Written Whump

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Why Writers Love Whump

Within the fiction writing community and especially on social media outlets like Tumblr, there is a particular type of writing that draws a subset of writers. This writing type is called "whump." Broadly defined, "whump" happens when one character gets hurt, physically, emotionally, or otherwise, and must receive care from another character, or conversely, endure the trauma alone.

Whump can take many forms and be as innocent or graphic as the writer wants, although most writers will post trigger or content warnings if they intend to go into certain details. Graphic or not though, many writers confine their enjoyment to whump communities for fear of being misjudged as sadists, masochists, or otherwise unstable. Others write whump to the exclusion of other types or scenes, which may raise questions about their growth in the craft of writing.

Examine the many reasons why fiction writers love whump. Are they all looking for catharsis for their own trauma? Are some of them caretakers who enjoy seeing characters rescued and nursed to health? Why do you think these writers get judged for liking and creating whump content, whereas a whump reader is less likely to be judged for reading a violent or horror novel? Are there some forms of whump that take the concept too far? And perhaps most importantly, what does this type of writing offer to the fiction community, that no other writing does?

  • This is an interesting topic because it’s partly just wondering why people like what they like. Of course, it goes deeper than that as I suppose it could with any genre, where naturally like-minded people may flock towards the same plot devices, tropes, structures, etc. I guess someone's opinions on whump diverge from their opinions on other genres (horror, for example) because of its very specific qualities. So, anyone could have an opinion on horror, but someone who has a strong opinion on whump must have a reason for it. The ‘taboo’ around its subject matter sets this trope apart from others like fluff or smut. Between the community where it primarily exists and its content matter, there could be any combination of factors that leaves it open to criticism: 1) It’s an impactful, condensed and sometimes painful (again, how much the writer wants to get into it) piece of writing that exists solely to convey those emotions. Rather than a drama in the form of a novel that might contain similar themes, all that would be spread out is jam-packed into sometimes only a couple hundred words. 2) It isn’t a commercially popular genre, at least not that I’ve seen. Which means that, ignoring the obvious highs and lows in terms of attention and effort, these aren’t always professionally-treated stories. Which means, that for better or worse, people might be writing about traumatic events they haven’t researched or experienced to then properly depict. and 3) It’s not the masses who are reading these stories—unless it’s the type of genre to come under pressure publicly only for everyone to secretly open up their favourite social media site to then read fervently—which means that a lot of people probably don’t know what it really is. And this can be seen with so many things right before something sends them over into the mainstream. So while a horror novel and a whump fic might be pretty equally-footed in terms of mature subject matter, it is infinitely easier to criticize a genre that revolves around obscenity or violence (even to cathartic means) rather than a genre that encompasses much more. It’s also interesting, the point you raise about people questioning people’s ability to write because they choose to write whump. Much like the speculations about why people like to read whump, I like to think that most writers write what they write because that’s what they enjoy writing. And if a horror writer writes horror because he has never felt the warmth of a woman’s touch and couldn’t possibly fathom a contemporary romance, I don’t think that should reflect (negatively or positively) on the genre or the writer. And finally, while I’m not sure I could agree with any statement that tries to prove there’s a genre out there that could be so completely unique in its ability to bring certain things to the table, I do think that whump is really good at dealing with a rawness in human (or human-like) emotion. Of course there are the sometimes exceedingly graphic depictions of pain and various forms of mutilation, but even then, as long as we’re discussing writing as it brings out the best in a genre, I think it inspires creative description and real emotion in terms of connection or isolation. – Zak 11 months ago