01 March 2011 @ 09:07 pm
Stuff I Don't Get, Part 1,397,228.  
Sometimes I guess I have no conclusions to come to or particularly deep thoughts to impart. I just have Stuff That's Bugging Me with no very clear rhyme or reason for it. Today is one of those times.

So. Mary Sues. Basically they're wish-fulfilment. That much is obvious, right? Characters like this are, in their purest form, their creator's fantasy life (usually with the totally unattainable, for reasons of fame or fictitiousness, guy of their dreams) written up for all the world to share in. Which is great for their creators, but not so much so for everybody else, because other people's personal fantasies are just that - their personal fantasies.

What I do not, absolutely do not get is how in the world these characters manage to get actual fans.

What is the appeal about reading someone else's fantasy of - to put it crudely - being the center of attention and banging a hot fantasy man? Okay, I get the appeal of wanting people to look at you and wanting to bang the fantasy man yourself: I don't get why you'd want to go through someone else's surrogate to do so. That puts you three times removed from the object of your affection, right? You're not the Sue; you're not the Suethor. You're just watching it all.

Since realizing I was basically vicariously participating in someone else's dream life, Mary Sues in general have left me feeling a little awkward. I really start to get antsy when people create the one 'OC' and use them in absolutely everything they do, tweaking the character ever so slightly to fit whatever their latest daydream is but otherwise making it very very obvious it's the same girl - because it's so very very obviously meant to be them up there, at least as they wish to be. The character is so plainly Their Idealized Fantasy Stand-In it's just vaguely embarrassing to me. Take the creator of this Mary Sue:

Twin Blade Illusion
This Fan Fic was started by my cousin and then handed to me by him to finish it so I did. The plot follows a young girl that is a double agent, Nori Nanba Mutsu and she is everything but normal. Come follow her in her twisted and hidden world of Illusion.

At a quick check I count something like five other stories on this fanficcer's profile about this girl Nori Nanba Mutsu. Four are for Weiss Kreuz, one is for Peacemaker Kurogane, one is apparently original. It's so obviously her fantasy life writ large up there that it's just kind of embarrassing to read it. I don't know why the author - a grown woman, but that's a rant for another day - should want me to read it. But there it is and well, okay, if that's what does it for her then who am I to say her nay? It might be oversharing and it might be a bit creepy, but the motivations are at least understandable. The ficcer would like to be a hot teenage superspy who kicks the bad guys' asses and has all the boys wowed. Whatever gets you through the night, I guess.

But where's the fun in reading about a total stranger's Mary Sue fantasy?

I can get my head round Suethors. I cannot understand their fans.

What is the appeal in being this person? What's 'koneko15' getting out of this? Where exactly is the fun in cooing over some idiot Snapewife's pouty, vacant-looking Mary Sue self-insert draping herself all over the object of you and the artist's shared affection like a sparkly rash? Okay, so this girl's Mary Sue is at least a well-drawn sparkly rash and I know not all of us have the time or the talent to put our daydreams onto paper in the way RedPassion here does, but still. It's not believable and it's certainly not at all inclusive. It's someone else's fantasy life in a pretty, shiny package.

Don't these people realize that they can have Mary Sue fantasies of their own and they don't actually have to live vicariously through someone else's?

I can think of only two reasons why people would do this. Failure of imagination, or failure to realize that anybody can do this, and I can't believe anyone out there could be so devoid of imagination they can't even have a decent daydream about a hot fantasy guy. The RedPassions of this world aren't necessarily remarkably talented or divinely inspired. They're just fangirls like everyone else, and it is not that hard to come up with your own Mary Sue.

So these people - the fangirl's fangirls - are the ones I really, really don't get. I can understand the desire to write a Mary Sue fanfic or draw your fantasy stand-in swooning in the arms of the fictional character of your, and her dreams. Even if I think the end result is usually made of suck and lose and should be kept to yourself, I can totally understand why people do it. Because they're your daydreams, and if your daydreams are not even fun for you, then you're probably doing something wrong. What I cannot understand for the life of me though? Is why anybody out there would want to waste time they could be spending on having a perfectly decent - or at the very least personal - fantasy life of their own in gushing all over someone else's.
Current Music: the international end title - tom twyker
Current Mood: oh look, a trainwreck.
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 Music: the sound of silence - simon and garfunkel
Current Mood: well, i thought it made sense
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 Music: orange crush - r.e.m
Current Mood: distracted
11 July 2010 @ 08:59 pm
A Series of Unfortunate Events  


I know planning stories is hard, OMG. I know it takes time and you want to sit down and write. I know you feel you cannot wait to tell the entire world about your neat and totally original new character and how blisteringly important she is to the entire canonical cast of your favorite show, but if you seriously expect anyone else to want to read your story? And, more to the point, to enjoy it?


I mean that. And, of course, being as I am who I am I'm now going to explain quite why this is so important. Are you sitting comfortably? Given my tendency to teal, you probably better should be. Right then.

Fanthing authors, allow me to point something out that. Every scene - yes, every single blessed scene - in a story should move the plot forward somehow. Even scenes that are primarily there for character establishment need some kind of wider purpose apart from that. If it doesn't have that, it's just filler.

Yes, I know that some things you feel should be there for the purposes of establishing character - but you simply do not need to spend as much time on character establishment in a fanfic as you would in an original story. We all know who Han Solo is. Unless you can come up with a way to do this that serves to move the plot along - talking about Han Solo, for example, through the perspective of a new character who's never met him before in a way that also serves to tell us something about the new character - you don't need it. Cut it.

If you can't establish character and move the plot forward at the same time, then your writing is underperforming.

I know how easy it is to make this mistake: I've made it myself. Doesn't stop it being a mistake. I used to think that establishing the character of established characters was a good idea, and the first draft of the first chapter of a fic I'm planning to rewrite bears testament to it. When I sat down to plan the redraft, these scenes were the very first things I decided to cut. You know why? Because they're pointless, which makes them boring, and they waste time I need to be using to effectively kickstart the plot. They don't serve to go anywhere or do anything but introduce the readers to characters who - and this is the clincher - they know already. Because if they didn't know the characters already they wouldn't care about my fanfic.

The end result is that I hate the first chapter of this fanfic as it stands. It seriously underperforms. It dwells on trivia. It spins its wheels and leaves me scrambling, in the second chapter, to find a way to tell the regulars about the plot I'm trying to unfold when I could have used my space more wisely in the first chapter and actually shown it unfolding. Oh, there are worse first chapters out there - I've read them. But this is still objectively not a good opening because it could and should be doing so much more.

Stories are made or broken on their openings. If your first chapter underperforms or, worse, doesn't go anywhere? If it serves to do nothing but - essentially - show us an OC walking into a room, turning slowly on the spot then giving a sassy hip bump and saying 'dream on, boys'? People are not going to read on.

They're not going to read on because you haven't given them a reason to.

If your first chapter is all about starting the story and starting it well, after that the pressure's not off. You've establishes the momentum, now you've got to keep it going - more than just 'keep it going' thanks to a little something commonly known as rising action. You still can't afford to waste time on scenes that go nowhere or have absolutely no purpose aside from 'getting to know the characters better'. Writing a story is not a zero-sum game. Good writing doesn't draw a distinction between establishing character or moving the plot along: it does both.

In practice, what does that mean? It means that, unless something happens during the scene in question that would somehow serve to further the goals of the actual story, nobody cares about scenes which focus solely on any or all of the following:
  • Characters eating together and bickering about who drank the last of the OJ.
  • Characters trawling the nearest mall - story location be damned - for awesome new outfits or presents.
  • Characters (especially if not from a school-based series!) attending school or college classes.
  • Characters going swimming, clubbing, skating or otherwise passing the time doing nothing very plot-relevant.
  • Characters sitting around ruminating on their own tragic pasts of tragedy.
  • Characters (if OCs) sitting around talking about the regulars and how sexy they are.
  • Characters (if canon) sitting around talking about the resident OCs and how hot or awesome they are.
If, in short, at the end of a scene the story arc you're describing is in the exact same place that it was at the beginning of it, that scene is dead weight. I don't care how much fun you the fanficcer would find it to write about your characters doing any or all of the following. This isn't your personal wish-fulfillment fantasy life you're describing, nor are you writing your main character's blog.

You're telling a story, or you should be. That means that unless something is actually going to happen while the characters are at the mall that somehow furthers the goals of the story you're trying to tell, nobody in the audience goddamn well cares that the cast went shopping and someone bought an awesome new dress that they look, like, totally hot in. Have someone break up with their boyfriend, or hit by a car. Have the cast taken hostage by crazed robbers or have the mall explode. But for God's sake don't just have them go shopping and expect your readers to be fascinated, because they won't be.

Yes, I know sometimes people have shopping montages in films and nobody complains - but this is because films are a visual medium. You're working in text, and these things don't work at all in text only. If something is only fun because of the visuals, it won't work in plaintext.

This isn't to say you can't have your characters do innocuous things. Of course you can. It just shouldn't be all they're doing.

It helps to know who your characters are as well. This applies to OCs as well as to the regulars - and, if you're going to change details of the regulars' pasts, you need to know exactly what has been changed and why it matters well before you sit down and start to write. You cannot make backstory up on the fly. It never works.

This is particularly important if you're going to attempt some kind of a dramatic reveal related to aspects of a character's past. You cannot introduce that aspect of their past a paragraph or so before the reveal shows up for the fairly simple reason that nobody is going to care. Say the bad guy is revealed to have killed an OC's lover. Nobody in the audience is going to give a damn about your OC's poor plot contrivance of a partner if they only found out that the OC in question even had a dead lover that they were totally devoted to and are utterly grief-stricken over five minutes before the villain revealed that Aha! It Was I! They're going to see it for what it is: a transparent ploy for their sympathy, and an equally transparent attempt to ratchet the drama up another notch or two by Making It Personal. They never heard of this person. Why should they care?

If something or someone was that personally significant to one of your characters, it or they should have come up earlier. Your character, unless they are very closed-mouthed, cannot have a dead lover they were devoted to but totally forgot to mention any time before it was dramatic for them to do so.

(Incidentally, this why claiming an OC is a regular's former lover or beloved younger sister almost never works very well. But I digress.)

In short? You need a plan. You need to know where you're going before you try to go there, so you don't end up getting lost in some weird back double and realizing that the more thoughtful portion of your passengers all got out ten miles back (or, in some cases, before you even left town). If you know where you're going and the stops you'll have to take along the way, you're far more likely to get to your destination - and, for that matter, find that at least some of the passengers made it all the way and enjoyed every minute of it.

A story is not just a sweet little choo choo train of loosely-related scenes focusing on the same characters and coupled together in vaguely chronological order. A story consists of a plot, which in turn consists of an opening, then rising action leading to a climax. It doesn't matter if the action in question refers to a Tango and Cash-style sequence of increasingly large explosions or a boy meeting a girl under a silvery moon, just as long as it refers to something.

If you don't have that, you're not even trying to tell a story and you have no right to presume that the rest of us are going to be even remotely interested.
Current Music: guilty pleasure - becca
Current Mood: why do i have no food.
22 June 2010 @ 05:38 pm
"A tangible consequence is more effective than an intangible reward."  
So yesterday I managed to update Roses in Rain. I was pleased with myself, but also vaguely depressed because I haven't updated anything all year up until now and I didn't rate my chances of keeping it up.

Today I remembered Write or Die.

If you're a writer with a procrastination problem, you probably need this program. I bought the desktop client with birthday money and fired it up about an hour back. And it works. If it can get me writing again, it can probably do it for anybody.

There's an Internet application as well for anyone who'd just like to try the thing without the commitment. I plumped for the desktop version for two reasons: firstly, the Internet is the primary source of distraction for me and with a web application I can't very easily take the first and most important step toward concentrating on my writing namely closing my fucking browser and, secondly and more importantly, I am (was?) just that desperate to actually get some writing done without any distractions for once.

This program managed to get over 1000 words of fiction out of me in under an hour. That's better productivity than I've managed alone all year.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should, uh, probably edit whatever you've written afterward - I know I'm going to. Nothing produced that quickly without any real reflection is as good as it could be with a bit of polishing. Still, at least this way I'm actually going to have something new there to edit, and that makes all the difference. That's definitely worth $10 to me.
Current Mood: what, productive?
Current Music: imitation love - penicillin
13 December 2009 @ 12:04 pm
It continues.  
I mentioned in my last entry that the Sues were multiplying. Well, god damn it but they've only gone and done it again.

You see, Rain's backstory - masterpiece of ridiculous Sue-centric TL;DR that it is - has now grown an offshoot where Rain, after her first teammate gets killed in laughable Rain-centric circumstances, finds herself leading a cutesy all-Sue Weiss-clone ripoff team who are record store clerks by day and leet assassins of leetness (with bolted-on psychic powers, of course) by night. Naturally, to ramp up the Sue-angst still more, they all die horribly and pointlessly before the story starts when the Ken-clone fucks something up BECAUSE YOU KNOW KEN IS LIKE RECKLESS AND STUPID AND SUCKS SO THERE.

Rain, of course, casts herself as resident Female!Aya and - in the ways of bad fanon - as the team leader. The other three would be female clones of the bad-fanon versions of Youji, Ken and Omi, in pretty much that order, only without any of the genuine individuality the original versions possess.

And, as the order of the game was obscene unoriginality, that meant more Candybar dolls, because you can't get much more cookie-cutter than that without involving an oven and genuine cookie dough. Classy!

So, here we have the members of the all-Sue leet assassin team 'Weiss Herz' (why is there not a Suefic called Weiss Herz? You'd think at least someone out there would have used that one). They're way more awesome than Weiss themselves so their nonsensical tagon noun isn't just there because it makes for a better series name than Weiss by itself does and allows for crucifix motifs in official art: no, it is actually in their team name because OMG SPESHUL. Rain gets to wear the skinny jeans because skinny jeans are fashionable (now, not in 1999, but Rain of course has only the vaguest awareness that Weiss Kreuz was actually set ten years ago). The other three dress according to their own particular stereotype and conveniently color-code themselves too because that's how it worked on Power Rangers and anything else might actually involve giving them individual personalities.

So, from left to right, we have Leigh Kiryuu, codenamed Kitsune, powers: pyrokinesis and a photographic memory; Rain herself, currently codenamed Seraphim, powers: telepathy, telekinesis and super-healing; Valkyrie Ashaki, commonly known as Kyrie, codenamed Banshee, powers: super strength and ki blasts; and Gilly Lorenz, codenamed Djinn, powers: precognition and force fields.

Their choice in codenames aren't taken from any one fic in particular. They just reflect the tendency some fanficcers have to give their neat new Kritiker agent characters codenames just because they sound cool or are vaguely interlinked, not because they actually sound like they could be the names of teammates - and, in the case of Rain's 'Seraphim' codename there, occasionally to break the pattern they've formed by giving one character out of four a codename that is perhaps sort of similar to the rest of the team's if you squint and don't think about it too hard, but clearly doesn't really work. Hence the members of the all-Sue assassin team 'Weiss Herz' take their names from mythological creatures: it's just too bad that none of them are from the same mythological tradition and 'Seraphim' is something of a category error.

(Links, as before, to the fics the Sue's namesake came from. While I'm here, as regards [ profile] weiss_badfics: sporks will resume in the New Year.)

Oh, and we have a blonde one, a black-haired one, a brunette one and YOU KNOW WHAT FUCK IT PINK HAIR.

This happens way more than you'd think with Sue teams. The Suethor comes up with two or three hair colors that fit pattern (doesn't matter if it's a pattern for largely normal colors or for totally ridiculous bubblegum animu colors as long as it's established a common thread) and then throws her hands up when she gets to the last one because FUCK IT THIS ONE HAS GREEN HAIR AUGH. Needless to say these luminaries look a touch out of place next to their teammates - and, for that matter, Weiss themselves - as a result.

Finally, here's a Candybar doll of Tamashii Akegata, otherwise known as Rain's mother who is of course also tragically dead, dressed like an early-eighties pop star. Which she apparently was, because it takes a Sue to spawn a Sue and her mommy was apparently stunningly beautiful, talented (though she gave up the pop singing to be the perfect mother to her little Sue, of course) and victimized as well - just not to quite the same extent that her ridiculously sparkly offspring is. I suppose to have been truly Suethor-accurate I should have dressed her like Amy Lee and who cares that it's 1980 and nobody dressed like that then and certainly not bubblegum pop singers, but I wanted an excuse to actually use some of the ridiculously eighties clothes on Candybar for once.

Shine your heavenly body tonight, etcetera... ♫ )

I suppose I should actually write this thing now. And I should probably get a shift on as I'm going home for Christmas in a week, for a week, and knowing what I do about being at home in general and being at home over Christmas in particular I can probably forget getting anything much done while I'm there.

Now all I've got to do is convince myself to stop listening to Christmas carols. STOP LISTENING TO CHRISTMAS CAROLS, SELF, IT WILL ONLY END BADLY.
Current Music: tomorrow shall be my dancing day - king's college choir
Current Mood: maybe i'm getting carried away
11 December 2009 @ 03:29 pm
I am having way too much fun with this.  
So, there are about nine thousand things that I should be working on writing right about now. Instead, I have spent the past few days tweaking at the plot angles for Roses in Rain.

I know. Eight chapters in is a bit late to reveal that there is actually a plot to all this which doesn't just run 'so there's this girl and she's cool annoying'. To be fair, though, it wouldn't be a Sue parody if I didn't set out to actually parodize as much about the Mary Sue fanfic genre as possible - and sadly a large part of that involves the plot taking a very determined back seat to the resident Sue planting herself center stage and gently sparkling.

One of the major issues, of course, was to finally work out exactly what Rain's tragic past involved. I've been winging that for a long time, but at eight chapters in, I'm clearly nearly at the point where she will need to head down to the basement, gather her new teammates around her and spend the best part of a chapter filling them all in on her tragic backstory of angst and tragedy. In between deciding exactly what her tragic past of tragedy involved, though, I ended up working out a couple of other details about Rain which don't have anything to do with Suethor hyperbole, and it's left me more convinced than ever that the later parts of this story have more in common with a horror film with jokes than they do with a straightforward Mary Sue parody. Trying to actually explain a character like Rain to my own satisfaction is not a job for the fainthearted.

Even worse, one of those ideas has had a hideous, hideous consequence and now THE SUES ARE MULTIPLYING. And for an actual (theoretically) logical, plot-mandated reason as well. Who'd have thought it? Here I am working on my ridiculous OC shit and yet I actually have a reason to introduce other OCs into a story that isn't just 'Schuldig's too hot to stay single'. I guess that means that on some level I'm clearly failing at this whole 'Mary Sue fanficcer' thing and doing it hard. Though, being as I am a Suethor now, the addition of new OCs left me pondering over a very, very important thing:

What color hair and eyes do the new Sues have, and what are they all going to wear?

The only logical solution was to go to eLouai's Candybar, because nothing says originality, quality, excellence and sheer class like a Candybar doll, and churn out some cookie-cutter Mary Sue dolls. Just the thing for cookie-cutter Mary Sues!

So, from left to right, Candybar representations of Anya Byrnes, codenamed Wraith, Rain's tragically dead former teammate whose murder she has sworn to avenge; Kritiker staffer Amber-Lynn Toshinaru, codenamed Siamese, Rain's handler; one of the many incarnations of Rain herself and if anyone's curious, her appearance and outfit as described in in Chapter 7 are both based on this Mary Sue doll; Aurora Kino, a mysterious young girl Youji and Ken meet in a club; and Dasha Ekaterina Misoky, codenamed Ärger, Esset agent, Schwarz's new teammate and the murderer of Rain's beloved father.

If anyone is wondering where the links go, they point toward the write-up of the fanfic I borrowed these Sues' names from.

(One of the many, many in-jokes in Roses in Rain is that all the supporting characters take their names from heinous OCs I've encountered in my journeys round the Weiss Kreuz fandom's many, many Suefics. It makes the naming process a little more fun for me and also ensures - as I like to flatter myself that I'm actually pretty good at coming up with appropriate character names - that the OCs' names don't get too, you know, sensible.)

Dasha is supposed to be Russian, or at least that's the impression her painfully fakey name wants to give. Her 'thing' is an obsession with black and red. That and joining Schwarz and a different tragic past clearly makes her a completely different character from Rain, who likes black and purple and has joined Weiss, and Rain has long hair and is Goth and is a telepath and a telekinetic, whereas Dasha is more punk/emo when she's not dressed for business but SHE'S HAD A HARD LIFE GEEZ of course she's like dark and angsty and coolly ~*independent*~, and her powers are pyrokinesis and flange-intelligence the ability to draw the truth and answer any question correctly. TOTALLY DIFFERENT CHARACTER SEE.

Aah, I want to get to the next mission~. Damn these early exposition scenes where all Youji and Ken really know is something is kind of wrong here.

Finally, since I'm being a Suethor about this:


Yes, that is a palette-swapped CG of a suggestively-posed generic anime girl in Goth clothes, strategically colorswapped in not!Photoshop so that it's quite painfully purple. (The original is here, for the curious.) Even better, the CG itself is - quite obviously, I think, given the clothing issues the girl seems to be gleefully having - from a folder of porn images by a nam named Suigun Murakami. Now all I need is to rename the image so it's called something like 'animecutie.jpg' or 'hottanimegrrl.jpg' and go spread the thing round Barton Town like it was a particularly virulent rash acquired under circumstances one would not care to admit to in mixed company. Then I'll know I'm a real Suethor.
Current Mood: oh look, a kitty
Current Music: au clair de lune - claude debussy
21 October 2009 @ 10:51 pm
Incidentally, I'm back at my voluntary job.  
Well, it's been a couple of days since I posted Exit Wounds and I haven't been killed by angry Aya fans yet - though I have been reminded of why I don't usually like writing fanfic about him, because it often seems like the minute Aya shows up in a story, his more devoted fangirls are incapable of focusing on anything else that may be happening to any other character, seemingly because it doesn't involve Aya. As my inability to fathom his motives mean my stories seldom focus on Aya even when he is there... you get the picture.

I don't mind that people feel sorry for him - Hell, I feel sorry for him. I just wish he wasn't the only character my so-far lone reviewer seemed to think had got it rough. Sure his fate is tragic, but the choices he made that got him there were ultimately selfish ones.

Anyway. Something I wanted to put in the last entry but was unable to due to pressure of space (read: me not being able to shut up about why I wrote this ridiculous idea up in the first place) was a link to the video of the Ami Suzuki song I mentioned a couple of times over the course of the story. Not because it's a brilliant song, mind - just because I felt it might be interesting to someone out there. I chose it precisely because it was a chart hit and was popular about the right time, it's catchy enough that it does get stuck in your head, and while it may be catchy and kind of fun to listen to it's ultimately not a brilliant or genre-defining song. I wanted the song I referenced to be something that was catchy and popular, but not much more than that. I'm not trying to make any kind of profound statement with this song choice, I'm afraid.

Also, I seriously do think Ken likes J-pop. Don't ask me why I came to this conclusion; it just works for me that he would.

... so yeah, if you were thinking a Japanese girl singing Lionel Ritchie, stop. It's not quite as good as that All Night Long, but it was a chart hit around about 199X and when I start researching, god help me but I look up the most random and minor crap in a desperate attempt to try to make my take on Japan look a little bit less like London with the occasional reference to bits of Tokyo bolted on. This fic also required me Googling Japanese supermarkets and stuff for Ken to have put on a shopping list, so... yeah. That's me. Still, I suppose Tokyo (by way of London) is still a step up on the Tokyo (by way of Bumblefuck, Arkansas) a fair amount of badfic involves. Did I mention that I read a fic where Omi and a Sue take a walk from the Koneko to the forest across the street?

Honestly, it would be a big step forward if we could stop having characters who live in the middle of one of the most crowded cities in the world go to the mall. Department stores, yes. Shopping arcades, yes. But you do not drive out of town to go to a mall if you live in the middle of a city, not least of which because it would take at least twice as long to get out of town to the mall as it would to go to the shops.

Bitter Nocturne is next for finishing, with perhaps a bit of random other stuff and Roses in Rain to help ease me along the way.
Current Mood: gotta eat now.
Current Music: maybe angels - sheryl crow
05 September 2009 @ 03:00 pm
I Don't Wish To Know That  
So. I have a theory.

I've been writing rubbish for the last couple of days. It's rubbish that I find amusing and it is fun and easy to write, but all the same there it is - rubbish. I am well aware of this fact and I'm just going with it because while I suppose that technically I could tweak this bad idea of mine into something vaguely resembling a coherent and worthwhile story, I decided that all things considered it really wasn't worth it. The amount and time and effort that would go into making it non-OOC, non-ridiculous non-claptrap is time I'd rather spend elsewhere when it's not even a sure thing that it'd work.

In the course of writing this nonsense, which is rather unfairly prone to grow by thousands of words every time I so much as glance in its direction, I have come to wonder if maybe this is what writing badfic is like.

Now, first things first: this isn't my railing against all you people who can write quickly and fantastically to order. Perish the thought. It's just me wondering, through my experiences of writing what I know to be bad fanfiction quite unlike the work I usually struggle to produce, if bad fanficcers feel like this all the time and - not knowing what it's like to actually have to work at a piece of prose in any way other than figuring out what happens when and then aiming themselves at the end - mistake for the actual craft of authoring a story. It can't be coincidence that so many bad fanfics just stall, their authors baling as soon as the story actually required a degree of thought put into it as to where to go from here.

If the craft of creating then authoring a story can be likened to painting a picture of a vista that only exists in your mind, writing like this is doing the same thing with fuzzy felt. It's fun but the end result isn't a beautiful landscape, it's a load of pre-cut colored blobs on a fuzzy blue board. It's just not the same.

You see, while writing this I'm hearing barely a peep from my inner editor. Bitch must have gone on holiday or something.

The problem with writing like this? I'm not producing this terrible story this quickly because the Holy Light of Inspiration has descended on me; it's because I'm genuinely not trying very hard. It's easy writing, which for me at least means almost by default that it's also self-indulgent, stupid and all other shades of not very good. Oh, I'm having fun, don't get me wrong - but I'm not about to kid myself that the finished product is going to be worth anyone else taking the time to bother to read. Because it's crap.

I can't escape the feeling that this isn't so much writing as it is a detox for my imagination - just dumping the stupid stuff on paper to rot so that I can tell some real stories later on. It's the fictional equivalent of sticking a hose in my ear and waiting for the leaking to start. I put all these ridiculous thoughts down onto paper in a coherent form and, satisfied that they've found expression, they quietly slink away. That's it.

I don't have to put any real effort involved in this stuff. There's no conscious attempts to make it work, to justify anything that happens from a narrative standpoint or to take the time to string together a coherent plot. I'm not even trying to make it accessible, it's work with a perceived audience of one. The most thought I've put into this involves coming up with a laundry list of Stuff I Want To Put In and then seeing that it ends up in there in some vague kind of order. It's actually pretty fun to be able to just pour thoughts onto paper without constantly having to second-guess myself or wondering that if I decide to do Thing A now it will somehow stop Thing E from making sense any more, but it doesn't feel like I'm actually writing a story. I'm just doodling with words.

There's nothing the matter with doodling with words, mind: just don't stick the resulting mess in a gallery then wonder why the praise isn't rolling in.

No, producing something that is always going to be bad and silly while I continue to write it like this has not given me a renewed appreciation of what it's like to be a bad fanficcer and deciding to cut them some slack. It's actually making me wonder why in the world so many fanficcers seem to be incapable of realizing that the rest of the internet just doesn't need to know this shit.

My problem isn't the production of bad fanfiction. It's the fact that having stuck the metaphorical hose into their ears and let the resulting heaving, semi-coherent brainmess spatter where it may, the bad fanficcer's immediate response is to sit back, heave a satisfied sigh, and slap the whole thing up on the Pit under the title All That I'm Living For or something else equally emotastical and irrelevant because clearly that - that easy, purgatory spiel, that process of taking a private fantasy and dumping it onto paper the better to make room for the next one - is what writing for an audience is all about. There's nothing the matter with wanting your impossibly hot proxy to bang Aya, or to see him bang Schuldig. Really, there isn't. I just don't understand why drag the rest of us into it. Daydreams we can have by ourselves.

That being the case, I will not be sharing the fruits of my own pointless, nonsensical labors with the rest of the 'tubes. There's just no point.
Current Mood: busily doing nothing
Current Music: guilty pleasure - becca
21 August 2009 @ 11:51 pm
... wait, you're still there?  
Fangirl authors, when writing scenes containing multiple characters it may help to remember the following simple equation:

4 Characters + 1 Character = 5 Characters.

It does not equal zero plus the two characters you want to see get it on; it does not equal zero plus the bad guy and the designated Hero of the Hour; and it definitely does not equal zero plus your Mary Sue. It adds up to five characters being present and you, as the author of the piece, have to keep track of every last one of them.

Failing to keep track of your cast in scenes involving several characters is, to my mind, one of the hallmarks of bad writing.

Let's say for the sake of an argument that a fanficcer wishes to add a new character to a scene which already contained four others. That's a lot of people to keep track of, but if the author don't at least try to keep track of them they're setting themselves up for problems. If there were four characters in a scene when it starts and none of them have got up and left for whatever reason, a newcomer brings the total of people present in that scene up to five. No matter how important that it is the newcomer bond with one character out of the original four in particular, he still has three friends with him, they are still going to have opinions on what they are seeing, and they are still going to make their various presences felt. Or they would do if the writing was even vaguely realistic.

There are any number of fan works out there - and often these are Mary Sue fanfics, though this can also be a problem when authors are writing about their own favorites - that give the impression that as soon as Character A shows their face, the rest of the characters might just as well have knocked off for lunch as continue to hang around waiting for the narrative to acknowledge their existence. Okay, so Ravyn McSue is bonding with her Designated Love Interest (or Joe and Jane are arguing about their relationship, or Vincent Grimdark is angsting about his tragic past: pick your poison), but what are the rest of the cast - who we must presume are still there because they were two paragraphs ago and there's nothing to suggest they've left - doing while all this is going on?

Okay, the point of the scene is that Joe and Jane are on the rocks and their behavior and reactions are clearly more important in terms of the narrative than that of any onlookers. The issue isn't that their reactions shouldn't take precedence - it's that accepting that one character's reaction is more significant doesn't mean the rest of the cast won't react at all to what they're seeing. By choosing to have them argue in front of Tom, Dick and Harry the author then makes themselves responsible for mentioning what Tom, Dick and Harry think about all this.

If a fic ignores them so completely they look as if they're more likely to be picking lint off their pockets or playing Snake on their cellphones than actually trying to contribute in any way at all, the author has lost track of their characters.

This is bad enough writing when the entire point of a scene is 'the regulars meet a strange young girl' or 'Joe and Jane have a bust-up'. It gets even worse when the purpose of the scene is not, in fact, two characters hooking up or falling out but actually a confrontation at gunpoint.

I have seen any number of supposedly dramatic scenes in bad fanfics where, in order for the author's personal favorite - OC or otherwise - to shine, the rest of the characters have to be written as barely-engaged dullards who don't seem to have the first idea that anything out the ordinary is actually taking place. The author's pet and the bad guy are having a tense stand-off, while the rest of the cast hang around in the background filling out crosswords or picking their teeth. Occasionally they may look up to remark upon some development or another before lapsing back into stultifying apathy, sometimes they just stand around and wait for the fight to be over, never mind that any or all of them should have been quite capable of helping out somehow.

Take this summary of a confrontation from a Weiss Kreuz fanfic I just endured:

The scene involved five people - the heroes and a Mary Sue - which is getting toward the upper limit even for a conversation. The Sue was supposed to be holding Ken at gunpoint, but there were three other people there, all of whom are trained killers, two of whom own ranged weapons. She's toast, right? Well, no. She stands there bickering with Ken for a while while the others do nothing to stop her, then another OC pitches up cackling, holding a spear. There are now six characters present of whom four are doing nothing: the Sue switches her focus to arguing with the new OC while Weiss just watch. She spends a paragraph angsting, then struggles with the newcomer who tries to disarm her. Ken finally remembers he can talk, then the new OC stabs the Sue and runs off. It's only then that Weiss realize that they can actually do stuff, and at that point the scene ends.

If you the author can't see what the problem with this is, you probably need to rethink the way you write confrontations.

Even stupider are those scenes when the bad guys hang around in the background, waiting for the heroes to stop arguing about their personal lives and come and kill them already. Once again, I've read fics where this happens: the one that sticks in my mind is a Sailor Moon fanfic where the Monster of the Day, who had just effortlessly owned the entire Inner Senshi, just stood around and waited to be killed while the overpowered Sailor Sue recited a little speech about how awesome she was then bickered with Tuxedo Mask. Sailor Sue then commented that it was a 'pretty stupid monster' because it was just standing there waiting for her to be done preening.

The question is why. Why can't a character, if they see an opening, take advantage of this? Because otherwise the scene wouldn't work?

I'm going to put it bluntly: If your plot, fangirl author, is reliant on half the characters suddenly acting like they've forgotten they can actually do things for no good reason, your plot sucks.

If the only reason that the rest of the characters in a scene are rendered largely redundant is that 'it would be cooler this way' or 'well otherwise this cool thing can't happen' - well, that's really not a good enough excuse. If an author wishes to have multiple characters present in a scene but only focus on the exploits of a pair of them, they need to provide a reason why the others aren't getting involved. This doesn't have to be a long reason, or a particularly involved one. A couple of sentences to explain why they're not getting involved would do it. Even if all you do while Ravyn McSue bonds with her would-be love interest is mention that the two other characters who were there when Ravyn showed up are now talking amongst themselves, it's still better than ignoring them.

Which brings me to the other reason: if an author is ignoring the other characters out of laziness because they don't think they're important enough to acknowledge right now, why drag them into all this in the first place? Surely it would be even easier to just not get them involved?

Now, this isn't to say that characters have to become involved all the time or the fanfic will suck. Of course some characters won't speak up or intervene in all situations: it's not normally in their nature to do so, so why should they start now? Of course, by the same token, some characters are going to be quieter than others and of course some of them will inevitably have less to contribute and will choose not to get involved for purely practical reasons. They don't all have to be jumping up and down and screaming look at me at once as if to justify their presence in the story, but no matter how quiet or withdrawn they may be by nature, or how little they can constructively contribute to the scene, they should nonetheless have a small but distinct say in how the scene proceeds.

If the only way an author can come up with for a certain plot point to be workable is for several characters to - to put it charitably - become uncharacteristically crippled by indecision or complete inertia to the extent they might as well not even be there, they really need to think a little harder if the plot point is actually workable at all. It can't be that hard to come up with a way for an OC to be stabbed which doesn't involve four out of the six characters in the room at the time standing around like lemons and letting it happen.

Besides, how interesting can a confrontation truly look if even half the cast are so utterly unconcerned that they're just standing there? Exactly.
Current Music: terminal eyes - al stewart
Current Mood: happy