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!