ext_3190: Red icon with logo "I drink Nozz-a-la- Cola" in cursive. (dS: fraser hallelujah)
[identity profile] primroseburrows.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ds_workshop
Hello, all. First time here, hi!

I'm a little late posting, mostly because my uploads were on the slow side and Windows Movie Maker kept crapping out on me. Also, a caveat: I'm really wordy. I'm trying to cut down. Please forgive me if I ramble or go on too long.

When I volunteered to talk about writing Fraser I had no idea what I was going to write and for a while there I thought I'd never come up with anything. I know Fraser is really hard to write for some authors but I wasn't sure how to try to make it less frustrating because Fraser comes really easy to me. It's like he lives in my head or something. I'm not as articulate in speaking as he is, but my writing style is a lot like Fraser's spoken conversation. It's actually the inverse with me: sometimes I have to really work at making my other characters NOT sound like Fraser. We also have similar issues around politeness and hurting people's feelings, and I get the part about a lonely childhood (although I'll argue that huge parts of Fraser's childhood weren't lonely at all).

So anyway, here goes:

First thing, and I do mean FIRST THING: Don't forget about canon.

We've all done it: We read fic after fic but don't see an episode of the actual show for weeks or even longer. Even if every fic we're reading is the cream of the crop, each one is still someone's interpretation which might have been based on someone else's interpretation and so on and so on. It's like that telephone game where a phrase is whispered around a room from person to person so that when the last one gets it there's no resemblance to the original phrase. My suggestion is to watch a few episodes, or even just a few scenes, if that's all you have time for.

For Fraser, I think it's a good idea to watch eps from S1-2 and S3-4. Fraser is an amalgam of the entire series in a way that neither Ray is because his character is ongoing, and also because he was for the most part shaped by two people with two very different concepts and writing styles.

Here is a tiny handful of recs of episodes/scenes that I think showcase Fraser well:

  • Red, White or Blue: There's a lot I love about this ep, but if you only have time to watch one part and you want to see really good Fraser, the number one reason to watch is the Synchronized Conversation between Fraser and Vecchio. It's an amazing scene in general; both actors nail it and it must have been killer to get the timing right. Written by Paul Gross but still during Paul Haggis' tenure as executive producer, it's also one of the best examples of Fraser voice I can think of. Fraser moves a lot in this scene as well, so if you want to study Fraser Kinetics 101, this is one of the best scenes.

    The next scene tells us how Fraser and Dief met. Yay backstory! I love this part of their history so much that I went and wrote a fic based on it.

  • Mask: Watch the whole thing. This ep is often overlooked because it doesn't have a lot of major quotes or standout speeches; it's just a lot of Fraser being Fraser. In this ep he interacts with people from very different parts of his life: Vecchio, Thatcher, childhood friends, etc. A lot of Fraser's personality (not to mention his worldview) comes out in these little bits of dialogue. I especially like the dynamic between Fraser and Eric because not only can we see the deep respect they have for one another, we also learn that Fraser's connection to the aboriginal peoples of his birthplace goes back a long way and helped form the way he sees the world. Eric's Tsimshian parable about the Raven stealing the Sun doesn't sound very different from Fraser's Inuit stories.

  • One Good Man: Watch this one for Fraser's filibuster of the Chicago court. It's a classic Fraserspeech with a whole bunch of backstory goodness that's gold to a fic writer.

  • Spy Vs. Spy: This scene is good stuff. Fraser moves a lot, he shows off his mad interrogation skillz, and he gives the "I First Came to Chicago" schpiel.

With a good base in canon, it's not only fine to read fic for inspiration, it's encouraged. There are some amazing authors out there who get Fraser so well it's like reading an episode of the show. I don't have room or time to rec them all here. You all know what your favourite Frasercentric fics are (or even other-centric; Fraser's voice and personality can be shown off really well by another character).

So. We have canon and fic to inspire and inform us. Now it's time to make a list (mental or written; written works better for me because I'm good at forgetting things): What makes Fraser, well. Fraser? What is does he do that makes up his essential personality? Even more important, what doesn't he do?

Fraser does:

  • Lie. Like a rug. His reasons for lying are often different from everyone else. He lies for Justice, to protect people he cares about, to push a favourite agenda through. He'll even occasionally lie to save face. One thing he won't do is lie for his own personal gain, or anyone else's. If you asked him he'd never admit he was lying. I'm not even sure he knows he's lying except in extreme life-or-death cases. Fraser is great at twisting words so they sound like the truth even if they're not.

  • Use contractions. This might be my biggest pet peeve in DS fic. Fraser does NOT use robot-speak. His vocabulary is huge, he uses a LOT of words, and his articulation is impeccable. His basic spoken conversation, though, is pretty normal. I've read too many fics that I would have really liked if Fraser hadn't said things like "If I am not smiling it is not because I am not happy for you, Ray, I just do not think it is wise to consider something this dangerous". Or, y'know, more robotics like that. Go back to the syncronized conversation and you'll see that there are lots of contractions in Fraserspeak.

  • Use run-on sentences. Watch the synchronised conversation scene for that, too. He uses parentheses ALL THE TIME, i.e. the little aside he says about how during Leap Year his uniform itches for 366 days. You can just about hear the parentheses wrapping around his words. The same goes for semicolons. You don't hear the periods/full stops nearly as often.

  • Get angry. Fraser gets plenty angry, just not that often. He's like a pot on slow boil. He'll simmer and stew if something bothers him, but if someone turns the heat up he'll boil over and then he's really, really scary. I've said it before: I'd hate to be object of a pissed-off Fraser's anger. Example: Gerard, who obviously didn't know Fraser as well as he thought or he would have realized when he ordered the hit on Bob that he'd be have one Enraged Mountie to deal with.

  • Have a sense of humour. Fraser has a killer sense of humour. It's just very, very dry, which means it's hard to see sometimes. She might not have meant it to be, but to me this scene from Resonant's American Way is a good example of Fraser's subtle sense of humour that isn't obvious until it bites you in the backside. It's also great Fraser voice in general:

    Fraser looked sheepish as they walked out onto the sidewalk. "I'm afraid I'm not doing very well."

    "Well, it's no wonder, when you got so many coaches," Ray said. "Look, you got any experience at all with impersonation?"

    "I'm afraid not, Ray. I was cast in the role of Alfie Doolittle for our high school production of 'My Fair Lady,' but on the night of the performance, the auditorium had to be closed due to the migration of ... it's not important."

    "Yeah, well, I never been onstage, but I done a little undercover work here and there. And the thing I learned, you can't be generic. You gotta be specific." They waited for the light, then started across the street. "I mean, you can't go to a meet thinking, Small-time runner looking to make big. You gotta have somebody in particular in mind, somebody you can think about and sorta get in the state of mind. See, you been trying to be some generic American, but that won't work. You gotta be somebody in particular." Ray steered them into the shade of a bank's awning. "You got it?"

    Fraser gave him a serious look. "I -- think so." His thumb came up in the direction of his eyebrow, and then he seemed to catch himself, and his hand stopped halfway to his face.

    "Yeah, you can't do all that fussy little fidget stuff there, Fraser. Shake it out." Ray shook out his arms encouragingly.

    Fraser began to follow his lead, shaking -- hands, arms, shoulders. Rolling his head on his neck, rolling his shoulders, and shaking, shaking.

    With every shake his shoulders got looser, his movements more fluid.

    Until at last he bent his head, leaned his shoulders against the bank's brick wall, stuck three fingers in his jeans pocket, and looked up at Ray through his eyelashes.

    Jesus. He looked like sex on a stick over there.

    "Who," Ray said a little hoarsely, "who the hell are you supposed to be?"

    Fraser raised his eyebrows and gave Ray an open-mouthed grin.

    "You, Ray."

  • Cry. Victoria's Secret, anyone?

Fraser doesn't:

  • Drink. I'm not talking about the fics where Fraser gets drunk and Stuff Ensues. I like Drunk!Fraser fics. They can be fun or angsty or erotic -- all sorts of wonderful things, and they're often an inroad to a really good character study. What I'm talking about is Fraser doing casual drinking on occasions other than something really out of the ordinary (I wrote a story where Fraser has ONE glass of some fancy Italian wine that Ray V. brought to Canada from Florida. I rationalised that this constituted a special occasion, but I do realise that it's somewhat out of character. I'm still not taking it out. *g*).

  • Sit around obsessing about Victoria: There are HOW many episodes after VS? Probably we'd see a little more Fraserangst in canon if he were irrevocably damaged over Victoria. Was there damage? Sure. Fraser has got to have serious abandonment issues given the number of people in his life who left him/betrayed him/up and died on him. Even so, I think a lot of healing was done in Letting Go and also in rebuilding Fraser's father's cabin. I wish we'd got to see the rebuilding happen in canon, but the good thing is all the fic that came out of that little F/V scene in LG.

  • Talk about his feelings much: [livejournal.com profile] aukestrel and I were talking earlier about Fraser's upbringing, specifically his grandparents and how they affected his moral code/worldview. We both agree that they probably weren't Puritan ogres; more likely they were intellectuals who were well-read and well-educated but total flops in the emotions department. Fraser didn't have much chance to learn about how to deal with his feelings, so he "shuts down", as Ray V. says, or he evades the issue by lapsing into big-word babble or Inuit stories when the subject comes up. Or by asking questions as a reply, like, "In what sense"?

  • Lack self-confidence In this scene, Fraser exudes self-confidence. Ray says he's a "sharp shooter, first class, could take the head off a pin" and Fraser responds, "He's right about that". He (mistakenly) believes himself part of a set-up and you can tell by his stance and tone of voice that he's in his element:

  • Fear women. Fraser stammers around his female admirers but it's not for lack of confidence, it's from lack of interest and embarrassment at being fawned over and objectified. I mean, really, this is NOT a guy who lacks self-confidence with a lover. He just has to be interested:

There are tons of other doeses and doesn'ts for Fraser. I could go on but I'm already late, so I'll let you make up the rest of your own lists.


Sometimes the problem isn't keeping Fraser IC, but keeping him from being too cliché. What helps me is having a backstory of my own outside of canon (not instead of canon, mind you). I didn't realise how much help it is until I wrote up a Fraser pseudocanon here. Not everyone will agree with your version of Fraser's backstory. I maintain that Fraser likes being called "Benton" as opposed to "Ben" and I get a lot of arguments. Conversely, people usually like the thought that Fraser learned both English and Inuktitut as milk languages. Since I'm not contradicted in canon, I can use both of them.

Using clichés in fic isn't a terrible thing because clichés weren't always clichés. Take Fraser's gestures: the Eyebrow Rub, the Neck Crack, the Collar Pull, the Tongue Thing. Those are all real, actual Fraser gestures (and if you've seen more than one interview, you might notice that they're also real, actual Paul Gross gestures). Use them, just don't OVERuse them. The exception to this is when a cliché is used deliberately. I read a scene in I don't remember what fic (someone help with this?) where Fraser rubs his eyebrow, cracks his neck, and pulls his collar in quick succession. His behaviour was written like that to emphasize that Fraser was very, very nervous. It worked.

Some other clichés are:

  • Yes, Fraser does say "Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray". I love that he does. Hey, it's one of my LJ interests! He uses Ray's name a lot, really. He just doesn't do the Repeat-a-Ray thing every five minutes nor does he end every single sentence with Ray's name.

  • He is polite as all heck. Except when he isn't (he's downright rude to Mackenzie King in One Good Man). He's rude to the people he thinks deserve it. And he can make his rudeness look ultra-polite. If Fraser's TOO polite and formal to someone it might be because he doesn't like them in the least.

  • He's not as ignorant of pop culture as a lot of writers make him out to be. Sure, he's never seen The Godfather, but I bet there were televisions around when he was a kid. Maybe not at his house, but certainly at Innusuq's house or one of his other friends' houses (Eric probably had one; his family brought their own to Fraser's apartment in "Mask"). One of my favourite scenes in fic ever is this one from [livejournal.com profile] aukestrel's Losing My Religion. Fraser has just finished singing a Christmas Carol and then this happens:

    And realise that I've been looking at him way too long. His grin has turned quizzical.

    "Another one, Frase? You know Joy to the World?"

    And that goddamn Mountie, the one who's lived in igloo land all his life without television or, probably, a stereo, opens his mouth and sings, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine..."

    I'm laughing so hard I can hardly hear him, but I manage to join in on the chorus. It's a two person song anyhow. You gotta have someone to sing the percussion. Not that I sing, but I can do ba da bom as well as anyone. And I can't not join in on the making sweet love verse, as long as I don't look at Fraser, who's singing as unselfconsciously as always.

So the thing is, do use the cliché to further a plot point or illustrate an emotion. Use it in general because hey, it's not a cliché for no reason. Just make sure there's thought behind it and don't overdo. If you find yourself using too many, go back to canon and your own Fraser backstory and see what else you could use instead.

So that's about all I can come up with for now. Not everyone is going to love writing Fraser (which doesn't mean that they don't love him, heavens, no) but I hope my suggestions helped make it a little easier for people that struggle with it. I also hope someone makes a "Writing Vecchio" post, because I could really use some advice. I love him a lot but he's way hard for me to write.
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