Why We Write #1

I think a lot.

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. My name is Chris, and over on the Chuck fanfic forums I go by I Am Not Amused. The splendiferous Frea O'Scanlin kindly invited me over to be a part of Castle Inanity, and the fact that she has me tied up in her basement has nothing to do with the fact I accepted.

Side note: to those waiting on Chapter 11 of Chuck vs the Simple Twist of Fate I am sorry for the wait. Had some various career stuff that I had to attend to, but now I am back on track.

Looking over the blog, specifically seeing mxpw and his workshop idea, I wanted to take a different approach for my guest spots here. So, to come back to my original point:

I think a lot.

I particularly think a lot about "Why?" Why do I do this? Why do I feel that? Why do I react a certain way to a certain situation? So, since this blog is about writing in general, and writing fanfiction for Chuck specifically, I figured, what better question to ask than "Why do we write?"

Simple question, sure, but the answer takes some thought to get to. The first step is the show itself. We love Chuck. As most in the fanfic community will tell you, we don't love Chuck for its intricate plot lines or spy-based drama, what we love Chuck for is the characters. The first step a person has to take from being an observer to a fan to a fanfic reader or writer is loving the characters.

So, we love the characters. That still doesn't explain why we want to write about them. The desire to write about them comes from somewhere else. It comes from a very basic thing: an idea. What this idea manifests as will be different for everyone. For some, the idea is that there is to communicate the things we see between the characters in a different way. For others the idea is simply a desire to flip the characters completely on their heads. But the most common idea is that there is something missing. There is something not there between the fan and the show, and the fan suddenly feels the need to do something about it, to take matters into their own hands.

To write.

So that gets us to the act of writing fanfiction. We love the characters, but something is missing and we decide to fill the void on our own. The most obvious illustration of this in Chuck fanfiction is with Season 2 fics, many of which created the type of capitulation of the Chuck and Sarah relationship that the show long refused.

But, of course, not all fanfiction is created equal. Even if an author has the most unique idea in the world, even if they have the most intricate plot lines, that fic isn't necessarily good.

Why is that?

Usually, the answer is in the writing style.

Style is a literary idea intertwined with voice and mood. It's the unique way each author chooses to express their plot line. One of the biggest misnomers in writing-- and this applies to any kind of writing, no just fanfiction-- is that a grasp of correct grammar, cohesive plot, and interesting storyline is all that's necessary to create an engaging story. What pushes a story to the next level, what makes people want to keep reading, is ultimately the style.

In my story, Chuck vs the Simple Twist of Fate, I have used two separate and distinct styles. Part one wasn't stylized at all. It was a very straight-forward telling of the events I had in mind. It progressed the characters and the action in a very linear fashion, where one important thing happened, then the next, then the next. Here's a excerpt from Chapter 5, "I See a Darkness" that illustrates the very dry style I was using:

Chuck didn't think it was entirely fair that Bryce could walk out of a session of intense physical training at a CIA facility and look- aside from the wet, showered hair he was hand drying- like he had done nothing more than a single jumping jack while he, Chuck, felt like his legs were going to fall off. Chuck pulled heavily at the duffel bag that contained his items and it felt like an iron medallion around his neck, where Bryce was carrying his with annoying ease.

"Feel like your legs are gonna fall off, buddy?" Bryce said, reading Chuck's mind and laughing.

Outwardly Chuck laughed, but as Bryce came to his side and they began making their way out of the facility, Chuck said lowly and probably pathetically to his friend, "I'm kind of trying to wait to collapse completely until the CIA can't see."

"Don't worry about it," Bryce said easily, and Chuck once again was struck by the unfairness of their physical discrepancies, "I was like that after my first day, too."

The style I was using here simply told the story of what was happening, what was being said. While Twist had what I consider to be a good premise and interesting characterizations, my style was dry and I found myself unsatisfied with how the story was progressing. I decided to end Part One of Simple Twist of Fate at Chapter 7. Then, with Chapter 8, I completely changed the tone, moving it in a highly stylized direction.

The California native's eyes darted from Bryce to the right side of the crates. That one was clear: time to split up.

For a half a second, Bryce hesitated.

Have you heard of the Intersect? Orion had asked him that last night. Chuck had been stuck in one of his imaging sessions. He had been alone in their apartment. Somehow Orion had known.

Chuck's brow furrowed in frantic question. Bryce shook himself and nodded back.

Bryce sort of wished that he and Chuck weren't past the point of no return.

With each footfall Orion's words echoed through his head. The Intersect compresses data through subliminal imaging. All information on a subject is contained in a single image file. I built it.

He ducked around the corner, leading with his eyes and following quickly with his pistol. Matching Chuck's progress on the other side of the room, he moved quietly across the concrete floor in his socks.

It had been Chuck's idea to take off their shoes. Smart move.

Death. That was the important word that Orion had used.

This style did all the same things I was doing with Twist before. It told the story of what these people were going through, and what they were saying to each other within it. But, by changing the style, I was able to delve deeper into their characterization, and by choosing a style that put the reader directly in the character's head, I was able to use a moment like Chuck and Bryce on a training mission to talk about a variety of other plot points that would otherwise need a completely new scene to explore, specifically a phone call between Bryce and Orion.

Obviously, this style isn't for everyone. It's not designed to be. My point in bringing it up is to encourage us as a community of writers. Why we write is different for each of us. The thing missing for us in the show that we find in fanfiction is different for each of us. If we make the effort to understand why it is we write, then we can figure out the most effective way to communicate that desire. By understanding how different styles affect our storytelling, we can choose the style that will best illustrate our intentions. We can choose the style that will explain before even a single line of dialog is uttered, exactly why we chose to write.


  1. Haven't you learned yet that thinking is overrated and only leads to your doom?

    Welcome, IANA.

  2. Hey, Musey, great article. Required reading for fanfic writers and a first in a series on the topic, I hope?

    An engaging style appropriate to the type of story being written (the characterizations sought) can mean the difference between a tiresome slog of a read and a thrilling page-clicker. I've read lots of fanfiction with great ideas badly realized (and equally badly spelled and punctuated) just to ferret out those ideas, but I found after a couple of years of reading this type of writing, the energy expended to wade through them is not worth the meagre payback.

    I'm holding out now for the well-written stuff that incoporates substance, style and the structural elements that makes it readable and enjoyable.

    And Chuck certainly gives us a lot to write about. Hooray to the Chuck gang for making such a fascinating and entertaining show!

    Next: Your views on fluff, oneshots and crackfic, please?

  3. mx - I absolutely refuse to learn that. REFUSE SIR>

    verkisto - Thanks for the props, I really appreciate it! And thanks, too, for your prompt on what I should tackle next, it's actually already got me thinking and could very well end up as Why We Write #2 (yes, it will be a series!).


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