Writing Deeks: Alternate Universes
What if Deeks were a Navy Commander? What if Deeks and Kensi were teenage step-siblings? What if Deeks rode horses on his adopted father’s Wyoming ranch? What if he fought dragons? These are all actual fan fiction stories of the “alternate universe” form, where the author has taken the characters’ reality and altered it in some way. What’s it like to write AU fiction? We asked our group of writers why they like sending Deeks out into another world.
Entering the main room, he found himself on the business end of three people – Agents Callen and Hanna if he remembered their file photos correctly and Agent Blye – all pointing their weapons at him.
“Whatever I did,” Deeks told them as he slowly raised his hands over his head. “I’m sure I can explain.”
“Who are you?” Agent Hanna asked.
“Marty Deeks, Commander Marty Deeks. I met with Agent Blye yesterday.” Deeks looked over at her. “Obviously I thought the meeting went significantly better than she did.”
“Who are you?” Agent Callen asked.
“Martin A. Deeks, Commander, US Navy. 987-00-4320.”
“Name, rank and serial number?” Agent Blye asked.
“Not exactly feeling the love. Can I put my arms down?”
“Are you carrying a weapon?”
“Does a devastating wit and a cutting sense of humor count?” He decided to keep his arms up. It was just easier.
– Tess DiCorsi, “Commander”
Of course, much of the fan fiction we’ve already explored could technically be termed AU. Pre-“Humbug” stories that featured Deeks and Kensi getting together fall into this category. Even a post-ep story that doesn’t match up with later TV events could count, as could everyone’s most satisfying fiction, the “fix-it fic.” But today we’ll focus on the slightly more extreme version of this story-telling.
The main reason our writers are drawn to AU stories is the sense of freedom they gain. Not having to follow the show’s established world, and established storyline, allows their creativity free reign. thepixiesmademedoit, for example, likes “the freedom to create original situations outside of what we see on screen” and notes, “The pros are the original ideas that are let loose. The best writers out there do this without you barely noticing; they feed you an original character and you find yourself caring about them as much as those who form our NCIS:LA team; they give you an original situation and you read while sitting on the edge of your seat.” Or as Tess DiCorsi puts it, “The pros – you get to write what you want without worrying about things the program had (raccoons come to mind) that made no sense.”
ZeGabz says that AU “gives the writer freedom to explore certain aspects of a character or relationship that canon often prevents from being explored. When done right, it gives writers the chance to delve deeper into the core of the characters without being limited by job titles or plot points established in canon.” Similarly, Jericho Steele notes, “While I love the structure of canon (I don’t have to build characters, someone else already did that for me), there’s a certain freedom in an AU that lends itself to my own creativity… From having Kensi and Deeks fighting zombies to placing the entire team in an entirely different time period… AU, if it’s done right, can place these character into situations that we’ll never see on the show.”
Other writers enjoy the sense of fun they experience from doing their own thing with the characters. peanutbutterer says, “I love both [canon and AU]. It’s nice to stick with canon and see what you can do within the confines of the show’s parameters, but it’s also very cool to put the characters we love in crazy situations and play with them there.” imahistorian doesn’t describe her work as AU, but notes, “some of my stories have veered pretty far away from established canon on the show, with Deeks and Kensi married, Deeks returning to being a lawyer, etc. The pros are that you can play with the characters a little, take them where the show either won’t, or is just taking its time doing.”
Much of Sweet Lu’s work away from wikiDeeks falls into the AU category. “I much prefer to write AU,” she says. “More possibilities and more emotion. The constraints of following the relationships established on the show are still the basis for the team interaction, but I inject more emotion and the characters develop closer personal ties. It’s more interesting to write that way. The show writers are great and have the show in hand. I’m not ever going to write for that show, so I go about my business and make myself happy by inventing new adventures for Deeks and new people for him to play with.”
Now, seeing him in a totally different environment, she smiled softly to herself as she watched a man she had thought of as a city boy, through and through, walk out into a pasture in Wyoming and whistle for a horse. He looked so sexy in the jeans and denim shirt he wore, a battered, straw cowboy hat tilted back on his head of tousled golden hair, that she had to swallow hard and try to control her desire to tackle him to the ground and have her way with him right then in the grass. He kept glancing back at her with a wide-open smile on his face and she was suddenly so happy for him and the peace he had found here that her eyes misted briefly. He deserved this kind of happiness, she thought. If anyone deserved to find a place to call home, it was this man.
His whistle cut through the crisp, morning air and she saw a large horse look up from far off down the pasture beside a stand of birch trees, its burnished brown coat contrasting sharply against the white trunks and shimmering yellow leaves. The horse tossed its head several times before starting toward them. A second whistle caused the horse to prick its ears and move into a trot, its head held high. Deeks walked back toward her as the horse approached, pulling a big carrot from his pocket and handing it to her.
“Sheila loves carrots,” he said as the large horse slowed as it approached. The horse only seemed to have eyes for Deeks, placing its huge forehead against his chest. He stroked the horse’s neck and she heard the animal almost groan with pleasure.
“I think I’m jealous, Deeks. This horse loves you,” Kensi said with a laugh.
“What can I say, I’m a lovable guy,” He answered as he stepped back.
– Sweet Lu, “Vengeance”
Exactly how extreme have our writers gone with their alternatives? For many, their AU’s have kept the basic world intact but expanded it with either an established Densi, new characters, or new settings. Kadiedid, for one, doesn’t go too far with alternate realities, although she has written about Deeks as an agent and married to Kensi (“The Legacy”). “I prefer to stick to the characters and come up with interesting problems and predicaments to put them through,” she says. “Why mess with something that’s really great to begin with?”
Sweet Lu has given TV Deeks a world that’s expanded beyond the team and his Los Angeles hometown. “I was getting bored with writing him in L.A. so I started placing him in situations that took him out of the country, such as Istanbul [‘Going Dark’] and Paris [‘Promises to Keep’], but only if it made sense story-wise.” In her story “Judgement,” “Not sure it’s extreme,” she says, “but… he works with an FBI agent and goes home with him to Wyoming and is accepted into that family as a son and a brother. Deeks on a horse… what could be better than that? He finds a father figure, a man who understands him and loves him and it surprises the hell out of him.”
Several writers have made more significant changes to Deeks’ world…
Deeks’ lips twitch in a grin. Not his trademark grin, but something much colder. “What is this really about, Kens?” he asks, and for just a second, a tiny, ridiculous second, Kensi almost recognizes him. But it goes as quickly as it came. “What are you trying to prove here? That you know me so well, or that it’s impossible that someone fooled great, perfect Agent Blye?”
Despite her best efforts to hide it, it stings. God, how it does. Because Deeks is half right about this. When they came into work this morning, and Hetty, Granger and Lt. Bates were waiting for them – for Deeks – in the bullpen, her heart had skipped a beat. When Hetty had managed to convince Bates to do the interrogation here, to give them a little time to talk to Deeks before he’d take him back to the precinct, a thousand questions had raced through her head.
How could they think that Deeks was a dirty cop?
Could it be true?
How could she had not seen it?
Why had he proposed? Was it all just part of a big cover?
What did it say about her, that she’d let him in her heart, despite her best judgment that people always leave?
Does she believe he could be a dirty cop? Absolutely not. But does she believe she could have been blinded by love? Kensi’s terrified of the answer.
– ZBBZL, “Unanswered”
ZBBZL has “written two stories that could be called AUs. My latest story, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more,’ is the most explicit one.” It’s based on the movie Clueless, and tells the story of what happens when Donald Blye and his teenage daughter Kensi move to Los Angeles to live with Don’s new wife Lauren Deeks and her teenage son, Marty. ZBBZL wrote another story called “Unanswered” which she described, saying: “I feel like ‘Unanswered’ could be labeled an AU too, because the idea of a dark, dirty cop Deeks is somewhat surreal to most of us.”
Tess DiCorsi has also tried some pretty extreme AU. “I had Kensi and Deeks get married after ‘Sans Voir” and join the CIA to rescue Cherokee (who I decided was Nate) [in ‘Scattered’], she describes. “I’ve jumped off the basic storyline a few times… I wrote Deeks as a Commander in the Navy [in ‘Commander’]… I kept him the same guy, just in different circumstances… He was part of an elite Naval Intelligence unit. So take Deeks, who on the program can keep up with CIA/DEA/FBI Callen, former SEAL Sam and Marine-raised/intense/highly-trained Kensi and give him all their training and more. He’s the same guy, just awesomely trained and no longer just keeping up. If I have him married to Kensi, he’s still making jokes and cracking wise as he joins the CIA and moves to Long Island. I always thought the best AU’s put the characters in different places or circumstances but they are the same people.”
peanutbutterer may take the prize for Most Alternative story, when she’s actually written Deeks in- literally- another universe. “Well, I’ve written several drabbles that were pretty extreme,” she describes. The most extreme is “either the space pirates, the genderflip, the zombie apocalypse, or the one where they’re all wizards. Hard to say!”
“Oh man,” Deeks panted as he pressed himself more firmly against the crate. The wooden, flammable crate. “Kensi is going to kill us.”
“Us?” Callen shook his head, lowering himself down beside Deeks. “Uh uh. She is going to kill you.”
“You’re the one that pissed off the dragon. Plus?” Callen waved his hand in Deeks’ general direction. “Hydro-mage. You should have doused it long before it reached the SRX.”
“Ever heard of fighting fire with fire? You could toss some flames in his direction and keep the heat off us a little, you know.”
“And risk scorching her car more? Fat chance of that. I’m keeping my pyrotechnics out of this particular encounter.”
Deeks stuck his head out for a second, only to wrench it back in as another blast of firey breath bore down on them. “I find it hard to believe that me pelting him with water will do us any favors.”
– peanutbutterer, “And Gunpowder” Ch.7 “Magical Realism”
On the whole, alternate universe stories may be less widely embraced than those based in canon. “I was stunned by how many people put ‘I don’t usually read AU’s’ in their feedback,” Tess DiCorsi described. “I understand there are many stories to read and if you don’t want to buy into Kensi and Deeks on a space shuttle flight that’s fine. I just wonder if it causes people to shy away from writing them because they think their work would go unread. I would do it again if I had some idea that worked for me– and Deeks in the Navy was suggested to me and I loved the idea that my biggest concern for writing it was doing the idea justice– but I could see why people wouldn’t.” Doing the AU story justice can be a challenge, and that challenge is the subject of next week’s Writing Deeks: Capturing Character.
Want to Read More?
To find the stories quoted above, follow these links:
Tess DiCorsi, “Commander”
Sweet Lu, “Vengeance”
peanutbutterer, “And Gunpowder” Ch.7 “Magical Realism”
We also asked each writer to recommend a short story they thought best represents their Densi. Jericho Steele’s “My Kensi” fits the definition of alternative universe. It was “born from an idea that popped into my head right after I watched the ‘Spoils of War’ episode,” he describes. “There were a few little things in that piece that bugged me and caused my darker side to come out. I’m pretty sure it was unintentional on the writer’s and director’s parts, but part of me was afraid that they were setting us up for a Jack-comes-back-into-Kensi’s-life-and-messes-up-everything-Densi.” This story and its follow-up “were what my nightmare wrought. This was not how I wanted things to go between them, but it stuck with me so I went ahead and wrote them down. I want them to get together, but sometimes we don’t always get what we want and life takes turns we didn’t see coming. What if Kensi’s feelings for Jack came back? What if she felt guilty for failing to help him the first time?”
Or, go back to the last Writing Deeks, Origin Stories.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.
I love it when the writer’s change things around abit- Makes for a great, exciting and different kind of story. Thank you! Great Article!
This is a great article and I think that you captured one of my favorite stories on fan fiction in it.
When I started reading Sweet Lu’s fan fics I was amazed at how much she delves into Deeks’ feelings, past and often he is in pain of some sort.
When I first started reading Judgment I couldn’t stop and I finished it in less than day and a half and three times I charged my cell.
Then I started Vengeance. I was so angry at Granger and Jurgen that I was going to kill them if they were real. It was a sad fan fic and I can tell you that I had a sick feeling in my stomach.
I started Promises to Keep two days ago and again Sweet Lu amazes me at the ability to put Deeks in Paris as an alternative ground for hunting Burke instead of LA.
I also read Jericho Steele’s fan fics My Deeks, My Kensi and My Fault and there was such an emotional storyline that I actually cried when Talia was killed (Deeks’ wife in the story). The Broken Road and Aunt Hetty are great too.
I love to read this kind of stories because they give us a different Deeks with abilities that we are sure he has, but they’re not explored enough on the show.
I have ideas for my future fan fics, one of those is for the team to go to my home country Macedonia.
Thanks for this article too. I can’t wait to see what the writers on the show have prepared for us fans out there for Deeks’ storyline.
Great write-up Karen! Before going on, I have to say that I love your label “fix-it fics” for all those stories that fix what didn’t go right in onscreen Densi. And you are correct that I love these the most. I love all the authors that you mentioned. I love the feeling of escaping so thoroughly into the story that I am oblivious to anything around me. Some of the AU stories made my heart hurt but I am still a fan of their talented writing style and story telling skills. For these authors, writing is not simply a narrative, it is truly a talent when they create an AU that feels so real that you feel as one with the characters or you care so deeply. Amazing when that happens because after all, it is fiction😊
Must say that Sweet Lu is one of my favorite authors ever. Her talented, writing skills and creativity always, always, always suck me into her Deeks universe and I enjoy the roller-coaster ride each and every time.
I can never say enough how grateful I am for fan-fic writers. Fan Fic allows me the ability to read about Deeks whenever I have free time. Thank you Fan-fic writers no matter what the genre.
Thanks everyone! Reader, I’ll have to credit Wikipedia for the “fix-it” term. And I am on the same page with all of you about enjoying AU stories. I am a huge fan of all the writers featured in this whole series, but it’s no secret that I am one of Sweet Lu’s biggest fans/stalkers. Stay tuned for lots more from her on the subject of AU writing (plus an excerpt featuring her scariest villain).
P.S. By the way how amazing is this week’s featured artwork of Deeks in a seriously alternate universe? Thank you Colleen!
I just finished admiring the artwork by Collen. Very cool and outer-worldly 😄 Loved it!
And I had to come back and add that throughout the day, your comment about Deeks riding horses kept coming to mind. “There’s something about a man on horseback that’s …. *sigh*
Can’t wait to hear from Sweet Lu 😊
Sweet Lu gets the credit for that comment. And the excerpt above with Cowboy Deeks is probably my all-time favorite non-Surfer Deeks description that I’ve come across. Sigh, indeed.
You guys are making me blush…thank you all for the kind words. I do love Deeks in denim and that beat up straw cowboy hat. What’s wonderful about writing is that sometimes the story takes off and leads where you had no idea it would go in the beginning. I never planned for Deeks to go to Wyoming, but as the story spun out, taking him there added a whole new angle that led to a new world for Deeks and a group of new characters I could play with. That is what keeps me writing…that spirit of discovery that never gets old. That readers respond to what we write is whip cream and chocolate sauce.
One more comment…I just reread Tess DiCorsi’s “Commander” and picturing Deeks in dress whites definitely floated my boat. It’s a great AU story with a heroic and very smart ass Deeks.
Thank you! So nice of you to say!
“Unanswered” is amazing… I could read it over and over again and never get tired even if I admit that the first time I read it and then watched a NCIS LA episode I couldn’t see Deeks with the same eyes… Those images of the fanfiction kept on popping in my head and I couldn’t help it. This is how sometimes AU fanfictions influence us to levels we couldn’t imagine!
“My Kensi”, “My Deeks” and “My fault” have left me speechless. The author is extremely talented and his style is awesome, really. But I read the first and second only once because they tore my heart apart, literally… Then I followed “My fault” until the very last chapter and epilogue and I found the ending wonderful and have read it many times already.
Great insights. I find myself going back to these stories and writers frequently. Love the art work. Thanks to all of you.
Thanks for another great write-up, Karen. 🙂
Thanks everyone! Cladani, I agree that “Unanswered” is incredible. If only we could have convinced ZBBZL to write the continuation so we could learn more. And yes, “Commander” is a great story. I just love the scene where he escapes from the boatshed and turns the tables on the team. Extra Competent Deeks is particularly enjoyable.
I would have loved to read “Unanswered”, but when trying the link It indicates that it’s now unavailable. Another way-out AU fan fic story – a relatively early one – is dentalfloss’ “Should My Eyes Deceive Me” at fan fiction.net. Deeks is a merman, rather like Darryl Hannah’s mermaid character in the film Splash, and is captured and sold to a millionaire who puts him in his collection. The team finds out where he’s been taken and rescues him. An unusual story but a favorite.
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Debra I love “Should My Eyes Deceive Me.” It’s such an outlandish premise but it totally works.