Take a group of writing buddies, a block of hotel rooms over a long weekend, some laptops, tablets and power strips and what do you get? A writing retreat.
That was my Columbus Day weekend this year. Northern Virginia served as a more-or-less central spot for a good portion of our writing gang. We roomed together, ate together, word-warred together and brainstormed together.
And here’s the thing: we all met in fandom. We all know about fandom feels and celebrity crushes. We all know what it’s like to live and die with a particular character. We all draw inspiration from the shows, books, actors and authors that we love.
We spent a good chunk of the weekend de-constructing character arcs and storylines from various fandoms. We took chapters or episodes apart, trying to see what worked and what didn’t, so we could learn from both the successes and the mistakes. We talked about the reading and writing of fan fics, and how certain characters worked (or didn’t work) in alternate settings. And we talked about the original settings too, and whether they were integral to the characters and stories or just happenstance.
We also read the original script for the pilot of one of the shows we all love. (White Collar, in case you’re curious. You know, the one starring Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay—a fun show back when the USA network was still about ‘blue skies.’) In fact, we read the script out loud, each of us taking a part. And then we re-watched the version that finally aired.
That was an awesome exercise. We could see which lines didn’t make the final cut. We could note the change in setting from San Diego to Manhattan—an important change, since Manhattan essentially became a character in its own right. We could see how the actors treated the dialogue. Some lines that fell flat on paper worked brilliantly on screen.
What did that say about the dialogue we write? Most of us write prose, not screenplays. So how do we capture those mannerisms and inflections to make our dialogue leap to life? Puzzling that out was an especially valuable experience this weekend.
None of us write in a vacuum, right? We all learn from other authors and from the books and shows that we love. I had to fall in love with certain characters in order understand how much a fictional world can matter. I had to invest myself in the fandoms that surround those characters in order to understand how other people react to them. How we sometimes see them differently, how we sometimes have different visions of how we think they should grow.
In short, I had to embrace my inner fangirl. I’m so glad I did, and so glad I never looked back.
Are fandoms important to you as an author, a reader or an audience member? Have you discussed your favorite books and shows with a community of fellow devotees, or do you hold yourself aloof? I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences.