More musings on writing advice:
Honestly, I think “yes, you are allowed” is something a lot of fandom needs to hear right now. We had, what, a decade of “what not to do” writing advice, starting with anti-Mary-Sue campaigns and on through sporking and fanficrants and RaceFail, and now everything is this cracked parody of social justice and ~this is problematic~ is the ultimate “what not to do.” And just look at the messages we’ve taken to heart: don’t get too big for your britches, everything has to be accurate and realistic, no one the reader is supposed to sympathize with should be within shouting distance of “problematic.” We’re writing about these larger-than-life characters whose lives are full of over-the-top, implausible events, and it’s like we’re afraid that if we handwave or take narrative shortcuts or spin crazy yarns about their adventures or don’t treat Bad Shit Happening with the expected amount of solemnity, somebody’s going to call us out for not doing our due diligence.
In fact, the one “yes, you are allowed” message we’ve taken to heart is that we’re not beholden to the original canon, which is a phenomenon I… have mixed feelings about. But the point is, that message combined with the fear of fucking up, of writing “unrealistic” or “problematic” stories about monsters and aliens and superheroes, means that mundane AUs and domestic fic are the path of least resistance. And not only is fic being pushed towards the generic, the moral pressure that drives fandom SJ makes it feel almost… risky?… to stray from the fanon status quo. Breaking the mold, instead of being a sign of creativity, increasingly feels like a sign that you’re Doing It Wrong and may in fact be a bad person. I have seen people say that they want to write about post-CA:TWS Bucky but don’t, because they don’t want to slog through dealing with the “obligatory” recovery issues. Or that they’d feel guilty, like they were committing some sort of erasure, if they wrote pre-war fic without Queer Brooklyn and
The Docksa bunch of romanticized-poverty porn.
For the love of God, fandom. You are allowed to come up with whatever fictional means you feel like to undo the Winter Soldier’s fictional (and almost totally unspecified) brainwashing. He’s an amnesiac cyborg assassin hopped up on a knockoff version of the super-serum that lets Steve Rogers get flung off a freeway overpass hard enough to overturn a bus and get up with barely a scratch. He starts getting memories back whenever they leave him out of cryo long enough. If you want the serum to heal his brain damage and leave him twitchy, angry, and guilt-ridden, but more-or-less compos mentis, so that he can go face down his demons without spending months on Steve’s couch eating soup and relearning how to be a human? YOU CAN. YOU ARE ALLOWED. THAT IS A STORY YOU ARE ALLOWED TO TELL. The “it was the super-healing” handwaving already puts you about fifteen realism steps ahead of the comics, where Steve used a magic monkey’s paw ex machina to bring back Bucky’s memories with the power of his love. And then a bunch of stuff happened and Bucky wrestled a bear in a Siberian gulag, okay, and this is the level of Srs Bsns we’re starting from.
You can do whatever the fuck you want. If you want to dwell lovingly on all the interpersonal issues and mental scarring that resulted from that time aliens made them do it because they got fake married in space, go for it. But do not pull out the DSM and start checking off PTSD symptoms out of a sense of duty if what you actually want to write is banter, UST, sarcasm about absurd situations, reckless displays of loyalty, and porn where they realize the depth and true nature of their feeeeeelings about each other. Both of those things are okay things to want.
tl;dr Internal story logic > realism. Write whatever ridiculous tropey or out-there shit you want, and use exactly as much judiciously-applied realism as you need to sell the story.
Please read the whole damn thing, because I feel like this is super important for everyone to hear.
Fandom is a meme, and it has its fads, mostly borne of emulation. Before the advent of SJ, there was a time where there was a “realistic sex” diktat, and there were posts going around with instructions like “use condoms, water-based lube and nothing else, cleaning up after sex with a damp towe is The Most Important” and other stuff about “realistic” sex practices that should be used in fanfiction as well. (And – it’s fine, you know, if people who don’t know anything about sex want information and want to give a realistic to their fics, but if you want to bypass that entirely, “yes you are allowed”.)
So anyway around that time I wrote this threesome fic in the Sherlock fandom and I remember someone reblogging it and commenting “it’s a great fic and the sex is pretty realistic, except they don’t clean up with damp towels at the end” and I was like “what the fuck is wrong with you what is this damp towel business and how on earth is it a bad thing that I haven’t added it in my fic” and then I remembered all the fics that I had read at that time which had dutifully incorporated The Damp Towel™ and I realised that it was merely the fashion of the times. And after that it was the advent of Omegaverse so no one gave a shit about damp towels anymore
Like, I guess it’s always a cycle, you get a certain type of fic everywhere, then someone tries for something a bit different (like realistic sex at a moment where unrealistic sex abounds) and then all the cool kids want to do it as well, and then it becomes The Law, and then people get fed up and go 180° at the other end of the spectrum
Right now I’m kind of bored because recently a majority of the fics that I read are very prim and proper, with disclaimers that are kilometers-long if the fics ever venture into something even remotely shady morally speaking, and I have a marked preference for fics that explore stuff that’s not Healthy or Sane or even Consensual, because to me fandom and fanfics are this big laboratory that really should allow you to delve into the unconventional and the morally grey (oh, the Golden Age of the Sherlock fandom… the amazing fics I read back then…)(not necessarily all the time, though. I mean exploration and pushing the boundaries of what is philosophically and ethically acceptable or not are definitely cool, and then sometimes you want all the fluff and the safe, sane and consensual. I’m just saying, a little bit of everything is good)
So I hope that the dam will crack soon, as it always does, and I’m interested to see what monster will come out of it
I know I’m like, #1 cheerleader for realism in fic, but I’m in agreement with this: Internal story logic > realism.
If it makes sense in the context of your story, and it’s consistent throughout, the reader will handwave right along with you.
Natasha, man! Remember Natasha! “The last set of wings is at Fort Meade, behind three guarded gates and a 12-inch steel wall.” Natasha: *shrugs*
I think I needed to read this today. Thank you, @shinelikethunder ❤