gen: book and glasses


little bits of mad.

explaining the scribbles of a curious mind.

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[the newsroom] sayonara to 2014 and one of those pesky WIPs - bring on the new year!
gen: book and glasses.
recycledstars wrote in littlebitsofmad
Finally! A completed WIP. Months and an entire season of television in the making.

As per the deal, I'm going to ramble about what I wrote now, but I'll split it into "things that might be interesting to other people" and "me literally talking about myself and other things I'm writing at the moment" to minimise the obnoxiousness of the latter ...

Where I started out with this was: there are some things to work out.

When I first watched Election Night I felt confused. When I went back and watched it 10 times over it started to feel natural but at the time it felt strange. But they’re together, I told myself, why doesn’t this feel right to me?

In part because we didn’t know about season three yet and the season two ending felt like it could have actually been the ending. (In retrospect I might have actually preferred that ending …) But Election Night ties every up in a neat bow on a superficial level and resolves absolutely nothing on another.

Which might make it a good finale: it contains endings that are also beginnings and has an energy about it that propels everything forward. But it also makes it hella frustrating, because: what happens next?

Alas, a question that never really was answered canonically.

Leaving aside the question mark hanging over News Night and the lawsuit and just talking Will, Mac and the engagement though: really, where do we go from here?

(YouTube break for Buffy/Once More With Feeling reference!)

It feels like a whirlwind as a viewer, so I can only imagine what it’s like living it. (And yes, okay, I know they’re not real but you get my point.)

Will you marry me? As Mac laments here, that’s a big jump from I broke up with you, you’re the only person who’s baffled by why. And the obvious lie that is I never punished you.

As I wrote in some chapter notes after I posted the third chapter (after season three began airing):

[…] that's actually been bugging at me. I love season 3 to tiny bits and pieces but ... it's been six months since the end of season 2 and suddenly everything is okay between them? After SIX YEARS of bs? In the latest episode, when Will is like "but you wanted to be a June bride" in this way that suggests she should've wanted to do it sooner? For one thing, planning a wedding in 8 months is ambitious […] For another ... do you maybe feel like you might want to give it a teeny tiny bit of time before rushing into anything? At the very least, the time needed to address the question "have we just been romanticizing each other for six years?" because it is really easy to be in love with an idea and a lot harder to be in love with a person.

And hence:

For a cynic Will has a hell of a habit of getting ahead of himself, romantically speaking, or at least he always has with her.

(The last half of that I exaggerate get from canon when Mac says he was in love with her from the moment he met her.)

The whole thing feels surreal to me and I’m just imagining it. What does her yes mean in real terms? How do you get from not being together and six years of emotional baggage to we’re getting married and happy?

I say six years of emotional baggage because can you imagine having a relationship that serious, breaking up and having to work with that person so closely for two and a half years? While you’re still in love with them?

We’re talking about something incredibly painful that’s still unresolved for both parties three years later, that they can’t ever really leave behind because they spend so much time together. And they rely on each other in a way that’s not entirely healthy – they’re not together, but they’re not moving on either.

It’s easy to fangirl over it and think they’re just being adorable when Will turns to Mac when his father dies or Mac turns to Will when she thinks she’s blown that pre-interview, but the psychological and emotional impact of that kind of relationship isn’t … really all that adorable. TV romanticizes that kind of relationship and yes, it’s compelling to watch but can we not be naïve about it? Dragging something out like that wears on a person. It hurts.

(When I write Mac saying it’s been hell I really think it would be, the to-and-fro that’s unavoidable with a relationship that unresolved.)

So I think I have an entirely unromantic way of looking at it, and this story makes a lot of un-rose tinted choices for what is basically a fanfiction genre-in-its-own-right but that was important to me.

The obvious choice with a prompt like “the night they get engaged” is, well, obvious. But I was thinking about this: you haven’t slept in 24 hours, you’re wearing yesterday’s clothes, have you ever less sexy? And after six years of build up to the kind of fantasy vs. reality situation nightmares are made of … bare minimum, wouldn’t you want to shower?

Also: Will and Mac almost always stay at Will’s place in fic. (I do this so much.) So I made this conscious decision here for her to be like “you know what fuck that, all my stuff is at my place, do you know how hard it is to look this good?”

So to completely subvert the fic trope, they don’t actually do the obvious thing.

I wax lyrical all the time about realistic sex writing. (Have done so before on this very blog. I should make it my mission statement or something.) So that’s almost always what I’m trying to do: as they (I) discuss later in the story, there’s a lot riding (hah) on this sexual encounter and this ain’t Hollywood, sex doesn’t work perfectly every time or the first time:

No one else, forever, all things going according to plan and add on the six years: they’re older and unpracticed with each other.

So I’d be panicking. I love sex as much as the next girl, one of Maggie Jordan’s “sex people” for sure, but I’d be nervous and I just couldn’t imagine this any other way.

(Not that they fell asleep, I just thought that was cute and well, Mac has been awake for so long and she has to work the next day! I thought she deserved at least a little nap.)

I couldn’t imagine sex not being, in part, a little bit nerve-racking, no matter how much you wanted it. Maybe even because of how much you wanted it, as Mac gets in her head a little later:

But there’s something else and it eats at her, she’s just so desperate. Just wants it to work so badly.


MacKenzie Morgan McHale McAvoy, that’s not going to work but please, please let it work.

Both lines I like, actually. As a piece where I set out with somewhat “political” intentions I think I wrote what I wanted to, statement-wise.

Side bar to give a co-writing credit. Meg wrote this line:

She yawns, drops her mouth into the crook of his neck, lips warm against his skin.

(Because I just could not think of a way to transition to the closing line and I got to the stage of frustrated where I begged her to just fill in my blank for me when she edited, not a euphemism.)

Crook is her word and that’s a lovely, very her turn of phrase. Thought I’d give her credit for that.

Back to realistic sex writing and my version of the mission to civilize (it’s funny because I’m talking about writing explicit fanfiction): I threw in the stuff about ~contraceptive choices~ deliberately and awkwardly but I just couldn’t in good conscience write a first sexual encounter without at least lip service to safer sex. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

The conversation is awkward, but you gotta have it. Even in this situation, because I get that there’s a lot of trust/love here, but that doesn’t mean you get a free pass on biology/disease transmission (two words you really never want to associate with sex but alas, once I went to medical school for a while so unfortunately, I know.)

I felt awkward even bringing this up but hey, as I said, this is part of my entire agenda … and it’s something that happens in reality that we usually skip over in fic/sex writing.

So noting that I am mortified by all this, let’s dive in:

First, a note on the pill/hormonal contraception: I see Mac as a bit neurotic about this in the relationship context but also a bit blasé about it in spinsterdom, like “I got really busy at work and my prescription ran out and hey I ain’t getting any anyway.” Not that there aren’t a lot of reasons you might not be using it to begin with but that’s what I was thinking in my head.

(Ah fandom, that weird place where you spend a lot of time thinking about the contraceptive preferences of fictional people…)

Also it turns out she got unexpectedly pregnant canonically so … shrug. Let’s not pretend we’re all perfect in this regard, the stats clearly say we’re not and I’ll cop to an accidental pregnancy in my time.

So, condoms or lack thereof. Mac is really explicit about her reasoning for all this in her inner monologue. I went out on a limb here and just decided to be honest about it all, coloured a little by personal experience, but let’s not get too TMI (I know it would be the first time in my life, but I’ll spare you.)

I hope it’s not too much of a throw out of what’s actually happening for the reader. But … MISSION TO CIVILIZE.

(As to why he doesn’t ask? I don’t know. We shifted perspectives here. Maybe he did. He also probably should have.)

I felt uncomfortable about all that so obviously I tried to distract and write it all literary with allusions and such: they’re doing it but aren’t words pretty?

(I also after had them discuss how sometimes when you have sex twice in a row you’re like okay I’m pretty much done now, so long and thanks for all the fish – in dialogue that felt alien to write because it defies about 500 fanfiction tropes and AREN’T YOU PROUD OF ME??)

All the election stuff they talk about is straight up shamelessly from the Wiki page for the 2012 presidential election, for your fact-checking pleasure.

The bit with Jim had this whole line about tape editing to sort of cover up what happened at that protest in Pakistan (not involving any gross violation of journalistic ethics, more a … let’s not get fired by the network type scenario) but that was entirely to support a joke about Lord of the Rings fan videos and I couldn’t really make it work so I cut it.

Just know that at one point in my brain Mac and Jim talked about Lord of the Rings Frodo/Sam slash fanvids and it was probably less hilarious than I think it was. And that the entire scene with Mac and Jim owes its existence to said conversation.

No new news actually is hard to say.

I liked this scene where they edit his script and HUGS. It went through a few iterations, but was built around this:

She's like a fucking SAT vocab list of human emotion: miserable, guilt-ridden, hurt, angry, jaded, surprised, overjoyed, relieved, dizzy, the happiest she's been in her life because he said thank God and she has been, ever since.

Which I quote because I want to state for the record that I am aware that’s too basic for an SAT vocab list.

(How? Because I looked up some actual SAT vocab lists. But all their words for human emotion were unnecessarily complicated so they made it sound funny weird not funny haha so instead I just decided to use normal words and make the joke that I knew everyone would get even though it’s slightly factually inaccurate … which obviously kills me a little on the inside. But I'm growing as a pedant person.)

Will's story about crime rates being down was real!

I found it ages ago and knew I wanted to use it in a fic, wasn’t sure which one. (This was a late-in-the-game addition of some really old dialogue lying around on my hard disk.)

The dates don’t actually work (if you want to be a pedant), but after being sad about that for a while I realised hey it’s fucking fiction (fanfiction no less) I really can just use the story and change the date. So I did.

The bit about petty crime is entirely fiction. But the dialogue didn’t flow otherwise.

Meg didn't like me calling the newsbabies freaks but all the best people are. Plus I like the rhythm of sideshow attraction life so, it stayed.

The details of how they met (and some of the "first time around details") are a little contradicted by the finale. What can I say? I started it pre-season three. And I can't decide whether I don't like the finale canon or I just resent it for jossing me.

But … I choose to maintain the head canon that met doing whatever show they were doing for CNN even though Charlie says they worked together for a short time but they dated for two years … whatever, I like this head canon I’m keeping it, the author is dead, I don’t care what you say, you can pry it from my cold dead canon-denying hands.

I actually really, really love this line:

Will has always liked it when she takes her shoes off in his apartment, like she’s planning on staying, at least for a while.

(I’m pleased with how this whole story turned out for the most part! Praise and glory be!)

I just want to shout out to lilacmermaid and the comment “I love how you describe all the emotions Mac is feeling, particularly that her feelings of guilt haven't just vanished AND she's not letting Will get away with everything he's done in the last few years.” for inspiring the line:

Mac lets him get away with it because it's late and it sounds nice.

I’m so glad people read this at all that came across in the writing? That she was calling him out on his absolute lie that he never punished her … anyway yay, thank you for commenting, it really stuck with me!

A truth they both know is a not-quite-accidental X-files reference for anyone who spotted it; I was fed it by my subconscious but then it just seemed like the most succinct way to say it.

Before I talk about the final paragraphs I just wanted to give a boring science lesson say that “sailors navigating by sun and stars” refers to nautical twilight which is a specific kind of twilight:

During nautical twilight the illumination is such that the horizon is still visible even on a Moonless night, allowing mariners to take reliable star sights for navigational purposes, hence the name. […] The end of this period in the evening, or during its morning start, is also the time when traces of light near the sunset or sunrise point of the horizon are very difficult if not impossible to discern. (full article)

Essentially before “first light” … which makes it about 5:30 in the morning and if you’re a FREAK you can look things like this up for exact dates … not that I’d ever do that or anything.

Anyway, to close the story I wanted to weave in the title, why I chose it. It was always meant to be about some reference to the idea of this fairly rapid evolution they undergo, the idea that there’s a monumental shift in their relationship that turns them into different people, as individuals and to each other.

I can’t remember if I intentionally chose it to be from shapechangers in winter, I think it was actually just from a thesaurus spiral involving “shapeshifting” which turned up “shapechanger” and I liked how that sounded better. But it made me think of the poem, one of my favourites, so I re-read it and of course, thematically it’s fitting.

(It almost always is. I hold that poem so close to my heart, everything about it speaks to how I conceive of love and relationships … sigh, Margaret Atwood.)

So I quoted the stanza at the end because this is what the story is meant to be right? Just in long form … these lines:

where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath

The full poem is worth reading, it’s one of my absolute favourites and I’ll leave you with the ending, because it’s one of those lines that echoes in me often, and I think it’s very appropriate here:

and yes, I know it’s you;
and that is what we will come to, sooner
or later, when it’s even darker
than It is now, when the snow is colder,
when it’s darkest and coldest
and candles are no longer any use to us
and the visibility is zero: Yes.
It’s still you. It’s still you.

Thanks for indulging my madness, as per usual. I’m very pleased to be entering the new year with one less WIP!

Post-script: all the stuff about my own writing.

This was conceived pre-season three, originally as a few lines of dialogue I wrote and then promptly forgot about in favor of spending months working on other things. (Which is funny, because of all those other things, this is the only one I’ve finished.)

Then herebird sent me an ask in response to a fic meme on tumblr and lo, the impetus to collate and expand on said scraps was found.

It will surprise no one to learn that this was meant to be a short, one-shot, response-to-tumblr-prompt type deal. And then it got too long for a tumblr post and was meant to be three parts …

I mention this because when I first posted it the chapters had proper titles, all of which were taken from the movements in Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata: significant because Moonlight Sonata doesn’t follow the classical sonata form (fast-slow-fast) but builds toward the end, the third movement is faster than the first. And originally that was the pace of the story: slow start, rapid finish (that is not a sex joke).

It evolved beyond that, so now the chapters are title-less and I hope it now reads as gentle at the end as well as at the beginning.

(This story has absolutely no point; I just wanted to tell someone about Moonlight Sonata.)

The bit about the pictures on Mac’s walls is a sort-of reference to something else I had started writing about what Mac does in the time between the break up and when the show starts.

(Which now requires significant reworking after the finale but hey, it might still work)

I’ve written this line about Mac never really carrying things with her or documenting her own life the way she documents world events and never hanging anything on her walls because she’s a bit nomadic –never had a house and three years is the longest contract I’ve ever signed and she’s lived on both sides of the Atlantic and implicitly her niche is foreign affairs – so she’s always taking the next job in the next city doing the next story.

At the end of that piece she … finds her energy again when Charlie offers her the job and while she’s packing up to move from DC she finds all these pictures and makes the decision to hang them on her walls in New York, which is home, where she’s intending to stay. So. That may or may not ever see the light of day.

Quite a lot of this story is referential to how I read their arc in season two, and I actually have a sort of angsty filler fic that happens over the course of the show (actually part three of my secret santa fic was originally a part of that story, so that sets the tone) fondly dubbed “season 2 angstfest.docx … these lines in particular:

“I’ve always known you were still in love with me. But you weren’t willing to say so and this time yesterday I didn’t think you ever would be. So it was cruel, to keep me … all this time, you’ve been giving me just enough to keep me hanging on to something I don’t think you were sure you’d ever want."

(80s pop reference ftw!)


If this is her fairytale then she’s the princess in the ivory tower, passively waiting out once upon a time for happily ever after, and even Disney isn’t making that movie anymore.

I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it but it’s all about Mac getting to that point in Election Night where Will says “I bought the ring to make you feel bad” and Mac’s response is essentially “Well fuck you for that.” (Which is fair enough.)

Again the bits about how they first met/started dating are self-referential because one of those things I spent all that time on in the hiatus was a pre-series fic that expanded on all those details they know about each other (i.e. Will cries when he watches the movie Rudy.)

That’s mostly jossed now, after the finale.

Actually all these bits about their past are self-referential upon re-reading. Memorial Day, the kitchen on New Year’s Eve ... wow. I’ve become that person I hate. I pray to God it doesn’t come across as arrogant and self-indulgent. Though I suppose no one would have even known if I hadn’t admitted it here, shoulda learned from Mac’s mistake.

(Even the joke about eating out is a rehash of this Castle fic I wrote once. But if there was a place for repeating yourself it’d be a Sorkin fandom right?)

“I asked you if you were in and you said yes” is a reference to the phone call in 1.02. And all of this is again, part of that “season two angstfest”/my general interpretation of their relationship as being slightly emotionally draining:

She remembers the moment, how it still felt good every time she heard his voice on the other end of the line and how difficult it was to ignore the hope that sparked and died all in the space between the ring and the dial tone.

This entire scene sort of happened by accident as I kept expanding on things, I rewatched the Fox offer scene and kept adding little things in and then bam, it all sort of worked itself out! A writerly happily ever after.

“Is this how you want to work things through?” she asks as she turns to face him, pushing herself up onto the counter and wrapping her arms around his neck. “In every room of the house?”

Is a little a vague allusion to this silly piece of procrasti-fic/the half-finished sequel I have about the rug.

(Also about ten lines of dialogue involving the dining table and a discussion of how to decide whether or not to have children involving Sloan teaching Mac about game theory… ?? my brain’s a weird place during final exams.

Incidentally Sloan’s lesson did
not help me remember enough to answer the game theory question in my microeconomics final even though at the time I deluded myself into thinking I was studying.)

So there's a glimpse of my hard disk and now you know how I waste all my time! And ...



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