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July 22nd, 2008

11:01 am
So, writing the Iron Man fic made me have thinky thoughts...

about what you can learn about writing by writing fanfic.

For those of you who haven't been playing at home, I wrote this little Iron Man fic detailing what happens when Tony gets home from a humanitarian mission where all is not as it seems, and how Pepper has to try and put him back together from that. Because he doesn't have anyone else.

And I wrote it, and lo, it was good. Pepper's POV, nice little story, some fluffy angst (don't ask me how), yadda yadda.

I thought I was done with it.

And then Tony popped up and said (I know, don't you hate it when characters talk to authors? Me too. Try being the author) "Hey, you spent a whole lotta time in Pepper's head, there. What about my head? Huh? Me me me!" Because Tony's an attention whore like that.

I managed to push him away for all of, like, an hour. But he kept bouncing around on the periphery of my vision, throwing phrases at my head and giving me puppy eyes. Seeing as I have a hard time saying "No" to Redeemed!Hot!Bad!Boys, I finally gave in and wrote the thing.

Yeah, yeah. You guys know all this already. I'm going someplace with it, I promise.

Now, the Pepper POV practically wrote itself. Biff bam boom, it was done, off to beta *waves at ithildyn* and posted in, probably, not much more than a 24-hour period. I love it when the words just flow like that, don't you?

The Tony POV? Noooot so much.

This is weird. Those of you who know me, know I'm more comfortable in the heads of male characters than female ones. A good 80% of the time when I write, my lead is a male character. This is true for both fanfic and original fiction. It's a thing with me--I've always identified more with male characters than female ones. I devoured the Hardy Boys; Nancy Drew left me cold. Which means there's probably something wrong with me, and which is why I have a tag to that effect.

So, the Tony POV thing kind of stumbled along in fits and starts. Seriously, you guys know I suck at emotions, right? Yeah, I'm emotionally stunted myself, so getting into the head of a character who's roiling with them? This is tough for me. Especially when said character is Tony Stark and doesn't deal with emotions too well hisownself.

But I pushed through it. I had to sleep on it for a night after it came to a screeching halt, but then I had my hook for the rest, and I wrote it, and, lo, it was good too.

And now we get to the crux of the issue, which is What you can learn about writing by writing fanfic.

What we have here are two very different characters dealing with the exact same situation. Their thought processes are different, what they're thinking is different, and the way they put those thoughts together is different.

For example, I had Pepper's POV be very staccato, very sentence-fragment-y. Tony's was more run-on, more stream-of-consciousness. I don't expect everyone to necessarily agree with my characterization, but that's how I wrote them, because that's how I see them. And since they're movie characters, we don't really get to spend a whole lot of time actually inside their heads like we would if they were book characters--it's all extrapolation from what we saw on the screen, with maybe a little bleed-over from Peter David's very fine novelization. (Seriously, you guys need to buy this just for the scene where Tony hires Pepper and she gets her nickname. It's priceless.)

And there's the thing. All we know of how these characters think is what's on the screen, absent the novel. So, getting inside their heads isn't as easy as it looks at first blush. Digging deep and getting into the nittty-gritty? Even harder.

Making the reader feel it, while at the same time keeping the characters true to what the reader thinks about the characters?

Yeah, that's the actual hard part. Really, you're shooting in the dark there. You have a guideline, but no actual rules.

And this right here? You're learning about writing original fiction by writing fanfic. Because when it gets down to brass tacks, you're riffing. They might as well be original characters, because if you're doing it right you're in their heads and having them think thoughts about a situation they never ran into on the screen.

And writing the same scene from two different viewpoints? That's really good practice. Because not only are you expanding the little universe you've built around these characters by doing that, you're giving yourself insight on what they'd be thinking and feeling, and then you can have them play off each other even better in subsequent scenes.

And that's a beautiful thing.