gen: book and glasses


little bits of mad.

explaining the scribbles of a curious mind.

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[the newsroom] the christmas fic that made me want to tear my hair out.
gen: book and glasses.
recycledstars wrote in littlebitsofmad
Unimaginatively titled the night before christmas because it was 24 hours after the deadline, Christmas night in my time zone, I'd had far too much wine and I was completely exhausted.

This was a struggle to write, and I confess I often find fic exchanges like that – you want to write something your recipient will enjoy but if you don’t know them and what they like that can be a real challenge so you can’t really write as organically as you otherwise might.

In general, g-rated holiday themed gen is probably the antithesis of what I’d normally write (cackling at that understatement) but the guidelines I had were really limited so I tried to avoid anything at all that might be controversial/something a reader disliked and I fear the result might be both a little too saccharine for my taste and slightly disjointed.

It doesn’t feel like my best work, which is a horrible feeling to have about a gift. You obviously want to give someone your best. It’s probably the first thing I’ve written in this fandom that I’m truly unhappy with too, but I’m trying to remember that writing something you’re not happy with every once in a while is a painful part of writerly growth: I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience.  (And apologize to my giftee for a bit of a slap-dash job.)

What I have definitely learned in all of this is that when I ask my recip for guidance I need to be specific, and that when I request for fic exchanges in the future I will be sure to mention what ratings I'm comfortable with and that there's absolutely nothing I hate. Knowing those two details would've made this immeasurably easier.

Notes on dates –

On birth dates: Meg thought this was a sketchy age difference between Will and Mac but frankly, I didn’t start this and I’m having a war against the film and television industry for always creating canonical large age differences between couples so I’m not glossing over it. (I can’t figure out if it’s a shitty attitude to women getting older or a gross male screenwriter self-insert fantasy thing.)

But Will says he’s in his 50s in 2010 and due to that stupid line about Margaret Thatcher in the pilot Mac’s meant to be about 0 years old when the show starts (cue eye roll) so I usually just make her birth date up, sometime in the early 70s, depending on what 80s classic I want her to be listening to when she’s 16. (Which is a super important characterization detail for me due to my love of 80s pop trash.)

This timeline is looser than I usually write, because I didn’t have the time or the inclination to agonize over it. (I’ve become slightly disenchanted with the canon in this regard, so I’ve decided not to obsess too much when the details don’t matter.)

On pregnancy dates: Same goes here. And canonically it makes no sense anyway, because she’s obviously not seven weeks pregnant in the finale – I assume Sorkin skipped sex ed, wherein I hope you learn that pregnancies are dated from the last menstrual period and usually you ovulate in the middle of your cycle – and while of course you can get pregnant first try by accident (haha, I’ve done it woops) it seems more likely that you wouldn’t in your late-30s/early-40s. So with that plus the fact that normal gestation can actually vary within a 5 week window (39 weeks is an average) and the fact that in general biology is weird and wonderful …

Hand wave, hand wave, I wanted a Christmas baby. It worked for the story, also Christmas babies REPRESENT. (A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was a Christmas baby.)

Notes by section –


First off, if I’m going to write 3rd person omnipotent ever again I’m going to leave myself more time to perfect it. The vibe I was going for here was kind of an authoritative narrator, but I’m not sure I really got there. And it might’ve been the wrong choice given the 3rd person limited of all the rest.

The fact that Mac mentions her parents in the pilot has always given me a very strong impression of her relationship with them; it makes it feel important (even though it’s never mentioned again) since it’s part of the introduction to her character. And I’m sure that was meant to say more about her past with Will, but for me it’s always made me think that she has a fairly close relationship with her parents even if there is the Atlantic Ocean in between them. (Maybe because of rather than in spite of ... )

So I’ve always thought of her as a bit of a daddy’s girl and as having a fairly normal, upper middle class childhood excepting the fact that she travelled a fair amount because her father was a diplomat. And the way Will talks about how her dad talks about her (there’s something about “my MacKenzie” that conjures a certain kind of father-daughter relationship for me) I can imagine she was a little bit spoiled, in a way she now feels quite guilty about whenever anyone points it out. (Neal and the shoes anyone?)

This being a stark contrast to Will’s childhood, but I also got the impression from News Night With Will McAvoy (the ep when Will’s dad dies) that Mac doesn’t really understand his relationship with his dad and their family dynamic. It raises questions for me about how much Mac knows about his childhood. (I have a whole other unfinished fic about that.)

Re: LSAT scores, in episode 3 Charlie gives a stereotypically TV account of Will’s education history which involves being unnecessarily prodigious. (I don’t get why characters can’t just graduate from college at 21 after four years but hey, I’ll work with what I’m given.) So from memory he goes to college at 16 and graduates in two years, so taking your standardized grad school entry test at 17 would make sense. The test runs in September/October, and mail results take about 3 weeks –

(I actually looked that up. Don’t you love it how I said I was lazy about my research for this one??)

– so he’s been sitting on this for quite a while, a lot longer than I initially sort of thought it would be when I first looked up when the test is run, but in a happy writing accident that sort of served the plot rather than requiring me to work around it.

Outside the window his father starts yelling at his oldest sister, who’s chain-smoking in the barn again. He thinks she’s trying to burn the whole place down on purpose, to get back at him for leaving.

… is also a little bit a nod to other things I’ve written. Actually this sister of Will’s has made two appearances before in other things. (She’s the sister in don’t think twice.) I don’t usually do that: create fully formed OCs in extended head canon universes. It um, often comes off a certain way when I read it: somewhere between arrogant and self-indulgent. So I always try and avoid it but this character just stuck around in my brain: I think it’s because when I originally wrote her (in that aforementioned unfinished thing set pre-series about Will and Mac and his family) she was just so fun, and pretty well encapsulated in that one line above I think. Headstrong, swears like a sailor, drinks like a fish, fun.

And again from that other fic: she’s the closest in age to Will, the two of them remember their father at his most abusive and were the only two children for a significant part of their childhood, so she’s exceptionally pissed that he went off to college early and left her alone, and he feels guilty about it.

I had another line in here that didn’t make the final cut, which painted a much bleaker picture: his mother yelling at his father for spending half their money on whiskey and his sister having scars and bruises on her arms that no one is talking about but by some miracle his youngest brother still believes in Santa Claus. But I thought maybe it was a bit … dark, for Christmas fic. (Like I said, happy holiday gen? So unlike me.)


So ideal world, I would have had time to research this more thoroughly and actually written the conversation I describe between Will and Mac. But I didn’t have time to properly refresh my memory about what we were all bitching about back then: iirc, Bush and the war in Iraq and the PATRIOT act were buzz topics but I can’t remember well enough to write political snark about it.

The reference to the police state in Fallujah is from this stuff. (I know originally I had a different article up that said the same thing, I think it was from CNN in 2004, but I can’t find it now. Actually I never knew about this at the time. The more you know/learn from writing fanfiction.)


Because Mac and JFK to Heathrow, I just have a thing about writing that okay? Plus thematically the whole fate thing happened by … well… fate?

And yes, I did debate Queensboro bridge vs. another route into the city. (Seriously. You know how I said I didn’t research for this? I have a fucking problem. Can’t send a character across town without Googling the route. It’s a Goddamn disease. And almost certainly the reason that haven’t written a novel.)

Also lol, much like in the show (where as lilacmermaid pointed out on tumblr the other day: she never actually says it), Mac dodges I love you too. Commitment Issues Mac, it’s just how I roll.


See this I started writing back in October/November, because I was always planning a five times Christmas fic, it just wasn’t meant to be like this? Anyway. I like this bit, it’s a period in their relationship that’s really fascinating from what we see of canon. And I think I explained my take on it fairly well in text but:

We know that when Mac first comes back, they do talk in their off time. At the beginning of the second episode she references talking last night and the night before and again at four am this morning, in 1.03 we see them in the office over that weekend. And ever since the late night phone call in 2.01 I’ve been enamored with the imagery/idea. I’ve written it a few times before in yet-to-be-published, yet-to-be-finished things.

(There are also a few other incidental references to voicemail he leaves her in season 2. And headcanon: after 1:30 in the morning he knows she’ll let him go to voicemail, mostly.)

Then throughout the course of 1.03 and 1.04 they become a bit more distant: Will starts dating a lot and Mac starts seeing Wade, who she’s still with over this Christmas.

(And I have a whole bunch of head canon about them. I talked about it here, how I have this idea that Mac keeps dating men who are a little hung up on other people, so I have this thought that Wade is semi-recently divorced.

Actually in the first draft of this Will asks her about it, doesn’t she have someone else to help her shop? And she tells him that Wade’s seeing his daughter that weekend but that sort of contradicts their conversation at the beginning of 1.04 when he asks her if she introduces Wade as her boyfriend. So anyway, that’s actually what’s happening in my mind here, but Will doesn’t know that and he’s our narrator at this point.

That conversation is also why I have her spending Christmas with Wade: he’s my boyfriend, we’re serious.)

For some reason I always write the relationship between Mac and her mother as a little antagonistic. I don’t really think it’s in a serious way. They’re just very alike so they grate on each other a bit and her mother can be accidentally insulting a lot.

(And again, enter Will’s sister. My pet.)

The news stories they discuss in the Christmas Eve call are all real. I think the death panel thing is from wiki though so… Fact not checked, though incredibly easy to believe.


This didn’t come off like I wanted it to. The dialogue was mostly there, but everything else wasn’t. And I feel it probably would’ve worked better as a visual joke, because I didn’t do enough work on the descriptions but it was Christmas night and I just needed to finish the dastardly thing. So.

The way Mac and weddings was written in canon just didn’t vibe for me. Not that she wanted a huge wedding (that was comically ludicrous, but she can be like that as a character), but there wasn’t really much conversation around the idea that she should have been doing this six years ago … so I’m going to go ahead and assume that had already happened in the preceding six months.

I know it’s not necessarily an experience everyone has but I feel like even now my friends and I are starting to get questions about who we’re dating and what our life plans are with respect to breeding and I’m only in my mid-20s. And my friends are starting to get married and “settle down” and already I feel left behind.

So yeah, I think that after enduring 10 years of family functions being asked about her love life, Mac is a little bit keen to show off.

(This whole storyline just felt like it was written by a guy. Which it was. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but? You’ve never been a single woman over thirty.)

Also haha:

well you’re still not too old for grandchildren

Still not too old. Thanks mum. (My own mother is queen of the complisult, so I had plenty of real life inspiration there.)

There are a lot of incidental head canony details in here: Mac sleeping on flights, because again, she’s fairly well-travelled so I imagine she just conks out straight away and isn’t too bothered by jetlag.

The whole thing about learning to drive is something I’ve also had in my head for a while; the image just struck me. And I always think of her as having a fairly serious relationship at uni that didn’t work out and that really impacted on how she approaches relationships. (Made her a lot more cautious of it being the right one, etc. ... hence Commitment Issues Mac and Brian Brenner, probably.) Possibly something about lavender fields and the south of France? Maybe one day I will write an epic about baby Mac.

(Actually I have a mostly unstarted thing about how Mac met Molly, but that’s a project for the New Year.)

Also UK Christmas #1s are SURPRISINGLY disappointing. I went into this thinking it was a good joke and there’d be tons of good-but-bad songs on that list. Turns out there's not. So the best I can do for you in the way of terrible 80s hits Mac could dramatically lip sync at Will to piss him off is Don’t You Want Me Baby. I AM THOROUGHLY DISAPPOINTED UNITED KINGDOM.

This section is a bit short and cuts off abruptly because I ran out of time and will to write. Seriously I felt like I was crawling toward the finish line by the end of this one.


Self-explanatory. But grumpy pregnant Mac scaring the shit out of Lucas Pruit is something I need in my life holy shit.

(Again, this whole pregnancy storyline felt like it was written by a guy to me. And I mean this in an innocuous way. Just that it’s kind of a female experience and sometimes male takes on female experiences feel a little inauthentic.)

Christmas babies fact legit from Also the day of the week with the greatest number of births? Tuesday. According to Will’s (my) legitimate source. (I was going to waste time finding a more legitimate one, but then I thought – nah, just mock it in narrative.)

The seven people coming to dinner are Maggie, Jim, Don Sloan, Will’s sister, Mac’s baby sister (also a fully formed OC so I don’t know, maybe I’ve started making a habit of doing that?) and Mac’s baby sister’s new boyfriend, who everyone is quite fascinated to meet because Mac’s baby sister is nomadic and waify and Mac is just hoping the new boyfriend isn’t a white guy with dreds who smells like weed.


I’m told my one year old is too advanced by my resident child expert, and I tried so hard to make her not that way because I hate it when people write children too developmentally advanced. We wanted to change some of the details so that fit a bit better with her age, but I was pushed for time. (For example she probably shouldn’t have asked to be read to, rather just tried to destroy the book a little. On the other hand, she’d definitely eat the wrapping paper.)

The Christmas decoration gift ended up sounding weird because that was meant to be more significant than it ended up being and really she should have just unwrapped the book first off, but I didn’t have time to do a proper edit.  I had a whole line about the kid finding that Christmas ornament in a box of their stuff clearing out the apartment when she’s an adult after Mac dies

… but I deleted that because I thought it might be too morbid. Because I don’t think many people read that kind of thing like I do, as really hopeful and tangible links to the past keep us alive after we’re gone and etc. etc.? Their daughter was meant to do the same thing with her little baby, mirror image in time, but that didn’t come together. So the line therefore served no purpose and I would’ve cut it if I’d realized that I hadn’t followed through before just now.

And ending.

Cutesy? But also I love that idea. As to why it’s the first time their baby has seen News Night? That’s meant to be a throwback to the prologue, wherein Mac’s dad is letting her watch the news even though ordinarily she wouldn’t be allowed to.


This involved too many late nights at the busiest time of the year, I’m glad it’s done, I hope my giftee liked it and now I think I need a break before diving back into finishing all the other things on my list.

On that note, I’m out. Sorry for commentary that is basically just as long as the actual story.


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