avengers: maria hill

Some thoughts on writing MCU

I like Marvel fandom a lot. It has almost all the elements I want in a fandom, like an ensemble cast of characters and a decent number of interesting women. But some days (okay, honestly every day I pick up my Big Bang), I really miss writing in a more relatable fandom. Not all of my stories come from my life, but 100% of my really good ones do, and MCU doesn't give me much to empathize with. Everyone has these big, crazy back stories. Clint was in the circus. Natasha was brainwashed by Russian secret agents. Steve was frozen for decades, and Tony is a scientific genius with billions of dollars. There isn't much for me to empathize with there.

When I try, I can find little emotional inroads into the characters. I've felt like an outsider looking in, and I can write Natasha feeling that way too. My love for Tony/Pepper stems from being married to someone who is completely different from me. I know what it's like to have a relationship that looks bad on paper and believe in it through all kinds of extreme conflicts, and finally make it work in the end. And okay, Darcy's back story in Dating Older Men and Other Adventures in Growing Up is basically mine. I had the avocado-and-mauve apartment in Queens and the roach in my underwear drawer, and I stayed in that hotel in Tashkent, and I escaped from a pretty serious assault on a trip and wondered why I didn't feel brave afterward. So there are ways to find relatable emotional experiences even in a fandom like MCU, but they are way, way harder.

What I loved about STXI was that they made the story relatable from the beginning: oh look, here are a bunch of college kids in their dorm, except they're going to SPACE. Spock is an awkward nerd, and Chekov is an awkward kid, and McCoy's restarting his life after a divorce. Obviously, I've never been in space or battled black holes, but I empathize with the emotional arc of those stories. Harry Potter is the same way. Dark wizards are outside the scope of my normal life experiences, but teenagers and teachers are subject matter I can understand. MCU isn't like that. The characters aren't meant to be relatable; they're meant to be larger than life. That can be fun to write sometimes, but I'm tired of working so hard for the emotional core of my stories. I end up writing a lot of snarky fluff, which is okay I guess, but I need a supplemental fandom that more closely aligns with my writing skills.
I hear you so hard on this. For me, I struggle less to write these characters than I do to read fic about them. I don't really care about people's epic stories or whatever. I want to know what they order at Starbucks and how they are tender or cruel to themselves and each other in the minutia of their daily habits. I want to know how often they look at the sky. It's easier to find those moments in stories that are closer to home.
I wonder if this fandom has so many coffee house and high school AU's because readers and writers are trying to find ways to make the characters relatable...
I think you've got something there. I can't easily relate to the superheros either. I like Darcy and Jane and Pepper. If I was writing in the fandom, I'd have to be trying to get into their heads.

My love for The X-Files stems from being the sensible and down-to-earth woman who married the brilliant, obsessive crackpot man. It was my spouse who pointed out the resemblance actually...
I'll bet the details in the comics would help - when you're only getting these characters in movies, there's not as much time for little humanizing touches in the middle of the larger-than-life action sequences.

I'd read some Kirk/Sulu if you wrote it! I don't read a lot of slash, but that's a pairing I've always enjoyed.
Oh, that's interesting. Super-heroes are part of some kind of modern mythology to me. In a way, in their journeys, in the sheer epic scope of their stories, they're more like modern Greek gods than ordinary humans and that's the fascination of it and way we want to hear those stories so badly, I think. And that's way you may find them occasionally more difficult to relate to than the protagonists of Harry Potter and Star Trek, who may still be larger than life, wizards and space travellers, but for all their magic and knowledge are still part of very human stories.
LOL did that make any kind of sense?
Interesting points, including in the comments. I've often asked myself why I like writing these people, and it's precisely because of their differences to me that I find them a challenge to write, and hence fun.

I wasn't raised in a circus, but I love exploring the world view of someone who by all accounts is extremely smart, but with a totally different vocabulary and frame of reference. I've never been brainwashed (at least no more than the usual stuff done by school and the establishment), and like the idea of navigating normalcy through the eyes of someone whose life was a series of harshly cut threads. I know a bunch of people who have done tours in war zones, and post-heroics PTSD fascinates me.

That said, I can relate to the government agency bits surrounding SHIELD rather a great deal, and a fair bit of the fun I have in writing is the occasional clash between bureaucratic reality and superheroism. When I'm not writing screwball/snark, I like doing mission fics (e.g. "In the Service" and "Highway of Diamonds", my marvel_bang, "Locust Wind") that bring the whiff of political reality to the spy/assassins.

So, yes, they're not me, but there's a whole lot for me to latch on to.
Yes, I can definitely see the appeal of exploring characters who are totally different from you (and I do feel it too, but the extremity of the differences in this fandom wears on me sometimes). I do think I'm a bit different from some people in that a lot of my writing is self-confessional, even when it's in a weird, veiled way. I *have* to start a story with what I have in common with the characters, and in MCU, it's usually not very much.
/and a fair bit of the fun I have in writing is the occasional clash between bureaucratic reality and superheroism/ - Oh, actually, some of my favorite kind of stories are the ones dealing with the POVs of ordinary people dealing with Marvel's extraordinary stuff. They're also a nice way of getting around this problem of not relatable protagonists we've been talking about. (Also, "In the Service" and "Highway of Diamonds" seems very interesting I might have to check them out.)
Anyway, I'm thinking of comic issues like Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' Marvels or fics like My Brother, The Hero by Odsbodkins or That Kind Of Day by Neery. ;)

Edited at 2014-09-16 10:16 pm (UTC)