Francine - harvest
I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Silly thoughts, because I'm going home.
Thoughts from a BtVS slash peeves discussion, that turned more specific for me instead of more meta. Which I think may be good. The more I meta, the less I'm able to remain logical.

__

Xander/Spike thoughts:

I guess I could give generic slash peeves, but those seem to boil down to what everyone else has: bad characterization, bad reasoning for why two characters would get together, bad grammar, bad use of canon, bad writing, period. Bad Spike, no biscuit. So, specifics, and I'm likely to think in mostly Xander/Spike peeves, because that's what I read the majority of. Spike/Angel fics don't seem to set off my buzzers as much, in terms of badfic gongs.

A couple of things that get to me in X/S slash are Xander being written as much less mature than he should be for the time-setting, and the two of them being much closer than they should be, from the beginning of the fic.

There's an attractive hurt/comfort angle to making Xander the completely innocent one whom Spike either seduces or shelters, but it makes me cringe, when I see Xander thinking and behaving in a way that he demonstrably doesn't, onscreen. He's 19-through 21, during the time in which he knows Spike with any degree of familiarity. He's not a virgin (probably with men, yes, but he's had plenty of The Sex, and probably reasonably kinky sex, given Anya's scattered comments), and while he's quite likely to be nervous about getting involved with a man, he's not quiet and shy. (Okay, so I'm talking Xander characterization on a Spike board, but I think it's valid, nonetheless.) He can give as good as he gets with Spike, and isn't likely to be completely dumfuzzled and adoring of everything his partner says.

And the "Oh, we're buddies" opening to a story. Huh? Since when? They barely tolerate each other, and there has never, until the Glory arc headed into its final downward spiral, been a time when Spike was actually accepted among the Scooby Gang, without insults and suspicion. Even at the end of S5, Xander was pawing the ground and strutting his manly stuff about Spike being around, until the end of "Spiral." And Spike lives to insult him. So, a fic that starts out with the two of them in some hazy, undefined post-chip era, being more-or-less friends, is going to have to work pretty hard to convince me of that. Show me why. At least give a little background, telling me how because of event X, Spike has gotten closer to the gang, and Xander feels differently about him now, than he's shown to onscreen. I don't require all *that* much, but I have to set my suspension of disbelief on stun, if an author tries to set a story in a specific canon period, but doesn't have the characters acting as they would have at *that* time.

I make exceptions for stories that start out with the pair as lovers, if there's an explanation for that somewhere down the line, or the storyline shows me that it's not germane to the plot. They are, it happened, now here's the real story. That's fine. Er, possibly biased on that, because I've written a number of them.

Regarding messed-up S/X:

(One poster had written that she wants to see stories where Xander has a healthy self-esteem/not a mess. agree, but do have some issues with perfectly-happy-Xander, if one's trying to be canononical)

Yes, abused!Xander, unless very well done, makes my teeth itch now. Utterly depressed and suicidal Xander is also getting old. However, I don't think a story that shows *either* Spike or Xander as having a *healthy* self-esteem, can be completely in character, if it's set in Season 4 or later.

Xander *doesn't* have a healthy self-esteem. He covers his insecurities with jokes, or with attempts to appear more mature (season 6, imho, where he does feel better about himself because of job/apartment/fiancee), but he's still messed up, in canon. He's just getting better at hiding it. Spike, before recent events gave him some of his confidence back, has been one of the most mentally-and-emotionally-screwed guys around. I don't think stories that show them helping each other to feel better about themselves are played-out -- but I prefer subtlety. Show me the onscreen characters, or show me them as they would be when reacting to some major *new* trauma. Don't show them being utterly hamstrung by the same mental issues they have on the show, where they *aren't* basket cases.

thamiris

2001-12-08 09:48 am (UTC) (Link)

It's nice to see someone thinking through characterization like this, and while I don't read much in this fandom (I watch the show for my kicks), I do think you've nailed some of the most consistent writing annoyances in all fandoms.

Dumbing-down or infantalizing or purifying the characters is just icky. Xander's such an interesting character because he's so much of everything. Under the nervous babbling there's a very, very sharp brain, and he's much less innocent, it seems to me, than...I was going to say "nervous," but I think that the babbling is often a posture he relies on because it's familiar, and not necessarily because he really is all that nervous. It's more like if he's babbling or being quippy, then he doesn't have to let anyone inside. A defense mechanism, and one that he's doubtless learned from having such a whacked homelife.

And I can't stand stories (although there are always exceptions!) where the characters are always best friends. I've seen that too often, and it's cheap and annoying, bypassing one of the most crucial steps in the relationship just because a writer's too lazy to explain why A and B got together in the first place.

So yay you. :-)






Hear hear!

Anonymous

2001-12-10 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Mad P:

Mod pointed me to your live journal post about X/S characterization, and two snaps up for nailing all things about X/S fic that drives me bananas. I love the pairing, but the deluge of sweet, sappy, snuggly X/S fic with no friction is so hurl-worthy, I get more and more turned off every day.

BTW, read the Reflections fic and was mucho impressed. I'm glad I'm not the only one who is convinced the people in the mirror have their own separate existence. :) Lovely, lovely.

Saturn Girl
saturngirl9@hotmail.com

witchwillow

2002-05-31 10:47 am (UTC) (Link)

And the "Oh, we're buddies" opening to a story.

Yes, coming late to the party. But, that line made me go back and re-read the begining of Dark Delight.

Note to self: Don't start reading your own stories at work. You have DID. There are alters who've never read it, and thus - no work gets done . :)

But, re DD, I found myself wondering if that's how it comes across.I was trying to go for familiarity, and then events themselves leading to friendship & acceptance or whatever.

How distant do you think Spike & Xander would have had to be after S4 ? As well as Spike & the rest of the gang.

Just a quick question to hopefully improve the story for it's eventual reposting.

mpoetess

2002-05-31 12:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, post season 4, when season 5 hadn't officially started (which is when both DD and CG are set) there's nothing to say they haven't grown closer over the summer. There's nothing to say that Spike hasn't worked with them since the Initiative broke up. Summer stories that start off from X canon point don't bug me at all. What you've started in DD (and what I've started in CG) is essentially a future story, that takes off from point X in canon, and doesn't contradict what that came before, or acknowledge what came after, because when it was started, there *wasn't* anything that came after.

DD is actually more AU on the Angel side of the equation, because of Doyle having survived, than the Buffy part of it, which I bought completely. Granted, if and only if I suspend disbelief on the abused!Xander central theme. That is, if I say DD is an AU where Xander is horribly abused and has been hiding it, the story works perfectly. If I try to believe that Canon Xander has been hiding abuse of this level, I can't. But that's fine -- that's the AU. That's the story. Sandy Places is an AU where Xander was physically abused by his father, and I can't quite buy that canon!Xander has the family history that SP Xander has, either. Again, that's the AU, and it works.

All of which is a longwinded way of saying that no, I don't think Xander and Spike, or Spike and the gang in general, are too close, at the beginning of DD. :)

witchwillow

2002-05-31 01:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

I've always seen Canon!Xander as neglected, emotionally abandoned and emotionally abused.

And I could write that. But DD has elements I wanted to explore. Though when you mentioned abuse in both your post and your response I got a little edgy. Cause I know a lot of people are fed up with *abused* Xander.

Kinda makes me feel the fic is doomed for displeasure before they even start reading. And all because at that level of abuse is just something I wanted to explore & work through.

But, ce la vie, right.

Sudden thought: I know that all fanfic can be considered AU because it differes from Canon. But given all the recent conversation about Spike - chip -nochip - soul - S6 etc. Would our (yours & mine) interpretations of Spike automatically have made our fics AU ? Not the X/S aspect, but Spike himself, his motivations etc ?

I think someone brought this up before. But re-reading my fic, I understand why people might think so now. Cause DD's Spike wouldn't have ended up where S6's Spike ended up. Even if I somehow wrote Spuffy. It makes me wonder if I watch the show looking for DD's Spike on screen; little snippets of him amidst everything else.

Anyway, all of this is my longwinded way of saying thanks. for the compliments (subtly applied) about my characterizations and Scoobie relationship premise. Cause if you can buy DD's Xander as he is, where it's an AU - then I'm still writing about *Xander* and not some other demon fighting brunette who just happens to have the same name.

mpoetess

2002-05-31 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Kinda makes me feel the fic is doomed for displeasure before they even start reading. And all because at that level of abuse is just something I wanted to explore & work through.


I think it's a plot that people will narrow their eyes at, yes. Because it's an X/S fanon cliche. You're not going to get away from that -- it's a plot point that many people have done before you, and many people have done *badly*, and so yes -- there is a predjudice against it, among many readers.

I think it's a plot that you've done well, and made it believable in the story. Which is a *big* point of difference. Are you going to get people who won't read it (or who stop reading it) because of the physical/sexual abuse? Possibly.

That doesn't make it a bad story -- it just means you've picked a story that some people won't want to read. Te writes what I'm sure is excellent fic in several fandoms that I don't read, and I don't read it just because there are only so many minutes in my day, and I've no interest in, for instance, Due South fic, at the moment. Likewise, there are people who won't read abused!Xander fic, even if the setup is very good, and it works within the story.

DD is a *good* story; it's interesting and emotional and the *application* of that plot is original and creative -- the two Spikes, the way Spike finds out what's going on, etc. *I* find it worth reading, and have enjoyed it, even though I tend to roll my eyes at Xander abuse stories. The reason I don't roll my eyes at yours is that you do it well, you treat the issues well, and it's a good story.

Have I mentioned it's a good story?


mpoetess

2002-05-31 01:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sudden thought: I know that all fanfic can be considered AU because it differs from Canon. But given all the recent conversation about Spike - chip -nochip - soul - S6 etc. Would our (yours & mine) interpretations of Spike automatically have made our fics AU ? Not the X/S aspect, but Spike himself, his motivations etc ?


Meaning, our interpretations of Spike at the time of the end of S4, have they been made AU by his behaviour and apprent motivations in S5/S6? I've been assured that it doesn't work that way -- you're working from the Spike who was visible at the time you began writing. You can't be responsible for getting Jossed. Can't be responsible for what directions are taken with the character after you began writing your story.

Moreover, I don't think that your or my characterizations of Spike have necessarily been Jossed by his development up to now. Yeah, there's Seeing Red, and CG Spike wouldn't do that -- but then, CG Spike has found his love, who loves him back (whether he knows it consciously or not) and hasn't been through the things with Buffy, the degradation, the mutual abuse, that canon Spike has been through by the end of S6. Ditto DD Spike. Who knows?

witchwillow

2002-05-31 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

hasn't been through the things with Buffy, the degradation, the mutual abuse, that canon Spike has been through by the end of S6.

Yeah, that what I have to remember & recognize, Because watching S6 Spike, I see snippets of DD's Spike, infact S6's Spike is much closer to Beyond The Dust's Spike. Just because of what I have planned for the story.

So it's a core character, but with all these different interpretations.

Ex: CG's Spike is Spike. Totally beleivable. I could place him in Buffy S6 and imagine him looking at himself and going - "You poor fuck"

::grin::

Now that would be a cool meta-verse story. A group of fanon Spike's discussing what's happened to Canon!Spike.


But all this makes me think that maybe that's what Joss has been trying to show us with all his varied alternate universes; Cody!Birthdayverse, Wishverse, even in a small way Jonathonverse.

Cause there we get to see the what-ifs, and all the characters are recognizably themselves, only molded differently. Maybe that's why I like AU's in a fandom - because it's an exploration of the combinations of *nurture* & *nature*

Wishverse Buffy, as I've mentioned before was a lot like Faith, take, want, have, kill. It was mentioned to me that Faith also had her own issues pre-Slayer calling to deal w/. But the same lack of foundation and influence whether pre or post left similar marks I think.

Faith couldn't beleive in what Buffy had found w/ her friends, even as she really wanted something similar. Buffy couldn't trust, because she'd never had anyone to trust in before.

Jonathonverse Spike, living in a world where Jonathon was *everything* seemed cockier to me, sure of his place. Cause he *knew* he couldn't win, so he settled for being annoying. Where as Canon!Spike has had to deal with the blow to his ego of realizing that the only reason he killed his two Slayers is because they'd given up.

Which, throws this really wonderful twist on *who* Spike is, or who he thought he was. Man, it makes me see that whole episode as Spike revealing his weakness to Buffy in a *much* more vunerable way. More than his crush / obession.

Damn.

He unlike Riley was readily admitting Buffy's dominance over him. Hmm, ficlicious ideas about why Spike does what he does now.

I can see it as him to being William under it all. Admitting that everything he's done to seem vicious and hard and cruel has all been an act, he was still being what he thought he was supposed to be. Taking every advantage - kinda like Quark on DS9 claiming he killed a Klingon, in order to improove business, only to find that admitting the man fell on his own knife would have made life simplier for everyone.

And now I'm comparing Quark and Spike - that is just so cool!


    Quark despised his brother for his capacity to be honest and nice and fair - all the things he felt a Frengi shouldn't be, according to Ferngi custom.

    Spike despies, or claims to despise Angel. So many fanfic writers have written him as missing Angelus, as not knowing how to interact w/ Angel. And before we were all Jossed - it added a certain dynamic to what we thought was the Sire-Childe relationship.

    Quark and Spike both feeling the other significant male in their family is anti, both loving them, and fearing becoming like them.

    Ok, that was an interesting deviation. Maybe I'll explore it more later.



And the Jonathonverse!Buffy there seemed beleivable to me as something Canon!Giles would be afraid of Buffy becoming.

Dependent on outside influence, her support system become a weakness.

It's still a half formed though - but I'll probably explore it some either LJ wise of fic wise. I'm kinda already doing something fic wise actually.

Cool - I'd forgotten that.


Anyway - my longwinded way of realizing that as long as we stay true to the core of each character - they can end up anyway we like, due to circumstances and new influences. I feel less antsy about my writing now.