One of the things I find most interesting about the writing process is how ideas are liable to change at a moment’s notice, even if you think you have the plot all figured out. This was exactly the case with a Resident Evil fanfiction story I’d been working on since August 2014 – Tangled Web. It is one that is close to getting an ending. I was sure that I had every last detail planned out, until fate threw me a curveball.
The basic premise of Tangled Web revolved around the imprisonment of Claire Redfield – and her romantic prospect, Elliott Gregory – by supervillain Albert Wesker. Though I initially was making up the narrative from scratch, I gradually came up with a detailed, very nuanced plot. I planned early on for Claire and Elliott to escape from their captor. This particular plot element would have set a dozen different story threads in motion leading up to the finale. I didn’t see the remainder of the story working without this event since so much hinged on it.
The escape scene was initially planned for Chapter Twenty-Nine. I was all set to write it when I got an interesting review for the previous chapter from a reader, Ultimolu, on fanfiction.net. Ultimolu’s comment that Wesker had to suspect something was up needled at me. The more I thought about this, the more weight it held. I had built Wesker up as such an intelligent, shrewd character for much of the story that I felt there was no way I could justify Claire and Elliott deceiving him so easily.
Instead of having the heroes escape right away, I was compelled to write a scene where the villain confronts them and completely demolishes their belief that running from him would be a good thing:
One corner of Wesker’s mouth lifted in a smirk. “The point of this meeting is not to examine my motives. I’d rather talk about yours… You can start by sharing how you saw your escape attempt playing out if it were successful.”
With a surge of anger, she thought, Two can play this game. “If you don’t want to talk about what goes on in your head, I don’t see why I should.”
Wesker leaned back. “Very well. Then allow me. It may do you well to hear the truth instead of whatever fantasy you’ve concocted.”
Claire hesitated and felt a chill. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear Wesker’s version of the truth, but what choice did she have? Easy, Redfield. Don’t show him that he’s getting to you. She put on her bravest face and said, “Why not? I could use a good laugh.”
“Pity that you think there’s anything humorous about this… How I see this playing out is that you’ll contact Chris at the first opportunity and get him to come for you. However happy your reunion might be, it will sour when you reveal that you and Mr. Gregory are infected. It may well kill your dear brother to realize he has to give you up to a government-manned science facility. But he won’t have a choice. If he tries to protect you from that, it will result in his own imprisonment.”
Though she’d not considered what her situation would mean for Chris, she said, “You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.”
“I very much doubt that, dearheart. I know you well enough to recognize you tend not to look at things from every angle… In either case, your brother is bound to experience even more distress when he sees how much testing you’ll be subjected to. He’s so protective of you that he’ll inevitably cross a line by intervening.” Wesker paused. “That aside, the top officials in the B.S.A.A. likely would not want to employ someone whose family member has been compromised… No matter which way you slice it, Chris’ life will take a turn for the worse if you leave here uncured.”
Elliott crossed his arms. “I don’t buy it. You have no love for Chris Redfield. You’ve even said so yourself on several occasions. So why would you care about doing him a huge favor? Or Claire and me, for that matter?”
“My offer to cure you both has little to do with Chris… Miss Redfield is helping me to achieve something I would never have been able to attain otherwise. It’s only fair that I return the courtesy,” Wesker said smoothly. “As far as you’re concerned, Mr. Gregory, it’s a matter of correcting a wrong that never should have happened in the first place.”
Claire’s hands were clenched so tight her nails were digging into her palms. She tried to keep her voice calm, but anger still crept in. “You can stop now. You’ve made your point.”
Wesker nodded after a few seconds. “I believe I’ve given you more than enough to think about.” He paused to adjust his sunglasses. “But before you go, let me say I hope you don’t let your hatred blind you to what’s best for you and your loved ones, dearheart. I’d hate to see you ruin more than just your own life.”
Before Claire could stop herself, she leapt to her feet, raised her hand, and leaned across the table. She recoiled and fear coursed through her when the sound of a slap resonated around her. She gnawed at her lip and half-expected that Wesker would retaliate even though he’d allowed her to hit him.
When she felt Elliott grasp her arm, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Her boyfriend looked scared shitless when she glanced at him. The tension spiked further when she heard a soft snarl from Wesker.
“Consider yourself lucky I’m feeling charitable, Miss Redfield,” Wesker said, his hands laid flat against the table. She shivered at the menacing undertone in his voice. “It’s not often I grant someone such a means of catharsis.” He stood and turned his back to them. “You’re free to return to your quarters.”
She was so dazed that Elliott had to guide her from the room. Neither of them said a word during the walk back to their apartment. Claire didn’t know about her boyfriend, but her mind was frantically trying to write off Wesker’s many claims as bullshit.
The sight of the anniversary cake on the kitchen counter caused her to burst into tears. I completely forgot that Elliott baked this so we could celebrate, she thought. I feel bad that I don’t feel like eating right now.
Elliott placed one hand on her shoulder and wordlessly handed her a Kleenex box. As she dabbed at her eyes, Claire sniffled and said, “Not gonna ask me if I’m okay?”
He shook his head. “Don’t have to. I know you’re not.”
A sob caught in her throat. “God, I don’t even know why I’m crying.” She hesitated, then said, “This is not how I wanted today to go.”
“Same here. It wasn’t fair of the son of a bitch to blindside us,” Elliott answered. He pulled her close and cupped one hand behind her head after a second of silence. “I wish I had a way to make it better, Redfield.”
She let out a deep breath and forced herself to focus. “You… You said you had a surprise gift for me. Something to mark the occasion.”
He sighed. “Now’s hardly the time. It might only make you feel worse.” After a pause, he added, “What Wesker said…”
“He’s wrong. He has to be wrong,” Claire blurted out. “He can’t know how our story will play out if…”
She sobbed again when Elliott quietly shushed her. He started to stroke her hair in a comforting gesture and said, “Or maybe we’ve been kidding ourselves by thinking that breaking out of this place will be a vast improvement.”
Ironically, I felt that I had written myself into a corner with the above scene. I still needed the escape to occur and now I had to come up with something extremely good on why the two heroes would pursue this route. What could possibly make them desperate enough to risk everything?
After some time spent brainstorming, I came up with a twist that drastically altered the direction I’d mapped out for this story. A private moment between Wesker and Claire resulted in her realizing she’s more attracted to the monster who’s been holding her captive than Elliott.
Though I’d never planned for anything to develop between Wesker and Claire in this story, it was a plot element that fundamentally worked. I had fun writing the scene that added a new dynamic to Tangled Web. It also served to get my narrative back on track. Acting out of fear and revulsion over what she feels, Claire hides what happened from Elliott and invents an excuse to convince him that they need to leave at any cost.
Prior to this development, I’d written some scenes to come later in the story – for chapters I haven’t even gotten to yet. This twist has rendered half of them unusable, though they’ve been moved to a separate file containing deleted material for Tangled Web. I imagine my online fans will be interested to read about what might have been if the heroine and villain had never hooked up.
I don’t know if there will be any further developments that will further alter the course of the story, but I definitely look forward to finding out.
Jeanette, your interesting blog reveals a point about writing a story. Even when you outline your entire plot, a change may be necessary. Sometimes you have to go with the flow.