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Why do I write fanfic? - Mo's Journal
February 6th, 2006
06:35 am

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Why do I write fanfic?
I started to answer this question on fanthropology but it was getting long for a comment, so I turned it into an entry in my own journal. I've been writing X-Men movieverse fanfic for just over 5 years now. That's about 4.9 years longer than I thought I'd be doing it when I started.

I'd never heard of fanfic before October 2000, and when I found it (and slash, in particular) I was just fascinated by it and decided I'd like to give it a try. Here I am, still doing it all these years later. I'm working on an X2 series now, and have two X1 series waiting in the wings to be written. I hope to be inspired to write more by X3. It's the most enjoyable hobby I've ever had. I think it's worth reflecting on what I'm getting out of it. Like many other folks, I don't have one reason. Some of what I get from this fanfic enterprise is behind the cut.


* I write fanfic because I have a story to tell. That's the main one. The source text is compelling to me and sparks my imagination. It makes me think of what else might have happened - after the movie, before it starts, in between scenes - and I wake up with stories in my head. Extending the story beyond what we see in canon starts because the characters and the situations feel real to me and I want to enhance that sense of reality by going beyond the two-hour snippet of their lives the movie represents.

* That said, I did the above for 45 years with books, movies, tv shows, etc. and never wrote about it. I imagined stories in my head, didn't turn them into fanfic. I started writing fanfic because when I started reading fanfic it looked like fun to take those stories and write them down and share them with others. I kept doing it because it was fun. I'm still doing it because it's still fun.

* I write fanfic because I like the research. I learn so many different things doing it. I'm often surprised at the depth and breadth of research that I need to do to write what are essentially stories about comic book superheroes who have sex with each other. Who knew? I've expanded my knowledge in so many areas. Sometimes it's frustrating (right now I'm having some difficulty learning about safety features of aerial tramways) but it's mostly really interesting and challenging.

* I write fanfic because I like the whole process of doing it - writing, betaing, editing, revising. I like making the stories as good as I can.

* I write fanfic because of the effect it has on how I read fiction. I had never written fiction before, and I've learned so much about plotting, characterization, structure of stories and novels, foreshadowing, and other fiction techniques from fanfic. Reading about technique doesn't teach you what practicing techniques does. I learned about fiction in a way that studying literature didn't give me and it has made me appreciate reading fiction much more and in different ways.

* I write fanfic because I write slash and that's something I can't get from the source text. I love the queer subtext in much of popular culture and I want to see it made explicit, which is one of the main reasons I read and write slash. For more on why I like slash in particular, see http://mofic.livejournal.com/11804.html.

* I write fanfic because I enjoy participating in fandom and this is the way I can use my particular talents to do so. I love fannish culture; I think it's fascinating and stimulating and warm and friendly and enthusiastic. It's a fun subculture that crosses age and culture and gender barriers and I like being part of it. I love that there are many things to do with fandom and that people are able to find their niches, from writing to recs to icons to vids to fannish history. Writing X-Men slash is what I'm good at. It's what I can do to contribute to fannish culture.

* I write fanfic for the feedback. Well, I think to be more accurate I publish for the feedback and the participation in fannish culture, but I write for the reasons listed before that. I love the LoC's and I've been very lucky to get a lot of them, from my first series, "I Know What You Are." It's not something I'd thought about when I began writing, but it felt good and I wanted more {g}. The "it's great" ones are fine, but what I really like is when people talk to me about the stories and about the characters and we can engage in a dialogue. It makes it all the more real to me. And that's where I came in...


I'd love to hear from anyone on my flist who'd like to share why you write, or do whatever it is that you do in fandom.

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From:marag
Date:February 6th, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC)
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I write for many of the same reasons as you, but for me the primary one is the thrill I get from knowing that I've entertained someone. As a kid, I always thought it was magical that authors wrote this stuff down and then I got to read it and be transported somewhere else. I wished with all my heart that I could write a story that someone else enjoyed, but I was too easily discouraged by my early bad attempts.

Then one day about five years ago, I discovered that I *could* write fiction people enjoyed. Sure, I wasn't creating a world from scratch, but I wrote down what the characters did and other people got excited about it. I made people laugh and sniff and *care*.

And that's a thrill that hasn't gone away yet.

I also love doing the research, BTW. My favorite bit of research was on methods of materials testing. Oh, and there was the time I needed to know if trains went from Paris to Abbeville, France in the late nineteenth century. (They did, in case you care.) For a story I'm writing right now, I've been frustrated to find not enough information on electronic locks, and I've had to cheat in writing in a scene. It annoys me, but what can you do?
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From:mofic
Date:February 6th, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC)
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Have you tried asking little_details about the electronic locks? It's a pretty broad community with a lot of different kinds of expertise.

I loved this part, btw:
Then one day about five years ago, I discovered that I *could* write fiction people enjoyed. Sure, I wasn't creating a world from scratch, but I wrote down what the characters did and other people got excited about it. I made people laugh and sniff and *care*.

And that's a thrill that hasn't gone away yet.


Sister!
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From:eveningblue
Date:February 7th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC)
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I think it's interesting that these are your first two points:

* I write fanfic because I have a story to tell. That's the main one. The source text is compelling to me and sparks my imagination. It makes me think of what else might have happened - after the movie, before it starts, in between scenes - and I wake up with stories in my head. Extending the story beyond what we see in canon starts because the characters and the situations feel real to me and I want to enhance that sense of reality by going beyond the two-hour snippet of their lives the movie represents.

* That said, I did the above for 45 years with books, movies, tv shows, etc. and never wrote about it. I imagined stories in my head, didn't turn them into fanfic. I started writing fanfic because when I started reading fanfic it looked like fun to take those stories and write them down and share them with others. I kept doing it because it was fun. I'm still doing it because it's still fun.


I have to say, I never did this, and maybe that's why I find writing fanfic so hard. It does not come naturally to me the way it does to you. I've always accepted the totality of a story as it was told to me, and judged it on that basis. The idea that the reader/viewer could participate actively by actually changing the story or adding to it is one I came to only reluctantly.

I also have a more problematic relationship with the whole fandom world. You seem to have had a mostly positive experience with it, while my experience has been mixed.

I would say that the main reason I write is because there is a story I want to read that hasn't been written yet. (Honestly, I'd much rather read than write.) The trouble with writing for this reason is that there's a reason why a certain kind of story hasn't been written--there's no demand for it. So I think my stories tend to please me more than other readers, which is fine as long as I can accept the fact that I'll always get very few comments on my stories.

I enjoy certain aspects of fandom--just chatting with people who love something that I do is fun--but others, like a tendency towards obsessiveness and a certain amount of celebrity worship, I could do without.

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From:mofic
Date:February 7th, 2006 02:30 am (UTC)
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The idea that the reader/viewer could participate actively by actually changing the story or adding to it is one I came to only reluctantly.

Interesting. I've always had a vivid imagination and I guess I never saw the application of my imagination to someone else's story as taboo. It was, in fact, the dominant form of play when I was a small child - making up stories based on tv, books or movies and then acting them out. It was my kids' dominant form of play when younger, too. They spent hour upon hour "playing Star Wars" or "playing X-Men." I'm still playing X-Men.

I'm surprised that you say your stories get few comments, and that you think there's little demand for the kind of story you write. From what I've read of yours, they fall solidly into a certain kind of slash that I think of as quite popular - buddies/partners who are clandestine lovers. Is it possible that it's just a small fandom? I really don't know that much about Starsky and Hutch.

I enjoy certain aspects of fandom--just chatting with people who love something that I do is fun--but others, like a tendency towards obsessiveness and a certain amount of celebrity worship, I could do without.

I'm totally bored by the drooling over the actors stuff, since that's so much not my interest in slash. But I just skip it - it doesn't really bother me. I think I like the obsessiveness :-). Or, more accurately, I like fannish behavior that appears obsessive from the outside but feels perfectly normal to me. I love talking to people about the X-Men as if they were real people. They feel very real to me, and it seems perfectly natural to compare Scott's relationship with Jean, or with Logan, to relationships I've been in or my friends have. I use Jean-Paul and Adam as a yardstick of some sort for dealing with difficulties in relationships; I compare their parenting practices (and that of Wendy and Arthur) to those of people I know. I talk about mutant rights and gay rights together. I'm always aware that I'm pretending, but I like putting that awareness in the back of my head, so to speak, and talking with people who care about the characters and see them as real. I think in some sense that is obsessive, but I also think it's part of the fun of it.

I also really love fandom - or at least some corners of fandom - because it's just full of people really working hard at something just for fun. I think that's the best reason to put in effort, because you want to. I just love that nobody makes money at this, that we write and revise and work to improve our craft just because we want to. I love that people form communities like little_details and x_edit and writing_sex just to help each other out. I love that people issue challenges or come up with ficathons or RPGs just to facilitate and encourage creative fannish behavior. It's the combination of creativity, cooperation and joy in work that delights me in fandom, and I see that combo so much!
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From:eveningblue
Date:February 7th, 2006 04:05 am (UTC)
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Interesting. I've always had a vivid imagination and I guess I never saw the application of my imagination to someone else's story as taboo. It was, in fact, the dominant form of play when I was a small child - making up stories based on tv, books or movies and then acting them out. It was my kids' dominant form of play when younger, too. They spent hour upon hour "playing Star Wars" or "playing X-Men." I'm still playing X-Men.

Ha! So interesting! I have never been able to make up fictional characters, or work with other people's characters. All the writing I've ever done, until fanfiction, was based on real people I knew. Mostly, I wrote poetry, which is less about characterization, plot, and dialogue than about distilling some moment through rhythm, image, and language. Writing fiction was always completely alien to me.

I'm surprised that you say your stories get few comments, and that you think there's little demand for the kind of story you write. From what I've read of yours, they fall solidly into a certain kind of slash that I think of as quite popular - buddies/partners who are clandestine lovers. Is it possible that it's just a small fandom? I really don't know that much about Starsky and Hutch.

The answer to this is complicated, and has to do with my own naivete about fandom in general and the S&H fandom in particular. I came to it because I love S&H, but I soon learned, through list discussions, that what I loved about it was not what others loved about it, and that my favorite episodes were not others'. The episodes can be quite different in tone, and in the S&H slash fandom, there is a deep and abiding love for the melodramatic angstful episodes. I don't like those.

I think that since so many S&H fans are drawn to the fandom because of the angst, that is what comes up in slash stories again and again. Hurt/comfort is a HUGE part of this fandom, and I am not a h/c fan.

But I think that possibly the biggest problem is that 90% of the stories written in S/H are stories in which Starsky and Hutch discover their love for each other after the final episode of the series, in which Starsky nearly dies. These stories tend to drip with goopy, angstful, hand-wringing romance, which I ... uh... don't like. (To put it mildly.)

I didn't realize this when I discovered the fandom! I thought there would be more of an openness to different stories, and more variety in people's likes and dislikes. I've only found a handful (like, two) S/H writers who write them as lovers through the course of the series, and who combine action and adventure with romance and sex. That's the kind of story I love, but there are hardly any of them in S/H, and hardly any demand for them. Honestly, I find your Scott/Logan much more satisfying than most S/H stories, because they are more along these lines, even though I barely knew the characters when I first started reading them.

So even though I love S&H the show and the characters, as a fandom it has not been the most satisfying experience for me. Right now I am checking out Highlander, because even though the show is really cheesy and goofy, there is a lot of good fiction in the fandom, there is a LOT of variety, and I have been able to find a bunch of the action/adventure/sex stories I seem to crave.

Wow, I didn't mean to go on so long! Sorry about that...
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From:mofic
Date:February 7th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)
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Ha! So interesting! I have never been able to make up fictional characters, or work with other people's characters.

I thought I'd never be able to make up fictional characters, although I was quite comfortable working with other people's characters. But over time I've really found I can do it, and they feel very real to me, too. My OCs typically start out fairly shadowy. I just need someone to meet a particular plot need or to illuminate something about one of the established characters and there's no canon character that fits the bill. So I invent a character for the purpose, but don't know that much about him/her. But then, over time and with more writing, the OC takes shape in my brain. It's not very different, I've found, from writing canon characters, although I thought it would be completely different. But with the canon characters, too, I start off with a sketchy idea of who they are and develop them to my own version. The genesis is different but the process of really fleshing them out and getting to know them is the same. Adam's certainly as real and complete a character to me by now as Scott and Logan are.


All the writing I've ever done, until fanfiction, was based on real people I knew.

A lot of my fictional characters have traits of real people I know, but only one is really based on someone.

Mostly, I wrote poetry, which is less about characterization, plot, and dialogue than about distilling some moment through rhythm, image, and language. Writing fiction was always completely alien to me.

I really admire people who can write poetry. It's completely beyond me.

As to the S/H stuff, I remember you saying before that there was a preference for h/c stories (which I also don't much like). It is a pretty small fandom, right? I think that in the larger fandoms there's more room for different kinds of stories and people who like variety that way. I don't know Highlander, but it seems large and varied. Star Wars TPM has a huge variety of writers, styles, and genres. One thing I really like about X-Men fandom is that there does not seem to be the big het/slash divide that there is in so many fandoms. There's huge variety in genres and subgenres, styles, characters focussed on, etc.
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From:eveningblue
Date:February 7th, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
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Adam's certainly as real and complete a character to me by now as Scott and Logan are.

Adam is an amazing, fully fleshed-out and real character to me. You've really done a great job with him. I can barely see John Cusack anymore without thinking of Adam.

It is a pretty small fandom, right?

I guess it is. It's pretty old, that's for sure. It doesn't have much of a presence on LJ, but the mailing lists I used to be on were very active.

The het or gen/slash divide is problematic. If you can just let all the wanking and kerfuffling slide past you, you're in good shape. I get annoyed by all the bickering--I just wanna read good stories!

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From:mofic
Date:February 7th, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
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I can barely see John Cusack anymore without thinking of Adam.
LOL! Poor John Cusack has no idea what I've done to him.

As to the het/gen/slash wars, I won't say they never happen in X-Men fandom, but it's much less than I've seen elsewhere. People seem more willing to read both, some write both, there are inclusive communities (both lj and mailing list), and I don't very often hear people say that they hate slash. It still happens, but rarely enough that it feels jarring when it does.
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From:writer_fiend76
Date:February 7th, 2006 05:06 am (UTC)
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Hi Mo. I've been lurking, reading your fics, for a while now :-D Addicted, I must say.

That said ... your list pretty much covers it for me :-D I write because I have a story to tell, whether it's with existing characters like Logan and Scott, or new characters in an established universe. (If you've ever heard of Pern, I write stuff based there extensively, and in the Star Trek universe, just not with known characters)

And I love it when I get comments on what I write.

Oh, and what you said about thinking of Logan and co as real people?

Word!

And anytime you wanna natter, gimmie a yell. You can friend me and I'll likewise, if you like.
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From:mofic
Date:February 7th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC)
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I friended you. Pleased to meet you!

Glad you like the stories. I don't know Pern, although I've heard it mentioned before. I do think Star Trek universe lends itself to inventing new characters and new settings. There is canonical basis for doing so, too, what with all the different tv series. I'm only familiar with TOS because I stopped watching tv somewhere around 1990, but it seems like they each have their own following. And why not new ones as well.
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From:writer_fiend76
Date:February 8th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
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Long story short ... Pern is a world where fire-breathing dragons exist in partnership with humans. Together, they fight a nasty menace that can consume any organic material except stone and metal. Only water and fire can kill it. It's only a book series, never been made for TV or movie (though there have been attempts. BAD attempts, that, thank the gods, never got off the ground because the author threw a fit). The author, Anne McCaffrey, is a sweet lady who's quite willing to let people play in her world ... with the proviso that we NOT write stories for the characters in her books. Since there's an entire planet to populate, this is not a hardship.

And I'm a TNG fan. Mostly because of Worf. (What IS it with me and big, gruff, aggressive types? Sheesh!)

In X-Men, Logan is my uncontested favorite. Has been since I was introduced to X-Men as a kid. And not because he's the rebel of the group, which seems to be the case with most kids that like Logan. I *respect* that man. He's been through more BS than you can shake a stick at. Stuff that would kill pretty much anyone else (even if they had a healing factor). Yet he never gives up. He still has it in him to look out for (and more or less raise) Amiko, Kitty and Jubes in the comics. He's still fighting on the side of the angels, when he has every right to either hide somewhere or be on the bad guys' side. He still has a sense of honor and of right and wrong. Like Jean says in the Ultimateverse "You have more hope in you than anyone I've ever known."

Remy is my second favorite. And with him, it IS because he's a rebel. He's fun. He does his own thing, snubs his nose at the X-Men's censure, drives Scott up a tree and around the bend. What's NOT to like? (other than the fact that the Marvel writers seem to see him as an angst machine, grrr)

I friended you. See you around!
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From:mofic
Date:February 10th, 2006 03:44 am (UTC)
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In X-Men, Logan is my uncontested favorite.

He's what got me into this fanfic stuff. I thought Hugh Jackman's portrayal was multilayered and intriguing. I wanted to understand him. I've read some of the comics. The Weapon X series gave me nightmares! But, anyway, I definitely see the appeal.

I originally started writing Cyclops mostly as a foil for Logan. I was disappointed by how little of him you see in the movie at first, but over time I've been grateful for that. It's given me more room to create my own version of him. As I got to know him better :-), I became more fond of him. I got into this fanfic business for Logan, but I stayed for Scott.

I don't write Remy because I don't think I can get the language right. I hate the comic book-y dialect they have him talk in, but I don't know how to do a more natural one. I can do J-P because I lived in Quebec and I know how Francophones mix French and English there. And I can do most of the X-Men because I know how guys in Westchester talk. But not Remy. I do think he's fun and intriguing.
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From:writer_fiend76
Date:February 10th, 2006 09:01 pm (UTC)
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I know what you mean about the Weapon X stuff. It gave me chills ... mostly because it's so easy to believe that it really could happen, if Logan existed. There are some seriously sick people out there. I don't know if you're talking about the *comics* Weapon X stuff, but there's a book out now about it ... and it's even scarier than the comics. Because they don't have to follow the comics code about too much nastiness. And they manage to put things into a more than halfway plausible real world context.

I'll be honest, when I heard there was an X-Men movie, I hesitated at first to watch it. Mostly because Logan was in it. I was deeply afraid they'd screwed the characterization up. He'd be far too easy to demonize, you know? I was ... more than pleased ... with Hugh's Logan. He got him pretty much dead-on. My only complaint was the whole going-feral thing ... it was never made plain that's what was going on, when he skewers himself and goes after Sabretooth in 1 and tears the soldiers to heck and gone in 2. But it's also something they'd have a hard time making clear. Us X-fans know what the deal is, but a non-fan would kinda get left wondering.

And about Remy? I'd cheat. I *wouldn't* write the accent. I'd make it clear somewhere in the intro that Remy is from Cajun country, but make no attempt to write it. Same for Rogue, and anyone else on the team with a strong accent you don't know how to write, like Kurt or Piotr. Makes life *much* easier. And besides, the way the comics have Remy talking makes him sound like his IQ is somewhere in the low 20's. "Remy don' like dis, cher." ... just ... bleh.
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From:mofic
Date:February 10th, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC)
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I don't know if you're talking about the *comics* Weapon X stuff, but there's a book out now about it ... and it's even scarier than the comics. Because they don't have to follow the comics code about too much nastiness.

What I read was comics collected as a trade paperback. I think it followed comics code. It was ridiculous, just in showing what was considered too much for kids in the code. There was all this truly nightmarish stuff, including throwing him out naked in subzero weather with a pack of wolves and making him stay out there all night (I use that in fanfic). It was completely terrifying and I was really disturbed to realize my then 11-year-old son had read it. But there was always a strategically placed wolf in the pictures so you wouldn't actually see him naked ::rolls eyes::

And about Remy? I'd cheat. I *wouldn't* write the accent. I'd make it clear somewhere in the intro that Remy is from Cajun country, but make no attempt to write it. Same for Rogue, and anyone else on the team with a strong accent you don't know how to write, like Kurt or Piotr. Makes life *much* easier. And besides, the way the comics have Remy talking makes him sound like his IQ is somewhere in the low 20's. "Remy don' like dis, cher." ... just ... bleh.

OMG! I forgot how much I hate how they have him talk in third person. Anyway, I wouldn't write an accent, either. I think that sounds really cheesy. I'd just do what I do with Jean-Paul and Sasha - use syntax and word choice that's typical for people with that linguistic background and let the reader imagine the accent. But you have to know what those speach patterns are to write them.
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From:mofic
Date:February 10th, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC)
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I don't know if you're talking about the *comics* Weapon X stuff, but there's a book out now about it ... and it's even scarier than the comics. Because they don't have to follow the comics code about too much nastiness.

What I read was comics collected as a trade paperback. I think it followed comics code. It was ridiculous, just in showing what was considered too much for kids in the code. There was all this truly nightmarish stuff, including throwing him out naked in subzero weather with a pack of wolves and making him stay out there all night (I use that in fanfic). It was completely terrifying and I was really disturbed to realize my then 11-year-old son had read it. But there was always a strategically placed wolf in the pictures so you wouldn't actually see him naked ::rolls eyes::

And about Remy? I'd cheat. I *wouldn't* write the accent. I'd make it clear somewhere in the intro that Remy is from Cajun country, but make no attempt to write it. Same for Rogue, and anyone else on the team with a strong accent you don't know how to write, like Kurt or Piotr. Makes life *much* easier. And besides, the way the comics have Remy talking makes him sound like his IQ is somewhere in the low 20's. "Remy don' like dis, cher." ... just ... bleh.

OMG! I forgot how much I hate how they have him talk in third person. Anyway, I wouldn't write an accent, either. I think that sounds really cheesy. I'd just do what I do with Jean-Paul and Sasha - use syntax and word choice that's typical for people with that linguistic background and let the reader imagine the accent. But you have to know what those speech patterns are to write them.
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From:writer_fiend76
Date:February 12th, 2006 06:56 am (UTC)
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What I read was comics collected as a trade paperback.

I think the book did the same sort of thing ... collected all the tidbits of comics canon and ran with it. Only it was a regular book, so all bets were off.

OMG! I forgot how much I hate how they have him talk in third person. Anyway, I wouldn't write an accent, either. I think that sounds really cheesy. I'd just do what I do with Jean-Paul and Sasha - use syntax and word choice that's typical for people with that linguistic background and let the reader imagine the accent. But you have to know what those speech patterns are to write them.

I know what you mean. Remy's accent is, bar none, the crappiest in the entire X-Men series. I've never been anywhere near Cajun country, and even *I* know people don't talk like that! Like I said, he sounds like a frigging moron, and, often as not, acts like he has all of a second grade education. 'scuse me, but if he's a Master Thief as they claim, he has to be a bit smarter than THAT. Being able to move silently and pick locks does you *no* good if what you try to steal is worthless. He'dve had to acquire an education in whatever field. Art, electronics, whatever, so he'd know if what he was looking at was the real deal or a fake.

hmmm. See what you mean about the accent thing, though. *goes off to see if there's anything on the Web about Cajun speech patterns*
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