[sticky entry] Sticky: Hi (version 2.0)!

Jan. 31st, 2014 06:24 pm
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Hello, and welcome to my blog! This is a public blog, please feel free to follow and/or comment in any way you wish.

If I have a fandom, it's probably writing, because I'm interested in techniques and details about writing far more than anything else...but the stuff I'm writing is mostly in the Avenger fandom at the moment (with a few forays back into Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I'm not sure I would say I'm in the Avengers fandom, though. I haven't finished any of those things I'm writing, and I'm generally more of a lurker at the edges of fandoms anyway.

I also post occasionally on random things I'm watching or reading.

If you want to know who I used to think I was and what I was doing, version 1.0 of this introduction can be found here. I think the biggest change is less Buffy and more serious about writing. Though it's still fun too!
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I've been watching this show on Hulu, where it lists all the episodes as being part of "Season 1". I knew there was more than one season, and I've been sort of ambivalent about how things were going...

And then I found out that there are supposed to be 26 episodes total in the whole thing, so instead of being near the end of a preliminary season, I was near the end of the whole thing. And suddenly I was much more happy with this whole thing. Which just goes to show:

1) I like endings.
2) I like the ending they are aiming at, and didn't really want it to be a red herring on the way to some different ending twice (or more) as far along.
3) Context is everything.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
In the eighteenth century, per capita income grew very slowly. In Great Britain, the average income was on the order of 30 pounds a year in the early 1800s, when Jane Austen wrote her novels. The same average income could have been observed in 1720 or 1770. Hence these were very stable reference points, with which Austen had grown up. ... These amounts allowed the writer to economically set the scene, hint at a way of life, evoke rivalries, and, in a word, describe a civilization.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty


In other words, Jane Austen used actual sums in her writing (Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me? I shall go distracted.) because there was no notable inflation over her lifetime, and these sums meant something that seemed permanent. People knew exactly what ten thousand a year meant, because it didn't fluctuate. Now, of course, we expect inflation and writers rarely use actual sums in their writing because it'll just get dated very quickly.

I did not know that, but it makes so much sense.

Tension

Jul. 3rd, 2015 04:38 am
lookingforoctober: (Default)
A phone rings. And rings some more. No one answers it. The camera slowly moves, showing more of the area near the phone, moving towards something, surely, and then it shows milk dripping from an overturned bottle, and you hear the noise of glass breaking in the distance*, and then it finally reveals...

Well, I'm sure you can imagine. But you won't know until you see, and meanwhile, the tension rises, because tension is expectation.

*(this is important at this point because the scene isn't going to end with the reveal, so this is establishing the next bit of scene before the reveal kills all the tension from the phone ringing, etc.)

Or, maybe there's a scene where someone is opening a bottle of milk and pouring it while talking about something else... And maybe you suddenly suspect that the way that milk keeps being shown, there's something funny about the milk...

In this case, if you don't realize, then there is still set-up that will be there when the milk becomes important. If you do realize that there's something fishy about the milk, then there's tension (expectation)...

So then I got to wondering, what about good things? Does it work the same way? And suddenly that poem that Cyrano de Bergerac writes while dueling sprang into my mind, with the repeated refrain:

At the poem’s end, I hit.

(Or something like that, I can't find my favorite translation.)

He's dueling while reciting this poem about the duel, and claiming that he's got so much control that he knows exactly how the duel will go, and at the poem's end, he hits! Talk about expectation...

But if there's too much expectation, if it's truly inevitable, then where is the tension? There has to be some breath of uncertainty somewhere. You don't know exactly what happened to whoever ought to be answering the phone, even if you know something must have, you're not certain there's anything wrong with the milk (maybe the pouring of milk is about worldbuilding, or characterization), and Cyrano's opponent isn't just standing there, ready to accept being hit...

So the poem, the expectation, is half of the tension, shaping a very strong but not inevitable perception of the future, and the staging, the design of the duel, the presence of the opponent is the other half, making expectation into a question -- but a very specific question -- rather than a certainty.

And the payoff? What you expect happens. If it doesn't, and if there's been a lot of tension about it, then the alternative had better be something even better / more interesting / more intense, because otherwise it'll be a total letdown. (Or it might be humor, but that's a whole different ballgame.)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
The book I just finished...

It is the second book in a series. I was extremely impressed with the first. There were a lot of things to like about the second book, but I still came away a bit dissatisfied with the experience, and ...

Okay, here's the thing. The plot of this book was entirely about revelations, and they were all really good, interesting revelations with lots of implications to chew on. But in the course of discovering all these revelations, our hero basically got pushed around the map for the entire book by the villain, and then didn't manage to actually defeat the villain herself, someone else came in and took the villain away for rehabilitation.

The thing is, the protagonist did have an arc where she was supposed to learn something personal, and that did have a payoff, but the arc was basically I have a problem and I don't know what to do about it so I'll ignore it as I try to do other things / get pushed around the map for a very large portion of the book.

And it just makes me wonder... Would this book be better off if it had had other POV characters, instead of centering on one character who was unable to do very much except discover things for the course of the book?

Is the problem that discovering things didn't seem to actually help her be more able to act? I'm not sure.

Despite my complaints, this was not an unsatisfying book. The world stuff was fascinating. The characters were pretty cool too. I just feel like the only main character in the book didn't quite have enough personal plot/agency to pull off being the only main character in the book. Or something. She was there for everything, she had a stake in everything, but...

I'm not saying this well.

Her actions didn't ever really push back against the villain? And I found that unsatisfying, no matter how many other interesting things were going on.

And I wonder if there's a series structure thing going on here too. This is -- so far -- a series about a character whose personal issues connect with world issues. So in this book, the world needed to advance, and the character needed to advance. If it did have other POV characters or a different structure or something, it might have helped this particular story, but I'm not sure it would have helped the series.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I was thinking about tabletop roleplaying, and it occurred to me that it's specifically designed to encourage the use of details that are probably extraneous to the story, even when it seems to be encouraging more storytelling.

For example, I was in a game that rewarded you if if you described specific moves in the fight imaginatively, especially if you used the terrain. This was meant to supplement the dice rolls, and make the fights more atmospheric.

I was playing a swordfighter, and I used to fence, so I kept thinking that it ought to be easy, but I was terrible at it. Of course, describing each individual move is a very specific skill, and...well, this wasn't a setting where "Parry in four and then feint in six and riposte in seven" would have been a good kind of detail. "Parry and riposte" was not considered imaginative. Actually, fencing is not a super-imaginative sport, so I might have actually been at a disadvantage through knowing something about it.

Obviously, I would have been better off if I'd watched a bunch of the sort of movies with fights that use the terrain, brawling through public houses and up and down streets and through fountains, etc. etc.

I guess what I'm saying is that since the gaming system was set up in a certain way, they were trying to make what was significant to the gaming system significant to the story, but there are very few (written, or oral for that matter) stories where you'd want to describe each individual move of a fight, mostly you'd probably want to either hit the really high points, if there are any amazing moves or moves that change the course of the fight entirely, or describe a general strategy over describing move after move after move.

Movies, on the other hand, can't really summarize all that effectively (except in dialogue, which never happens for fight scenes because fight scenes are cool, right?), so they're in the same boat as the tabletop game in terms of needing to show every move. (I want to say that story isn't always the main draw for a fight scene, though.)

One trick that movies have that I hadn't figured out at the time is to change the scene as often as possible -- move up the street to a different house, jump off the balcony, etc. Don't just stand there and go okay, I just used the sand, I used the tree, what on earth is left to try to engage the terrain in this fight? Forget standing there trying to parry and riposte like someone who knows how to use a sword, just go find something.

And watch the right movies beforehand, that's all I'm saying.
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It's easier to do consistent or at least acceptable worldbuilding in the kind of series that resets after each episode.

Examples off the top of my head: Earlier Star Treks (TOS and TNG), many mystery series (though the world they're building is generally the actual world, but something like Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries still does a pretty good job of presenting various aspects of the 1920s in Australia...)

Rationale: Not trying to hit a moving target is obviously going to be easier. Also, stories that are about restoring the status quo (as many Star Trek stories are -- find problem, fix it; as many mysteries are -- find the murderer and bring the world back to equilibrium, right?)...well, you have to understand what you want out of the status quo fairly well in order to restore it properly, don't you?
lookingforoctober: (Default)
It's a spectrum of possibilities, isn't it?

I guess I always thought you either do or you don't, I have succeeded in believing this thing or nope, can't do that.

But...yes, I will suspend disbelief for a good story, even if the world makes no sense (I am very picky about worlds), but it's better if I don't have that makes no sense nagging feeling.

Which is why the level of detail given is so important. Details can stick out like a sore thumb if it doesn't fit, and cause arguments inside my head, can bring down a good story with this one thing that doesn't fit, details can have unwanted repercussions -- this is of course why details can also be so powerful. The right detail is like a picture -- worth a thousand words. But only if everything fits together.

Detail is not always your friend.

But details should tell you what the story is about. Gloss over the things that it's not about, give the details for the things that are part of the story.

You won't always make me happy that way (sometimes I want more details elsewhere because I want the story to be about something else) but you also won't get in the way of your own story that way.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
The movie "Captain America: Civil War" is 1) supposed to be about registration of super-human individuals, or something like that, and 2) is supposed to be about a conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. That's basically what I've heard.

Three things that make me suspect that I will dislike "Civil War", no matter how objectively good or bad it is, just because of what it means for the MCU:

1) Genre

The difference between fantasy and science fiction has been discussed many places, and there are many edge cases and works that are hard to classify, but one of my favorite ways of doing the classifications is this:

--> Science fiction is about the kind of stuff that everyone can do. Sufficiently advanced technology might be indistinguishable from magic, but if everyone has equal ability (not necessarily equal access) to do this "magic", then it's science fiction.

--> Fantasy is about the kind of talents that are inborn. If you're born special, then you can do magic, if you're not born special, then you will never be able to do magic.

(Sadly, I can't remember where this comes from or I would link / give credit. It's something I read on the internet, I'm pretty sure, but not recently...and yeah, that narrows it down, doesn't it?)

Before the MCU, super-heroes were mostly fantasy, by this definition, and I didn't pay a lot of attention to them. Watched the occasional movie, felt sort of whatever about the whole concept. (Loved The Incredibles, though, probably because it was at least a second generation story, reflecting on the premise and the way it was usually developed instead of just accepting it, and taking it in a different direction?)

But mostly, pre-MCU, super-heroes were not a winning concept with me. Then the MCU came along, and the intertwined movie idea was interesting narratively, and...well, I read the Responsible Science series, which is amazing, and I got drawn into reading more MCU stuff...but I think one thing that drew me to it was that it wasn't about people with mysterious abilities and what they chose to do with them, it was (mostly) about people who chose in various ways to develop powerful technologies, or who were acted upon by other people who were making choices... It all fit together as a result of human choices. (Or alien choices, in the case of Asgardians, etc.)

And basically, it was also about ordinary people, pretty much. (Except Thor, who isn't my favorite, and even his story is about becoming ordinary, not about becoming king but about becoming worthy by connecting with the ordinary person that's inside of him, learning to care.) Tony Stark is ordinary by virtue of his many flaws, Bruce Banner is struggling against a very ordinary emotion -- anger -- and it's forcing him to learn humility after his arrogance ruined his life, Steve Rogers is just a kid from Brooklyn, and Natasha and Clint are not super-powered, they're just awesome.

But "registration" -- I don't know how they're going to get there, something to do with Agents of SHIELD? And some group called the Inhumans? But I've seen this "registration" story before in other super-hero franchises, and when that's where it's going, then suddenly it's not about technologies and people affected by technologies, it's not about human choices but rather about mysterious special individuals (who are being persecuted because of the fear of the masses) -- it's fantasy.

I love fantasy as a genre, but I do have very specific things that I want out of my fantasy magic. Either it needs to be numinous -- which superhero stuff most definitely is not -- or there needs to be a magic system that's well defined. I mean, I loved Naomi Novik's recent book Uprooted, and a big part of what I loved was that the magic was interestingly defined and the way it was set up caused very interesting things to happen with the two main characters' relationship (it's also a good story overall).

It's whatever we say it is as a magic system, on the other hand, tends to drive me nuts.

The MCU seems to be determined to drive me nuts. They promised me science, maybe not real science, but at least sorta maybe science fiction science, and now they want to give me my very least favorite kind of magic, but what I want is still science.

2) Cherry-picking the Consequences

On the other hand, I do want to see the world advance in response to all this technology that our world doesn't have. Plus, I've heard that Civil War is supposed to be about super-hero accountability, which sounds like something that would be interesting to explore (if it doesn't end up breaking the whole idea of super-heroes).

So yeah, maybe it's time to see some of this technology have an effect on the world at large, instead of being held close...

Like...Extremis becomes available in hospitals. The world becomes unrecognizable. People live forever. Woooo, real science fiction happens!

Probably not happening in the MCU, right?

The future is here, it's just not well distributed yet -- that's not how the MCU works, is it? Steve Rogers can remain the only successful super-soldier ever, indefinitely. Tony Stark can invent a new element (or whatever, Iron Man 2 makes no sense) and we can count ourselves lucky that we see it leading to a new form of green energy, but it doesn't totally revolutionize science and enable a space elevator or something.

So those consequences, pretty sure we're not getting them. But the other kind of consequences, the kind where suddenly "normal" people are afraid of super-heroes and something must be done -- we're going to get that?

Basically, it really does come down to all the implications of the word "registration", especially when it's registration of individual people.

What if we called it licensing? You need a license in order to fly an Iron Man suit. Would that be even vaguely controversial? Could they have so much as a fist-fight over that issue? I don't think so.

"Registration" seems to be about identifying some people as "other" based on some characteristic, with the threat of persecuting them because of this hanging over them, and okay, it's true that we've been seeing our heroes defy the government, fairly frequently (starting with Tony Stark and then Natasha Romanoff in Cap2 -- I thought the second was ridiculous and out of character but maybe it was setting up something?) -- but nothing in the worldbuilding of the movies supports the idea of a super-hero class. And it doesn't make any sense to have registration if you don't have lots of people to be registered...

And sure, fear of super-powers makes sense -- if super-powered people are coming out of nowhere, and you know that you are always going to be "normal". But if, for example, you thought that you could have access to Extremis if you were in a terrible car accident or something, would you be all about persecuting people who were "superhuman"? If it wasn't special, if it was the future...

I mean, sure, there's still going to be fear, but...

One of my least favorite bits in Iron Man 3 is the part where Killian comes to Pepper with technology that can regenerate limbs, and Pepper's like, oh, no, we can't invest in that, it has military applications. And every time I just stare at her in total disbelief because he's talking about regenerating limbs. How is that not a good thing? The most amazing medical technology ever... Seriously, how is that not a good thing?

If you start picking and choosing what things mean, or which actions have consequences and which don't, and only take the parts that escalate the story toward some predetermined point of maximum polarization, then you don't have a world, you have a narrative convenience. (Admittedly, I think there's a possibility that "world == narrative convenience" is where the "connected movies" idea has to go, because if you need a different challenge for every movie, and every challenge has to be movie sized, i.e. totally world-shaking...)

I see this an another genre thing. Superheroes angsting about powers -- totally within the super-hero genre. Super-heroes actually changing the world...

Not so much, I guess.

So yeah, actions have consequences is nice, but if only some actions have consequences, leading to only the stories that fit within the super-hero genre, then ...

Well, fair enough, they're doing super-heroes, but every movie tears the world apart a little more... And somehow, to me, cherry-picking which actions have consequences and ignoring the rest isn't ever going to get to true accountability, it's just unfair storytelling.

3) They fight each other

Okay, I admit it, all of this is actually not terrible if the villains are clearly villains, I can probably forgive the movie for not making sense, becoming a pure fantasy, ignoring continuity, etc., but Civil War is supposed to be about all the MCU characters fighting each other. And super-hero movies are all about actual fights, it's not like they're going to have anything but a physical bash at each other...over politics.

I really don't want to see all my favorite characters fighting because of some totally random "registration" issue that seems to belong to a totally different universe than the one I've been watching. Actually, I don't want my favorite characters actually coming to blows over politics at all. The villains are supposed to bring the violence, and the world is supposed to be civilized enough to settle political differences through political means. I'll even go for arresting the evil Vice President, but not for fighting in the streets. I do not like political issues being settled by violence, which is what "Civil War" seems to be promising me...

So yeah. Maybe it'll be better than this, maybe I'd be better off if I'd never heard anything about the movie and just went to watch it next year and found out what it was about that way, but this is why I'm not looking forward to it.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I've been reading a lot of books about economics for research for the thing I'm writing, and I've noticed (not for the first time) that a lot of them have the same structure, the basic non-fiction structure. It's basically the same as the essay structure learned in school, but expanded to book length -- state your thesis, give an outline of your arguments/support for your thesis, expand on arguments/support in however many chapters, come to a conclusion.

(Incidentally, reading academic books for research is so much nicer than reading popular books for research. It's weird how popular books always seem to feel a need to include totally irrelevant biographical information -- i.e. if it's a book about Keynes's theories, there's information about Keynes's parents or something, which I simply do not care about. Academic books are much better about not doing this.)

Anyway, it's making me think about whether I should present my worldbuilding, within my story, in a more "nonfiction" kind of structure, because I've got a lot of worldbuilding information that's going to have to make it's way into this thing at some point. And a lot of my worldbuilding is set up a bit like an argument in one of these non-fiction books -- I'm just arguing that it's possible and interesting to have an alien society that works in a certain way.

Like a writer of non-fiction, I really do want to persuade my reader that my thesis is correct, and my thesis does have something to do with real-world plausibility, not just fictional plausibility. I want my world to be believable by people comparing it to the real world, despite the aliens and so on. I want the aliens to both be alien and make sense, and the only way to do that is to explain where they're coming from -- show my work.

This is different from the plot, which is sort of about understanding aliens but it's mostly about having adventures and finding home and defending what you care about, but worldbuilding is more pervasive than plot. Sometimes it's there as statements about how the world works, sometimes it's there as details about how the world works, and sometimes it's there as intimations about how the world works...

But which is best, if you want to construct an argument about how the world works?

It seems to me that there are a number of choices that are more fictional techniques. Incluing, using presuppositions -- very much a technique that's used in fiction but not non-fiction. Non-fiction doesn't try to subtly provide information, it just says what it wants to say.

In terms of persuading with worldbuilding, though, incluing isn't a very effective technique for really surprising information that doesn't fit any pattern the reader is already predisposed towards. It's more for providing information that already fits what readers are going to expect, because ... Hmm. You can build up a picture with scattered details, but if the picture you're building isn't totally clear... And presuppositions, as a technique that's used for incluing...well, presuppositions are sneaky. It can be a way of sneaking something that would otherwise raise questions in, I suppose. I'm almost certain Suzette Hadin Elgin (I have a very large amount of respect for anything she says about language) says that you can use presuppositions that way. But if you're not just sneaking in separate details, but want it as the basis for an argument or a proof? I'm dubious.

But another way to do worldbuilding that makes use of the way that fiction is put together is to work the worldbuilding into the plot. I can see two major ways of doing this (both of these depend on the characters not knowing the truth):

1) Argument about what is true. If the characters are discovering aspects of the worldbuilding, then they can disagree about certain aspects, argue about what the truth actually is, try to discover more, and eventually discover the truth. This basically makes worldbuilding into a big mystery-type plot/subplot.

2) Reversal. The characters think one thing, act based on that assumption and fail until they figure out that they're going wrong because they have a wrong idea about the world. This is making worldbuilding into an obstacle standing in between the characters and their goal.

If you're going the non-fiction route, structurally, then you probably won't do any of these things. This is the way it would have to be done if the characters are natives/experts at whatever aspect of worldbuilding you want to argue about. If this is sort of like "Water is wet" to the characters, it can't be part of the plot. It could be scattered in (incluing), but if this is something that is actually alien, and human readers won't understand from hints...

Have I just made an argument for the necessity of infodumping? Are there other options? I suppose one could always use a mixture of incluing and plot-revelance, by having an argument about something related to water being wet, i.e. what kind of soap to use when washing using water, in the process establishing that water is wet...

But that's not really putting together an argument for water is wet? It's not persuading anyone that it actually makes sense that water is wet, it's just trying to make it seem consistent that water is wet.

Would comparisons help? That's probably part of the argument in the first place, that X thing the aliens do serves the same function as Y thing that humans do... So I guess setting up scenes where X and Y happen in close proximity with similar results could make that point without having to actually state it outright...

That's another way of working the argument into the plot, isn't it? It's sort of structuring the plot like a non-fiction book. Hmm. That might be a bit dangerous, unless the plot is also, at the same time, doing typical plot-type stuff...

...I hope no one read this far expecting a conclusion. I'm just thinking.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I've decided to stop thinking about the writing process as a series of drafts, when I'm writing the gigantic thing that I'm writing which is longer than a book. (It's a series of books...it might even be six books long, but I'm still sort of hoping for three.)

Anyway, I've decided that I'm currently writing the canon. Deciding what happens, who the characters are, how they relate to each other, how the world works, what the most relevant metaphors are, what the overall arcs and stories are...

Next, I'm going to write the fanfic. Making the emotions really work, really digging into the characters, expanding on the scenes that are the most telling, making sure it's all fun...

And then, I'm going to write the remix. Look at it in different directions, decide what's important to me and making sure that is brought out, edit or gloss or summarize the stuff that has to happen but isn't part of the story that's most important to me... Basically, bring the story together as I want to tell it...

And then I will be done.
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First of all, I've never been in an exchange with fanart before. I'd be delighted to receive fanart, but I'm not sure how to go about prompting for it, so I apologize in advance if these aren't good prompts for art. Just go with whatever inspires you, in that case (or in any case, I'm just putting ideas out there). Oh, but I would definitely ask that any art be safe for work. I'd also ask for no explicit sex or sex as the main point of the story for any fiction I receive.

I like things that are fairly close to the spirit of the original in these fandoms.


Leverage - Tara Cole - The thing that interests me about Tara is how she fills Sophie's spot on the team, but in an entirely different way. She's not just another Sophie, but she has a lot of the same skills. I'm especially interested in Tara's history, and how Tara makes decisions, what she cares about, and how the Leverage team changed her in her brief time with them.

Dragaera - Tazendra - I just love Tazendra. Adventures, duels, friendship, whatever. She can be so innocent about some things, so knowing about others, I love how she likes to be a part of things, and how she's very competent in her core areas, sorcery and swordsmanship, and how being out of her depth never stops her. I love to see the contrasts.

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Azula or Mai or Toph - I'd be happy to get a story containing any or all of these characters, so feel free to group them up if you'd like. I'm not really looking for romance, though.

Azula - I'm interested in how she can be so very strong and yet so very weak. Another character whose contrasts interest me. I'd also be interested in more of her history as Fire Nation princess.

Mai - I'd just like to know more about Mai. I feel like she has depths that are only barely plumbed. How did she get to be the way that she is? How much of her personality is nature, how much is nurture -- how much is a reaction to her position with Azula?

Toph - Toph is another character who's just a lot of fun to me. I like to see her in action, earthbending and being the totally solid one. I'm also interested in how she uses her earthbending as a sort of substitute for vision, and how that helps her be able to perceive a lot of the same things as a sighted person, but how what she perceives is not always the same as sight, giving her a different perspective.
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I've been scouring the internet for reactions (it's fun to see what other people think), and have a few more things to say myself, reactions to reactions I suppose...

Minor spoilers? Or maybe not spoilers at all, but cut just in case... )
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I ... am not sure if I liked this movie. But I didn't dislike it! I found it interesting, surprising at times, and ... not the story I wanted, but maybe a story that will be good for the fandom? I'm looking forward to the fanfic and the discussion in a lot of ways.

Driving back from the theatre, which is not a short drive, I tried to remember what the main plot points of this movie were. It took a good portion of the drive. Basically, this movie's plot is connected by a series of wild guesses that turn out to be right.

But it does have fights, quips, exposition, and characterization, concurrent and consecutive. And it does have a plot, and it's a plot that I think could make sense, though I do feel like plot (along with exposition, actually) got a bit short shrifted to make room for fights, quips, and characterization.

Recap with commentary, then more commentary... SPOILERS )
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I was watching a cop show, and the witness was saying something important, and I saw exactly what it meant... And two seconds later, the two detectives' eyes met and then they both leaped over the desk and raced for the door, off to arrest the criminal. And I laughed and laughed because something about that leap over the desk struck me as both funny and delightful.

Thinking about it later, I realized that it was probably the most compact example I've ever seen of a principle I identified when I was trying to figure out nonlinear structures in fiction writing -- i.e. writing in non-chronological order.

The principle is this: if you tell the reader what's going to happen ahead of time, when it actually happens, it has to be more. The movie The Wall has a great example of this, that's the example I compare everything against, but it's all over the place.

In the case I was talking about at the beginning, I don't know if it was on purpose, but I as a viewer got the answer, processed it, I knew what was going to happen...but then a few seconds later when the characters got it, it was generally what I was expecting, but it was also more of a reaction than I was expecting, and that's what made it delightful.

I guess maybe the correlary might be that the further ahead of time you tell what's going to happen, the greater degree of more you have to have when you actually get there. If they'd made the answer obvious five minutes before the characters jumped over the desk, I'm pretty sure that would have seemed utterly silly rather than delightful.

On the other side of the coin...well, take any story that has some revelation that the reader/viewer might possibly guess long before the character does. As long as 1) what's happening in the meantime is important and 2) the character's reaction is big enough once the revelation gets through to them -- especially if it takes it a few steps further than the reader might have predicted -- then it doesn't really spoil anything if the reader/viewer guesses what's going to happen.

Anyway, the funny thing about nonlinear narratives is that when I started thinking about them, eventually I decided that most if not all narratives are nonlinear, it's just that some of them play with it a lot more and make it more obvious. I mean, what narrative doesn't fill in stuff you need to know just as you need to know it, instead of putting it in strictly chronological order?

So if you don't start with the construction of the catacombs beneath the city, you just stick in a bit of explanation when they become relevant (or maybe even some time after they become relevant -- 'oh shit, that's where they disappeared to when we were chasing them several days ago?'), that may be different in degree from The Time Traveller's Wife, but is it really different in kind?

Or take detective stories. Is it less nonlinear because the characters are discovering what happened in the past at the same time the reader/viewer is?

On the other hand, there's Leverage. The thing where they explain how the trick worked, how we got to the ending we just saw...

Actually, I'm not sure what that is. Some other principle. Probably the one that says 'you can lead the viewer down the garden path of thinking things are going one way when they're actually going another, but you have to play fair and have a full explanation for how that happened -- the shorter the explanation, the better'.

Or maybe 'if you're hiding something, you have to hide it in plain sight'.

(There were a few episodes of Leverage where I knew exactly what had happened and got really impatient waiting for the reveal, but usually Leverage worked well for me.)

But actually this stuff about the reveal in Leverage reminds me of the classic detective story scene where the detective explains everything.

Food for thought: what's the difference, structurally, between a detective story and a heist/con story like most episodes of Leverage? Is the main difference the presence of a reader/viewer analogue inside the story?
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Somehow I ended up thinking about the next Captain America movie. Now, I haven't read any of the comics, so I feel like I've got a pretty major handicap here in terms of predicting what's going to happen, since these movies seem to be based on comics plotlines... and yet.

I read an article that was talking about the comics Civil War plotline and what it might mean for the MCU, and it said that the comics plotline was about a conflict about registration of superpowered individuals, and Tony Stark was on the side of government registration. As the article pointed out, this makes very little sense with respect to MCU Tony Stark, who thumbs his nose at the Senate, at Coulson, at Fury, and at anyone in authority at all times. So he's going to go to bat for government registration?

So yeah, that's pretty much a non-starter in terms of plotlines in the MCU, IMO.

And really, Tony vs. Steve is going to be weird when it's Steve's movie. Seriously, I can't see how that could possibly work when Tony has his own movies, his own established plotlines and character arcs.

Plus, Tony and Steve are not great friends who happen to fight like the dickens, as I gather they are in the comics. They're vaguely associated at best.

So basically, I can't see Tony vs. Steve being very satisfactory.

But "Civil War" -- that basically promises brother fighting brother, right?

So Captain America: Civil War has to be Steve Rogers vs. Bucky Barnes, am I right? That's a brother vs. brother that really makes sense, and a relationship arc that has been the heart of the first two movies. IMO, it basically has to come to a conclusion (and hopefully a reconciliation) in the third movie.

This got really long... )

Plot

Feb. 11th, 2015 12:17 am
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I used to seriously think that I was good at plot because I could always figure out what happened next.

Now I think maybe if I was better at figuring out how it all fits together and comes to a resolution, then maybe I could consider myself good at plot.

I still think I'm pretty decent at character, though.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Why are all the good story ideas always so long?

And why is my attention span so short? I have a days to weeks attention span, in general... but what I really need is a months to years attention span.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
If The Bletchley Circle did not already exist, I feel like I might appreciate Agent Carter more. But it does exist, and the comparisons are obvious, and The Bletchley Circle wins so much in my book. I.e. you don't have to be drowning in really unpleasant sexism in order to make a very clear point about sexism, for one thing. You can have more than one awesome woman. Etc.

But it is good to have many things in the world, even if some of them are more to my taste than others, and considering and I did keep watching for two hours, I do believe I'll at least watch it next week. (It helps that it's a mini-series.)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
20,742 words total in published complete fanfiction. (Most of it written in December.) On the other hand, I have about 90,000 words in first draft of a novel, so it wasn't a bad year for writing overall, as long as I keep working on said novel/series and finish it eventually.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
What Dreams
http://archiveofourown.org/works/2804936
15,357 words

Chronicles of Chrestomanci fic that takes a look at what it means to be Chrestomanci (or tries, at least) in the context of a recurring problem that crops up at a number of different points in Christopher Chant's life.

Two things. One, it's actually not easy to write about a character as a main character whose role in terms of storytelling is usually support character. And not just support character, but the really powerful support character who makes resolutions possible. I felt if I dug too deep and showed (or created) too many weaknesses, I'd be doing the character a disservice. Hopefully I struck a balance.

Two, I was horribly pressed for time, and got to that point where my brain didn't want to process any words associated with this story any more. Next year, I think I'm going to write something shorter, so it doesn't take so long just to read through for typos, never mind anything else.

Oh, three, I noticed there's a plot hole and figured out how to fix it a few days after Christmas, but I didn't think it was fair (or something, do I mean proper? useful?) to revise it at that point.


Spellmaker
http://archiveofourown.org/works/2837804
864 words

My very first Yuletide treat ever :) It's in the same fandom as the first one (Chronicles of Chrestomanci) but this one is about Angelica Petrocchi, whose spells always go wrong, and Roger Chant, who likes to tinker with spells.

The Boy in the Crystal Ball
http://archiveofourown.org/works/3115166
1949 words

Sequel to Spellmaker. Since it's not written for Yuletide, I don't know if anyone will read it, but oh well. I wanted to write it.



Oh, and if you like Diana Wynne Jones, I received a lovely Tale of Time City fic: http://archiveofourown.org/works/2791754

But of course I like it, it does everything I asked for, down to the butter pies :)
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