The Siren Call
by Emily Brunson
It's so hard to resist writing in a new fandom. A whole new world is waiting for you, whispering in your ear with story ideas, images, concepts...and you can't wait to get started.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who's seen this type of note to a mailing list: "I haven't watched many eps yet (or any), but I just can't wait to write my Magnum Opus in this new fandom. I just *love* so-and-so!" Or variations on that essential theme.
Do your readers a favor, and resist that siren call for a while.
Why? Bluntly: because you don't know enough yet about how these people work to do them justice in fiction.
Let me use Sports Night as an example, since it's 1) a new fandom, 2) a new fandom I follow, and 3) it's a tough fandom.
If yours is a good story idea, it won't go away if you wait to write until you've seen more of the show. If you decide against writing it after holding off until you've seen eight or ten eps, then maybe that tells you something, doesn't it? Does it still work? Maybe it doesn't -- because it wasn't an appropriate story for that fandom in the first place.
You can't know enough to write about SN with only seeing one or two eps. Sorry. If you think you do, you're not watching closely enough. And that goes for other shows, just as clearly. The Sentinel isn't just a police procedural, and it isn't just a faintly SF-y story about this guy who has great senses and a killer Chippendale bod who lives with a gorgeous curly-haired guy, either. There's a whole lot more to it than just that. Pick a show -- any show -- and someone can point out the finer aspects of each scenario. The point stands: It ain't as easy as it looks.
I can't tell someone, "Watch ten episodes, or twenty, and you'll be Ready To Write." But I can say, "Watch as much of the show as you can before you start writing." It's possible you have a flash of insight during the first ep that doesn't go away as you watch the fifth and the tenth and the twentieth. And that's great, and I hope that happens. Bring it on! But more often than not it takes time to get to know a show and its characters, just like real life. Your best friend probably wasn't your best friend five minutes after you met, and you won't get to know the details of Dan's personality or the ins and outs of Casey's complex personal life in one episode.
Let's say that you're just dying to write a Dan/Casey story. I understand the impulse, believe me; I was hooked in the first fifteen minutes of the first episode I saw, and I knew already that at some point I would be writing SN fiction.
But look at what you know. Do you know how Dan feels about Casey's ex-wife? Did you know that Casey has an ex-wife? If Casey and Dan were to become involved, even secretly, what issues might they face? Family? Do you know about their families?
When you write without sufficient background data and knowledge of the characters' personalities, habits, and other quirks, you run the risk of a story that does that awful thing writers don't want to do: You don't tell the story you want to tell. You may think you do. But without that kind of information, you take a chance. And your readers will notice.
Don't jump in just because it looks like fun. Don't write a nifty idea you had just because the idea's nifty. Don't post a dashed-off story because it seems like people want to read more fic. (They do want more fic, but they want good fic, not a story with guys who bear only the most passing of resemblances to the ones we all see on screen.)
Give it some time. Let the ideas cook on the back burner while you watch and learn and absorb. And wait until you can provide a full-color picture, and not just a blurry black-and-white image of something barely recognizable as the guys we know. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to the reader -- and it's not fair to you, as the author.