So I'd like to be more open about like, what a shitty rough draft looks like, or what unedited flash fiction looks like (and that the state of being unedited, and unpolished, and still FINISHED and DONE, is fucking okay!), or what criticisms I have of the things that I write. Because I know I've said this before, and even attempted this before, but this is a SPN journal and a SPN fan fic journal, and all of these other stages and processes of writing are things I'd like for this journal to do, too. Because I think they're really important and totally undervalued as part of the act of writing.
SO. TL;DR. Some reflections on "we call them comic stories"...
Pros: I feel like it's hard to do things with dialogue without accidentally doing too much with dialogue. At least, that's my experience. But I liked the way this fic worked with what we know of Cole and his relationship with his wife. This is just a little thing, but I'm proud of the way Cole's wife brings up the neighbor, Alejandra, the drop-off loop, and later, the furlough days. She talks about all these things under the obvious assumption that Cole is familiar with them (even if the reader is not), but also explains or re-explains them, which is my way of saying, basically, that even if Cole and his wife have definitely talked about these things before, Cole actually hasn't been physically around for a lot of that. He's been on base (Pendleton, apparently; north of San Diego; Cole's wife and child in this fic live in Escondido, which is nearby); he's been overseas. He hasn't actually been with them a lot of the time. This doesn't imply anything dramatic, like a rocky relationship or anything like that. It's just a reality of their family.
And I like that Mrs. Cole is writing a book. The idea came about because I wanted exposition but obviously you can't have exposition in a dialogue-only phone conversation. So I was trying to think of ways to shoehorn in some exposition. And I figured, well, what if Mrs. Cole recited some! Maybe she's writing a book! HA. THERE.
Which sounds totally cheap and, as a writing strategy, pretty weak. But here I actually think it worked? I believed her writing and the book she's writing as a viable piece of her character. And it's really nice to have that payoff, because I feel like pulling that kind of stunt is bold as fuck and not necessarily... wholly advisable. XD
Cons: I have a thing for minor characters. I do. Especially characters that don't even have goddamn names in canon, or are only names. XP But what I love about writing minor characters for SPN (versus just writing original, which is essentially what writing the minor SPN cast comes down to, XD) is that project of relating them and their stories specifically back to the world of SPN, and to Sam and Dean's story. Because that's what's interesting to me about these minor characters--or writing them, speciically. And I don't mean that in the sense that they need to serve as these very established mirrors or foils for Sam and Dean, or that their stories need necessarily intertwine in a hugely tangible way. That's called abusing a character, not writing one. XP
The challenge and appeal of writing the minor cast is trying to imbue them with a vibrant life, often very much decentered from the Winchesters and their Damn Problems, while still tying them thematically or emotionally--in any case, importantly--to the Sam and Dean story. Because as much as I find fascinating this building up these characters and filling them with all kinds strange, irrelevant-seeming details, again. If that's all you're doing, that's just original fiction. Being able to swing back around and wend it deeply into something very recognizably the thematic or emotional tenor of the season/Sam and Dean's what makes it interesting fan fiction. Creating lives that are independent and complete outside of the Winchesters, while still being inextricably citizens of that same world.
This is all, of course, imho and ymmv.
Anyway, I think there's all kinds of interesting character-detail stuff in this fic. But it doesn't engage with the source material to a degree that I find really worthwhile. And it's hard, because it's all pretty random and meandering, and it's supposed to have that quality, because that's the tragic and/or fascinating reality of spousal phone conversations. I value the meander as a general concept very much, and I can name at least two specific examples of this having been done well.
* Sam Shepard's Thor's Day (which is, incidentally, also the stylistic inspiration for this piece--though Shephard had the good grace of being able to imply non-verbal action and communication in this, as it wasn't via phone).
* Jill Soloway's new series on Amazon, Transparent.
It's by far my favorite form of dialogue, something I associate with "truly excellent TV writing" and that I'd love to find more in printed mediums, too. (I'm sure it's there, I just don't read very much fiction.) I ASPIRE TO THIS but I wouldn't say this fic actually delivers for me on that front. Solid attempt?
There are some interesting ideas in this that the meander might coalesce around and turn back to SPN proper--writing something into a fiction in order to forget its presence in your reality; contemporary culture's trigger-happy turn toward narratives of trauma (whether they're really there or not); what makes a "good man"--but I don't think it actually does any of that. Imperiled!Sam and Cole's "many many moons" ghost the narrative in ways that I think are helpful. But ultimately here's just not enough to this that would make it satisfying for me as a work of fiction, and especially as a work of fan fiction.
Special thanks to:
My uncle, here caricatured as the "Jesus" uncle who wouldn't let his kids read Harry Potter.
My other uncle, who did move to Mercer Island and who does disagree with the stringent nature of California's gun laws, and here has been combined with Jesus uncle to form Mrs. Cole's Uncle.
My cousin, who's a Marine like Cole and only one year younger, so I borrowed some life details from him .
WHYY Public Media's interview with veteran and MFA, Phil Klay, by Marty Moss-Coane, because the tenor and just... the way this interview is conducted is SO awkward. I disliked it so much I needed to use it in a story somehow. Inspiration for Alejandra the Neighbor.