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.


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)
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)
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?


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)
I think it's because I'm paying attention to structure while writing things that are short, that I'm starting to feel very repetitious.

This is (probably) okay. At least, I'm going to assume it's okay, because structure is repeatable in a way that other things aren't... Actually, other things are probably more repeatable than I think too. But structure is more repeatable without it being a bad thing. ...Probably.

I'll have to come back later and see if I notice all this repetition when I'm not right in the middle of writing.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
1. Ever since I started paying as much attention as I have to spare to structure, a) I'm pretty sure I've grown a lot as a writer and b) half the time I feel like I don't know how to write at all. You'd think these would be contradictory, but I guess it's got something to do with having more options to go to but less idea how to use them properly or how to even tell if they're being used properly.

2. I really want to write Yuletide treats! I need to finish my mired-in-structural-problems-but-the-end-is-in-sight assignment first, though.

3. Actually, the thing you're not writing always looks easier to write than the thing you are writing, yes? So maybe the treats wouldn't be as easy to write as I think. But if I write even one treat, that will be better than I've done in the past two years, so one can hope.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
It is sad when you've written about 7,000 words and the first 3,000 of them are, without exception, boring. Fixable (I'm pretty sure), but still sad.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Journal-based online roleplaying as my main form of writing for many years has left me sorely deficient in the art of plotting. Trying to write a novel that has a bunch of plot, I am feeling that.

And ironically enough, I feel like what I really need to do to fix it -- besides keep plugging away at plotty novel -- is to have a tabletop game drop into my lap. I don't especially want to go looking, but see, the kind of roleplaying I've mostly done is freeform, all about characters interacting. It didn't really reward characters who want to do things. But I remember tabletop really rewarded being able to come up with plans and actions, and that's a lot of what plot is, right?

It's also worth mentioning that the thing that's taught me the most about plot in the shortest amount of time was when I did the Buffy Remix, and rewrote a plotty story in my own way. That was really amazing, and I should have done remix again this year, but...you can't really guarantee you'll get something plotty, can you? I don't think someone would learn much from my stories, for example...

In other news, I'm starting to think my antagonist may be not a person but more like the shape of the world and the forces of history. Hey, it worked for Guy Gavriel Kay in The Lions of Al-Rassan.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
If you have a character in something original who is partially based on (or shall I say inspired by) a character from a certain canon (shares story roles and some traits), and then you write fanfiction about a certain canon using some of your completely original characterization from said original character in order to flesh out a canon character (because, unsurprisingly, it fits the canon character just fine too), does that make your original character less original?

Or, in order to keep up the pretense that your original character is totally original (like anything ever is), do you need to make a clean break?

Yes, the idea of originality has been bothering me lately.

There is probably no actual answer to this kind of question.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
Every time I hear the metaphor about "filing the serial numbers off" when talking about changing fanfic into original fiction, I wonder if anyone actually does it that way. I mean, it sounds really easy, you just remove a couple of things and voila, you have something original.

I'm currently writing something that started off as fanfic, and that's not anything even vaguely like what I'm doing. Basically, the instant I decided that I was going to make it original, a whole bunch of things that had been separate because it was fanfic and I had to work within a set of canon constraints -- all that stuff collapsed in and merged together, because my story needed dense connections more than it needed, for example, more highly specialized characters. And it's been like that ever since. Once I wasn't trying to work within a certain pre-existing world, things just kept changing...

The metaphor that makes sense to me is cat's cradle. Okay, I've never actually been any good at cat's cradle, or done much of it, but as I understand it, one person makes a pattern between their hands with a loop of string and then the other person takes hold of different parts of the string and pulls it off the first person's hands and into a new but related pattern.

Writing fanfic has tons of constraints -- the places the string wraps around a finger or a thumb. When you're not writing fanfic, some of those constraints go away (and some new constraints quickly take their place like a second set of hands reaching in -- all the original stuff that I added into the worldbuilding and I don't want to change, for example), but the pattern doesn't go away entirely, it just gets pulled into a new configuration.

(Actually, I think I've identified one of my current problems, too. There are places where I think the fanficcy part of things is more interesting than what I would make up -- characters who are very different from me, for example -- and I'm reluctant to pull them away from their orginal fanficcy supports and just see what happens, because I'm afraid it would homogenize them. I'm not sure what to do about that though -- if I'm writing something original, I don't want to have fanficcy characters standing out in obvious unchanged patterns. Maybe I need to look at that serial numbers metaphor a bit more closely, to see if I can make it work for me...)
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