Welcome back friends! Last time I know I teased something about having a new manip in the works. I believe I said something about having a seed of an idea and that I was gonna take another crack at writing it. Well I did that. And then I did a LOT more of it. I woke a sleeping giant trying to write this latest piece. It became one of THOSE projects. Those projects that aren’t done until they decide to be.
Anyway, it decided that its done! Read on for my (lengthy) director’s commentary but first, please go check out The Good Doctor, I do hope you like it!
So, right off the bat lets talk names. Last time, I mentioned that the seed of inspiration I was going to take into my third pass at writing was that the manip called to mind golden age Hollywood cinema. There’s a number of memorable hypnosis scenes from that classic, black & white era and, appropriately, a number of memorable hypnotists to go with them.
All of the names that appear in the manip were derived from three wonderful actors and the characters they portrayed:
- Gloria Holden playing the Countess Marya Zaleska in Dracula’s Daughter (1936). The tag line for the film is (I kid you not) “She gives you that WEIRD FEELING!” When I saw the movie as a younger man, with its very memorable woman-on-woman hypnosis scene, it definitely gave me that. 😉
- Gale Sondergaard as Catherine Vail in the Hope & Crosby romp Road to Rio (1947). In this flick, Sondergaard plays an evil aunt who is using her hypnotic powers to condition her niece into signing some papers so she can marry the young woman off in some way that will benefit only herself.
- Lenore Aubert as Dr Sandra Mornay in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). While the devious Dr Mornay isn’t exactly a hypnodomme, the plot does hinge on her seductive manipulation of Abbott’s character. There’s a fair amount of hypnosis that goes on too, courtesy of Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula. The scene that especially stayed with me over the years was when Dr Mornay became a bit uncooperative and Dracula entranced her and bent her to his will. It tickles my “broken domme” button just enough to still seem hot.
The names aren’t the only thing that these formative films contributed. I was also trying to bring in a period sensibility to the characters and dialog. In my mind’s eye the “acting” is very obvious and the dialog just a bit conspicuous… as was the norm in that era.
I don’t know if that comes across as intended but that’s what I was going for. Thinking about these films and the characters in them ended up being a very big part of the inspiration for the writing. Though, it was certainly an odyssey getting there.
These past couple of weeks, working on this manip has been an interesting journey. I’d really hoped to have had three new updates in three weeks. That would’ve felt like a nice achievement. So, I picked out an image that I’d come across and manipulated months ago. I figured the “hard” work was already done, all I needed to do was write a little caption to go with it.
So, monumentally naive of me.
I’d already taken two swings at writing something to go with this image, and its a lovely image incidentally. I have no idea what the original source material is but its yet another GIF I found on glorious old-tumblr. Two women on a couch, one moving in for sexy fun time the other looking vacant and tranced… at least from the neck up.
The work I’d done (months ago) involved removing the whole part of the vid where the blonde, in response to the brunette’s advances, disinterestedly gulps her wine. I fixed that so she appears to be riveted by something off-screen then wrote something short and horrible. I don’t even remember now what the substance of it was. I just remember I deleted it the following day.
I took another stab a while later. This time, under the working title “Cliche.” My approach this time was that the two women had spent an evening together drinking wine and getting horny. Kinda like in a Letters to Penthouse story. Then they get to talking about how they handle the long nights when their men folk aren’t around… just like in a Letters To Penthouse story.
Eventually, the brunette moves in for a smooch and the blonde stops her, realizing ‘Hey, this is weird. Its like we’re in a Letters To Penthouse story.” That’s when the brunette reveals none of it is really happening. They don’t even have men folk! She has the blonde (her girlfriend) in trance and is bringing a fantasy of hers to life.
The blonde, it turns out, used to read those Letters To Penthouse stories and, while finding them incredibly cheesy, she secretly kinda loved them. Her hypnotist lover, the brunette, decided it would be fun if she could star in her very own and… yadda, yadda, yadda.
It seemed clever at the time but… not to my taste. Which is weird. How do I even write something that isn’t to my taste? I shelved it and didn’t pick it up again until… a couple weeks ago when I needed something ‘quick’ and/or ‘easy’ to write on so I could unlock my imaginary “Three Manips In Three Weeks” achievement.
My only idea going in was ‘Hey its a black-and-white image, maybe the manip is like a black-and-white movie.’ That is to say, I thought maybe it was a period piece, set in the 1930s or 40s. That seed led to an idea that the story would draw inspiration from hypnosis scenes of that era. They usually involved manipulating someone into being exploited, ala Trilby, and there was always an inheritance macguffin in those old movies. I felt like I was onto something at that point.
So, armed with this new angle, I sat down and wrote over FIVE THOUSAND WORDS!
I simply could not stop writing on it. Although it didn’t start out that way.
I originally wrote a version of the main scene that was about 2,200 words or so. Then, while proofreading, I thought ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be neat to actually see the retro hypnotic device that the blonde (now called Lenore) is staring into?’
So… I began cobbling together photos to create a wall and a floor and some furniture for this posh, 1940s era room. Then, I created a fiendish hypnotic box. I took another look at the hypno-themed clock that appears in The Incredibles 2 and drew inspiration from that. I animated the spiral discs. I figured out how to make the doors appear to have carvings so you could see right through them. I hit upon the idea of animating the doors to open. I had the idea to have the smaller spiral discs orbiting the large one: originally they were spinning in place, static. I tweaked that bit of animation then went back and wrote it into the story.
Then, I decided to re-write the beginning. Originally, the story started with Lenore shouting “Gloria!” and hugging her. A real cold-open sort of intro. I liked it less every time I read it so I wanted to do something new. I moved the beginning back a few moments to when Lenore is on the front porch of Gloria’s home waiting for her to answer the door. I thought it was a better way to establish place (big mansion) and time (black and white movie era).
Then I thought ‘showing is better than telling.’ So, I went looking for images of a mansion. Then I made it look night time. Then, because I thought it would be neat, I animated a taxi cab driving past the house. I dawned on me that this could be the taxi having just dropped off Lenore. I wrote that into the story.
Then, I had the idea to have the taxi’s headlights illuminate the front of the house and reveal Lenore standing there. I wrote the bit of business where she can’t find the doorbell until the taxi’s lights pass over it because it seemed like a fun bit of minor drama to open with rather than her just standing there.
Around this time I was doing some hunting for vintage erotic photos. I thought it would be fun to include that somehow or reference it in the story. So I was hunting for all the old timey photos of nekkid ladies I could find when I stumbled across a woman named June Palmer.
She was a nude model who appeared a lot in the 1960s. She often wore short hair and had a lovely figure. But her eyes… She just wrecked me with her eyes. I haven’t been smitten with a model like that since high school. I filled a folder with dozens of her pics and decided that she was going to play the hypnodomme who was named in the story but, at that point, only revealed herself in the final paragraph.
I had this vision of a brunette (with what I thought of as a “vintage figure”) coming down a set of ornate stairs wearing a sheer, black robe and looking smoldering. Now, I had the brunette. I found the stairs, then had to figure out a way to get a sheer, black robe on her. It took a bit of doing (and a lot of Photoshopping), but I eventually had my “finale” image of Doctor Sondergaard coming down the stairs to claim her new hypnoslave. Fade to black, end of story.
However, somewhere around that point, I decided to mention that the front door had a knocker shaped like a falcon.
Mostly, that was a reference to trilby else’s story Falconry. However, I thought it would be neat to tie it into something more character oriented. So, I went looking for cultures in which falcons held some significance to get some ideas. And, I landed on Egpyt. Then, my mind exploded… with ideas.
Doctor Sondergaard, played by the lovely June Palmer dontcha know, immediately lept into my mind. I know, I know, we all wish we had a beautiful hypnodomme leaping into our minds. But I meant that figuratively you helplessly kinked pervert. 😉
I suddenly realized that she, herself, was a history buff, knew that women had ruled Egypt at various times in its history and looked to them as examples of what was wrong with the “modern” world she lived in. She was a crusader for a new world order where women ruled. I wrote some dialog for her into the end of the story. Something about “and now we will rid ourselves of the men folk and rule the world, mwuahahahaha!”
So that was it and I was done.
I was proofreading the story one day and thought it would be fun to further the idea of Gloria’s family having been patrons of Egyptian relics and art. I thought I’d find some iconography and put it on the wall behind the hypnotic device in the wide shot of the room. So, I found an image I liked and downloaded it. Then, when I went hunting in the folder where I’d saved it, I came across a vintage erotic photo I’d pulled down days earlier.
This was the end of the story! Doctor Sondergaard had conquered the members of the Women’s League that Lenore and Gloria belonged to. That was always hinted at in the end. They were all “ill” and needed to be “cured” by Doctor Sondergaard. That was always the last line of the story.
But now I had an image depicting it! Her hypnotically enslaved subjects staring up at the good doctor in awe as they lounged nude and prepared for a celebratory orgy… as one does in the situations.
So, back into photoshop I went and I removed the photo’s current (and lovely incidentally) lead model and went hunting for a suitable pic of Ms Palmer.
This is the one I selected. I thought the blank background would be easy to get rid of (it wasn’t: too close to the value of her skin) and I’d just do something with the wooden staff to get rid of it.
So, I -finally- got her masked off of the background and dropped the pic into the above group photo. Then, I stared at it and had this sudden surge of inspiration. I my mind, I saw June as a priestess standing before her subjects. I wouldn’t get rid of the staff, in fact I’d call attention to it: make it a grand prop that she was wielding.
I took another look at the room where the group photo is set. I zeroed in on the background. The curtains and the bit of carving above them. For whatever reason, it struck me as fitting. Almost like what I imagine the inner sanctum of a Freemason’s Lodge must look like. I thought ‘Hey that’s a neat idea:’ this scene could be something like a mason initiation ritual. It would make sense to carry a staff for something like that. Theatricality and so forth. I think they even get naked for that. Or at least the initiate does. At least in movies.
I thought, ‘Okay, so the Women’s League that Doctor Sondergaard took over sort of turned into a women’s version of the Freemasons. Except sexy. A sexy new world or-‘ the thought got about that far in my head when I did a (figurative) spit take and realized that’s -exactly- what I’d been nibbling around the edges of in all these recent story and image tweaks.
The words “new world order” (to me) are synonymous with the Freemasons and all the conspiracy talk surrounding their members and activities. Doctor Sondergaard would create an anti-Freemasons. She would transform the Sunday brunch Women’s League into an arcane, quasi-religious, secret society bent on infiltrating the world of man and subverting it to her own ideals.
A female led counter-point that would draw upon ancient ritual and religious iconography… from Egypt! I realized that that’s how Sondergaard chose Gloria first. She knew about Gloria because of her family’s association with Egyptology. Once she’d enslaved Gloria, of course she’d pillage her relic collection to redecorate the lodge hall with furnishings better suited to her organization’s new identity.
I realized that I should write an epilogue. A coda scene where we’d see some of these ideas put in place. I wrote a line where the story came full circle and Lenore was using the Falcon door knocker from earlier, except now it was adorning the inner sanctum of their hall.
She and Gloria entered and… I didn’t know what came next. Should they walk in? Should they crawl? I thought it would be a neat bit of backstory if initiates crawled in but, after they’d been enslaved, they walked out. Nice bit of irony I thought.
Then, it dawned on me… why not show that? Why not have the coda scene depict another enslavement. This time from within the walls of “The Sororal Order of Her Illumination.” It would be a member of the original orginzation. The last woman who had, thus far, escaped being brainwashed by the cult her old school Women’s League had become.
I wrote a few drafts until I had something I liked and that seemed to keep the pace moving. I figured out that I wanted this character to be more than just the last member of the old vanguard that was now being turned. I wanted her to represent Sondergaard’s larger goal of remaking the world. I added an ominous-sounding line “Welcome to slavery… Madam Governor.”
That seemed to fit the bill. Sondergaard is going to enslave a politician and start pulling the strings behind the scenes in the halls of power. And, of course, it would make sense that a member of a wealthy Women’s League would be the sort that would run for office. I liked how tidy these ideas seemed. It felt like they reinforced each other nicely.
I proofread everything again. Fearful this time because every time I’d done that prior I’d somehow talked myself into writing another 500 words or undertaking a whole new image to Photoshop.
I had this throw away line about the Doctor having a bigger version of the hypnotic device that appears during Lenore’s brainwashing. I thought it would be great to see that but too much work to do this late in the project. I kept reading. I got to the epilogue in the inner sanctum. I saw the group photo… with the curtains in the background. I realized that the Doctor’s bigger, badder hypnotizer was behind the curtains…. so they could use it on initiates.
“Fuck! You did it again!” I yelled at myself as I opened photoshop once more. I decided I just had to have the machine running behind the curtains, light spilling out on the recessed walls and over the Doctor’s shoulder. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
I did a final pass of writing two days ago. I added a bit more heat where I could and introduced the Governor character by name early in the story so that bit of info would at least be out there to come back to, rather than springing it on the reader in the final paragraphs.
Then, I set the whole thing down for a couple days and came back to read it with fresh eyes. I changed a phrase here or there but that was it. The project had (finally) decided it was ready.
This one is unique for me. Usually, there’s ideas that pop up here and there but I have a very clear picture going in of what’s going to happen and that’s pretty much how it goes. I’ve never had a project that just wouldn’t let go of my imagination the way this one did. The words I wrote kept driving me to do more with the images. The images kept driving me to write more words. The story kept finding new ways to grow.
If I’m frank, I think if I were a better writer I would’ve scrapped everything and started writing it as lengthy (by my standards) story along the lines of Tabico’s Fitness. It would’ve followed Lenore through her journey of discovering that the latest member of The Holden Street Women’s League was having an unusual influence on its members.
But maybe that would’ve just been too derivative? Too cliche, as the story would’ve been named in its second incarnation. Speaking of the previous incarnations, one thing that’s interesting to note is that this whole endeavor began with me setting myself to the challenge of maniping an animated GIF to “fix” a woman taking a gulp of wine.
That’s especially ironic because in -every- version of this story, including the first that I deleted, the blonde drank wine at some point. The one detail that I just had to get rid of is the one thing that stayed constant throughout this whole journey. And what a journey it was.
I don’t know if its nearly as satisfying for the reader to experience this story as it was for me to create it. I don’t know if people will enjoy all the things hinted at but not seen or just be annoyed that they aren’t seen. I don’t know if the end product is as fun as the process. I just know that the process was the most fun I’ve had doing this in years.
Whatever it is or isn’t, it was a righteous good time.
Big thanks for reading (if you made it this far)! I hope you enjoyed this rather comprehensive look at the making of this manip. I also hope that you enjoyed The Good Doctor and that you’re in the mood for more stuff. Because, I’m still hard at work on three mid-to-large projects that I’m determined to have out in the second half of this year.
Stay tuned for more on that and, as always, your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome.
See you next time!