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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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...and then I kept *going*...
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Things I should not be allowed to do.

1.) Coffee after ten pm. People should monitor my abuse of caffeine.

2.) Talk about ANYTHING after eleven at night. Somehow, I always manage to confuse myself. But that's okay. It's my diary. I can espouse the adoption of pink squirrels if I want to. It's my fort. *g*

On Sex in Literature, Topics 1 and 2, if you're into hodgepodge.

Do I go weird places or what? And strangely, last night it actually seemed logical to combine them....

Victoria does it better. Go play with her.



For reasons that passeth understanding, I didn't want to discuss this again on diaryland. I suppose--yes, my actual sensibilites were affected. This isn't the first time I've felt as if a generalization was personally attacking me--but usually, I could give as much a damn about it as I do about the fact that being five ten, heels make me look remarkably like a girafee. Hey, I wear them anyway. And I'm not exactly the type to sit around nursing my ego or anything, because me and my ego have a pretty good working relationship. To wit, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it.

But. I've been in fandom too long, apparently. When I wrote het, I got the anti-het bias thing from some slash writers. When I wrote W/R and movieverse, I got the condescension thing from comic writers and other movieverse writers and God, in Smallville, it seemed like I'd finally come to a place where, okay, I wasn't going to once again have to feel like we're splitting up hairs into fine individual pieces by genre. Smallville is still a baby fandom, so we haven't gotten too bitchy at each other yet.

In fanfiction, it never occurred to me there was Another Thing Entirely Going On. Literary versus--well, apparently non-literary, since I'm still really, REALLY fuzzy on what exactly is being objected to. The closest I can come to is a gen versus ship thing, but I'm not sure that's an entirely accurate way of putting it.

I suppose the purity question comes to mind, which goes back to why does any fanficster write. Which goes back to, are some motives for writing better/more acceptable/purer/more meaningful than others. Which goes back to...

Ooooh. Headache coming on.

Okay. Metaphorical Advil is mine and I'll go forth.

I suppose it has to start with motivation. I write what I feel, more or less. Which right now is CLex. That's what appears miraculously in my mind. Sometimes, the muse says, go forth and write shippily, and I say ye, and so I do. Sometimes, the idea comes forth, Let the Lex and the Clark fuck like bunnies, and I say, ye, I shall, and I go forth and write them like they're on a three day bender with a viagra/coke cocktail.

Okay, that one is still in production, but still.

And sometimes, I have a themed plot, which is the standard for true literature, apparently, but--for some reason, the longer I write, the concept of a Greater Higher More Meaningful Plot That Speaks to the Generations has just become--well, rather cold. To me personally--not a single knock at anyone who loves their Thematic Stories.

Let me explain.

First story I ever wrote, fanficwise, was an episode extender. It was plotted, the central thing was basically a reworking of an episode from another character's pov. Tres cool and all. Not that great a story, but not entirely terrible for a first fanfic. But even then, events in the show itself weren't nearly as important to me as the emotions of the characters doing something. Which probably should have been my first clue that I was not meant to tackle The Big Issues of Literature.

"In the Space of Seven Days", the story that has haunted me and will continue to haunt me for the remainder of my fanfic career, was all about theme and plot. And it's obvious, in retrospect, how hard I was fighting my own natural inclinations during the writing of it. My natural inclination is the study of these characters and their reactions to crisis--what I was trying to do was create a theme and plot and make the characters forward it. The result is a violently uneven story where you can almost see my nature fighting against the strictures I put on what that story was about.

Apparently, I can't fight myself forever.

What interests me--relationships. I like plot, I like theme, I like style, I like all the trappings. But the story itself, for me, is based on the characters, not the other way around. Jus Ad Bellum has come far closer to bridging the gap between what I think I SHOULD be writing and what I actually want to be writing--the personal journey of a character. For me, the rest of it was interesting and fun and fascinating, and I'd wanted to do the idea of it forever, but only in a limited context. This was, in effect, about Rogue's own personal journey from being one person into being another. I wanted to relate it to general human experience, but I didn't think that was as necessary as the character of Rogue herself. And THAT is what fascinates me in pro fiction and in real life and in fanfiction. The plot can be anything, anything at all, because in the end, it's only purpose is to show me the characters. The people. The reality of living life through the good and bad. The concrete in all it's dirt and realism as opposed to the more abstract.

Which, come to think of it, isn't terribly literary if my English profs are right. But then again, they told me to read Charles Dickens and he makes me consider root canals without anesthesia. And I won't go into what I thought of the Great Books list, except to state that, despite her being on the list, I still worship Jane Austen.

Heh. She knew people. And though my prof would probably think this terribly, terribly plebian of me, I read her specifically for how her characters developed as human beings, not necessarily for her edges of satire or for any greater reason than I liked the characters a great deal.

Genre writing--

I am so not a English major. Which means my experience is almost violently limited, and I really can't argue when English majors drag out the really COOL arguments on this stuff. Minisinoo was kind enough when she was beta'ing me to give me a cliff notes version of the different genres of fiction out there. Probably frustrated the hell out of her too, since I'm rather ignorant on the differences. Okay, wait, not exactly ignorant. More--unaware? Or actually, not particularly feeling bound to the idea that what I read is somehow wrapped up in how intellectual I am or how intellectual I should be. Since I'm not. I just read what speaks to me, which is an embarassingly eclectic collection really. But like my fanfiction reading habits, it's also almost always me being far less interested in how skillfully an author can blend plot and theme and the Three Different Types of Conflict, and far more in how the author handles the characters. What I feel needs to be the reason for writing in the end. It's cool to write to Make a Valid and Imporant Point About the World and Human Nature, and I really can't object to that, since that is pretty damn well what we learn from childhood what literature is supposed to be.

But.

I'm not terribly interested in Human Nature as a General Thing. I'm far more interested in human nature in specific case at a specific time for a specific person. I'd like to see Lex Face His Conflicts, not General Man in Conflict With Himself, though if you can expand it to be more generalized and still make it personal, go for it. I don't think a Universal Point is necessary for good fiction. But I do think the very best authors are perfectly capable of giving me the specific human story and still make a point For All Humanity. Because without the personalization, for me, a story is always flat, no matter how great its intentions are. If I'm not personally invested in the characters, I honestly don't really take much away from Great Literature other than a need for a nap.

And it's--I almost think that I'm still changing, and I'm still learning who and what I am as a writer and as a reader. Not that I can honestly espouse one view over another, because like writing, everyone reads for different reasons, and every one of them is a valid reason. The same for writing. It's a personal choice. The best of the best writers can give me everything I want--plot, theme, and characters I love, relate to, want to succeed, and understand in a personal context. But my first choice is probably never going to be the story where the Idea is the motivating factor. In the end, I'll pick up the one that may not be plotted and themed, but tells me something about the characters I love--or more importantly, gives me characters to love and feel for.

This isn't an absolute either. There are times when my mood will call for something different. But this is an overview of my personal preferences. And this also doesn't mean that future thought on the subject isn't going to cause me to revise this somewhat. But as a rough draft of a map of my head, it's acceptable enough. And I can't possiby say THIS can be generalized to all people and all readers and all writers, or in fact, should be generalized to all people and all readers and all writers.

Well, I could say it, but it would be a little arrogant, don't you think? Or a lot.

And I'm sort of getting the idea now why people think fanfiction in general isn't really writing. Took me long enough, huh?

Feel free to tell me I'm completely off in my thoughts. As stated, this is strangely unfamiliar territory for me to be walking, and pretty much a one eighty from my former more literary beliefs.

jenn, musing


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Gah. I have more to say on this too, but I jsut shot my wad in my diary. I don't know if it was any help to you, but it cleared my mind up a wee bit.

As for fanfic as literature... I was thinking about that this morning, and that's a whole different rant, though one that comes as a logical extension of this one, and one that includes the "storyteller" v. "writer" debate.

God, would you all stop making me think?

My head hurts now..

Very well said, Jenn. I'm not an English major either, and when I read fiction, I look for very similar things to what you look for. If that makes me plebian, so be it. I'd rather be plebian and unable to appreciate what somebody decrees is "great" literature than pretentious and unable to *enjoy* literature. I was very, very nearly an English major. Only changed majors because I discovered that I loathed the way we had to talk about books in class. It was taking all the fun out of reading for me. Now maybe I just had a few shitty professors, and that's colouring my impressions of lit crit. But I do think that there's value in the approach you suggest.

BTW, I've posted the second half of the desert island cliche fic at my diary. I can't decide if it's R or NC-17.

Meanderings on the topic

Somewhere floating around I have a book on writing that in one chapter/essay/article discusses the different emphases of different types of writing -- not in the sense of writing as great literature you might be reading quite so much as figuring out what kind of story *you* would be writing. The only example that sticks in my head lo these many years after reading is that LotR fell into multiple categories, including "travel guide" to a fictional universe, which is why there are so many chapters past the climax of the trilogy. It's a tour of Middle Earth so you get to see the characters meander on home and all that.

As I recall, the point of the whole article was weighing the value of characterization and plot and theme and whatever else, so that you would have an idea of A) what you needed to pay most attention to in the thing you wanted to write, and B) what your own strong points might be. It was aimed less at producing great literature and more at producing salable writing, mind, but it's still a bit more "professional" than fanfic.

But if it's any consolation, I seem to recall that it pointed out that a certain degree of characterization was necessary even for plot-driven stories, whereas vivid enough characterization could just about carry one through a story where nothing really happens in terms of plot. ;-)

I agree on the characterization vs. plot thing, though. Course, I tend to plot based on "What would X do if such and such happened? And how would Y react?" Throw a few curve balls and keep the reactions consistent, and make sure things make sense, but that's it for plotting...

Purity of motive be damned, though. Maybe someday I'll find the address of the website with all the well-researched articles on everything from how to do a crossover fic *right* to fanfiction communities as a potlatch society and the history of fanfic -- the latter has antecedents ranging back to Chaucer or maybe earlier. At the very list the hobby has been around for a while -- it's just so common now because literacy is widespread and the dissemination of one's scribblings has gotten so easy

Well, I am an English Major, and I agree with you. Literature is whatever you make it, since critics can't even create a cohesive definition of a poem I don't think anyone in the online community can create a cohesive definition of fanfic. In my mind the plot must always be subordinate to the personalities. Truly it ends up being a difference in how writers see the world, your style will depend on whether you concentrate on individual differences or humanity in general. Fanfic is ideally suited to writing the character pieces simply becuase the characters are already created but they need fleshing out. Most fanfic plots are terrible, but viewers tend to have lots of great insights into motivations and characterizations, which is why some of those fics tend to be better. Having read a few of your stories I'm just want to tell you that they're good, your writing and characterizations are interesting, and that you should write what makes you happy. So write whatever you want and ignore anyone who says different.

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