amatara: (Tribble terror)

After reading a number of posts, at [ profile] metafandom and various other places, about what makes for 'good' and 'bad' writing, and seeing the often strong reactions to those posts, I feel like I should pitch in some thoughts of my own.


First of all, I've found I really, and I mean really, dislike the term ‘badfic’, that's used so often in meta on writing. Not that I don’t think there’s a whole lot of fic around that could, in my opinion, be called ‘bad’. Or could even be called ‘bad’ by some general standards that nearly everyone agrees about, say, grammar or characterization. But having an actual label for it, that people can attach to fics they dislike, gives me the feeling that it’s an either-or situation. As if a fic is either badfic or it isn’t, whereas in my opinion what’s badfic for one person may not be that for someone else. And even if some fic is really, objectively speaking, horrendously bad in quality, I still have trouble with the idea of attaching a label to it to denote it as such. Somehow, that makes it sound as if said fic is irredeemable, which, I’m sorry, is an idea I resent. Yes, there are definitely errors in writing that detract from the quality of a fic, and can even turn me off of it completely (because, unlike what all of this may make me sound like, I am very picky about what I read and enjoy), but that doesn’t mean the fic as a whole needs to get that label. Plus, reading barely nuanced statements like “no one reads long paragraphs without dialogue, so get rid of them” and “never use the word ‘suddenly’ in a fic” in meta posts discussing 'what is badfic' – that has a way of irking me. Because things are rarely that simple. But anyway, that’s my personal opinion. Just wanted to vent about that for a moment. Finished now. *g*


So for myself, I’m not going to talk about what makes for bad writing, but about the opposite: what can, in my personal view, help to give a fic that little something more. I’m not pretending to be either an expert on writing, or a great writer myself, but as I said, I am picky – I know what I enjoy in reading a fic and what I don’t, and try to follow those guidelines in the stuff I write myself. Whether or not I’m successful at that – that’s up for you guys to determine. :) But anyway, here goes.


Your POV character’s eyes are your own. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always put enough thought into my choice of a POV character. But the truth is, a different POV character means you’ll be telling a different tale. Even if, as a writer, you know how your plot fits together, your characters rarely have all the details. Your POV character will always be missing certain bits of information, and react differently because of that – for example, if characters X and Y are talking innocently and suddenly X kisses Y square on the lips, X will most likely know why s/he did that, but Y won’t. Having your story reflect that, will help to emotionally engage your reader. Rather than a dry ‘And suddenly, X kissed Y,’ which doesn’t specify the POV at all, you could say ‘Y was stumped when X grabbed him by the ears and kissed him’ or ‘X didn’t even know why, but suddenly, all she wanted to do was kiss Y’ depending on whose perspective you’re writing from.


A good choice of POV can save you. Choosing your POV can also work in your favor. You don’t always need to lay out all the details – only those that your POV character knows. So if there’s an aspect of a fic you’re writing that you’re not quite confident about, or a part of the plot that doesn’t quite work out, maybe switching the POV can solve your problem? Restricting your POV to a character who isn’t supposed to know the details about that aspect, may just be the thing you need to circumvent it, and focus on the story you really want to tell. One could say that’s cheating, but personally, I think it’s just efficient writing. If, of course, you don’t take it too far. *g* In Of Wine and Virtue, there was a perfectly good reason for my not picking Londo but G’Kar as the POV character – taking Londo, I’d have had no choice but to explain how the Drakh would have agreed to let Londo leave Centauri Prime, and I didn’t know how to do that – besides, it wasn’t the point of the story. By telling the story from G’Kar’s perspective, all I had to do was give a very vague hint as to the explanation, then let it drop. That choice saved my skin there.


The character makes the mood. In the same vein, try to use your POV character’s uniqueness and sensibilities in crafting the shape of the fic. Your POV character is, quite literally, the lens through which everyone will see your fic. A tragic story, for instance, can sound very different when told by a gentle, innocent type of person (say, Vir from B5 or Harry Truman from TP) than when it’s told by someone hardened and sarcastic (say, Londo from B5 or Albert from TP). Personally, I am very fond of POV characters from the latter category, especially – and that may sound like a contradiction – when writing angsty tales. Recounting tragic events from a hard-assed character’s POV allows me to downplay the drama using the character’s inherent cynicism, and thus avoid the slide into melodrama (which I’m terrified of doing when writing angst). I’m not a cynical person, at all, but by writing from the viewpoint of a character who is, I’ve managed to manage to write about tragic events that I never would’ve been able to recount when telling the same story from an innocent character’s eyes, because then I’d have slid over into melodrama for sure. That’s why to me, characters like Londo, G’Kar, Timov, Albert, Dr. McCoy, etc etc. are so great as POV characters. Which isn’t to say I can’t use anyone else – I have done Vir, and Lyta, and Spock, and Dale Cooper, who aren’t all innocents but do not have that sarcastic/self-deprecating reflex, or at least not often – but it’s a lot harder for me. (Which, I guess, is part of the explanation for why I write from male POV more often than female – it’s not that there are no female characters who have that streak of self-deprecation, but they’re certainly harder to find.) So again, depending on the mood you want for your story (and often it’s the choice between downplaying the emotion/humor/whatever or explicitizing it) you’ll want to pick another character to tell the tale.


Cut for length - click for more rambling on POV, style, and characterization. )

Well – a lot of weighty words, this. :) And let me reinstate here that that’s all this aims to be: words. I’m not in any way trying to impose my norms on the rest of fandom – just trying to formulate what, to me, have been helpful tools in writing. As I’m far from infallible myself, I don’t always follow my own principles, even when I try to. Some things I still do consistently wrong. I’m pretty sure use italics far too much. That, and commas. I need to focus on making my sentences shorter, but don’t always manage to. Very often I slip into some kind of rhythm, and then when I re-read, I realize all my sentences have the same cadence and length. And sometimes my dialogue falls flat, but I leave it like that anyway, because I can’t find any better way of saying it. *g*

So if any of you have writing tips of your own, or a reaction to anything I wrote here – let ‘em come! Discussion is what makes the world go round – and fandom too. :)


amatara: (Default)


All in all, I enjoyed this season more, and was annoyed by it less, than what fandom reactions had led me to expect. Not that all of the criticism wasn’t justified, because yes, characterizations jumped all over the place, some stories were either unoriginal or cheesy or plain bad, plus there were instances of Very Bad Acting (yes, Gareth David-Lloyd in Cyberwoman, I’m looking at you) – but, apart from a few real clunkers that managed to suffering from all those flaws at once, I actually didn’t mind so much. And there are some minor annoyances throughout – like, why does the SUV have Torchwood printed on it in big letters if they’re supposed to be a secret organization? Are they a secret organization? – but those aren’t really a turnoff, more a source of amusement.


It makes a huge difference, I’m sure, that I saw Children of Earth before the rest of the series, hence being aware of the characters’ potential and the kind of persons they eventually become. I have an image in my head of what makes them tick, and whenever the writers fail to portray any of them consistently, I find myself trying to fill in the blanks on my own, and moving on from there. Without COE, I might not have been half as touched by Gwen and Rhys, or found it in my heart to sympathize with Ianto, or have seen Jack as more than a bitter, brooding shadow of his old self. Still, it would have been nice to have gotten a deeper glimpse of, say, what exactly made Ianto decide to stick around after all; or if the writers had shown Gwen, who was a policewoman after all, acting a little less like a flailing, frightened teenager. But as it is, enough of the seeds of character development were there for my perception of the characters to remain intact.

More (spoilery) thinky thoughts under the cut... )
amatara: (Default)

I just came to a bit of a surprising conclusion. Well, no - I'm sure I've come to it before, but it's never really been as obvious as now. Said conclusion being: my compulsion to watch (or re-watch) a particular show is not at all proportionate to
#1 my opinion of said show's quality
#2 my enjoyment of said show during watching
Right now, I'm in the middle of catching up with several shows that are pretty new to me, and re-watching some others, and I've noticed that the pattern behind which DVD box I pick up on a particular night isn't quite what I would have expected.

For instance, last week when I was home sick, I gave Stargate Atlantis a try. SGA is one of those shows I never quite dared to watch - I'd always been a bit puzzled by the statements from fans saying they love it despite it not being that great, and the fact it's just about the top fandom on AO3 made me fear it would be - well, not that great, and overhyped, which... *scratches head*. So picking it over another show was purely random. And the thing was, I didn't find it that great, really. It was okay, but not overly well-written or overly original. Yet somehow - and I still can't quite believe I'm saying this - once I started watching, I couldn't stop. I even started looking on Youtube for vids and scenes from future seasons, and went hunting for fic, which I very rarely do actively (I'm a bit of a rec scavenger, really). And I don't even know why, apart from that the characters appeal to me, but... *boggles at self*

On the other hand, there are shows which I think are very well-made, and that I enjoy very much, yet the tempo at which I get through them is achingly slow because for some reason I don't always feel like watching them. Farscape is one example - I love the atmosphere, and the music, and the concept, and I like the characters well enough, but I don't get that more more more reflex and I don't know why. Then there's Star Trek: DS9, which I am enjoying more and more now we're into the second season, but there's no urgent compulsion to watch either. I'm wondering if that is because I don't have a favorite character (yet), because I'm very much of an emotional watcher, and connections to characters are important to me - but that's such a silly reason I don't know if it's true. Doctor Who is one of those shows where a season gets "consumed" rather quickly, as is Lost, but I'm guessing that's more because I buy them season per season, and am always behind on the rest of fandom, which helps to sharpen the urge. So far I've never re-watched any Lost or DW episode, and I'm pretty sure if I had to get through the entire series in one go, I would get stuck somewhere in the middle, never mind how brilliant I'm finding them. And I still don't quite understand why some two years back I raced through Babylon 5 at such feverish speed - it's a great arc show, but that can't have been the reason, nor the Narn and Centauri stuff, because I raced through the Earth and Minbari episodes all the same.

Such strangeness, I think, calls for ticky boxes!

[Poll #1539397][Poll #1539397]

On an entirely unrelated note, Some RL stuff is still going on that I'd like to sigh about for a moment. )
amatara: (starstuff)

Some tweaks made to the post, because I probably got a little too defensive the first time around, despite my best intentions not to. What I haz learned today: meta should not equal rant. *sheepish grin* Also: offering my feverish head as (feeble) excuse, as shiveriness has evolved to full-blown cold. Meaning excused from work today, but not too sick for LJ and DVDs - there
is mercy in the universe. :)


A little shivery today, so just a quick copy-and-paste of a post prepared this morning, and then off to blankets, chocolate pudding, and tea. *yearns*

First of all, before I lose myself in rambling, let me post the meme that got me thinking about all of this stuff. Gacked from [ profile] penknife and [ profile] nolivingman. Because it's fun, and these days I'm in a bit of a mood where I love to talk about pairings. My main fandoms are in my profile, if you're wondering. 

Ask me a fandom, and I will tell you:

+ Runner-up
+ Honorable mention(s)
+ Crack pairing(s)
+ Ship everyone else seems to like, but I don't

Now - I'm sure this debate has been done to death several times already, so I'm not planning to kick up a big cloud of dust all over again. However, something I just read on LJ made me think, real hard, about my own position on this, which makes it worth to at least throw some random thoughts on here and ask for other opinions.

What it's about: the notion of WNGWJLEO ("we're not gay we just love each other"), WNG in short, which I bumped into a number of times and was consistently puzzled by for a number of reasons; how slash fic deals (can deal? should deal?) with real-life issues of gender and sexuality; and how I look at the sexuality of my own preferred pairings and what that says (might say? should say?) about me.

Cut for length. Yes, it's a loooong ramble. *g* )
amatara: (Default)

So [info]maspalio requested a Londo and G’Kar h/c fic, which is coming along rather nicely, and has been bringing me lots of writerly joy! However, now that I’m nearing the finish, the Great Inescapable Question inevitably poses itself: is the stuff I wrote any good? Which in turn leads to another question, one I see popping up time and again but that is seldom properly answered: what does make a good h/c fic, anyway?

Or, no, maybe I should rephrase that to: is there any such thing as a good hurt/comfort fic? Because – well, let’s be fair here: not everyone seems convinced of that. In fact, “h/c equals badfic” is right over on the big heap of cliché objections to genres, along with “gen is boring”, “slash is icky” and “het is Mary Sue”. Now, I can understand perfectly that not everyone is into everything; a type of fic loved to death by reader A can be reader B’s absolute squick, and simply not do anything for reader C at all. Personally, it took me a long time to give slash a chance, and even now (though there are exceptions *g*) I tend to leave the explicit well enough alone. And that’s fine, isn’t it? But why do we have the tendency to take our own dislikes and preferences and try to squeeze everyone else into them, expecting they'd make a good fit? Regarding h/c specifically – the most extensive piece of meta I read about that was a ten-page long essay (okay, so I skimmed, not read it) meticulously explaining why all h/c is supposedly bad quality, the main argument being that the meta author defined h/c as a type of fic that portrays excessive angst in an inherently OOC and canon-defying manner. Hence, all h/c is rubbish; point proven. Which is not really a fair argument in any way; I mean, come on!

Click for more meta-y rambly rambling )

What do you think makes for good h/c; what do you expect from a story like that? If anyone has some good ones to recommend, that’s very welcome too! It would seem there are presently no Londo and G'Kar h/c fics in existence at all, which I find very strange indeed. Have I missed some, maybe?

About the one I'm writing: will you believe I’m not quite sure if I’ll find the courage to have it beta’ed? Not because it’s bad, because it really isn't; I'm even kind of proud of it, in a way. But... Well, for some reason, having this one picked apart by a beta would make me feel more – vulnerable? Is that the word I'm looking for? – than I feel about other types of stories. Mostly, I guess, because showing people some of your fantasies (no matter how small, and no matter how innocent) is a scary, scary thing. And h/c is, perhaps, more about fantasies than a regular fic. Does that make sense, or is it just me?

amatara: (Default)
I should mention - I am not the crying type of person. Or, well, I am in real life sometimes, but fictional things like novels or films hardly ever draw a tear from me. Not that I'm unmoved by them, oh no - I get as choked-up as anyone by those good ol' tragic scenes. It's only that the tears fail to come, which is, in fact, more of a nuisance than one would imagine. I can hardly count the times I have sat in the theatre surrounded by a half-dozen friends, all blubbering like there was no tomorrow, while I'm sitting, dry-eyed, passing out handkerchiefs, and looking for all the world as if I'm made of stone. Believe me: it takes less to make you feel the odd one out.

[Embarrassing side-note: the one single movie I once cried for was 'Titanic', for reasons I still cannot and steadfastedly refuse to comprehend. And I might have shed a tear for 'Finding Neverland', which was nothing compared to the deluge my friends were causing in the meantime.]

As a consequence, I am probably the single person in the universe to never have cried over B5's written-to-kill 'Sleeping in Light', or the even more shattering (to me, at least) 'Fall of Centauri Prime'.

Incidentally, I re-watched just that episode, 'The fall of Centauri Prime', yesterday. Now that in itself would be less than remarkable, given that it's the episode I grab for every single time when I need another B5 (or, more specifically, Londo and G'Kar) fix. Well, every single time I feel like I can handle the tragedy, at least; when it's comfort food I'm yearning for, I tend to go for the early-S4 Cartagia arc... Which is in itself a choice worth analyzing, given the amount of sadism and torture involved - but Londo chewing scenery with Cartagia, oh hell, that makes me feel better every time!

Anyway, the special thing about this re-watch is that I was joined in it by my parents. Over the past months, I have been studiously converting them to B5-dom, even to the point where each phone conversation with them ended by "So, what's the latest thing happening on the station?" In this way, I learned that they were just about to watch the "ZOMG-Londo-and-G'Kar-are-going-to-hug-each-other-but-at-the-last-second-they-just-take-each-other's-freaking-arm" favorite ep of mine, and so I just - well - invited myself in. Which was how, for the first time in my life, I got to watch this episode in the company of an unspoiled pair of fans. And - oh, the nostalgia! Each frown, each head-shake, each puzzled look of theirs, I could practically remember making myself. And when, at the start of the final scene with G'Kar, I elbowed them and whispered "shhh!", I was rewarded by their absolute and reverent silence. Great Maker, that made me feel so glowy inside.

My parents are not great criers eather, certainly not over sci-fi, so it was hardly surprising that, just like my first time (and all subsequent ones) watching, I did not shed a tear. Which is horrible, now that I think of it, since there are so many moments in the story that deserve being sobbed, wailed and blubbered over... So, to make up for that, I decided to collect them in a post.

Ten moments I wanted to cry during 'The Fall of Centauri Prime', but couldn't. )


amatara: (Default)

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