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Author's Chapter Notes:

Part 2 in a subseries on genre writing.

Note: If nothing else, read the end.


Hurt/Comfort Fanfiction:

Fanfiction that involves one character experiencing the physical pain or emotional distress, and being cared for by another character. The author uses the injury, sickness or other kind of hurt, to explore the characters and their relationship.

Hurt/comfort is a form of fanfiction that has the potential to add a lot of depth to any MJ fanfic. It allows for a low point in which one or more characters becomes vulnerable. The author can show a character flaw or two, add drama without making the fic cliche, and bring dimension to one or both characters. Now, just as with any other genre, there are ways to make it cliche and superficial, rather than the depth that H/C is known for.


How H/C can Strengthen Your Story


Pain and Anguish make for an Interesting Plot

You know the saying, "to err is human"? Well, the same is true about pain. Illness, death, and misfortune are all parts of the human existence. I'll spare you the related philosophical discussion (albeit interesting, it's irrelevent to this segment), but all are touched by these three to some degree.  Whether it is chronic pain, acute disease, a car accident, or missing out on a job, they can infuse tension, disappointment, and hurt into our lives.  They can do the same to a story. At the more extreme end, there’s nothing quite like a story where you have to wonder if a character is going to survive, for putting readers on edge.  When the reader feels the pain of that character or those who are watching, they can often relate to some degree. When someone can relate to something you've written, they can become more invested in its outcome.  As an author, you also create an opportunity to portray an emotional trauma, that can make your characters stronger. These can cause shifts in their behavior (though, having the character do a 180 may be a bit much), so that you can ultimately take the characters and plot in a direction that wasn't immediately apparent to the reader when they started the story. That brings us to the element of surprise; often sought, but not often attained. 


A Moment in the Spotlight

One of the pro's of H/C is that it gives characters a chance to be the center of attention. On the one hand, one character gets to be fretted over, worried, about, (and if awake), try to cope with their experience. Meanwhile, an author can also make other characters shine by having them express concern, fret over the person, and go out of their way to be of support. For instance, if one of the Jacksons is ill, a specific figure can step into the spotlight when they step up to take care of the person who is ill.


Taking Characters in Different Directions Without going OOC

Before I expand upon this, by "OOC" I mean outside of the character you have already established. Not simply outside of what they are like in real life.  A huge faux pas in fanfic is authors taking a character OOC without intending to.  Using hurt/comfort can be a way to stretch the character you've established without actually going OOC.  Consider how people respond to near death experiences, severe illness, or loss of an important figure in their lives. They change. Don't get me wrong - very rarely do they become completely different, but they do change.  Stoic men become more sentimental/emotionally expressive.  Very sensitive figures may toughen up. Because of this, when writing H/C an author can have their characters say and do things they may not normally, because the situation calls for it.


Create a Journey Within one Person, Without Ever Having to Travel

One of the hallmarks of H/C is stripping a character down (through physical, emotional, or psychological pain), only to put them back together. In doing so, the reader gets to observe the process and live it with the character. This can be healing. For instance, if writing about Michael and the accusations, the person can take an A/U route and focus on his healing after the experience.


What Does this Look Like?


Common Forms of H/C in FF

  • Bathing scenes - one person bathes another
  • Bed sharing - when the coupling has yet to occur
  • Camping/in the outdoors - when two people share a sleeping bag or sleep together to stay warm
  • Disability - with one figure serving providing some form of care (e.g. their eyes if blind, pushing a wheelchair if unable to walk, etc)
  • Coma - one of the partners is in a coma for a short/long period of time
  • Rape - one is raped/almost raped and the other provides support
  • Attempted suicide - one person stops the other from committing suicide
  • Major illness - one has a degenerative condition and the other is their "nurse"
  • Amateur surgery - one is injured and due to the need for immediate intervention and/or absence of a doctor, the other performs the procedure.
  • The Ex - coming back to cause hurt


"But it's been overdone"

Yeah, just about any of these could be considered played.  That's where you, the author, come onto the scene. Depending on how you approach something, it can be cliche or it can enhance your story.  How to do this?


>>>If you read nothing else, READ THIS<<<

(aka How to avoid writing a cliche H/C)


  • Don't have someone do a complete 180. Those aren't sustainable.
    • DO: Make the change subtle to noteworthy. A small change can induce another change, and another change, and another. Think of it as a gradual ripple effect.
  • Don't always pair retrograde amnesia with a coma. Unless it was a head injury, this is particularly unlikely.
    • DO: Rethink using a coma or amnesia. Particularly as a pair. When you combine these, you are asking the reader to suspend disbelief twice.
  • Don't always make the shooter/killer a stalker or actually targeting the victim. This isn't necessary.
    • DO: Think about shootings happening in the wrong place, wrong time. Depending on where the character is, that isn't too rare.
  • Don't rush the recovery/change
    • DO: Give it time. Healing takes time. Change takes time. If you are dealing with rape, remember that most survivors will avoid those who remind them of the perpetrator/the offense for a good while, afterwards.
  • Don't flood people with the hurt
    • DO: Space it out and use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way. Also, don't forget to balance it with comfort. Well...unless you want to lose a lot of readers. Remember, we all feel the hurt and loss of Michael, and most read MJ fanfic for comfort from that hurt.
  • Don't throw in hurt on impulse
    • DO: follow the ripple effect. What will be the repercussions (if appropriate, research these)? Having someone get repeated head injuries is okay. Having them be fine a week later? Less likely. Know why and know what one should expect to see, before you write it.
  • Don't have your characters cry at the drop of a hat.
    • DO: Ask yourself first if it is a credible response to the scene. Is it melodramatic or is it consistent with the character? If you decide to have the person cry, show rather than tell.
  • Don't bring back more than one ex.
    • DO: Think outside the box. Not all exes want the person back, and even if they do, few are crazy. Why would Michael or another character date someone that crazy? Remember the actual odds of being stalked are low. Michael being stalked by a fan is more likely than him being stalked by an ex. Ditto for other characters. And exes conspiring together to break an OG/Michael pairing up. Please. I beg you. NO. 

Chapter End Notes:

What are your limits for H/C?

Do you enjoy reading H/C?


Thanks to all of the awesome reviewers. You guys always leave me thinking!


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