Lamplight City Narrative Commentary, Part 4: Iterating Mrs. Hanbrook
This is a series of spoiler-free (or -lite) transcripts from my portion of the Lamplight City developer commentary, which includes behind-the-scenes insights and anecdotes about the story writing and editing process. Start with Part 1.
The proprietor of the flower shop, Cecilia Hanbrook, went through some significant character changes in the early drafts of the script.
Originally she was a much more comical character, a caricature of a stiff old lady, and her dialogue was full of humorous innuendoes. Never mind that this felt tonally off for the very first NPC that you encounter — I didn’t like the way these jokes played off unfortunate stereotypes that mock the sexuality of older women, so I nixed the lot and we rewrote her from scratch.
Instead, we used her character as a way to do some worldbuilding and tell us about what kind of city this was. We established that Mrs. Hanbrook was tough and fiercely independent, used to running a business by herself and dealing with trouble in a rough neighborhood, where the authorities were absent at best and punitive at worst.
We revealed that her assistant, Trevor, was the one who contacted the police out of concern for her wellbeing, even though he knew she wouldn’t agree or do it herself. When they argue about it we get to see a little of the interplay between them, two people who really care about and need each other but are perhaps bound by a more formal working relationship and social convention — hinting at a deeper connection that maybe has or hasn’t blossomed yet (no pun intended).
Cecilia’s reluctant attitude toward the detectives added some friction to the initial encounter, showing that you would sometimes have to work to draw information out of characters you meet and find ways to earn their trust.
And by showing how the police don’t operate with perfect efficiency and authority everywhere, we also created some gaps for Miles to move in when he’s working as a private detective later on.