Writers on Writing Interview with torch

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Writers on Writing Interview with torch
Interviewer: uncredited
Interviewee: torch
Date(s): November 22, 2001
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Highlander/X-Files
External Links: interview is here; reference link
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Writers on Writing Interview with torch was conducted in 2001.

The subject is the author's X-Files/Highlander fanfic: China.

Interviews in the Series

Some Excerpts

I tend to be inspired by all kinds of things. Obviously, the characters, first and foremost: who they are, why they are the way they are, what they do and how they interact. The universe of whatever show they inhabit, how it works, what the underlying philosophy is and how people relate to each other in that world. That kind of stuff sticks in my mind, but the catalyst for a new story is often something seemingly unrelated, like hearing a certain song on the radio, walking outside in the morning when there's frost on the ground, or experimenting with a new recipe for dinner. An everyday event can be quite different depending on in which universe it takes place, and on which character is involved.

Or the source of the inspiration is someone's throwaway remark, or a pure desire to be contrary and/or go against a prevailing trend or fanon element. I'm wary of that kind of inspiration, because stories written solely to make a point are often not as engaging and alive as stories that grew organically from thoughts about the characters and their world, but sometimes it's just irresistible to go with it.

China was different. The reason I ended up writing China was that I attended Connexions in 1998 and put a piece of paper with "story of your choice" in the auction as a charity item. Vyola placed the winning bid and asked for either a Mulder/Krycek first time story with a seducing Mulder and an overwhelmed Krycek, or a Methos/Mulder first time story with Methos seducing a reluctant, suspicious Mulder.

I honestly can't remember, three and a half years later, why I picked Methos/Mulder over Mulder/Krycek. I'd just finished Lovers, and I think it's possible that I thought that my vision of Mulder and Krycek right then would override any input or preference Vyola had. Of course, I also feel that I ended up writing Methos and Mulder a bit differently from the way she'd specified.

The inspiration for the story itself came from pondering various things Methos might do after the end of Highlander, looking in an atlas and thinking that American towns have the weirdest names, thinking about the relationship between Mulder and Scully, rereading Life among the savages, and having a deep desire to write a HL crossover where no one explains immortality to anyone else.
The writing process was very, very slow. I started the story when I came home from the con, in April 1998, and it was finished and posted in January 2000. I feel bad about that, since I wrote the story specifically for another person, and I had no idea when I agreed to do it that she'd have to wait nearly two years to get what she'd asked for. Writing China taught me never to put a story up for auction again, since it became quite clear that I don't write well to certain types of specifications, and I'd hate to leave anyone else hanging that way.

I didn't make much of an outline. I usually don't use outlines, other than some sketchy keywords and maybe some essential lines of dialogue--which frequently end up being left out as being far too obvious, once the emotions they express are incorporated into the story. When I write a longer story and don't trust myself to keep all the details in my head, I leave little notes for myself at the end of the story file, along the lines of "Don't forget Scully finds the secret treasure after Mulder has left to talk to the witnesses" or "Qui-Gon thinks Obi-Wan's knees are cute--do something with that in the third sex scene?"

Generally speaking, though, I find a story works out better if I know where it's going, but don't plot out too closely exactly how it's supposed to get there. If I change my mind about something, and leave a hole, I know I can always sew the plot back together during the editing stage. That's also a big reason why I don't like to post in parts.
Now, almost two years later, there are certainly things I wish I'd done differently. I wish I'd listened more closely to Shoshanna when it came to the attraction and relationship between Mulder and Methos, and expanded even more on it. If I were writing the story today, I'd probably write a somewhat different Methos, and change some of the tone of the HL references, as I have a slightly different view of the show and the character now.

On a technical level, there are two things I'm not sure about. First, the first scene. I was going for a beginning-of-an-XF-ep kind of feeling, with some mysterious thing happening to or around some mysterious character, but now, I feel that it just comes across as an attack of Mystery Protagonist Syndrome; I've developed a strong dislike for stories that try to conceal the identity of a character, and although it's made clear later on that this is Methos, I feel that the beginning of the story is weakened by this choice. An unidentified character isn't necessarily strong enough to carry an opening segment, and doesn't hook the reader nearly as well as a known and loved one.

The second thing I'd rethink is the use of epithets. In the early sections from Methos' POV, he uses a lot of epithets (or rather, uses the same or similar epithets several times in close succession) to refer to Mulder. It's a distancing tactic; Methos prefers to think of Mulder as "the FBI agent" at first, to see him as a function rather than a person. A lot of fannish writing is very heavy on the epithet-usage, though, and I suspect that this doesn't come across as a stylistic choice and a characterization issue, just as your standard epithet stuff, bigger man smaller man red-headed agent burly AD one-armed traitor, etc, ad nauseam. If I were writing this story today, I'd try to come up with a different way to convey Methos' feelings.