From The Writers' Room Featuring The Witch Who Came In From the Cold

Cassandra Rose Clarke on writing The Witch Who Came In From The Cold S2E7: “Bishop Takes Queen”

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witch-s02e07Oh my god, this episode.

In my last post, I alluded to the Gordian plot that was the second half of the season, and here we are, right in the detangled thick of it. What you just read is the result of hours of outlining, reading, rereading, chatting on Google Hangout, double-checking old episodes, looking up boxing terminology, trying to hazily recall half-remembered conversations from six months ago that may or may not have actually been stress dreams, and studying the Wikipedia article for Eugene Onegin like a desperate undergrad.

The collection of middle episodes—what we called “Phase 2” in the writer’s room—was the point that really drove home for me how complicated Cold Witch had become. Spy novels are tricky, twisty things as it is, but add in two more overlapping factions so that the Cold War essentially becomes three dimensional and you’re going to be in for a challenge. Plus there were four other writers chasing after the characters as they moved through the overarching plot lines. This was the point in working on Cold Witch when I really began to understand the Butterfly Effect. You know it from that Ashton Kutcher movie, I’m sure: a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and a hurricane demolishes Houston. I’m not sure how true that maxim is in real life, but truer words have never been spoken when it comes to writing serialized novels with multiple writers. A witch sets down a glass of gin and tonic in Episode 7 and suddenly the big bad can’t possibly exist in Episode 9.

So not only was I trying to fix inconsistencies that had wormed their way into my episode because I wasn’t paying attention, I also had to ensure my one-sentence changes wouldn’t have a devastating ripple affect throughout the second half of the episode. It was a surprising amount of pressure. I’m pretty sure I know how that butterfly feels now.

Here’s the thing, though: Despite all the difficulties, writing Episode 7 was still a lot of fun. The boxing stuff and the opera stuff alone give me some fond memories of working on this episode—how often do you get to research such wildly divergent activities in one 12,000-word piece of writing? It was also great to let loose with Sasha so that he could do some old-fashioned spying of his own. In fact, the Sasha scenes in this episode are some of my favorite that I’ve written for Cold Witch. It’s so much fun to have a chance to be devious once in awhile—even if you have to worry about inadvertently causing a hurricane.

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