Pieces is arguably the hardest fic I've written. (I'm not 100 percent sure because each fic has it's own difficulties, but I think it was certainly the one multi-part that I seriously thought I might never finish.) I thought it would be interesting to take a look at Angel in full Angelus mode, and to take a look at Drusilla before she was insane. (Of course it's all fully Joss-ed now.) What I wasn't thinking about is how hard it would be to write in a period I knew very little about. I figured that because the setting wasn't going to be as important as the relationship between Angel and Dru, it wouldn't be a big deal. And I figured...I've seen movies set in period and I'm an English major. I've read lots of literature set during 18th Century. But there are TONS of little details, clothing, houses, who Dru's relations would have been, social class stuff, how she could have had contact with Angel if he wasn't in her social group. It was really a nightmare in some ways.
I was very lucky to have Laure beta-read for me because she did know a lot about the period, and she was able to catch my mistakes. If she hadn't been my beta, the fic would have taken even longer to write, and I would have royally screwed up in terms of historical accuracy. Even with her reading, I still had to do some research on convents :)
As far as plot goes, the main goal was just using what we knew from the show...that her family had been slaughtered, that he had driven her crazy, and that he'd turned her when she'd gone to the convent. I assumed that it wouldn't have been all in one fell swoop. Angelus likes to play, and to hunt, so I was fairly sure he wouldn't have killed them all at once. That would have been a shock, but it might not have been enough to drive her crazy. So I decided there were a couple things that would contribute to her snapping. The first was that she would have time to recover, and create a new family unit, after the deaths of her mom and dad. The second was that Dru would know her mom and dad were killed by vampires, and have both utter hatred and fear for the creatures. The third was that Dru would know and love Angelus before she realized what he was. My idea was that Angel would gain her trust, then kill off her new family (aunt, uncle, and nephew) so that she was utterly dependent on him. She would have no one else in the world she trusted. What would push her over the edge was the revelation when the last of her family was killed (brother and sister) that Angel, the man she loved, was the thing that had slaughtered her family. I didn't think she'd be able to handle that knowledge on top of losing everything when she'd thought she was safe. In the end I wanted to follow her point of view so we could fully see the change and her screwed up thought process, and so that we could get the full impact of how horrible it would be for her to become the thing she hated most in the world. It wasn't a hard plot to conceive. Unlike other stories I've written. Plot holes weren't really a problem. But there were other difficulties.
I also got bogged down writing Pieces because the real action comes at the beginning and the end. The middle of the story is Angelus' game, where he's letting Dru get her bearings back, settle into her normal life, etc. so he can yank it all out from under her again. It was very necessary for the scenario I was writing, but it wasn't exactly huge fun to write about going to the park or hanging around the house, or what have you. I remember the story just DRAGGED, but then when I got to the last two or three parts it went so much faster because I cared about it, and the momentum of something major happening in the story was really helpful in terms of nudging me creatively. I still really like the last two parts where Dru's finally gone insane because it was a challenge to write the insane POV, but a fun challenge that I really enjoyed. As opposed to the challenge of writing period which was more of a frustrating thing.
Another difficulty was in writing Dru. We've never really seen sane Dru. I finished the story before Becoming came out, and that little glimpse in the church isn't a whole lot to go on. For the majority of the story I was writing (relatively) sane Dru. She was obsessive, and paranoid, but otherwise a normal person. The good thing about having little to go on there is that no one could really say...you're writing this character wrong. But the bad part was I had an established character on the show, who was drastically different from the character I was writing, because this was before she became that character on the show. A lot of times I felt like I was stumbling around in a dark room, because I just didn't have the foundation to build on that fanfic usually gives you. But it also wasn't completely an original character, so I couldn't just do whatever I wanted with her.
I was trying to make Dru recognizeable, draw things out of her human life that would help explain who she was a vampire. Second season Dru was a very odd creature. She could be very tender and loving with Miss Sunshine or Miss Edith, and she could be absolutely cruel. It also seemed like there was a part of her that wanted to be a princess, not a vampire at all, and another part that loved the kill. I tried to use her love for her family, especially the little kids, and her obsessive hatred of the vampires as some of the basis for that strange personality. I didn't give too much emphasis to the visions. I gave her just two in the story. The more vivid one was after she'd gone insane. This was a choice I made, because I felt that although she had the second sight as a human, it might not have reached its full potential until her mind cracked. At that point, she'd be more receptive to the sight and the visions. Whether or not that was the right choice, is up for debate.
I was really proud when I finally finished the story because it was so hard to write, and for a while I felt like I was never going to finish the damn thing. The story's never gotten the kind of feedback my other long fics have gotten, but even though it's not one of my favorites to read, I am still really proud of the fact that I did it, and it turned out to be not a total disgrace.