On Writing Fluff
“You’re on a crusade to carve up our babies.”
Every good writer does it. Those wonderful scenes we love so much, that we think give depth to characters and their relationships and stories, end up scattered on the floor. We hack them from our beloved manuscripts, trimming away the fat so we’re left with a crisp, clean story. Those scenes have no use, after all. They add nothing to the story in the long run, and eventually we come to see it. That’s why we cut them.
I’m addicted to writing them.
But that’s such a waste of time, right? Why bother writing scenes like that when you know it’s not going anywhere, and it’ll never see the light of day. No one will read it and praise it, or even critique it. I could be using that time to write an entire new novel. So why the hell do I write that damn fluff?
Because it helps me develop characters.
So, my character Catori has gone through some massive changes since her creation. Originally, she was a sex fiend that had no intention of loving anyone, ever, and only married for the power it brought her. It fit for the D&D campaign she was created for, but that was not her final form.
Disclaimer: I couldn’t find a final form gif I liked. Sorry.
Catori has a few different facets to her personality now, but overall she’s just a woman who’s seen a lot of shit and really wants to be loved and accepted by someone. Still, all those facets sometimes makes it hard. She has to think about her son, her dreams of making a name for herself, and she struggles with not feeling good enough.
She wouldn’t have become the character she is now without my writing tons of fluff scenes for her. I legitimately have entire novels of fluff for her. I’m talking over 100k words of stuff that will probably never see an editor, ever, because there’s no point. Hell, Silk & Swords (my holiday blog serial) was fluff that had no place in her main story. Despite that, it helped me prepare to write her next stage in life, the one where she drops being a lowborn gladiator and becomes a rich lady running her husband’s household while still inspiring knights to pledge fealty to her.
But Silk & Swords was still presented as a story, so how can it be fluff?
Because it serves little purpose for the reader and adds nothing to the real story. There wasn’t much story there to begin with, honestly, and I’m totally unashamed to say it. It was my little pet project that I just wanted to share with people as a cute holiday treat, a sort of feel-good thing that helped me develop her.
Writing fluff scenes also helps me discover how she feels about and reacts to other characters.
At the start of the second manuscript, Catori is single and sleeping around every so often, but she has no real lover. In comes the champion gladiator of their little town, Reinar. They’re friends and have been lusting after each other some months, and eventually they end up together for a little while. Now, Reinar wants more than just a fling from her, but Catori is notoriously oblivious to men and their feelings about her. Who can blame her? I am, too. Literally taken by surprise anytime someone says they like me. I’ve taken screenshots of conversations just to remind myself it’s real.
This has gone through several different scenarios, all fluff. I’ve written smutty scenes for them, and sweet scenes for them. I wrote a fluff scene where Reinar finally tells her he wants to be with her, and wrote out Catori’s response. I wrote their “breakup”. None of that makes it into the manuscript at all, but it all influences how Catori reacts to Reinar. When Catori and her soon to be husband announce their impending marriage and her pregnancy, Reinar breaks a glass and hurries off to get his bleeding hand fixed, and Catori feels more than a little guilty as she watches him leave. Originally she was oblivious and it came as a complete shock to her that Reinar might actually like her. That didn’t fit, but I managed to get a good reaction from her because of those fluff scenes I wrote.
I also get a better idea of where she’s come from.
Admittedly, I have an origins story in its first draft written for Catori. It’s so fluffy, it’s like some poor sheep in desperate need of shearing. However, I’ve recently begun writing even further back than that. I have scenes written out from her father’s perspective, involving her mother and their meeting and subsequent relationship.
Since I’ve begun these scenes, I’ve pinpointed the traits Catori inherits from her parents. She gets her father’s endless worrying, his fear for the worst, and a certain special genetic trait that makes her unique among her lowborn peers. But she also gets her mother’s easy laugh, playfulness, and fiery determination. A strange mixture, honestly. She has an easy laugh, but she… fears the worst? What? It works, trust me.
There’s one final reason I write fluff.
Because I enjoy it. I write scenes that never happen because I totally ship Catori with someone other than her two main love interests. I write scenes that interest me, fluffy cute scenes that force me to like her distant husband a little more, scenes that make me die a little inside. I write them because I like to write and because I particularly like to write for Catori. That alone is reason enough to write fluff.
So writing fluff scenes isn’t as bad as people might think.
When I first popped into the writing communities online, I thought, “Oh my god, I’m a terrible writer, all those things I love to write are useless.” But they’re not. They’re useful to me, I just need to realize when they’re not for readers. I’ll slice them out of my manuscripts and set them aside in a little box for my own enjoyment.
So go ahead and write that fluff. Own it and enjoy it. We may have goals for publishing, we may not, but the important thing to remember is that writing should be something you enjoy doing. Not everything has to be polished and ready for publishing, and it’s okay to write for yourself.