I really love the idea behind this asylum and I'm sad it isn't as active as I'd hoped, so I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and post a commentary for my fic Comeback, written for the qaf_challenges Friends and Lovers Challenge.
I hope all of you will consider posting commentaries too. They don't have to be this long - I just got wordy!
When I picked the theme Friends and Lovers I had visions of ensemble fic with the whole gang, and in particular I was picturing those great dinners at Debbie's in seasons 1/2, which I really missed in later seasons.
However, when I actually sat down to write, what came out was something completely different, and new to me. An AU! Apparently my brain wanted to explore the idea of Brian and Justin meeting in a kind of post-513 world - Justin is about 22 years old and has just moved to New York, and the friendship/relationship they develop.
Brian has been in New York about 4 years at the start of this fic. In my mind he took the job he was offered in season 1, at Kennedy and Collins (??) but hadn't met Justin at that point.
Initially, I had to decide if I wanted Justin to know Debbie, Michael and the Liberty Avenue gang, or if he should be totally separate from all that. In the end, I decided I wanted Justin to be Brian's link to Pittsburgh, which he had kind of divorced himself from. So he had to know them, but not as well as in canon.
Writing this fic was great fun, and I usually can't say that about my fic. It also came together quite quickly and easily, which is also unusual for me. It's also my longest fic so far. I wrote the first draft, about 5600 words, in about a week. I wasn't happy with a lot of the dialogue and the pacing was a bit off, but my rewrites were just making it worse so I sent it off to my beta xie_xie_xie for her thoughts.
She was so wonderfully positive and encouraging, and such a great beta. I could not have written this without her. She was amazing!
Her main comment on the first draft was that there were a few minor things, but one major thing. She couldn't understand what was motivating Brian's initial interest in Justin in this fic, particularly after their first fuck.
I explained that I had wanted Brian to meet Justin at a time in his life when he was feeling a little bored with life, a little homesick, and that Justin, being from Pittsburgh, was a link to "home" and that he would slip in while Brian had this tiny window of vulnerability. And you know, he was blond and had a great ass. You have no idea how far that gets him! ;)
Xie said that I wasn't quite there yet and that I needed to reinforce the theme of Justin representing "home" to Brian throughout the fic. That it was canonical, IC, and powerful. So, I tried to do just that.
In the first draft I had Brian tell Justin he was also from Pittsburgh during their first conversation at the diner. Xie suggested I hold off on that until later in the fic, which I did and it worked much better for a Brian voice, I think.
After the blowup at the diner I had written a few paragraphs which were supposed to show the passage of time. Here's an excerpt:
We fall into a routine, and I keep expecting it to get monotonous and boring, but it doesn’t.
We hang out at the diner, Justin chattering about art exhibitions he wants to go see or the latest Pitts report his friend Daphne has emailed him.
We take long showers together that use up all of the hot water.
And we have lots of really good sex.
He sleeps over at least three nights a week. Sometimes I go clubbing, and sometimes he does too.
Sometimes he gets caught up painting and crashes at the studio on a disgusting futon that I refuse to get naked on.
Sometimes I bring him food and we eat it at his worktable, and then he lets me stay and watch him paint for a while.
Xie cut the lot, saying it wasn't needed. I was shocked at first but then realised she was totally right. The other scene where Justin uses Brian's computer and they argue over what movie to watch illustrates that time has passed and they're more comfortable together all by itself.
I was also "telling" instead of "showing" a little too much in this fic, so I had to work on that a lot.
One of the things she has taught me is to get rid of anything that doesn't need to be there. She always kills the exposition monster! And my writing has become very spare as a result. Also, it's usually very short! This fic is the exception.
She cut out a few more bits, mostly stuff that I had subconsciously "copied" from other fics, such as Subject to Change. I found it really hard to not be overly influenced by other AUs with this fic. That's the problem with reading too much fic, I guess!
The other main issue with the original fic was the ending. I had originally had Brian ask Justin to move in with him, while they were in Debbie's backyard. Xie said it was too much, too soon for Brian to be making that commitment.
I couldn't see my way around it. I had wanted there to be "something" at the end, not for it to just end with a whimper. For some reason I found it really difficult to pare back the ending. At the time I was determined for there to be the big gesture at the end, a way to wrap up this, what will probably be my only AU.
In the end of course I see that she was right and it was way too much. I'm quite happy with the ending now.
ETA! The title! Xie came up with Comeback, I'm hopeless at coming up with names. It refers to what the main theme of the fic is - (and I hope it comes through) - Brian making a comeback to the things in his life which he had removed himself from, Pittsburgh, the relationships he has there, fatherhood and his fear of it, with Justin at his side.