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

Ian Tregillis on writing The Witch Who Came In From The Cold S2E3: “Old Game, New Players”

witch-s02e03Sequels are seductive.

When I’m wearing my novelist hat, I find it’s frequently easier to write the second and subsequent books of a series than the first. Writing books is never easy, mind you (not for me, anyway, and I kinda-sorta hate my ColdWitch teammates who do find it easy) but some books are unquestionably easier than others. Or, at least, less despair-inducing. So after I’ve spent a goodly chunk of time–and sweat, and blood–building a world in my head for the first outing in a series, it’s a great relief reaching the point when the setting and the characters are well-established and I can just, you know, get on with it.

And that has been one of the best things about jumping into the second season of The Witch Who Came In From the Cold. At this point, we know the city, we know the game, and we know the players. Well… most of them.

In contrast to all the forehead-blood I shed when building worlds and people from scratch, getting to know a new character within a known environment is a rare and painless delight. So I was determined to have as much fun as I could while introducing Edith to the sights, sounds, and smells of Bar Vodnár.  Gabe and Josh (and, of course, Jordan) know this place pretty well by now, and we know them pretty well, too. But what is Edith’s deal? And what does she think of this joint? I wanted to make her first visit as memorable as possible.

Giving the scene a soundtrack was dead simple: Max and Lindsay had the clever idea of decorating Jordan’s bar a jukebox way back in the pilot episode. That may have been a master stroke, but more about that later. (Maybe.) And, loving the Beatles as I do, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. After all, they’re a contemporary band for Gabe and company!  Surely the Fab Four would be featured in jukeboxes around the world, even behind the Iron Curtain? (As it happens, Paul McCartney announced his departure from the group just three days after the opening scene of this episode.  So if, when you read this episode, you feel it lacking in gravity, just remember that The Beatles are breaking up in the background. That’s heavy, man.)

Although, none of this solved the tricky writing problem of just what, exactly, Josh says to evoke such a reaction from Edith.  I went through several iterations, trying to find something that threaded the needle just right. I wanted to find something funny that also said a little bit about poor Josh. Banged my head on that wall for a while, I did. Comedy is hard. Really hard. It was Cassie, I believe, who wisely suggested that perhaps we never quite hear what Josh says, just references to it. A downright ingenious solution, and I leapt on it. Greedily. I’m not proud.

Sometimes the new character isn’t new at all. Sometimes you discover them hiding in the background, biding their time, waiting for the right moment to step out of the wings.

It’s fun when a previously minor character suddenly stands up and demands to play a larger role in the story. Terzian, the creepy older-than-dirt Flame baddie and Zerena’s mentor, had originally been relegated to a single flashback, just a few pages, of Season 1. But when we started planning out Season 2, we cast about for new Flame folks to bring to Prague. We knew we needed to up the ante. But how, and with whom? Fortunately for us, we’d already established somebody perfect for the job. And as a convenient bonus for us, Terzian even came pre-packaged with a relationship, of sorts, with both Gabe and Jordan….

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