The Pitfalls of Writing Drusilla
A common complaint of readers of Dru fiction and Dru fans in general is that Drusilla is used very poorly by writers, both Mutant Enemy's and the fans'. So why is writing Drusilla so difficult? How can you, as a writer, do a better job in presenting one of the longest-lasting characters of the Jossverse?
1. Bone up on your history. Drusilla was born in 1830s or 1840s England to a middle or lower-middle class family. Even if she weren't absolutely blooming bonkers, she will not speak like you, Buffy, or most of the other Joss characters. Her cultural references will be very different (http://www.victorianweb.org/ is a good place to start when considering this issue.), and what she remembers will also be different than even her fellow vampires Darla, Angel/us, and Spike. If you want your Drusilla to stand out, remember more history than Joss. You don't just stick someone in a corset and a big skirt and declare it historical. Drusilla's Britain isn't even quite William's Britain; and it's certainly not Darla or Angelus' Britain. If you want a good Drusilla, you'll do well to remember that.
2. Madness is not an excuse for poetic sloppiness. Yes, Drusilla is insane. Even during her most lucid moments, she's going to break into a ramble that will probably set teeth on edge and freak people out. However, to misquote Lilah, "Crazy, not stupid." One might actually point out that Drusilla's insanity mostly stems from her inability to filter between past and present and between this world and the supernatural world. The stars may in fact be talking to her; what makes Drusilla sometimes highly annoying even in canon is that she doesn't have that politeness filter that tells the more sane, "busting out with a stream of consciousness here is not acceptable." Dru's craziness comes in two big forms: one is the fit of prophetic/supernatural oration; the other is vocalizing her stream of consciousness when something happens to her, like "I'm ringing! I'm ringing all over!"
Think of it rather like Jeff in UK Coupling. He's admitted to thinking things and not being able to say them. Dru doesn't feel that compunction. In short, Dru doesn't just think in Tori Amos lyrics because she's lackwitted. She's a Victorian British woman who has no temporality, no interior filters, and severe sadomasochist issues as delivered to her by her Daddy Angelus.
3. She's manipulative, not dependent. A lot of Drusilla-fic views her as a virtual doll to be tugged between Spike and Angel, all simpering simpleness and child-like innocence turned bad. This, honestly? Is complete bull. Drusilla is a more subtle and brilliant manipulator than Darla and Lilah (the manipulators par excellance in the Jossverse) combined. She's managed to get through the Spike-free years without needing a damn bit of help; she's probably had any number of affairs behind Angelus' and William's backs without them ever suspecting. School Hard is an excellent example of this: Spike's all bluster, but when Dru snaps her fingers, Spike does whatever she says. Angelus is also quite thoroughly manipulated...he gets Dru presents and sweet lovin' without there being any hint of Angelus threatening Drusilla. She manages to manipulate Wolfram and Hart into bringing her human Darla to revamp, too. It's always important to realize that Drusilla's not perennially in a purple haze; she gains an awful lots from playing it that way, including people to do all the dirty work for her.
4. You can write Drusilla. Most people shy away from doing it and thus this mythology of Drusilla the Impossible has sprouted up. In fact, I'd suspect that more good Drusilla fic could be written if people honestly took on the character outside their comfort zones. Drusilla has a rich history with Darla, Angelus, and Spike. She knows things no one else knows. She has more latitude than most characters in terms of place. Wanna write a story set in the 1920s? Drusilla can go there. Wanna write a story set in San Francisco in 1906? There's no reason you can't write it with Drusilla. Sure, Drusilla's crazy and she talks Mockney. Most of the Buffy characters are a little crazy, and Spike talks a lot of Mockney. These are not insurmountable barriers. She's evil. So are Darla, Spike, Lindsey, Lilah, Angel half the time, Wes sometimes, Faith sometimes.
In short, it's time to get off your duff and write Drusilla, because she's there to be written.
Copyright Tania 2003-2004
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