20 February 2011 @ 11:31 pm
She's At It Again  
Roses in Rain, Chapter 10: It Ain't Me, Babe

Otherwise known as the chapter where Shit unexpectedly Gets Real. It ends on what I like to believe is a Wham Line, but that might just be authorial optimism (or, you know, egomania) speaking. Either way, this is where it becomes clear things are a lot nastier and the stakes far higher than the protagonists thought, and it's also about where we leave the outskirts of Parody and hang a left for Deconstruction Territory. I suppose someone had to try and deconstruct Mary Sues, and the amount of time and mental energy I've spent on poking various manifestations of the beast with sticks, I figure it might as well be me.

This is always where Roses in Rain was meant to go. Though acquaintance with [ profile] rokesmith has definitely seen me refining and building on my original, rather sketchy ideas for the second half of the fanfic, the intention was always to try and tell an actual story in between the send-ups. That story? Was always going to be a lot darker than the rather light-hearted tone of the opening chapters might suggest. It's taken a lot longer than I thought it would to get there, but this is where the road was leading us from the start.

Rain is only funny because we don't have to live with her. To Youji and Ken, she's no more than faintly amusing. Here's where we start finding out why.
Current Mood: content
Current Music: who's that girl? - madonna
14 February 2011 @ 03:49 pm
Conscientious Objections  
If you had the power, would you permanently eliminate Valentine's Day?

No, I wouldn't.

What I would like to see gone is not the occasion itself but a lot of the idiocy that surrounds it, especially as it pertains to women.

Taken entirely on its own terms Saint Valentine's Day, as a modern holiday rather than a saint's day, is largely inoffensive. It's a bit daft in a lot of ways, yes, and nowadays it's also very over-commercialized, but in and of itself there's absolutely nothing the matter with it. It's sweet and it's fun, that's all, and it provides an awful lot of people with nothing more controversial or time-consuming than that. It doesn't, or shouldn't, do anybody any real harm.

The issue I have with Valentine's Day isn't the institution itself. It's the reactions to it that I'd like to see gone.

To get this out of the way: yes, I am in a relationship. Yes, it's a serious relationship. Yes, I am doing something - for a small, limited value of something that isn't likely to be that different to what I normally do when I see my far better half - to mark the occasion. But for many years (for most of my teens and early twenties, in fact, when the stereotype dictated I should have been working myself up into a crazy froth over my single status about this because hey, I'm a girl, right?) I was not in a relationship, and I did not do anything for Valentine's Day. And that nothing includes 'not sitting around in sackcloth wailing and rubbing ash into my face because I didn't have a date'.

I just think Valentine's Day is optional, that's all. Nice if you have a partner, the desire to do something to mark the date and don't mind doing it in scrums of other couples all doing the same, and if you have the wherewithal to celebrate at expensive length and that's what you want to do with yourself, knock yourself out. But if you don't, or don't want to? It shouldn't be seen as any reflection on yourself or on your relationship that you just plain don't.

Except for a lot of people out there that's not how it works at all, and that's where my problems come in...

Dr. Gray: How could my boyfriend forget valentines day?

My exclusive stage 3 boyfriend and I are mutually serious. Yet today when I asked him "which weekend do you want to celebrate Valentine's day" he said "oh crap, I completely forgot". We study mars/venus together all the time. How could this happen? I was hurt because I've been planning for it the last couple weeks.

Because people - women, this is not something that's expected of men, who aren't presumed to fetishize Love and Romance in the abstract to the same extent - ask questions like this in all seriousness. I have no idea what an exclusive stage three boyfriend is (it sounds like something you order from a catalogue) but by the sounds of this woman's plaints it's meant to come complete with the 'remembers Valentine's Day' feature and she's now afraid her version is defective, because it didn't. She wants a weekend of pampering, he doesn't look good to deliver, and now she's upset about it - and this is in no way like a child pouting because they figured they were somehow owed a present and didn't get one, of course. Romance wrapped up in an I Want.

And because Cosmpolitan reports on Why Guys Forget Valentine's Day as if it was a vital dispatch from the Front of Blokedom that should be studied, memorized and in all likelihood eaten so it doesn't fall into enemy hands. God forbid you just ask your partner or make your expectations known and plan something together. Nope, far better to drop coy little hints and trust he'll do the rest because that's what men do on Valentine's Day - or should do!

And because there are people - women - who seriously measure the success or failure of their relationship by how their partners - their men - perform on Valentine's Day. Success, of course, is measured in terms of how much time and money he was induced to spend; coming home in a panic with a few forlorn roses after someone at work mentioned it was Valentine's Day is proof he's just going through the motions and is losing interest in them. Forgetfulness or disinterest? Taken, by some women, as a sign that he doesn't really love them and Men are from Mars-style proof of male insensitivity.

And because there are girls out there wondering if there's something the matter with them because they're apparently not appropriately devastated that their boyfriends forgot to circle the date.

I am sick of seeing women being told, by implication or otherwise, that they're doing it wrong for not wanting to live in an episode of Sex and the City.

But it's not only that. I am sick, sick, sick of the Men-are-from-Mars-And-Women-Can't-Read-Maps crap that has people acting like men and women are two completely different species whose behavior needs to be studied and interpreted, not fellow human beings. I am sick of seeing books and magazines and aspirational lifestyle shows looking at the opposite gender through the patronizing lens of the nineteenth-century anthropologist. I am sick of people tut-tutting and shaking their heads over every little difference between women and men as if they were proof that these people on the other side of the fence were irredeemably alien (and, in all likelihood, somehow inadequate) rather than truly attempting to communicate, to understand and to embrace.

Yes, I'm tired of Valentine's Day because I'm tired of the politics of it. I don't have any strong on opinions on it as a festival, and I wish there was some way to preserve the bit that let people had fun, but without the absurdly gendered expectations it brings with it. I'm tired of all the stupidity surrounding it and of the fact that having been born female apparently makes me one of the designated enforcers. Because I'm a girl and girls like this stuff, right?

So, what I want gone? I want the presumption that, as a woman, I should want to join the Romance Police gone. I'm tired of the implication that I should be judging the success or otherwise of my relationship by how much my boyfriend spent on me because Hallmark told him he had to. I'm tired of the expectation that I should want to force the man I want to spend the rest of my life with into empty displays of conspicuous consumption because he's afraid that if he doesn't I'll think he doesn't care, so he wants to stave off two weeks of sulking and my throwing it at him in every argument between now and Christmas. I don't think any of that, and thank God my boyfriend knows it. I would be horrified if he thought he had to romance me by obligation because oh my God it's Valentine's Day. I'd rather he gave me flowers on one of the 364 days in the year the calendar didn't say he was supposed to.

I know it's never going to happen. But if it's what we'd do if we had the power to change things? The gender politics of it would be my choice for the axe.
Current Music: push it - garbage
Current Mood: what's love got to do with it?
12 February 2011 @ 03:52 pm
What Do You Think You're Doing?  
I've just been witness to an epiphany as regards badfic plotting.

First things first: this wasn't my epiphany. It was actually [ profile] rokesmith's, proving yet again which of us is truly the brains of this operation. It came upon him last night, with me complaining about the latest Act of Mary Stupidity I'd inflicted on myself. And I listened - well, read, IMs are convenient like that - and I wondered why I had never thoiught of that one, and I agreed with every single word.

He's letting me borrow it, though, so I can write about it. I think this deserves a wider audience than just me.

So: an epiphany as regards badfic plotting, and I specify badfic plotting rather than fanfic plotting for a reason. Fanfics, the good ones, the ones that actually pay attention to what the Hell they're doing, aren't the issue and don't have this problem, and they don't have this problem because a good piece of fanfiction is, by definition, an in-character one. An out-of-character fanfiction may be a perfectly functional story, but sadly that, when writing fan works, isn't quite enough. A good story can still be a bad fanfiction.

So what does good characterization have to do with fanfic plotting - or badfic plotting?

Turns out it has everything to do with it. Now read on...

From an in-universe perspective a plot - any plot, fanfic or original - is going to be dependent on characters to drive it along. It's the characters as a group that kick-start a plot in the first place; it's the characters who have to deal with the events that arise from that plot; and it's how the characters deal with the situations they're placed in as a result which will govern where the plot takes them next. Your characters' decisions and actions will dictate how your plot unfolds. Simple. That being the case, you the author have got to know who your characters are and how they'll react in a given situation to have any idea in what direction your plot is going to branch and what's going to happen to them next.

So, characters drive plots. The problems start to arise when a group of characters who are supposed to be intelligent adults whose car breaks down won't logically, say, reach the conclusion that the only way out of their situation is to go into Death Forest. If it is vital to the plot that they go into Death Forest, that can lead to all sorts of problems. This is why we sometimes get Idiot Plots, and an Idiot Plot - it bears repeating - is a plot which does the following:

'Idiot Plot' is a term for a plot that hangs together only because the main characters behave like idiots. A single intelligent move or question by any of the characters, and all problems would be resolved. It's not so bad if the characters are supposed to be acting like idiots, but it's very bad if the Idiot Plot depends on a character suddenly acting stupid enough for the plot to work. Even worse is the "second-order idiot plot", in which the plot can only function if every character involved suddenly loses about 50 IQ points.

From Idiot Plot, TV Tropes.

And one of the surefire ways to end up with an Idiot Plot on your hands? Removing all stable sense of characterization from your cast.

A plot, any plot, is as much about what your characters, alone or in combination, won't do as it is about what they will. You should, as an author, be able to say very clearly: no, this character won't behave like that. They won't go into the forest. And if your plot really needs to take them there, you're going to have to find someone else to go there - for instance, perhaps the one who wouldn't go would follow one who did - or some other reason for them to go. Because if that character wouldn't go into the forest and you make them do it anyway, you're not paying any attention to who that character is - and, worse than that, your plot loses a vital mooring. If the characters can do anything at all, if you don't know what they'll do quite happily and what they would never consider, how do you narrow what they'll do next down?

If it happened once, it'll probably keep on happening. An author who sacrifices characterization once to better fit their idea of what they want to see happen next is an author who'll likely do it again and again. The end result? Vague, ill-defined, uninteresting characters with personalities like a piece of silly putty, who are whatever the Hell the story needs them to be at that point in time.

And that? That is one of the reasons Mary Sue fanfiction often falls so painfully flat.

A Mary Sue is an idealization. She is the center of everything, she has the answer to every question and is the solution to every problem, and she is always right. Either she is treated as right from the start, with nobody (or at least nobody sympathetic) questioning what she's saying; less frequently characters her creator wishes to portray as unsympathetic will question or challenge her - but one way or another are invariably proved wrong, as she turns out to have been right all along or have a totally legitimate reason for acting the way she did. A character like that, who can do no wrong, cannot carry a story. They're uninteresting to read about because they have no road to travel, no lessons they need to learn, nothing they need to overcome. Things just come too easy to a Mary Sue, and that is one of the reasons they're so infuriating to read about. Why the things they inhabit are not stories but fantasies.

Plots need conflict. A character who is both the cause and the resolution of everything that happens, who is always right and is whatever she has to be at any given moment to best achieve her aims isn't really a character at all. That's why the standard Mary Sue's overly contradictory personality - cold-hearted but loving, shy yet outgoing, charming but rude, all things to all people depending on what will serve her needs best at the time - is so unsatisfying. If she can do or be whatever the Hell she likes, where are the limitations? Where's the focus? And where in the world does that leave the plot?

If a character is supposed to be supernaturally perfect, the plot breaks every time it hits a point of actual conflict. You'd almost start to wonder if Mary Sues thought it was a dirty word, or something that was far too normal and ordinary to be acknowledged by a wondrous creature such as themselves.

A plot that has been pressed to the service of a character like that cannot help but be boring as sin. Because plots need conflict and one of the only ways to get a really good conflict going? Is for your characters to fuck up from time to time.

Of course, there's a difference between a character-driven screwup and a group of idiots constantly failing their Int rolls.

This is another standard problem for badficcers. Conflicts that arise simply because the characters - as in the standard Idiot Plot - have suddenly dropped about fifty IQ points. Yes, conflict is a good thing, but a conflict that arises because, say, an intelligent grown adult has jumped to a conclusion about a close friend and instead of clarifying it with that friend, has run off in a sulk? That's the precise opposite of good plotting.

Of course, there are some characters this would be perfectly understandable from: the problems arise when someone who was previously established as cool and rather calculating as opposed to hot-tempered and impulsive is the one running off in a sulk rather than actually trying to communicate with their friend. Almost as bad is if the hot-headed one is the one who runs off and their friends, previously established as level-headed and rational, don't actually try and do anything about it despite knowing full well that the conclusion he has jumped to is inaccurate, simply because the plot relies on the hot-headed one running off and getting into danger... and, as the cherry on this woeful cake of poor plotting, forgetting that he's perfectly capable of looking after himself and falling victim to something he's supposed to be perfectly able to handle.

It sounds stupid put like that, and yet I've seen it. I've seen it and things like it happening in fan work after fan work for no more reason than this is what the ficcer wants to have happen and damn whether or not the characters in question are remotely likely to get into that situation in the first place.

The plot is the variable. The characters shouldn't be.

The characters - especially in a fan work, where the pre-existing characters are why we the readers are here - should, no matter what situation they have been put into, be themselves and remain themselves. If they change over the course of the story the audience should be able to see that change, should be able to follow the path of it and understand the logic of it. It should not simply be sprung on them without warning because you can't find any other way to get them to behave the way you want them to; that's not only bad writing, it's lazy writing. If your fanfic's plot isn't workable without making the regulars break character in order to fulfil its demands, no matter how good the resulting story may be the fanfic is a bad one.
Current Mood: well, i thought it made sense
Current Music: the sound of silence - simon and garfunkel
08 February 2011 @ 03:32 pm
On Headcanon  
The sun is in my eyes, the cat is in next door's yard doing cat things, and I just dropped [ profile] somarium.

No particular dramas there or anything - I just didn't feel I was pulling my weight any more and the best thing to do about that was probably to just go, end of story, rather than take yet another hiatus that might well not have solved the problem. I already kind of miss it and feel a bit sad about letting Ken go there, but sticking with it just because I knew I'd feel bad about going wouldn't have been fair on everyone else. If I'm going to be a flake and try and work out if my RP drive has gone or just gone underground for a time, the least I can do is do it on my own time and not leave anyone else hanging.

Besides, I'd been playing him there for almost a year, from February 2010 until, well, yesterday - whatever happens next, he had a damn good run and I had a damn good time. Don't be sad because it's over, be glad because it happened, I guess. I'll get there, for now I'm just a little caught up feeling low.

In an attempt to take my mind off things, or just to honor my passing in some weird way that makes sense only to myself and even then only barely, here's a meme I saw posted during my time in the game. Specifically it's on head canon: on the weird little things that long-term RPing, or even long-term ficcing, sees people adding to their take on a character for no more reason than situations are going to arise that lead to the ficcer or roleplayer having to fill gaps and plug holes - basically they're eventually going to have to start making things up. Even the most comprehensive of canons is unlikely to cover everything, and Weiss Kreuz is absolutely not the most comprehensive of canons.

Share (around) fifteen little-known facts/headcanon tidbits/personal quirks for your character(s) and bask in your new-found wealth of information!

Get your writing excitement going by incorporating these neat little bits where you can, or by coming up with new ones!

I didn't answer it then, for various reasons that are far too tedious to rehearse but must have made sense to me at the time. Either I was on hiatus or my computer was acting up or I was deeply uninspired and just couldn't think of fifteen things to say about Ken, weirdly: something like that, anyway. Still, one way or another I'll definitely be writing Ken again in the future - of course I will, I'm me - so when I remembered this meme existed it still seemed worth the doing and, having been done, worth sharing after the fact.

Most of these facts are... well, more kind of not. Where they're canonical, I'll explain where I got it. Otherwise, assume I made it up.

  • Ken's favorite type of music is J-pop and he secretly fanboys Ayumi Hamasaki. His major complaint with the radio station J-Wave is it plays the Titanic song way too much. He doesn't like the Titanic song; it sounds depressing and it's stupidly overplayed.

  • He likes to cook and though he's not exactly what anyone would call brilliant at it at this stage in the game and pays no attention whatsoever to the small matter of presentation, he's perfectly competent. He learned through sheer necessity: when in training it was expected he'd eat regularly and healthily, and while Ken isn't at all averse to convenience food or snacks, he doesn't want to live off them. His favorite food, as confirmed in the Theater of Pain Drama CD, is curry rice.

  • Ken is a morning person, though it might be truer to say he has a lot of energy as he's perfectly capable of being a night owl too. He's capable of getting by on very little sleep, but is happier when he's properly rested. His morning routine involves getting up at around six or half past, going for a run, taking a quick shower then preparing breakfast. You will eat breakfast or he'll hit you.

  • He'd have made rather a good soldier. As revealed in the A Four Leaf Clover Drama CD, Ken was trained as an urban guerilla by a bunch of crazy survivalists in the mountains. His stated aim while there was to destroy the group from the inside, something he ultimately achieved by setting the members against one another, but Kritiker took the excuse to get him combat-ready for free as well. Which wins some kind of award for sheer brazenness. He became scarily proficient with firearms while there - he's perfectly comfortable using a machine gun, and taking down a helicopter with an RPG is no mean feat - but while he's rather good with guns, he just doesn't like using them much.

  • Where the rest of Weiss are cat people, Ken is a dog person. if he had a spirit animal it'd probably be a Shiba Inu.

  • Ken wants children - maybe not right now, but definitely someday - and has done since he was a kid himself. It's not something he's obsessive about and he's realistic enough to know that his being able to settle down and start a family is about as likely as being picked for the next manned space flight, but he still wants them.

  • Though Ken is extremely ambitious, he left school at fifteen and never even sat his high school entrance exams: as a rising athlete he already knew what he wanted to do with his life and was working under the assumption that he simply wouldn't need to go. Though things really didn't work out as he planned, Ken doesn't particularly regret not going.

  • He's actually a pretty decent florist. Ken didn't start out enjoying the work any more than the rest of his teammates and still wishes he could do something else from time to time, but he takes the job seriously and it's bred a certain enthusiasm in him. He's the kind of person who hates to be idle, meaning he works hard; he's also enough of a perfectionist to want to do the things he does well, and if that means learning how to take care of plants, arrange flowers so they actually look good and put together Hello Kitty bouquets then that's what he'll do.

  • Ken is quietly religious, but not superstitious. He hasn't been to church for some time but is definitely culturally Catholic.

  • He likes computer games and owns a couple of consoles. Ken has no particular interest in playing sports sims (why bother when playing sport for real is much more fun?), beat 'em ups (too much like work) or first-person shooters (not exactly escapism if you're him, though he makes an exception for arcade games and Time Crisis). He's much fonder of platform games, though most of the new ones aren't that great, driving games and the occasional RPG. Before buying his own machines he spent most of his life as Player Two, and was always Tails in Sonic 2 when he was a kid because Kase's an ass.

  • He is bisexual, though hasn't really acknowledged this even to himself: Kase was just his friend and there was absolutely nothing funny going on there at all, really! Ken has no time for the adage about opposites attracting; he likes to share interests with his partners and thinks a good place to take a date is a tennis court. He is most interested in confident, outgoing, tomboyish girls who are slightly older than he is and prepared to take the lead (read: he has absolutely no idea what he's doing and needs serious help).

  • Ken is short. About five foot three, to be exact. Canon opinion varies on this, as it does about... well, everything else in the show, but the only source that actually takes into account the very obvious height differences between the boys says he's 160 cms tall.

  • He likes, for a given value of the word 'likes', watching bad movies. Bad American action movies in particular, but he'll take pretty much anything as long as it's laughable in a not-boring way. Preferably in company so he can complain about them. One of the ways to tell that he's watching a film he actually likes is he won't be talking all the way through and will likely get annoyed if anyone else tries to talk to him.

  • Ken is a bit of a hausfrau, probably because he's the one who gets most annoyed when things haven't been done or food stocks start to run out. He's usually the one who ends up loading the washing machine and buying dish soap, rice and soy sauce. He's not totally sure if the others even realize food doesn't materialize in the fridge and cupboards by magic. When choosing toiletries, he buys whatever's on offer at the time. The only thing he really has a strong opinion about is toothpaste and that's only because he likes the way the brand he uses tastes.

  • He knows a lot more about Dragonball Z than he'll admit.

That would be everything that's unduly influencing me when I sit down to write about Ken. A fair amount of stuff gleaned from canonical back alleys, a fair amount of stuff I just randomly made up because I needed something and canon wasn't going there, and I thought it sounded right. The J-pop thing, for example - I spent ages trying to work out what Ken's musical tastes ran to, somebody suggested J-pop, perhaps as a joke... it felt right to me from the first moment and it stuck thereafter. That's kind of how this whole thing works for me - bits get picked up from here, there and everywhere, creating a crazy kind of katamari of characterization. I can but hope it seems partway logical all the same.

The end result is my take on Ken and the whole reason I write about him so much. Honestly I think it works rather well. I like him, anyway.
Current Music: connect - claris
Current Mood: i wish someone would feed me
27 January 2011 @ 05:23 am
Just Thought You Should Know...  
Roses in Rain, Chapter 9: Uptown Girl

... yeah, I really need to work on something serious too, and I am doing, I promise! It's just the thing about Roses in Rain is that its status as one of my less serious works means that I can write it at times when I simply can't do anything more demanding due to [exhaustion/lack of inspiration/just not quite firing on all four cylinders/whatever].

It's an update, it's a sign I am still writing. For that alone I am grateful to it.

I had a pretty productive day today. I managed to get 5,000 words of this fanfic under my belt. 5,000 words. Four scenes, two of them quite serious. Proofing will happen, of course, but later: for now I'm satisfied with words on a page and a new chapter out. I'm honestly pretty pleased with myself. If I can get that much out of a silly fanfic, then I'm probably rather well placed to get a decent amount of ground covered as regards writing in general. Which is pretty good, as Heaven knows there are an awful lot of things I'd like to be working on, including a new and rather brain-eating AU idea. It's the thing that's got me listening to sixties music all of a sudden, and I've not been this honestly excited about a piece of fanfiction in some time...

Finally on the writing front, I'm working on editing Seuche - or as it's now known, Prüfung - into basic readability. It's pretty demanding work and early days yet in terms of ground covered, but I'm tentatively optimistic. It certainly feels like a stronger piece of writing now, and that's all I can really ask for.
Current Music: bridge over troubled water - simon and garfunkel
Current Mood: bed. now.
23 January 2011 @ 09:20 pm
Who Are You Again?  
So, we all know I have a problem with Mary Sues, right? Yadda yadda change the record, laila. I know you're not even very good at doing that with actual music (just how many times have you listened to The Boxer in the last few days apart from Far Too Many, anyway), but you could at least try not to keep on subjecting other people to this stuff, right? Sadly, I can't. Because once again I think - or like to think anyway - that I have found something new this time.

The context? This, and that's the condensed version. The wank that spawned the comment that spawned this rant - focusing on an overpowered blond-haired blue ponything - was a bit of a doozy, if only for the sheer degree of Not Getting It its creator exhibited.

Long story short, there are speshul snowflakes out there, and of course they're bloody infuriating. These snowflakes are created by people who insist that every single ridiculous talent and every single angsty incident that they've piled on the character's beautiful and shapely shoulders forms an integral part of who and what they are to the extent that if even one of those powers was removed or scaled back, or if a single angsty incident was omitted from their tragic past, the character would become broken and unplayable. Because, you know, it's absolutely vital to their sense of self that they play the piano beautifully and sensitively, and were bullied in middle school for Insert Legitimately Angsty Reason here.

The problem is that this isn't an entirely ridiculous idea. It takes a perfectly valid character-building technique - that personal circumstances and history play a vital role in building and shaping character - and turns it into something completely stupid.

The end result is both horrible and predictable.

Yup. This would be Scarlet of Before the Last Cherry Blossom Falls ((FantasyRomance.Open)), the beautiful, saintly, long-suffering and totally legitimately angst-ridden creation of an RPer who goes by the not at all OTT alias of 'ScarletWingsofDestiny'. No, I don't think the fact that her creator has 'Scarlet' in her screenname and has at least two other saintly, long-suffering strawberry-blonde OCs named Scarlet is a coincidence either. The truly terrifying thing? Even other Gaia RPers think that 'ScarletWingsofDestiny' is a Suethor. If you're repelling the kind of people who join a Pokemon RP entitled Discover Your Destiny ((Pokemon. Please Join. Need People)) on Gaia Online, you probably need to think a little harder about what you're doing.

Which brings me to the heart of this rant, and the thing I wanted to highlight.

If you cannot write about your OC without falling back on their speshul powers of speshulness and angst past of angst, you need to go back to the drawing board and start again. Only adding an actual personality this time.

Past angst and speshul powers of speshulness are optional extras. They're nice enough, I guess, but they aren't any kind of substitute for possessing an actual personality. Going on about how special your character is and how tragic their past was doesn't actually tell us anything about them. It tells a reader where they come from and that you think that we should be impressed with them for overcoming it anyway and being so awesomely shiny, but it doesn't tell us what the Hell they are like. You should still be able to tell a reader who the Hell your character actually is without mentioning their terrible past, their special abilities or deeply significant bling - or, for thatr matter, who they're there to hook up with. Because none of that is really about them.

You the author should, in fact, be able to do this without any trouble whatsoever.

Imagine your character wakes up alone in a strange place with no memory of how they got there, no powers, no cool toys, nothing. They can speak the local language, maybe they even know their name, but that's about it. They have to figure out who they are and what's going on and what to do without much of anything to go on. How do they behave? What core traits of their personality are going to come out? If you don't know [...], that would mean that they don't actually have a core personality, or at least not one you're willing or able to explore.

[ profile] master_simon

Taking Ken Hidaka and subjecting him to this thought experiment produces the following:

His first reaction would be confusion. That would be very quickly replaced by the desire to look around for who was responsible for stranding him there in the first place. If he saw anyone who looked like they might have something to do with it, he would corner them as quickly as possible and demand to know what was going on. Words would be exchanged and punches might be thrown. He would then set about trying to find a way out of there and back to wherever the Hell he did belong, because it clearly wasn't there. He wouldn't be prepared to believe that nobody knew what had happened to him or could fix it, and would be determined to figure out who and how. He would be far more concerned with getting back to where he was meant to be than with working out who he was: he'd likely figure that could come later. He would not win many friends for himself by virtue of being confused and irritable most of the time, though he'd find it easy enough to get out there and get talking to people.

This, bear in mind, is a character from Weiss Kreuz, a series that is not exactly famed for its deep and nuanced sense of characterization. The main cast are heavily, heavily archetype-based, and for all they're also fairly appealing characters to watch in action, their roots are basically pretty generic. And yet working out what Ken Hidaka would do in the situation above was actually very easy. Because yes he's got gloves and goggles and an orange sweater, and he likes soccer and has an angst past, but he also has a personality. Ken is a self-confident, stubborn, easily confused hothead who'll keep worrying at problems until he's either managed to solve them or, more likely, found someone he can yell at or hit until they solve them.

A basic, non-contradictory personality is absolutely all a character needs for anybody who writes about them to be able to reply to that question both quickly and easily. Because let's face it, this should not be even remotely problematic to answer. If your character is even as well-defined as the ones in Weiss Kreuz, and you understand them about as well as a decent canon-character roleplayer does one of their muses, it should take about five minutes.

Which means anyone who is sitting there scratching their head or complaining that it's Just Too Hard to explain who their character is without falling back on their angst and speshul has created a character who doesn't actually possess a personality. If they as an individual can't work out how to solve a problem as simple as who am I and where is this without falling back on, say, magical powers or their daddy issues then they'tre not actually a character, they're just a loose affiliation of special powers and personal traumas formed into the vague shape of a person. Most likely a person with tumbling locks and curves in all the right places. Cat ears may or may not be involved.

In short, they need to go back and try again. And realize that 'cute, nice, shy, determined, will fight anyone who hurts her friends' doesn't actually cut it when it comes to defining who a character is next time.
Current Mood: distracted
Current Music: orange crush - r.e.m
12 January 2011 @ 05:05 pm
Get it Off (My Computer)  
My Gaia avatar continues to be a pretty, pretty princess.

The reason for this is no doubt related to the fact that I am still broke and blobby. If I could play Pretty Princess Dress-Me-Up for real I likely wouldn't need a virtual paper doll to do it for me but as I can't, the paper doll it is. Oh well, at least it's moderately fun and rather cheaper than trying to maintain a fabulous wardrobe in real life is. Plus, far less fussing with those oh-god-everything-in-the-shops-looks-crap-on-me moments which make actually doing this thing for real so dispiriting. I went shopping with my mother at Bluewater this Christmas, you can't tell me this isn't a very real problem.

Anyway, the avatar at least is a pretty princess (she's added another string to her bow and as well as being obsessed with cats, she's also obsessed with wigs) and considerably less difficult to dress, so that's the appeal right there. Which means it's on with the image dumping because having saved these things, I might as well do something with them.

I'd explain what the deal with some of these are except that's going to be so damn boring I don't think even I have the patience to write it. Instead let's insert the usual statement of the 'wow what a filler' school here and I guess we can all go back to our own beds or something, at least until I decide my updating schedule has gotten even worse (which would be something I honestly dread to see) and sit down to do this again.
Current Mood: i should be showering
Current Music: hush - deep purple
23 December 2010 @ 02:40 am
It's That Time of Year Again.  
Specifically, the time of year where I celebrate a fictional character's birthday because I seriously have no shame, conversely also no pride, and definitely nothing you might call a life.

Yup, once again it is Ken Hidaka's birthday and I am marking it.

I lack cake. I lack candles. I also lack fanfic, which is perhaps the most unforgivable thing of all given that I took prompts for Ken-centric ficlets an amazing ho-hum length of time ago and have yet to complete a single one of them, for which I probably owe the poor kid an apology. Good intentions but an indequate metholodogy: that's me.

I want to wish him a happy birthday anyway. Because I can, because I adore him even if I have a bloody funny way of showing it sometimes - well, most of the time really - and because two years, or maybe three years, of doing this makes for a tradition and I am a bit of a stickler for tradition, at least as regards this time of year. I decorate the Christmas tree; I go to a Carol service; today it's Ken's birthday, so I'm posting to mark it and it has to be done on the day. I can't do anything else for him what with him being fictional and all (unless somehow symbolically refraining from writing about terrible things happening to him for 24 hours counts).

If I weren't always at my parents' on December 23rd, I probably would have cake...

And I would ask for more prompts, but I haven't written any of the first lot yet.

Instead of taking prompts, then, I'm going to make a promise that I will do my damndest to keep. The first of those prompt ficlets? In honor of what [ profile] rokesmith once alled my Subtext of Choice, 'm going to try and get it done by Youji's birthday. Ken needs to catch a break every now and then, and I need to get better at writing to order.

Anyway. Ken Hidaka's birthday. Ken, if he were a real person, would be pushing thirty even harder than I am by now. He's not. He's constantly stuck - at least in my mind - at nineteen, a pretty difficult age at the best of times and not a good one to be stuck at more or less eternally. Not that there's really a lot I can do about this save get into Weiss Side B and even then he'd still be several years younger than he ought to be. Though that's kind of a moot point as, to me, Ken Hidaka ought to be nineteen, which would be why he's gotten stuck. Dtuck in my fanfic and stuck at a difficult age - and, more often than not, stuck with Youji. That's the kind of fangirl I am. The kind who posts LJ entries to mark her favorite character's birthday and thinks that making him kiss his best friend is somehow A Good Idea.

I'm not entirely sure Ken would consider that to be catching a break, but I'd like to imagine that at least on some level he enjoyed it.
Current Music: rosier - luna sea
Current Mood: happy
11 December 2010 @ 11:11 pm
General Ignorance  
Today's update is bought to you by Google and my desire to know where in the Philippines Cebu is. Please don't ask why I wanted to know where exactly Cebu is, just take it on trust that I did. Yes, that does mean the reason was daft enough that even I'm embarrassed to share it and that should probably tell you something...

Anyway, the end result is that I was looking at maps. Specifically, I was conducting a Google search for 'world maps'. I know, 'map of Asia' would have made more sense but we can all be logical in hindsight. I just like world maps, always have, though I like satellite views of the world from space better. I'm less interested in what goes where than I am in what it all looks like.

But no, I was looking for maps. For some reason, among a lot of political maps and topographical maps most of wehich were too small to be much use, and attempts to get me to buy a version I could actually find Cebu on, that led to me stumbling across this and immediately becoming somewhat distracted.

Trust me on this one: you need to see this thing at full size.

Sometimes, I wish I was better at geography and looking at this satellite picture is one of those times. Someone who actually knew what things went where could probably pick out and name all the major population centers using this image. I can only get the really obvious ones, and beyond that point I'm just looking at the patterns the lights are making and wondering what some of those lines of light are following. Roads? National boundaries? Rivers? You can see the upper course of the Nile that way; you can trace the border between South and North Korea. It's even possible to see the deserts, if only because nobody bothers to build there. (Exception: Las Vegas. What kind of dizzy spell made that seem like a good idea?)

I don't really understand what I'm looking at here, and I know it's not necessarily a good sign that the world from space, when sunk in darkness, looks like this. All the same, I can't help but like to look at it.
Current Music: main tiles from 'blade runner' - vangelis
Current Mood: shiny.
07 December 2010 @ 10:09 pm
Remember to Use Gloves  
As you probably don't know if you're not one of the two people I have been boring silly about this, I recently cracked under the pressure and started watching CSI: NY.

As usual, my first real reaction to this - after boring said select audience of two to death - was to take a look at what the fandom was doing, and as usual what this meant was a quick trip to The Pit in the company of [ profile] rokesmith. Stated objective? To find out if CSI: NY fans, or at least that portion of them as haunted the Pit, could possibly be as utterly insane as that portion of Weiss Kreuz fans who do the same.

Hey, it's scientific. I'm doing science. I'm totally sticking to the spirit of things here.

And that would be why I visited the CSI: NY Pit Archive. Of course, I wouldn't be me if I hadn't - based on my exhaustive observation of the Weiss Kreuz fandom - already had some idea of what I was going to find there. Only, perhaps, without the ridiculous amount of slash what with CSI: NY most likely not being One Of Those Fandoms. But, since live-action TV fandoms are supposedly considered in Fandom Snob circles to be way less ridiculous than anime and manga fandoms - the fanbase skews older, for a start - I was quite prepared to be at least a little surprised.

Form the existence of this LJ rant, you can probably already tell that I very definitely wasn't.

It's Been So Long » by LaUrIsHa-just me reviews
A woman from Flack's past returns. This turns both her and Flack's life upside down. Ch. 35: Revenge is a dish best served cold. F OC. R&R
Rated: T - English - Romance - Chapters: 36 - Words: 90,133 - Reviews: 58 - Updated: 12-7-10 - Published: 1-12-08 - Don F.

This would be one of the first things - not quite the first thing, it's currently the second fic in the list - that any newcomer to the fandom would see on visiting the CSI: NY archives. Some random girl nobody's ever heard of showing up, dumping all her emotional baggage at the feet of Detective Flack and then expecting that he'll know exactly what to do with it because he's a man - and, just in case that wasn't enough, pouring scorn all over any canon female who so much as shows an interest because He's Mine You Bitch. For ninety thousand words.

Besides, what the Hell kind of lame-ass title is It's Been So Long anyway? Or, for that matter, Find what were looking for, Upon The Midst or Say When And My Own Two Hands Will Comfort You? Looks like it's not only the Weiss Kreuz fandom has issues with deeply shitty fic titles...

In short? It's basically just like the Weiss Kreuz Pit archive, just with far less bad slash and - horrifyingly - rather more Mary Sues. I skimmed back through the listings for the first two hundred fics in the archive, which I think presents a fairly good representative sample of what the fandom's doing without actually having to sit down and read the damn things. As well as seeing absolutely nothing I actually thought I might have wanted to read, I've come to these preliminary conclusions about the basic fanon as regards the CSI: NY cast. They may, of course, not be entirely correct - but that's what you get when you take a fanficcer's own word for it as to what their story's actually about.

  • The Convenient Relative:
    Mac. This may well be because Mac is awesome but is also Gary Sinise, making him a little old and not conventionally attractive enough for the standard sexy-twentysomething Mary Sue. Far better to say he's your Mary Sue's long-lost [father/uncle/brother] and got her a job in the crime lab - never mind that if anybody in the show is definitely not going to be swayed by 'but I'm your niece gissa job' it's Mac Taylor.

  • The Awesome Character Who Gets Ignored For No Very Good Reason:
    Hawkes. I can count the number of summaries in the first eight pages that actually bothered to mention Hawkes on the fingers of both hands. This strikes me as odd since Hawkes was one of the first characters that I noticed and, aside from Mac and Stella, the first of the team I decided that I really liked to just watch work simply because it was him doing it. Looks to me like I've found the CSI: NY answer to Ken 'Hi, Just Checking In, You Can Get On With The Lame Romance Now' Hidaka and yet again he's one of my favorite characters. Fuck my luck.

  • The Walking Suebait:
    Flack. Flack, Flack, Flack. Flack has a rough time of it in canon and is played by a guy whose looks can best be described as 'a weak solution of Cillian Murphy', so I have to admit I saw this one coming a mile off. Flack is hot and angsty. The end result? He's the one who spends most of his time beating off new crime-lab technicians, randomly-appearing old flames and mysterious girls of mystery with criminal connections with a nightstick. Because the standard, fangirl-mandated cure for heartbreak, bereavement and damn near any other issue an attractive guy might have is 'apply this Mary Sue to the affected parts and wait'. And, on the subject of Mary Sues...

  • The Resident Possession Sue:
    Angell. She's dating Flack and dies tragically. Do I have to say any more? I seriously hope not because I'm only on Season Two (and started with the finale of Season One) and I have no idea who this girl is aside from that.

  • That One Pairing:
    Mac/Stella. (It has a stupid namesmushed pairing name, but I refuse to use it on principle because I hate namesmushes and pairing names.) I can't claim to be utterly immune to the charm of Mac and Stella as a pairing either, but I'm ultimately with [ profile] rokesmith on this: I like it better that they're not a couple and seriously wish that fandom didn't have to turn every single close friendship out there into 'hey baby'. I hate the idea that a close friendship between a man and a woman can't ever be just that. Do we really have to sexualize everything, guys?

It's also quite possible that Lindsay is the resident Possession Sue as far as Danny is concerned - Danny himself just isn't anywhere near as popular a target as that poor bastard Flack is. He does occasionally get Mary Sues pitching up and hurling themselves at him, and sometimes this goes as far as having him ditch Lindsay because she's apparently less awesome than the Mary Sue (which I can already tell you now for nowt isn't going to happen) but fandom seems a lot more content to let him stick with his canonical partner. Lucky him, I guess.

Of course, that's just the team itself and not the end of my observations. I've noted another couple of distressing trends in the fandom as a whole, specifically:

  • But my friends call me...
    Just like Weiss Kreuz fandom, the CSI: NY fanbase doesn't quite seem to have gotten their heads round the fact that some characters are referred to by their family names by preference. The problem's particularly pronounced with Flack and Angell, frequently referred to in fanfic summaries as Don and Jess - or, to a newbie like me, as 'who the Hell are these characters anyway?'.

  • New Girls in Town:
    They're almost always new lab tachnicians who pitch up from nowhere claiming to be Mac's latest hire, complete with some Leet Skill chosen from the 'Forensic Science' pages on Wikipedia or some other police procedural about forensic scientists, never mind how much actual use the team might actually get out of this. Yes, forensic anthropology might look cool on Bones but has limited application in a show where most of the bodies are in one piece and have been dead for less than a day. Failing that, they're likely to be innocents targeted by criminals for whatever highly speshul reason - or Flack's high-school sweethearts.

  • Don't you guys have jobs?
    And this would be the CSI: NY answer to Weissfics which fail to let the assassins assassinate anyone. Stories where a team of people who are interesting at least partly because of the fact that they're forensic scientists don't seem even remotely interested in doing anything related to forensic science. Instead they stand around angsting about their love lives, go on vacations, sweep randomly-appearing shiny girls off their feet or end up at high school for no reason. Presumably all the murderers in New York decided to take a quick holiday or something?

You know, I think I may stay over here in the Weiss Kreuz fandom, where it's... well, if not exactly safe, at least where I expect things to be kind of samey. I don't honestly know if I could handle setting up camp somewhere else and seeing the exact same things as happened where I was before happening to a completely different group of characters because God forbid that a fandom actually did something original with its premise. Besides, Flack Sues were horrifying enough as a prospect. Actually reading them would hurt me, and I know damn well if I stayed there too long I'd start...

You know a fandom's got a problem when someone who's seen all of eight episodes is backing away slowly, but I guess fangirls are fangirls everywhere.
Current Music: walking in memphis - mark cohn
Current Mood: curious