The “news” that Google chooses to highlight for me is a hilarious and sadly accurate snapshot of my life. Like, today it was like “Tom Hardy Reads CBeebies” and “Yuri on Ice Fans Are Angry at the Hallmark Channel.” Apparently the Hallmark Channel is making a movie about a figure skater who falls in love with her coach. Also apparently, the movie was already in production by the time YoI premiered, so it seems basically impossible that it has anything to do with YoI and is just a coincidence. This isn’t surprising: Creativity seems to run in cycles, and similar ideas seem frequently to crop up at the same time. But I am fascinated by this for two reasons:
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As perhaps may have been clear from previous Adventures in Co-Writing entries, @bookshop and I spent 70,000 words in perfect, gorgeous sync, and the story was *so* easy, and I swear, we were, like, thisclose to wrapping it up...and then everything fell to pieces, lol. I, admittedly, wrote the moment that caused the breaking point--actually, I may have written many of the moments--but when we got to the crisis point and really stopped to examine it and really stopped to dig into what we’d written...we realized that maybe we’d accidentally been writing two TOTALLY DIFFERENT stories the whole time, lololol, oops.
I mean, they were clearly compatible stories, because we went so long without realizing it, and I feel like you could probably immediately guess where our stories were going to diverge (hint: it involves conflict. Or lack thereof), but it kind of caught us by surprise.
So, anyway we spent weeks--literally weeks--trying to come up with an ending we both were truly happy with. We have...so many endings of this story, lolol. I feel like we’ve each written, like, three different endings at this point. And I mean, RADICALLY different. Like, diverging at different points, arriving at different OTPs, etc. And then every time we wrote another ending, we realized that we were losing things about the other endings that we really liked. And anyway, we couldn’t seem to find an ending that we were both really thrilled with. Like, no matter what we did, one or both of us was compromising, and it didn’t feel satisfying. (And I was, admittedly, being a baby about missing other versions of the characters, and having to do rewrites, etc.)
And then the other night we came up with this idea: What if...there is no canon? Like, what if we just write every single ending we want to write? What if this story can happen a hundred, thousand, million different ways? What if there’s a universe for each OTP, and other OTPs we haven’t thought about yet, and an OT3 in there, too? What if there’s a universe that focuses instead on some of the secondary characters we haven’t had time for? What if there’s a universe that’s mostly fluff sexilogue, and a universe with a lot of pining and conflict? ALL THE UNIVERSES.
And, for the first time in weeks, I felt like we could take a breath. Like, WE COULD HAVE ALL OF IT. EVERYTHING. We don’t need to choose. WHY SHOULD WE CHOOSE? WE’RE FANFIC WRITERS. WE GET TO NEVER CHOOSE. Like, this is what we *do.* All along, what we were really doing was writing ourselves fic, opening up possibilities, and then we couldn’t bear to foreclose any of them, because *we’re fanfic writers,* we are at our most comfortable when everything is a possibility.
So our new plan is to put up an Introduction and Dramatis Personae, and be like, “Here are our characters. Here are the basics. There is no canon,” and then throw a bunch of fics up there at you: long ones, short ones, one-shots, multichapter, this OTP, that OTP, this POV, that POV, random AUs, etc. This seems like a lot, but, like, we’ve got so much written already that we basically have a whole little fandom, we were like, “Why not put it all up? Why pick and choose?” YOU can pick and choose. You can, hopefully, get a feel for the characters and know which OTPs you prefer, or who you’d want to read about, or just which of your favorite tropes you want to roll around in.
And then the hope is that, well, all of you will want to join in eventually. Like, you write the story you haven’t seen yet. AS ALL FANFIC WRITERS DO.
So, those are Adventures in Co-Writing now. It turns out we weren’t writing Hipster My Fair Lady or Hipster Emma. We were writing, well, everything.
A while ago--maybe a month ago--a fellow Inceptionite recommended a story on the Penumbra podcast centering around Juno Steel, with the endorsement that Juno's love interest was very Eamesian. It took me a while to follow the recommendation. Fictional story-telling podcasts (kinda like anime) are not usually my thing. I have a hard time focusing on entirely audio media; I'll realize my mind wandered and I missed major points. So I tend to only listen to brief educational podcasts when I'm listening to podcasts. And, also, I didn't know if I wanted to jump into another thicket, considering, well, my Yuri on Ice experience, that I wanted to love so much and then didn't. I didn't want to try to love something else and then be disappointed again.
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In the morning we woke late to find T still there, even though the plan had been for her to leave early. Shenanigans with trains meant that she had decided to drive to Birmingham. So we breakfasted together—cereal and croissants with bergamot and Seville jam for normal people; Marmite for L—and then left for Birmingham. N drove with T; I drove with L and S and we mainly discussed fundraising techniques for schools because we’re just that cool.
Eventually T called and we decided to arrange an exchange of N at a little pull-off on the side of the highway. N would come with us sight-seeing in Birmingham, T would go work, and we would meet back up again in the afternoon for a visit to Cadbury World. We had been following T up to that point—during which she turned out to be the anti-Garmin—but now we went back to GPS.
I had read that the Birmingham Library had a rooftop garden with views of the whole city, so we headed there. The library is an extremely impressive building covered in some kind of abstract steel artwork. Suffice it to say I can’t imagine any American city in this day and age spending money just to make a library look striking. But it seemed very Birmingham, which overall had lots of really different and interesting buildings. And the interior of the library was as impressive as its exterior. It was huge and sprawling and very modern but done well. The Google-headquarters-inspired way of setting up a space can seem awful most of the time, but this library had a really good design time and it was super-well-done.
Of course, my goodwill toward the library vanished immediately upon getting in the elevator, which was the World’s Slowest Modern Elevator. I actually think you must have to pay extra to get a modern elevator that moves that slowly. They played us little lines of poetry every time the doors shut but all in all I’d rather have an elevator with a respectable speed than lines of Dickinson or Eliot. Maybe it’s so slow so as to promote use of the stairs, because we did walk back down.
The top floor of the library had a glass observation deck and a Shakespeare room. Down a couple of floors from that was the rooftop garden I’d read about.
The garden was lovely. The weather wasn’t the best in the world but it wasn’t actively unpleasant the way Iceland had been. I stood along the edge and looked out over the city and tried to just enjoy how noisy it was. I love the way a city sounds and I get to hear it so seldom these days. I was keenly aware I was going back to Mississippi soon, so I wanted to try to lock the sights and sounds of Birmingham into my memory.
Which of course was when a voice next to me purred, “Beautiful view, isn’t it?” Not Benedict Cumberbatch. Really, world? I made some vague, noncommittal response and then luckily L saved me. Clearly, that had been my Ordeal.
While on the roof, we touched based with T—interrupting her very important meeting accidentally—and realized we had another hour to kill. So we decided to eat at the café at the library. We basically all had jacket potatoes and L had an Earl Grey tea, which they labeled “EGT” and that was basically my favorite thing I’d seen so far in England.
The gift shop at the Birmingham Library was one of the best I’d been in but I was having the small silent meltdown of New Englanders everywhere when confronted with slowness. But I think I actually did a decent job. “No need to fold that,” I said cheerfully as she painstakingly folded the t-shirt I’d bought. She kept folding anyway. It was like that scene in “Love Actually.”
The whole incident had brought out our Boston-driver-ness. If you want to know how long it takes a Boston driver to acclimatize enough to British driving to start criticizing other drivers as too slow, the answer is less than 24 hours. The fact that Birmingham is under an astonishing amount of construction and flummoxed the GPS didn’t help matters.
But, eventually we reached Cadbury World and, hilariously, we wouldn’t go the wrong way in the parking lot to get to the empty parking space because the only rules Bostonians respect are rules about parking.
Cadbury World was way more crowded than I’d expected. It had all these huge sprawling parking lots that were crowded with cars. I had not been expecting that at all but it’s basically a theme park. Upon entering, they immediately present you with three candy bars, and then you are ushered into a rain forest, where you learn about cocoa trees, if you pay attention, which we did not. Eventually you reach a replica of London in 1824, when Cadbury opened his first shop. A costumed lady complained to us about how her husband spends all his time and money at the men’s club where she wasn’t allowed to go, and then flirted with L, because: L’s Ordeal.
From there we were ushered into a theater to learn about the history of Cadbury. Fun fact: Cadbury did many things to aid the war effort during World War II. They didn’t elaborate further. Illuminati. Clearly.
After that it was on to the next theater, where they warned us to be careful if we had back problems. But we weren’t strapped in or anything, so I wasn’t sure what was about to happen. The movie started, and it was all about how chocolate gets made from cocoa beans. As our guide walked us through harvesting of the cocoa beans, a sudden blast of air puffed at our ankles. “What was that?” asked our guide, and then moves on. Sooooo, no idea.
It eventually became clear that we were meant to be cocoa beans when our guide described shaking the beans and the benches on which we were seated suddenly started vibrating and shaking us back and forth. Seriously, someone thought of that. Frankly, it makes me want to start hanging out with the Cadburys. They seem like fun.
It all runs together after that. There was a bit with fresh liquid chocolate shot through with the topping of our choice. And a bit we where we were introduced to the random sexiness of a Flake commercial (favorite bit: a random lizard crawling over a random telephone) and to the rabbit that sells the caramel one. And a ride with no real purpose that just drove us through a landscape that included a phallic cactus shivering in a sweater (and that is not just the Penis Museum talking). And they let us squeeze three into one row on that ride, which you’d never get in America. And then we saw an animatronic gorilla playing drums to a Phil Collins song. The Cadburys are on something really, really good. (Probably good chocolate.) And they also had one of those games where you press buttons in a sequence and they said most people can do 8 and I did 13 and was super-proud of myself.
And the whole time, no matter how fast or slow we moved, we were surrounded by this enormous family. I have no idea how many people were in this family. They kept multiplying. Apparently they were incapable of staying together, because they kept suddenly shoving past us to catch up, or ducking into or out of lines.
The tour ended—as all tours do—in a shop, where the chocolate was so cheap by American standards that we bought whole armfuls of it. By combining orders, we spent 20 pounds and I got a “free” teddy bear for the niblings.
Then we walked a little around Bourneville, which is the village the Cadburys set up for their workers to live in. And then it was decided that I should drive back with T, which meant that navigation was horrible in the other car without me. After an Ordeal for T involving backing up to make way for the same returning construction vehicles that had complicated our drive while going that morning, we reached T’s house, where P had made chicken parm, inspired by my mentioning it that morning. The chicken parm had a sauce with everything thrown in and it was delicious. Then we spent the rest of the evening watching YouTube Cadbury ads and BBC program previews.
Off bright and early again the next morning, and our first stop was this incredible waterfall that you could walk behind. Although I did not think anything about this looked the least bit safe. We were expected to clamber up and down these tumbled piles of rocks, and everything was soaking wet and the ground was such sucking mud that my sneaker got stuck in it and came off my foot and I uttered this pathetic little cry and flailed at S. S helped me balance and I perched my foot on a rock and waved ineffectually at my shoe in the mud until L stopped laughing and taking photographs long enough to come and help. “This is a dangerous place,” I sniffed huffily. “You’re not on the path,” he pointed out. Which was apparently true but whatever, that path was very poorly marked.
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Once we landed and got through silly customs, we found ourselves waiting around for our luggage. To kill time, we went in the duty-free shop and bought Icelandic water in fabulous vodka-like bottles. And I stopped at the ATM to get money. It was amusing to take out 20,000. Although it was the beginning of us realizing that everything is super-expensive in Iceland. We also found a little heart-shaped charm on the floor and amused ourselves with thinking that it represented someone’s abandoned heart. Probably Sherlock’s. So then we wrote a sad AU where Sherlock and John were both abandoned pieces of luggage.
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