I've been thinking of reviving a plot element in Novella that I did away with a year ago.
Currently Novella is in what's called "Draft 3". Drafts enumerate major changes in a story's plotline. The first draft was a more fantasy oriented story involving a pen that could control fate. It fell into the hands of a college age androgene, Novella. Although I toyed with the idea for quite some time, it never got very far. Eventually I recycled the character into another story more fitting to her attributes.
Draft 2 featured the full Novella cast. Akisa, Miki, and Novella of course. Eventually Rama, Rasa, Kaze, and the DJ were thrown in as the story developed. In this story, the magical pen was discarded. Novella was still a college age androgene, but she had a new problem: No matter where she went, two identities always seemed to follow her. One identity was male, the other female. In either case the name and photographs associated with it remained the same. In the 24 comics produced, this was framed as an irritant to issues Novella had thought done and over with. In a discussion with Akisa she says, "I thought it was over, I thought I had decided." Choice was and is a central theme of Novella. The problem was that I didn't develop the story very well before I went into production. I wanted to skip to the end of the story were all the interesting things happened. After about six months, the entire comic fell apart and I stopped producing episodes.
So, Novella was dead, right? Not really. In the years that followed, I let the story sit in my head and develop. Miki went from a shallow extrovert to a young woman dealing with the contradictions between her sexual orientation, and her religion. She became interesting as a character, instead of a target. Novella's problems deepened. She was now a person with a condition known as Gender Dysphoria, a contradiction between her gender identity and the male role to which she was assigned since birth. She was afraid that if she were to pursue her true self, she may lose everything. Her family, her friends, even her talent as a writer. The only person who knows of her secret is Akisa.
What is between Novella and Akisa, however, is not just the sharing of secrets. The two share a morbid promise. Neither would end their own lives without the other -- a suicide pact. Akisa had gone to college a year ahead of Novella, and in that year the latter of the two tried her best to forget about the promise they shared. Akisa, however, has a much clearer memory.
Miki also became a problem in the third Draft. Unaccepting of her own lesbianism, she sought out the androgynous Novella as a twisted compromise. Miki pursued Novella, and ended up with more than she bargained for. Not only does she come to understand the complexities and difficulties facing transpeople like Novella, but also must confront her own difficulties with herself and her religion. In the meantime, she must fend off the protective Akisa and the secrets she shares with Novella.
All of this is currently in Draft 3. Obviously the story has developed greatly from it's previous incarnation, but it also lost another element. No where in the above plotline did I make mention of Novella having two identities. She has one college application, and only one set of classes under her given name. In later parts of the story she begins to present distinctly as female in certain situations. In a manner of speaking she retains two identities, but I do very little with them.
So now I'm beginning to wonder if I should reintroduce that element. Novella's androgynous nature and her dual identities were what attracted me to the character originally. I discarded the plot element because I deemed it "cheezy" -- although it did very nearly make it into Draft 3. Throughout the third draft, she seemed continually uninteresting. Everything happened to her, instead of her taking action herself. A completely passive character seemed more than a little flat to my taste. True, Novella still has a lot going for her given her promise with Akisa and Miki's courting, but it doesn't seem enough.
As a writer, I find the concept of dual identities an interesting concept with which to experiment. It's not a new idea, of course. Superhero stories have told of secret identities for more than four decades. Novella's identities, however, aren't as outlandish or as secret. Every transperson goes through a phase where they live this semi-public duality. In Novella's case, it's a little more difficult to control. Often inadvertently, she'll be deemed as one gender or the other. In some cases quite consistently.
The problem is, how would Novella know how to pass as one gender or the other? There are subtle cues in speech and gesture that are gender stratified. They are, however, learned behaviors and can be picked up by anyone so inclined. So the question is, when and where did Novella learn them? I can imagine that she would have picked up most of this through observation. It is also possible that Akisa gave her a few pointers while they were in high school. I think, however, that Novella learned most of it from her first girlfriend.
In the backstory, Novella became involved with a friend of hers for several years. While she knew of Novella's gender issues, she was determined to pursue a relationship with her. Although she did not want to be in a lesbian relationship, she helped Novella with mannerisms, voice, and clothing. When Novella refused to abandon her pursuit of womanhood, she was dumped swiftly. Akisa came in shortly thereafter to pick up the pieces. In all of this, I never asked myself just how far Novella's education came. Perhaps she can pass successfully as female if so inclined.
Akisa could also be complicating factor. Knowing that Novella was going to her college, she could have arraigned for two applications for Novella instead of one. Whether or not she did this for benevolent or sadistic reasons is something I haven't decided.
In any event, this does alter how I'm approaching Novella as a whole. It doesn't really change what I've written thusfar, but introduces new plot avenues that I haven't before considered. The thing that bugs me is, is this still a cheezy element? Or can it be done properly, enjoyably, and believably? I think it can, depending on the details and the way it's told.
So, does this make it Draft 4?