Whumpage!

I learned a new word recently.  Ready for it?

Whumpage.

Isn’t that great?  Say it out loud:  Whumpage.   I dare you to try to say it without grinning immediately afterward.

It’s a term used by fanfiction writers to describe stories in which physical or emotional pain is heaped on a favorite character, over and over and over again.  These stories are usually categorized in the Hurt/Comfort genre and have summaries that promise “Lots of whumpage!  Tissue alert!”

And they are hilarious.

It starts with the smallest, youngest, or prettiest male character from any fandom (book, TV show, etc.).  In some cases, one character fits all three criteria, and then the authors have a field day.  This character is built up to be as vulnerable as possible, often bordering on childlike or effeminate.  Some of the more ambitious writers portray him as so vulnerable and childlike that he almost seems to be mentally incompetent.

Then this creative little author will proceed to beat the living crap out of the poor guy.

I need to go off on a quick tangent here about the nature of injuries in fanfiction.  The tiniest bump on the noggin results in a concussion, which quickly degenerates into a skull fracture – with or without a coma.  While the loved ones suffer through all kinds of angst, the pitiful patient almost always develops pneumonia with a fever that soon soars up into the seizure zone.

Any broken bone in fanfiction automatically becomes a compound fracture with full complications.  Everyone, it seems, ends up with broken ribs that puncture and collapse a lung.  Which, of course, always becomes pneumonia.

Injured or sick characters in fanfiction also develop every complication known to man.  There is almost always a setback of some sort just as things start looking up, sometimes dozens of times in the same story.  On occasion the setback is due to incompetent or cruel medical professionals whose poor treatment brings about a relapse or the aforementioned pneumonia; more often it comes in the form of some evildoer bent on the destruction and suffering of the poor fellow.

At some point, breathing stops.  Then the heart stops.  After much angst, gnashing of teeth, and tearing of hair, our pretty little hero miraculously comes back – either through CPR, defibrillator, or the life-saving teardrops of that one special friend/lover/pal.

Many of the best (translation: worst) whumpage stories are teeming with guy-on-guy rape scenes.

I’ve never been able to understand the appeal of this aspect of these stories.  Seriously, if I’m having some heavy-duty fantasies about, say, Johnny Gage, the absolute last thing I want to read is a story in which he is violently gang-raped by some macho bad guy with questionable motivation.

Can anybody explain this to me?

Another fairly creepy trademark of these whumpage stories is the “comfort” part of Hurt/Comfort.  The other male characters suddenly become, for no apparent reason, Mommies.  They comfort the poor whumped-upon fellow by rubbing his back while he vomits, or by spooning broth into his mouth.  They carry their injured friend around like a toddler and exchange soft, gentle words of love while tucking him in and wondering when –or if—help will arrive.  And arrive it does, always at the last possible second, just when all hope seems lost.

Honestly, I am a Mommy, and I’m not even that nice to my own kids when they are sick.  I’m the kind of Mommy who says, “If you’re gonna hurl, hurl that way” before handing them the Barf Bucket.

One popular variation of the Hurt/Comfort story is the hero who bravely hides his own injuries while taking care of his friends.  With superhuman strength and determination, he might drag an unconscious victim out of a burning building despite his own broken pelvis or collapsed lung; he will grit his teeth against the pain of a broken leg or spine while marching up and down a hill to build a shelter for his buddy after an airplane crash.  He’ll ignore the throbbing pain of a concussion long enough to get his BFF to safety before passing out.

This then gives all kinds of opportunity for more angst, as the other characters berate themselves for not noticing his injuries.

The funniest part of a whumpage story is the recovery of our poor, frail little whipping boy.  After multiple compound fractures, collapsed lungs and dozens of concussions, these fellas always recover fully and bounce right back into their lives with no lingering pain or memory issues.  Nobody ever has to file a disability claim.

I want to include links to a few examples of extreme Hurt/Comfort/Whumpage on Fanfiction.net, but I also want to make sure to give a few warnings first.  Some of these stories are very explicit and have already been reported for exceeding FFNet’s standards, so please don’t read if you are easily offended.

These fanfic writers have put a lot of effort into their work, and some of them are really quite talented.  They aren’t bad writers; they are simply following an established (and unfortunate) trend on the site.  Besides, the more a writer beats up on a character, the more reviews he or she will get.  It’s addictive.  All of those accolades make it really tempting to kick the guy while he’s down. . . for just one more chapter.

In short, please be nice to the writers of the stories I am listing here.

“Missing in Motion” actually started out as a decent story with some promise.  The boys of Big Time Rush are involved in a tour bus accident and then kidnapped by a group of really well-written criminals.  So far, so good.  Then we get the first major surgery on the Pitiful Character, followed by a second car accident, and a random stoner rapes one of the boys while a misguided Army medic rapes another; later, two of the boys are forced to sexually assault each other at gunpoint and the crazed medic goes after his patient again. Later still, two of the boys are sold into sexual slavery in Canada, where one of them is molested by his former hockey coach.  Meanwhile, one boy nearly dies from a knife wound while the other has a complete mental breakdown and psychotic break after having a bomb strapped to his chest.

And it keeps going.  On and on and on, with no end in sight.  The author is trying to write a heartbreaking tale of pain and suffering, but it is so over the top that it actually seems like a parody of Hurt/Comfort/Whumpage stories.

“Death Warmed Over” is one that opens with the life-threatening injury of the prettiest man on the show White Collar.  The poor boy suffers chapter after chapter of near-recovery followed by a string of horrific relapses—also with no end in sight.

Then there’s “Faithfully Condemned”, a Criminal Minds story in which Reid is horribly tortured for no reason other than to make him seem increasingly frail and pathetic.  I’ll admit I stopped reading this one early on because it was just too . . . icky. The writer really put a lot of thought and planning into this one.  Maybe a bit too much, if you get my meaning.

So I’m a bit cruel to laugh at stories of pain and suffering on Fanfiction.Net, but I also understand the fun of writing them.  As a matter of fact, I used to have a bunch of Hurt/Comfort stories on my account over there that I have since deleted because they were so awful.

No matter how bad the whumpage stories are, can we all agree that they are still better than “Fifty Shades of Grey”?

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6 thoughts on “Whumpage!

  1. Okay, I admit it, I did grin at ‘whumpage’. ;P

    Might be a good name for a ferret too.

    In answer to your question, I think the twisted appeal in torturing these poor delicate souls lies in attraction. Following your lead and using Johnny Gage as an example, but here you have a good looking character who is bright/intelligent and has a great personality (because no one cares if this happens to Dr. Brackett) and probably has a lot of appealing attributes that to a certain extent makes them almost too perfect and unattainable.

    That’s not to say these characters don’t have flaws, but when you view the overall package, there’s really not a whole lot to take issue with, is there?

    Anyway, in the case of some writers (well, most in my opinion) having a desire to ‘own’ said perfection and dominate it. Sometimes they just get their kicks torturing the poor soul, but in others the writer wants to be the one to soothe the owies and kiss the boo boos. Since we’re dealing with fictional characters, they need proxies in the form of other characters.

    I was nodding throughout your post, agreeing wholeheartedly with pretty much everything. What bothers me about hurt/comfort stories is that the bad keeps getting shoveled on with a backhoe. I find it draining and it sucks the fun out of a story. Angst delivers good drama, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and I have to find something happy to read just to get out of my depressive funk when I’m done.

    Even in real life, there’s usually something amusing or fun going on during a medical crisis. Especially with the family, they *need* to have that or they’ll fall apart when the patient really needs them. The same should apply in these stories and writers regularly forget that. There has to be a balance.

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    • That really does make a lot of sense. I think you make some really good points about the reasons WHY people write those kinds of stories.

      I like reading some of them too — until the writers move in with the backhoe that you menioned!

      Ah, John Gage . . . Give me him and a Toblerone, and I can die happy.

      Thanks for commenting.

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  2. interesting. i was not aware of this genre. i have my own interpretations of its appeal. sounds like there is a homoerotic aspect, with a good dose of sadism / masochism thrown in. but not just that. you might enjoy my piece on posted last week on heartwarming movies – are not the same, but also follow the tried and true pattern.

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  3. I know this is an old post, but, here’s my comment. You either get whump and you love it, or you don’t. Whump can happen to any character, and no, it’s not always the prettiest boy (it’s actually more often towards the strongest character who’s will seems the hardest to break). Whump is using pain or tradegy to develop said character and the characters around them to strengthen their bonds with each other. You can see surprising sides to your favorite character when they’re placed in a life threatening situation. Most whump is based around the after care, the process towards recovery that the character has to go through, and all of the challenges that follow. Will the character be forever changed by this tragedy, or will they keep fighting and strengthen their resolve? Only the Fanfiction author knows.

    -somewhat offended at having their favorite genre of fanfiction be called disturbing

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    • You know, this is a great explanation of what whumpage is supposed to be. The way you describe it makes it sound really appealing– I actually like the idea of it centering around the strongest character. However, I still say that the majority of whump stories I stumble across seem to focus on the “pretty boys,” although I’m willing to concede that perhaps I’m just not reading in the right fandoms.

      I’ll even admit that I see a bit of that tendency in some of my own fanfictions where I put one of the characters in peril in order to push one of the stronger characters to a breaking point. Huh . . . how’s that for an eye-opener? You made me take a fresh look at my own writing!

      Perhaps it’s not the idea of whump itself that bothers me. It’s the over-the-top exaggeration and outright silliness of the injuries and illnesses in some of these stories. As I said in my blog post, every broken limb becomes a compound fracture, every bump on the melon becomes a skull fracture, every minor bug or virus turns into a life-threatening fever with seizures, etc. And if the “strong” character becomes superhuman, I just have to laugh. You know the stories I’m talking about: the guy’s got a broken pelvis and compound fracture of the leg, but he manages to drag his unconscious friends out of the burning plane and up a hill before building a shelter, starting a fire, and THEN collapsing. Come on. There’s this thing called “willing suspension of disbelief.”

      At any rate, I really appreciate your dropping by to comment. This is an older post, but it’s still my most popular, and I’ve been thinking about writing a follow-up. If you’re interested in being interviewed for it or even in writing a guest post for my blog, please feel free to contact me at authorajgoode@gmail.com.

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