[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 experimenting with outlining lately, and several days ago I was looking for some resources about outlining scenes/chapters (this was before I gave up and put together my own method of outlining scenes
(which I don't know yet if it works, but it was fun)). Anyway, I didn't find much out there about outlining scenes (and most everything about outlining chapters was for non-fiction), but I did come across this post: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/

WARNING: the author of the post in question is clearly following the Great Prophet method of writing about writing, the one where the author of writing advice claims that everything they say is pure gospel, but doesn't support their assertions.

For example, "There are plenty of other patterns people use. They typically work less well."
Uh huh. If you expect me to believe you, you really ought to support your assertion with examples of other patterns and why they work less well, because if I look into my favorite book and find that my favorite author uses an "other pattern" that works "less well", I'm going to think that my favorite author probably knows more than you do. Because I like the stuff my favorite author writes, whereas your writing (i.e. this writing advice that I'm reading) is just a bit grating.

(I did actually look in a few books, and didn't find in any of them this oh so wonderful pattern that's claimed to be the perfect scene pattern, at least, not obvious enough to be recognizable to me, though you could probably get it to fit if you were really good at the rationalization side of analysis. So. Clearly not a useful model for me.)

But I digress. The thing I actually wanted to talk about was not the scene description stuff, which I think is pretty much bullshit as a set of rules for writing scenes, but probably worth looking at in times of stuckness because if you don't think of it as a hard and fast pattern but as a set of possibilities, I bet it could be pretty useful.

But the really interesting thing was the idea of the motivation-reaction unit (MRU). This idea ate my brain, because 1) it's so simple 2) it really does make a certain kind of sense (at least to me) that you need a motivation to respond to and then you respond in a certain order with emotion followed by reflex actions followed by logical thought and action. Plus, I looked into one of the books I had sitting around and actually saw the pattern happening, more or less. Not quite the simple form that was being described (the scene in question had multiple characters and no clear main actor, and it was written in omniscient), but a recognizable variant, let's say.

And it's perfect for roleplaying, which is all about back and forth anyway.

But having had my brain totally eaten by this new idea of the MRU, I became scared. It's so easy, I thought. Really, that's all you have to do...? But it can't be that easy, which probably means that it's just seductive crap that will make my writing horrible.

So I went looking in some more books and decided that whatever this bit of writing advice said, MRU isn't present (at least, not recognizably) all the time either. But it's still a useful idea, especially the part about putting reactions in order based on the speed that they happen based on human physiology.

And then I got to thinking about tension (I like to think about tension because I don't think I'm very good at putting tension into my writing yet). And it occurred to me that if you write a reaction without a motivation that causes that reaction, you're raising the tension a little bit...

(Tension is expectation. This tension is the expectation that there will be an explanation to come if the reader keeps reading.)

It's a fairly minor sort of tension in some cases, because there are some actions that can be accepted without clear motivation, or for which the motivation is assumed (I went to work in the morning -- motivation is assumed) and sometimes it's hard to tell which kind of thing you're looking at, tension that's going to be resolved or tension that might just fall away into some sort of assumed resolution, they must have had a reason but the reason doesn't matter. Or there was a reason, but the reason is outside the scope of this story.

Tension will eventually fade away if it isn't resolved, or brought to the reader's attention again to raise the tension further (but if you do that, you'd better resolve it eventually!)

And then I got to thinking about the thing I call backfilling: for example, when you start the story in media res and fill in all the background information as needed. Backfilling is all about manipulating tension via an implication and expectation of motivations, because you have all kinds of reactions and then eventually you fill in the backstory which provides the motivations.

(There is a thing that I made up that I call frontfilling which is also all about manipulation of tension, but it's actually more about providing really strong but incomplete motivations -- for example, showing how someone developed a strong desire to become a dancer and how much that goal means to them -- with the expectation being (at least, I think it works this way) that these motivations will become a problem at some point (there will be an obstacle) and then there must of necessity be a reaction, because...that's just how things work. And because the motivations are so strong.

Frontfilling is more tricky and needs more explicit manipulation of tension to work, I think, because the expectation is not as strong as with backfilling unless the writer does more work.)

Back to the expectation of motivation, though. If you fulfill the expectation, it's tension. If you don't fulfill the expectation, it's tension that drains away, which should probably be avoided (though probably can't always, because sometimes when I'm reading I find myself expecting things that in retrospect the author clearly not only didn't mean for me to expect but had never even had an inkling that anyone might expect).

And if, instead of fulfilling the expectation, you subvert it, or make it bigger than expected, (expecting a puppy, get a Saint Bernard) then it's surprise :) But possibly less of a surprise than if there had been no tension in the first place...

Which suggests another use for tension. Sometimes the thing you leave out (thereby forming the tension of the expectation that it will eventually explained) is the thing that would be most difficult to explain, so you leave it out, and make a picture around it, maybe a whole bunch of different strands of tension, until the reader almost knows what goes in the hole that you've left, and then you explain. That's not really tension for tension's sake, that's more...tension for persuasion's sake?

And then there's the kind of tension I mentioned a few days ago, where you leave out something for no reason at all besides tension. I still think this is annoying.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Last week I read a book that had me thinking about how annoying it is when the author leaves out information that's clearly know by the viewpoint character. I.e.: Oh, her, CharX thought. It's she that's been causing all this trouble.

Who is she? Obviously CharX knows who she is, but the reader doesn't know anything more than that it's not a character who would have been described with some other pronoun.

I was all ready to theorize that I don't like this because I read so much, and I'm just tired of not knowing things but I don't actually care enough to be motivated to want to know more. I was all ready to call it fake tension, and a bad thing, because obviously the construction, in addition to whatever (fake) tension comes from not knowing, is also promising that with a little bit of patience, all will be revealed. Because it doesn't make me eagerly read on because I must find out, it just makes me roll my eyes and keep going because I will find out.

But I did wonder if my reaction was because I've seen this technique so much before, and if a less jaded reader would feel it as real tension, not fake tension...

I'm still wondering about that part, but this week I read a book that I think did a better job with the same thing, and fake tension or not, I'm not as willing to classify it as a bad thing.

In this particular scene, some details were left out and kept for later, but I think they were details that would have taken away from the scene (which was an important scene). The scene had to be there, but the details didn't, and might have gotten in the way.

(Possibly the distinction is that tension wasn't really the point -- at least, that's how I read it.)

So I guess...it all depends on how you do it. As with most things.


Sep. 27th, 2015 03:49 am
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I used to read that writing advice about how you never learn how to write a novel, you only learn how to write this novel, and be intimidated. It makes everything sound so difficult.

I never realized just how much fun figuring out how to write each novel (or each project) could be. At least half the fun of the whole thing, all this figuring, maybe more.


Sep. 25th, 2015 03:25 am
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I can look at my writing from the top down (outlines, structure, all very fun) or from the bottom up (words make sentences, sentences make paragraphs, it's all going somewhere and I'll get there eventually).

But I don't seem to quite have the trick of melding those two perspectives, or looking both ways from somewhere in the middle.
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I finished reading the Fraction Hawkeye, and I've been thinking about it off and on ever since because I found the last volume to be a totally fine volume but then I read on the back that it was the last volume and I just didn't get it.

I mean, it does more or less resolve a few things, and very specifically leaves some other stuff hanging, which I assume is some kind of hook into the main continuity or something, but sure, whatever, books leave sequel hooks too.

Part of the problem is probably that I don't think the volumes do enough backfilling / reminding the reader of the stuff that happened in previous volumes -- I'd think they're meant to be read at once? Except that I actually think they're meant to be read in...chapters? Whatever you call the individual comic books that got compiled into each volume? I.e. they do a tiny bit of reminding you of stuff, but not as much as I'd expect from a discrete book, probably because they're a compilation, not a discrete book.

Similarly, it brings in Clint's brother out of nowhere, just doing the backfilling at the beginning of the relevant chapter/whatever ...

It's very clever and economical, but it makes the shape of the story weird (at least, weird to my very novel-attuned sensibilities). Mostly because it's not following the rule about not introducing new elements at the end. I mean, there was absolutely no suggestion of Clint's brother for the first three volumes, then bang, by the way...

They did the same thing with his ex-wife, team-mates, etc., now that I think about it.

Which I suppose is because the series itself is not really meant to be one thing, precisely. It's more like one of those fix-up novels made up of short stories?

Or I suppose it's just comics, and they probably work like that. It's a small small world inside of each chapter / individual comic book, and they bring in backstory as economically as possible, and even when they have story arcs, they're made up of bits of small world pasted together, and that's how they make a very large world.

I can sort of see how that would be appealing. It leaves me feeling just a bit unsatisfied, I have to admit. Looking for the wrong kind of resolution, I suppose.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I just think it's sort of funny that if you read books about leadership, the benefits of having a hierarchy and a central authority are lauded, and the primary benefit is efficiency. Without leadership, people would argue a lot and then just go do whatever and that would be very inefficient. Leaders are clearly needed to give their followers focus and coordination.

And then if you read books about economics, the benefits of not having a leader or any kind of central authority are lauded. The problem with a centrally planned economy, many economists say, is that it is inefficient. It works so much better to have everyone do whatever they want (mediated by changing prices sending signals about what's needed/wanted, supply/demand, etc.), because the sum of everyone choosing what to do on their own is that you end up with the most efficient system possible in the theory of many economists.

I assume there's some really complicated point, involving scale, simplicity of the enterprise in question, degree of shared goals of everyone involved, and probably a lot of other things, that affects some kind of switch from one to the other (and I would love to read a book about this, if only this were a thing that anyone thought about instead of -- I think? so far as I know? -- falling into the cracks between the things that people generally think about). Not to mention the possibility of some of these theories being some degree of wrong, there being lots of points that fall in between strict hierarchy and total individuality, etc. But still. Sort of funny.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I figured out something about how I read.

Totally made up sentence based on a real sentence in a book I read:
Fred and Joy and Carrie and John were sitting under the tree with Jane.
I've got this feeling that in context, this sentence was supposed to say all kinds of subtle things about group dynamics and who's sitting where and what that means about...well, stuff.

But what I read is more like "Some people were sitting under the tree with Jane." Even though I've technically met Fred and Joy and so on (see, I don't even have the patience to type out their names), I don't actually bring to mind everything I know about them just because I see their names...

So maybe the sentence was trying to say "A bunch of the artists were sitting under the tree with Jane" or maybe "A bunch of influential artists were sitting under the tree with Jane" or even "A bunch of influential artists were showing their support for the thing Jane just did by sitting under the tree with her when they could have been sitting somewhere more comfortable."

Actually, it was probably more like "Jane had been joined under the tree by some of her supporters and some influential people from other (allied?) factions, who were there to show support for her recent actions."

I don't know. I sort of wish the book had used fewer names and more spelling things out, though. Or maybe I should just learn to pay more attention to group dynamics and the positions of characters within the group dynamics and how that changes (which is actually subtly different from paying attention to the important-seeming things that characters do, because sitting under the tree with Jane doesn't seem important, especially when Jane is far more interesting and stands out far far more than Joy and so on...and yet, all those names have to be there for a reason, right?)

(Actually, I think a lot of the descriptions of the characters -- the real descriptions, the ones that were done in action, the ones that are trying to establish the character and who they are and what's important about them, not the ones that are trying to describe them physically in a few sentences -- were doing a lot to establish their social position more than anything else, too. Hmm.)
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.


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.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
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.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
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.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
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... )
lookingforoctober: (Default)
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 )
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