FB: [“Pacific Rim” soundtrack plays, interspersed with a few phrases from Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”]

[Puzzled frown]

Okay. Overall, I’m pretty happy with our conclusion. And I don’t like to gripe too much, especially about stuff Flo has done–most of what she did was amazing, I’m hardly perfect myself, et cetera. But there are three lengthy, Flo-written speeches in our last two chapters that, in my view, we’d have been better off skipping. The Sepia parts here feature the first and most skippable of them. At this point, Shanna seems to be reiterating arguments already made and not adding anything that interesting or meaningful to them. Sure, sometimes you have to keep repeating the same arguments, especially when you’re dealing with someone who’s brainwashed, but that doesn’t mean we need to see it.

It’s not hard for me to figure out why I dislike the speeches. All three of them involved Flo improvising at more or less the last minute because she couldn’t quite say “Okay, we’re done” before it was time to upload the page. And “stabs at profundity, improvised on a midnight deadline” is my least favorite comics genre. The evidence it was done this way is in the script file for the chapter, in which Flo the writer left these jobs for Flo the letterer to figure out. This effectively left me no time to approve or veto the final results. Not that we were editing each other like that much anymore, anyway…but the fact that I was being shut out of the process didn’t make me like the results any better. Here, for instance, the Carol and Shanna parts are scripted as “CAROL: [AN ATTEMPT TO ANSWER SHANNA’S QUESTION ABOUT HR’S BEST SELF]” and “SHANNA: [AN INCREDIBLY WELL REASONED ARGUMENT THAT MAYBE ACTUALLY GETS THROUGH TO CAROL].” 

Flo convinced me, rightly I think, that Shanna’s “What would the ideal HR do?” question was a good bit but still not enough to push Carol over the edge. But neither of us quite knew what to try after that, so I ended up deferring to Flo’s “pray to the gods of sleep deprivation” approach. In fairness, she had done lots of other last-minute script modifications in the same way that had worked out fine, for most of our time on Guilded Age. But she’d generally modified a complete draft, rarely a bracketed “insert dialogue here” note.

Your mileage may vary, of course! I think most readers had no problem with this speech, though I’d say our story’s overall momentum carried some of them through it.

With the benefit of hindsight, I would now push the idea that Carol should refuse to help in that moment, leaving Xan and Shanna paralyzed and ratcheting up the tension instead of deflating it. Because in a few more pages, another factor will come in…the factor of HR’s own words and actions in the present moment. And that’s the final ingredient needed to spur Carol to her role in the climax.