Three Doors is my baby, my epic, my master-work . Heh heh. In all seriousness, I believe it's by far my best fic. And it's certainly my longest. The funny part is the whole thing sprang from one mental image. I was listening to the VAST song "Three Doors," and I had a mental image of Buffy in the cave with the three doors and Angel behind one of the doors. The original idea was for a sort of Lady and the Tiger story. I had planned to end it at the end of the first part when she chooses the door with Angelus behind it. But by the time I finished the first part, I'd started to have more ideas, most specifically the plan for splitting Angel in two. I also realized that the three doors could represent the three incarnations of Angel (human, vampire, vampire with a soul) and I started to think about a story that would begin with a choice and end with a choice. I thought it would be a perfect plot for me to explore my ideas about why I believe Angel's unique vampire nature makes him a perfect match for Buffy. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to undertake the longer story though, because I knew it was going to be complex and hard to do. And I knew that as a stand alone, part one had a punch to the stomach ending that I didn't want to spoil.
I decided to go ahead with the longer version because I didn't want to waste what I thought were good ideas, and almost all the feedback I'd gotten had said continue (although I did get a couple that wanted to end it with the big surprise).
The plot was very full of holes when I started. I knew the ending, and I knew what I wanted to accomplish with HumAngel and Angelus, but I didn't really know how. I found this copy of an old IM session I had with Dare, where I was trying to figure out how to work the plot. This was very early on, while I was writing part 3. I think it gives you a good idea of how much of the plot I had figured out at that point, as well as the stream of consciousness type of plot development I usually do. I find it really helps to have a sounding board for figuring out plot, sometimes you'll bounce ideas off each other, and even if the person you're telling isn't giving you ideas, saying it all and explaining it to them, and raising questions can help you think of things in new ways. (There's some extraneous stuff/conversation in this but I didn't want to go through and chop it up. Also...forgive the typos.)
Lady RHood: okay i am about to tell you my plot stuff whether or not you like it *g*
Lady RHood: I'm working on Three doors...you know...the story where Buffy had to choose a door after she and Angel were captured by demons?
mamordia2: oh yeah, with the caves and the absence of riley? *g*
Lady RHood: anyway...she chose the door and thought it was Angel, but it turns out to be Angelus. so far angelus and buffy have fought once, but buffy ran away because it was too much, and she couldn't stand to kill him again. meanwhile angel woke up in a tiny cave and couldn't get out but he's breathing, heart beating human.
mamordia2: i may hate joss, but i wanna send him a million roses for buffy's dream where riley is not nice and not viewed with any sort of romance!
mamordia2: okily dokily, sounds good so far, and i assume you're gonna explain it more?
Lady RHood: and in the next part angelus is leaving by a different tunnel than the one buffy went down, and he sort of has a freak out moment because he hates the fact that he can't get her out of his mind, and he tears into a part of the tunnel wall...then he leaves. And angel is able to escape because he tore the start of a hole in angel's little cave
Lady RHood: he being angelus who tore the hole
mamordia2: i get it :)
mamordia2: well, you can't really 'tear' rock *g*
mamordia2: but you can like, break it *g*
mamordia2: hee hee...when you say 'tear' i have this vision of angelus tearing down wallpaper
mamordia2: it's kinda weird
Lady RHood: okay...so that's as far as it goes...and i know how it's going to end because what's happened is that the demon that captured buffy has separated angel into two components, demon and human....and in the end buffy will get to make another choice...of which angel she wants to have with her...and she chooses to meld them back together into her own angel.
Lady RHood: but here's the problem...i don't know what to do to get to the end. i know i'm going to have her run to giles in the next part and do some explaining about how angelus could be free if they didn't have sex
Lady RHood: and then i'm going to have human angel stagger home and reunite with her
Lady RHood: and i'm thinking they'll probably have sex cause you know they want to
Lady RHood: but i don't know what exactly angelus should do. at first i thought maybe he should actually kill one of buffy's friends because then it's even more incredible if she decides to keep the part of him that's in her angel...but then i can't stand to kill anyone...so i'm thinking maybe he'll just torture willow but no permanent damage?
mamordia2: KILL RILEY!
mamordia2: willow always gets tortured, have you noticed that?
Lady RHood: and i'm also thinking maybe he and the human angel should have a little bit of a fight...where of course human angel gets his ass kicked.
i want to make human angel imperfect...like not only is his pure human form weaker, but he's missing the edge that the demon gives him...he gives up easier, he doesn't have the ruthlessness to do what's necessary, etc.
it's third season...riley's not there
mamordia2: it's like fic requirement
mamordia2: i like that angel analasis
mamordia2: which is spelled wrong
mamordia2: i like the whole idea too, of buffy having to pick and having her meld them
mamordia2: and buffy/angel sex yay
Lady RHood: but i can't figure out how to do that in the story...just have him screw up during patrol? or what? i have no clue. i don't know how to organize any of these scenes..
actually...i do know one thing...the fight between angel and angleus will be the next to the last thing...during the fight those two and buffy will all be taken back to the caves where she has to make the choice...but other than that I don't know how to organize it or how Angelus can really play a part
mamordia2: okay, but humangel (hee hee...you like that name?)
Lady RHood: that's perfect *g*
mamordia2: HumAngel and Buffy are together for a bit of time, right?
mamordia2: it can just come across while they're talking, whatever, that he's not as edgy
Lady RHood: yeah...like right after he gets home to her they'll spend some happy time together
mamordia2: okay, so Buffy and Humangel are at her house...why do they go back to the caves where the demon gives her a choice?
Lady RHood: because they are forced to...either the demons come and take them back...or they're just brought there magically
mamordia2: Okay cool
mamordia2: cause it's like "Why go back?" *g*
Lady RHood: yeah it's not a choice...the whole deal is that this big demon from the first part is ULTRA powerful. And what seems like a plot against Buffy in the beginning is actually the demon testing her and trying to let her have the choice of which person/vampire/whatever she loves.
Lady RHood: so it's not exactly a good demon, but it's not evil...it just likes to play with the puny humans *g*
mamordia2: well, you can show the weaker side of HumAngel when they're back in the demon lair
mamordia2: Buffy can say "he's a dmen and we have to kill him he's evil!"
Lady RHood: yeah but that's the very end...and basically the angels will be frozen or behind the doors again or something...it has to be shown before that.
mamordia2: and like, HumAngel can say something about they dont think they should necesarrily kill him
mamordia2: okay then
mamordia2: how bout they run into joyce *g*
mamordia2: and joyce makes some bad angel comments
mamordia2: and instead of angel just being like whatever, he says he has to leave......i dunno :)
Lady RHood: yeah but that's good...cause they shouldn't kill him...only it's a her (girl demon power!)
heehee...i think i shoudl try to work joyce in somehow but I'm not sure how yet
mamordia2: cause he's like, non confrontational ...he's doesnt want to take on joyce
Lady RHood: okay...i think there's got to be some physical violence though...i mean, it's no big deal if he can't stand up to buffy's mom...he's just a big wussy *g* but if buffy is fighting something and he wimps out that could be deadly.
mamordia2: oh okay cool
mamordia2: well how bout just random vamp attack?
mamordia2: like, it jumps out of the bushes and buffy rolls her eyes and is like 'Please! Do you even know who we are?!"
Lady RHood: yeah that could work.
Lady RHood: heehee
mamordia2: and Angel is closer to it so he goes to fight it first and the vamp totally knocks him on his ass
mamordia2: and vamp is like "Yeah, you're the Wuss Brigade"
mamordia2: or something witty....i can't think of anything witty right now *g*
Lady RHood: LOL!
hmmm...how about this...Angelus vamps somebody that Angel or both Angel and Buffy know (like an aquaintance, not a scooby) and Angel can't stake them cause he can't deal, and Buffy's like...what are you waiting for, but he doesn't have the nerve so she has to do it.
mamordia2: has buffy learned nothing yet?
mamordia2: vamp willow wasnt so bad *g*
mamordia2: have them run into HARMONY!
Lady RHood: what i really want to do is set up some parallel situations for Angelus and Angel and show how they each deal. Like so far there's the rock thing. Angelus freaks out and tears (I mean breaks *g*) apart an entire tunnel wall *g* and Angel tries once to get out of his little cave and then gives up.
Yeah...I can do that...although I don't know if Angel's met her. Hey I could vamp jonathan *g*
mamordia2: hee hee
mamordia2: hey, you heard about that waitress that got the ten thousadn dollar tip?
Lady RHood: no.
Lady RHood: was it you? *g*
mamordia2: okay...some dude gave some waitress a ten thousadnd dollar tip on a 9 dollar bill that was on credit card.
mamordia2: and that's all i heard, until now when i was watchignb teh daily show and lewis black mentioned it and said "he later came to his senses and declined to pay the amount. I'm not sure it's a smart thing to do to piss off a waitress who looks a lot like glenn close in fatal attraction"
mamordia2: hehe..i 'm just wondering if he really did decline to pay that
Lady RHood: why would he do that? i mean give the tip in the first place...that's so weird
mamordia2: i know
mamordia2: maybe he was drunk *g*
mamordia2: it was in a a bar ;)
Lady RHood: LOL! probably. or he was doped up like mr- burns in that x-files crossover episode
Lady RHood: i bring you....love
Lady RHood: and 10, 000 dollar
mamordia2: I bring you...peace!
Lady RHood: heehee
Lady RHood: whoo hoo!! one of my beta-readers checked in...yay! now i am gonna go try again to see if conan's on yet. thanks for listening to the plot mumblings *g*
Okay...so from that conversation you can see the beginnings of the plot, but you can also see how much more complex the story ended up being than my original plans.
One of the things a lot of people wrote to me about were evil cliffhangers, and along with that a lot of people wrote to tell me I'd shocked or surprised them. I think Three Doors definitely had more plot twists than any of my other fics. Of course maybe the biggest shock is when Angelus is behind the door, but there's also the appearance of HumAngel and Faith's death. I started to get a little antsy as people were writing in saying...I didn't see that coming! I don't know what you're going to think of next! Because most of the big shocks come in the first third of the fic. I was going...uh oh...people are going to feel so let down once they see the rest of the fic. I think that caused some of my slowness in writing the fic. Pressure to meet high expectations tends to give me writer's block :) heh heh. I did have one final surprise up my sleeve, which was the final choice Buffy makes. I didn't want anyone to feel it had come out of nowhere, but I also hoped it would shake people up enough to think about what was behind it.
I think one of the biggest plot break-throughs after I had the basics you can see in the IM, was when I realized that this vague person Angelus could kill would be Faith. She's someone Buffy cares about, but she's not one of the core Scoobies that I really didn't feel capable of killing off. And because I had set the story during Faith's season 3 evil period, before Buffy knew she was working with the Mayor, it allowed me to use Buffy's guilt over Faith's death, while not completely alienating everyone by killing off a purely sympathetic character. It gave me a chance to show what Angelus was capable of. And in another twist, it gave me a chance to bring in the Mayor. The Mayor was in no way a part of the original plan for my plot. But because Faith was the one who was killed, I felt it was necessary to bring him into the story.
Once I brought him into it, other things fell into place. One of the things I mentioned to Dare was human Angel having to face physical violence. Adding the Mayor gave me a good reason for an attack with him being mistaken for Angelus. Originally I planned for him to have a hard time with a routine patrol, but it really didn't make much sense for them to be doing routine patrol when they knew Angelus was out there, and they should have been searching hard core for him. Other ways I tried to show HumAngel's weaknesses... The torture scene. That was part of the plan from very early on. I wanted to show he didn't have the stomach for it as a human, even if Willow's life was on the line. And his reaction when questioning Willy. I didn't want to give the impression that human Angel was a lesser person, only that he wasn't as well suited for Buffy's very unique lifestyle as the vampire with a soul was.
I had a hard time writing the split, because writing Angelus and HumAngel separately was something that sort of required me to sit and go...okay, is this part of him, part of his soul, part of the demon, where is the line? And it's very hard to draw a line. I actually like it ambiguous, but the fic was forcing me to try to make those black and white definitions and I don't know if I ever fully was able to. Part of the Angelus plot line also got a little less attention than I planned. I had wanted to emphasize Buffy's attraction to Angelus, despite his evil. But as I was writing, I wasn't really able to do that. It didn't feel natural at all. It was a very different circumstance than season 2 because she had a good Angel standing right next to her, so those difficulties in season 2 where she had trouble killing him didn't seem like they would carry over. I went for an obsession with Angelus rather than an attraction per se. There is some attraction I'm sure, but for the purposes of the story I had her focus her anger and hatred on him to the point of blinding herself. I feel like this did serve me pretty well because to choose the vampire with a soul in the end, she has to accept the part of him she utterly hates, and I felt like that added weight to her decision.
I'm still not sure whether I managed to show the difference between HumAngel and vampire with a soul Angel effectively enough. That was one of the hardest parts of writing the fic. I wanted for there to still be a relationship between Buffy and Angel, and Angel's deep desire to help her. But I also wanted that pulling away, as she starts to fear she'll get him killed, and as he realizes he can't do the things he could before. I wanted it to become clear that HumAngel isn't just normal Angel only he can walk in the sun. Taking out the demon changes him, just like taking out the soul changes him. One of the things I also really wanted to show was that they weren't equals anymore, and that's something I don't know if they would ever be able to come to terms with. Can Buffy have a relationship with someone who's not her physical equal? My opinions was no. The only way the ending would work or make sense is if people could see and understand both how HumAngel was different and why that was a problem for Buffy. If those things weren't accomplished, the ending would alienate people (although I expected it to alienate some even if they understood what I was doing).
The ending was one thing I was always sure of. And one thing I worried about in the back of my mind the whole time I was writing the story. I consider it a relatively happy ending, but I knew some others wouldn't agree, and I was a little worried that some people who'd stuck with the fic would be very disappointed at the end. But I couldn't write it any other way. And the feedback I got at the end was encouraging. The one thing that did change about the ending was originally I had planned for Buffy to choose the vampire with a soul with the curse still intact. I thought removing it would be too convenient. But as I thought about the part it just didn't make sense. If the other two possible incarnations were destroyed, or lost forever, keeping the curse would be silly and illogical. And Buffy's choice would be that much more selfish if she put her friends in danger of facing Angelus again. I wanted it clear that Angel was still dangerous with his soul, but if he turned bad it would be the way I always thought it should be...with soul intact, losing control of his demon or letting himself be turned to evil.
Another slight difficulty was writing the Dagnu. Personally, I tend to dislike all-powerful beings in fiction because it's way too easy to turn them into a deus ex machina. (which is why I very much disliked the Oracles on Angel) But the Dagnu was the only way I could think of to accomplish what I wanted. And I hoped that turning it into a selfish demon, only concerned with satisfying its own curiousity would help in keeping it from seeming like TPTB were stepping in on Buffy's behalf.
The story took a full year to write so I'm sure there are other things I could bring up, or other annecdotes I could tell. I kept a ton of plot outlines because it kept changing as I would add things. But really all I can say is, it was a difficult story to manage in terms of characterization, but it was something that I'm so proud of and so glad I wrote. I think it gave me a chance to balance description and dialogue more evenly than I'd done before, and manage a very complex plot, and challenge myself as a writer, and that I could stick with it until the end.