Note: Thanks to Shakensilence for the meme.
Questions 1 - 5
|1.||How did you first get into writing fan fiction, and what was the first fandom you wrote for? What do you think it was about that fandom that pulled you in?|
Around the end of May in 2007 I was terribly bored and surfing the Internet looking for something new to amuse. One of my standard go-to places was AfterEllen. I checked and they’d just posted an article entitled ‘Willow’s Back.’
I was giddy. I’d started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer several years earlier based on their recommendation. I started off lukewarm and gradually developed a deep fondness for the show. It had been a daily ritual for me. I was working nights and I’d curl up and watch as I settled in for sleep. I’d watched the entire series at least three times before FX removed it from their morning lineup. I missed it. I didn’t own the DVDs and didn’t have means to purchase them. A few comics were well within my means, so I ran out the following weekend and bought the first three.
I was fine with the media. I’m not one of those people who dislike comics. I actually love them. I think that each medium has its strength. Well done, a comic book can tell a story that would be difficult to convey in another form.
That said, my reaction to the Buffy comics was less than enthusiastic. The characters felt forced. Their motivations and reactions weren’t what I had anticipated based on what I saw in season seven. They actually felt to me as though they’d been reverted to some previous level of development. But that could’ve just been the unsophisticated nature of some of the bits and jokes. At any rate, they didn’t resonate for me.
So, I was lying on my tummy, finishing the third and final book when a song by A Perfect Circle called The Noose came on. I stopped and just listened.
‘But I'm more than just a little curious how you're planning to go about making your amends to the dead.’
This moment was similar. I had this swelling feeling in my chest and a warm, light, airy, tingly sensation in my head. I was happy…genuinely happy. I’d touched on something of profound significance. It was what we like to call an ‘epiphany,’ but describing that, other than just to label it is—
And labeling it makes it feel tawdry.
My thoughts in that moment were simple enough. ‘I can do this.’
But it wasn’t just that. If it’d been any other show, I never would’ve gone there. I never would’ve been so strongly inspired. You see Buffy—and really, the majority of Joss’s body of work—has two remarkable characteristics: outstanding, rich, deeply flawed characters portrayed by gifted people in a way in which they just capture our hearts; and clever plots that are almost always as flawed as his characters. There’s nearly always some sort of retcon. The man just doesn’t plot a long story arc with much grace. It’s like he gets distracted and the details slip his mind. Or he says ‘I need blah’ and shoves the thing he needs into the story without much thought as to why it would be there.
Now I’m not hammering on him. He is an extremely gifted man. I simply believe that to be true. If needed, I can substantiate that statement with a plethora of examples.
The thing is—the important thing—if I hadn’t been so damned in love with the characters and presented with such a flawed story, I never would’ve touched it. It was that specific combination that led me to think, ‘I can do this and I can do it better.’
And ‘yes’ that statement is hopelessly arrogant. I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything better than Joss Whedon, but that’s been my benchmark. I do know that my initial attempts were absolutely childish. What is significant is that I committed myself in that moment to learn how to tell a story. And I haven’t deviated from that path since. I’ve been learning and pushing myself. I’ve been absolutely obsessed with that one thing.
|2.||Name the fandoms you've written in, and how much you've written in that fandom, and if you still write in it.|
My goal was never to learn to write fan fiction. It was always to learn to write fiction. So moving on to write in another fandom just didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t. I have a finite list of things I wish to accomplish and when they are completed, I’ll move on.
Now that’s sort of a shame on one level. As a budding author, I might accrue more of an audience were I to diversify. What I’ve written has mostly appealed to only one small segment of an aging fandom. People move on to newer and shinier things. Playing to that might be in my best interest, but I have my hands full with all of the things I’ve began here.
I have an issue with leaving the things incomplete. I’m going to do my damnedest to put a satisfactory end to all of the stories I currently have in the works before I retire.
You see, there’s this thing about me…I’ve always dropped the ball. Anything I’ve ever set out to do, I’ve always lost interest in and left incomplete. I don’t feel I can do that with this. It just seems too important to abandon, so within reason, I intend to finish. And as I tie up all of the loose ends, I continue to learn things, so there’s a nice pay off.
My father occasionally grouses at me that I’m plenty skilled enough to be working on original material. And I agree with him, mostly wholeheartedly. The parts of me that aren’t self-deprecating agree with him completely. He’s also very familiar with the compulsion to move on to newer, infinitely more fascinating things because he’s the…who shared that tendency with me. And it really can be counterproductive. It can be tantamount to giving myself permission to drop the ball on all things of that sort, whatever the ‘sort’ may be.
All of this—save for that last bit—goes a long way toward explaining why I lean toward long, intricately woven plots. It also sort of explains my compulsion for reworking stories. What I’m looking for is to produce a product that wouldn’t disappoint me if I paid good money for it…something that’d please me in its level of complexity and depth.
My current body of work is in excess of one-point-one-million words.
|3.||For each of the fandoms from day two, what were your favorite characters to write?|
Willow was my first love. I empathized with her. She spoke to me. I remember seeking approval. Bending over backwards, hoping that this thing—whatever it was—would be enough to make them notice. I did some outlandish things in the name of ‘approval’ and like Willow, I never received it…or the ‘it’ I received simply wasn’t enough. My character screamed ‘love me,’ as did hers.
Willow, on a very literal level, moves Heavens and Earth to please the people around her. She does that until hurts, and then she does it some more. She wants to make these people whom she loves happy. She needs for them to care for her.
Ultimately she alienates herself by trying too hard. It didn’t surprise me that she finally said ‘hell with it’ and blew up. She did things in the name of making herself happy and—no surprise—those things were utterly self-destructive. I looked at her entire story arc and understood it intimately because I’d lived it.
It’s funny. Years later I find myself more in love with Buffy than I ever was with Willow. I hated Buffy when I first began to write. She was one of the characters to whom I couldn’t really relate. I’ve never been a girly girl and I don’t understand the compulsion at all. That hurts my portrayal of her. She’s my weakest character. I won’t say that I don’t write her well, I just don’t write her as well. And that might be why I love her so. She challenges me.
She has a similar capacity for self-sacrifice as Willow, but her motives are entirely different. It’s never about the smaller picture for her. She does what she does for the whole. The one exception I can think of is in Prophecy Girl. The thought of Willow suffering because she is unwilling to act for selfish reasons spurs her to action. From there forward her story becomes about self-sacrifice. She gives whatever it takes so others won’t have to suffer.
I tend to enjoy my more frazzled, battle worn, Season Eight Buffy to any of the versions we see of her in canon. The effects of PTSD can be quite interesting to portray. The build of her I write is perhaps overly gruff.
I’ve had people complain that my Buffy reads too much like Faith. And I won’t disagree. I’ve actually learned a lot about how to portray her by showing her through Faith’s eyes in Crimes. That’s allowed me to create a clear contrast—one that I could get my head around. I honestly believe that’s some of the best Buffy I’ve written.
Obviously, I love writing Faith. I get to pull out the stops. All of the rough edges of my personality can hang out for the whole world to see. I get to be a total shithead in her shoes. I refer to my Faith as me without the filter.
I intentionally misuse words when portraying her. It’s a simple thing, but it lent so nicely to my characterization. She’s a girl who by all indications didn’t care too much for school. She lacks the level of refinement of some of the other characters. I brought that out because I thought it fit.
|4.||Do you have a ‘muse’ character, that speaks to you more than others, or that tries to push their way in, even when the fic isn't about them? Who are they, and why did that character become your muse?|
No and never.
I’ve always just written whoever I needed when I needed them. My stories are compelled by plot. They’re already roughed in. I know the ‘whats’ and ‘wheres’ and ‘whos’ before I begin to write. A character just slipping in would be counter intuitive to my process. Everything I do is about control.
Now that’s not to say that my stories are all completely set in stone from birth of concept to execution. It’s actually just the opposite. I do something I like to refer to as ‘signposting.’ Rarely do I write a complete outline. I used to, but I’ve found them to be a waste of time. The details usually evolve too much from start to the finish for any initial outline to be valid when I’m done.
So, I have a certain set series of points in mind when I start that I will get to. I have the ending written in my mind. It’s how I get where I go that remains fluid. I never know exactly how a story will come together before I begin to write. I allow the characters to guide me. I give them free rein, within reason, to influence the story. I just herd them. I steer them toward the next signpost.
I’ve never had a random character that I didn’t expect wander out into the street and say, “You should check this out. It’s so cool.” I might have to go in for a psych eval if that ever happened.
|5.||If you have ever had a character try to push their way into a fic, whether your ‘muse’ or not, what did you do about it?|
I find it a bit amusing that the person who wrote this meme only addressed characters, ‘muse characters’ specifically. The characters are never the issue for me. It’s my goddamned muse. She’s a wily little thing.
What tends to evolve and grow for me is plot. While I’ve never had a character wheedle their way into one of my stories, I’ve certainly had a plot point warp a story beyond recognition.
Flood is a fine example of that. I started off with this innocent little outline that took me up through The Prom. But as I looked at the characters I had, I saw this huge flaw in my interpretation. There was a strong need for revenge. The good guys were just getting off too easy. If something that I had planned for a hundred years was suddenly not going to happen because some little girl meddled, I’d rip her legs off. I saw that as a valid reaction to the mayor’s situation. He’s not a nice guy, so…
The story changed. Everything after The Prom was written free form. I just took the ideas and went.
I’ve had that happen since then, but never to such great effect. I’ve gotten much better at spotting those flaws before I start.
But really, it never fails. There’s always one surprise. One thing that just happens that changes the game a little.
I actually enjoy that. It keeps the nature of each of my stories on the organic side. The characters are allowed to run amok just a little, just enough. It makes the story feel spontaneous in a way that I just couldn’t mimic were I to crank down the screws and say, ‘You will do this because I command it.’
A little bit of latitude can be cool. It works for me.
I also do this thing that some of you might think sounds crazy. If there’s an issue and I’m not sure, I toss a coin. Sometimes I’ll do that in the middle of a scene and just let the results play out.
This has the flavor of an R.P.G. sort of approach to storytelling. I know that some of you are likely thinking that, but that’s not why I do it.
You see, I was influenced by a story. I’ve mentioned it before. It’s called Vampire Stories by Crys Loch.
It’s actually cleverer than that. There are two stories. The first one was called Pillow Talk. In Pillow Talk, Buffy and Willow are together after the events of Chosen in Buffy’s motel room. It’s a very typical ’shipper story. One thing leads to another and they have a tumble between the sheets.
Crys Loch released a second story after Pillow Talk that became Vampire Stories. It’s called Tomorrow Night and Always. The same story is told with one exception, Willow is a vampire. She turns Buffy and things just spiral.
There’s this marvelous scene toward the end where Willow is reflecting on the randomness of life. She decides that rather than being compelled by her nature, she’ll allow Fate to speak. She uses a coin to serve as Fate’s voice.
‘Will this person live?’
I thought it was just beautiful, so when I began to tell my own stories, I gave Fate a voice.