[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!
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I feel like I have a slight problem with explaining things in my writing. Mostly because I often think of things, make a gesture toward putting them in somewhere, and then move on. Usually these are character notes, things that explain motivation, perhaps, or maybe not even motivation, just something about the character.

For example, in The Prince and the Pirate (my Princess Bride story), I had an idea about water. I noticed that being a pirate's apprentice, scheduled to die in the morning, involved death on the sea, or in other words death and water. And I noticed that the Rugen's machine used water for power and caused pain and death: so again, death and water. And I put in a few paragraphs about water, but I don't think I explained anything.

...and I'm not sure there's anything to explain, even if I'd used the water thing more, it would have been a thematic element, which...do you explain those? Or just put them in for people to notice or not notice or maybe notice unconsciously? But all the same, I could have used it a bit more, made the connection more strongly...

Would the story have been better with a consistent use of water on the thematic level? I'm actually not sure.

And I guess I wonder if things that I "explain" by putting certain events next to each other are actually explanations. I don't really like to outright say "character did this because of this reason" because I have a horror of being obvious and telling readers how to interpret things, but maybe I should lean that way more often. When you put things next to each other, it's an implied explanation only if the implication is strong enough.

Sometimes I wonder if my characters are too opaque when they've made their way out of my head and onto the page, but overexplaining is a flaw too... And since a lot of my writing has come from roleplaying, I may overvalue character, especially the itty bitty nuances of character, too.

Other thoughts are welcome.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Short version: I don't think they've established one yet.

So I watched the two episodes they aired this week, and...Spoilers )
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Does anyone happen to know of any good essays / writing meta / I'm not sure what this is usually called... Writing advice? (except it doesn't have to be advice, it could be detailed analysis of something that exists and how it does one of these things) ...about the following topics?

1) antagonists and their role in a story (besides the stuff at arghink.com, which I already know about)
2) structures that aren't linear

I'm looking for real nuts and bolts kind of stuff, especially about the structures. Because whenever I see people talking about structures that aren't linear, they usually just sort of list them... Spiral structures or alternating structures, etc.

But what I want is how to write a spiral structure, what the pitfalls are, what makes a good or bad spiral structure, etc.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I actually went to see a movie in the movie theatre. I must be a fan.

Spoilers )
lookingforoctober: (Default)
I started reading Jenny Crusie's blog (at http://www.arghink.com) recently thanks to [community profile] metanews and it is awesome. There's all kinds of stuff there about writing and how stories work that I've been devouring because it speaks to the part of stories and structure and pacing that I think I'm weak with.

Actually, the first thing that I realized after reading a bunch of entries over there was that I don't know how to write antagonists, except maybe by accident, which was a zinging wow of a revelation that I'm still working through. But having a concrete direction to think about in terms of things that I've been a bit uncomfortable with in my writing but didn't know exactly why...that's useful. And the more I read, the more I realize.

So. http://www.arghink.com. Awesome blog.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
There are undoubtedly problems with Season 7, mostly in the plot department, IMO. There's definitely some good stuff, too. For example, I think Dawn is pretty amazing in this season, and I like a lot about the ending, and also a fair bit about how Spike is portrayed (I think I forgot to mention in the episode itself the bit where Spike hits a human bad guy and makes his chip go off and then keeps doing it because he knows he's bad and deserves the pain is really telling about where the character is right then) and there are some well plotted episodes and some interesting themes. I was especially surprised that I was so intrigued by the Anya episode Selfless, because I remember not liking it originally. (Although then Anya went back to being a rather flat character for the rest of the season, so that was sad.)

In terms of plot, I'm sort of torn. All the random meaningless things that show up at the very end -- scythe, amulet, spell that does exactly what they want -- that's poor plotting. And the plot in general doesn't support the actions of the characters. For half the season or maybe more, Buffy talks like she's in a war and complains about how hard it is to be a General who must decide who will die, but there's not a any actual leading into battle that I can remember until that one time much later, for example. ...actually, that's sort of clever, is that on purpose? Like Buffy is so intimidated by the thought of war and what she's going to have to do that she's late in doing it? Because that would be interesting...but I don't know that it's the interpretation they were going for.

I feel like there's a story there, but it makes me wonder if the story they wanted to tell didn't fit well in the episode structure. Like Faith showing up toward the end, or Angel showing up...or The First mostly appearing to be one person per episode. But the story they wanted to tell wasn't about people showing up and leaving, even though that's the story they ended up telling...

Maybe that was all supposed to be fun retrospective stuff, but the fun retrospective was actively working against the plot stuff. Angel showing up for like two seconds to talk about shipping and then heading off to...umm, something. I forgot. Second line of defense, maybe, was that the excuse? How does that make any sense? What is Angel supposed to defend in LA? Not the world, because the only way to defend the whole world is at the hellmouth. Why would the uber-vamps go to LA, once free from the hellmouth?

Or that time when Buffy and Spike visited the Initiative, and there are army guys there who know about vampires and demons and all that secret kind of stuff...and Buffy had them remove Spike's chip, but she didn't think to ask them to help with her "war"?

I think they had a lot of different things they wanted to do with Season 7, but they never got them to mesh, and they never found the focus or decided what the main thing they wanted to do was either, what the season was saying.

Take the plot with the first uber-vamp, and compare it with the plot with Caleb. There are some really obvious similarities: both adversaries are minions of The First, both are super-strong, both defeat Buffy. And Buffy defeats both of them just by trying harder, apparently, and both times Buffy has an audience that she's showing off for (I still don't get that bit).

The second time, Buffy also has a scythe. The first time she uses wire to sever the neck of the uber-vamp. Is that supposed to be meaningful? It's the only possibly meaningful difference I can think of, because the scythe is supposed to be this cool thing... Oh, and Caleb is far more annoying, but I'm not sure how that matters.

But when you're making parallels, it's the differences that matter. The parallels seem too strong for it to be an accident, but I have no idea what I'm supposed to take away from this in terms of character or change or any kind of arc. Buffy found a red glittering weapon that she was so totally right about because she realized that the enemy was trying to hide it? So now she can defeat the enemy...eventually...if she has the right audience?

So basically, there is some cool stuff there, but I don't know what Season 7 is about.
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Power watch: Okay, so these uber-vamps...just one of them left Buffy for dead earlier in the season. And yet now suddenly everyone can fight them, not just potentials become Slayers, but everyone. *sigh*

And of course: "What if you could have that power? Now. All of you. In every generation one Slayer is born because a bunch of guys that died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman [Willow] is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rules. I say my power should be our power."

Other: It doesn't make any sense to open the seal. Especially before Willow does the spell. Also, that amulet thing is the most amazingly out of nowhere and ridiculously powerful deus ex machina ever. Just saying.

I like that Buffy is not thinking about the future...or is thinking about not thinking about it, or anything along those lines. I like that one of the themes in this episode is the future.

Spike's death meant a lot more when I actually thought he died, the first time I watched this. It was really meaningful to me, that he sacrificed himself, that he became a hero, this bloke who used to be evil and all about killing for fun...and I was just amazed that he could have got here from there, and that it all worked, more or less. This time...well, he didn't really die, and I'm not all that amazed, and...it was fine. Second times are weird like that. Maybe if I ever watch this again, I'll be able to get some of the first time cool stuff back.

It's weird, but I actually feel like, even though I'm generally pretty much in favor of Buffy/Spike as a ship, this season's canon did very little for me. I've connected way more with fanfic that makes use of this canon, I think, and the canon itself just seems...a bit sparse? I don't know.

I like that Buffy said "I love you" to Spike. And I like that he said "No you don't."

And I know that there are problematic aspects to the "everyone who can be a Slayer will be a Slayer" thing, but I pretty much love that as the ending of this series. It turns the whole "chosen one" trope on it's head, it pretty much turns the whole world that we've seen on its head... Nothing will ever be the same, Slayers don't have to be alone.

Buffy has always been the girl who wanted to have it all -- she refused to give up friends and a life in order to be the Slayer, and this season took "all" away from her. Or maybe she let the events of this season take it all away from her, until the only thing that was left was the Slayer and the mission, and even that didn't work out especially well for her.

And the ending is saying "You can have it all again" and even more, it's saying, "And you don't have to be alone in figuring out what it means to be a Slayer, being a Slayer can now be a group endeavor."

And for the potentials -- well, if it's all about power, like the First said at the very beginning, they now have the power they need to protect themselves and reach their potential. And I think that it's all about them having a choice, too, because...they were potentials. That made them targets, and it put their futures in the hand of whatever random magic picks the next Slayer. They could have become the Slayer at any time, the one on whom all that destiny rests...but now they're all Slayers together, and they can chose, in the company of all the Slayers, what to do about that.

So in the context of the entire show, I like to think that this ending is saying that Buffy and co. beat the series antagonist, which is the Council of Watchers and their endeavors to control the lives of Slayers and potentials, and created a unique opportunity for everyone affected by the whole "Slayer" and "destiny" and all that to come together and decide on a new way of being a Slayer that has room to be about community and choice.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
So, I like Spike and Buffy saying that the previous night meant something to both of them. Especially Spike.

Oh, and I guess we've now got Dawn's opinion on sacrificing Dawn...

Other: You know, figuring out what's going on and what stuff is (it's a scythe? it's an axe? but it's surely important, right? because it was forged by a woman we've never seen before...) this is not really bad stuff, it's just misplaced. It's not what belongs in the second to last episode of the entire series.

I think last time I liked what Anya had to say about humans that keep fighting, but...I'm sort of burned out on people talking about stuff this time through. Actually, all the random conversations were fine, Faith and Buffy talking about being leader, etc. etc. but none of them actually mattered. (I am still starving for a plot that matters here.) But I think that all the talking must have been a deliberate choice. They decided to not really have episode plots, but rather to have people hashing out character stuff through conversation. It's like...retrospectives. Look at where the characters were and where they are now...and in that perspective, it's not terrible.

Also, I have to admit, I don't get why Angel showed up half way through Buffy's fight with Caleb and then watched. What? Way to make Buffy's victory seem insignificant and turn it into being all about relationship nonsense. They should have ended the episode with Buffy defeating Caleb. Or...well, something about the battle to come would be okay too. Buffy's ex shows up and now Spike is mad, ooooooo? Yeah, okay, Buffy as a series is indeed often all about relationship angst and stuff, but it was just so weirdly done. There was something about the lighting that seemed to be saying that Angel showing up is all special and amazing and significant... Bleh.
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Buffy changed tactics! Yay Buffy! (Oh, and...it's thematic too. Her new tactic is "You can't touch me", see title of this episode.)

I also like the scene with Buffy and Spike...the one where Spike tells her he loves her because of who she is, and then she asks him to stay and hold her.

Other: I think they're overdoing the thematic and underdoing the plot still (and it doesn't have to be either or, does it?), but oh well.
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I liked how, for about five seconds in there when they were confronting the police, there was a bit where the potentials fought together as a team, and very effectively.

I also liked how after getting thrown out of her own house, Buffy was still thinking about the same thing: what needed to be done and the good of the potentials.

Oh, I also liked Spike and Andrew's interrogation of the priest.

Power watch: The bad guys are where the power is, or so Buffy theorizes.

Buffy does not have the power to inspire, and without followers she does not have the power to lead.

Other: I do not understand how things moved so quickly from "you are wrong about this one thing" to "just go away". I don't know, it's not that I think Buffy is right (I actually can't remember if Buffy is right or not about there being something powerful that Caleb's protecting, which I think says something about how important that question is, but in general I think doing the same thing and hoping for a different result is bad tactics, so I'm not exactly on Buffy's side on going back to the vineyard). It's just...

Okay, Buffy is right about one thing, she's always jumped first and it's always worked for her, and everyone else is right, that's not always the tactically sound thing to do, even if it generally works for Buffy. But Buffy's also right, it's a valid theory that the bad guys are where the power is. So why are they having a stupid personal debate about Buffy's feelings of superiority and whether who trusts who when they could be having a useful debate about what they should actually do and I don't mean should they make Faith the leader or not because that's just internal shuffling, I mean WHAT SHOULD THEY ACTUALLY DO?

I.e. why is there no actual plot? Why do Caleb and The First talk smugly about having a plan when there is clearly no plan, because if there was a plan someone would be doing something instead of talking smugly about plans? Why does no one have any sort of clear goal that they're working towards? Why do we have random "I'm going to beat you up because I've got nothing better to do" scenes involving Caleb and Buffy?

Yeah. I guess I just hit my breaking point on suspension of disbelief or something. Oops.

Also, I don't like Caleb. I don't like Caleb as a character, and I don't like Caleb as a plot device. And I don't want to watch Caleb beat up Buffy and if Caleb just disappeared I would not mind a bit even if it didn't make any plot sense, because I don't want to watch one second more of Caleb. And yeah, I know he dies at some point, but NOT SOON ENOUGH.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Well, I like that Faith showed up, and I like her first scene with Spike, where she thinks he's evil.

Xander supporting Buffy (with a speech) wasn't bad either.

Oh, I also, in retrospect, suddenly really like the whole "this is a war" metaphor (and I wish that the way Buffy was acting was based on reality, that there was more evidence that this was a war, and not...a nothing with sudden forays into terrible but seemingly random defeat).

Power watch: Yeah, suddenly there's another random single being who's all kinds of powerful and totally defeats Buffy, and this time defeats the potentials too (not that there's any reason he shouldn't, given that he's superpowered and they aren't) and Faith as well. Caleb wins.

But also, Buffy loses. Actively. Everyone else was right, and taking the potentials in to a completely unknown situation that was obviously a trap and where nothing was at stake, without a plan, that was really stupid. But if she hadn't, there wouldn't have been any plot, so...

Other: I wish...okay, I like Storyteller a lot, but I like it as a single episode. Right now, with all the speeches, Andrew doing a Faith retrospective, Spike and Faith catching up, Caleb backstory with the First acting things out, and the Caleb voiceover narration about a story with a "happy" ending, there's way too much storytelling, not nearly enough actual story going on here.
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This episode has some lovely parallels: Spike's mother to Robin's (did they truly love their children, was what they did a rejection), Buffy to Robin's mom (both Slayers, both talking about the mission), Giles as a parent who tells lies and expects to get what he wants from Buffy, or at least to be forgiven...

It's interesting to think about what this says about demons as well. Was Spike's mother the vampire really just a demon talking? Also why, if vampires are demons and demons are evil and lacking in human taboos, did Spike resist her?

Overall, the experience of this episode is pretty good, it all comes together very well, especially at the end.

Power watch: So if we take Robin Wood as a better fighter than the potentials, because he's trained and probably stronger... Spike didn't have much trouble, and Spike's not an uber-vamp. When the hoards of orcs uber-vamps come... Why is a general needed? What hard decisions are they actually facing here? Either the threat is too big (given the vision of endless uber-vamps), or too small (since the seal is still closed). It's like they're preparing for the ending that since this is a rewatch, I know is coming. But they don't, so what do they think they're doing?

Buffy says she'd sacrifice Dawn now, to save the world. I still don't see why this is such an issue, though. Second time it's come up as significant, and the other time was Joyce the ghost saying it in Conversations With Dead People. I feel like Dawn has gotten enough agency in this season that ... I don't know. Dawn's not a pawn now, even if she were to get sacrificed. I can't really articulate why this makes so much of a difference, but...I guess I feel like leaving Dawn out of the conversation ... what exactly does Dawn think about sacrificing Dawn and saving the world? That's what I want to know.

Oh, also, Spike wins this episode.
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I love this episode.

It's about the stories people tell to themselves. Construction of reality. Andrew is the catalyst for us being able to see some of the stories, like Xander and Anya. His questions make them start thinking in terms of stories, and even later on, they're still thinking in stories...they're trying to figure out what's going on between them, and it's all stories. Still have a spark. One more time. It's putting whatever's between them into a story. Trying to make sense -- the human brain makes sense by telling stories.

And it's really obvious that Andrew's telling stories, especially about himself. He's telling stories explicitly as the narrator of the documentary, and then he's telling stories to try to make himself look better, like it wasn't his fault that he killed Jonathan, whatever story that takes. And then he's telling stories to try to make himself feel better about his own impending death...

And I love everyone having an opinion about the value of stories, or of the value of leaving a record of what's happening. Most of the characters think a record of what's going on, has some value -- and then they try to influence the record in some way.

And Spike telling a story about not wanting to be filmed, because of course he's a big bad vampire, but it's an act, or if not entirely an act, then at least something he wants to be done right for the record...love that.

Oh, and Andrew talking about sexual tension between Spike and Robin Wood -- that's a story that's pretty revealing of Andrew, but completely misinterprets what's actually going on between them.

But Buffy's telling stories too. She's telling Andrew stories, and making Andrew change his story to match the story that she's telling, and I don't know if she even realizes that she's telling a story, but all those speeches she's making -- she's constructing reality too.

Love it.

Power watch: Buffy's better at forcing/persuading her story on others than Andrew. I think that means she wins the power games this episode.
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Well, the shadowcaster was pretty cool.

Power watch: Wow. Power, power, power. Buffy is the most powerful person because she uses her power. They offered her power, not knowledge. Willow drained Kennedy because she was the most powerful person in the vicinity.

Also, Buffy told Spike she wanted him to be less human if it meant he was more powerful, then refused that deal herself, then regretted it.

But in contrast with recent episodes where everyone's off doing their own thing, Buffy only got back because everyone pitched in. Spike killed a demon, Willow did magic, Dawn encouraged, Anya had ideas about what to do.
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I really like Robin Wood. I think he's an awesome character, and I love that he has such a completely valid issue with Spike. I wish we'd gotten an explanation for the knife with blood on it, though. Random suspicious thing was not actually explained by him turning out to be a fighter of vampires. (Or maybe it was pizza sauce on that knife...?)

This is another episode in which everyone goes off and does their own thing, though at least it comes together at the end. It would be interesting to compare this episode structurally with...what's the one in Season 4 where it ends with three women walking alone? Is that the episode with Spike? Harsh Light of Day.

(After reading http://www.arghink.com/2014/03/07/the-contract-with-the-reader/, I suspect that the thing that makes one of them more satisfying as an episode than the other is that in one of them there is absolutely no doubt what the main plot is.)

I really want to like Spike and Buffy, occasionally I do, but gosh, it's such a slow build.

"We can't beat evil by doing evil," Buffy says, about the option of keeping Spike chipped. I'm not entirely sure keeping Spike chipped would count as evil, but...this is an excellent theme that I would like to see more of.

Power watch: I'm sorry, the First simply does not have the power of scary, no matter how it tries here. And it seems pretty ineffectual. How hard is it actually to get blood on a seal? Does it have to be human blood? Why doesn't the First have minions that will bleed for it? They could have a bleeding on the seal party...

Also in the episode, Giles says, "There's no time for fun and games and quipping about orientations." Which is clearly not the case, there's plenty of time. Even the demon that's serving the First has time to go buy rope and then wait until evening and have coffee before getting around to stringing up Xander and sticking a sword in his belly.

The First is simply not generating enough significant plot to keep everyone busy, which I think shows a distinct lack of power.

Also, Robin Woods has the power of killing vampires, but does not have the power of being able to ignore the First. Oh, but I like The First playing them all against each other...
lookingforoctober: (Default)
What a weird episode.

Power watch: Amy says "It's all about power." By which she means that she's jealous of Willow's power and therefore feels justified in doing anything she wants.

Also, apparently Spike needs to be shown as even more powerless (because being tortured by the First wasn't enough) and now he's spending his time falling all over the floor because of the pain (and it's only portrayed in a way that's at all sympathetic to Spike when Spike and Buffy are alone...)

In Season 6, Buffy spent time alone with Spike because she didn't have to pretend. Hypothesis: this is still why she spends time alone with Spike.

Other: There are three plot threads, and two of them are resolved and one of them is left hanging. Why do we not get Buffy's decision about Spike's chip?

I do not understand the choice to portray what was happening by jumping back and forth between the actor who played Warren and the actor who played Willow.

Also, this is another episode in which everyone goes off and does their own thing separately.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
A well plotted episode. Maybe a bit heavy on the parallel construction at the end, but Dawn is awesome.

And Buffy's being...well, she's being the kind of teacher you'd expect her to be given that she was taught by Watchers. Shut them in with a vampire, sure, why not? It seems to be working, at least. I think it's interesting that Buffy's teaching seems so assured. She talks about death...this is something she's struggled with, but you can't see it in her little lesson. I think you can see Buffy's failure mode (if you know what you're looking for), even now when she seems to be succeeding. The episode is trying to say "Potentials are Slayers" but I feel like the way Buffy's handling the teaching undercuts that.

I enjoy how Dawn is recognizably like the other characters in earlier seasons.

Xander telling Dawn "I notice that you're awesome" is...awesome :)

Power watch: Why is The First gone? Because it's the middle of the season and they've got to have some other types of episodes, I suppose.

It's interesting that potentials are something different than ordinary. They're "chosen" too, they have instincts but not...power.

Willow's power seems to fluctuate a lot.

Xander claims to be powerless but good at windows.

And Dawn seriously didn't do that bad at the fighting in my opinion, before she handed off the wooden staff. It's a bit weird how not a potential ends up meaning okay go do research. How important are "special" instincts anyway?
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Well, I like that The First impersonated a dead potential. It makes sense. I like the idea that the potentials wouldn't just automatically trust Buffy, too.

And I especially like that Buffy's death/resurrection has far reaching consequences, because that was a big thing.

And Buffy rescued Spike. I like that we don't have to see The First rather incompetantly torturing Spike any more... No, really, I like that Buffy rescued Spike, it's a nice reversal of the trope where women have to be rescued.

Power watch: I think I'll go with the message that the Scoobies are not as powerless as they seem for this episode.

And that's half way through the season.
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