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Monthly Archives: April 2012

How Far is Too Far?

Speculative fiction is a growing category these days. It’s a rising trend (though really, it’s applicable to all fiction) to push the envelope and see what you can get away with. The constant question asked by amateur writers is “How far is too far?”

How far can you push the readers into uncomfortable territory before they balk and walk away? How far can you take an idea before it splits at the seams? How far can you diverge from the natural laws of the universe or the norms that we are used to and still make sense?

What many new writers do not realize is there is no such thing as “too far.” While it’s true that some decisions you make will scare some readers off or at least anger some people, it’s not true that you should let that dissuade you from writing something. You cannot please everyone.

As long as you write strongly enough, you create characters with enough depth, you create your own laws for how things work and you stick to those laws, you focus on little details to flesh things out, you can get away with anything! You don’t have to stick to reality. Because the beautiful thing is, this is fiction.

Who says cars can’t fly? Physics? Sure, but our physics are based on theories that are only our interpretation of phenomenon around us. Science is asking to be proven wrong, and some day it might. Who says people don’t have two heads? Biology? Well, that’s just from what we’ve seen. There could be thousands more species out there.

The point is, you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that you’re going too far into unknown and unexplored territory. As long as you spend the time developing the ideas in your head, as long as they are real to you and you know every minute detail of how things work, then you shouldn’t have any troubles going off the beaten track. It’s fiction; everything really worth writing, at its core, has already been written. What makes stories unique, what makes it possible for new stories to still be put out and published, is the unique combination of elements, words, and characters. If you just rehash something from someone else without adding in that new flair, that venture into uncharted territory, than you’ll have a bland story that no one will read.

You can’t go too far in fiction. But you can go not far enough.

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Impressions of Graduation


I’M GRADUATED!!!

*ahem*

So today I’ve been up and running about since 7 AM. Doing graduation stuff. Because I am now an adult with a degree. And a technical writing certificate.

The general convocation was boring, but what I expected. Except for the part where we had to walk down halls, stairs, and a path lined with professors. We were fairly certain it was a psychological experiment. “Find your way through the rat maze, then you can have your degree.” XD It was nice, just boring. And far too early. Really, the only reason I went is because they promised us a shiny metal for coming to the ceremony. It looks very nice.

Then I had four hours to kill between that and my college’s graduation. Killed time with the ‘rents, went out to eat at a steak house… Then we went back to the school. I was hustled off into a back room of the building where they were assembling and alphabetizing the grads. God, it got hot in there. But then they gave us streamers. Streamers! That was fun. They tried to manage a full room of artistic graduates with streamers! My roommate had wanted to steal my robes to play Harry Potter. I had to send her a text that I had a wand. (The streamers were attached to a small plastic wand.)

Then, once everything was settled, they sent us on in to the funnest music EVER. We danced across the stage waving the streamers about. Mwa ha ha, fun!  The program was full of things like singing, and performing, and the performing arts students went across the stage dancing or on roller skates. When I got to walk the stage to get my diploma cover, I hugged each and every one of the professors that made an incredible difference in my life. I’ll forever be grateful to them.

I’m sorry, this post is a little ADD. I’ve been running around for far too long.

Anyways, the point is, anyone who’s ever said graduations were boring has never been to an arts and humanities graduation. That was the most fun I have ever had. It was the party we deserved as graduates. Oh, I’d go to another one in a heartbeat.

Today was everything I could have hoped it could be. I’m so very glad to be graduated. I’m already starting to miss it. I’ll go back to school for my Masters before I turn 30.

Now I just need to find a job… Hmmm….

In any case, I’m going to ignore the stress of that for now and go back to dancing happily. Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Happy Birthday, David Tennant

I’ve got my two finals today. I’m just on a brief break between them for now. So I’m forgoing today’s post.

I’d like to wish David Tennant a very happy 41st birthday. He’s by far my favorite actor, and quite possibly one of my favorite people on this planet. David, I hope you have a birthday as amazing as yourself.

For those of you who don’t know who I’m talking about, enjoy these clips.


(A fantastic performance even if they did cut some of the lines from the soliloquy)


WARNING: This clip is not appropriate for work.


TEARS WILL FALL!

And, to bring it back round to a happy note…

The scene that made me love that man forever was the one where Cassandra takes over his body. It takes a lot of guts for a man to play a woman. XD

“Oh my, this is… different. Goodness me, I’m a man! Yum! So many parts! And hardly used… Oh? Oh! Two hearts! Oh baby, I’m beating out a samba! Ooh, he’s slim. And a little bit foxy.”

On that note, I bid you all farewell until Friday. And David? Once again, a very, very happy birthday to you, sir! Continue being amazing.

Why I Write Fanfiction

There’s a lot of derision against fanfiction in the writing community. Harsh claims fly around like slings and arrows, claims such as: People need to be creative enough to come up with their own characters and stories; It’s such a waste of time; Fanfic writers are just lazy; It’s so poorly written.

I don’t agree with any of these claims. I’m going to break the claims down one by one and talk about why I write it.

1) People need to be creative enough to come up with their own characters and stories.
Most well-written fanfiction is created by authors in their spare time. The two authors I follow on fanfiction.net are a published writer and a college professor. The published author uses an established story to insert her own characters (who fit into the ‘verse very well) to explore them in ways they don’t get used in her books.

As you all know, I’m avidly working on my own stuff. But sometimes the plot bunnies run rampant in my head. I’m watching my favorite shows or reading my favorite books, and an off-handed idea will pop into my head. “What if…” Fanfiction is all about what ifs. What if the character had acted on that comment? What if they had ended up here instead of here? What if something more happened behind the scene that we, as an audience, didn’t get to see? When the plot bunnies run rampant in my head, I can’t focus on my own stories. I need to get the idea out in order to move forward. And what better way to get them out then to share them with other people who will enjoy it?

2) It’s such a waste of time.
Well, yes, but name one hobby that isn’t a waste of time?

And even then, “waste” is completely subjective. It’s wasteful if you look at it in you can never make money out of it. You can never get your fanfiction professionally published (at least not in the US).

But if you look at the other aspects, it’s not a waste of time. For me, writing fanfiction is an exercise in voice. I will not write a story unless I can capture the established character’s voice. The stuff I watch and read is very different from the things I write. I can get practice in writing separate voices, and that can translate into my books.

I also get practice at keeping my readers enthralled. Fanfiction is a way to quickly publish and get immediate feedback. If something is not working, I can find it out quicker than I would with my normal fiction if I didn’t have a critique group.

3) Fanfic writers are just lazy.
I know quite a few wannabe writers who also suffer from this disease. They don’t bother to check their continuity. They don’t bother to check facts. Some writers forget or refuse to do these things. Others live by the book of making their work completely accurate. Generalizations do not stand here.

The same can be said for fanfic writers. Some are lazy and just slap things together, throwing reality, continuity and facts to the wind. Others are meticulous, checking all sources of canonical/fanonical facts to get their story perfect. The good stories, the ones worth following, take the time to make their stories good. And then there’s the helpful readers; betas, who also work for free, will fact-check for you. So will readers that just feel nice enough to leave helpful reviews.

4) It’s so poorly written.
Once again, that is an unfair generalization. Yes, you will have to sift through a large amount of poorly written stories thanks to the ease of publishing in fanfiction forums. It’s just like self-publishing and e-publishing: People can easily publish crap. But those that really care about their craft will make sure it’s up to standards before they even show it to anyone.

It’s all about the standards of the author. There are a lot of crappy writers out there, I will admit to that. But there are also truly gifted and passionate artists. Fanfiction gives them a chance to build a fan base within an existing fan base. They have a chance to practice their craft as I’ve mentioned above.

Debunking the previous ideas aside, my biggest reason for writing fanfiction is pure love. I love the characters and worlds of which I write. I’m saddened by the limited amount we get with them. I cannot paint or draw. But I can express my affection for these stunning and well-crafted characters by continuing them in short vignettes and funny little stories. (Plus, as I said before, I get these ideas of what could happen and an intense desire to see it. Musical episode of Doctor Who, anyone?)

So the next time you think about degrading a fanfiction writer, make sure you sort out how much of your opinion is reasonably based and how much of it is unfair generalizations. Just like fan art, fanfiction is a way to express love for a character and explore abilities. In my opinion and experience, fanfiction is well worth the time and effort to write it—and if you enjoy it, worth the time it takes to sift through poorly-written stories to find those gems.

Can You Believe This?!

There are a number of different ways an author can choose to tell a story—a wide variety of point of views to pick from. But that is a post for another day.

One thing that remains nearly constant across all different points of view, for the reader, is that the reader starts out taking everything the narrator says at face value. For most stories, this will cause no problems. The narrator, in their own peculiar way, will tell you exactly what is going on when it is, when you need to know it is, or when they know it is.

But this rule does not stand all encompassing. Sometimes, the narrator’s words need to be taken with a grain of salt and a touch of disbelief. Sometimes the narrator tells you what is going on with a bit of embellishment. Sometimes the narrator straight up lies.

An unreliable narrator is great fun in writing and in reading. But you have to be careful to pull it off. Done incorrectly, you’ll frustrate and alienate the reader, appear inconsistent, or just seem like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Unreliable narrators are the more rare in the narrator stock, but they still exist more commonly than people would think.

The example foremost on my mind is the tailor from Enbizaka, from the song “The Tailor Shop on Enbizaka.” This song is written by Mothy P and performed by one of the Vocaloids. Vocaloid is a computer program that can create full songs including vocals and music. The Vocaloids are a large range of products. Each packaged voice has a different character associated with it. Luka, the program used to “sing” this song, is just one of many.

The song tells about this tailor who is renowned for her skill, but she’s unhappy because her significant other never comes home. She comforts herself with continuing her work. One day, she sees her lover with another woman with a red kimono. She goes back to her work, trying not to let her tears ruin the kimono she is working on. The next day, she notices the neighbors talking about the rising murder rate, but she’s distracted by seeing her lover with yet another girl. It continues on from there. You can check out the song below.


A more common example of an unreliable narrator would be Huckleberry Finn.


Due to his naivety and generous nature, he gives people far more credit than then deserve. The audience quickly figures out that he’s not completely accurate because they themselves were children at one point and can easily remember that time of embellishing and misinterpreting.

The narrator from Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” is another example of an unreliable narrator. He assures the reader that he can tell the story calmly and clearly, then goes on to prove how insane he is. Unlike some of the other unreliable narrators I’ve pointed out, the reader is in no danger of believing his words.


On a television scale, the Doctor from Doctor Who can be viewed as an unreliable narrator. He avoids at all possible chances telling the truth about himself. Every time he gives his age, it is incongruous to the last time. He’s actually been called out on it before. He avoids telling about his past exploits unless someone else specifically calls it out. And yet he’s the titular character and so the one we follow through the story. How much of what he tells us of how the universe works and of himself can we actually believe?

My favorite division of unreliable narrators are as follows:

  • The Picaro: A narrator who is characterized by exaggeration and bragging
  • The Madman: A narrator who has a severe mental illness that limits their ability to tell an accurate story
  • The Clown: A narrator who does not take narrations seriously and consciously plays with conventions, truth, and the reader’s expectations
  • The Naif: A narrator whose perception is immature or limited

There are a number of reasons for choosing an unreliable narrator to tell your story and a number of ways to do so. An unreliable narrator is not the worst choice; it does have its uses. If you couldn’t tell by Ethan’s blog post two days ago *double checks the cage lock*, Ethan is not the most reliable of narrators. He errs on the side of being a Picaro. Due to his insufferable ego, not everything he says is correct, though he is more honest with the audience than he is with those he speaks with. But you still need to be a bit wary when you read his tale; I cannot be held responsible for the validity of it.

Hijacked Post

Hey, all. Sam’s ridiculously stressed out over some stupid papers—dunno why she bothers. Writing about me is way more fun. But she can’t be pulled away.

So of course, I’m looking on the bright side: No Sam to block me out from you lot like she usually does.

In case you haven’t been able to tell, this is not your normal post. I’m taking it over for the day. My name is Ethan. I know she’s mentioned me a few times, when she tells you about Stealing the Crown (if only I could get her to get rid of that ridiculous title).

Really, she should talk about me more. She’s been completely ignoring me lately. Every time I try to get her to write more, she mutters something about “dead week.” Not enough murder present for me.


….
……

Look, while I’ve got you all here, can I ask you something? You can’t tell Sam. You definitely can’t tell Mira. If you breathe a word of it, I will hunt you down and gut you. Got it?

…Right, anyway… I… I don’t know how to deal with Mira. It would be a hell of a lot easier to get her back where she belongs if she’d just go along with me. The faster I get rid of her, the faster I can get on with my life.

But she’s just so damned stubborn. She won’t listen to a thing I say. She has to ask why on everything. She acts like she’s so bloody entitled.

OK, so she’s a princess—by law, entitled—but that’s not the point!

What am I supposed to do with her? Sometimes I feel like I’d be better off if I just ditched her. Forget the money, you know?

You know what she did the other day? This still gets me. She woke me up in the middle of the night, said I was screaming. Me, screaming! Like that would ever happen. Alright, so I happened to be having another one of those damned nightmares that don’t let me get proper rest, but she just kept looking at me, wouldn’t leave me alone. Said she was worried about me. Someone, worried about me. Can you believe that? Not even Sam cares what happens to me.

… I’ll never admit it to her, and if you ever breathe a word of it, you will die a very slow and painful death! But, ever since Mira’s been sleeping next to me, the nightmares haven’t been there. I’m actually succeeding at pushing them into the back of my mind, where I don’t think about them as much.

You know what, forget this post ever happened. I don’t need your advice. Life’s about getting out there. Oh shit, I think I hear Sam coming. Bye, all!

Deadlines

Deadlines.

That one word can make people shudder, strike fear into their hearts.

But I’m not quite sure why.

For me, without deadlines, I would never get anything accomplished. I’m the kind of person that just loves checking things off a to-do list. It fills me with an automatic sense of accomplishment.

There are different types of deadlines. In work and in personal life, most deadlines that people think of are the big, looming, final deadline. If you leave that deadline as it is, of course it would terrify you. It’s human nature. You can’t imagine having to face something so big and impending.

What you need to do is break it up into smaller chunks. For the NCUR program book I was working on, I made a list of every section I needed, what information had to go into those sections, and when I would be getting that information. Based on when I would get the necessary information, I set a due date for each section. I had some curve balls thrown at me, but it got finished, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the project until the very end.

I have a similar strategy with my fiction writing. I’m trying to keep up with my 500 words a day from Writing March Madness, but I’ll admit to faltering a bit. I have a map of where my plot is going. I’ve set specific times for when each plot point should happen, so I’ll hopefully have the first draft finished by October. If only the MCs would cooperate. Even my fanfiction has a schedule. I’ve promised my readers, a promise I intend to stick to, that I will get a new chapter up at least every two weeks.

The key to getting things done is to set manageable goals. Procrastinating gets nothing accomplished, and feeling like you’re overwhelmed will stop you dead in your tracks. Know your limits, and set your goals accordingly.