The Roundup Episode 04: Archetypes

Been awhile, right?  Whoops, my bad.  Today, I've got two articles for you and some links that'll hopefully help you out with your writing!  After the break, of course.

Article #1: Archetypes, Not Stereotypes

There was some discussion on the blog awhile back about how Chuck is simply a show of archetypes and of course, the very next day, I found this article entirely by accident.  Fate?  Fates?  You decide. 

Something to consider when you are writing is that unfortunately, you can bet that somebody else has written the exact same idea.  I heard it put once where there are only six original plots.  With the advent of the major popularity of science-fiction in the 1950's, that may have expanded a little, but it's a hard fact to deal with for any writer, be it TV, movies, or books: somebody else has written about the same thing.  For every Chuck, there's Jake 2.0.  For every Avatar, there's Dances With Wolves.  For every movie Garry Marshall makes, there's Pretty Woman (wait a second...).  So yes, that's something you have to battle whenever you write.

How can you combat that without despairing?  I think that article I just posted will help, as it's got a lot of good advice.  But mostly, the difference is in the details.  By making your characters unique, by making them come alive off of the page and seem like they could be real, live people who might sit down in your living room and chat with you, you can avoid seeming like just another remake.  Having a great, organic plot that comes from character motivation rather than Deux Ex Machina (though sometimes you have to use this; as the popular saying goes, "S**t happens.") is also a way to ensure that your idea is original.

Article #2: Making It Happen - Tips on Writing Action Scenes

So we here in the Chuck fandom are lucky.  Not only do we have an Emmy-winning fight choreographer on the show, leading to action that can be either intense or silly (Chuck Kung Fus his way through the Ring agents; Chuck uses a stripper class move around a lamppost), but I think we've actually been blessed with quite a few writers that handle action well.  It probably has a lot to do with the fact that if we like the show itself, we're probably drawn to action-movie style stuff, too, and it comes across in our writing.  I mean, take a look at some of ninjaVanish's latest work, which is intense and a great homage to the show (Chuck treating a grenade like a hackey sack!  Brilliant, right?).

Now on to the confession part of this: action is one of my weaker areas.  I rely heavily on mxpw's services as a beta reader for a lot of things, like catching my goofy little errors.  It's during action scenes and physical scenes where I rely on him as an alpha reader, to be there while I'm actually doing the writing and to help me stay in line.  Chapter 34, in which I turned a motel room into Swiss cheese, broke a bathroom window, blew up a meth lab, had a hand-to-hand battle, shot a major character, and tried to shoot my hero?  It was like one long nightmare on a loop for a writer who prides herself on her dialogue and emotionally complex scenes.

In fact, I got eight pages in and scrapped everything.  The pacing was too slow, the risk wasn't high enough, I was using too much description.  Even though I hadn't read this article yet, I was disobeying every rule it lists, so I went back and changed it so that I was following this article step by step pretty much.  I read it much later, but after (hopefully) making 34 a tighter, more action-packed chapter and agreeing with everything Janice says, I can't recommend this article enough to Chuck writers.

Also, some great resources I've stumbled across:

The Writer's Forensics Blog

Let's face it, we're fic-writers for a show that ignores the laws of science and reality when it needs to make a plot work, so sometimes doing your research and adding realism can seem silly, but this is a great resource for crime writing.


Ayefah pointed me to this community awhile back when I needed to do some research for Fates, and it's a brilliant resource for writers who need to know a detail they might not be able to find on Wikipedia or Google.  It is a livejournal community, but I enjoy just going through and learning a whole bunch of random facts every day.  You may not have picked up on this, but I'm a little bit of a nerd.

Every Gun Used on Chuck

I am not a munitions expert in the slightest (though I have fired several types of guns), so this whole website and this page in particular have been a huge help.

Hope these all helped!  What do you think?  Any great ideas you'd like to add?  Let me know in the comments!

- Frea


  1. As a pretty serious combat geek I've never been much of a fan of the fight choreography on Chuck. I mean yea, the silly fights have always been silly but Sarah and more importantly Casey's fights have never been particularly impressive.

    IMO the two best shows going at the moment in terms of fight choreography are Human Target and (weirdly) Hawaii 5.O. Human Target's quality probably comes in part from the fact that Jackie Earle Haley has a black belt in I think Kendo and Mark Valley went to West Point and presumable learned some hand to hand combat skills during his years in the Army. Hawaii 5.0's fights tend to be quick but absolutely brutal. Both of these shows are (compared to Chuck) in the realm of the Bourne films where as Chuck feels like typical Hollywood, all flash and little substance or nuance.

    On an unrelated note, Frea are you still beta-ing Twist of Fate? If so is that gonna get published anytime soon, seems like its been in Beta for 2-3 weeks now. Prop's to Chris by the way that story didn't really hook me early on but its become terrific over the last 4-5 chapters. In particular the last chapter had some of the most engrossing action sequences I've read in fanfic in a while.

  2. Yeah, I'm still betaing Twist of Fate. I'm holding the chapter ransom until he finishes half of next chapter. His terms, not mine.


    ...And now that I'm thinking about it, it was the stunt coordinator that won the Emmy, wasn't it? Because of the pool drop? Doy, Frea. Ah well. I know hardcore combat fans might not like the fights, but I do. Cubic Z aside, the editing is actually pretty good during the fights.

  3. So I suppose I should be harassing him then..... eh well if it motivates him to write more, faster so much the better.

    It's not the editing I have a problem with it's the fighting style, especially Sarah, though Chuck 2.0 is equally guilty, lots of high kicks and things like that. They may look impressive but they're not all that effective. I've always found closer tighter fighting styles like jujitsu, judo and krav maga more fun to watch.

  4. Ayefah8.1.11

    Not that I would ever accuse Chuck of a smidgen of practicality, but to my amateur eyes it doesn't seem like such a bad idea for Sarah to be more kick-reliant - she isn't likely to have the same upper body strength as a trained male, so keeping them at a distance and using her stronger legs to hit them seems sensible. Getting too close runs the risk of getting her crushed Colt-style.

    My rationalizations: Let me show you them! To be totally honest, though, I haven't been really loved a fight scene on the show since "Tic Tac", though bits of choreography in "First Fight" and "Phase Three" were nice.

  5. mxpw9.1.11

    One of the things I like most about the fight scene in Phase Three is that Yvonne did most of the stunt work. I realize she does do most of her stunts normally (except for the really dangerous or crazy stuff), but still, some of the stuff she does in that sequence is pretty impressive. She is one very athletic woman.

  6. Ayefah9.1.11

    Mx, have you seen the latest Chuck promo? Because really, I'm just surprised the fanservice brigade in the writers' room didn't think of doing...that...before.

    Also, I'm totally tickled to see a Tangled reference in the sidebar because that movie is my New Favorite Thing. And you know, if you tilt your head and squint a lot Rapunzel is a bit like Fates!Chuck, which tickles me even more.

  7. mxpw9.1.11

    @Ayefah - Are you talking about Sarah doing her best Miranda Lawson impression? Heh, yeah, I saw the promo. And the BTS photos that came out a couple of weeks ago. That promo was way too short but Sarah certainly seemed to be having fun, at least, in that getup.

    I'm a little surprised it took them so long to make an allusion to Miranda as well, but I'm glad they have. You will never hear me complaining about that fanservice brigade in the writer's room.

    Also, I feel like sometimes I'm the only one in the world that hasn't seen Tangled yet.

  8. Ayefah, the first time I saw Tangled, I was like, "This reminds me of something..." Character stuck away from society for years with contact with only one person, wins over the heart of an endearing criminal, and sways ruffians and thugs through sheer personality (and maybe a little song)?

    Then I was like, "Nah, never heard of something that preposterous in my life." ;)

  9. Ayefah9.1.11

    Huh. I was thinking of Sarah's outfit as more of an Emma Peel thing than a Mass Effect reference, but you could be right about that, mx. It just reminded me of when they did pretty much the same thing to Wendy Watson.

    As for Tangled? It was so much more adorable and awesome than I dared hope thanks to the weird promos and I kind of want to hug it forever now. I saw Mandy Moore in concert years ago (don't ask), and she was considerably livelier here, I have to say. :P

    I'm guessing that if you saw it multiple times you liked it, Frea? Yay! Seriously, no one I know has seen it except the friend who went with me and I feel very lacking in people to squee at. Erm, "with". Squee with. Yeah.

  10. I think current seeing Tangled count is...4.

    No, wait, maybe 5...nope. 4. Probably 5 tomorrow. It's just so awesome and awkward and lovable and I freaking love Rapunzel for all of her chipper, slightly insane ways. And I love Flynn, too. He's so dreamy. *swoon*

    I know I'll probably lose a lot of respect to admit this, but I totally would have gone to a Mandy Moore concert. As Max constantly tells me, I'm such a girl sometimes. Here, tell you what: I'll PM you on ff.net and squee at you. Uh, with. Squee with.


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