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Crossover Writing Tip

Here's a tip for all you crossover writers out there, from me - take it how you will:

The joy of crossovers is watching your favourite characters get rediscovered by your other favourite characters. Most fanfiction presumes a level of shared knowledge between all characters, whereas crossovers take that away. Sure, Sam and Dean know that they've both been to hell, but Captain America doesn't know, he gets to learn that for the first time! And we get to see his reaction! Yay! That's what we came here for, whether we realize it or not.

So, if that's what we came here for, then you want to draw it out. It's like eating a desert or having sex - yeah, you could do it really quickly all at once then roll over and fall asleep and it gets the job done, but I'd bet you'd have a better time if you slowed down a little.

Basically, what I'm saying is that you should avoid info-dumps. And you should avoid them for three reasons:

1. It gets the fun part over far too quickly. If Dean just sits down at the conference table and tells Cap all about his troubled childhood, his soul deal, his sojourn in hell, the apocalypse, Sam's health problems, and his confusing friendship with Castiel all in one go - we miss the delicious moments where instead Dean does something, or says something slightly odd, and Cap starts wondering "wait, maybe there's more going on with this guy than I originally thought... maybe this guy is a puzzle that I have to solve somehow..." and we get to ride along on the fun journey of watching him do just that. Likewise for Dean discovering who Cap is.

2. Dean wouldn't do that, nor would any other character that I can conceivably think of... nor would any real life human that I know. People, in general, do not want to talk about their troubled pasts. They don't want strangers to know their secrets (and everyone in a crossover is a stranger, unless you're writing a established-relationship crossover AU or a fusion AU). These days "How's it going?" is said as a greeting equivalent to "hello" where people don't actually treat it like a real question, and even if they do treat it like a real question, the automatic response is "good" (or "well" for the grammatically pedantic). People don't even expect you to want them to know how you are feeling THAT MOMENT let alone how you feel about your absent father or that time you were tortured in someone's basement. If you were to tell them that, and more, in a flood of information that was BARELY prompted, then you, my friend, are a weirdo. (I know this, because I actually do try to answer "How's it going?" honestly sometimes, just to see people give me the "I wasn't actually asking!" face - it's kind of fun... but I still don't talk about my troubled past or that time I was tortured in someone's basement...or whatever my equivalent is.)

3. It's just bad writing. Most of you audience is going to be familiar with both fandoms. They're going to actually know all this stuff. If you just present a summary of the canon in a big info dump, that's going to be boring for them to read. What's INTERESTING for them to read is how another character might react to receiving this information for the first time! But that gets taken away when you do a huge info dump, because then it's too much for the other character to process, what are they supposed to say? "Wow, that sucks"? Inevitably, when people do the info dumps, it's sometimes in a "who's had the worst life?" argument, so BOTH sides end up yelling big info dumps at each other in a game of one-up-manship. This is horrible because it means that BOTH parties aren't reacting to each other's stories beyond "how do I top that? Oh, I know - I was tortured for 180 years by Lucifer and my cock kills people!" and then after the argument, everyone just miraculously gets along because now they know everything about each other? That's no fun.

Anyway, my point is... bad crossovers annoy me.

PS: No, I am not writing a Supernatural/Avengers crossover - I just needed an example scenario and I didn't want to use any of the crossovers that I had written or may write in the future.

IN OTHER NEWS: My mum is coming to visit this weekend and we're all going over to the Island to see my sister, who recently moved there. So I probably won't be around - not that I've been around much lately anyway, but I will be EVEN MORE not around. I'll be back in time for the Supernatural season premiere though! Yay!

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
liliaeth
Oct. 3rd, 2013 09:55 am (UTC)
Aww, not fair giving a girl false hope.

(mostly because it's so rare to find good Avengers/Supernatural crossovers.)
hells_half_acre
Oct. 3rd, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
Sorry! Apparently it's fairly rare to find good Supernatural crossovers period.... or I'm just REALLY picky when it comes to crossovers. Or both.
fannishliss
Oct. 3rd, 2013 10:25 am (UTC)
One of my friends was in an informal writers' group and they had Fear of Fanfic. So they actually TOLD her to infodump. I was horrified.

I've written a SuperWhoLock that gets more kudos on AO3 than any of my other stories, and that just boggles the heck out of me. I guess Sherlock fans are more active on AO3. I also have a SuperWho crossover that I quite like and that is very similar that has 2 kudos. I think my favorite crossover that I ever made is the one about Devour, where I made Devour make sense within the SPN canon. As a consequence, I'm one of the few people who like the very bad movie Jensen was in.

I think the best part about writing crossovers is the slow reveal, just as you say. I'm currently working on a rare pair story where Toshiko Sato meets the Tenth Doctor in a bar -- before she goes to work for Torchwood -- and of course she has no idea who this guy is -- so the feeling of writing it is kind of like a strip tease for the Ten fan as Tosh bit by bit takes in more details about him. So it is kind of a crossover in that way. ...

hells_half_acre
Oct. 3rd, 2013 03:22 pm (UTC)
One of my friends was in an informal writers' group and they had Fear of Fanfic. So they actually TOLD her to infodump. I was horrified.

Oh man, that does not make any sense. The reason fanfic is so awesome is because it presumes an existing wealth of knowledge so that you don't HAVE to info-dump in order to include little winks to your readers, who know things your character doesn't without having to have them explained.

I think Sherlock most be really really popular on AO3, because I find the exact same thing. My post popular stories there are my Sherlock+Merlin fusions... whereas, I think if I were to include LJ into the mix, my actual most popular stories are my Supernatural/Harry Potter stories. I think perhaps because Supernatural is older than the Sherlock fandom, so a greater amount of the fandom is still on older blogging/archiving platforms.

Oh man, I loved Tosh... I'm glad you seem to be doing that one right! It's a flirtation, really, speaking of rare pairs... info-reveals SHOULD be a strip-tease, a nice build-up before the lap dance. :P
quickreaver
Oct. 3rd, 2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
Info-dumps are a bad idea about 80% of the time anyway. I agree with you, start to finish.

Have fun with your fam!
hells_half_acre
Oct. 3rd, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks!!
partly
Oct. 4th, 2013 01:55 am (UTC)
I always hate that the characters usually do this info dump in order to get pity or sympathy from the other characters. The characters never do that and when they do they are usually told to grow a pair and get on with what needs to be done. Good grief.

The other think I really hate about some crossovers? Writers seldom know how to write two strong characters who conflict without making one look weak. And even worse is when the author takes one of the characters and makes them the joke of the story or use the crossover as an opportunity to point out how stupid some character behavior or show trope is. Love the characters or don't write them. Definitely don't use crossover characters to bash one of the shows your writing.
hells_half_acre
Oct. 4th, 2013 05:27 am (UTC)
nd even worse is when the author takes one of the characters and makes them the joke of the story or use the crossover as an opportunity to point out how stupid some character behavior or show trope is. Love the characters or don't write them.

Oh man, I hate that about fic in general. You see a lot of that, where people love one character and therefore HATE another character because they once looked at their beloved character slightly wrong - so all the fic they right is pointing out how absolutely horrible this character is and how amazing their fave-character is...and no, just stop.

Now, mind you, I wrote a fic recently that had quite a harsh view of one character, but it wasn't bashing - it was more of a slightly cynical character study, like "what if instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt, we look at this character more pessimistically"...if that makes any sense.

I always hate that the characters usually do this info dump in order to get pity or sympathy from the other characters.

UGH! Yes... and I mean, it's fine if you want to write a "sympathy-fic" where it's just about the emotional comfort of a character having their pain recognized by strangers - but STILL, don't do it as an info dump...it's FAR more powerful to have the stranger slowly come to LIKE the character, and then slowly work out all the horrible stuff that happened to them, and THEN offer the emotional comfort of recognizing their hardships and pain WITHOUT PROMPT.

Anyway...yeah, basically, I agree completely with you.
supernutjapan
Oct. 4th, 2013 08:30 am (UTC)
I know what you mean about info dumping.
Yay, you finally get your videos! ;) Have fun with your family!

Edited at 2013-10-04 08:33 am (UTC)
phamalama
Oct. 4th, 2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
Have fun~ I have the joy of one of my friends liveblogging her way thru all of the Supernatural seasons from start to finish. Also, have you seen Sleepy Hollow yet? I heard on a podcast that it's just like Supernatural in a sense where Ichabod Crane is like Castiel and Abby Mills is like half of Sam/Dean and her twin sister (who believes in the supernatural craziness) is like the other half.
hells_half_acre
Oct. 7th, 2013 02:38 am (UTC)
Sleepy Hollow is a show that I am VERY tempted to watch, but I haven't given in yet. We'll see how long I can resist!

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )