From the Newsguy.com - August 2000
"Every Fan's Dream"
By Ariel Penn
Melissa "Missy" Good, one of
the Net's most talented and prolific fan fiction authors, received an
opportunity that is many a fan's dream when she was tapped to write an episode
of Xena: Warrior Princess. She wrote "Legacy" set in the exotic sands of North
Africa as Xena and Gabrielle further expand their globe trotting adventures in
Season 6. This experience went so well for Melissa and the producers that they
asked her to write episode nine, "Coming Home." Well, this went so well that
they decided to make "Coming Home" the season premiere. Way to go, Melissa! I
had the opportunity to interview Melissa recently.
Were you surprised when "Coming Home" was slated to be the season opener? Didn't they plan another episode to open Season 6?
Stunned - yes, I was. Though I knew there was that potential during the synopsis process. It had to do with timing, and with the Olympics. It was a little strange, though - because I knew where "Legacy" was going to fit in while I was writing it - but with "Coming Home," I had to think about how they ended up last year, and also, find out what they had in mind for them for the original season opener, so I could fit the characterizations in more or less the right way. It's like one huge puzzle - very interesting, and definitely intriguing to work on.
Can you give us any hints as to why the Executive Producers chose this episode, which I understand was planned for later in the season, as the opener?
"Coming Home" was slated for filming as episode 9, but from the start, the discussion had been that this might be in the first part of the season, before "Legacy" even. They had a timing problem with the Olympics, since the season openers the last week of them, and they didn't want to put the original opener up against the Olympics when they might very well be preempted. So the idea was to do a smaller, lighter story that would appeal to the current fans, and perhaps gain a few new ones by offering a story they could relate to. Rob Tapert had a set of goals he wanted for the story to accomplish, and it was my job to try and design the script around those goals.
Have you been to New Zealand to watch the filming?
I'll be going down there Aug 14 through the 19th to sightsee, and get a glimpse of the filming of "Coming Home," as a matter of fact. I'm really looking forward to it. Did you know the harbor in Auckland is supposed to be the sunken cone of an extinct volcano?
Of the semi-regular characters and actors (Eve, Ares, Kevin Smith, Alison Bruce), whom were you most excited to write for?
Definitely Ares, because he's always been a favorite of mine. I had a great time with Eve, though. I had to ask them exactly who Eve was at this point, because she's been a vicious killer, then she got converted, then last I saw her, she was playing with a spider. She's a very complicated character, and the interactions between her, and Xena, and her and Gabrielle are a little complicated too. I think Eve's very much a character still in transition.
In your episodes, "Coming Home" and "Legacy," are there any major settings or locales that you are particularly interested in seeing on film?
Well, "Legacy" is set in North Africa. I've gotten some shots back from the filming, and I can't wait to see the final product. "Coming Home" is pretty much generic New Greeceland. :)
What do you think of some of the costuming for these episodes?
I love the costumes they did for "Legacy" - as far as "Coming Home" - unless something changes; they'll be in their usual garb. In one of the shots from "Legacy," you can see that the crew is all bundled up in their parkas. I was glad they put Xena and Gabrielle in nice, long Berber robes - it looked really cold out there. :) "Legacy" was filmed on location, at a spot they found north of Auckland, I think, that suitably emulated a desert. (I've got the pics up at: http://www.merwolf.com/pics2.html if you haven't seen them.
Melissa, I have some questions regarding your craft as a writer.
Since you started your writing career as a fan fiction author on the Internet, what advice can you share with those interested in pursuing this interest? Do you feel it takes a special or different set of writing skills to become an effective fan fiction writer?
I think to be any kind of writer at all, you have to love doing it. You have to just write for yourself, write things that touch your emotions. The neat thing about posting stories on the Internet, is that you can get a response from people in a very real time way - there are so many good writing lists, and beta reader lists available now, that if someone wants to immerse themselves in learning or even just writing for fun - the opportunity is there.
Have you tried any of the voice recognition software in your writing?
Yes - Dragon Systems Naturally Speaking - it works great, but the problem is, I type much faster than I talk. It was taking too long and driving me insane.
What did you learn writing wise in the transition from fan fiction to t.v. writer?
At first, I thought it was completely different. Television is all about structure - getting the bits in the right place at the right time to tell the whole story in the least possible words and motions. But once I understood that, I realized when I started actually writing the dialog and action itself, it wasn't that different at all.
I'm very impressed with how your dialogue in your fan fiction stories rings true to each character. How did you develop your skills in this area?
I was talking to someone about this the other day. We were talking about writing, and English structure, and things like that - and what I realized was that I don't write stories. I describe them - because what I'm doing is describing mental movies that are going on in my head, complete with voices, sounds, smells, and everything. So, when I write Gabrielle speaking, I'm just transcribing what I hear the character saying, and the voice is, of course, Renee O'Connor's, so the dialog can't help but sound like it was her speaking it. I hope that makes sense. :)
Thank you, Melissa.
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