cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

Happy Endings?

I've been thinking a lot about my Works in Progress lately, and have come to several conclusion about why I tend to write series that stop one episode short of the conclusion.

The thing is, I have a real problem with the two main ways of ending romances in western literature: "happily ever after" and "woman dies tragically".

They just don't work well for me, from a feminist perspective. So I've been asking myself, how do I write a romance story that doesn't fall into these ideological traps? I yearn for romance stories that don't go to those places.

Slash fulfils that need in a variety of ways, but one of the chief ways is through the exploration of one of the other prime partnerships offered in western literature: that of buddies/partners. Now these buddies aren't actually like most real men I know, not at all! Just as most het couples I know don't fit either of the standard romance cliches. But the literary/movie idea of buddies offers a much more positive starting point, in terms of myths of life-long affection. I think a great love affair arising out of friendship is both much more likely, and much less ideologically objectionable than any of the other myths. For me, slash is, at least in part, a series of thought experiments which deconstruct the different possibilities for love, once you take away het expectation.

The slash stories that I find most effective do not mimic the classic structures of het romance. Instead, they manage to transform the expectations in subtle ways. Take the "happily ever after" ending... I have been thinking about this a *lot* lately, as I actually do want to find a way to finish off my many works in progress. One of the main reasons so many of my WIPs sit one episode from the end is because the ending is the hardest part to transform. Because so many of my series are told in stand-alone episodes that do have some closure, what I've done, in effect, by ending things one episode from final resolution, is left the narrative open, while still giving some sense that the characters will find their way. This is not a perfect solution, and, unfortunately, I don't think it's a saleable one. And I really do need to make some money from my writing soon.

Other people have come up with solutions to this though. The solution that I find most elegant is that demonstrated in cesperanza and seperis's longer works. Basically, they end the plot, but leave the narrative open, so that the character's lives don't feel "over". It's an incredibly clever trick, and I think one of the main reasons they can pull it off is because they are writing about characters that exist, in canon, within series, so there is an expectation that their adventures will continue. It actually also helps that the characters don't get married, which is a hard symbol to unravel from "Happily ever after. The end."

It's going to be a real challenge for me to find a way to evoke the same feeling of "ending but not" in rps, which doesn't necessarily have the same episodic expectation.

The "tragic death" ending is both easier and harder to work with in slash. Just not having a female character takes a lot of the literary pressure off; however, many slash writers do tend to create hyper-feminised men, then kill them off, which I hate just as much as any mainstream novel which uses this ending. The best subversion of this ending I've seen is in actually in rps, specifically actor-slash. This is because you can kill of the actor's fictional roles (consider the possibilities in something like Pearl Harbor rps), but leave the celebrity personas alive--so you have all the angst and symbolism without a real death. Brilliant!

If you read my LJ regularly, you'll have picked up that I've been a bit depressed and blocked recently. Because of that, I just couldn't face beginning to work on the endings of any of my series, even though I have come up with some ideas for tackling the problems I just mentioned, and I'm kind of excited about the challenge.

Then, between one day and the next, everything changed!

I posted the AU challenge on damonaffleck and started writing some scenes for it. They were just vignettes with no real structure. Just short slices of possible situations that suggested a plot, but ended before it was resolved.

My god! I found that incredibly liberating! They had no "stories", and I had no intention of ever writing more of them. They weren't works in progress. They were just what they were.

And suddenly I had ideas coming out the wazoo. I could write that little bit of swordplay, or Tarzan, or pirates, or whatever, without having to commit to a whole novel-length work.

So that's what you're about to get deluged with. A lot of short, Alternate Universe bits and pieces, with a few slightly longer ones thrown in here and there (but even they probably won't end with a resolved "plot"!).

I still intend to finish the works in progress I have committed to, because I need to resolve the whole "ending" thing so I can apply it to original fiction. But I don't think I'm going to post things as works in progress any more. They'll just be what they are, and if I feel like writing some more later, I will, but then again, I might not.

How's that for a writing philosophy?

Long story short, I think I'll be posting a lot more vignettes and short scenes in future, as they're making me really happy to write at the moment.
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