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The Devil's Workshop

I was fretting (noisily) yesterday about lost time and stalled projects and blah, blah, blah, and the long-suffering, much put-upon SO finally looks out of his ibook (damn him) and sighs. "I thought you were going to work on your office?"

So I trudge upstairs and stare moodily out the window at the lawn that needs cutting and the rose bushes that need pruning, and then I look at my calendar and I start brooding...and it finally dawns on me that...despite the hard drive failure (momentary pause while I gnash my pearly whites) I seem to have accomplished everything for September right on schedule.

Copy-edits for Berkeley project - check
Story started for Amazon - check
Ghost Story edits - check
Cards on the Table novella - check
Writing Book - 1/3 mark - check

Holy Mother of God. I actually have a free day! 

So I thought...why not write something for fun? Something just for my own amusement -- something that I could even conceivably work on in long hand (which is how I used to write back when I was a mere cheese mite) Why not start that fan fiction project I promised for   justacat's beautifully produced NEVER FAR APART zine?

Now I know what you're probably thinking. And it's exactly what I would have thought myself just a few months ago, but remember I'm trying to amuse myself here. Rest and relaxation -- which believe it or not, the people who love me actually thing I need more of. Or, at least, something that will occupy me long enough for them to get something done.

Anyway, a while back I'd promised  justacat  a Professionals fan fic story if I got some free time. I'd originally been thinking some kind of IRA  thing, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I'd like to do something centered on the episode "Discovered in a Graveyard." So, anyway, that's what I did, I played around with some ideas and worked out a few things. I've got my title and my theme.

I'd an interesting chat with Kate MacLean about this a while back, and she was telling me that "Involvement" and "DiaG" are the two really pivotal episodes for fics -- and this seems to be true. For me "DiaG" should be the final episode in the series, and in my own fic-writing world (which seems to be utterly subjective, anyway) it is.

I decided to read through and see what other writers had done with it and I was able to locate really only a handful of stories -- I thought there would be a lot more.

"He'll Make It" by Joana Dey - really too much of rehashing the episode and a tiresome focus on why Doyle left the second set of locks undone. Some writers really belabor this point. Interestingly, in the Pros novelization YOU'LL BE ALL RIGHT, Bodie mentions that Doyle's left the locks a few times before. And that's pretty much my own thought on the matter. It's the old hands that fall from the rigging, not the raw recruits.

"Let Today Be Ours" by Barbara Thomas - she's competent but uninspired. Really not bringing anything new to the story or the event, and to me that's the only purpose of writing a fic on such a well-known topic -- do you have something new to say or something fresh or a different angle? For most writers, and I think this was Kate's point, it's a useful episode to indicate a turning point in the B/D relationship. But shouldn't it be more than that?

Or am I just totally missing the point of fan fiction? Still. Personally, I'd like to do a fic that was about more than first time shagging. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I enjoy those too, but I like best the ones where there's an original plot to rest the fan fic conventions on.

"Just Like Normal" by Shay Sheridan - very brief and a couple of nice lines.

"Wounds" by S. - It's so hard for me to say anything nice about a writer who refers to Bodie's eyes (or anyone's eyes) as "sapphire." Let alone twinkling sapphires. This one is basically just an opportunity to enjoy Doyle suffering beautifully.

"Breaking Cover" by Ellis Ward - Kate recommended this one to me, and I went back and had another look at it. I was orginally put off by the stilted and formal use of language in the beginning, but actually it's pretty good. And it gets stronger as the story progresses and the style relaxes. There's some great dialog and a genuine plot around the getting of B/D together in bed finally. One of my favorites.

With this one I began to see that there was a real pattern in the DiaG stories, and that certain elements were tradtional and expected -- which is fun, I think, to read everyone's take on these themes. The bringing Doyle home from the hospital scene; the Doyle has a nightmare scene; the Doyle facing his flat for the first time scene (by the way, he'd have been moved immediately as his security was compromised by the shooting); the Doyle and Bodie talk about why Doyle left the locks undone scene; the helping Doyle bathe scene (optional but full of interesting possibilities); the Doyle working to get his strength back scenes -- there are a lot more, I'm sure, but those are the ones that hit me.

Oh. And the Doyle and Bodie finally realize they love each other and get it on scene.

"Discoveries" by Jane - interesting and sort of poignant little bit where it looks like Doyle probably will not fully recover from getting plugged in the heart. I have trouble with her picture of this very fragile, gentle-spirited Doyle, but I'm fond of Jane's stuff for whatever reason.

"November" by Sebastian. A bit dark but beautifully written overall. And, again, she builds up a genuine plot to rest the framework of Doyle's slow return to active duty -- and Doyle and Bodie coming to terms with their feelings for each other. I admit I was impressed. She picks up later in the Doyle recovery story, so a lot of the traditional elements are missing, although the nightmare, and shaken trust is there.

What I especially like about Sebastian's work -- Kate does this as well -- is that she's able to flesh out what already exists (which is, i think, what you really hope for from good fan fic) and develop from there. Her dialog is excellent for the most part. 


"Private Lives" by Alexandra. Competent. This was the first DiaG story I read, and so it stayed in my mind. This one takes the tack that Bodie and Doyle go off on an extended holiday before Doyle returns to active duty to try and rebuild their trust after Doyle's shooting. Something like that. In this one Doyle and Bodie are each writing in their journals about their feelings on the shooting, which is a nice way of getting the switching POV -- and I think for an effective telling of this particular story it would be useful to alternate POV -- although I generally don't like it. Especially for myself. Sebastian alternates character POV along with an omniscient POV that actually works very well for her. Kate, on the other hand, does that really tight third person -- which is almost as good as first person. Oddly, though I'm most comfortable writing in first, I can't do it with these fics. The characters just don't feel like mine -- and, of course, they're not. Which is what makes writing them so relaxing and amusing.

"Rainy Days" by Jane - Bodie's POV and probably the most in-depth of all the fics on Doyle's recovery process. She's very imaginative and very technical -- one of the only writers who addresses the real probability that Doyle wouldn't make it back, or that there would be lasting health implications.

So that's everything I've read that was DiaG based. I might have missed some other stories. There's a lot out there that I still haven't read -- little personal sites mostly.

 "Soul Surrender" by Amanda Warrington is advertised as being about Doyle's recovery, but it's not. He's already returned to active service by the time the story starts. And Kate MacLean's YELLOW BRICK ROAD culminates with that final episode, but is not really about that, although she does use the event as the pivotal turning point. YBR is probably the single best thing written in Pros fandom, in my opinion -- for a variety of reasons.But I digress.

Anyway, I find it fascinating to compare the different takes on this particular episode, and I want to find a way to give a little nod to some of these particular story conventions while still saying what I want to on the topic. Of course on the one hand I think it's better to try and come up with a story that isn't episode-based, but there's also the entertainment value of covering familiar ground and seeing if you can do anything fresh with it.

And that's my thought on fan fiction for the month.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
blkandwhtcat
Sep. 29th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
Interesting post.

I'm very new to this fandom (found it thanks to a post by faramir_boromir about her top ten Pros fics - I'd never even heard of the series, and now I'm reading the fanfic and have ordered the DVDs! Despite the funky old hair styles and clothes. But hey, retro is cool), but even in the short time I've been reading the fanfic, I have noticed that Ray's near death experience in DiaG is a major event in much of the fanfic. It seems that you are focusing on stories that deal specifically with the recovery period, but I think the shooting plays into many other stories, signalling a point at which both Bodie and Doyle re-evaluate their relationship. If they're already sexually involved, it leads to a realization that they love one another, which marks a change in the relationship, from casual fuck buddies to committed partners. If one or both have been silently loving the other, then it's the catalyst for voicing those feelings. And finally, in my least favorite scenario, it's the event that leads them to realize they are sexually attracted to one another, even though they aren't gay or bi and have never before been attracted to another man. That's hard for me to buy, although I understand that since this is "slash," it's a common theme. I just don't believe that someone can not have any idea they are gay until they are in their 30s. They may be deeply repressed, or closeted, but if you're gay, then you figure it as soon as you start thinking about sex and realize that you're fantasizing about guys, not girls, like all your other horny 12 year old buddies.

I agree that the other major event that writers see as the turning point for the relationship is Doyle's relationship with Ann Holly in "Involvement." The theme varies. Sometimes Holly is seen as Doyle's substitute for what he really wants, but can't have (Bodie), but usually the relationship is what forces Bodie to accept and admit that he loves Ray. One of my favorite stories dealing with this theme is Sebastian's "Hyperion to a Satyr." It's actually one of my favorite Pros stories.

You've given some interesting examples. I haven't read all of them, but have read many of them. I tend to really like Sebastian's stories. Of the ones you mentioned that I have read, I did NOT like "Private Lives." I thought the premise didn't work, and I didn't think the "voices" sounded anything like I imagine Bodie and Doyle. Too touchy-feely for me. I tend to enjoy stories that don't have too much dialogue. If Bodie and Doyle start having long conversations about their "feelings," then I'm probably not going to be into the story.
jgraeme2007
Sep. 30th, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC)
Part II
the other major event that writers see as the turning point for the relationship is Doyle's relationship with Ann Holly in "Involvement." The theme varies. Sometimes Holly is seen as Doyle's substitute for what he really wants, but can't have (Bodie), but usually the relationship is what forces Bodie to accept and admit that he loves Ray One of my favorite stories dealing with this theme is Sebastian's "Hyperion to a Satyr." It's actually one of my favorite Pros stories.

I have trouble keeping Sebastian's stories straight, she was so prolific -- and all those little series! But if this is the story I'm thinking of, then yes, she handled it well. While her "psychology" is not exactly masculine, she often nails the essentials.

You've given some interesting examples. I haven't read all of them, but have read many of them. I tend to really like Sebastian's stories. Of the ones you mentioned that I have read, I did NOT like "Private Lives." I thought the premise didn't work,

The sending them away on holiday seemed unlikely, but I liked the idea of getting them out of town together, and the alternating journals -- while contrived (I can't see Bodie keeping a journal, period) -- offered a solution for the alternating POV, which is so badly done so much of the time.

and I didn't think the "voices" sounded anything like I imagine Bodie and Doyle. Too touchy-feely for me.

This is such a common problem in all m/m fiction -- not in the least unique to fandom -- guys who go on and on and on dwelling about their feelings -- and then having long discussions with the object of their attention. Not that guys can't be romantic or articulate (because that's another pet peeve of mine -- the reverse of the coin where the guy can't string a complete sentence together when it comes to his feelings).

Not that guys don't think at all about their feelings, not that they can't communicate or obsess, but we're not encouraged to do so, and so we tend to find different strategies for coping. All this talk, talk, TALK is unrealistic -- and worse, it's boring story-telling. There's almost none of these long expositions of feelings that couldn't be chopped down to a quarter of its length and be ten times more effective and revealing. It's quality of detail, not quantity.

I tend to enjoy stories that don't have too much dialogue. If Bodie and Doyle start having long conversations about their "feelings," then I'm probably not going to be into the story.

It's not true to their characters, for one thing. You don't find episodes with long scenes of heart-felt dialog between them -- and why would that change just because they wake up to how they feel about each other?

jgraeme2007
Sep. 30th, 2007 02:45 pm (UTC)
Part I
I have noticed that Ray's near death experience in DiaG is a major event in much of the fanfic. It seems that you are focusing on stories that deal specifically with the recovery period, but I think the shooting plays into many other stories, signalling a point at which both Bodie and Doyle re-evaluate their relationship.

Very true. My current interest is the recovery period stories, but the episode is the catalyst in numerous fics -- far too many to name, really. And it's an effective plot-starter for the simple reason that near-death experiences really are oft times life-changing events.

The recovery period dynamic plays into themes that I frequently explore in my own work -- i.e., the balance of strength and weakness: when is weakness strength in a relationship, when is strength a weakness; the effect of disability on masculine self-esteem, etc. That latter is particularly interesting for men who rely on -- even self-define -- based on physical ability and prowess.

If they're already sexually involved, it leads to a realization that they love one another, which marks a change in the relationship, from casual fuck buddies to committed partners.

This is my favorite scenario -- and probably the easiest to write.

If one or both have been silently loving the other, then it's the catalyst for voicing those feelings.

While that's actually a reasonably realistic scenario, I find the vast majority of stories with this theme to be tired and hackneyed. I'm not speaking specifically of DiaG stories now, because that theme crops up over and over in Pros stories -- the inciting incident may change, but the song remains the same.

And finally, in my least favorite scenario, it's the event that leads them to realize they are sexually attracted to one another, even though they aren't gay or bi and have never before been attracted to another man. That's hard for me to buy, although I understand that since this is "slash," it's a common theme.

I think you especially see this in the older Pros stories. Long, careful explanations of why these feelings are unique to them and their partnership and don't really have anything to do with being gay. And on one hand, it makes sense in the context of the show and the characters, but it's probably the least realistic (outside of fandom) scenario going.

And yet...from a story-telling standpoint, you do want to stress that there's something unique and isolate about this relationship, this partnership -- that it isn't just about discovering one's true sexuality.

A real balance to try and pull that off.

I just don't believe that someone can not have any idea they are gay until they are in their 30s. They may be deeply repressed, or closeted, but if you're gay, then you figure it as soon as you start thinking about sex and realize that you're fantasizing about guys, not girls, like all your other horny 12 year old buddies.

Very true. And I think that stories that work best with this particular theme are the ones where one or the other of the partners is in deep denial about those feelings -- has repressed them.

metabolick
Oct. 1st, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
Rainy Days is by far my favorite post-DIAG fic and indeed one of my all-time faves. I do tend to like Jane's stories, and I think it's her best.

May I suggest another post-DIAG story which I love? It's No Unicorns by Sebastian and HG on the Proslib cd. Bodie has been sent away on assignment while Doyle is in hospital and they start writing letters to each other to pass the time. The letters are just so them, and much has to be read between the lines. I think it's brilliant.
jgraeme2007
Oct. 1st, 2007 11:34 pm (UTC)
May I suggest another post-DIAG story which I love? It's No Unicorns by Sebastian and HG on the Proslib cd. Bodie has been sent away on assignment while Doyle is in hospital and they start writing letters to each other to pass the time. The letters are just so them, and much has to be read between the lines. I think it's brilliant.

I must check this out. I'm becoming quite a fan of HG -- and Sebastian is always a quality read. I re-read November last night, and it really is awfully well done.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
metabolick
Oct. 2nd, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
You're welcome. I will be interested to know what you think of it. It's one that's not often mentioned by reccers (is that a word?).

I would like to friend you if you don't mind. You always have such insightful comments on fic, even more so since you are discovering many Pros stories for the first time.
jgraeme2007
Oct. 2nd, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. I will be interested to know what you think of it. It's one that's not often mentioned by reccers (is that a word?).

Read it last night -- and hugely enjoyed it. Put that one right near the top of my favorite DiaG stories. Very nice blend of pathos and sly humor -- and, although the story itself is slight, the little insecure dropping of clues as to feeling and intent was very well done. Very realistic. One or both of those writers has actually paid attention to the way people communicate.

I would like to friend you if you don't mind. You always have such insightful comments on fic, even more so since you are discovering many Pros stories for the first time.

Thanks, I'd like that. As for insight -- I think the difference is I just look at everything from a writing standpoint -- and of course my ignorance of Pros mores and manners is mind-boggling, so that probably keeps the entertainment value high.
metabolick
Oct. 2nd, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, the writer's standpoint is great - but you can critique things in a very understandable way. I also find the Pros world quite entertaining and absorbing. I even find myself speaking Brit slang from time to time!

I'm glad you liked the story.
jgraeme2007
Oct. 4th, 2007 02:08 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked the story.

Yeah, I read it through again, and I think it may be my single favorite DiaG story. It's very clever.

One of the things that interests me most about it is the total lack of conflict between the lads -- because that's really one of my pet peeves in m/m fiction (and fan fiction in particular) -- the lack of any believable, character-based conflict. And, of course, without realistic conflict, there's generally no plot.

But the characterization in this story is so strong, and the voices are so well done, that it carries the reader along. It's very sweet and it's very clever -- and yet it's very simple.

Good call.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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