Dear NPT Writer

Oh lord, this got long. Please forgive me. It’s because this year I decided to really let my inner fan off the leash, and ended up squeeing all over the page. There are lots of suggestions in here, but if reading them makes you think of something else entirely you suspect I’d enjoy, then go for it! At this point I have a decent number of fics posted on AO3, plus gifts I’ve received in the past, so you can divine from their entrails if you need more clues. (And I have some more general notes at the end.)

Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Alistair, Anders, Fenris, Flemeth

As far as I’m concerned, companions are one of the great strengths of Bioware’s games: they’re awesome people, and richly enough characterized that I want to know more about them.

If you matched with me on this, you probably offered “any,” since my four are kind of a random assortment. That’s because my prompts are individual to the characters, but I couldn’t come up with suggestions for every single one of the nineteen (!) people nominated, which meant I couldn’t just request “any” like I did last year. Ergo, I narrowed it down to the four I’m the most excited about, and crossed my fingers that somebody would offer “any” so I wouldn’t be unmatchable. (Yes, this means you don’t have to fit all four of them into one story. Any one of the four on their own is just fine.) I don’t mind the inclusion of other canon characters, nominated or otherwise, but given that what I’m interested in is mostly backstory, there may not be much opening for that.

(Regarding the Warden and Hawke: I’ve found a better way than last year’s post to explain my feelings regarding them. I’m generally uninterested in reading about “the Warden” or “Hawke” as such, because they are invariably not my Warden or my Hawke — but I don’t mind reading about some OC, tangentially connected at best to canon. Last year I got a treat with Solona Amell in it, which was totally fine, because she was a Circle apprentice who hadn’t yet become the Warden. If you happen to pick an option that might involve one of those figures, then the more you treat them like OCs rather than the canon protagonists, the happier I will probably be.)

Alistair — I adore Alistair. He’s like Joscelin Verreuil (from Jacqueline Carey’s first Kushiel trilogy), with a much better sense of humour. I’m apparently a sucker for the semi-fallen religious warrior? I would love a story about Alistair in his Templar-and-Chantry days. He doesn’t show terribly strong faith in the game — not like Leliana — so was he more religious before, and lost it somehow, or did the Maker never mean much to him? Or does he have his own personal take on those things, that he doesn’t talk about much? This makes it sound like I want a deep meditation on faith. I’m not averse to that, but I tend to assume any story about Alistair would be light-hearted along with its depth. Hijinks and/or the events that led to him becoming a Grey Warden; both would be awesome, separately or together.

Fenris — I adore Fenris, too, in a totally different way. (Much of it centering on the voice. <siiiiiigh>) He’s angsty without being a dick to Hawke, which is a balancing act few writers manage. But I’d love to see who he was before the tattoos, i.e. the Leto that is now gone. Varania says he competed to win the tattoos (and her freedom). What did he have to do? Was he acting out of love for his family, or some other motivation? Did he know exactly what he was in for? (Up to and including the memory loss; I could see that going either way.) The details never get fleshed out in canon, but I’d love your take on them. If that doesn’t excite you, then maybe tell me: what the heck does Fenris do in his spare time, other than play Wicked Grace with Varric at the Hanged Man? The other characters seem to have social lives and things they do to earn a living, but Fenris is a cipher in that regard. I’d like to know what he does besides brood.

Anders — Last year’s treat was a FANTABULOUS story about his escape attempts from the Circle pre-DA:A, so this year I’m back with a totally different Anders request. I used to say that he had a personality transplant between DA:A and DA2, but I’ve come to realize it’s more accurate to say your companion in DA2 is really Justice, not Anders at all. Which could have been really cool if his writer had shown the transition or the conflict more clearly; unfortunately, I feel like most of that has to be filled in by the player. So I’d love to see something exploring the transition from the guy who mostly ran away from his problems with the Circle to the monomaniacal crusader we get in the second game. Why did he take on Justice after Kristoff’s body began to fall apart? What did it feel like, becoming an abomination? How did the downhill slide into Vengeance happen, and how consciously aware was Anders of the process? I have a headcanon where anyone possessed by a spirit will eventually end up like Anders did; Wynne, for example, would have eventually morphed from “vessel for Faith” to “avatar of Zealotry” or something in that vein, simply because the human soul can’t handle the purity of a Fade spirit, regardless of what impulse that purity represents. In Anders’ case, it’s clearly his only partially-buried anger against the Circle that sends him off-balance; I’d love a story that digs into that rage, the causes behind it, and how it eventually spins out of control. And though I normally prefer things to adhere to canon, in this case I don’t mind at all if the two personalities are presented as starting out separate and in conflict, contrary to what he says about it onscreen, or if the Justice takeover is a slower process than in canon. (Since I’m less keen on seeing canonical!Hawke in fic, you’re welcome to write a Kirkwall AU in which everything’s falling apart without Hawke there.)

Flemeth — pretty much anything you care to write about Flemeth. 😀 I’m convinced her appearance in DA2 is mostly to explain how she survives DA:O/remind players she exists, because Bioware has something big in mind for her later. Either way, she is clearly a hell of a lot more than just a Witch of the Wilds. If you have ideas for what that “more” is, then share! Old God? Fade spirit? High dragon in human form? Stories about her with her daughters are cool (I’ve read the comics, so I know about Yavana and the scheme there), or something explaining why Flemeth decided to play “ugly old witch in the swamp” when she’s clearly far more than that, or whatever.

I’m sort of paranoid that I’ve managed to land on the four you’re the least interested in writing, so quick notes on a few others: I’d also be keen on a story about Merrill making that deal with the demon to cleanse the eluvian; Isabela having pirate ship adventures; Morrigan growing up with Flemeth, or where she goes after passing through the eluvian in Witch Hunt; Shale becoming a golem (grim) or squishing pigeons (silly); or Varric wheeling and dealing in Kirkwall, especially if it’s early days, when he and Bartrand are just establishing themselves. I won’t report you to the Exchange Police if you go with one of those options; it’s more important to me that you have fun with the character you choose to write. (I promise this isn’t me trying to get around the limit on character requests, either. I just get nervous any time “any” comes into play, because let’s face it, you probably aren’t equally excited by every character in that list, and maybe I picked the ones you like least.)

Fandom: Highlander
Character: Methos

True story: back in the Stone Age of Compuserve et al, when I had only seen a few episodes of Highlander, I was nosing around on internet fansites and came across references to Methos: the Oldest Immortal Alive! He’s Five Thousand Years Old!!! And I rolled my eyes because my god did that sound like a terrible idea.

Then I saw an episode with Methos in it, and realized he’s the best character in the show.

So, um. The tl;dr version is METHOS YES PLEASE. The rest of this is me fangirling about why I like him, followed by some vague nods to what I’m keen on seeing.

Why I like him: uh, because he’s awesome? The writers avoided the pitfalls I automatically expected when I saw “five thousand years old, world’s oldest living immortal.” He’s not some uber-powerful demigod; he’s just a guy, and not even the strongest one out there. He’s also not some wise, enlightened elder — though they poke at that idea entertainingly in “The Messenger.” He isn’t weighted down by the angst of his life; he has a fabulous sense of humour (that extends to mocking himself), and I loved how they handled the relationship with Alexa. So often, immortal characters (vampires, etc) moan about how they can’t get attached because the people they love will die and then it’ll be grief foreeeeeever; with Alexa, Methos is all, “Let’s date! Wait, you’re dying of cancer? NO TIME TO LOSE THEN” instead of flinching away from the pain. At the same time, man does he have some trauma and angst in his past (Horsemen, anybody?), which I am very much a sucker for. He doesn’t put dignity (or sometimes even honor) ahead of his own survival; yet on the other hand he will risk himself for his friends — and also, every so often, this sort of masochistic or even self-destructive streak rears its head. He nearly suicides to Duncan in his first appearance (which, to be fair, is mostly because the writers originally intended him to be a one-off character), and then in “Comes a Horseman,” when he’s trying to squirm out of the conversation and Duncan won’t let him, he turns around and just starts twisting the knife in himself, talking about his own past in the most blunt way possible. And yet, there are moments where the wisdom comes out. I love the exchange between him and Duncan at the end of “The Valkyrie,” about who judges whom, and his epic speech at Amanda in “Methuselah’s Gift” is sheer brilliance. (The plot of that episode is Macguffin Ahoy! from one end to the other, but it’s worth it just for that speech.)

Basically, I love every episode he’s in and everything they do with the character (though I don’t remember season six very well), so if you have a Favorite Methos Moment, odds are I like it, too. Hanging out with Byron? Shooting Duncan in the head? His confrontation with Kristin at the end of “Chivalry?” (“A man born long before the age of chivalry” — that was a nicely chilling moment.) Awesomesauce, all of it. 😀

Now that I’ve written a mini-dissertation, what about the actual request? Well, I’m open for pretty much anything, but there are a few things I’d prefer you to avoid:

1) Anything that flat-out contradicts canon. Unless I specifically ask for an AU or crossover or fixit fic, etc, I like receiving things that fit into the world and history presented in canon. This doesn’t mean you have to drive yourself batty double-checking every last detail for fear of contradicting one (I probably wouldn’t notice the contradiction anyway), but it does mean I’m not keen on “the Horsemen team up for realz in the modern age” or whatever.

2) Shippy fic or porn. Although I like his relationship with Alexa, I’m not that interested in a fic that focuses on it, nor do I really want to see him slashed with Duncan/Joe/Richie/whoever. Which is not to say you have to avoid relationships like the plague; if it would fit your story to have Methos be involved with some character of your own devising, that’s fine. (Female or male. I read him as straight, but open-minded enough that he wouldn’t say no to other kinds of fun. Especially if he were in a time and place where that sort of thing was mainstream, e.g. ancient Greece or pre-Meiji Japan.)

3) Horsemen-era stuff. I’m not hugely averse to this, so if you have a brilliant idea for something in that time period, go for it. But Horsemen-era Methos is not yet the complex character I love, so he’s less interesting to me. Also, I’m an archaeologist, so the TV version of the Bronze Age makes me roll my eyes. Though if you can do a more realistic Bronze Age, rock on!

Since now I feel like that makes me sound choosy, let me say that beyond those three things, I really am up for just about anything! Emo fic about some tragedy in Methos’ past; hilarious fic about a ridiculous caper; introspective fic musing on immortality and being thousands of years older than everybody around you; grimdark fic about the Gathering actually coming down. If you have a time period you really like, feel free to set the story there; if it’s a time period you know a crap-ton about, yes please. I adore historical fiction full of chewy little period details.

(If it’s a historical period in which -isms become an issue: you’re welcome to address them or sweep them under the narrative rug, whichever suits you better. I kind of think that Methos, with that range of experiences under his belt, has probably learned not to make snap judgments about people based on externalities, but that doesn’t mean he’s 100% free of prejudice. I also know that the prejudices we’re familiar with are very much an inheritance of the last few centuries, and that racism and sexism in, say, republican Rome operated in different ways than ours. So basically, do whatever serves the story best/you are okay with writing; I don’t particularly need this to be issuefic, nor am I upset by characters acting in less than fully enlightened ways.)

Fandom: Song of the Lioness
Characters: Alexander of Tirragen, Alanna of Pirate’s Swoop and Olau

Man, I love this series. I read it when I was a kid; coming back to it later, I discovered that not only had the Suck Fairy not paid a visit, it had qualities I never appreciated when I was ten. (Yes, it’s kind of stereotypical girl-disguised-as-boy wish-fulfillment, but Alanna has three lovers. And doesn’t get slut-shamed or anything. It’s kind of amazing.)

The actual canon scratches most of my itch, but there’s one thing that’s stuck in my mind like a burr, which is the focus of my request: Alex’s betrayal.

I’ve got a thing for the slender dark ones (and the good swordsmen), so I always had a real liking for Alexander of Tirragen . . . which is why it sucks that he ends up on Roger’s side. I’m not looking for fix-it fic, though. Instead, I want to know why.

There are fics out there that answer this question, but as good as some of them are, none of them really scratch the itch for me. All the ones I’ve found have taken one or more of the following three tacks: 1) Alex is being magically controlled, 2) Alex is in a relationship with Roger, 3) Alex is a hillman, and their history with the rest of Tortall is less than harmonious. Me, I’m looking for something more psychological. I do think magical control might have played a role (his “sparring match” with Alanna when she’s a squire is too weird to seem entirely natural), but I also think any such control worked because it leveraged things already within Alex. And by the time you get to the fourth book, it’s Alex’s own choices that bring him to that final fight.

So why does that happen? My read on him is that he’s driven by the pursuit of skill, to the point of perfection. He’s competitive not because he wants to win, or even trounce the other guy, but because he wants proof that he’s the best. And that’s why he has such an interesting relationship with Alanna; she’s more or less as good as he is, and driven in a similar but not identical way, which makes them natural rivals.

What did it mean to Alex that a boy several years younger was nearly his match? What did it mean when he found out that boy was actually a girl? How about when Alanna went off and started having adventures, covering herself in glory in distant lands without Alex ever getting to test himself against her on equal terms? He insisted on facing Alanna before she got to Roger; by that point the rivalry, and the need to find out which of them really was the best, seems to have consumed him utterly. I’m fascinated by the question of how that comes to pass. So: perfectionism, obsession, the gradual abandonment of other values in the service of those things, yes please. 🙂

Other stuff I’m keen on: the physicality of a knight’s training; fantasy!medieval society and the burdens it places on people; the philosophical implications of the code of chivalry, as Myles debated with the pages. I also really enjoyed the Keladry books, because that entire world of knightliness is really fascinating to me, even though I recognize that it doesn’t match up with historical reality.

Regarding the other nominated characters, you’re welcome to bring any or all of them into the story as you please (though of course it isn’t required). I am very fond of all of them.

Fandom: Phantom of the Opera
Character: Christine Daae

This one is two requests, because the first is a crossover, and I know those are even more optional than the usual optionality of optional details. If you can’t or don’t want to write the crossover, the second request is for you.

The first request is born of the fact that Sarah Brightman, who originated the role of Christine in the musical, also plays the singer Blind Mag in the movie Repo! The Genetic Opera. Which is utter cracktastic silliness from one end to the other, but for whatever reason, my brain looked at it and decided that Mag is totally Christine.

Yeah, I have no idea how that works, given that Repo! takes place in the future and so it’s been, what, a hundred years or more since Christine would have died? But we’re talking about a movie with a character called GraveRobber. Who does, in fact, dig up graves. He does so in order to extract Zydrate from their corpses, but hey, who’s to say he wouldn’t have dug up a grave that was older than he thought, and for whatever reason the woman in it wasn’t dead or came back to life or look, I’m not claiming this makes any more sense than the movie itself does, but whatever. Blind Mag is Christine Daae!

So the crossover request is some story in which that’s true. The how and why of it are up to you; I’m not married to any specifics beyond the premise, and a general desire to see the GraveRobber play a role. (He’s got a fantastic voice. Apparently that is a Thing with me, as per my comments on Fenris above.) Just have fun.

If you don’t want to do that, then my Phantom-only request is for aftermath to the musical. This one is born of a brief moment in the film (which has the freedom to show a few things the stage show can’t), where Raoul is at the auction, and he exchanges a glance with . . . I can’t remember now whether it’s Meg or Madame Giry, though I think it’s the latter. That glance really got me, because it hammered home the extent to which there’s a story behind the things being sold off, that almost nobody there knows about, except the two of them. (When I say “it got me,” I mean I wrote an entire short story just off that moment.) And so I thought about what it would be like to be someone who was there for those events, looking back on them after the fact, when so few people understand.

It doesn’t have to be Christine’s aftermath specifically, though if you want to write about her, go ahead. She is, after all, the character I requested, and I can’t imagine she just waltzes away after living through those experiences and never gives it a second thought. Does she ever think maybe things could have worked out with the Phantom (despite his dysfunctional behavior), or wonder what happened to him, or have nightmares in which Raoul is strangling and she can’t save him? Does she ever go back to the opera house? But if you want, feel free to write instead about the Girys, or Raoul, or Carlotta — I’m less interested in the Phantom himself, since I like the way he vanishes at the end. That’s a good conclusion for him. Meg pulling away the cloak, though, and finding nothing there . . . I love that moment. I know she’s barely a character in the musical, compared with the others, but it could be really cool to get her side of things, especially with her mother having known more of what was going on than just about anybody else in the opera house. Or Carlotta could sell her story to a tabloid, in which it is All About How She Suffered. Or Raoul could struggle to cope with the questions raised by Christine’s relationship with the Phantom and her decisions when his life was in danger.

Other info: I think the above gives a pretty good picture of the spectrum of things I like. Drama is good, drama mixed with humor is even better when the story suits it, I don’t mind violence so long as it isn’t splatterpunk gore. I adore stories with plot in. My default preference is for stories that fit in with canon — “this could be the secret backstory/sequel you never knew about” or “if you changed X, things could totally have gone this way” — as opposed to outright revisions, though obviously some of my specific requests deviate from that.

Above all, I hope you have fun!

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0 Responses to “Dear NPT Writer”

  1. Marie Brennan

    Sure! (And now I’m sad I missed that Vericon.)

    • aedifica

      Vericon was a lot of fun!

      She said that it always was about being the best squire–he couldn’t handle being beaten at that and *especially* couldn’t handle being beaten at it by a woman. So, very much along the lines you were suggesting. 🙂

  2. Anonymous

    Done. 🙂

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