Whoosh! Issue 46 - July 2000

By Carolyn McBride
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
3002 words

Oh Why, Oh Why, Do We Write? (01-04)
Inspiration Is A Many Splendored Thing (05-09)
The Settings The Thing (10-11)
Field Studies And Research (Bat Morda Has Known Great Sex) (12-15)
Beta Me Like You Mean It (16-19)
Will Write For Feedback (20-25)
Wrestling With Prose (26-27)
A Bard's Bard (28-31)
Conclusion (32-34)

The Machinations of Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Fiction

Oh Why Oh Why Do We Write?

'Who writes this crud?' Renee asked, perusing Season Five scripts

Gabrielle was into scrolls right from the beginning.

[1] While there are places on the web to find interviews with various bards from the Xenaverse, I have often wondered what I would find if I were able to sit down with them and ask them the questions that their readers would. Have a friendly chat over tea or coffee, talk to them as a fan, as another writer, and as a friend. I would ask them questions that would give me a glimpse into why these bards write the stories they do, what moves them to put pen to paper, and what keeps them at their keyboards long into the night.

[2] I would be most interested to try to discover why some bards have a bigger following than others do; what it is that sets one or two apart from the rest; and why there are some that rise above so that they are singled out for a special kind of glory and recognition from The Powers That Be. It would hopefully be a peek into the most talented and creative minds in the Xenaverse. What follows is a culmination of as many of those chats, interviews, and conversations as I could possibly arrange.

[3] While this article is being written long after I started the research, there are changes in the Xenaverse that only make the writing of this piece all the more interesting. Some bards have left us in disgust for the direction the show is taking. Some have added their thoughts and creativity to the world of fan fiction recently. Large and popular websites have all but closed, while others have sprung up like flowers in springtime.

[4] Long after the last credits on the last episode have rolled by on our screens, there will be fan fiction. The words, thoughts, and musings of some very talented people will keep the Warrior Princess and her bard alive for us all. In the words that follow is a look into why these writers toil so diligently for us, the readers.

Inspiration Is A Many Splendored Thing

[5] Many fan fiction authors find the inspiration for their tales in Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. Some find that the subtext between the two characters encourages them to write more of the same. While we have only been given occasional tidbits of subtext in the series, and that only in the earlier seasons, it has been enough to convince legions of fans that there is more than friendship between Xena and Gabrielle. Some are indeed unable to write anything but what is broadly termed "alternative" fiction, because they see subtext as such a large part of the relationship.

[6] Other bards are quite happy to write "general" fiction for their own reasons. Much of it ranges from their own sexuality, to the challenge of focusing more on plot, character development, and the craft of writing itself.

[7] Many bards interviewed earlier in the series and more recently have spoken about writing emotions we do not get to see on the show. While some write the unexplored emotions that viewers are left to wonder about, others carry storylines a step further. CATWOMAN has this to say:

"I also began to wonder what happened to Xena and Gab between episodes, story arcs and seasons."

[8] There are bards in the Xenaverse who use their writing of fan fiction to purge, or sometimes celebrate, things that may be happening in their offline lives. Some have used a heart-wrenching tale to gain a sense of closure over personal violence, a lost love, or the particularly painful demise of someone close to them. Each author's reasoning is a personal thing. There are other writers who use their creativity to share joy over a newly found love, a birth, or perhaps honor someone's passing. Perhaps it is summed up best by this thought from Tragedy 88:

"... the little things around me -- the sunshine, a day at the beach, a puppy, a good long walk -- anything that gives me a grin inspires me to write the good side of life. The second: anger, fear, sadness. The nasty things inspire me to write the darkness, the downside of life."

[9] All bards, no matter what show they base their fan fiction on, write because they have a story to tell. For every well-known author in the Xenaverse, there are two more who toil away in obscurity. But well-known or unknown, they all write for the same reason. They have a story. To some authors, the story comes through loud and clear. The characters speak their minds, share themselves easily, and pass along their tales with remarkable ease. Other writers find themselves locked in a Herculean struggle to keep plot lines fresh and interesting. Their readers are captivated, while they loosen the lips of their silent and reticent characters.

The Settings The Thing

Five seconds before Joxer yells 'Shark!' and ten seconds before his lips and eyes swell shut

Vistas are no problem in XENA.

[10] Settings in Xena: Warrior Princess fan fiction are as varied as the authors themselves. There are tales set in Greece, in the desert, in the Far East, in India, in Amazon controlled forests, and demon haunted towns. The Uber genre allows writers even more creative leeway when it comes to settings: New York, Chicago, Manhattan, farms, fields, bars, planes, limousines, and pool halls. The list is endless and diverse.

[11] Sometimes setting is not as important to a bard as the story is. It does not matter what the genre. Without a good story, no bard will keep a reader's interest. No matter how large their following is, all the fan fiction authors recognize the need for a smooth flowing plot without holes. This is as true in Uber, classic Xena, Gabrielle stories, conqueror, and Mel and Janice tales, as it is alternative and general stories.

Field Studies And Research (Bat Morda Has Known Great Sex)

[12] Research is often a very large factor in some bard's tales. There are some authors who use only their imaginations and creativity when they write. Others, such as ArdentTly, spend an uncountable number of hours doing their research:

"I do an enormous amount of research when I'm writing a piece. I can't tell you the books and films I've poured over doing my Mel/Jan series and now with Zeen ... wow".

[13] Talking to people who have lived the circumstances they write about, scouring the web for the smallest of details, hours in libraries, and taking notes. It is very easy to get so wrapped up in the research that a writer forgets where they wanted to take the story. This of course, is where notes on plot come in handy, as well as talking with someone about the direction in which a scene or story thread should be taken.

[14] For some writers, research is difficult if their tale takes them to lands they have never been before personally. It might involve long hours on the web looking at pictures so they can accurately describe the surrounding countryside. It may involve interviewing people who have traveled to the locale in question.

[15] Other bards confess they write about circumstances that they have never experienced, just for the creative challenge of it. To stretch their artistic wings, so to speak. Bat Morda has this to say:

"Can't say as I've ever been a warlord or archaeologist or futuristic hacker. But I know what it's like to love and win, and love and lose. I've had bad days that I thought would do me in and days when I thought I could do anything. I know what it's like not to get along with people, and I've had great sex, and I know what it's like to imagine how things could be different. So, I suppose it's a combination of what I know, what I'd like to know, and sh*t I'm just making up."

Beta Me Like You Mean It

[16] A beta reader, or proofreader, is both an invaluable member of the team and a heaven sent blessing. As a writer I can tell you that finding just the right beta reader can sometimes seem like an impossible feat. Some focus on spelling, others on characterizations, and others really have no technical background but just seem to know when a line or scene does not sound quite right. The struggle in finding a beta reader is not because of a scarcity of such people, but rather, finding one that a writer can work with well. Tragedy 88 is very clear on this:

"No, actually I don't [utilize a beta reader], though I'd love to find a BETA reader I could work well with. I think I'm far too picky!"

[17] A good, honest beta reader is not always easy to find, no matter what their background is. Each of them has a personal life and circumstances that prevent them reading every story as quickly as the author would like them to. There are tales that are amazingly easy to read through and require very little comment, correction, or input. These are usually sent back to the writer soon after the beta reader has opened the file. But there are also tales submitted to beta readers for their help that cry out for a whole team of readers, instead of just one. These stories require patience and diplomacy, as well as a solid footing in the mechanics of writing.

[18] If an author can locate a beta reader who has a fairly clear perception of writing do's and don'ts, who reads and provides input in a timely manner, and who can offer constructive and useful criticism, then they have discovered a heaven sent blessing. I admit that I have been lucky enough to find one of these very rare angels myself. For others less fortunate in their proofreader hunt, there is the wonderful world of the mailing list. There are more than a few lists comprised of other authors and readers of fan fiction available on the World Wide Web. Some of these online communities are a better place for casual chit chat than for actual feedback, but even these supply their own unique brand of inspiration, commentary, and critique.

[19] One very good online community for constructive commentary on a tale is the Ex-Guards mailing list (to join, send an e-mail to ex-Guards- subscribe@egroups.com). Although the main group members who regularly post are somewhat loopy, a bard can always count on feedback that they can really use, no matter what genre their tale fits in. Nearly all the bards agree that feedback is to fan fiction writing what fertilizer is to flowers.

Will Write For Feedback

[20] All the bards asked spoke of their writing as a form of self-expression, and all said that reader feedback had affected their writing in some way or another. Herbard shared her thoughts with me:

"I have received so many wonderful emails from people, and because of them I want to continue writing for as long as they want to read my work."

[21] Tragedy 88 told me that reader feedback has affected her,

"...Way more than I ever thought. I never realized how many readers are really out there. The Tribe has been insightful, helpful, and very supportive of my writing."

[22] ArdentTly had this to say when asked if reader feedback has changed her writing:

"Yes, because when you stand up and have to justify your characterizations, you can't help but turn that fictional character into something more. I've had readers say I should have done more research on a topic and have turned around and gotten lots of info on a subject from them, which helps me immensely."

[23] Missy Good shared an interesting insight when asked if feedback influences her:

"I get some pretty interesting feedback, and a lot of questions about small details (like every time I have someone whisper to someone else, I get mail wanting to know what the whisper was)."

[24] Lawlsfan compares feedback to the rush of a drug:

"It almost has the effect of a drug, it's a high and I want more of it. Reader response. It's simply amazing, and the lifeblood of any writer."

[25] All told, bards agree that feedback is important to their writing in some form or fashion. And we certainly want to keep our favorite bards happy.

Wrestling With Prose

White is so hard to keep clean

Gabrielle and Aphrodite are victorious in the wrestling ring.

[26] All writers, no matter what they write, find that some things are harder for them than others. What comes naturally to one bard may be a struggle that is equal to torture for another. I personally find integrating details that make a scene credible while still keeping the emotion, the hardest part of writing. Others find that making the time to write is their biggest challenge. Some find that the mechanics, such as sentence structure and grammar, are obstacles of daunting proportions.

[27] When asked about what came easily to them, some bards mentioned writing dialogue, others talked about the ease with which they could set a scene, while still others found action the easiest to write. It is obvious that there are bards for whom writing intimacy comes naturally to them, otherwise we would not have the touching moments that so many of us love between Dar and Kerry, or the chemistry between Zeen and Abby.

A Bard's Bard

[28] I know I am not alone in admitting that I have a problem with fan fiction. The problem is that I am addicted. I remember the days, or rather nights, that I would consume books as others did their meals. Now I devour fan fiction by the reams. I asked various bards who their favorite Xenaverse writers were and was somewhat surprised by the variety of the answers. Herbard said:

"My favorite is k.d. Bard. I love her Billie/Cat series because it deals with two women who settle down and raise a family. Missy Good. I found her works to be sexy and sensual without being too graphic. She leaves it to the imagination."

[29] ArdentTly shares her favorites with us:

"SL Bowers because there just is NO ONE that does Uber like she does. LN James because there is NO ONE that does such believable characterizations like she does. Missy Good because her version of X and G IS the show. Paul Sealy because a plot line is just never as deep as he goes. You can actually SEE his characters move, act, react, talk and LIVE in his work."

[30] Bat Morda says:

"I think LN James writes great sex. I also think that 'Chicago 5am' is a great Uber tale. Honestly, I don't read much fan fic. It's often a choice of reading OR writing, and I tend to write."

[31] T.Novan admits:

"To be honest, now that I'm writing, I don't read a lot of fanfic. I do that for professional reasons. Before I started writing, I did read CN Winters. I love her stuff. I'm not sure why, I just do."


[32] The Xenaverse has given us a wide and diverse variety of fan fiction authors to enjoy. We read their tales and are sometimes moved to tears, anger, or shame. The many approaches that are taken by different bards are reflected in the quality of their work and in how much enjoyment they derive from writing.

[33] While this article is by no means an exhaustive or as in-depth a piece as I would like, I feel it does offer a brief peek into the minds of a few writers in the Xenaverse. It has been a rare treat examining their inspirations, their mechanics, and the drive behind why they write Xena fan fiction at all.

[34] I would like to thank all the writers who took part in my research. There were many on my "home list" of the Center for Xena Studies that took the time to assist me, some spent even further time clarifying things for me that I wasn't sure about at first glance. There were bards who emailed me privately and aided the research as best they could, and I would like to thank them also. I would enjoy naming every writer who responded to my call for help, but we are restricted by time and available space, and so I realize that naming all of them would be impossible. But I thank you all nonetheless. This article would not have been possible without all of you. I have made a few new acquaintances through researching why these bards write. I gained a great deal of enjoyment from every exchange I had with the bards. I hope that you have gained some pleasure and insight from their conversations with me.


Carolyn McBride Carolyn McBride
A tropical plant maintenance tech and writer, I find my passions stirred by my soul mate, a good story, Celtic music, and Corona beer. I'm Canadian, and mother to two boys (one a mere two weeks old at the time of this writing!) My greatest dream? To retire to Ireland where I can write, live out the rest of my days surrounded by the people I love and a whole pack of dogs.
Favorite episode: I have to pick just one?? Either IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404) or BETWEEN THE LINES (83/415)
Favorite line: "Think of yourselves as lines in the mhendi, separate but forever connected." Nyaima in BETWEEN THE LINES (83/415)
First episode seen: RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/202), I think
Least favorite episode: LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407)

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