Discussion Describing Stuff II--Do you focus on fandom regulars, or new readers?

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by ophelia, Jul 23, 2008.

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  1. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    This was inspired by this thread of lazy's in the SW Fanfic Resource.

    All writers worry about how much they ought to describe stuff, but on cross-fandom boards I've found that there's an additional issue of picking a target audience. Authors write for an audience who is "in the know" differently than they do for people who are entirely new to a particular universe. Worse, re-explaining everything that led up to a scene may turn off your fandom regulars, while not explaining at all may lose your new readers.

    So how do you solve the dilemma of how much background information to include? Alternately, what (if anything) is the bare minimum you need in order to follow a fic set in an unfamiliar fandom? If you know a fandom, what details do you just not want to hear explained again as long as you live?
  2. Jedi Gunny Yahtzee Host

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    If you know the fandom, lengthy descritions of established characters (non-OC's) can be a real pain. However, it can help someone who is unfamiliar learn faster so they at least understand something. In terms of my writing, it depends on the fandom. Some are well known, while other may be less-known, meaning that you would have to work for new readers.
  3. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    I was thinking about it, and while my first reaction is to say that I can't stand "We KNOW that, DUHHH" description in fandoms I follow, what I mostly hate is bad description. The "lonely hearts ad" introduction of a character is horrible no matter who you're describing: "Fox Mulder was a tall, attractive man in his late 30's, with brown hair and hazel eyes . . ." Kill. Me. Now. [face_hypnotized]

    It probably is possible to write an intro to Mulder that wouldn't bore X-Philes to death . . . you'd have to show us something new about the character, though--or at least show us something old in a fresh way. Ginchy's "Tomorrow," which is on the board at the moment, does a nice job of taking Mulder's weirder personality traits and translating them into character behavior instead of an authorial infodump.

    I think you have to introduce characters more skillfully when you have a multi-fandom audience, but it can be done without making your die-hard fans want to die . . . hard.

    Stuff that requires detailed knowledge of plot is harder . . . I have a difficult time with missing scene fics from fandoms I don't know, however brilliantly-written they might be. Ditto with plots that have evolved out of many years of canon. The "say it's a rope" scene from Indy IV is only hilarious if you've seen the other Indy films, and know exactly how much Indiana Jones hates snakes, for instance. If you can't make that instant connection, the whole scene is lost on you.

    I'm not really sure how to fix that one . . . if anybody's got brilliant ideas about guiding newbies into an established fandom, I'd love to hear them. :p
  4. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    It's hard to get into a fic in a fandom you've never seen/read, even with information presented well. You're still missing a bunch of history. I'd say, read up a little on the plot of the fandom. Even a quick Wikipedia search will give you some info so you're not completely in the dark.
  5. Jedi Gunny Yahtzee Host

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    Well, some of the franchises are well-known (Indiana Jones, Star Trek, etc.), so there's more of a chance that people will have seen enough references to said fandom that rhey will at leas tunderstand part of what your story is about. However, your story about Edawrd Scissorhands is a less-known fnadom. Most fans of Johnny Depp might know about it, but it's not a cultural icon; you don't have the usual one-liners or familiar events from the "more established" stories. Still, that's where you get the original creator's ideas in; if you know Tim Burton, you will most likely know his films. However, if you have never heard of him, then the story will be a new experience. I saw Edward Scissorhands in class this year, and that's why i can understand what your story is about. However, I do agree with you; if you haven't seen the movies, then you are lost with the rest of the story.

    My solution would be to include some information at the beginning so that newbies will get an initial sense for the character, and then reveal a few more things as the story progresses. This way, the newbies can get up to speed on the characters and the die-hard fans won't get bored. Really, it depends on the story.
  6. DarthIshtar Chosen One

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    I had an English teacher in 9th grade who gave me wise advice: Write as if the readers aren't idiots, but as if they aren't as familiar with your subject as you are. I try to focus on bringing enough of the contextual story that people who have never read/seen the material will still enjoy the story. And then write in humorous lines that reward those who have familiarity.
  7. Penguinator RPF Modinator and Batmanager

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    Have fun with it. If you're bored writing it, chances are they're bored reading it.
  8. brodiew Force Ghost

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    I usually write vigs so I find it more about setting a scene than filling in the blanks. However, it may be beneficial for those reading in an unfamiliar fandom to have a 'set up' in the author notes.
  9. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    I like YouTube clips. :p Images can be helpful, too. Yes, we're authors, and we should be able to give readers a sense of what's going on without sticking pictures everywhere, but images are a really nice way to fill in the background stuff quickly.

    Actually, if I'm trying to get to know a fandom in a hurry, one of the first things I do is go to YouTube and watch fan-made videos. Yes, the dialogue is usually drowned out by "My Immortal" or "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor," and you often get several seasons spliced together, but you also get entire plot arcs of series smashed down to 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

    I actually "researched" brodiew's 4400 vig with Ryan and Shawn by going to YouTube and typing in: "4400, Ryan, Shawn." I got a multi-season pastiche (set to "My Immortal") with a label on it saying: "Shawn is Ryan's guardian angel."

    Oh.

    Well, that causes an angst vig to make sense. A lot more than a sprawling Wikipedia article does, anyway, IMO.
  10. brodiew Force Ghost

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    You mean Shawn and Kyle, right Ophelia?

    ;-)

    Who is Ryan?
  11. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    Yes.

    And exactly. :p

    I can't figure out exactly who is who, but I got that they were estranged brother-figures. You need that much for the story to have any impact.
  12. Seremela Jedi Knight

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    Jul 12, 2008
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    I'm pretty sure hardly anyone here knows my other (actually main) fandom, since it's OW and has nothing to do with Sci-Fi or Fantasy. (Although the characters are written in those kind of realities as well; they've been made into anything from little kids to shapeshifters, for some reason most often wolves, and from Roman gladiators to the crew of a starship)

    And what this thread is about IS a problem for me. I haven't written much, but the little I have I don't think I can post here, because I do write my fanfiction from the assumption that the reader knows the characters. Because I wrote them for people who are as familiar with those characters as I am.

    Maybe it would be a fun writing exercise to write them, for once, as if they are OCs, characters nobody knows. The real challenge would indeed be, as is already stated here, to do it in such a way that the fans won't get bored by it.



    I think one solution could be to have an outsider watch them, so we all see them through this outsider's eyes. And if that's not how you want to write the story, maybe a prologue could be written in that way, establishing the characters for newbies and giving the diehard fans another look at them than usual so they don't get bored. After which the story itself can be from the characters' povs or whatever.






  13. DarthXan318 Manager Emeritus

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    Speaking as a reader of fanfic rather than a writer (I ADD out whenever I try), in a way reading fics from unfamiliar fandoms is like trying to jump into an original fiction story mid-series - it's an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar characters, and there's a lot of context/backstory you're missing. A few authors put mini-summaries of what has happened so far as a prologue of sorts to help new readers get into it (Anne McCaffrey does that, for example) but most seem to just assume you've read the preceding books and jump straight into it. And most of the time that's the correct assumption.

    I think with fanfic, it's not necessary to explain canon when writing, but you would probably want to explain fanon.
  14. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

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    I just thought I'd interject a valuable piece of advice I got from one of my profic author acquaintances (don't remember which one it was that said it): Don't use the looking-in-a-mirror way to describe someone. Don't have the character stop and look in a mirror and contemplate their looks. Describe one thing, like hair colour. Move on with the story, then slip in their eye colour. After a bit more actual story, mention their build, etc. Don't lump it all in at once.

    I try to do the same with all my descriptions, and I think that my writing has greatly improved for it. You can even put in details that would normally drive someone very familiar with the fandom bonkers, as long as you don't drop a huge chunk of description in and call it good.
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