Advice for Slash Writers

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Title: Advice for Slash Writers
Creator: Flamingo
Date(s): June 22, 2000
Medium: post to a mailing list
Fandom: has a focus of Starsky & Hutch
External Links:
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Advice for Slash Writers is a 2000 essay by Flamingo.

It was posted to ThePits, a Starsky & Hutch mailing list on June 22, 2000 and is quoted here on Fanlore with Flamingo's permission.

Some Topics Discussed

  • love stories
  • for first time slash writers—how to get up the nerve to publish
  • slash fiction is not that different from other fiction

The Essay

Writing slash isn't any different from writing not-slash. And for anyone out there who is feeling too "timid" to write slash, just keep telling yourself that. All stories should revolve around a plot, and all action in the story should evolve from the development of that plot. Everything that happens in a story should do something to move the story forward. There shouldn't be any activity in a story that doesn't do this (and character development is critical to move the story forward, so there's plenty of room for all that relationship stuff). Whether you're writing about S&H's deep friendship and how it is affected by the action of the plot (S gets shot, Hutch anguishes; H gets kidnapped, S anguishes; S meets a woman who is incompatible with his job and his friendship with H, they both anguish) or about S&H's deep and profound passion for one another (S gets shot, Hutch anguishes over his lover; H gets kidnapped, S anguishes over his lover; S meets a woman who is incompatible with his job and his friendship with H, H anguishes that he'll never be S's lover) the actual writing of each genre is the same. So I guess my first bit of advice is to examine your plot, and make sure everything you're writing about it moves the story forward.

All stories do well to have tension in them (will S die from getting shot; will H be rescued from the kidnappers before getting killed; will our suspicions about the evil nature of the woman S is seeing come to the fore in time for H to do something about it). It's the thing that makes readers keep reading. It's the "what's gonna happen next" excitement in a story. In a slash story that focuses solely on the relationship the tension may be sexual tension (If S doesn't die from getting shot will this experience be enough to make him realize his true feelings for H; while trapped in the kidnappers' clutches does H anguish over facing death without telling S how he really feels about him; can H separate his frustrated feelings for S to really see through S's girlfriend's strange behavior, or is he just coping with jealousy) but if the slash story is primarily a plot-driven story (as opposed to relationship driven--will they or won't they?) then sexual tension might not come into it, especially if it's an established relationship story. So an important thing for new writers to ask themselves is: how am I going to develop tension in my story, sexual or otherwise? You develop tension by stringing the plot events out and not giving away too much too soon. You'll get better at this with practice, but only if you *practice*.

Most people see the big difference between slash and gen writing in the love scenes in slash. I don't, myself, but that's because if I was writing gen I'd be writing long love scenes in those stories, too, and I don't know why there is such a dearth of adult love stories in S&H. I wish there were more, but not enough to write them myself. But if you're one of those new writers who thinks, "Okay, I wanna write slash but you can forget the love scene!" then I would suggest you reconsider. Some slash stories don't need a love scene (see Suzan Lovett's Foster Child of Silence and Slow Time for a good example), but if your story is focusing especially on a first-time scenario and you've led your reader up hill and down dale through the "will they or won't they" scenario, and you think you can finish this story up with a chaste kiss then close the door in the reader's face, think again. If you were writing a gen story where you'd placed the guys in terrible danger and spent the entire story making the reader worry about whether or not they would get out of their predicament, and then in the last paragraph you totally skipped the scene where they actually make their escape through their own cleverness and save themselves and instead wrote: "They escaped." -- you would have written a story that had failed. It failed to deliver what it had promised. It failed to deliver the punchline of the story, the exciting rescue/escape/action scene you'd been leading up to. To drag a slash reader through a story that implies throughout its length that if everything works right these guys will become lovers, leads the slash reader to expect the same punchline to their story -- the grand finale, the reward for plowing through all these words and anguishing along with the characters what will happen to them. What you're saying to the reader is: well, the guys get the satisfaction of being together, but you don't deserve to participate, even though you stuck it out with them through all the crisis and pain. It's an unfinished story. It fails to satisfy the reader. And don't think your readers will thank you for it.

If you get to the moment and feel like you can't go through with it (even though you know the story needs if you're being honest), then do this: (and this is how I started writing love scenes, no kidding) -- tell yourself you're going to publish the story without the punchline love scene because you're too embarrassed but *write it for YOURSELF*! Write it in the privacy of your most private place and tell yourself that it is your fantasy and that NO ONE WILL EVER READ IT. Take your time. Indulge yourself. Be sensuous. Be romantic. Write it the way you'd love to read it. Polish it. Let it sit for a few days. After it's sat for awhile, read the entire story and see if the love scene fits into it properly and satisfies the expectations you have set up. Develop it. (Why not, no one's going to see it but you.) When you're really really happy with it, change your name on the story and publish the damned thing. The ceiling won't cave in, the world won't stop spinning, and no one will think you're a sick degenerate. They'll be grateful as hell. Because you wrote a satisfying slash story.

There is nothing more frustrating than a slash story that promises something then won't deliver.