Sholio (sholio) wrote,

metametameta on h/c bingo

Haha. So, I just told someone I wasn't going to be posting about this, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I probably should, especially since there are many, many hc_bingo cards circulating around my f'list right now, including my own, and I'm sure that I'll be continuing to talk about my card as I work on it.

So, there's a good post here by damned_colonial about potential pitfalls and problems with writing for h/c_bingo: specifically, being careful not to trivialize people with real-life disabilities and mental-health issues in the process of writing up an h/c fantasy. (Thanks to rydra_wong for bringing it to my attention.) I'd initially knee-jerked away from getting anywhere near this discussion because I'm no more up for perpetual rounds of "h/c, and everything that is wrong with it" than slash folks enjoy round umpty-gazillion of "women writing slash is creepy and appropriative". However, I found the above-linked post and the ensuing discussion interesting, and respectful of h/c-leaning fen, and there's useful advice in there that I think we probably ought to all be keeping in mind when we work on our cards. Or write h/c in general, for that matter. Among other things (this is largely gleaned from the above-linked post, but also from my own experiences as well):

Do your research, about not just the physical symptoms of whatever you're writing about but also its emotional effects on people's lives. Don't try to "fix" characters by the last page of the story, or cause them to lose agency in their own lives by making another character the catalyst for their physical/emotional healing. Keep in mind that some things can't be "healed" at all, at least not without great difficulty, and maybe better drama (and more compelling h/c!) comes from writing about someone learning to live with a chronic illness or disability (mental or physical) than trying to find a cure. Especially if you're writing a short story about a complicated subject -- which a lot of the h/c_bingo stories are likely to be -- think about what kind of emotional impact you can get from a small snapshot in a very long (even lifelong) recovery process. (This is exactly one of the big ways in which h/c appeals to me: not "I can fix this for you!" but "I know you've had a horrible day; let me sit with you for a while.") And the injured/disabled character can be the comforter as well. (I think this is why the sort of h/c I enjoy most of all is the sort in which everyone is dealing with their own difficult issues in their own ways; it levels the playing field and prevents a sort of unequal comfortee/comforter dynamic.)

In SGA gen fandom, at least, we seem to be largely focused on straightforward and easily-resolved medical issues: getting shot, hypothermia, broken bones and so forth. (Well, speaking as someone who's had broken bones, "easily resolved" compared to, say, cancer or losing a limb.) And aside from putting in the medical research, there's not a whole lot to mess up here. But since the h/c_bingo cards are going to be pushing people out of their comfort areas, it's definitely worth considering that if you're writing about a character dealing with alcoholism, rape or mental illness (to pull three off my own card), it's worth remembering that you probably have readers who are dealing with similar issues in their own lives, and going the extra mile in research and empathy to make your story believable and true to the emotional experiences of people who have dealt with those things.

None of which is to say that it's inherently wrong to fantasize about wild, OTT h/c scenarios with weeping and clinging. *g* It's our gen porn, damn it. But the absolute last thing I'd want is for the h/c_bingo cards and the ensuing stories to be a big slap in the face to people who are seeing them crop up on their f'lists and reading circles. It's a really fine line, with something like h/c -- between embarrassment/shame at your fantasies, and awareness of their real-world impact. Oh, believe me, I know (from both sides, really, since I've also read h/c stories that hit me like a sharp poky thing on one of my sensitive areas, even though I knew the author didn't intend anything of the sort). There's no way that there's not going to be a lot of stories coming out of the challenge that cheapen and trivialize RL disabilities/illness/issues in the name of fantasy, and I ... am actually not convinced that it's such a bad thing, because being able to fantasize is healthy, and sometimes unbelievable fantasies are the place where we work through our own issues with our body image, our disabilities/phobias/insecurities, and our past. But I would also love to see writers using the challenge as an opportunity to learn a little more, and maybe we'd get some really cool, memorable, emotionally compelling stories on recovering from and/or living with disability, trauma or mental illness that we didn't have before.

This is probably a useful place to post a couple of links I have memory'd that might come in handy on writing certain squares:

A User's Guide to PTSD by rachelmanija is a fantastic (and wrenching) resource for writing about characters who are recovering from many different sorts of trauma.

Dear (not just urban fantasy writers) by kaigou is not actually about writing h/c at all, but it's one of the best posts I've ever read about getting inside your characters' heads and thinking about all the little, mundane details of their situation that you might not otherwise consider. Though the author is talking about writing vigilante/runaway characters in an urban setting, a lot of the thought processes in creating a realistic picture of that character -- focusing on their everyday life, how they do things, where they get food and shelter, what skills they have and how they learned them -- can come in handy in writing any kind of character, including someone suffering or recovering from physical or emotional trauma. For example, if you're working on a square that says, oh, "loss of limb", how does that change the character's daily routine? Maybe just washing their hair or brushing their teeth is a hassle; maybe your story centers around your character hitting their emotional tipping-over point over something so simple as not being able to brush their hair the way they used to. Stuff like that.

ETA: A very moving post describing what it's like to experience hallucinations and delusions by Kaninchenzero, based on personal experience.

ETA 6-20-10: went to see my doctor only she was crying twice as much as me... by commodorified talks about being a caregiver while also having disabilities of one's own. Like I just mentioned in the comments below, I feel that this post hits quite a lot of nails on the head in a very useful way.

I'm sure there are a ton of other good resources out there; anything that anyone wants to throw into the comments is very welcome. :)

Ironically, too, I think typing this out has given me ideas for half a dozen squares that had been giving me a total blank.

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.

ETA: I notice this has been metafandom'd. I'm going to be traveling this week with very intermittent computer excess, so I've turned on screening of all non-friends comments, just to be on the safe side. This is not an attempt to stifle discussion, but merely to moderate the post since I won't be around very much to do it. I'll unscreen comments whenever I have the opportunity! No longer screening, since I'm now around to moderate comments.
Tags: h/c bingo, meta
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