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  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

Discussion NSWFF Writer's Support Group - May's Topic: Angst

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Dec 5, 2012.

  1. NYCitygurl

    NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2002
    A former English teacher of mine once told us to pay close attention to the first sentence of a story because it would set the tone and the stage for the entire piece. Ever since then, I've had a fascination for first lines :p

    I actually have the opposite problem -- I love writing beginnings! I usually know where I want to start; it's where I want to go that's often unknown :p

    So true! The example that came to my mind right away was Pulp Fiction. It begins and ends in what's really the middle of the story.
    And the way it ends, with Jules and Vincent walking out of the diner and off into the metaphorical sunset, leaves it with what seems to be a happy ending ... when really, Vincent is going to die soon. And yet, even knowing that, the way it's presented gives it a totally different ending vibe than what it would have if it was linear.
     
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  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    February 2015's Topic: Writing Romance​


    “Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.” ~ Amanda Cross


    The Discussion​


    For some authors, writing romance can be as easy as breathing or a mountain-esque hurdle to tackle. Yet, the fact remains that while there are many forms of human interaction, romance seems to be a favourite for audiences and writers far and wide. In your opinion, what are some perks and pitfalls of writing a romance? How do you work with your couples without falling into clichés, or, do you embrace the clichés and thrive with them? How much is too much when it comes to romance in a story, or is there never enough for you? How do you tackle the somewhat delicate line that exists when it comes to depicting physical manifestations of love? And, best of all, for those of you whose forte is 'mush', what advice would you give to others who perhaps struggle with this area? The floor is yours!


    The Exercise​


    This is not an exercise in particular, but if you wanted to write a 500-word blurb of what you considered romance, post it, and note what you did and what you like to include/disinclude, that would be more than beneficial for the conversation! We welcome your doing so! :)
     
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    My cuppa! Big mega time!!!!! [face_dancing] [face_dancing]

    No kidding, no one would guess. [face_laugh]

    Romance to me as exemplified gorgeously by the marvelous serendipityaey is a process, one which I love to explore as a reader and writer. I love the development from friends to something deeper, the navigation and establishing of communicating and patterns of trust and confiding and mutual interdependence. Chyntuck also shows this process magnificently. [face_love] There is a sense of self-hood while embracing the differences and uniqueness of the other person.

    ~!

    To me, there are no "cliches" in romance, because the tropisms exist for a reason and each couple will express those commonalities differently. :D

    ~~!

    I go more for the subtle approach when it comes to public displays. Graphic displays put me off. It makes me feel like a voyeur and very intrusive. [face_thinking]

    ~~!

    Advice: write as you would any other relationship -- i.e., friends, family, siblings, because you are basically writing about two persons working on sharing and growing to know one another. The only things that are different naturally are the nature and the extent of the affection between the characters.

    ~~!

    And no there can never be too much mush! [face_laugh]
     
  4. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 24, 2004
    Lovely Nyota's Heart and thank you!! I agree totally and that is such a beautiful way to put it - "There is a sense of self-hood while embracing the differences and uniqueness of the other person." Fantastic! I would also include in learning how to really work with someone else, give and take, sacrifice and support, etc :) In all that, when it's honest, you can really come into your own self as well, and that's something I put a lot of work into with Aala and Obi-Wan's AND Elleree and Elmont's unique relationships. It was as much about the relationship as it was about Aala and Elleree coming into their own and being the best respective her she could be in an honest way.

    I do have to say while i enjoy the subtle romance A LOT, for me there's always a place for more romance, and more graphic romance as well. I really enjoy writing and reading and exploring the outpouring of raw, honest emotion that comes in those moments :D
     
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  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Those were lovely, lovely thoughts Nyota's Heart, serendipityaey! I had nothing I could add, and even took a few notes myself. ;) [:D]






    March 2015: Plotting


    "The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them." ~ Vladimir Nabokov


    The Discussion


    Ahh, the plot of a tale! After you have your characters and your vague idea for a story, the nitty gritty of what is going to happen, and how, is the next step of the writing process. When drafting ideas for your stories, are you a fan of long and intricate plots, or do you tend to more personal, streamlined veins? Is your plot something you have figured out before hand, or are you more a fan of 'winging it' as you go? Are you a fan of twists and turns in your plots? If so, what are some ways to keep your audience hooked and guessing as you guide them through your tale? What are some plot elements that you have found to work better than others, or, what are some that you'd rather not use again? The floor is yours, fellow writers.


    The Exercise


    Using the nifty [link=http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline.html]Create a Plot Outline[/link] article here, come up with a brief idea for a story and plot it out. When you are done, share your results, and any comments you have on your experience here with the rest of us.
     
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Plotting: I always have a broad idea of how things will turn out eventually & for chaptered thingies, I always have an idea of what I want broadly in each. For the smaller details and/or dialogue in each, those come to fruition closer to actual posting. :) There are times when lines of conversation pop into my head and I'll write those down as must-includes. :D
     
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  7. TrakNar

    TrakNar Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 4, 2011
    I used to write by the seat of my pants, and then I started using outlines. For longer fics, I'll draft up an outline, which I'll glance at once or twice. Shorter fics might not get one and might be written out of order.

    Since I'm trying to get back into writing, I'm back to my old habit of just winging it and writing as I go along.
     
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  8. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Usually, shortly after I have the basic premise for a story I know exactly how it will end. Getting from beginning to end can be a long and tedious process. Sometimes I try to outline, but I often don't find outlines that helpful. Scenes tend to come to me out of order and I try to write them when I've got them, and then organize everything later.

    I can't say I've ever consciously added twists or turns or particular plot elements, I just do whatever I can to connect the beginning of the story to the end, working in the random scenes that come to me as best I can.
     
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  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Those were wonderful thoughts, once again. =D=

    And, for this month, inspired by the wonderful Chyntuck . . .





    April 2015: Mary & Marty Sues

    "When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature." ~ Earnest Hemingway



    The Discussion

    Ah, the dreaded Mary Sue - we have all encountered them, and sadly, not only in fanfiction. The perfect, no-flaws-here character who seemingly earns instant adulation, respect, and love from their supporting cast of characters with little to no doing on their part. No challenge is big enough for the Mary Sue to bad his/her eye at, and no hardship stands in their way for long before they easily breeze through the twists and turns of the plot without any lasting development or repercussions for their actions. Perfectly talented, aesthetically gorgeous, universally loved - perfectly perfect in every way . . . Yes, we have all met those characters before. (For more a more detailed description, [link=http://www.springhole.net/writing/whatisamarysue.htm]this article[/link] is spot on accurate.)

    Yet, for the discussion here, I wanted to ask: what do you personally consider a Mary Sue? Where is the fine line between a well written, well rounded, real original character and a Mary Sue? Do Sue-qualities exist in the plot/development stages, or the writer's handling of that plot and character development? What are some things you do to avoid Sue-esque tendencies personally? The forum is yours, fellow writers.



    The Exercise

    Do you have an OC you enjoy writing about? Run him/her through the [link=http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm]Mary Sue Litmus Test[/link] and see how you score. Do you agree with the parameters of the test, and the results? Let us know how you do!
     
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I don't think I've read any original characters that were Sue-esque. [face_thinking] They had admirable and lovable qualities but they had also been through a lot and this had given them their strengths. What I do not like is in pro-fiction or otherwise is teaming a character up with someone romantically and you're thinking why would he/she even give that person a second glance? Didn't happen with Kyp and Liz. Didn't happen with Thrawn and Ayesha, oh boy howdy did it ever not! [face_love]

    But in profiction, I was thinking - Callista? [face_laugh] Tenneniel and Gaeriel were pre-Mara so that didn't bother me as much LOL [face_tee_hee]

    I think any writer worth their salt wouldn't make their characters over the top. The other extreme on the continuum is worth noting also, and avoiding like the plague! Making your character too tragic, as in Greek :p and like nothing good can ever happen to them.:eek: I'm too much of a rainbow chaser and a Squee nut to fall into that trap, although as many can attest, my threshold for angsty cliffies has gone up quite a bit. Used to be pretty near zero LOL

    I think good outlining and always using the benchmark of "Would this character be someone I would admire or like as a friend?" If the answer is yes, go for it. If they make you go :eek: you need to revamp the profile. ;)
     
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  11. Cushing's Admirer

    Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Jun 8, 2006
    I think Cushy is more often accused of being 'fanciful' or 'unrealistic' in over all arching tone of purpose of my works (striving for better world aspects where universal morality and faith is central.)

    While I personally dislike infeasible 'everyone fawns over her' or 'dotes on him' presentations of characters, I equally dislike that Mary Sue/Gary Stu is such a thing among writers in the first place. I feel one should write from their heart regardless how someone else judges it. Often the 'perfect character' is the product of new grasping of a new exploration. However, sometimes it may likewise be due to a deep internal need.

    So many here seem to simply see writing as a 'fun pastime'. That's well and good but for others like me it's a life line, a vital need and centralising anchor.

    In other words, consideration of why a creative does a work in the way they do is just as valid consideration of how one perceives the story conveyed.

    My core OCs are based/inspired by real men, so I strive to study them intently and carefully and I know very well they are far from perfect thus I strive to balance hopes and aspirations with respect and arches of growth.
     
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Gorgeous! "Arches of growth" :) [face_sigh] I love the hopeful redemption theme of Star Wars and feel that once NJO began and especially with the later series in Legends, they diverged from that and repeated old tragic choices and multiplied them tenfold. So what I like to see beyond the Sue-esque things, and apart from them is not just character growth but other growth as well. Learning from other people's choices, as well. [face_thinking] I hope the Disney incarnation returns to the vibrant and triumphant. [face_batting]
     
  13. Cushing's Admirer

    Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Jun 8, 2006
    Thanks, Ny. :) Redemption is not only a vital theme of Star Wars but in stories in general as it may spawn hope and strength in those that read/see such tales. Everything need not be cynical and grim. I agree that NJO onwards diverges from the central themes. I hope Disney balances out hope and adventure with depth and seriousness without edging to hopeless again. Serious and 'adult' does not have to equal grisly and always murky but family-friendly need not be santised and gamified, either.
     
  14. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Cushing's Admirer - Odds are if your characters are encountering 'arches of growth' then they are not Mary/Marty Sues. I love how you phrased that. :) =D=

    Like in the handling of most tropes, it really comes down to the skill and discernment of the writer to create a believable character. There is nothing wrong with having a beautiful, talented character with a troubled background. The trouble comes when your character is based solely on that beauty, based solely on those talents - and the adoration of other characters, and easy victories in the plot come without equal actions and investment on your character's part.

    Instead, try to round your characters out so that they are three dimensional – that's when you take your character from the Sue-esque level into an enjoyable, well balanced character. Give your character flaws, quirks, a personality, repercussions for their actions, and personal growth – then, odds are that you will avoid falling into the Mary Sue trap.

    Yet, I would also say that fear of creating a Mary Sue should not keep you from writing – especially when, I think, 'Mary Sue' is a term slapped on too quickly to too many characters – especially female ones who do not exactly fit social norms, or people equate: character-I-don't-like=Mary Sue. You can make a character talented and attractive and interesting without him/her becoming a Sue – it is all in how you handle those traits, and balance them out with others aspects to their character. Chyntuck 's Ayesha, who started this conversation, is a perfect example of that. She possesses beauty, talent, and a tragic backstory; she attracts romantic interest from several male characters, and is described as 'special' while thinking herself ordinary – all of these are technically 'Mary Sue' traits. Yet, it is the author's handling of the plot, her flaws and character growth and development that balance out her character and make her engaging and relatable. A Mary Sue, above all things, is not someone you can relate to, or even identify with enough to like in the story.

    Thinking about pro-fiction 'Sues' - heck, technically Jim Kirk himself fits the criteria for a Marty Sue to a T! [face_laugh] A few of my favourite fantasy characters – like Rhapsody from the Rhapsody Series (where the author spends an inordinate amount of time describing her otherworldly beauty and excessive talents while countless men fall head over heels for her) or Axis and Azhure – and even Faraday – from Sara Douglass' Axis trilogy (all are constantly described as exotically beautiful, extremely talented, fated to save the world, have tragic backstories – heck, they find out that they are gods at one point) technically have Sue qualities – but they are balanced out by a creative writer with an engaging plot and growth and development for their characters. I cannot stress how key that is! Let your characters grow and develop over the course of the plot – do so! - for that is where the true masterstrokes of literature come from!

    (I don't want this to turn into a bashing rant, but characters like Bella Swan from Twilight – who fits the Sue criteria down to being a self-insert ;) - or Skye 'Mary Sue Poots' – that's the honest to goodness name the orphanage gave her o_O - from Agents of SHIELD, suffer from poor writing, and are often labeled as Sues – and that, once again, comes from an unrealistic character who does not engage your sympathy, due to their handling. It isn't the idea, per say, but rather the execution that's at fault – as most things in writing are.)

    The truly terrifying Mary Sues – the ones name Star Amethyst Rose with the purple hair and pink eyes; superpowers; are half-human, half-unicorn; think themselves orphans but are really unknowing royalty; prophesied to save the world; with every supporting character instantly falling in love with them - these almost always seem to be fan-fiction self-inserts from – usually – younger writers, who try to create the perfect OC to compliment their favourite canon character as a love interest. For a lot of writers, they grow from that stage to write believable OCs, while some never do – that's just what they enjoy writing. And, as Cushings said – that shouldn't be judged or dismissed as wrong if that's what brings them joy . . . it's just something you personally don't have to read if you don't want to. :p

    Thankfully, we have a whole host of talented OC writers here, and I can't really think of one I don't enjoy. =D=


    That cannot be mentioned enough. =D= So, once again, it comes down to having a well balanced character, in every sense of the word. :)
     
  15. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thanks Mira_Jade for starting this discussion. I've been meaning to reply for ages (and also to participate in the NSWFF side of things) but DRL thought otherwise.

    One element I would add to what has already been stated above is that a character can have as many qualities and talents as you want, as long as he/she is relevant to the plot and the story arc. In my experience as a reader, characters that qualifies as Sues usually belong in stories where 1. the plot is very weak and intended solely to showcase the character's beauty, brilliance, talent, etc, 2. the story arc does not lead to any character development of any sort (not for the Sue, not for other characters). This is due in large part to the fact that the Sue is too perfect and that's an impediment to the development of a plot.
    I ran every single character I ever created through this test (including original fiction characters I created for detective stories that take place in Athens, Greece, 21st century) and every single one of them turns out to be an off-the-charts Mary Sue. The threshold set by that test just comes across as impossibly high. As a side note, try running some canon SW or NSW characters through that. Anakin, Luke, James Kirk, Harry Potter, etc... Not a single one survives.

    I couldn't agree more about that and I think a few questions readers should ask themselves before calling a character a Mary Sue are:
    • Would I have the same reaction if the character were male?
    • Is it unusual in the universe where this story is happening for a character to have these qualities/skills/talents?
    • Does the character's traumatic backstory make sense in the universe where the story is happening?
    • Do I dislike this character because of what the author made him/her to be or because he/she doesn't fit in my vision of the world?
    Shhh. Greek tragedy is awesome :p
     
  16. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    My favourite ever rp character failed the litmus test big style, but I loved him so much that I sucked it up and took no notice.

    Still, good to see that many canon characters, failed it too.

    Now I wonder if the hater who prodded me to run the test, knew how badly it was weighted.

    I think this should be touted on Comms' 21st Century thread as the rationale to keep fanfic criticism free.
     
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  17. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Agh, I really missed out on keeping up with the discussion this past term... thankfully my mandatory courses are done now. Just some thoughts I have on the past discussion topics...

    Romance
    Ah, romance... One of the things I think is easier to do when writing a novel than anything else. [X kisses Y] is a really awkward stage direction to write without the energy leading up to it and I usually find that the scene plays better if the actors dictate physical contact than the text because a play cannot describe all of the minute gestures and thoughts and acts that pass between people who are romantically interested in each other. Novels, short stories and fan fic, thankfully, can communicate that to a much greater extent, IMHO.

    Romance is all about the energy/tension passed between two people (or more, if you're dealing with polyamory (people who consensually have multiple romantic/sexual parners) or love triangles/squares/geometric-shape-of-your-choice - which are not the bane of romance, they just have to be executed with care and for reasons that serve the characters' journeys and the plot). To pull a leaf out of the theatre handbook (again, sorry :p ), when a stage kiss is performed, it is all about the tension/energy in the lead up to the kiss and the tension/energy afterwards, rather than the kiss itself. I think that can apply to the greater scope of romance, no matter what medium you're writing in. The eventual outcome of the romance and how it impacts the characters involved would be nothing if it remained static. Lead up/fall out is often where most dramatic tension rests (think of the general arc of a story). It's also the reason why unresolved sexual tension is so bloody interesting and is usually employed as a romance trope in TV shows.

    I think honesty and subtlety are important when executing romance. An early draft of the first scene of my current play featured one of my characters kissing the other one for some arbitrary reason. My writer reason was to show the audience that they were romantically and sexually involved. The people who read that scene commented that the kiss felt inappropriately timed and too aggressive for that early in the play (for context, the play is almost entirely about their developing relationship) and that there are hundreds of other ways to show how the characters' feel about each other. How can language be used to show romance, beyond pet names or sexual language? How can gesture be used? What's going on internally (this is a HUGE advantage prose writing has over scriptwriting - use it use it use it!!!)? What is the character feeling, with all of their senses? How do they see the person of their affection?

    I guess my main point is to be careful about rushing romance. We may want to get to the juicy stuff quickly, but it won't have the same pay-off if you don't build it up first. Even if you're starting with a pre-established relationship, there should still be an ebb and flow. Romance writing is relationship writing, which is... basically everything about writing a story: how does one character affect and is affected by another? Most stories can be boiled down to their relationships, romantic or not. Romance is just a specialization of that, like a friendship or a familial relationship.

    Most of the time, in my fan fic, romance has taken a backseat. It's usually something that evolves naturally, over time. The one time I did consciously set out to write a romance was when I was into writing Hamlet fan fics in order to create a backstory for Ophelia and how she came to fall in love with Hamlet in the first place. It was fun, but it was coated with a gut-wrench every time I tackled their story because no matter how happy I made them at certain points, I knew that it wasn't going to end well.

    I do have one major pet peeve about romance: many, many writers assume an "inherent" implication that romance is the essential kind of human relationship, and that without romance/sex, you're not living your life to the greatest extent. Most stories from across thousands of years have romance incorporated in it in some way. This puts romantic relationships on a pedestal above any other kind of relationship, as some kind of trophy to reach for. Ah, yes! You have reached the romantic relationship status, you are now a complete human being, congratulations! This is a (potentially) damaging belief that manifests in our society, and therefore it manifests in our cultural work, including fan fic. I was once pressured into writing a romantic/sexual relationship into one of my plays because I had a cast member say that my play was "missing something" (that something being romance). So, I think, as writers, we should be aware of it and be aware of how we're employing romance in our writing, especially in comparison to other types of relationships. Consider how you're using romance in your story and how it furthers the development of the characters and the plot.

    Plotting
    Oh noooooooooo... no no no no no. Least favourite word in the world.

    By now, I have attempted just about every kind of method for plotting. At first, I was a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I would come up with the initial idea (which was usually very grandiose - when I first started writing fan fic, I had a lot of epics in mind) and just go for it. It never worked for a multi-chapter story. I couldn't sustain the initial burst of energy I had, and my story would eventually get trashed or I would stop posting and it would be abandoned.

    Then I started outlining everything. Outlines upon outlines upon outlines... I would write chapter breakdowns, that could be everything from bullet points to complete paragraphs. I found this helped a lot, because if I hit a spot of writer's block or I somehow got stuck, I would have a prepared model to fall back on and I (usually) would be able to get out of my rut (most of the time... I still have a couple of incomplete stories from way back that I never could get around to finishing, even though I have the outlines).

    I currently use a mixture of the two and adjust it to the particular project I'm working on. For short fics or vignettes, I usually do a bullet point of each major "action unit" and/or its "beats" (sorry for the theatrical terminology again). An action unit is a complete sequence where, by the end of it, something has changed so significantly that the action can't go back to the way it was before (my supervisor likes to call it "a change in the status quo/establishing a new status quo", if anyone finds that helpful). A "beat" is an individual unit within the action unit that designate small shifts in the dialogue or in your characters' thoughts that bring about something new. For a longer story, I'll have more extensive descriptions of those action units. I usually don't write out the beats of a piece because I do that automatically as I'm writing and I don't typically technically analyze as I'm doing it. Since I tend to see scenes in terms of visuals/dialogue, I usually jot down the lines I'm hearing or the visual I'm seeing.

    The thing to keep in mind is that a plot is not a series of events. While stories like that absolutely exist (typically not in TV or film, since contemporary TV and film are very plot-centric mediums thanks to the Hollywood model of storytelling), if you want your story to be plot-focused, you need to make sure that each individual unit of action has a purpose. Strong plots usually have events that are linked directly to their protagonist(s)' struggle/journey. Usually, if you work backwards from the end, you can see the trail of cause/effect. If you find yourself stuck at figuring out where to go next and you know your ending, try working backwards from the end to figure out how your characters got there. If you don't know your ending, think about what you want it to be. If you can figure out the what, where and how of your story's climax, you should be able to figure out the arc of your story.

    And, of course, be ready for the story to take command of its own plot and go off in a completely new direction you never saw/planned. That is totally okay. Writers can't see everything right from the beginning and sometimes they figure out something EVEN BETTER when they're halfway through. Allow yourself the freedom to see that, acknowledge it, and use it, even if it means re-writes.

    And a final note: not all stories need a plot. Not all stories have a plot.

    HISTORY TIME!!! (sorry, the teacher/grad student in me can't resist, I won't be offended if you skip this)

    For centuries, dramatic theory (and thus our understanding of storytelling, since theatre is a thouands-old medium) has been based on Aristotle's observations about Greek tragedy, which are published as The Poetics. There are two important things to keep in mind: 1) these were most likely lecture notes about what he was seeing in the Dionysia and 2) these applies to tragedies only (the notes for comedies are lost to time), although many people have gone on to apply them to comedies and tragicomedies and the wide assortment of genres that emerged over the course of theatrical history.

    Aristotle wrote that there are six main components to a tragedy (or, for our purposes, a story). In decreasing order of importance, they are: plot, character, diction (language, specially rhythmic language since the Greek tragedies were sung), thought (theme), spectacle (special effects!), and song (music). Plot was of central importance - it dictated how the characters acted and the choices they made. During the medieval period (when knowledge of the Ancient Greeks and Romans was restricted), theatre resurfaced because it's (a) a great way to teach Biblical passages to the illiterate peasantry and (b) great fun that enthusiastic members of the clergy used to celebrate Biblical stories. Plays from this period are really interesting because the writers had no knowledge of Aristotle's notes or theories; they were making stuff up on the spot, and, as a result, they're very difficult to read from a contemporary stand-point because they don't have the typical plot-focused flow that contemporary audiences enjoy. Aristotle and The Poetics resurfaced during the Renaissance, and writers started incorporating his theories about the six components into their work (think Shakespeare). The French went completely crazy with it and the Académie-française created and enforced a series of rules based around readings and interpretations of the Poetics (which is why French neo-classical tragedies almost all have the same structure, regardless of what the content of the "story" is). Throughout the following centuries, content and focus may have changed, but for the most part, the traditional model is still that plot-focused idea that Aristotle noted thousands of years ago. The Hollywood model is based off of it and that model is extremely popular, which is why popular culture is still embedded within plot-based storytelling.

    Some people do things differently. You can rank those six elements however you wish (and, of course, some of them - like spectacle and music - don't apply to prose writing). Andrew Lloyd Webber's work is pretty much a COMPLETE reversal of Aristotle's ranking (particularly Cats). A lot of modern theatre starting in the post-WW1 age rejects the idea of plot (that is echoed in the novels coming out of that period, too). In post-WW2 theatre (and novels), you can run into works that completely reject the idea of plot, character, theme AND language (Waiting for Godot is a prime example of that, which is why a lot of people don't like it - it goes against what they have been taught to be a "good" story with "good" characters and "good" writing).

    So, at the end of the day... there are ways to create a "good" plot. But you can also choose to break all the rules if you want. Some people may say it's crappy writing, but hey, we wouldn't get anywhere if we didn't play with what we do. The most important thing is that you're writing something that makes you happy, however you go about it. Think about what you want to write, and then make choices that support that decision.

    Mary Sues
    I think the fan fiction community throws the word "Mary Sue" around too lightly. While OCs are a prevalent part of the fan fiction writing community, the attraction of most fan fiction is the idea of seeing established characters in new and different circumstances. OCs invade that ground which, to some writers/readers, is sanctified. As interesting or well-developed as your OC may be, some readers just don't want to spend the time getting to know a new character and some of them definitely don't want to see the newbie paired up with a beloved character (which is why one of the elements of a Mary Sue is if she is paired with a canon character). Fan fic writers who write OCs can get a lot of abuse for creating a new aspect of a beloved fictional universe, and one of the easiest ways to tear that OC down is to call them a "Mary Sue".

    To me, a "Mary Sue" is a poorly written and executed character. The multiple Mary Sue-checking lists and the Mary Sue litmus test are all, to be blunt, BS and cause a lot more trouble than they do good. As has already been pointed out, multiple canon characters, when run through the test, are Mary Sues. It's because a poorly written character can't be whittled down to a list of traits and characteristics and personality points. It all depends on the context and how it's executed. A lot of Mary Sues are written by young writers who are learning how to write - or who are having fun. I don't think they should be penalized for that. If they want to write a wishfulfilment character who's the most powerful lady in the universe and happens to have purple eyes and prophetic powers as well as being magical, let them write that. Chances are they'll learn something from that experience and maybe there is a story out there about a powerful, purple-eyed lady with prophetic powers and magic who falls in love with the leading man that is written in a way that it works.

    That being said, I think there is a problematic element to Mary Sues in general beyond just writing problems. As has been pointed out, the majority of characters who are claimed to be "Mary Sues" are female. You hear the term "Mary Sue" far more often than "Marty Stu/Gary Stu". I have found that in the fan fic community, and even in professional settings, it much more valid and accepted to complain/accuse a female character of being poorly written, even if they exhibit the exact same traits as a male character. This is an essay on "Mary Sue" as a sexist term that's worth the read (it opens with the author describing a female character who appears to be a Sue, and then the author points out that she was, in fact, describing Batman). I think this is something that should be considered - why are we so much inclined to throw female characters under the bus before male characters, regardless of whether they're well-written or not?

    When it comes to higher quality works (the more well-written fanfics, profic, TV shows, etc.), that's when I get critical. A Mary Sue comes down to poor character development, and that is related directly to the character's essential struggle and how hard the author is making it for them. Know what your character's goal is (it can be something broad like "I want to survive" to something specific "I have to defeat Voldemort") and it can also change, or be composed of a series of smaller goals based on the character's circumstances. Once you know the goal, figure out how they're going to achieve it (what talents do they have that can help them? what traits do they have that could cause them to fail?) and make them work. This may mean having them fail. A lot. And not just fail for arbitrary reasons or unexpected circumstances, have them fail for something that they do or something that they cause. And once they do get around to achieving their goal (or a lesser goal), make that final struggle be as difficult as you can and tie it back to the characterization. Don't make it easy for them, and don't make it arbitrary. A writer friend of mine once told me that coincidences are great for getting characters into trouble, but you don't want a coincidence to get them out of trouble.

    Sorry, m'dear, but the theatre historian in me is rearing its head... :p

    Greek tragedy is a very specific form. The kind of character developed for that form had to (according to Aristotle's notes): (1) be a man of great importance, so his eventual fall can have meaning, (2) can't be too good or too bad, because his fall must evoke feelings of "pity and fear" (if they were only good, we would only pity them for what happens to them; if they were only evil, we would only be scared of them and probably rejoice when their downfall comes). Greek tragedies typically happened over a very short period of time (due to a weird translation of the a particular line, the French neo-classists believed very strongly that Aristotle meant that all the action had to take place within 24 hours), and so they're specific about what they choose to show the audience (which I think is a lesson contemporary writers should learn -- audiences don't need to know everything; if your work is becoming all about the filler, then you might have a problem on your hands). As such, you rarely get truly happy moments in tragedies. They also don't have any light-hearted moments because the Greek had a separate category for that and tragicomedy hadn't been invented yet. :p (... they also had a third kind of play called a satyr play, which were intensely sexual, bawdy and featured an assortment of phallic-shaped props... the Greeks were a fun bunch :p ).

    So, I think it's more complicated than trying to not "[make] your character too tragic". Consider the stylistic form, structure and genre of the piece you're writing. Your character should support those three elements, and vice versa. For example, Netflix's Daredevil series is quite dark and very neo-noir. Even though it's part of the MCU, you wouldn't be able to put Star-Lord as he is written in Guardians of the Galaxy directly into the Daredevil continuity without changing the style, form, structure and genre. In a neo-noir piece, GOTG-style Star-Lord would be (a) an overpowered Marty Stu and (b) completely out-of-place.

    All elements of writing inform all others. If you have a poorly-constructed character, you may have a poorly-constructed plot as well. ;) And if it's poorly-constructed, that's OK! That's what re-writes and editing are for! :p
     
  18. Random Comments

    Random Comments Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Sep 25, 2012
    TL;DR: Idrelle is amazing, read the whole post. :p
     
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Totally! :D =D= =D= Sheer brill!
     
  20. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  21. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    I'm a few days late with this, but here we are now. :oops: :)

    Half inspired by a few of the conversations above, and earlier suggested by Nyota's Heart, we have . . .






    May 2015: Angst

    "I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." ~James Michener



    The Discussion

    First off, how would you personally define 'angst'? Are you an author who naturally falls towards angst in your stories? Do you prefer darker tones and heavier topics, or are you a writer who prefers lighter text? Do you mind stories that carry the angst all the way through, or are you someone who needs a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak? How much angst is too much angst, and what are some tips you have to keep darker story lines from becoming overbearing and overwhelming? The floor is yours.



    The Exercise

    Write 500 words of 'angst' and post it here. What are some words/emotions you fall towards using in your piece? What do you like about it, what would you do differently if you could? Share with us, and let us know. :)
     
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Angst... I have a higher tolerance than I used to :oops: I think it involves anything (causing in the characters or audience) a feeling of sorrow, disappointment, anger, regret, loss, dejection, etc.

    How much is too much? In a well-written fic, there may be lots of angst but it will be intermingled with hopefulness and efficacy from the characters to change their situation or barring that leave it behind and heal/grow. Hopefully, this learning, growing process is also shown. We as readers come to like and invest emotionally in the characters, so naturally, we want them to succeed and be happy, as we would with our RL friends and family. @};- Unrelenting angst is not something I will write or read. :p I love tales that inspire and touch the spirit, and even though angsty content does appear as with any tale involving ups and downs, I want more ups than downs, more rainbows than stormy weather. [face_batting]
     
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  23. brodiew

    brodiew Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Wakening this SLEEPER!

    I have an idea for a fic the above topic of angst figures heavily. It is more an internal thought process/dialogue. What I am wanting to convey is complete helplessness, a desolation of the soul. This is not to say a person is turning evil or to the dark side; more he is so totally overwhelmed by a certain event that he is paralyzed with grief, fear, and denial. I have all the elements to include, but my attempts to put them into words doesn't match the level of emotional impact I wish to convey. Weird, huh? [face_thinking] [face_whistling]:confused:
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2018
    pronker likes this.
  24. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Despair, IMHO, works well in a character study and one of the best descriptions I read came from a long ago Lando Calrissian (I think?) SW novel by L. Neil Smith, in which Lando succumbed to some Eeevill Machination by Villain X who stole Lando's memories of ever succeeding at anything. Poor Lando was nearly catatonic. Imagine if our memories of overcoming a problem were wiped and nothing existed to make us think 'hey, I did that hard thing so I can do this hard thing' ...[face_worried]
     
    brodiew likes this.
  25. brodiew

    brodiew Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Nice example, @pronker.

    Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War!
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    /
    /


    I hope you'll indulge me for a moment. I have not written the Avengers since the first film was released and, though, I love the MCU, my fan fiction writing has been concentrated elsewhere. With Infinity War, my interest was sparked again, but I think my vision of Tony's desolation is a step too far to be true to the character. But, it makes me wonder what would push Tony to the end of himself if not the death of half the beings in the universe. Of course, he feels that he failed, but guilt/anger is part of his arrogance. If i couldn't win/fix, of course it was my fault. Self centered. I know I am stating the obvious, but Tony has not grown much over the last 10 years. Some, I'll admit, but not much. What would cause Tony to take the focus off of himself long enough to make real change/progress?