Okay, since a lot of readers seem to have liked my posts about fanarts and vidding, and my walks down memory lane about Roswell and Buffy, I’ve decided to start a series of posts about my fanfiction writing, and some of what I like most about the favorite fanfics I’ve written or what they’ve taught me. To start with, I’d like to tell you a bit about a Roswell story called “Not Written Yet“, which I wrote between January and April of 2005. By the way, I’m going to be spoiling the fanfic later on, so if you’d like to read it fresh, you should click on the link now.
One of the things I love most about writing fanfiction in the Roswell universe is how much fun it can be to fix the writer’s mistakes. Not Written Yet is a fix for an episode of the show called “End of the World”, which was broadcast during November sweeps in season two of the show. It’s really a turning point in the plot and character arcs for the entire season, really – and a time travel story to boot. The premise is, that a thirty-something version of Max Evans (Jason Behr,) comes back in time to tell Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby,) that in the life he lived, the two of them finally sorted out their relationship issues, lived a happy life for many years without any more angst – until eventually the fact that they were together meant the apocalypse and all of their friends dying. Future Liz helps to find a way to use an alien artifact to send her Max back through a rift in space-time to fix what went wrong, though she doesn’t have any regrets.
Future Max goes on to tell Present Liz that the events of the next few days are going to be critical to the precarious love triangle between herself, Max, and Tess Harding. In Future Max’s timeline, he asked Liz to go to a concert with him, Liz said no, Max kept asking, somehow they ended up having sex, Tess found out, and she left town in a huff. Future Max figures that’s where everything went wrong, because Tess has strong alien abilities and if she’d stayed with the rest of the gang, they’d be able to guard themselves against danger better.
So – Liz and Future Max try several things to keep these events from playing out, and eventually Liz gets her ex-boyfriend Kyle in on the scheming, though he doesn’t know about the time-traveller part. When Max comes to Liz’s balcony at the date and time Future Max predicted that they’d ‘cement their relationship,’ he finds Kyle already with Liz in bed, and jumps to the obvious, but not entirely accurate conclusion about what’s happened. Max is heartbroken, runs into Tess in the park, talks and bonds with her a bit, and Future Max whiffs out of existence, saying that his work has done and the last fifteen years of his life will never happen now.
It’s a powerful bit of television, in and of itself, but the rest of the season never really seems to know what to do with itself after ‘End of the World,’ though numerous references are made to the Liz/Kyle incident and its effect on Max’s relationship with Liz and Tess. And at the end of season two, it gets revealed that Tess is a conniving sociopath who never really had any intention of helping or protecting Max and his friends anyway, just using him – and so the entire thing and all of Liz’s sacrifices become exceedingly pointless in retrospect. It’s never entirely clear whether Liz finally confesses the back story to Max, over the summer between seasons two and three perhaps, or not.
SPOILERS START HERE.
So – with all of that background canon explained, we come to my own take on the story. There were two different inspirations behind ‘Not Written Yet’, one of which being to take a hot moment of flirtation between Tess and Kyle in the episode and expand it into some much hotter and more explicit adult content scenes, letting the two of them actually have a secret affair. But I’m not going to say any more about that here.
The other inspiration was to have Liz take charge of her life and her relationship with Max, instead of letting Future Max bully her into doing what he says on the grounds that ‘the fate of the world hangs in the balance’, despite the fact that his story never entirely hangs together. I had a lot of fun looking at the general sequence of events and the clues that had been dropped in other nearby episodes and then rewriting the action to make Liz more proactive – searching her dead alien boss’ office for a piece of alien tech that could be used as a warning or a weapon, for instance, and deflecting Future Max from his own ideas into getting him to reveal spoilers about the dangers that Liz and her friends have yet to face, so that she can prepare for them on her own terms, instead of letting Future Max cling to a notion of ‘the way things have to be’ that doesn’t really make sense considering how radically he’s set on changing the course of his own life.
At the climax of the story, Liz meets Future Max in the morning twilight at a park near her home, and finally confronts him about all of the logical holes in his plan of action, including this fundamental paradox: Future Max is saying that once the course of Max’s life is permanently changed, he’ll vanish out of existence. But if the change happens because of a lie, then after Future Max vanishes, Liz can tell him the truth, and that will move him back closer to the original timeline, unless the lie damages his relationship with Liz beyond repair. So Future Max might end up spending years in Roswell, harassing Liz and keeping her from finding any happiness in her life.
And Liz doesn’t intend to let that happen. Moving quickly before Future Max can stop her, she uses the alien tech to temporarily remove Future Max’s powers, and then pulls a small gun on him. After a few tearful words of farewell, she shoots him, and Future Max’s body explodes into ashes, (which is established as a reaction of the alien metabolism to death on the show. Sort of handy a lot of the time.) And Liz goes with her own Max to the concert, insisting to herself that she didn’t really end his life, because after living through that, she’ll certainly make sure that he’ll never go back in time to try and convince her to set him up with Tess.
Looking back on ‘Not Written Yet’, what can I learn from it? Well, that writing by the seat of my pants up to a key moment of inspiration can work fairly well, that taking time to explore the options of a dynamic main character really pay off… and that sex scenes for the sake of having sex scenes sometimes don’t.