almost bored. She had to wonder if he was being agreeable only to get her to comply. “I will consider sending you and Mr. Gregory back home if you lack any regenerative capabilities.”

Claire watched him in silence for several seconds before casting her gaze downward. She didn’t like the way he worded it, but even a slim chance was better than nothing.

“Claire, don’t,” Elliott said. She looked over at him briefly. Raymond’s grip on Elliott’s shoulders must have tightened; a wince crossed Elliott’s face.

“I have to,” she answered. Claire positioned the blade next to her forearm, her breath coming out in rapid puffs to prepare herself. Before she could lose her nerve, she drew the knife swiftly across her skin. The anticipation didn’t stop her from hissing in pain; seeing her blood welling from the gash made her nauseous. Don’t heal, she thought. Please don’t heal.

Against her will, the wound knitted itself together within seconds. Claire looked away, feeling sick when she realized Wesker was offering her a disinfectant wipe. “To wash away the blood,” he said as an explanation. The smug smile on his face intensified her ill feeling.

Excella looked pleased as well. “Not even a scratch,” she said. “You are definitely going to be one of our best investments, dear.”

As I continued to surge forward with Tangled Web, I began brainstorming the last eight to ten chapters. I eventually had the ending planned down to the last detail, save for one. The aspect that caused me trouble was related to how Wesker would be defeated at the end. I needed him to venture into the caves below his facility, but I couldn’t think of any logical reason why he would go there. Especially if his intent was to take Claire’s newborn child. I can’t go into detail without spoiling the climax of Tangled Web, but I came up with one wicked plot twist in October 2016 that would make the setup work.

If there is one thing I love about fiction stories, it is being surprised by something that you don’t see coming. Plot twists are my favorite thing to incorporate in my own writing. I have at least four or five in store for the final chapters of Tangled Web, all of which have been subtly hinted at throughout the narrative.

Though I have a clear vision of how the story plays out, I still have a good amount of deleted material for it – ranging from bits of dialogue that didn’t work to entire scenes that got cut. I have been saving the deleted material in a separate file, which is currently thirty pages. My plan is to share it with fans of the story once Tangled Web is completed.

I have also attempted to write a companion story to Tangled Web called Razor’s Edge, though I never made it past four chapters on that one. It would have addressed the same two years, but largely through the perspective of Claire’s older brother, Chris. Ironically, I have a detailed summary for how Razor’s Edge would have gone, but I couldn’t find time to work on both stories simultaneously. I haven’t decided whether I will continue writing the companion story or scrap it altogether.

I have one other thing planned. I would like to make Tangled Web the first book in a trilogy. I have some ideas on where to go with the potential sequels. There might even be a chance for Wesker and Claire to become an item. Even if the additional stories never pan out, I will still be happy with what I’ve written. Tangled Web has definitely been a challenge for me between writing a complex character like Wesker and having Claire and Elliott build a believable romance while being held prisoner. Even though one member of my writing group feels that I’m wasting my time writing fanfiction, I’m glad I was able to pull off this type of story.


photo credits:








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    • Kook-Wha Koh on October 13, 2017 at 12:45 pm
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    The pictures are great and the story is very interesting.
    I enjoyed to read it.

    1. Thank you. 🙂

    • Bill G on October 12, 2017 at 11:09 am
    • Reply

    Nicely written, Jeanette. It gave me a better appreciation for how the novel and its plot have evolved over time..

    1. Thank you. 🙂

    • Claire Murray on October 12, 2017 at 7:24 am
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    This is very interesting Jeanette. I enjoyed reading your insights.

    1. Thank you. 🙂

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