Because this novel is also 9 novellas, and I’ve got a LOT of stuff to talk about.
Throughout the start of 2021, I went through the process of releasing chapters from my 2019 novel, The Saga of Vincent Dawn, re-editing the text for errors and creating header images to denote each chapter. It’s part of a prolonged process I’ve taken on to revise and republish my novels on Natalie.TF, while giving them a little extra polish. And now that I have finished the process, now that all 5 of my novels are available on Natalie.TF, it is finally time to dive in and do the mother of all post-mortems. Because not only am I here to discuss my inspirations, my intentions, and my overall thoughts on The Saga of Vincent Dawn, I’m here to do so much more.
The Saga of Vincent Dawn is not a typical novel. It is an abridged compilation of 9 novellas, reframed and reformatted around a unifying narrative. And each of these 9 novellas exist. They were written, they were available to the public, but I have since delisted them for good reasons. Or rather, one very good reason. They sucked. They were all terribly written, terribly formatted, and had a bucket load of problems.
So before even talking about the novel itself, I want to talk about the nine novellas referenced in The Saga of Vincent Dawn and talk about them in detail for what I hope will be the final time. So, without further ado, let’s start right from the beginning and talk about Intertoids.
Volume 01: Intertoids
Intertoids was originally written from September 2012 to December 2012. It was my first attempt at writing fiction after I started Natalie.TF on May 23, 2012, and it was… quite the attempt.
…Okay, how the hell do I even describe this? Um… Intertoids was a ‘joke’ project I started as my attempt at writing the most bizarre story I possibly could, and part of that bizarreness came from its cast of characters. Instead of using established characters from other fiction or creating my own characters, I made the main cast a series of online personalities. Namely James Stephany Sterling, Jonathan Holmes, Max Scoville, Tara Long, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, Jon “JonTron” Jafari, Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson, and Lily Orchard. None of whom I named in The Saga of Vincent Dawn, because I don’t like white nationalists, overly cynical dastards, and getting sued for defamation.
The story centered around these characters being taken out of their ordinary lives and being sent into another world, either by waking up elsewhere or simply drifting between another plane. In these other worlds, their bodies and minds would transform, they would lose their sense of self, and in most cases, they would end up in one of two worlds.
Earth 152 was a world of hypermasculinity. Where all males deemed insufficiently masculine were murdered or made more masculine through a process known as Marsing. Females in this world were considered a lesser species and were either killed by hypermasculine soldiers, known as Bricks, or converted into reproductive objects known as Tires. Which were conceptualized as truck tires made of flesh with two vaginas. One in the front that took in semen and one in the back that released newborn Bricks. War was also the natural state of being in this world, and no other industries existed unless they supported the male effort to genocide all females. This world was heavily inspired by my secondhand understanding of the influx of war-flavored video games popular at that time, primarily the Gears of War series.
Earth 237 was a world of female dominance. Where all the females were futanaris with long retractable dicks, but no vaginas or testicles, known as Zankers. All males meanwhile were known as Carriers, hairy creatures with giant basketball-sized testicles that dragged down to the dirt and vaginas. Carriers existed for the sole purpose of breeding. This world was a medieval one with fantasy and magical elements, most of which were lifted from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
These were the two core settings of the story, but as for the plot… it basically boiled down to this: One character got an update for their drawing tablet, started using it, and wound up summoning a creature of malice known as Nira. Nira forced them to draw 255 new Earths, before fleeing the scene, hiding away in one of the new Earths. Now that there are 256 Earths, the universe is growing unstable and is trying to converge the Earths into one true Earth. In order to determine which is the true Earth, all the Earths need to stage a grand world-spanning war for dominance. The character with a drawing tablet, along with another one, tries to prevent this convergence from happening, but their efforts prove to be in vain, and Nira winds up consuming the known universe.
You might read that and point out that it makes no sense or sounds like I did a terrible job of describing what was going on… but no, that is a completely fair description of what happens in Intertoids. It was a story I wrote with no degree of foresight or anything more than a vague idea of what the next chapter would bring. Which resulted in an idea-rich story that had… pretty much no conceivable multi-chapter narrative until the last few chapters, or rather Tales. You might be wondering why I made something like this, even as a ‘joke,’ and the answer to that question is rather complicated.
The core inspiration for Intertoids came from The Destructoid Podcast, Podtoid. Specifically, the duration of the show hosted by James Stephany Sterling, Jonathan Holmes, Max Scoville, Tara Long, and Conrad Zimmerman, which ran from about episode 149 to 276. Or May 2011 to October 2013. I have not listened to any of the episodes since they originally aired, and most of what I remember from this podcast has absolutely nothing to do with video games. But it has everything to do with Sterling coming up with these profoundly bizarre and disturbing concepts— these roundabout torture scenarios— that they would pitch to Holmes.
I thought they were some of the most hilarious, grotesque, creative, and genuinely inspiring things I had ever heard, and they struck a monumental chord with me. So much so that I wanted to make something based on Podtoid. To write a fan work that captured the surreality of Sterling’s mind. And what I came up with was something that I dubbed “the ultimate bastardization of fan fiction.”
However, I also wanted to do more than just ape Podtoid for inspiration, so I took in inspiration from other sources. What do I mean by ‘other sources?’ I basically mean Paheal Rule 63, DeviantArt, wackadoo fetish booru imageboards, the dark wretched recesses of my own imagination, and also a summary of Crisis on Infinite Earths. But even with these inspirations, I genuinely do not remember where most of the ideas and concepts truly and fully came from. I just know that I was a slightly disturbed and edgy 17-year-old back then, and I needed a place to let my demons out. To let my unbridled fetish-infected creativity pour out of my mind and into something.
And it is precisely because of this that… I love Intertoids. I’m still proud of it. And I’m still glad that I made it. It was terribly written, horrendously planned, and arguably weird for the sake of being weird. However, it was beyond weird. It was better than weird. Intertoids was avant garde, it was disgusting, it was creepy, it made people genuinely unsettled— I have actual quotes from people who commented on how messed up these stories were. I do not have the actual sources, those were lost to time, but I have the words!
“Lock your doors. That was creepy. ” – @Silent_Tristero
“What the hell did I just read? O_O ” – @crocwork
“I…I, uh…I’m having a hard time coming up with something to say here. I mean…well, I guess I’ll put it this way. I’m not sure which is more severe: trying to (and succeeding in) understanding what I just read, or the fact that I kind of liked it. If nothing else, you deserve some praise for creating such a surreal — or is it real? — situation.” – Voltech
Comments like this stuck with me, far more than anything that actually happened in Intertoids, and led me to my biggest takeaway from working on this messy goofball project. A desire to make things that were…. creative. Stuff that pushed boundaries of what was normal or good and catered to both my eclectic interests and eccentric persona.
However, what I was doing was too scattered, too raw, and needed to be refined before it could become anything more than something weird. So, after finishing Intertoids, I decided to make something similar but more structured, more contained, and with more of a discernible purpose behind it.
Volume 02: Nari’s Log
I worked on Nari’s Logs from December 2012 to February 2013, during the lull between my senior year semesters. The web novel, or just novella as I later reclassified it, followed a young man by the name of Nari (Nah-ree) as he and his companions, Max and Y’vonne, traveled the multiverse, or Omni, in a space train known as the Omnibhan. Under the guiding hand of their leader, The Doctor, Nari and company would possess people in other worlds in order to achieve some sort of objective. Whether it be an assassination, doing combat, or just goofing off and having a good time. After each Shift, the cast of three would return to the Omni, where they would discuss things with the Doctor, while engaging in some breed of shenanigans along the way.
It was to be a serialized story that followed the three central characters, and a hefty supporting cast, as they found themselves in new worlds and new bodies. It was a way for me to tell a wide spectrum of stories in whatever setting or genre suited my fancy at the time of writing. I could write a story about an introvert visiting a nightclub in a world with animal-human hybrids. Or I could write a story where the characters piloted giant robots that combined into a bigger giant robot. I could do anything with Nari’s Log, I could fill it with whatever idea I had in mind, no matter how outlandish, and this was the true death knell of the project.
The problem with this approach came from a problem of having too many ideas and not enough outlines or firm plans about what would happen in the story itself. Throughout Nari’s Log, there are constant hints about something greater at play. There is a malicious group that aims to destroy the Omni and create a singular universe, led by the creatively named Uni. The Doctor, despite being a trustworthy talking red panda, is revealed as a less than virtuous individual early on. And instead of just focusing on a few original characters, the total planned cast for Nari’s Log was 26 characters, which was FAR too much for a writer of my skill at the time. Hell, I would still struggle to tell a story with half as many major characters.
Once again, overambition and a lack of foresight were the biggest weakness of this Scenario. As for its strengths, I still look back at Nari’s Log as an exceedingly creative story with a lot of good ideas within it. It was me trying something similar to Intertoids but in a more regimented, structured, and explained way, without ever getting as weird. Don’t get me wrong, Nary’s Log still had a bunch of surreal moments or concepts, but it was not creepy or deranged, as it was not trying to be. I enjoyed writing the horror-esque sequences in Intertoids and planting on the existentialism as people’s identities were fragmented before their eyes. But that got boring to me after a while, so I was eager to write the more silly and happy moments in Nari’s Log. And I think those moments make the more fucked up moments, like the torture and rape scenes, all the more impactful.
Despite its finer points, Nari’s Log was still a rushed and half-baked story that never really went anywhere… and I mean that literally, as I never wrote a conclusion for Nari’s Log. I left it end on a cliffhanger as I simply did not have the interest needed to continue the story without a firm outline to follow, and with no idea what I was doing.
Now before I move onto my next novella, where I started doing things right from a basic storytelling standpoint, I should probably talk about my influences for Nari’s Log, and they really are not that interesting when you break them down. The core premise and idea of Nari’s Log was born from the modern Doctor Who series, which I stopped watching around 2014, and everything else was picked up from… stuff I was into at the time of writing the story. Anime series I was reviewing at the time, weird fetish art, video games I was playing, and stuff I thought of when staring blankly out the window on the school bus. My influences were scattered as hell and… well, I guess that explains why I never had a good idea of where the story could or should go.
Volume 03: Raiyne’s Whimsy
Cut ahead to April 2013, and I had more or less put my creative writing aspirations by the sidelines. At least until one bored free period where I had no homework to work on, so I began jotting my ideas down in a notebook, coming up with a couple basic characters and concepts along with a vague chapter structure. Liking the ideas that I was coming up with, I began work on this novella later that same day and within roughly a month, by the middle of May 2013, I finished Raiyne’s Whimsy. A rather short story, only about 24k words long, but it was a major turning point in my endeavors to write stuff, as unlike my prior stories, this one was restrained, focused, and was actually trying to tell a deliberate story with a firm beginning, middle, and end.
I set the story in the creatively named small Washington town of Rainy Woods and followed the similarly creatively named Raiyne Underwood. A young woman, age 19, who learns that her uncle, Lou Underwood, is a hunter of Rifters. Monsters from another world who enter Rainy Woods via transdimensional portals, or rather Rifts, that appear an hour after it rains. Being a noble sort, Raiyne decides to aid her uncle in keeping her hometown safe, and soon adopts this new way of life. At least until the halfway point of the story, where things take a darker turn. TheirRifter ally, Wisp, turns on Raiyne and Lou, Raiyne is forced to kill her best friend, Raiyne winds up in the world of the Rifters where Wisp steals her body, and with the body of Raiyne, Wisp renamed themselves Abigale Quinlan and, using their newfound Rifter-human hybrid powers, immerses the town of Rainy Woods in fire and chaos.
It was basically a standard hero’s journey, but with some deviation during the end. Nothing special, but the type of story that an inexperienced writer should try doing, instead of something grand or ambitious. And this is precisely why I look back at Raiyne’s Whimsy in a fairly positive light. The story needed more room for its characters and world to breathe. The premise has some strange quirks, such as using garlic and silver to defeat Rifters which is just… what? I did not handle Lou’s backstory particularly well, due to my own lack of life experience. And while I enjoyed both creating and conceptualizing the latter half of the story, it was emblematic of my edgy tendencies of the time, as it was filled with trauma, death, and pain, all for the sake of spectacle.
Still, I do like a lot about the story. I was happy with how I handled the cast of characters from a writing standpoint. I tried to give numerous details to make the town itself feel like a character. And I at least attempted to craft a web of relationships and history for these persons, instead of rushing headlong to the next monster of the week or what have you. Hell, it has enough good points that I have genuinely flirted with the idea of rewriting this story and doing it better, simply because I think I was onto something here.
As for my influences, the biggest one was easily Deadly Premonition, which informed the setting, some of the character designs, and concept of monsters invading a small town. The time concept and emphasis on rain were lifted from the TSF (Trans-Sexual Fantasy) manga Ame Nochi Hare. The decision to have both Raiyne and Lou wear suits all the time came from 2011’s L.A. Noire, which gave me a suit fetish. The core character relationship of Lou and Raiyne was inspired by early coverage for Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us, both of which paired an older man with a younger woman, and neither of which I played until after I finished the initial draft. The idea behind the Rift world was heavily inspired by the later portions of 1997’s Half-Life. And most of the monster designs came from creatures described by James Stephany Sterling on the Podtoid podcast. While Wisp… is just a kitsune ghost yo-kai thingy.
There was also some definite influence from my love of TSF with the ending, as I simply could not help myself and wound up ending the story with possession and the introduction of a new character, Abigale Quinlan. It was an off-the-cuff decision that had ripple effects that have persisted for nearly a decade at this point.
Volume 04: My Life As Abigale Quinlan
When writing Raiyne’s Whimsy, I was adamant about not making a sequel. I wanted my next story to be something original, something fresh, and something disconnected… but instead, I ended up creating a new character during the final chapters and I desperately wanted to explore them in more detail. So I went against my inclinations and decided to write a sequel story, The Extraordinary Excursions of Abigale Quinlan. I got about one chapter into the writing process, meant to test the concept, and as I concluded the chapter, I knew there was no way I could make the premise work.
When your protagonist is an all-powerful psychopath, as this variation of Abigale Quinlan was, it is incredibly difficult to tell an interesting story. Even to this day, even in the year 2021, I still do not know how anyone can tell a compelling story following a character like this, a character who cannot be harmed and does not desire anything, without making them a supporting member of a cast.
Despite this clear sign that I should not continue with my current plan, I decided to carry on regardless and began working on a different idea for a sequel. One that would not directly focus on the character of Abigale Quinlan, but would explore another well-established love of mine. Body swapping. I think body swapping is one of the richest wells for storytelling potential there is, and when presented with Abigale Quinlan and the prospect of somebody swapping bodies with her, I knew what the story would be about: Abigale Quinlan stealing the body of a high school boy so she could stage a school shooting. But in her avarice, she finds herself unable to return to her former body, leaving a teenage boy with her body, and everything that comes with it!
I came to the premise rather quickly… which is kind of embarrassing. While I looked like a school shooter back when I was a teenager, I never so much as fantasized about shooting up my high school or anything stupid like that. But I did regularly think about what it would be like if a terrorist attacked my high school. If they brought an RPG to a pep assembly and just fired it into the crowd, if they placed a bomb in a clustered high traffic intersection and detonated it to deal maximum damage, or if somebody just burst in the door to a classroom with an uzi and unloaded a clip.
Why did I think this? Because I was told that school shootings happened regularly, and active shooter drills basically taught me to identify where a terrorist should strike if they wanted to rack up MDKs like it’s double XP weekend.
Anyway, the point of this diatribe was that I got hung up on the premise of “what if somebody stole my body and shot up a school.” This served as the impetus for My Life As Abigale Quinlan. I wanted a story to follow the body swapped victim of this school shooting as he comes to terms with their (mostly) female body, superhuman powers, and the fact that he is the most ‘criminally acclaimed’ human in history. And I wanted it to be a gradual fall from grace, where the protagonist loses their sense of self as they are told, internally and externally, that they are Abigale Quinlan, leading to a full-on identity death forged with the help of physical and mental trauma aplenty. This core idea then quickly mutated and I began to fill in the holes with… well, with whatever came to mind really.
One example of this is how I gave Abigale Quinlan her power set: I took the immortality from the anime series Baccano!, the concept and name of Real Booting was lifted from the anime adaptation of Chaos;Head, and the ‘Snap Burst’ ability was directly taken from the snap-induced explosions used by the FullMetal Alchemist supporting character, Roy Mustang.
Another example is the character of Peatrice, who was this inspirational homunculus of Akumako from K.O. Beast, the greatest average anime of the 90s. The coverboy from the fetish comic series Demon Candy: Parallel. The relationship between the dual protagonists from the anime Birdy the Mighty: Decode. And video games where you have a helper character in your ear.
But my favorite example is from Day 20: I Sing the Elf’s Song, which is… just a remixed version of the first episode of Elfen Lied. I watched the anime when writing the story and I loved Lucy’s escape sequence so much that I just had to rip it off.
After mangling this inspiration into a series of ideas, I eventually finished this 31,000 word story around September 2013. In its final form, My Life As Abigale Quinlan was about everyman 17-year-old Jad Spencer after he wakes up in the body of renowned terrorist Abigale Quinlan and finds himself located in an apartment 1,000 miles away from his home. After learning that Abigale Quinlan used his body to perform the largest school shooting in history, and dying in the process, Jad spends the next two weeks in his new apartment. There, he subsequently learns about his powers, unusual biology, and gets acquainted with Peatrice, an electronic pixie who lives in his new head.
After getting semi-comfortable with his new body, the US military capture and torture Jad, believing him to be the real Abigale Quinlan. Jad is sent into a bloody fury due to all the torture, escapes the facility, and then spends the next few weeks contemplating who he is, all before Peatrice tells Jad that their identities will soon converge into one, a psychotic killer worthy of succeeding Abigale Quinlan. Either due to this convergence, or Jad’s own deteriorating mental state, Jad returns to his hometown, discards his old identity, and starts calling himself Abigale Quinlan.
As Abigale Quinlan, Jad aims for the stars by attacking US president Ji-Hyun Xing and demanding that she surrender the nation to him, but in making his demands, he gives her a month to make a decision. In that time, Ji-Hyun Zing prepares a countermeasure to send Jad into space. Because when dealing with an immortal who can manipulate the matter around them, the only way to be rid of them is to send them into the uncaring vacuum of space.
When all was said and done, and with years of hindsight… I think this story was another good step in my evolution as a writer. I was sticking with a grounded concept, a single protagonist, and relatively few characters, but I also got weird with it. I view My Life As Abigale Quinlan where my conceptual and creative abilities were finally at the levels where I wanted them to be, and while there were oodles of small problems or quirks that should have been ironed out, I am exceedingly glad that I wrote this story as… I just love it.
I loved bringing the characters of Jad Spencer and Peatrice to life. I loved being able to write a story with both absurd action and quieter, more introspective moments. And… let’s just say there is a reason why I reinterpreted and redid the same core concept with 2016’s The Malice of Abigale Quinlan. Because this concept has so much creative wiggle room and so many avenues for exploration that it deserved a different, and in most ways better, take.
Volume 05: Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure
Before I jumped from My Life As Abigale Quinlan to its sequel, I did a non-insignificant amount of work on Polymythy of the Preternatural Permutation Pod, or Project P. Project P was to be this sprawling narrative project centered around a mysterious technological chamber located in the core protagonist’s garage that induced any number of transformations. It could turn people into monsters, switch bodies, fuse multiple people into one, send people into other dimensions, etc. It was a magical MacGuffin that I could use for any story concept I could think of.
I lifted the premise for this from the myriad Writing.com interactive stories that center around the son of a family who happens upon a body swap machine in their backyard, or something of the sort. I was a big fan of these stories back when I was a teenager (meaning that I regularly used them as a masturbation aid) but I thought their basic concept could be both broadened and developed into a more detailed and deliberate story.
My original plan was to write ~8,000 word long short stories following each of the cast of 12-ish characters as they wandered into the titular Preternatural Permutation Pod, but I lost interest in the concept after following just two of these characters, and ditched this project entirely. I recognized that I had not planned out the world or characters well enough, and I decided to write a straightforward novella instead of what was meant to be a weird elseworld spin-off.
After jotting down some ideas and taking heavy inspiration from Fallout: New Vegas, I started work on Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure in November 2013 and I finished the initial draft of the 27,000 word story right before Christmas. And unlike its predecessor, I really do not have a lot to say about this story.
I took inspiration from some odd places, such as the Anarchy Reigns soundtrack, the short-lived TSF manga Bloomed Into Action, the 1987 Felix The Cat movie, and the fantasy comedy anime series Gokudo. But beyond that, Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure is a pretty uninteresting and just… bad story.
The story takes place after The Melding, an event where the Rift world from Raiyne’s Whimsy merged with Earth, and turned the planet into a mutated hellscape, killing most of the human population in the process and mutating the majority of the survivors. Co-protagonist, Yuccot Kikansky, is one of the more fortunate survivors who witnesses a meteor crashing into the ruins of a city. He discovers this meteor contains Abigale Quinlan… but not really. While her body remained the same, it was now controlled by a new consciousness known as Punky, who has the personality and brainpower of a stupid yet loving child.
After realizing that Punky, despite her low intelligence, has the ability to Real Boot, Yuccot decides to try selling Punky into slavery, but the two are quickly apprehended by both a group of werewolf mutants, who Punky kills before they are apprehended by the military group of Zil. After making supplies for Zil for 5 weeks and being given magical MacGuffin crystals that make her stronger, Punky and Yuccot decide to raid the last bastion of civilization in the world, V-City. But the instant they set foot in the city, they are captured by Lou Underwood from Raiyne’s Whimsy, who looks just like Raiyne/Abigale/Punky and has the same powers as her, because reasons.
Lou threatens to kill Yuccot, Punky surrenders to Lou, and after some deliberation, Lou decides that he has been a shitty leader and offers his powers to Punky so she can become a being with untold power. After Lou offers Punky her powers, the personalities of Raiyne Underwood, Lou Underwood, Jad Spencer, Abigale Quinlan, and Punky all blend into one deific super being, Lady Raiyne, who brings peace and prosperity to the post-apocalyptic world before her.
There are some good ideas here but… I did not know what I wanted to accomplish with the story and clearly did not spend enough time hashing out the conceptual phase and as a result… There really is nothing about Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure that I particularly enjoyed when revisiting its contents for The Saga of Vincent Dawn. Punky’s personality does not really work for a protagonist. Yuccot, despite being a grizzled old man, is not particularly interesting. And I completely botched the post-apocalyptic setting and idea of traveling the world. The literal majority of the story takes place in a military base or within an under-detailed future city
The best thing I could say about Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure is that it laid the groundwork and foundation that I would later use to develop Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan in 2018. Which, while very flawed, was an overwhelmingly better display of character writing, world-building, and story-telling in general.
This would have put an end to this makeshift trilogy, but starting on January 1, 2014, I began the process of editing Raiyne’s Whimsy, My Life As Abigale Quinlan, and Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure, with the ultimate goal of publishing the story via Amazon as an eBook known as The Body of Raiyne, a trilogy of novellas that, when put together, almost resembled a three-act novel. Throughout this process, I also wrote a lot of extra side stories for this novel, but I ultimately decided against including them in the final product, which went live on April 1st, 2014 where it retailed for the whopping price of $0.99. I later started making the novel available for free throughout the rest of the year and eventually delisted the novel in early 2015 or so. All in all, I never received any feedback on this novel, but I wound up making $17 from eBook sales, which… I actually feel pretty shitty about, because The Body of Raiyne was just… bad.
My formatting was unconventional and terrible. It was horribly arranged for an eBook. And there were over a thousand mistakes throughout its 86,000 words of writing. Nobody should have paid any money for it, and I’m just glad that I only asked for a dollar.
…Also, if you want to know my deadname, just look up “The Body of Raiyne” on Google. I would get upset about that but… I’m 3.5 years into presenting myself as female full-time. I really don’t give a shit if you know my former legal name. If anybody knowingly or willingly refers to me by that name, all they’re doing is showing that they’re a shitty person who does not respect others.
Volume 06: Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure
While I was editing and preparing The Body of Raiyne for its final release, I was also doing some creative outlining and planning for my next story, dubbed Project Valkyrie. Concept work on this story began in December 2013, and while I had a lot of vague or general ideas for the story, I struggled to develop this project into a story.
Looking over my ancient Google Doc notes, what I originally wanted Project Valkyrie to be was basically a ‘Transgender Wish Fulfillment’ story following an awkward and nerdy male-bodied character whose life is turned upside down when they encounter Urabe, a super-powered fighting robot from a distant galaxy with the goal of protecting Earth from some alien menace and, for some reason, she needs Terrance’s help with this matter, forcing the two to share a single body.
With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that what I was actually trying to do was write a version of Birdy The Mighty where the protagonist is transgender. And while that is a WONDERFUL place to start a story, I really could not fully commit myself to that idea due to… personal issues. From 2008 to early 2015, I was an egg. I was a transwoman who desperately tried to convince herself that she was not a transwoman, that she could not possibly be trans, and regularly affirmed that she was male. Despite the fact that I hated most male parts of my body, enjoyed dressing in my sister’s and mother’s clothes before I stopped out of fear, and was obsessed with the idea of something male becoming female.
Because I had this mental block, because I had this dense shell around my mind, I was never able to acknowledge what story I wanted to tell, or fully get behind the idea. I wanted to make a story about a dorky introverted boy becoming a superheroine and loving everything about her new life, but was… embarrassed about the idea. I was both embarrassed and obsessed with this idea, so I began tweaking it. I reworked it 8 times until I finally settled on something that was… not a transgender wish fulfillment story.
I turned Project Valkyrie into Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure, a story that I eventually pitched to myself as an inverted version of My Life As Abigale Quinlan that switched the roles of Jad Spencer and Peatrice. So instead of having the protagonist be in control of a body, in this case, Terrance Honyaku, they would be a mere spectator who was forced to observe and experience horrible acts of murder and mutilation.
From there… I just sort of fumbled my way through the story, realized that I lacked the capacity or willpower to tell a story about somebody going mad from trauma like this, and eventually turned the story into a wish fulfillment narrative in the end, albeit in an incredibly awkward and clunky way. I finally wrote the story throughout April 2014. The end result was 23,000 words, and… I guess I should offer a synopsis.
Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure is a story about a gifted, wealthy, and ‘kinda fucked up’ child by the name of Terrance Honyaku, whose life is flipped turned upside down when his body is stolen and transformed into a vessel for Urabe. An alien robot enslaved by Vincent Dawn and sent to Earth to fulfill a mission, but to do said mission she needed to steal and transform a body, in this case Terrance’s. Terrance spends the first 75% of the story trapped in Urabe’s body as she goes about her mission, which is to go to the seedy underbelly of his hometown, Oransen, Illinois, in order to kill aliens who are trying to procreate using human bodies. As Terrance is subjected to the act of murder, feeling and seeing everything Urabe does, he gets increasingly unhinged.
After going through 5 of the 7 proposed murders, Urabe blocks Terrance’s consciousness out, and when Terrance wakes up, he finds himself in control of Urabe’s body, with no way to become human again. After a few hours of wallowing in despair, Terrance’s mother takes Terrance out on a clothes shopping trip, where Terrance has a vision where he meets with Urabe.
Urabe then tells Terrance that they’re transgender, that this is actually something that she wanted for years, and gives her the new name of Terra. Afterward, Terra’s mom confesses that she knew Terra was trans for a while, helped Urabe with this process, and tells Terra that she will be meeting— oh my god, this is so stupid— that she will be meeting a group of friends that Urabe made on Terra’s behalf. Terra then returns home, meets her new friends, hits things off with them, and Terra, a notorious introvert, then goes on a road trip across America with her new friends, ending the story.
With Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure, I wanted to do a lot of things, but I was too much of an indecisive edgy-eggy-ass-fuck to commit to any of them. This resulted in a messy, sloppy, and just overall… bad story. The storyline was fundamentally boring. Character introductions were handled terribly. The characters were not fun people to be around or hang out with as they go on their journey. There was far too much exposition considering how simple the story was. And… there are so many surgical scars over this husk of a creation. Things were omitted, things were patched at the last minute, and the story is both overly simple and overly complex in exactly the wrong ways!
Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure is a HORRIBLE novella, no ifs, ands, or buts. It sucks. I hate it. And there is nothing that I learned from this story other than a list of ‘do nots.’
Terrance/Terra was an overwritten and underdeveloped character who I did not accurately represent as a trans person. And while I do not consider them to be a self-insert character, they have every bad trapping of a self-insert. They are incredibly talented, have such a sad backstory, are super insecure, and just so happened to be chosen for something life-changing and incredible. They are an eternal reminder for me of things to avoid like the plague… or just do better.
Urabe, meanwhile, was an intergalactic murderbot enslaved by the newly introduced god figure, Vincent Dawn, and she assumes the appearance of an anime girl, specifically one resembling the main heroine from Mysterious Girlfriend X, because I thought she was cute. However, her actual character was… just bad. She is a trained killer who is desensitized to the art of murder, but later reveals that she was just putting up a front, and acting like an asshole to push Terra into being a better person. And for her voice… I wanted to experiment with my writing, to try and write a character with an exaggerated accent, and I wound up making Urabe, this Japanese schoolgirl android, speak in a… particular accent.
I called it jive, southern, and other terms while writing it, but upon re-reading her dialogue, it’s painfully obvious that she is taking in some ignorant honky-ass-cracker’s approximation of how black people talk. It’s African-American Vernacular English, it’s ebonics, and it’s cringe as fuck.
“So, I take it ya ain’t one of them teens who norm-ly mastah-bates to this kinda shit? So what do ya like to wiggle yer penis at when it gets erect? You gay, got a wackadoo fetish or somethin’?”
“Let’s just say that I wanna make it through this whole shebang without makin’ any basic murders? This job gets dull an’ I saw a point where I could get a little bit more of that spark. ‘Sides, didn’t like the look of that guy an’ I kinda like Punchin’ people. Or are ya just pissy that I din’t take off my shirt when I put this one on?”
“Lookie here, Terry. I have been gettin’ bloody hands fer ‘bout as long as yer recorded history. Ya think I would hate or love anythin’ after that long?”
“Norm’ly is a pretty good way to spin it. Heat, weapons, impact, none of that bothers me all too much. These EMP thing ya got would mess my head a bit, but nothin’ is gonna put me down, so don’t worry the pretty little head I put ya in.”
Her dialogue alone makes Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure a borderline unreadable story, and… I never want to talk about it again.
Oh, but somehow, somehow, it got worse. We’re deep in the sewers now, but we ain’t even seen the REAL shit!
Volume 07: Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse
Even though I openly recognized Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure as a bad story after I finished it, I was committed to using it to tell a bigger and greater story. I should have cut my losses, ended this then and there, and moved onto another idea. But instead, I decided to move on with my next idea for a sequel that gradually morphed into Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse. Production on the novella lasted from May to June 2014 and the end product had a word count in the range of 25,000. However, I do not remember much about the production of this novella, and my notes are rather limited.
This leads me to believe that I did little to no pre-production on this novella and… that would add up pretty nicely. As far as I can recall, the impetus for Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse was that I wanted to write a story where Terra, using her space-grade robot body, helps usher in a bold new future for humanity, and becomes “the world’s number one waifu” in the process. But then she disappears from the world for several years after being kidnapped by an alien who uses her body to enslave the world… but winds up turning everybody into a cute girl instead. I had this idea, thought it was enough, and started writing.
You might read that loose premise and say, “Bitch, that ain’t no fuckin’ story! You got any meat in between ya ears, or it is all just spunk ‘n’ bullshit?” To which I say, thou art correct, good sire. What I described is not the basis for a story, but I used it as one anyway and… boy, it really shows considering how barren this novella wound up being.
The story begins with Terra, in low power mode, waking up in a field somewhere and gradually walking to a roadside diner. At the diner, she learns that she has been incapacitated for nearly 20 years, that the global power and communications grid has been down for a few days, and that every human being on Earth has become a Huymin. Which is code for an eternally young cute 20-something girl with enhanced physical and mental prowess and also the ability to grow a dick for procreation or masturbation purposes.
Recognizing a SNAFU (Situation Normal: All Fucked Up) when she encounters one, Terra realizes that she needs to go to Oransen, IL to figure out what the hell is going on in this world. However, she can only get there with the aid of a crass truck driver named Yuccot Kikansky, and she also decides to bring along an orphan by the name of Arjeanne, because why not. The three then drive to Oransen, bicker a bunch, and then Terra learns that some alien named Gregg Vava Darn imprisoned her for the past 20 years and tried to take over humanity all the while. Terra, pissed, goes to Gregg’s spaceship and beats him to a pulp before letting the cops take him to future jail.
Terra then makes the world a better place and also realizes that everybody she loved either died or went crazy. But that’s okay, because she now has an adopted daughter in the form of Arjeanne. Das Ende!
The problem with Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse is that it is not a story where things happen. Instead, it is a story where people talk about things that happened. 80% of the story takes place in either a diner or a truck, and it’s… boring. Really, really boring. The characters talk about concepts that could be shaped and worked into an interesting narrative, but nobody does anything interesting, and what could be a conflict is instead hand waved away and taken off-screen. There are some good ideas here, but a good idea ain’t worth shit. …Unless you patent it and get lucky.
I did not plan enough, I did not try hard enough, and in the end, I was content with putting out garbage. Well… that’s not entirely true. I knew this story was crap when I was writing it and had enough sense to not even attempt writing a direct sequel to it. Instead, I looked over what I accomplished with these two novellas and decided that I did not want to continue what I built here. I wanted to destroy it. I wanted to fuck it up! I wanted to break it into a thousand pieces with my cold hard cock! I hated what I forged, and I wanted to end it in an inglorious fashion by abusing the ever-loving fuck out of its titular protagonist and pursue a vile and guttural idea I had been stewing on for months at that point.
So I added an epilogue piece to Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse and quickly got to work on a wildly different and far better sequel. A sequel known as Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR).
Volume 08: Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR)
Back when I was toying around with the myriad preliminary ideas for Project Valkyrie, I was also working on a joke project that I gave a couple of different names. Psycho Breaker, Psycho Ravager, Psycho Boomer, 95YcH0_Sh4tte!?, and finally Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR). And as the name changed, so too did the fine details, but the core of the project was always similar to its final form.
The project always centered around a male cannibal rapist who became mentally retarded and needed to be cared for by one, or several caretakers. The story proper would be kicked off when this lovely protagonist switches bodies with one of his caretakers, before immediately taking advantage of his non-retarded brain and murdering their old body by baking it alive in an oven. From there, the story would follow the protagonist as they go about making the most of their second chance at life, engaging in a litany of vile or despicable activities.
…I probably should explain where this idea came from.
When I was in elementary school, my school was well aware that I had Asperger’s Syndrome (which was later reclassified to Autism Spectrum Disorder), but they did not necessarily understand what my intellectual needs were so they would, for some reason, send me to spend an hour or two with the ‘special needs’ class at my school. This marked my first exposure to people with what I call severe intellectual disabilities, such as Down’s Syndrome, and… I hated being around those people. They were loud, smelled terrible, had physical features that I did not understand, and despite being ‘nice’ they were overall unpleasant and uncomfortable to be around.
As a 10-year-old child, I would often ask myself why people like that were permitted to live. Why would their parents and caretakers dedicate their lives to ensuring the happiness of these children who lacked the capacity to be productive members of society. In my mind, these people were on a lower plane of existence, something closer to an animal than a human, and I thought that my school should kill these ‘sub-human’ children and feed their cooked flesh to the ‘normal’ children. This idea led to an image that is forever ingrained in a dark corner of my mind. The image of a naked 170 centimeter tall 100 kilogram 10-year-old laying on a giant silver platter, his body charred a tender brown, his eyes plucked out of their sockets, and an apple shoved into his mouth.
I wanted to write a story where I could bring this problematic-as-fuck and embarrassing-as-shit childhood ‘fantasy’ to life, and I also wanted to write a story with a body swapping murderer and rapist because… I don’t know, I probably read a story like that somewhere and thought it was a good idea. And you know what? It was.
Production on Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR) persisted throughout July 2014 and I wound up with a 23,000 word story. The story followed a Terra from Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse, but with her memories and identity repressed and within the body of Terrance Orokanuma, a kind boy who Vincent Dawn transformed into a murderer and rapist, before dimming their intellect into retardation. Now in an isolated personal care facility (a house in a rural area), Terrance finds himself miraculously capable of escaping his prison and as he attempts to flee, he switches bodies with his caretaker, Jessie Shines. Elated by his clear mind Terrance, or rather T-Bird, decides to make the most of this opportunity, while indulging in her dark desires, first by baking her old body and then by murdering Jessie’s friend Juniper.
As T-Bird goes about murdering, steadily discovering she has “Psycho Powers” in the process, a young girl by the name of Abi-chan stumbles into the house and is recruited by some transdimensional entity named Peatrice who, after killing a cop, embeds Abi-chan with the power needed to combat T-Bird. After ranting, cannibal cunnilingus, and starting forest fires, T-Bird encounters Abi-chan and they do battle. T-Bird wakes up after the encounter, now in Abi-chan’s adult body, and still has both her psychotic tendencies and “Psycho Powers.” But before she can exert them on the world, Vincent Dawn ends the Scenario.
It was ultimately a simple story but… it hits all the right notes for me. The story gets things going right away. Despite being my first crack at a multi-perspective story, I think it was well balanced and easy to follow in a broader sense. And it manages to be weird and uncomfortable, without being obtuse or pretentious with its goals. There are points of contention, such as how basic or archetypical certain characters are. Or how the mythology is underdeveloped and reads like the writer only thought about it for 15 minutes before deciding it was good enough (which is 100% true, because the story was not about where these powers came from).
I still like this story quite a bit, and I even went back to it in August 2016, fixing up many of its innumerous errors and creating a novella dubbed Psycho Shatter Re;Masturbated. Or to use its more stylized title: 95YcH0_Sh4πəR_Яë;M@$TürB8’D. However, I never released this work to the public and never plan to. Because despite all of my edits, I could not get around the biggest problem with this novella. Its narrator, Vincent Dawn.
I previously experimented with a mostly impartial narrator in Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure, but with Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR), I wanted to have a narrator with more personality, and what I came up with was a character even more psychotic and deplorable than the protagonist, who was constantly cracking these bad, overly edgy, and demeaning jokes. Vincent Dawn, as a narrator, was easily the worst thing about this novella, and no amount of light editing could make that better.
Anyhow, once I completed this novella, I began editing and compiling it, along with Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure and Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse as The Transformation, Ascension, and Degeneration of Terra. This process lasted throughout August and I released the title on September 11th, 2014. Because I was an edgy 19-year-old, and I thought the novel was a disaster… which it was. A scattering of good concepts and a few good moments drowned out under a gargantuan amount of bullcrap.
I like to lump Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure and Return of Mighty Terra: 2052 – The DNApocalypse together as “The Two Terrible Tales of Terra,” because they just do not work as stories, and Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR) is little more than an half apology to anybody who read this story in full… and I don’t think anyone ever did. I never actually posted The Transformation, Ascension, and Degeneration of Terra on Natalie.TF, nor did I try to sell it. Instead, I made the Google Doc link publicly available, and I do not have records of anybody viewing my documents. So, while I am not entirely sure, there is a chance that nobody actually read the two worst stories I have ever written, and will ever write!
Before moving on, I should also mention that I did remake Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR) in 2019 as Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth, but I will talk about that novel in its own Ramble, eventually. For now, let’s move onto the final novella I need to revisit.
Volume 09: A Vile Doohickey
While I was editing The Transformation, Ascension, and Degeneration of Terra, I was already deep into production on my next story project, A Forlorn Fantasy, which I worked on until September 2014.
A Forlorn Fantasy was an isekai possession story that saw a prototypical Jad Novus get transplanted to an alternate world where humans have access to magical power and, in addition to modern technology, the world also has fantastical elements. However, instead of possessing a powerful magic user, Jad instead possesses a “Defective,” a person who cannot use magic, known as Minerva Hemming. As a Defective, Minerva is at the bottom rung of society and does the hardest dirtiest jobs that nobody else wants to do. And seeing as how Jad is in her body, he now needs to go to her job and struggle to do everything she does in a day.
I only got through the early morning phases of the story across no less than 4 distinct attempts, but the rest of the story would have seen Jad struggle to keep up with the tasks he must perform in his new life, and makes a mess of Minerva’s life throughout the day. Minerva, who was to be a very rude and unempathetic individual, would drive Jad into a deep depression over the course of this day, inspiring him to trespass on a beach instead of going home for the night. All before a knight riding a giant bird kills Jad for trespassing on city property.
As a creator, I wanted A Forlorn Fantasy to fulfill three purposes. To further experiment with the ‘two minds one body’ concept I previously dabbled with in My Life As Abigale Quinlan and Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure. To try my hand at creating and designing a world where fantasy mingled with the architecture and tone of a modern city. Or more specifically, downtown Chicago, where I worked from June 2014 to August 2016. And to kick off a new series of stories that I wanted to develop and expand.
This new series would see Verde Dusk, a reformed and kinder incarnation of Vincent Dawn, take my new go-to protagonist, Jad Novus, and transport him to different worlds before taking him back to her lair so he could recount what happened to her. This was a very… unnecessary framing device that I was obsessed with for quite some time and one that I would carry over into A Vile Doohickey, Verde’s Doohickey, and The Malice of Abigale Quinlan. Much to the detriment of… all of those stories. Because while a framing device might seem like a good idea to contextualize things, you should only use it if you are completely and absolutely certain that it will make for a better story. Anyway, let’s talk about a story that I actually finished.
A Vile Doohickey began development in October 2014 and was released on December 21, 2014, as a 35,000 word novella. The core driving force behind this novella was that I wanted to write a story about a group of friends who find a body swap remote, use it, and have a generally fun time exploring the differences between each other’s bodies. Core inspirations for this were various Fictionmania and interactive Writing.com stories, but the chief inspiration that spurred me to develop this story was none other than Press-Switch. A TSF visual novel that I have talked about extensively in the past and one of my favorite things of all time.
While I loved Press-Switch v0.3b, the latest release at the time, it was also a very dark and rather mean story where characters were abused, raped, and overall tormented across its various routes. And while I was, and still am, a lover of darker subject matter, I was in the mood to write something happier and more uplifting. A story about a bunch of friends enjoying themselves and relishing in the joys of exploring what it is like to be something else.
I recycled and updated the characters of Maxxie Flare and Zoe Xing from my earlier stories. I Introduced a female character based on Chihiro Fujisaki and Chiaki Nanami from the Danganronpa series, Shiaka Kurokawa. And I arranged their personalities to gel with one another nicely, so that characters could disagree and argue, but would still be recognizable as friends.
I wrote out a loose outline of things that these characters could do, both showing their friendship and exploring bodily minutiae that I seldom saw detailed in body swap media. But as I reached what I felt was the halfway point of this story, I ran into an issue. This story had no real conflict. I originally dabbled with the idea of just making the story a chill and relaxed time where the characters’ ultimate goal was just to enjoy themselves, but I simply could not get invested in that concept, so I decided to introduce an overt conflict into this story… a bad one.
With a body swap remote, there are… several ways you can introduce conflict into a story, but because I did not want the characters to break, lose, or misuse the remote, my options were a touch more limited. The ‘best’ I could come up with at the time was ‘these characters should use the remote to frame a domestic abuser for their unreported crimes.’ So I did that and… it sucked. It was dumb, it distracted from the body swap angle, and even as I wrote this story I realized that this was not working as intended and that I was making the story ‘weird’ but in a bad way. Now that I’ve gone through the inspiration and creative process, let’s go over the story synopsis.
A Vile Doohickey begins with the needless framing of Jad Novus and Verde Dusk before things flashback to Jad as he finds a body swap remote on his doorstep and proceeds to switch bodies with his friends, granting them an interesting afternoon filled with lighthearted play time, and also masturbation. However, come evening, Jad’s mother comes home, learns of the remote, and recruits Jad and company to get her abusive criminal husband, Bryce Novus, sentenced to prison. Bryce comes home after a hasty plan is set up, things do not go well, but the police take Bryce away and send Jad and company in for questioning.
Jad reveals the body swap remote to detective Raiyne Underwood, but she recognizes nothing good can come from the US government seizing a body swap remote, so she lets Jad and company keep it. A week later, everything is fine with the group, and the story ends with Jad and his best friend, Maxxie, having body swapped shower sex during a weekend sleepover. Das Ende.
A Vile Doohickey is not a good novella. The latter half was bad, the framing device was bad, and while there was a kernel of goodness there, I knew it was not a steady foundation to build anything off of and, after taking a break from writing over Christmas vacation, I decided that I would not continue A Vile Doohickey with a sequel, but rather with a complete do-over of the concept that kept the basic premise and characters, but changed everything else around. This became Verde’s Doohickey and… it was better. It was not very good, I would say it was a 5/10, but a 5/10 is better than A Vile Doohickey, which is… like a 3.5/10 at best?
Also, for those curious as to why the character sprites in the header image associated with this story look so different, the answer is simple. I first attempted sprite art back in 2014 with this novella, as I wanted to create my own cover. Instead of modernizing or remaking the original sprites, I decided to recycle them from the original cover of A Vile Doohickey:
Volume 10: The Birth of Saga
…So, why the hell did I decide to write The Saga of Vincent Dawn? Why did I want to revisit these older stories that I openly acknowledge as being bad? Why did I want to preserve these ideas or concepts instead of simply building upon them? Why did I want to reframe them around a greater narrative when nobody gives a shit about my convoluted narratives?
Because these stories are something I can call my own, and they mean a lot to me. They are something I put myself into, represent me as a person to an extent, and even if they are all bad, I’m still glad that I made them. I still like the ideas I came up with and the characters I created. And while it might be better or healthier to just ignore them, to move onto something new, I… don’t want to.
When I wrote Raiyne’s Whimsy, I recall telling myself that a creator should never devote their entire life to telling a single story, to building upon a single universe, a single cast of characters. I thought continuity was the creative death knell because, eventually, the story will become about continuity. About fixing and preserving the continuity. About reestablishing and remixing the continuity.
I wondered how anybody could fall into this obsessive rabbit hole of clinging onto the past and trying to preserve everything, even the shit best left forgotten… but then I spent 4 years writing stories in a collective universe. And even after I tried to end the universe with The Malice of Abigale Quinlan because of how fucked up and confusing things had gotten… I could not throw it away. Instead, I wanted to take what I created, preserve the core and the concept, and make it better. I refused to let a project that I put so much time and effort into fade away into nothingness and I wanted my work to be complete. I wanted to finish what I started.
And to do that, I had to take these nine stories and repackage them in some way. Direct remakes were one incredibly time-consuming approach, so instead, I decided to summarize these stories, retain the core, and focus on a layer of these 9 stories that I never explored fully before. I wanted to explore them from the perspective of Vincent Dawn.
When I was writing Terrance & Urabe’s Alien Assassination Adventure, I came up with the idea of a deific figure who controlled the collected universe of my stories. A God who could craft universes and the person responsible for my first 8 novellas. I developed and refined this character into a full-on megalomaniac who used the world as their plaything all the way until the epilogue to Psycho Shatter (95YcH0_Sh4πeR), when I had Vincent Dawn become aware of their transgressions and begin to reflect on themselves. Then, in the epilogue to A Vile Doohickey, I established that the newly introduced Verde Dusk was the successor to Vincent Dawn, and implied that they were one in the same. I heavily revised the explanation in Verde’s Doohickey, but the sentiment was there as well.
In my mind, there was always a story of how Vincent Dawn came to be and where Verde Dusk came from. And throughout 2016, 2017, and 2018, while I was working steadily but slowly on Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan, I was planning out this story. Planning out a story that I felt only I could tell. Planning out the story of a young child by the name of Danny Verres. An abused child who would die and be reborn as a God. A God who fucked up. A God who abused those they loved. A God who would die and be reborn again and again.
A God who, despite their title and might, was entirely and fundamentally… human.
Volume 11: Danny, Vincent, and Verde – My Sweet Selves
The concept of a self-insert is often seen as a gauche or lazy concept used by young writers who are more interested in fulfilling a personal fantasy than creating a unique story, but I disagree with that notion. The foundation of character writing is understanding who a character is. To be able to view the world from their perspective, give them a personality through dialogue and actions, and make them feel like a person. The best starting point for this is either to use somebody you know on a personal level. A Close friend, a family member, or, as is most often the case, themselves.
In Natalie Rambles About Verde’s Doohickey, I explained that I took a part of myself as the basis for every major character in Verde’s Doohickey, and I took the same approach when creating the character of Danny Verres as the impetus for the characters Vincent Dawn and Verde Dusk. This probably does not make sense when you consider that their story is one of being abuse, abusing others, losing loved ones, suicide, and struggling to express themselves. Meanwhile, my life’s story is one of a child who was born amidst the finest linens and cutlery that you can imagine.
I don’t have any major physical disabilities. I grew up in a comfortable middle-class household. I have never had any significant debt. Because I’m autistic, the state of Illinois funded my education. I did very well in school, earning at least a 3.5 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) from seventh grade onward. I have a Master’s degree in Accounting. I have never worked a job I hated. I pay $300 a month to live with my parents. Despite being 26-years-old, I make $50,000 a year working part-time. I’m white. And even though I’m transgender, I have never been discriminated against, harassed, or had any truly negative experience with bigoted people.
However, I also have vivid memories of being forced to see social workers so they could figure out what was wrong with me. Struggling to communicate in school and going on temper tantrums. At age 14, bringing a serrated knife into my parents’ bedroom with the intention of killing them and then killing myself. I led a privileged life, but I do have some hefty mental baggage, a history of bashing my head against brick walls, and I generally do not like myself.
Throughout various stages of my life, I thought I did not deserve to live, thought that I deserved to be abused, and thought that nobody should care about me, because I was a fundamentally bad person. Even to this day, I sometimes fall into ruts where I think about this, and I have made hundreds of jokes about this tendency of mine over the years. Within me, there is this desire to be abused and this fleeting fantasy that my parents should not have loved me, that they should not have treated me as a person, and they should not have nourished me with love and attention.
I will never be a parent, and part of the reason why I am certain of this is that I do not believe I have the capacity to truly and deeply love another person, and I do not understand what exactly it is that makes a parent love a misbehaving child. I do not understand why they would tolerate them and nourish them when… they don’t have to. They do not need to talk to them, let them out of their bedrooms, or treat them as anything more than a pet they need to feed, clothe, shelter, and shove off to school.
This concept of abuse through neglect and a child who represents an extreme rendition of all my vices inspired me to create The Saga of Vincent Dawn, starting with the story of Danny Verres. In 2017, I wrote the initial draft of the first two chapters of the story, as I felt this was something I needed to bring into writing, but as I soon realized, the story I was writing had to be something more than just the story of an abused child. It had to be a story that foreshadowed later continuity. It had to be the story of a child who had nothing, found something, and then lost it again. Only then would he understand how little he had. Only then could he suffer from the hole inside his heart.
The character of Danny Verres was a new creation for The Saga of Vincent Dawn, and in order for the story to function as intended, he needed to transform into both Vincent Dawn and Verde Dusk, both of whom I treat as different persons, ones who succeed and replace each other. This approach might seem a bit confusing, or even cheap, but I do have an in-universe justification. As a person with deific powers, Danny has the ability to change who he is on a fundamental level, and considering how much self-loathing he had developed over the years, it makes sense for his character to choose to become a better version of themself. Though, ‘better’ might not be the best word to describe Vincent Dawn.
In The Transformation, Ascension, and Degeneration of Terra, I established Vincent Dawn as this rancid megalomaniac, this psychotic bastard who would gleefully torment people for his own amusement, but the repressed capacity for empathy, the ability to treat others well. I took this as the base for Vincent Dawn and tried to flesh him out into more of a person and less of this malicious caricature. To show that despite his vile tendencies seen in some spots and disregard for others, he is ultimately just a person who likes to hang out with his best friend, Abigale Quinlan, and get creative. He is only bitter and cruel when he feels insulted or challenged, when his rampant insecurities are shown, and when his humanity is shoved in his face.
My inspiration for him was… myself. I was an edgy teenager (and I still am in my heart), and I imagined this is the type of person I would have been if, at age 15 or so, I was given the power of a God. I would chill, play video games, watch anime, and fuck around with my powers, tormenting others like a cruel God, while also trying to create something with my immense might. Vincent Dawn is a fundamentally adolescent character… because he is an adolescent, and one who only realizes the power of his actions when he needs to face the consequences… which sends Mr. Dawn down the road of Dusk.
In writing Danny Verres, I made it very clear how much of a body swap and TSF fan they were. This was included to provide an in-universe justification for why so many of the Scenarios have TSF themes or elements, but also plant the seeds that Danny might not be happy with their male life. As, even as a child, they were writing malicious wish fulfillment body theft stories. I used this as the primary hint that Danny might be trans, and some… might take umbrage with that. I thought about including more hints, but as a child, Danny was not truly afforded… the luxury of expressing their gender. His haircuts, clothing, and so forth were all regimented by his parents and as a social outcast, he never was strictly treated as a boy or as male. He was treated as a freak and a weirdo above all else.
Verde Dusk meanwhile… God, this woman was such a mess for me to wrap my head around. I went through a lot of different ideas as to what she should be as a character, mostly because I initially wrote her from late 2014 to early 2016, which was the peak era for my gender dysphoria. When I introduced Verde in A Vile Doohickey, I did so without a clear idea of who she was as a person and what her goals were. I reworked her in Verde’s Doohickey, retconning away any continuity errors as “quirks and lies,” but I did not have a truly full idea of who she was as a person until I wrote her origin in The Saga of Vincent Dawn. I have since edited Verde’s Doohickey and The Malice of Abigale Quinlan to make her character more consistent, but that’s still a 4+ year journey when it comes to figuring out who this lady was.
So, who is Verde Dusk? She is someone who abused people and wants to do better. Somebody who dislikes who she was in the past, wants to ignore it, and wants to be a kinder and better person. She is someone seeking to validate and prove herself and wishes to do so by using her powers to help someone she shares a close fondness with. She is someone who wants friends, she wants to enrich lives, and she believes that by doing so, she will be able to forget about her past mistakes and will be reborn as a new person.
However, despite trying so hard to do something new, despite trying to position herself as a divine being before someone else, she is still deeply human and lacks the bravado and superiority she felt as Vincent Dawn. She is a far more vulnerable and sensitive person. She is, for all intents and purposes, the person someone like Danny would likely grow up to be if they had been nurtured by a loving family. A kindhearted young woman who occasionally undergoes emotional breakdowns and chides herself for making minor mistakes as, when dealing with something serious, even minor mistakes can have drastic consequences.
Gee, who does that remind me of? Oh, that’s right. Natalie Neumann.
There are four things I love in this world. Creating things via writing, whether it be an essay, review, or story. Playing video games. Talking to people who like me and like what I do. And doing more technical or mechanical work that helps people, which is basically what I do as part of my accounting job.
What does Verde love in this world? Creating her own Scenarios. Playing games and watching anime with her wife. And developing close intimate relationships with people so she can help them.
The biggest difference between Verde and me is that I am a selfish little bitch who does not want to share a romantic relationship with anyone, and I never actually killed myself. I just think about it a lot.
Anyway, I guess the whole point of this segment is meant to indicate that the lifelong journey of Verde Dusk is something I put a lot of myself into. And… well, I don’t want to spoil anything for my next novel, but the lines between Verde and myself only get slimmer and slimmer.
Volume 12: The Two Bonds of Humanity
The Saga of Vincent Dawn needed to do three things. Tell the story of Danny Verres, Vincent Dawn, and Verde Dusk. Recount the events of my first nine novellas in great detail. And make a unifying framing narrative that made sense. I already talked about the first two components, now let’s talk about number three, taking these ideas and fashioning them into something whole and understandable.
Now, most of what I did was playing things by ear, fashioning up whatever justification I could think of as I was writing the summary component of a chapter. but even after I established Danny/Vincent/Verde and their core story, I needed to explain a lot about how they were in a position where they could, reasonably, think of the Scenarios they supposedly made.
I needed to explain how they came to like video games and anime, both of which are routinely referenced in basically all of my work, because I’m trash. I needed them to get regular internet access so they would not be a contemporary Luddite. I needed a lot of things to make this story work, and the heavy-duty duct tape solution that I came up with for this issue was to introduce the characters of Terrance Tanaka and Claire Williams. Two characters with no singular inspiration from my personal life, but two characters who needed to be part of the story, or else it would not work.
Terrance Tanaka needed to be part of this story to explain and contextualize The Transformation, Ascension, and Degeneration of Terra as something of some significance, and because I wanted Danny to both know what friendship was like and be exposed to things like video games, anime, and so forth. For the sake of this story, and to make Terry’s eventual death all the more impactful, I wrote Terry as an ideal friend.
Someone generous, kind, understanding, and patient. Someone devoid of any malice or hatred in his heart. Someone who Danny does not necessarily envy, but admires for giving him so much both emotionally and materially. And someone who can reject Danny, as he becomes further immersed in the power of divinity, eventually spurring a reexamination of their very self.
In the context of The Saga of Vincent Dawn, their purpose is rather mechanical. As they exist to bring the protagonist joy, then disappointment, then fury, then sorrow. Because I knew this from the outset, I deliberately did not give them many characteristics and their eventual death is not meant to spur sorrow in the reader because of how they grew attached to Terry. This is something I could have done better, but as a writer, I approached this character as somebody who has been dead for 4 years in real-time, and I had no interest in developing them because they were attached to a pair of terrible novellas. I could not care about this dork, because they were intrinsically attached to bad memories.
I introduced Claire Williams in this story because I needed to provide an origin for Abigale Quinlan. A character who I have such complicated thoughts about that describing her would require its own Ramble. Her prominence in my work, and her place as Vincent Dawn’s wife, as detailed in The Transformation, Ascension, and Degeneration of Terra and A Vile Doohickey, meant she needed to have a major role in what was effectively the origin story of Vincent Dawn.
Due to Danny’s limited life outside of school, the decision to make her a teacher came naturally, and in order to inspire and make an impact on Danny, I decided that she would be an ideal teacher. Somebody kind, patient, and who loves enriching the lives of children by helping them with both personal and academic issues. However, rather than having her set out to fix Danny, I felt that her role would better fit his character if she were more of an aspirational role model. Someone who inspired Danny to improve himself.
I am overall quite happy with how Claire Williams came out, but I will openly admit there are many problematic elements to her character. While she is presented in a very positive light during Volume 01, things take a worse turn in Volume 03 and 04. After establishing his powers as a God, Danny possesses Claire’s body, masturbates without her consent, steals her body for a joyride, and after getting his fill, Danny creates a copy of Claire, a black woman, to act as his servant. But instead of simply brainwashing her into being his servant, Danny alters her both physically and mentally into his wife and waifu, Abigale Quinlan. An omniracial (but mostly black/brown) woman who is receptive to Danny’s personality, kind-natured, incredibly wise, and also willing to fuck him at the drop of a hat.
While this Abigale Quinlan is not described in too much detail, as her ultimate role in the story is that of a story, I did try to make her out to be a supportive and loving person who genuinely cares about her partner. However, I also gave the impression that she is eternally loyal to Verde and might lack free will, given how her entire role in this story is about supporting her partner. This is an oversight due to the structure of the story and how the character was defined in my mind as I wrote it, but in future appearances, I will try to give her the room necessary to express herself and show a feistier side to Verde. Because Abigale and Verde love each other on a deep enough level to call out each other’s bullshit. Seriously, if you don’t fight with your spouse about anything or share a heated argument from time to time, you should probably get a divorce.
Volume 13: Parents, Abuse, and Pigs
Speaking of bad spouses, let’s talk about Mr. and Mrs. Verres, Danny’s parents. These two characters were intentionally created without names, individual personalities, or even character designs, as from the outset I was viewing them less as people and more as… something that did not deserve such a luxury.
There are many wretched persons in this world. Murderers, pedophiles, rapists, facists, corporate mouthpieces who view perpetual growth as more important than the future of humanity decades and centuries down the line, the list goes on. However, in my mind, there is nobody worse than a child abuser.
Somebody who brought a child into this world, raised them, and then treats them as something less than human. Somebody who denies their child love, attention, or necessities. Parents have the responsibility and duty to love and nurture their child into adulthood and beyond, and if somebody does not want to make that commitment, then they should create an offspring. But if their offspring is not to their liking… then what are they to do? What if they consummate a child and instead of being met with a happy healthy baby, they are met with a disabled child who they must care for for the rest of their life? In that instance, how can a parent love the child? How do they warrant loving somebody they view as nothing more than a burden? What if they just stopped caring for this child and did the absolute bare minimum, neglecting them and urging them to not bother them with a single needless word?
This is the sort of stuff my brain thought about when I was taking paratransit to and from university, where I regularly encountered people with far greater disabilities than myself. During that time… I became at least a bit racist against disabled people, due to how inconvenienced and discomforted I was by being around them. By being in such close proximity to them, listening to them make discomforting mouth noises, throw little fits, or just exist as a person with foul body odor, unhygienic tendencies, or facial features that urged me not to look in their general direction.
After years of taking paratransit to and from university, I learned to sympathize with parents who detest their disabled offspring. And I used this understanding to write Mr. and Mrs. Verres as uncaring and distant parents. People who should have considered making use of safe-haven laws and voluntary parental rights suspension, but due to a sense of obligation and lack of knowledge, decided to continue raising their child until they had the opportunity to disown them at age 18. Except, they never had the luxury of doing this, as their abuse came back to them, and they reaped what they had sown.
Their hatred and disdain for their only child, their willingness to deprive him of love or attention, gave way to a person who was trained to not love their parents. Somebody who reflected their hate and, when presented with an opportunity to return their abuse, ended their lives. It was a cycle of hatred, but in this instance, even death did not quell the flames, and when presented with power absolute and complete, Danny tried to make his parents love him, but that did not make up for the years of abuse. So, even after killing them several times over, Danny chose to subject his parents to an abuse greater than anything they ever did to him. An eternal hellish damnation.
A damnation where… this is so DOPE, but also so stupid… Where Danny turns his parents into pigs and puts them on a planet where they fuck each other, gestate children in a matter of seconds, and then the children eat the bodies of the parents, allowing them to grow into mature adult pigs who then procreate each other. Oh, and to maximize the pain and anguish, Mr. Verres possesses a hive mind for all female pigs while Mrs. Verres possesses a hive mind for all male pigs. Yet even with the hive mind, both parents are still overwhelmed by the sensation of constant bird and death, especially as the population of pigs balloons into trillions, and covers the entire surface of the planet.
Now this part… this part actually had nothing to do with the whole parental abuse schtick, really. This was an intentionally bizarre animalistic TF fever dream that had no clear inspiration but was something I thought of while on paratransit one day in 2017. I considered removing it at various points… but I think it shows just how much Danny despised those who raised him and foreshadows how he will further abuse others through flippant use of his powers. Also, it shows that even though I am super far removed from the likes of Intertoids and Nari’s Log, I can still fall back on the ultra bizarre when it fits my fancy.
And don’t worry, I will follow up on the planet of pigs. They have been fucking and eating each other nonstop for DECADES in-universe, and they will get their resolution in a future novel.
Volume 14: Is The Saga of Vincent Dawn Good?
Is The Saga of Vincent Dawn a good novel? This is a question that I have been asking myself for about two years, and my answer is as follows: No, not really. This novel is roughly 70% recaps of other stories, 5% glue-like Aftermath sections that bridge one chapter to the next, and 25% and original story telling of how Danny became Vincent and how Vincent became Verde. It is a wildly unconventional story that was cobbled together based on projects that were worked on periodically across a 6 year span. As a story without the context of how it was created, it is not good. It is lopsided, jumbled, and unfocused.
However, as a patchwork, as somebody cobbling together a mess into something sensible, I did a great job. And I am confident in saying that. I try to be very open with my flaws and shortcomings, which is why I was so harsh to a lot of my earlier work, but I look at this gargantuan mess I was working on and cannot imagine how I could have done a better job of achieving the same objective. And my imagination is BIG! If there is one takeaway from The Saga of Vincent Dawn, it should be that I am one creative motherfucker, and if I cannot imagine something, that’s saying something!
I was trying to do a lot with The Saga of Vincent Dawn, and while it is by no means perfect, it works, it gets the job done, and for all of its bizarre shifts and turns, it tells what I consider a complex and interesting story about a child who killed themself and was reborn as a God. As a traditional story, it is overwhelming. There is so much dense and unnecessary information introduced in the summaries that I would not blame someone for just skimming over them to follow and move along with the story of Danny/Vincent/Verde. Hell, I encourage readers to do that at the top of every summary chapter.
That being said, I think I achieved every objective I had with this novel, and achieved them well. I think the summaries are detailed and comprehensive, and I think the glue-like Aftermaths functioned as intended. Or to give this novel a numerical score, I would say that… it’s a 5.5/10. Not good, not bad, a lot of interesting concepts and ideas, a lot of ambition, but not the best thing to read through.
Volume 15: The Saga Must Go On – Enter PBF 2222
The Saga of Vincent Dawn is a novel that ends not only on a cliffhanger but an open advertisement for my next novel, Psycho Bullet Festival 2222. When I republished Volume 15 of The Saga of Vincent Dawn, I had already completed a 20,000 word outline, detailing the world, characters, and a chapter-by-chapter summary of events that would happen in this novel. As of publishing this post-mortem, I am ~50% done with the initial draft of the story, and progress has been going wonderfully.
This novel will explain more about Verde’s actions at the end of The Malice of Abigale Quinlan, have her reflect on her past in a heated encounter with a familiar antagonist, and explore the relationship between Verde and Abigale in more detail. I would say more about Psycho Bullet Festival 2222, but I would rather finish that novel before I reveal too many details, and let you, my lovely and tiny audience, read it for yourself when it begins publication on February 2, 2022, and ends publication on February 22, 2022. Because not only is it a direct sequel to The Saga of Vincent Dawn, it is a sequel, both in continuity and in spirit, to… about half of the stories I talked about here.
…Okay, that’s over 15,000 words of an explanation, and I think I have covered more than enough ground to put The Saga of Vincent Dawn behind me. As always, if you have any further questions about my creative process, or any of these stories that I will not make available to the public due to how they’re all some flavor of bad, please leave a comment below.