The Critical Fan Toolkit

Interview of WriteGirl by Cara Marta Messina

Conducted on 2020-01-19

How to Read

This interview transcript has been qualitatlve coded (learn more about qualitative coding and my process here). Qualitative coding, in a general sense, is marking up particular data with particular themes. For this transcript, you can both read what WriteGirl said as well as how I coded their interview.

The bold font in WriteGirl's answer are the points in the text that have been coded. The underlined font is also coded; the underlined font is specifically marked with the "power and identity" code.

Interview Transcription

cara: Okay, today on January 19th, 2020, I am interviewing WriteGirl. Would you like to introduce yourself?

writegirl: Hi, my nom de plume I guess is WriteGirl. I'm a fanfiction writer, and I write in a couple different fandoms. That's about it. Anything else?

cara: Are you consenting to being audio recorded?

writegirl: Yes I am.

cara: Beautiful. Thank you. All right, we'll just kind of dive right in. I'm going to ask you first a few questions about yourself as a fanfiction writer, and your development over the years, and the fandoms you participate, and all that.

writegirl: Okay.

cara: First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself as a fanfiction writer? When and how did you start writing fanfiction? Which fandoms did you start with? How did your participation in fan communities change over the years, and what fandoms do you currently participate in, and why? If that's a lot of questions, I can also go back and reiterate some of them.

writegirl: When and how did I start writing fanfiction? I actually discovered fanfiction in high school, way back when when I was a senior, just randomly on the internet. And I actually really liked a show called Xena: Warrior Princess. That was kind of my very first fandom. I really liked, see I can't even remember now, Ares and Gabrielle. I wrote a fanfiction about them that was set in modern times. That was my very first fan fic.Code: modern-setting

cara: Awesome. And just so you know, I'm probably not going to talk as much while you're talking. And I'll try also to refrain from laughing, because I have a very loud laugh. So, in case you're like, "What is she doing right now?" And I'm like... That's just me silently laughing.

writegirl: Okay.

cara: Okay. Great. How has your participation in the fan communities changed over the years then since your high school days?

writegirl: It's certainly gotten more active. I think I wrote that one fanfiction when I was in senior year in high school, and then I didn't write anything else until I was a junior in college. But during that time, I was mostly reading, and kind of just, what was it? Fanfiction.net. I discovered that, and kind of dived in, and didn't peek my head up for three years. And then, I got into which fandom? It's so long ago now. Brain? Yes, think back 20 years. I can't remember which fandom. But then I wrote another piece of fanfiction and posted it on fanfiction.net. And then that's when I kind of got feedback, because the first fanfic, I never got any feedback from anyone. I was just like, "Oh, I'm shouting into the dark." So yeah, it kind of changed, and it got me a bit more active, and like, people actually want to say something about it. What did you think about it? I started getting a bit more communication, a bit more activity.Code: reception And then people would be like, "Oh, your fanfic is this like this one, so why don't you go read this fanfic?" It kind of was a jumping off point for me.Code: fan-practices-uptake And currently, I just kind of write like a little hermit, and respond to people who write reviews. And that's about it. My interaction with fandom is kind of limited, I guess.

cara: That's great. That's very similar to my own story. I had started writing fanfiction 15 years ago on fanfiction.net.

writegirl: Yeah, it's a gateway drug.

cara: Yeah, it is. Do you want to tell me, if you remember, a little bit about that first bit of feedback you got that sort of inspired you to keep writing?

writegirl: Yes.It was very short and sweet. X-Men. That was the fandom. X-Men comics. And I wrote a story, once again, set in modern times. I kind of do this a lot. I take characters out of their setting and transpose them into reality.Code: modern-setting And someone wrote a really detailed review, just about how, I remember they said they could taste the road dust from my writing. And I was like, wow. I never thought of it that way. That's really cool. That kind of inspired me to write more, that I could get that emotion out of somebody. They felt like they were actually there with them.Code: important-quote, reception

cara: That's great. Also, that's a very well-written review.

writegirl: Yes, I was rather shocked.

cara: Do you want to tell me a little bit about texts that you've been producing recently, and stuff that you've been writing recently?

writegirl: Sure. I really got into Game of Thrones. I've been watching it since the first season. The first episode, I watched it, and then went out and bought all of the books that were available, because I'm that kind of nerd, and read them all over a week. I knew everything that was going to happen until about Season Four. And was perfectly happy with it, really wasn't paying any attention.Code: canon-compliment I kind of dropped out of fanfiction. I'd been writing before that in the Marvel universe, and I was kind of heavy in that one, and then just kind of stopped. So, right when about Season Seven hit, I started getting a little bit upset about the writing in Game of Thrones. And then by the time Season Eight hit, I was just like, "Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. I can't deal with this." I got a bit more involved with writing, because my brain was like, "No, this isn't how it should go. We need to redo all this whole thing." It really started picking up in Season Seven. That was the first time I wrote a Game of Thrones fanfiction. And I believe that was my other OtherWhen series, the first one.Code: important-quote, canon-critique, canon-resistant, motivation

cara: Great. Awesome. Thank you. That's a really nice segue into talking about the actual fanfiction that I was looking at. Actually, your fanfiction, before I chose to do my dissertation on Game of Thrones, I was reading your fanfiction, and I was like, "I want to actually add Game of Thrones, because I need to deal with Missandei's death, and all the terribleness."

writegirl: Yes.

cara: Do you want to talk a little bit about your motivation writing your fic? I know you sort of have a series of drabbles, a series of fix-it fics, of going back through particular moments and re-imagining them. But can you talk a little bit about that motivation, and why you chose fix-it fics in particular?

writegirl: I don't know if you're a Dr. Who fan. One of my favorite Doctor Who episodes is Turn Left. And it's a whole episode that's based on the concept of, what if he didn't turn right? What if instead of going the road you're supposed to go, you kind of went that way? And I've always been fascinated by that. I love Choose Your Own Adventure stories, and things like that. I don't like following the written script. So that's one of the reasons why I went into fix-it fics. There's times and places where I was like, that wouldn't happen. I know that's how it happens in the story, but based on the world that they're in, historical context, things like that, that's not how that would. So, that's kind of my brain's way of reconciling not bad writing, but just maybe inconsistent writing, or little things that were just irksome. That's kind of how I got into that.Code: important-quote, canon-resistant, fix-it, motivation

cara: Great. I also wanted to ask too, your fic is a series of drabbles, and so you chose to write these on the shorter side. Do you want to explain a little bit why you chose shorter versions instead of exploring these different stories in more length?

writegirl: Because I'm a length whore. That's the problem. I get into these fics, and I have these ideas, and then they expand out of control, and then I get into a story that's suddenly 30 chapters long, and then I run out of steam. I'm one of those authors who does kind of get bored, and then starts cheating on my fic, which is happening right now in Game of Thrones.Code: reflection I'm trying to be good. The Witcher has kind of caught me. So I'm just like, no, I can't do that. Let me just zero in on the one moment that I think is pivotal, and just kind of get that out, and then leave it alone. Because a lot of my drabbles, they are parts of much bigger fics. I just haven't posted them.Code: vignette Because I think there is one, especially the one with Ned Stark, and it's a whole thing with when he's speaking to Cersei. I changed it so that he told Robert beforehand. Robert already knows what's going on. I was just letting you know as a courtesy so you could get out of dodge before he murders you and your children. That I've actually written about 200 pages for. But that was just the one pivotal scene. So I was like, okay, I'm just going to take you out and put you here, and then leave you alone.Code: canon-resistant, vignette, drafting

cara: That's so fascinating. So you have a 200-page fic... So where is that living right now? Is it published anywhere, or is it just on your computer?

writegirl: It's living on my computer right now. It's not done. It's not a solid 200 pages. I'm a very chaotic writer, so I will get a bit of dialog in my head. I will see something, and I will kind of write around that, and build around that, and string a bunch of scenes. It's 200 pages, but it's 200 pages of broken up paragraphs, bits of dialog, bits of scenery. So if I ever fleshed it out, it would be much longer, because I have a problem containing myself.Code: drafting But yeah, it's a lot. Going into succession laws, and all those types of things, and who's going to inherit what, and how the world would unspool, because it's still going to happen. But all of a suddenly, this particular set of characters is no longer in the picture. So how does that affect everything else? How does Daenerys Targaryen deal with a kingdom that is pretty much united with a war hero still on the throne?Code: canon-resistant So, yeah.

cara: So you're just like, "I'm just going to rewrite everything, or start from scratch." Yeah.

writegirl: Yes.

cara: That's amazing. I hope that you finish that at one point, because that is an incredible amount of work and writing. I'm sure it mirrors the writing in your fic. You're a wonderful writer, so I would love to read that.

writegirl: I've had a couple requests from the other ones. They're like, "I would love to read this story." I'm like, "No, you don't understand. It's a lot to wade through."Code: reception

cara: Okay, awesome. What do you think are some of the strengths of your collection of drabbles?

writegirl: I just think some people want to see something from a different point of view. I think the strength is, I do try and keep it as much as I can in character, and in situ, I guess. I don't like to pull too much of other outside influences in. I think the strength is that people can read it and they can really see it sliding into canon. And if you go into something aside, you don't have to bump too much. And it would fit in the overall narrative.Code: canon-compliant, reflection audience I don't know what else. I'm bad at listing strengths.

cara: It's fine. It's great. And so, what about some challenges then that you've found writing this one?

writegirl: Finding voice. I have a very hard time getting into certain characters' heads, and seeing like, okay, is this the motivation that they would have? Because I do take that very seriously. So, there are times I'm just like, I can't see this person doing this. I can't see them doing that. How do I get this to fit in with their character and not make it too over the top, or too OOC? That's one of my main challenges.Code: canon-compliant, reflection Writing voice is another one. Because one thing as a writer that will pull me completely out of a story is if there is a colloquialism that should not belong. Or if you're using words, and I'm like, okay, I've never heard that word used on the show, so now you've just dropped a bomb in the middle of a wedding cake, and there's cake everywhere. It just pulls me out.Code: fan-politics, canon-compliant Things like that. Because I know what I want to say, but how do I get this character to say it?

cara: You're very focused on keeping true to the universe then, and keeping true to the show, even though you're thinking about different direction that it might go in?

writegirl: Yes.

cara: Awesome. I also wanted to ask why you decided to focus on some characters. I particularly want to talk about the chapters on Missandei and Sansa. Why did you choose to focus on them? And if you want to talk about any of the other characters you decide to focus on.

writegirl: I chose Sansa in particular, and I think you're talking about the Petyr Baelish one, because I felt she suffered a little bit of character assassination.Code: canon-critique, canon-resistant, motivation In that season, you see Sansa being in the veil. And I did read some of George RR Martin's clips from Winds of Winter that he's posted, which hopefully he will bring out soon. And you see a Sansa who's in the veil, who's kind of learning game from Petyr. She's learning from a master how to be manipulative in everything. So seeing that, and kind of juxtaposing it against the Sansa we were getting in the show was a little irksome.Code: canon-critique She was just somebody who was following along. She didn't seem to have a plan. She didn't seem to be herself. She became kind of a ghost of herself in the later seasons, until the last season, and they completely ruined her character. I wanted to kind of show a Sansa who was still herself. A Sansa who was willing to not listen to him, who understood that, this person is not my friend. This person is strictly manipulative. He's going to take me somewhere that I don't want to go, so my only choice is to find the strength in me that she has, and say, "Okay, I'll run. If it means I have to die, I'm not going to let him use me for whatever his ends are."Systems of Power: other feminism That's kind of where that idea came from.Code: canon-resistant, motivation And she wasn't originally supposed to... The wolves weren't supposed to be there in the original script. She was supposed to kind of get lost in the trees, and they were supposed to find her. But I thought that was a little bit ignominious for her. So then I remembered, Oh, Nimeria's wolf pack. I was like, they haven't used that in the show at all, so why not?Code: canon-resistant, reflection She's riding from the veil, through the riverlands north. You would think Nimeria 00:15:30 kind of would, because this is my human sister. There's actually a lot more of that fic that is written that didn't make it in. A whole thing where you get it from Nimeria's point of view where you can see her. She's like, okay, just following to see what's going to happen. And then when Sansa decides to run, that's when she decides to attack. But I thought that was a bit superfluous, so I took all of that out.Code: revising

cara: Awesome. And then what about Missandei? After Missandei's demise?

writegirl: I literally got up off the couch and walked away when she got beheaded. I was very upset. It pissed me off that you have a character like Missandei who is very strong, who survives slavery, got out of her chains, became this person who was herself, and then how did she die? She dies in chains, basically in a pissing contest between two white women.Systems of Power: racism That was very, very frustrating and irritating to me.Code: important-quote, canon-critique Her whole Dracarys thing, she's from Naath they don't believe in harming people. She wouldn't tell Daenerys to...It seemed like she was giving her the go ahead to just burn King's Landing to the ground at this point. That seemed completely out of character for me. The whole scene was out of character for me.Code: canon-critique Just historically speaking, if you had a hostage that was that valuable, you're not going to behead her on the walls of your city. Because if there's something that's going to keep you from attacking, it is letting someone know, "Hey, I have your person." I was just like, that whole scene makes absolutely no sense. So, how do I give her, I hate to say the word, but some of her dignity back? If she has to die, I thought it really should be on her terms. That was kind of the motivation for that.Code: canon-critique, critical-uptake, motivation

cara: Great. Thank you. I'm going to actually probably ask a little bit about this in later texts, but I'm really interested in how Missandei has been taken up especially after her death, and also sort of the lack of the ways that she's been taken up. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about if you noticed that in the fanfic community, and what you've sort of observed with how people are talking about Missandei.

writegirl: Yes. [Missandei's] a weird character. Mostly she seems to almost be absent from things. She's window dressing. She's there, she doesn't speak, or she speaks, it's one or two sentences in the entire fic.Systems of Power: racism And it's frustrating because once again in the book, she's such a pivotal character.Code: important-quote, fan-politics One of my favorite scenes with her is when she is negotiating when Daenerys is away, and Varys is looking at her like, "This little girl is Petyr Baelish and Varys combined." She's that smart, she's that devious. And so, you get those fics where she either has none of those, she's either not there, or she has really none of those attributes. She's kind of just a yes person. Yes, Khaleesi, no Khaleesi, yes my queen.Systems of Power: racismCode: fan-politics That was another reason with the fic I kind of wanted to delve a little bit into her as a standalone, not in relation to anyone else. Kind of like, who is Missandei? If you take away slavery, and her being Daenerys' friend, who is this person? What is the one thing that would be important to her?Systems of Power: antiracism Because there aren't really a lot of fics that focus on her as a character at all.Systems of Power: racism She's just kind of always at the side. That's kind of where I got the thing that is, I don't know if I was a former slave. The one thing I would be sure of when I got my freedom was, I will never be made a slave again in any way, shape or form. So what does that translate into? That translates into, you're not going to use me. I'm not going to stand to be abused anymore.Systems of Power: antiracism And that's kind of how all that bloomed up. I'd really like to see a bit more of that in Game of Thrones fanfiction. She's really an underused character.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, critical-uptake fan-practices-uptake, motivation

cara: Great. Awesome, thank you. So, next question. About the tags that you used. One of the ways that I have been working with the texts is by looking at the additional tags that are being used, which is how I found your fic, because I think you have the one that, "Missandei deserved better." It popped out at me on my radar, and I was like, "I need to read this." I don't know if you have the list of the tags that you used in front of you, but I was wondering if you could talk through what some of these tags mean to you, and how you intended to reach your audience with these tags, and how else you might have tagged your text, or continue to tag it?

writegirl: Okay. One thing I noticed about the Game of Thrones fandom, because I did just kind of jump in, is that tags are very important. I do read comments from other people in fics, and that seems to be the one thing that everyone gripes about. This was tagged unproperly. This should be the tag. The tag should be this. I was like, okay, let me try and tag as properly and nearly as I can, because I don't want to get dogpiled. There's a lot of my favorite fics where there's 10 pages of people just ragging on improper tagging. So I was like, nope, let me be careful.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake, audience The "What if" tag was very important, because I've had that on fanfiction.net before. People are like, "You should have tagged it as an AU." I'm like, "But it is. It's right there." So I had the "What if."Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake, fix-it, reception Other addition tags to be added, just to let people know that these may change at any given time. So this is never set in stone. Tags are hard because they are, it takes me... The hardest part of my posting is tagging, to make sure that I have everything right.Code: fan-practices-uptakes, audience Ratings may change, warnings may change, series, spoilers, all those kind of speak for themselves, just to let you know that okay, once again, this isn't static. This is something that changes story by story. Some of them may be Gen, some of them, I haven't written one yet, but some of them may be adult in the future. Some of them may have a lot of violence in them, so just be aware. Don't ever come back to this fic and think, "This is what it is." Because that's not it.Code: audience Series spoilers speak for themselves. Out of character? I never know. I think my characters are pretty in character, but there's always the one person who's like, "This character would never do that." So I'm just like, "Okay. Just to let you know, it may be out of character."Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake, reception audience Like I said, new fandoms are hard because they are. I have a lot of Game of Thrones stuff on the cutting room floor, before I decided what to actually post. And there is about 20 other drabbles for the one series that haven't made it yet, because I'm one of those writers.Code: revising So, Cyvasse Master Dorne was one of the things. I adore the Dorne storyline in the books, and they completely butchered it in the show. So, that's why I was like, no Dorne's way smarter than this. So yes, he's going to be the Dorne that you get in the books.Code: canon-critique, motivation Badass motherfucker Olenna, speaks for herself. I loved Olenna Tyrell. She was the one character that I think really translated very well. "You win or you die." Famous saying from the show. Olenna always wins, because she does. Even when she dies, especially when she dies, which is a reference to the fic where Cersei realizes that the gold that she thought she was getting from Highgarden isn't gold all the way. Which was a twist I desperately wanted to happen in the show that didn't happen, and I was a little upset about thatCode: canon-critique. Alternate universe, canon divergence just to let people know, this isn't following canon, because I did not want to get blasted on that one.Code: fan-politics, canon-resistant fan-practices-uptake, audience Rhaegar Grows a Pair, I think that was one that I actually made up myself. Barristan is down for the same little thing where they have their conversations, midnight conversations. Some of the fics are very intimate, like the one between Barristan and Rhaegar, and Robb and Talisa. The Last of the Starks, just to let people know, Missandei deserved better, as you've already talked about. She did. So did Grey Worm. I can't believe they took that pairing from me. I thought that if any pairing would last, that one would.Systems of Power: antiracism And then, [inaudible 00:24:23].Code: canon-critique, critical-uptake So yeah, closed the episode, Long Night, makes up for itself. Badass Arya speaks for herself. Gendry is a Baratheon. Fix-it, cause they're mostly fix-it.Code: fix-it Fluff and angst, I cannot write straight fluff. I'm incapable. You have to have pain with your pleasure. I can't do it.Code: fluff angst I think that pretty much explains all the tags. The rest of them are pretty much self-explanatory.

cara: Awesome. Thank you for being so thorough. Yeah, I like the angst and fluff. It reminds me of the hurt comfort, which is huge in fanfiction.net, which I feel like I haven't... I still see it in AO3 but it's like, fanfic.net was like, hurt comfort everywhere. Everything was hurt comfort.

writegirl: Because it has to hurt if it's to heal.Code: genre-other angst

cara: Yeah, exactly. Also, I 100% agree that Missandei and Grey Worm are the best pairing. They are my favorite ship in the show, and they also had the best romance, and the best romantic scene. Okay.

writegirl: Yeah. We're here.

cara: So mad. Thank you for going through that. All right, now I'm going to ask some questions about the specific moments in your text. And I'm going to start with Chapter Five, the Sansa text, in which Sansa gets unexpected help. First, you talked a little bit about this before, but if you want to add anything to this, why did you choose to have Sansa run away and escape?

writegirl: I wanted her to have a little bit more agency.Systems of Power: feminism It seemed like from the time we see her in the Baelish dress, with the feathers on it, which she's actually taking on a mockingbird, that that was a glimpse of a darker Sansa, a more politically savvy Sansa, a more adult Sansa. And then, for whatever reason, they backed off of it. And then the next thing we see her, she's just kind of sitting there asking questions, looking dull. And that was a little irritating to me.Systems of Power: sexism So I wanted her to get a little more agency, especially when she found out who she was supposed to be meeting. I didn't see Sansa ever agreeing to that.Systems of Power: feminismCode: important-quote, canon-critique, critical-uptake, fix-it, motivation Like, these are the people who betrayed my brother, who got my brother and my mother killed, who got our soldiers killed, who betrayed the north, and you want me to go and marry this person? I just couldn't see a Sansa, even one who was beaten down, agreeing to that. She's still a Stark. She still has her pride. So, I thought of, okay, so what would Sansa do in this situation?Code: canon-critique, critical-uptake, motivation Book Sansa would try to use it to her advantage as well as she could, which is, try to get as far north as I could, and then try to get to people who would help me. I can't use you anymore, and I'm not going to let you use me. So, her whole thing was, let me get as far north as I can, and then see where I can go and get away from these people. She's looking at the land, she knows she's in the [inaudible 00:27:33]. The horses are going to be kind of useless, at least that's what she thought. Like, I can run. I'm light, I'm quick on my feet, these are southern knights, if you will, heavy on horseback, and heavy armor. I can get away from them. And like she says in the fic even if I get bit by a lizard-lion or I starve, that's my choice. But it won't be going back to a ruined Winterfell to marry a legitimized bastard.Systems of Power: feminismCode: important-quote, critical-uptake That's a whole other kettle of fish, in the Game of Thrones universe and in reality. So that's kind of why I had her run.

cara: Great. Thank you. There are a few moments from Sansa's point of view of Petyr, and the future she sort of has in the show. I'm just going to read some of the quotes from your text, and ask you to sort of explain each one. The first is, "Petyr would never let her go, and she had no desire for Brienne and and Pod to die, so she feigned anger and disdain."

writegirl: Okay. That was my take on the scene where Brienne and Pod meet her in the tavern, where she seems to be at first a little surprised, a little relieved, and then you kind of see her shut down a bit.Code: implicit-explicit She kind of sits back, her eyes go [inaudible 00:29:05] She kind of tucks her chin. Where she's like, "Okay, I don't want this." But in my mind, I didn't think she didn't want it because she didn't necessarily trust Brienne, it was more because Petyr would never let her go. Even if this person said, "I'm going to help you," he would never allow that, because he wants control of her, and that is something that she realizes, because she's not an idiot.Systems of Power: other feminism She's seen this man in King's Landing, she sees how he operates. She sees how he operates in the Eyrie. If he doesn't have total control of her, he's not going to allow it. And the best way to do that would be to get rid of these two people. And she doesn't want anyone to die for her. So that was kind of my read on that situation.Code: implicit-explicit

cara: Great. So the next quote I have is, "The flickering torchlight made Peytr's features even sharper, and cast red shadows on his pale skin, turning him into a demon come to steal her soul." Can you talk a little bit more about this moment?

writegirl: This is more, she's really realizing, everything is stripped away. She's afraid, she's in the mud, and she's seeing things very clearly. There's a poem that I really like. I can't remember the name of it now, but it talks about moonlight, and how in moonlight, everything is very stark, and it's clearer for all that starkness. She's seeing everything for who he is.Code: reflection She's seeing this when all of his artifice, all of his charm, his [inaudible 00:30:42] breath his clothing, everything is stripped away, and she's realizing this man is really evil. And the torchlight just kind of emphasizes that. He's almost in her eyes at this point inhuman, in my mind. It's kind of like you kind of made a deal with the devil, and he looked very nice, and now you're seeing him for what he is. She's really afraid, like, I can't get away, he's going to take everything, including my soul. It's not just my body that he's after.

cara: Great. Thank you. And then the last one, which I think you have talked a little bit about. But just the quote that, "She would not marry Ramsay Bolton, not to save her own life, not for Winterfell, and not for Petyr's schemes." Can you talk a little bit about that quote?

writegirl: Yeah. This was just a reference to Sansa's pride. Since she is a Stark, if you want to go back, they never really talk about in the show, but the Boltons were the Red Kings who the Starks kind of stamped out and made them vassal lords. So it's one, against my blood, we're not going to give this to you. The Boltons will never integrate with the Starks. And it's more just, I'm not going to do this. I can't marry this person. I can't marry the son of the man who murdered my brother, my brother's wife, his unborn child, who did all of this. It doesn't matter if it's to save my life. Even if you said that okay, "This is the only thing you can do to survive," at this point, she's run. She's re-discovered her strength. She's done something that she didn't think she could do.Systems of Power: feminism She got away for a time. So, at this point she's just like, "No, I can't do it. I won't do it." That was kind of that whole, what that episode was about was Sansa really re-discovering herself, and what she could do.Systems of Power: feminismCode: canon-resistant critical-uptake

cara: Great, thank you. And then my last question is, you mentioned quite a few times Sansa's relationship with stories and tales of the damsel in distress, and the knight. The things that she sort of grew up hearing. You brought that up quite a bit in your fic, and I was wondering if you could talk about that. Specifically you had the quote, "They brought into mind old Nan's stories of girls losing their way in the woods and being devoured. Now they filled her with a sense of purpose, of power." Can you talk a little bit about Sansa's relationship with stories?

writegirl: Yeah. Sansa is really presented as one of those girls with her head in the clouds. She's definitely not a Margaery Tyrell. She was definitely never really prepared for court life.Systems of Power: class She has a view of it that is heavily skewed by stories of [inaudible 00:33:28] of these wonderful knights in their shining armor, these lovely ladies who are just ethereal in their beauty, everything being wrapped up in a bow, happily ever after. Maybe something happens, but someone's always rescued.Systems of Power: heteronormativity And through the series, that kind of gets torn away from her bit by bit. The Prince Charming that she thought was a Prince Charming is definitely not. There's no one comes to save her. Her brother's more interested in being a king than coming to rescue her from the tower, and the monsters inside it. So really, Sansa's really forced to grow up, and she's really forced to see all these stories as exactly what they are. They're just stories.Systems of Power: feminism They're empty stories to make children happy. So when she's thinking back on this, she's thinking more of the scarier stories that maybe she didn't want to listen to.Code: important-quote, reflection Like Bran says he loves the scary stories. It's maybe like a Little Red Riding Hood version of Westeros where yes, she gets lost. Little Red Riding Hood gets lost in the woods, and does she get saved? No, she gets devoured by wolves. But these wolves aren't the wolves in the story. These wolves are there to help her. She's remembering, she's listened to the howling from the wolves when she was a child, and all these scary stories that scared her, and now she's kind of in that situation realizing it's not scary. What I should have been afraid of, I don't have to be afraid of. I'm saying this wrong. What I was afraid of, I should never have been afraid of, what I wanted was the thing I should have been worried about. She's really kind of flipped the script in her own mind.Systems of Power: feminism And she's standing amongst these wolves, and it's like before, she would have been terrified. She would have been cowering. And now she realizes, this is where I need to be. This is where it's at.Code: reflection

cara: Great. Thank you. All right. I want to move on and talk about Chapter 10. Again, you talked a little bit about this, but if you have anything else to add, why did you decide to write about Missandei's final moments, and her life? And then, having her throw Cersei off the ledge with herself?

writegirl: Missandei has always been an interesting character to me. She's extraordinarily intelligent, she comes from a place that we never really get to see in the Game of Thrones universe, and we never really get a lot of background about her character. They only mentioned two times her being from the Isle of Naath, and we don't really know what that is. Hold on for one second. So yeah, [Missandei]'s such an interesting character. There's so much about her that could be written that isn't written. I just kind of wanted to investigate a little bit. What would life have been like for this character?Code: implicit-explicit Even in the books when we see her, she never really muses on where she came from. She's more interested in what is happening right now, and where are we going forward. To me, it's always interesting at the end of your life, you should always have a bit of where I came from. She's just thinking about things she regrets, like here I am in this place, all the things that I've seen, all the things that I've done. I don't remember what the beaches look like in my home. I don't remember my parents. I don't remember what the water felt like on my skin. So it's like I have all these new memories, maybe for the worse, some for the better, but the things that she really cherished, she doesn't have.

cara: Great. There is a quote I wanted to ask you about too. You have the quote, "They were risks Missandei would face gladly if it meant freeing others from bondage, and allowing them the chance to finally live." Can you talk a little bit about that moment?

writegirl: Yeah, this is a moment where Missandei, she's reviewing over her life, she's thinking of everything she's done. I imagine as a slave in Astapor especially with the walk of punishment, and things like that, taking risks was not something she would have ever done, just for simple fear of being up on one of those crosses, fear of being beaten, fear of being abused. But since being free, it's all been a risk. Everything that she's done, whether it's following Daenerys, choosing to stay with her knowing that she's going into battle. These were all things she's done because she believes in Daenerys' vision, she believes in a world without slavery. And after having been a slave and experienced freedom, that's something she'd want for everybody. I hate to say it, Harriet Tubman, how many times did she go back and she got slaves and ran them back out? Simply because I'm free, no one should be in bondage, even if it's a personal risk to myself, to my life, that is a risk I will take, because everyone should be free. And I think as a former slave, Missandei really would have that sentiment.Systems of Power: antiracismCode: important-quote, critical-uptake, reflection

cara: Great. Thank you. I wanted to ask a little bit about Missandei's decision to grab and speak to Cersei too. So, you wrote, "She knew eyes like that," referring to Cersei's eyes. "They were the eyes who cared for nothing but themselves and their own pleasure, the eyes of those who ordered children torn from their mothers' breasts for the meager coin it would give them. They watched as slaves fought each other to the death for their amusement, and bred others like cattle. They expected her to beg, to plead for her life." Can you talk about her interpretation there of Cersei?

writegirl: She's really seeing Cersei for the creature Cersei is, beyond just being kind of a high-born woman in Westeros. She's seeing the monster that's inside Cersei. Cersei will do anything. She will do anything to maintain power, she will do anything to get back at her enemies, even if it means murder, blackmail, et cetera. And I think Missandei coming from a society where no one would have to hide that from their slaves. She sees it. Like I know you, I've seen masters exactly like you. And she's really recognizing the monster that's in Cersei outside of all of her jewels, outside of her gowns, outside of her façade of being this queen and great lady. It's like, no, you're really this evil thing, and I know it because I've seen it before.Systems of Power: class racism otherCode: important-quote, critical-uptake, reflection

cara: Awesome. And then, when Cersei addresses Missandei, she speaks to her, and she smiles. She says, "Her smile caught the Lion Queen offguard." And she says, "'You would have fit in well with the masters in Astapor,' she said, calm as the waters off Naath, as her hand latched on to the woman's wrist." Can you talk a little bit about this moment?

writegirl: Yeah. This was a moment where Missandei, she realizes maybe without a doubt, that I'm going to die. I was brought up here for a reason, and it wasn't just to say, "Hi, we have her," and then take me down. And she realizes that, she recognizes it, and it's kind of the culmination of everything that she knows. When Daenerys first got her, she told her, "We will be marching to our deaths, possibly. You don't know." And it's kind of like, out of all the close calls, out of everything we've done, this is this moment, and it's not a smile of hubris, or a smile of, okay, this is it. It's a smile of, I can't think of the word, but being resigned to my fate. And if this is it, then this is it. And like I say, she recognizes in Cersei the same evil that she saw in Astapor where she's kind of like, "No, you would have fit in well with them. You may think that you're better, you may think that you're better than people from Astapor. You may think that you're better than slave owners and all this, that, and the other, but in the end you are not. You are exactly like themSystems of Power: class racism." And in the end, she kind of wants to let her know. It's kind of like a, "I know that you know that I know that you know" moment. Like, I see you. You can't hide from me.Systems of Power: other I see exactly what you are.Code: critical-uptake, reflection

cara: Great. And then finally, a sort of short quote that I think you've actually talked about quite a bit, and seems to be a theme both in this chapter as well as the Sansa chapter. But you have just the quote, "No one will ever use me again."

writegirl: Yeah. Like I said, as a slave, as someone who's been freed, I can't imagine her ever wanting to be in a situation where somebody would be using her against her will. And that would be one thing I imagine you would promise yourself.Systems of Power: antiracism other Kind of like, I hate to use the comparison, but if you ever get out of a really bad relationship, and you're just like, "No, never again. I know the signs. I will never let that happen to me again." And for her of course it's more extreme, from being someone who was taken from freedom and put into slavery, lived a decade plus as a slave, not having a will of their own, and then suddenly getting that will back. No one's ever taking that from me. Like I said, I've found myself. Now that I've found myself again, and I can be myself, I will die myself.Systems of Power: antiracismCode: critical-uptake, reflection

cara: Great. Excellent, thank you. Okay. My last question about your fanfic is, what did you learn as you've been writing this?

writegirl: I've learned that writing Game of Thrones is very hard. It is. It's a lot to absorb, and then spew back out. I've learned a lot about people actually in the fandom. Game of Thrones has a very active fandom. I wasn't prepared for that when I joined. You get people who, there are the butts, there are the trolls. Trolls are going to troll though, so I just kind of push them to the side.Code: fan-politics But there are people who they're really willing to engage with you, and they have questions. In a lot of other fandoms, some people are just like, "This is a nice story." Game of Thrones fans will have questions for you in the comments. They'll be like, "What about this? And what about this? Oh, what about this? What do you think about this?" It's fun to get that dialog. That's something I never had before.Code: fan-politics, reception In one of my other fics, there's the Deviant Lord. We will run out of the character requirement, talking to each other back and forth in comments about things.Code: reception What else have I learned? I learned a little bit, I actually had to do a bit of research on some of the fic, for things like trauma, and how people respond to trauma. Especially in the case of Sansa and Missandei, how do people overcome certain difficulties after being in these different positions?Systems of Power: other disability That was a little bit interesting. I did a little bit of in-depth on that, because once again, I'm that nerd.Code: research

cara: I have two questions from that, just followup questions. First, so you said that there are trolls, and trolls will troll, of course. What kind of trolls have you seen? Have they commented on your piece, or you just see them floating around the fandom? What do they do?

writegirl: I actually had one troll who just wrote, "Fuck you, you bastard." And I was like, yes. I was just like, "Whoa. Okay. I'm sorry you're having such a bad day. Go have a mimosa. Just don't take it out on me."Code: reception I have no problem with constructive criticism. I love constructive criticism, because that's how you grow as a writer. But there are just people who are just nasty. In all the fandoms I've been in, it thankfully hasn't happened to me yet, and I've actually had people defend me in comments. They're just like, "Get that shit out of here." I'm like, "Okay, thank you for being nice." But it seems the Game of Thrones fandoms can get real violent. They get real virulent with their hatred in the comments section. I can't muster that kind of hatred. If I don't like something, I just click off of it. I don't get the hate.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, reception

cara: I don't either, but I can absolutely imagine it. You also mentioned you did research, and you did research on trauma and ways that people recover, or live with trauma. Can you talk a bit about what that research looked like?

writegirl: Yeah, mostly it was Googling, recovering from trauma. I did a little bit of research on former slaves, to see their mindset.Systems of Power: disability other That was a little bit what I did use for the mindset of Missandei. Because people who've been in that situation, they go through, what is it called? No, goodness, I can't remember. But it was a very good article, and it was talking about how former slaves, they go through this process of not believing that they're free, and not believing that they're free, and not believing that they're free. And eventually, they get to a point where it sticks in their head, that this is freedom. This is what they have. No one can control them. And then, they get very, very almost violently independent, where no one's going to tell me what to do. You can't tell me what to do. No one's going to do that to me.Systems of Power: antiracism Once again, how some people where to a much lesser extent, when you get out of controlling, overbearing relationships, and then you're finally free, and you're like, "Fuck that shit. Where am I going? I'm staying out all night. And I don't have to tell anybody." They get this burst of a sense of self, a sense of purpose. And I thought that was very beautiful, that there are people who can go through all that type of trauma, and they can get there, and they can fully bloom. And I always saw Missandei as kind of that character, this character who had gone through all of that to the point where here she is, standing tall as a character that knows her own worth, knows her own personage.Systems of Power: antiracismCode: research

cara: That's wonderful.

writegirl: I'm sorry.

cara: No, you're good. You're good, if you want to keep talking.

writegirl: Yeah. And then with Sansa, just how people recover from abusive and traumatic relationships, and things like that. The stages of recovery.Systems of Power: otherCode: research So, just so I could make their characters, their actions seem to fit in. There's one thing, to me, if it's too OOC, just out of the block there's no real change, and these drabbles are so short. You can't really see a lot of character development from A to B. Everything kind of has to fit where it does. So I wanted to make sure that it fit and it wasn't too crazy. It's a lot of research.Code: fan-practices-uptake canon-compliant, vignette, research

cara: No, that's great. Okay. I have a few questions, actually. I've been doing a little bit of basic data analysis on the Game of Thrones fandom on AO3. I've been looking at the most common ships, most common additional tags. I've also created a list of additional tags that I like and use, which is again sort of why I'm interested in tags so much, and it's reassuring that you're like, "Game of Thrones additional tags are very important." If you're in the document, I have a chart on the second page that has, what I've done is I looked at the most common ships, the most common additional tags, and the most common gender and sex pairings across different published dates, and how those published dates coincide with when seasons were aired on the TV show. I have those that were aired, those that were published during the times that Season One and Two were airing, those during the times that were published during Season Three and Four, et cetera, et cetera. I want to talk through some of the findings with you, and get your thoughts on how these more generalized findings represent the community.

writegirl: Okay.

cara: I guess we could start with most common ships. In the first few seasons, the most common ships were Jaime and Brienne. And towards the Seasons Five through Seven, we have Jon and Sansa. And then Season Eight is again Jaime and Brienne. What do you think of that shift?

writegirl: I can see why. Especially in Season Two, you get introduced to Jaime and Brienne, and their absolutely crazy chemistry. It's hilarious. It's funny to me that Jon Snow/Daenerys Targaryen is never like the main ship. That's kind of sad. That's my favorite. But I can see, especially in Season Five, and Six, and Seven, where you see Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, because these two characters kind of get back together in the show. When they're together, you can see their dynamic in everything else. And they look good together. That's always a good thing. It's always big when it comes to shipping, who looks good with who.Code: fan-politics, canon-compliant But I think people really enjoy the Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth is kind of like the person, your frenemy. The person you love to hate. I would rescue you if you're falling off a cliff, but I'd probably punch you in the stomach when I got you back on solid land for being in that position to begin with.Code: fan-politics, other

cara: Awesome. Some of the other common ships, depending on the seasons and the time, one of them is the Hound and Sansa. It appears quite frequently.

writegirl: Oh yeah, San/San.

cara: And then, what was the other one? And then, Petyr and Sansa around Seasons Five and Six. I was wondering if you could talk a little through those two ships.

writegirl: I actually liked Sandor Clegane, Sansa Stark as a pairing, whether it's through platonic, whether it's romantic, et cetera.Systems of Power: other It was just one of those good ones. I thought they had good scene chemistry together. I always thought he kind of saw her, especially in the beginning as, he called her a little bird. Like, "I see that your parents never prepared you for this. Your best safe kept in a cage locked away, and you can just sing to people."Systems of Power: sexism I always liked that about him.Code: canon-compliment And then, his relationship with her kind of changed for me in Seasons Two, to Three, to Four, where she stands up to Joffrey, and she's like, "You can't kill somebody on their name day." And he kind of backs her up in her lie. I always thought that was a very good scene to me. It just kind of showed their dynamic a little bit. The deleted scenes are kind of creepy between the two of them. Did you ever see them on YouTube?

cara: I have not.

writegirl: Yeah, there's one scene where he kind of corners her, and it's a lot of Chester the Molester, a bit. It's a little stalker-y.Systems of Power: other sexismCode: canon-critique But yeah, that's one ship that has been my personal favorite. Sansa, Petyr, I've always hated that one, simply because he's grooming. It's very obvious.Systems of Power: other Where I can see Sansa starting to like Sandor because he would rebuff her at every turn if she started to show interest in him, even though he didn't want to. He'd just be like, "I can't deal with this. I can't deal with you." Petyr would relish that. He does everything he can to get her into trusting him, and thinking of him as her friend, and I would do anything for you, and that's really, really creepy. It's always a surprise to me when I see Petyr Baelish, Sansa Stark fics especially ones where it's not manipulative, and coercive, and creepy, I'm like, "What are you guys seeing in that?" That's just odd.Systems of Power: other sexismCode: fan-politics

cara: Yeah. Great. Thank you. And then, for most common additional tags, a lot of them are pretty expected. I think what was actually interesting for me, and I'm not sure if you have any thoughts on this, but in the earlier seasons, one of the most common tags was, "Noah English and Somali."

writegirl: Yeah, I just saw that. I was like, "Huh."

cara: Yeah. It's fascinating.

writegirl: Yes. Somali's been doing a lot of writing.

cara: Yeah.

writegirl: Most of it actually. 85, alternative universe, 91, 95, 96. Yeah. They're up there. What happened?

cara: I don't know, actually. That was something that was actually genuinely shocking that there was so many, that there were 85 published with the Somali tag, and that No English was the most common additional tag use. So I'm like, oh, I want to look more into that. But I just wanted to know if you had any thoughts. Everything else is... Yeah, I don't know. I don't know either.

writegirl: [crosstalk 00:57:04] by the same author? Is it a collection of authors? It just kind of blasted AO3?

cara: Yeah. No idea. Everything else from the additional tags is pretty normal, got AUs, and you've got canon divergence. A lot of fluff, a lot of angst, a little bit of smut. Well, a lot of smut.

writegirl: A lot of smut. Smut then romance, which is always [inaudible 00:57:34].

cara: Yeah. All right.

writegirl: I like the modern setting. Modern setting seems to be the most common one.Code: fan-politics, modern-setting

cara: Absolutely.

writegirl: I think it's the same with, I'm also very active in the Star Wars fandom, and that's one thing you see in a lot of Star Wars, especially the new trilogy. People love taking the characters out of where they are and putting them in today. That doesn't surprise me at all.Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake, modern-setting

cara: Yeah, I'm doing studies on The Legend of Korra too, and modern setting is really popular, especially high school settings. Modern high school.

writegirl: I'm just like, "Do you people remember high school? Why are you doing this?"

cara: Why are you bringing this back?

writegirl: Exactly.

cara: I wanted to ask, this is only the top five for each category across the seasons. A lot is missing, obviously. But is there anything that particularly strikes you as missing from the results?

writegirl: [inaudible 00:58:43] canon divergence, angst, love, romance, smut. Not really. Everything seems to be kind of right where it should be, based on what I've seen. I'm trying to think of a tag that may be missing. No. Fluff, yeah, fluff's there, angst, romance. No, I think everything is there. You just randomly go on AO3, that's what you'd see.Code: fan-politics, other

cara: That's it. Those are the most popular tags. Awesome. That's all my questions. Do you have anything that you wanted to add before I end the recording?

writegirl: No. This was very interesting, thank you for choosing me.

cara: Yeah, thank you for agreeing to do this.