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branchandroot: empty veranda at dawn (veranda)
Yesterday I had occasion to discuss with someone unfamiliar with fanfic why fanfic is not "easier" than origific because "half the work is already done". This is, of course, a hoary old chestnut often put forward by people who have never tried to write both forms, and much verbiage has already been expended on it, but this time something new occurred to me.

I think I have finally found a use for Plato's damn Cave.

In brief, the Allegory of the Cave suggests that the reality we see around us is merely a shadow of some higher reality of Forms (platonic ideals), as people confined facing a cave wall with a fire behind them would only be able to see the shadows on the wall of actual objects in the cave with them.

Now, I think the Allegory of the Cave is a useless bit of self-congratulatory twaddle, when it comes to models of human perception in general, but it does seem to have some particular applicability to written fiction.

A good writer does a whole lot of world-building that never makes it directly onto the page. Just think about all the memes that go "name a character/fandom and I'll tell you X many things from my personal head-canon/mynon/etc about them". The words on the page are, if you will, the shadow of what the author built up in their mind, in their storytelling space. That building always has to be done; the author has to know all those little details. Without that, the shadow won't look convincing or have weight. But a shadow is still all that makes it onto the actual page. An author going to write fanfic has no direct access to the vast majority of the last round of world-building.

This means that, when writing fanfic, all that world-building must be done again from the ground up and it must be done in such a way that the text/shadow it makes on the page overlaps smoothly with the first text/shadow. This must be done without having ever seen the "object" that cast the first shadow, because that "object" only exists inside the first author's head. All the next author has to work with is the shadow.

When an author doesn't do the world-building, then they write a shoddy story. Fanfic or origific, lack of world-building detail results in an incoherent, inconsistent, or flat story. On top of this, when a fan author doesn't manage to make their shadow overlap sufficiently with the source shadow, then the story fails as fanfic. Fanfic does not have any of the work done already; what it has is an extra requirement in the building process. (This is, of course, modified by the fact that fan readers will forgive a whole lot of not-overlapping if the fan author still manages to give them sufficient id-candy tagged with appropriate names and outfits, just like origific readers will forgive a whole lot of shoddy world-building if the author gives them sufficient id-candy, period.)

So there we go: Plato's Cave of Condescension finally serves a useful purpose. Remix, reuse, recycle.
branchandroot: two hands drawing each other (drawing each other)
I think I've put my finger on what makes the kind of AU I like to read and write versus the kind I don't. To whit, I don't like the kind that keep the same events while changing the circumstances (eg, the majority of high school AUs). That's just a retread, and while the trappings of the events change, neither the events themselves nor the characters that arise from them do.

I find that boring.

I much prefer the kind of AU that changes the canon events to see how that will make the characters different. While it's possible to write the changed-setting type of AU and still do good characterization, it is not a form that encourages any such thing; far too many fan-authors wind up writing very shallow characterization when they write those AUs. An AU that changes the events, whether or not the setting changes, demands that the author put more work into defining just what they identify as a character's core traits. Not everyone does the work, and when they don't it's a hot mess, but the form encourages it a lot more. There's less leeway, in this type of AU, to let familiar plot stand in for actual characterization.

It's a basic plot-driven versus character-driven divide, I think. I will always be on the character-driven side, and I find most plot-driven writing boring and shallow. (No doubt, plot-driven writers/readers find character-driven writing far too meandering.) And, above and beyond that, I've already seen the canon plot once; I really don't need to see it again. It's more interesting to do something the canon didn't do.
branchandroot: pen with burning ink (ink burns)
The Ladies Big Bang complement claiming post for round two is up, if anyone wants to take a look. There's a nice bit of variety this time, including a piece of mine and a piece of Lys' (in case anyone was hankering to do something art-like or meta-like with Hinata of Naruto or Kyouko of Reborn).

One more month, and there will be Hinata kicking ass all over the landscape! There will be Neji totally falling for her and her totally not realizing for quite a long time! And I'd totally love a complement if anyone is free and feels inspired by the idea of ass-kicking, name-taking Hinata.
branchandroot: cherries (cherries)
Just because this tends to tick me off, and it matters for the Naruto-verse.

So. Before the form of hormonal contraception currently known as the Pill, there were a bunch of herbal, chemical, and mechanical options for contraception. They fall into three general categories: barriers, measures that make the vagina and uterus inhospitable to sperm and thus prevent conception, and measures that make the uterus resistant to implanting and thus prevent gestation. (Yes, the morning-after pill is not a new idea; it is, in fact, a really, really old one.)

There is also the good old fallback of lactation, since lactation suppresses the menstrual cycle. But that only works when there's already a kid. So if you're a writer and thinking about "how to get my characters birth control", well that's more toward the family-planning end of things.

The thing is, every single one of the pre-modern methods are limited use approaches. They are used just before or after coitus. They may, in the case of something like pennyroyal, be used regularly once a month to ensure menstruation, but only for a few days. Half these options are "make a paste of these two or three things and dab it inside before you go for it". The other half tend strongly toward "take X much of this substance in the morning". (In a few of the second case, one also prays that it's enough to kill a blastocyst without killing oneself; it's really amazing how many places thought ingesting mercury for one purpose or other was a good idea.)

You wouldn't think this needs to be said, but apparently it does for some writers: this is the exact opposite of the Pill. There is no pre-modern form of birth control I have ever come across that is taken daily. That is an approach used with a medication whose effectiveness relies on constantly adding small doses of hormones which are not being natively produced. There is no herbal Pill, okay?

Of course, this leaves me with the question of what ninjas are using. )
branchandroot: white chrysanthemum on black (chrysanthemum-stark)
I seeded a Genius playlist with "West End Girls" and the result is pretty much a tour of our 70s and 80s alternative collection highlights.

It appears to be resonating with my Hinata character.

I, um, think she's maybe a little more pissed off and bitter than she shows even me. On the bright side, every single one of the love songs that pops up on here makes Neji go all starry-eyed in his very stoic way, which is good news for the "omg get together already" part of their arc, supposing I manage to get there.
branchandroot: Hatsuharu after a Black turn (Haru aftermath)
Writing the climax of a scene or section strikes me as a whole lot like packing to move. You pack up all the books and pots and clothes and look around and think "Look, I'm almost done!". And then you pack up the fridge and medicine cabinet and linen closet and look around and think "Look, I'm almost done!" And then you pack up the basement and computers (and have disconnection anxiety) and major furniture and look around and think "Look, I'm almost done!". And then you clean like the dickens and throw shit in the truck and draft any and all friends to help and have pizza and clean some more, and look around and think, "...there is so much shit left to pack."

It's like that. Only with plot instead of boxes.

4K words today. Most of that was "the climax". *gives Sasuke a Look* You'd better appreciate this, boy.
branchandroot: white chrysanthemum on black (chrysanthemum-stark)
So, here's a question: What is the most demanding kind of scene for you to write/draw/vid?

Up until today, I would have said, for me, it's a fight/game/sex scene, and yes they really are all three the same thing in my writing. You have to figure out the point of the scene, and figure out the action, and make it interesting and fresh. Tab A Slot B is no more interesting in a sports match or a sword fight than it is in a bedroom. I often find myself blocked or hanging on this kind of scene, especially if it's pivotal or has to advance the character development (which is the only reason to be writing it, in my opinion).


After today? I say that a medical emergency or touchy operation scene is even harder. I feel wrung out like a rag. Even when I'm writing good, hot smut, I don't identify with my POV character to quite this extent. I mean, some, so I have a good echo for when it's hot, but not like this.

*rueful* My Sakura has decided that she's never, ever, ever going into medicine after this, and I can't say as I blame her.
branchandroot: pen with burning ink (ink burns)
I was given the prompt "writing", and since I appear to have actually written Naruto fic, somewhat to my surprise, this seems like a good time to talk about it.

Writing is something that my brain seems to do almost on its own. Alarmingly so sometimes, especially when I'm dreaming! My dreaming mind seems to have zero care for whether something is scary or horrifying, just so long as it makes a good story of its genre. Every now and then I'm aware enough to actually observe that logic in action; my dreaming brain is really very particular about abiding by genre and narrative conventions. I could write some terrifying slasher films if I could do that while awake.

I'm distracted by other things during daily life, of course, which means most of my bunnies scuffle among themselves and pick a bloody winner when I'm falling asleep and waking up. The story puts itself together, piece by piece like dominoes or a jigsaw puzzle, and if, by the time I reach coffee, I still remember it, well there's what I'm writing that day. And I have to strike while the iron is hot, or the bunny may just bugger off into the underbrush never to be seen again. Or, as in this case, to leap upon me unawares two years later.

Not infrequently it's frustration that drives the strongest bunnies, and thus the Naruto fic. I just couldn't take it, any more, that the second half went in such annoying and implausible directions. Sasuke's sudden psychotic break, Itachi's sudden apotheosis, the disappearance of Inner Sakura, none of them ever made sense to me. And I've long wondered how hard it really would have been to change all that. Maybe if Kakashi, who's a war veteran and an ANBU veteran both for pity's sake, had just recognized where Sasuke's head was instead of approaching him like a normal teenager... And wouldn't it be fun to mix up the three "types" among students and tutors... I bet Sakura could totally handle an infiltration mission on Orochimaru... zzzzzz....

And, well, then I was waking up with the story kicking down the door.
branchandroot: social content with dimension (DW social content)
I have just divested my invite codes on [site community profile] dw_codesharing, and I think they went in about five minutes. If anyone has lingering codes to share, now is the time to do it.

And I feel triumphant because I actually wrote fic again! It's been /months/ since I wrote.

...apropos of which, since I'm stuck home sick today anyway, gimme prompts! KHR is the surest bet, but who knows what else might grab me? Go for it.
branchandroot: butterfly on a desk with a world in a bottle (butterfly glass desk)
...Entropy is not destruction. Entropy is gridlock.

Now, if that's your idea of the ultimate undesirable, which must be fought by all living beings with the utmost of their hearts and souls, fine! Go for it, write your little heart out, I'll probably even buy it just to see it. But the little physicist in the back of my head is crying pathetically into her beer over the sheer inaccuracy with which "entropy" is too often used, and every time she thinks about how widespread this bad press is getting she wails in a truly heartrending fashion.

Gridlock, got it?

Only slightly sarcastic love and kisses,
branchandroot: fractal in blue and gray spheres (fractal round)
Okay, I like this one.

Meme originally from [personal profile] helens78 and lately from [personal profile] telesilla:

Bold any reasons that apply to you, strike out any that don't (if you feel like it), and add three (or more, or less) reasons of your own to the bottom.


1. To explore themes that I don't get to see in mass media using characters I love.
2. Because it's fun.
3. Because mass media does a crappy job of representing my race and/or sexual orientation and/or gender.
4. Because I can get more people aboard my ship writing a story than a manifesto.

5. Because TV science-fiction doesn't explore its science-fiction premises in enough depth.
6. Because it's a gift I can give a stranger and know they will enjoy it.
7. Because I resonate emotionally with the characters that I read and watch, and want to find out why by writing about it.
8. Because every tale is a universe, often with fascinating nooks and crannies that the original author never explored.
9. Because I've made some of my best and dearest friends through this very wacky hobby.
10. Because the world the creator made is vast, and I want to see more of it.
11. Because writing as a communal experience is amazing.
12. Because I can.
13. Because every time I write something, I learn more about writing. And myself. And my readers.
14. Because someone can find it and know that there are other people out there who respond to media that way.
15. Because writing porn and having someone say, "this is hot!" is an empowering experience.

My additions:

16. Because I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what a given character would do in a new situation.
17. Because I need to fix something.
18. Because the world is made of stories, and stories are made of stories too.
19. Because I'm very good at it.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Three Weeks for Dreamwidth: Favorite pairing/character archetypes? :D Are you more fond of rival!slash or best friends turn lovers or master/servant or....?

The easy answer is: yes, please, all of the above!

I certainly do have a major kink for captain/lieutenant pairs, especially the ones where the "captain" is delicate looking and apparently sweet and the "lieutenant" is the brawny and/or stolid type. Yukimura/Sanada, Byakuya/Renji, Kazuki/Juubei, Tsuna/Xanxus. This set up only works for me, of course, when the "captain" is actually a galactic grade badass; otherwise there wouldn't be nearly such tasty tension and chemistry. If the "lieutenant" is secretly a total squish, this is a bonus, but I'm also entirely good with the trope of a "lieutenant" who feels a deep and abiding need to compete with and strive to equal his "captain".

For broadly similar reasons, I love me some rival!slash. I like the intensity with which rivals focus on each other, especially in sports manga. ES21 was a very good series for this. Roy and Ed, my gateway pairing as it were, were kind of six of captain!kink, half a dozen of rival!slash.

Of course, I'm also very fond of best-friend relationships, like Roy and Hughes. I'll write those both ways, turning sexual and not. Again, it's the intensity of the relationship that matters.

This section cut for discussion of sib-cest )

At bottom, I write a whole lot of "how does this relationship work?" fic. When I set out to write about Roy and Hawkeye, it was driven on the one hand by "what would the politics actually look like next" and on the other by "how would these two actually go about becoming something other than a working relationship?". When Em and I started brainstorming how to subvert and recuperate the women of KHR, a lot of my focus was on "what choices would Kyouko and Haru make when precipitated into this new world, what compromises would they reach with the people they love?". When I went to write about the AU where Seien inherits the throne, the framework was family as much as politics, and it wouldn't have been nearly as powerful is Shouka weren't more Seien's father than the Emperor ever was.

And what I like to read are stories that will give me fodder for that kind of thing.
branchandroot: apple and tape measure (apple measure)
Short form: It doesn't work.

I run into this when I'm teaching first year writing, too. Students will ask things like "how long should the introduction be", and the answer isn't "one paragraph for a five page paper and two for a ten page paper". No, the answer is "long enough to introduce the topic and give any background information your reader needs, not so long that you start to get into your body arguments before you actually get to the body". They ask "so, is three pages too long" and I can't answer in any meaningful way without actually reading the paper. It might be. It might not. Pages are the wrong yardstick with which to measure, because it's the content that matters.

For similar reasons, the infamous advice to cut adverbs is useless when accepted and deployed uncritically. The more useful rephrasing might be: Persistently using adverbs as a shortcut, in place of giving some meaningful description of the characters' actions or thoughts, will make the story shallower, and adding them where there are already sufficient cues will make the story sloppier. The more useful initial phrasing might have been: Identify the techniques you are prone to overuse and remember to pay attention to those while you're editing.

Of course, that doesn't sound nearly so satisfyingly solid and simple, does it? It's not as catchy as "The road to hell is paved with adverbs". It sounds less like "fewer than three pages" and more like "not so long you start writing body arguments".

Prescriptive advice isn't always wrong, but it isn't going to be right, either--again, those are the wrong yardsticks. It universalizes the particular way of writing that worked for one author/reader or even a group of authors/readers. It borrows the false authority of absolutism instead of putting in the work of self-examination that might yield the far more useful explanation of why, in that particular case, a particular writing approach worked.

So to anyone who is tempted to write a how-to or a this-is-better: try to remember that your view is specific and particular, not universal, and do the 'why' work. It's just as necessary in non-fiction as it is in fiction.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

So, xie_xie_xie made a rather entertaining post about how to lure straying muses back, and solicited her flist for their own tactics. I thought this sounded fun, and why not spread it around?

I have to admit, my own best results seem to fall along the ‘challenge’ line too. My muses and I generally share a very strong “I could do that better” reflex, so one thing that often produces results is to hit the biggest comm for a given fandom and look for trends that outrage me. If I haven’t written anything lately to reverse the ukefication of some character, that’s usually a pretty good bet (see: Ed, Yukimura, Tsuna).

Chatting with a likeminded writer often works, too, sometimes beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Prime examples: Tennis Sanctuary, The Bond Between the Land and Sea. Once the rhythm of “would’t it be cool” and “yeah, and then…” gets going, the positive feedback resonance tends to boot things right along.

So what about other people?

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

So there are a handful of posts lately about femslash and the technically conservative trends in that genre. It made me think about my own femslash stories (well, actually, it made me think about the western-media vs anime/manga fandom divide, and how never the twain shall meet even for the sake of being able to read more girl-on-girl stories, and how the western-media side is defining the whole genre of femslash as western-media over against yuri when the anime/manga side is more likely to want to use both, terms and conventions alike, and that this exclusion/division pisses me off personally, but after that it made me think about my own stories), and, indeed, I note a pattern. The ones that work with canon-possible pairings are little bits of fairly isolated fluff or smut. The ones I think are really kick-ass are the ones that do weird stuff like crossing canons. I still think the Une/Hawkeye was one of the best I’ve ever written.

I think part of the reason for this trend in my own writing is that the f/f pairings tend to have hidden stories. You have to dig for them, for the possibilities, for the way these two women might interact. Rukia/Orihime, for example, has marvelous possibilities, but none of them are obvious because the two of them don’t interact enough in canon to create a strong template. Most of my m/m, on the other hand, comes out of dynamics that are pretty much shoved up the viewer/reader’s nose.

Given this, you’d think that a fandom like Utena would be the one to produce reams of f/f, but… really not so much. And when I try to imagine Utena/Anthy stories, I have to admit, I get lost. I could write fluff, I could write smut, but how to write actual plot when I’m already drowning in glorious, glorious plot in the source? It’s like trying to write Julia/Spike. So there’s the other extreme: not hidden stories but huge, wide, deep stories. It’s hard to find a place to start with either.

Then, too, most of the hooks, the suggestive situations, the shoved-up-your nose, well canon doesn’t give us much of that for the girls. Fraught relationships, competition, saving each other, about the only place I find that is in some, not all, shoujo and it’s always accompanied by such relentless, centralized het romance that it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. Consider, for example, Sailor Moon or Fushigi Yuugi. We can step around the boys, the same way slash steps around the girls, but we have to step wider because they’re taking up more space.

And so I come back to the weird stuff: not the huge stories, not the hidden stories, but the stories that don’t exist at all yet, the hooks that can be created if you’re willing to ignore common sense. Utena/Anthy is hard, so what about Anthy/Lain instead? If Miaka is hard to separate from Tamahome, what about Yui and Shuurei? Orihime could probably do with a good lecture from Sakura about how the healer has a duty to guard herself.

A few of those get my brain loosened up, get me thinking about how, actually, if Daley just pounced Leon, then I bet Linna would take her opportunity, and Priss, with both hands. How Ami is really the best answer to Makoto’s constant boy trouble. How age seems to mean nothing to shinigami and therefore I could totally get something going with Unohana and Orihime.

Settling for the simple answers seem to be part of what hobbles femslash and/or yuri, at least for me–a weird sort of inverse of pairing wars, in which cleaving to the obvious pairings leads, not to war, but to silence. The odd possibilities seem much richer.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Going back, today, to revise a story I’ve been let marinate for a while, I find that there’s only one section I need to heavily revise, at this point, and that section is the paragraph of sex.  I wrote the paragraph during one of those phases of “just get the thing done and on paper and fix it later”, so this is not entirely surprising.  What catches my attention is exactly what needs to be fixed.

All the action is there.  All the physical details are just the way I want them to be. And it’s really boring.

What’s missing is the meaning. This section has nothing at all about what the experience, the sensation, the action means to my pov character. And this, it comes to me all over again, is why writing sex is just like writing tennis or swordfights or any other kind of action.  All action, in print, has to mean something.

I’ve had people ask, before, if I’m just using the porn as something to hang the characterization and inter-character development on, why use porn so often? And, looking at the kind of meaning I’m starting to layer into the scene I’m revising, I think I have at least one answer (in addition to a) why not? and b) it gets attention).  It’s because porn can happen anywhere.  To get my characters to the kind of realizations I need, for the story to wrap up nicely, I need them to be in a charged exchange, one in which physical action and emotional meaning can resonate, and sex is a lot more flexible to set than tennis.

Today’s writing epiphany brought to you by the letter F and the number 2.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

(Note: this is a preliminary skim of the subject.  For the full account, after research, see this entry.)

This will make more sense later, after I post an actual review of Shounen Onmyouji, which everyone, incidentally, should go watch. Right now.

For now, though, research results and links (which may help for YnM, too).

The Juuni Shinshou (Twelve Heavenly Generals) are Buddhist and come to Japan from India via China. They are, variously, known as yaksha (nature spirits), devas (warrior spirits/gods-of-a-minor-sort), and tenbu (Japanese take on Devas). They are initially associated with Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha, and healing.

However, twelve being a popular number in Buddhism, they have become associated and overlapped with the twelve cycles of time (hours of the day, years in a cycle, etc.) and the twelve animals associated therewith. These are the animals commonly known in the West as the Chinese zodiac (see also Fruits Basket). (Maybe. See eta.)

Because the animals have elemental associations from the Taoist system (which is different from the Buddhist elements but quite similar to Shinto, oh god don’t get me started on the elements), the twelve generals have picked up elemental associations to go with their animal associations.

Important! These associations are variable! There are several variations on which animals go with which generals. Which elements go with which animals varies on a larger cycle of years as well as each having a fixed element and a base association with yin or yang, and, when filtered through the creative license of anime/manga, the whole thing gets… complicated.

In any case, it appears that the zodiac filter is how the yaksha Sanchira, for example, becomes the Serpent of Destructive Fire. Certainly the personalities given to the characters in both SO and YnM have some good matches with the zodiac personality readings.

Where the particular names come from, apart from the elemental constellation names given to the strongest animal in each element (Dragon becomes Seiryuu, Horse becomes Suzaku, etc.), I’m still trying to figure out. Similarly how the notion was arrived at that Abe no Seimei’s generic plethora of shikigami should correlate with the Juuni Shinshou in particular. I have, as yet, found no source explaining that that is not clearly contaminated.

ETA: I have also come across some indications that the twelve guardians of the Medicine Buddha and the twelve elemental/time figures are, in fact, separate groups that have been confused because of the similar translation of their titles: 神 in the first place and 天 in the second, so that it might be more precise to say the Twelve Divine Generals and the Twelve Heavenly Generals, respectively. Results of this line of inquiry will appear in a later post, if it comes to anything.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

I was probably asking for trouble, when I started considering all the ways in which Echizen does not, as initially indicated by the early story, seem to find a tennis that is not a copy of Nanjirou’s. Now my Echizen-muse is insisting that I figure out what his own tennis would look like and write it.

Incidentally, spoilers ahead.

So let us meditate on this. The last reference point we have in the original “become not-Nanjirou” trajectory is the Regional finals. There we see a move of Echizen’s own invention, Cool Drive. It’s a move born of necessity, of needing to get up high enough to smash back a ball with the right spin and of figuring out exactly how to do that, however it takes–by climbing the referee, in the event. This move comes after Echizen has already pretty much burned himself out of muga no kyouchi, and it is, as Sanada notes after, a gamble. Using it gives Echizen an even chance of returning a shot he has no other way of getting, and he takes it without hesitation.

And then, of course, the story shears off into Nationals and the internal AU and focuses on muga’s “three doors”. And Echizen achieves the third, which no one but Nanjirou previously had, and thereby alters the progression of his skill from “finding himself” to “finding True Tennis is his father’s footsteps”.

Bah, I say; that isn’t nearly as interesting. Let us, therefore, take muga in its initial, less fantasy-esque, application, as a state of heightened awareness or response and leave it at that. What interests me more are the implications of Cool Drive.

For one, developing it shows that Echizen has started thinking in terms of evolving his own game. That’s a major hurdle right there, and indicates to me that he’s already reached beyond simply perfecting and reflecting back everything Nanjirou does to actively striving to find new ways to do things for himself. The alphabet drives in general show that, and the way we see him working on Cool Drive shows the importance he’s started to give the project (before Konomi lost his mind, anyway).

For another, the shape of the move shows something about Echizen’s approach. He doesn’t bother with conventional wisdom, which might be to work on strengthening his legs enough to jump for the height required. He also doesn’t choose to cultivate the strengths of his own body type, which might result in working on his ground speed to catch high shots when they come down and apply a different spin on return. Instead he takes all shots head on, and finds a way to meet and return them directly. And then he takes that way despite it being a risk and a gamble.

From this I take the conclusion that Echizen’s tennis doesn’t have a reverse gear. It doesn’t even really have brakes. He will just keep moving forward, believing that the skill and strength he has will find a way, and taking whatever way presents itself.

Really, it’s no wonder he does so well at Seigaku.

Echizen throws himself into the breach. Translated into actual martial arts, I might say that his style is purely aggressive, moving straight in and directly blocking rather than diverting or avoiding counterstrikes. He’s a stubborn little cuss.

So, for all his penchant for adopting everyone else’s moves, I don’t think he will ever use things like the Tezuka Zone or Fuji’s Triple (and counting) Counters very much. They’re not his own style. And, as he moves away from copying his father, I think the modality of copying in general may become a secondary rather than a primary tool for him. I don’t doubt he’ll use whatever move he knows that will do the job to win whatever game he’s in. But his own game, the moves he develops on his own, those I think will mostly be drives.

So I think what I would expect to see, in the future that is not a cracked canon-AU, is Echizen working to develop more such moves and using them with determination and forward momentum. Damn the torpedos and full steam ahead.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Whenever an author goes to create a world, soon or late they have to deal with the issue of swearing. Even if the decision is “not used in this language” it has to be dealt with.

One of the common options, especially in fantasy, is to invent gods to swear by, but this can sometimes come off as contrived. I therefore offer this small compilation of swearing patterns to assist those starting out.

A lot of swearing is some corruption of an expression of respect, when you think about it, the original form having been someone calling on their deity to witness their sincerity or truthfulness or, alternatively, the severity of the situation–possibly in hopes that, having noticed, the deity in question will fork over some assistance. This, of course, quickly devolves from deliberate calling upon to simple expression of exasperation, anger or other strong emotion. So the first question is: how for down this progression is the swearing in question?

If it’s still early days, some reliable formulae are “by deity-name!”, “by deity-name’s identifying-object!” or “deity-name significant-activity!”

A bit further on, you can start loosening the association with the actual deity. For example, if you take a body part associated with the significant activity, you can use “deity-name’s descriptive-adjective body-part!”. If the identifying object seems like a better bet, “deity-name’s descriptive-adjective identifying-object!” is also pretty standard. The degree of respect or facetiousness in the descriptive adjective should be matched to the manner of the character doing the swearing.

Eventually this can progress into the downright silly, at which point it may well start expanding also. For example: “deity-name on/in/with a strange-descriptive-adjective totally-unassociated-object”.

Now, if you decide you want to avoid deities entirely, you can always use animals instead. Some common variations on that are “domesticated-animal undesirable-byproduct!” or “domesticated-animal troublesome-behavior!”.

If you’re far enough along the aforementioned progression, you can even combine this with the deity version, for something like “deity-name troublesome-behavior!”.

One thing to remember in all this: don’t get too carried away with sniggering and go overboard. Otherwise you’ll wind up like Steve White, who is clearly a little too personally amused by the literal translation of some earthier Russian figures of speech.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Whenever I think about IP I find myself suffering from having one part of my brain considering the practical economic issues, another part working in abstract legal and ethical terms, and yet another part thinking about the practical writerly and interpretive issues.

For example, consider the notion of owning a character. In practical economic terms, I agree that it is useful to pretend that a concept plus description can be owned, in order that a writer be able to profit from supplying stories about that character. In economic terms I can see this working nicely as the sort of limited monopoly that, for example, patents offer, which allow inventors to recoup R&D costs and make a bit of a living.

In abstract legal terms, on the other hand, the notion of owning a concept strikes directly at something I consider a pillar of sensible and ethical practice: that ideas cannot be owned, only products. In these terms, only the specific words on a page can be an author’s property, and only direct copying of those specific words considered a violation of rights. Even a trademark, after all, that most ephemeral of intellectual property, must be a material, embodied symbol.

This touches on part of the writerly portion of my thoughts, because one thing I find curious is any author getting wound up over what another author does with “their” character.

As though it were the same character. Which, of course, it isn’t.

A character inside my head is not the same one as in someone else’s head. I might call it the same name, it might look a bit the same, but it isn’t the same character. No one can do anything to someone else’s character, because the only place someone else’s character lives is in that someone else’s head and on their page. The character in my head and on my page, that’s, well, someone else. The general agreement, in fandom and elsewhere, to pretend that all the Rukias, all the Leons, all the Rodneys we read are the same one, the shared fantasy of unity, masks this fact, I think. But the unity and the distinction exist side by side, and, in writerly terms, it is the distinction that I see most clearly. So the occasional diatribes about the “violation” of one’s characters being used by someone else seem to me to ignore some basic facts about how separate people with separate brains write.

It strikes me sometimes that many writers have a very poor sense of boundaries.

But, then, another part of my writerly thought understands, intellectually at least, that the emotional investment of writing leads very easily to a strong sense of ownership and identification. This part is entirely in sympathy with the desire to not know of the existence of stories that imagine other histories, other existences, for a character you wrote. It’s even more in sympathy with the wish to be clearly acknowledged as a source, and, if any profit is being made, to get a suitable share of it.

And that brings me back around to economic issues, and the search for viable models for licensing for commercial use. Alas, we have none yet, so this is where my thought process usually tails off into wild fantasies of a rational world.

When I try to imagine how all these different threads might actually be reconciled, that’s when I get irremediably tangled up. Practically speaking, it seems to me that the economic measure of copyright has dovetailed so neatly with emotional investment that the conjoining has become naturalized: people have started to think that copyright should protect the emotional investment and not merely serve as an economic incentive. This is certainly the direction European law seems to be moving in, witness the Berne Convention. I do not think it is a very productive direction; I do not think law should be based that immediately on emotion. But there it is, and it is certainly a fact that law changes and evolves over time, and someone will always not like it.

Which, now I think of it, probably means we’ll always be in this muddle. There will likely always be a huge middle ground that is ill defined and fuzzy. We’ll always be arguing over it from a slew of different, likely conflicting, perspectives. This is, after all, how rules are generated and laws are made.

So I suppose my conclusion today is, let us not try to quash any of these thought-threads in a vain effort to arrive at the One True Answer. Let us disagree and debate and not ever be ashamed to hold forth for what we each think is right in each moment and circumstance. The answer will change as we go exactly because no one of us controls it, and, all things considered, I can only think that this is a very good thing.

February 2017

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