8.22.2010

The Writers' Mouthpiece: The OC

I warn you, I'm about to rant.

I take no prisoners when I rant.  I'm going to TRY and avoid naming names, but I can't make any promises.

So you know what I hate?  Original characters that have no idea of their frakking place.
I've read a few stories where Sarah chose to leave Chuck because her feelings were compromised and she didn't want to hurt him, things went pear-shaped, and now it's a couple of years later, Sarah is mysteriously in trouble because she's evidently just a bad agent (which is another rant for another day, and it will take no prisoners, yell at the Chuck writing staff, and leave no cliche unmurdered), and Chuck comes into her life as this total badass who can do everything, saving the day without a drop of emotion.  He usually has a new female partner, somebody very good at her job, young, usually brunette, and outspoken.

And what happens?  That partner starts ranting on and on, blaming Sarah for everything up to and including Chernobyl.  She rakes Sarah over the coals for a good half hour or more, while Sarah is so overcome with guilt that she just...takes it.

Okay: no.

Seriously, just...no.

Maybe it's my feminist roots coming out here, and I don't care, but let me change that "no" to "no way in freaking hell."  I really hate it when fics do this, when they introduce these original characters just to make Sarah feel guilty over her actions and to provide exposition because they feel it makes the story more interesting.  It's lazy writing, and it's freakishly insulting to a character that I know and love.  Every time I see this in fic, I just want to unleash Fates Sarah on the OC's ass and watch the carnage unfold.  No way in hell would Fates Sarah take that lying down.  She would cut a bitch.  Well, actually, she would give the bitch the ice treatment and try to figure out what the hell is up with Chuck, and if this OC character that the writer has not given me as a reader any reason for emotional investment got in her way, she would drop a bitch.

Okay, Fates Sarah...probably not the best example for this, as she's one of the angrier Sarahs in the fandom, but still.

If you're going to have an OC yell at a main character, fine.  That happens in real life, but don't expect me to buy characters who are strong, opinionated, and good at their jobs not telling this complete stranger to butt the hell out.  Don't you DARE try to tell me that the spine I have admired on a character for two seasons (ignoring S3 Sarah because that's not a person, that's a plot chameleon) is just magically gone because you have this OC that I don't care about at all and you think that OC has a lot of good things to say.  Let them say those things, but let them face the consequences, too, which should be, "Mind your own #$%@ing business, bitch."

I'm not saying that the OC won't be saying things Sarah needs to hear (though it's rarely the case), it's just that if it's something to do with Chuck, that should be between Chuck and Sarah and Sarah has the right and the responsibility to tell anybody who tries to tell her what's up to "shut the #$%@ up."  A great example of a fic that does this well is Double Agent where Sarah repeatedly has problems with Carina, who is pushy and protective of Chuck, and she's just like, "Whatever, bitch."  A lot of the time, Carina's right, and it's just really well-written conflict.

It should probably worry me that I'm using an emotionally-damaged-beyond-repair Sarah as opposed to just an emotionally damaged Sarah as an example of how Sarah should act all the time, but I'm 100% okay with that.

And for the love of little Intersects, if you're going to have an OC that needs to tell one of my main characters what-for, put some work into that character.  Make me see why that character is right, and why that character has the right to be able to talk to any of the mains I love in that way.  Otherwise, quit using a description and a wig as a mouthpiece.  You're mad at the character for doing something you made them do.  I get it.  But don't expect me to buy it.  If you're going to have an OC, round that character out.  If not, you don't need that OC.

And that is my rant.  It's actually a much nicer one than the one about how I think Armadilloi is Stephenie Meyer in disguise.

- Frea

14 comments:

  1. I quite enjoyed the rant, Frea. I quite agree on all counts. First, without giving full detail to an OC, I just don't care. I actually haven't found any OCs that have ever really been a great thing in a story. Usually they take me out of the story whenever they appear. So, without fully fleshing out someone, it is a deal breaker for me.

    As for the OC bitching out Sarah Walker... well, I always wonder why Chuck isn't the one doing the talking. He's the one that was hurt, not this other person. Further more, it seems whenever the story is written that Sarah runs off with Bryce/Cole/Shaw, Chuck turns into something without any emotion whatsoever and becomes the best agent since the dawn of time. Well, I also don't get that. What does this soulless Chuck have in relation with the original character? Even if everything went to hell, wouldn't there be a core of Chuck Bartowski in the agent? Isn't that why we root for the guy? So... in the stories where the OC is ranting at Sarah, usually Chuck ignores her, shrugs, or just saves her ass all over the place all the while proving how he's better than her. There just seems to be a disconnect.

    Yet, some of this is the result of just the weirdness of S3. It angered people to such an extent, that rationalization goes out the window. I remember being absolutely livid with Sarah Walker for a long time. She was irrational, mostly not in the right, and ultimately counter productive. This impacted a lot of viewers and served to discredit the best character on the show. So... I never have fully forgiven TPTB for that situation. Yet, it wasn't irredeemable. There was some merit to the situation, but it required finesse. Most of these stories that have the4 OC flipping out on Sarah as she just meekly takes it (and then usually goes out and makes at least one more terrible mistake before all is evened out) do not have any finesse. They are blunt, and somewhat crude in flow.

    As for your last point... haha. I won't get into that either.

    Anyway, I appreciate the rant as it correlates much with I think as well.

    PS I'm pretty sure I lost my train of thought somewhere about half way into this thing. Sorry for the long comment. I guess I just wanted to say I agree.

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  2. Ayefah22.8.10

    Man, when I read...certain fics I don't even need to get to the OCs to start rolling my eyes - I just hate relationships that are written with one party always being guilty of something while the other one is a saint - or at least never held to account for anything (s)he does. It's something you see in show discussions sometimes, too.

    Why do some people who supposedly 'ship two characters feel the constant need to show that one of said characters is always in the right and persecuted by his/her partner? If the partner is so awful, why is the character you adore involved with him/her in the first place? That's not a story of love you're cheering for, it's...I don't know, vengeance or something. Relationships are something other than a battle to see who's the most righteous.

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  3. "And that is my rant. It's actually a much nicer one than the one about how I think Armadilloi is Stephenie Meyer in disguise."

    Finally someone who agrees with me! Those stories are just simply cringe-worthy! Chuck is a 'untouchable-hero' with no faults at all, and Sarah cheats,misbehave, and is practically not worthy of his love in Armadilloi's fics. I've tried to read a few, but I just couldn't finish.

    Sorry, I needed to vent!

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  4. Anonymous22.8.10

    I understand why people had problems with parts of season 3, I certainly did, but I'm wondering when people say season 3, do they mean all of season 3 or just the first 12-13 episodes?

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  5. For a minute, I thought you were going to talk about The OC, and I got really excited because I miss that show. Those kids went through so much...*sigh*

    I'm pretty new to FF, but from the stories that I've read, at least 25% of the authors seem to hate on Sarah. I mean, yes, we all know that the blond enigma is emotionally stunted, but really? Out of all of the "Sarah's super damaged, and she's terrible for Chuck" fics that I have read, in my opinion Double Agent and The Second Chance are the only ones that really justify it. Others, like, er...some other fic that, in my opinion, ruined a certain redhead, just make Sarah come off as cold.

    That's my biggest gripe in FF.

    As for the OCs (not the show) that literally come out of nowhere and tear Sarah a new one, I say this, "what the hell do they know?" And I answer, "NOTHING! They weren't there!"

    I'm sort of tempted to read your rant about Armadilloi. Actually, I'm extremely tempted.

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  6. Ayefah22.8.10

    If you all want to be really sad, head on over to the 'Chuck' kinkmeme and see how many of the prompts and responses involve Sarah being dominated, humiliated, and treated like a "whore" - or at least what those people think a prostitute should be treated like.

    Or you can read Wepdiggy's kinkmeme responses, which are awesome. :)

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  7. A most impressive rant!

    I'm flattered that you chose to hold up DA Sarah as an example of how Sarah should be written. Like you, I'm a little worried that she's considered a good example of characterization for Sarah, but hey, I'm okay with it too. There are a lot of things wrong with Sarah in DA, but standing up for herself and having an opinion are not one of them. She doesn't take crap from anybody, least of all Carina. So thanks.

    I think when it comes to Sarah standing up for herself, it has to be subtle rather than outright, which can feel unnatural at times, so people can go to extremes. Either she never speaks up or else she acts unaplogetic and both are poles you never want to travel, especially for a character like Sarah. Sarah is a woman that is usually very careful about what battles she picks to fight, but she's not unafraid. She won't let you just yell and yell and berate her (unless it's S3 Sarah, but that's a whole different kettle of fish). So I agree with you that it's completely out of place for an OC to come into a fic just for the sake of yelling.

    The OC that yells is just a device that lazy writers use to keep the main characters untarnished and to say what the authors want to say and then disappear. It's as simple as that.

    But heee, I'm still preening after your DA mention. So freaking awesome. My Sarah apparently rocks, y'all.

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  8. Not to put words in Frea's mouth, but she's just pointing at one of the many manifestations of what I think is the root issue: People write to express themselves, and all of us who write inevitably reveal a whole lot about who we are. By choosing a viewpoint, by describing actions with word choices, we narrow it down with every story and every chapter.

    Sometimes its overt, as in the case of the OC mouthpieces, and sometimes its subtle, as in how character actions are justified.

    Our stories let us produce outcomes that are satisfying to us in one way or another, whether its telling our favorite story over and over and over in different disguises or just having a character vent all of our pent up frustration at what we've seen on the show.

    So, it shouldn't be surprising that what we see in these fics reflects our various psychological eccentricities and dysfunctions. If we have deep-seated insecurities, they'll find a way out through a character somewhere. If we fear betrayal or conspiracies or nose hair or whatever beyond ordinary measure, these things will probably show up somewhere.

    And if you see one character doing no wrong while the other takes all of the blame, and we're supposed to accept this as normal behavior, you're probably just peering directly into some facet of the author's own sense of normal. Maybe even into their own real lives.

    But, you know, you can always disagree. And rant on your blog, even. :)

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  9. The problem is the way Chuck is written on the show. He's an emotional guy but he rarely gets angry or mad. It feels like everyone calls Chuck out for his mistakes yet Chuck is incapable of doing the same. That's not to say Chuck is a total saint by any means. But there's been certain times he should have said how moronic people were acting.

    So I think its easier for writers to let an OC be that voice instead of Chuck. Of course people take it too far and it ends up being character bashing.

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  10. I had no trouble agreeing with the rant. I dont understand how chuck could not function when there was trouble with Sarah, but when she is gone Chuck becomes superhuman.

    As far as the Dillo is concerned he wrote 20 stories, and had a lot of reviews, so someone liked them. Do I like others more Yes, are a lot of stories much worse, Yes. He writes a fun story.

    I will say I enjoy the Sarah Walker from other stories, but he has taken the series in many different directions, and with a few exceptions Sarah and Chuck end up together.

    Well here I am about to pull Srah and Chuck apart for a bit. It will be involuntary, and who helps Chuck?

    Oh yes an invented character. I promise no anti Sarah rants, but maybe a Carina rant. Of course she's not in the story, so it might be wierd. Oh well every story needs some Carina in it.

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  11. Part of the problem is there is really only a limited number of ways Sarah falls for Chuck:
    1. Love at First Sight, usually with obstacles (regulatory, emotional, or other). Based on To Resist Both Wind and Tide, Fates is probably in this category.
    2. Sarah goes after Chuck because she is jealous of Chuck's other girlfriend
    3. A compromising situation in an undercover mission pushes Sarah over the edge.
    4. Sarah faces mortality. Either she or Chuck gets hurt.
    5. Sarah makes a huge mistake - the mistake is realized by:
    a. Sarah (what TPTB did in S3, with a nudge from Chuck)
    b. Casey (with him acting like an OOC Dr. Phil)
    c. Carina (who is usually mischaracterized and might as well be an OC)
    d. an OC (Frea's rant)

    With over 2000 Chuck fanfics, most of which are Charah stories, some stories are bound to be of each type. Different people like different types. Unfortunately, there is no way to which type of story it is ahead of time to avoid their personal pet peaves.

    The problem with OCs is fanfiction is full of lazy writers (myself included). Writers can leverage the TV show and actors' characterizations to ignore the descriptions of the people and places in their stories. For the most part, that is ok. It's convenient author/reader shorthand to get into the rest of the story. But it still is lazy.

    Personally, the emotionless super-spy Chuck and the strategic mastermind Chuck stories bother me. Even with Intersect 2.0, Chuck is supposed to be goofy and Sarah is supposed to be the strategist (Angel of Death and Ring II). However if the story is well-written and is entertaining, I can get past that.

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  12. OldDarth22.8.10

    Your article title says it all. Such writing is quite often not about story telling but rather a thinly disguised vehicle for the author to vent.

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  13. You know, I should talk about how much I agree with this rant. Or I could talk about how everyone who has commented has added something to the discussion. But instead, I'm going to focus on one particular commenter.

    I think Ayefah said it best when she said: "Or you can read Wepdiggy's kinkmeme responses, which are awesome. :)"

    Heh, yes, I'm a narcissist. I don't care. And just to drive that point home, let me say that you should all run out and read my latest entry, a Chuck/Anna fic. ;-)

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  14. Hey Frea,

    Thanks :-) !!!

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