That is, bringing your own flavor into a story. Shining light on corners that don't make sense to showcase in the source material. Taking inspiration from things and objects and places all around you, and seeing there the throughlines are, or how you can filter them into one another organically.
I played with this a little in terms of Sally's backstories in this fic--I met a guy last year who was working at a political action organization that was trying to save the Los Angeles River, so I gave that to Sally here. I wanted to wed her to her origins as both lawyer and LA-dweller, and gesture outward toward whatever specific, detailed life she led once, off-screen. I also gave her vehicle damage that my former housemate incurred driving on an unfamiliar dirt road outside LA, because it seems like something that might have happened to city girl Sally as she left her concrete jungle.
4. Indulging in detail.
I'm really into describing mechanical and/or kinesthetic processes, and vaguely magical realist architecture/scenery porn. To the point where like, I'll see the point where it's probably Too Much and still indulge way past the tipping point for most people. But SPN just offers so much opportunity for that kind of thing, being a road show and a show that spends a decent amount of time with weapons in hand and bodies meeting walls/heavy furniture. I've written two fics that have gone on for just... too many paragraphs about driving, or mechanic-ing, and those sequences are probably some of the most fun I've ever had writing for SPN--even though nobody has ever cared about those scenes but me, and they're totally the kind of thing people probably skim over while reading fic, anyway.
Cars has a lot of that going for it, too. At its heart, Cars is about the road, so both Cars 1 and 3 are half an hour longer than they probably should be because the films spend that much time just doing scenery porn and like... "this is how cars work, and how racing works" porn. AND IT'S GLORIOUS. What I learned writing for Cars is how fun (and challenging) it can be to bring a car to life through a detailed encounter with its parts and their functions and ranges of movement.
I also learned, while researching how much it would cost to totally rebuild a NASCAR race car, and what happens to wrecked NASCAR cars, that NASCAR replaces its engines after every single race, because the engines start to degrade. Which is something that's just wild to me, because we're talking some big, expensive engines here. But Cars as a series tends to seize on these little details and build their story out from them, so I wanted to give that a shot and see how having an engine replaced every time you went out and did your thing would set you apart from a normal car.
Because like, if a normal car's engine dies, chances are that car is a goner. Most people will not replace their car's engine, because most cars are not really designed to outlive one. So if you have sentient cars, how does that effect their lives? And does it feel weird to constantly be tasked with making something as crucial as an engine feel like yours again?
Detail for detail's sake doesn't really interest me, but finding that point of connection where detail becomes story? Beautiful.
No. 5: Chasing the spirit of the original
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