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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Today’s words: 1K of words on what a decade of chronic pain can do to your sex life and body image. *feels wrung out like a rag* Jesus. I mean, it’s in service of ultimate fluff, but that was some seriously NiF-level angst, there.

I think I need a drink.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Seriously, Lady Liu rocks on toast. The more I poke at her character, and the tiny bits we see of her, the more I think she’ll actually fit in exceedingly well with Jingyan’s command team.

Not least because, as a character, she’s nearly as demanding as Lin Shu. *she says, having gotten hauled through another 2K words while attempting to concentrate on learning a new LMS at work*

Today’s snippet:

“Mei Changsu?” The Lady blinked at her, hand actually paused on her cup, seeming genuinely startled.

“I’m probably being foolish,” An murmured, looking down at the delicate, celadon pot as she set it down, carefully aligned in its corner of the tray. “You must surely have thought of all this already. I just… my lord…” Gentle fingers touched her cheek, and she looked up to find her mother-in-law smiling, affectionate and yet sad. So very sad, and An caught her breath on the realization of how deep that melancholy that often hung around Lady Jing like and old, faint scent must run. “Mother…?” she whispered.

“Be at ease, child,” Lady Jing said, softly. “There is nothing in that man that is capable of betraying Jingyan.”

An nodded slowly, still uncertain. She knew Lady Jing had greater understanding of the situation than she did, but this was so counter to everything she had ever heard of Mei Changsu. Her mother-in-law’s smile lightened a little with amusement, and she patted An’s hand. “Here.” She called one of her maids to bring her a stacked, lacquer box, and set it on the table before An. “Bring them some sweets, today, and watch a little. I think you will see.”

An straightened; this was a lesson, then. “Yes, Honored Mother-in-law,” she murmured, gathering her robes to take her leave, taking the box of sweets with her.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
So, drama-canon gives us one tiny snipped of Jingyan’s wife that is frankly fascinating: when she confronts her nurse about the woman’s double-agenting for Xia Jiang. And it’s only a tiny clip, but think about what it means–the conspiracy on Jingyan’s side (most likely his mother) judged that this girl, who was only just betrothed to Jingyan, was a) loyal enough to him and b) smart and steel-spined enough to confront a spy in her own household and ensure the woman’s capture.

Which led me to playing with her POV, naming her An, and deciding she must be, essentially, Lady Jing’s understudy. Which leads to today’s writing snippet:

She had not expected to be particularly noticed, that day at the monastery; he’d been seeing to his men, speaking to the priests, had spared no more than a glance to be sure she was not injured. Everyone knew Prince Jing was a man of action, so she hadn’t been surprised. But even here, in the outer rooms of the Eastern Palace, somewhere that should be a place of repose and even triumph for him… he was so stern. His eyes saw her when he looked at her, yes, but he only looked for a moment before turning distant again–courteous, but so distant. Intimidated, she spoke only formal words of pleasure, and he spoke brief, formal words of welcome, and then he was gone, striding out the doors like someone shrugging off a cloak, and An bit her lip.

Lady Jing’s arm settled warm around her shoulders, and when An looked up, the Lady wore a small, rueful smile, so she dared to ask, “Mother-in-law, is my husband-to-be displeased?”

“Not displeased, child. Simply… distracted.”

Men of the military families were taught to track the movements of armies, but women who were meant for the court were taught to track other things: the flicker of an eye, the passing word, the shift of weight that could say where thoughts marched. Liu An had learned her lessons well; she heard the delicate emphasis Lady Jing placed on her words, and her heart sank. She looked down at her clasped hands and murmured, “Is there another?”

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Aha!

May. 10th, 2017 10:48 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
*snatches at plot threads* Okay, so this story will need to really start with Nihuang and Gong Yu. Good to know. 

(This is going to be so many layered perspectives, oi.)

Today’s (second) snippet:

It wasn’t until the girl whispered, “I should go,” that she managed to regain a small grip on her composure, swallowing hard and wiping half-angry palms across her wet cheeks.

“Rest the night here, at least,” she offered, husky. “You’ve come a long way.” And then she looked down, really looked, and saw the wet tracks on the girl’s own cheeks, the trembling of her mouth, even when the girl’s teeth closed on her lower lip, obviously trying to conceal it. Softer, Nihuang asked, “Are you Gong Yu?”

The hint of trepidation in her eyes, when the girl glanced up answered the question, even before she nodded slowly. Nihuang took a deep breath and smiled down at her. “Stay a while, Younger Sister,” she said gently, laying a hand on Yu’s shoulder. “We can talk.”

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
*finishes getting dragged head-first down 1.5K of words, while at work, for god’s sake, and lands in a disheveled heap*

Note to self: Lin Shu is fucking /relentless/ once he actually hopes for something. This should have been obvious, and yet.

Today’s teaser snippet:

Slowly, as days passed into weeks, he re-learned how to stand, how to hobble, at least, and sent Fei Liu out onto the mountain’s darkening green slopes to cut staffs for him to support himself on. Slowly, as the pines put out soft, new needles and the air warmed, things other than rice started to appear in his rice porridge. Slowly, as the white and pink lotuses bloomed in Langya’s wide, stone pools, his hands stopped shaking when he tried to hold up even the lightest book.

So very slowly. And for what, now?

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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).

But!

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,
Branch
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.

REASONS I WRITE FANFIC

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.

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