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Discussion The Scribble Pad (Fanfic Writing Discussions)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Briannakin , Jun 18, 2017.

  1. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    So I'm just going to say I'm very skeptical of any sort of armchair trends analysis that cites no data whatsoever. The reality is it's very difficult right now to determine what's happening in media because there's both so much of it and the quality of data available about things like popularity has actually decreased significantly due the proliferation of streaming (which mostly doesn't publish ratings/streams) and ebook only book publication (which is a black hole, Amazon's publication stats in general are garbage).

    Some things to consider:
    1. For a variety of reasons there has been a distinct decoupling between 'media attention' and viewership with regard to many forms of media over the past couple of decades. Many shows that are extremely popular receive little to no media attention - the Big Bang Theory was the #1 show on television for years, no one talked about it. While certain shows, especially high-concept shows on premium networks like HBOs Sucession receive media attention vastly out of proportion to their viewership (which isn't to say that those shows aren't worth talking about, it's just they are surprisingly niche). If the media ecosystem has a preference for 'dark and gritty' - which it is arguable that it does - then those shows get over emphasized compared to more popular but lighter fare.
    2. Game of Thrones was a massive outlier in terms of popularity and influence in the Anglophone entertainment sphere. Now it certainly says something about media consumption that such a show could reach the heights of popularity that it did, but a single massive outlier does not make a trend and in fact is liable to distort matters if considered heavily.
    3. Star Trek is also an outlier. Trek, especially the Trek of the 90s (TNG, DS9, and Voyager) represent one of the most utopian settings to ever acquire a mass market audience in history. Consider that Babylon 5, a contemporary of 90s Trek is much, much darker despite still being an overwhelmingly hopeful and positive show in terms of overall themes. The Star Trek bar is an impossibly high one to judge another era of media by, since it was an outlier even among shows of the 1990s.

    It's also worth mentioning that the operational extent of some of these sub-genres is tiny. 'Live-action space shows of the 2010s' for example is not even ten US programs. There simply aren't enough shows to form a tend. There aren't even that many novels either, at least not notable ones. Amazon's list of best selling science fiction is dominated by Golden Age classics written decades earlier (Foundation just spiked due to Apple), and the handful of modern notables aren't exactly drowning in darkness. The best selling science fiction novel of 2021 is the relentlessly positive Project Hail Mary (its by Andy Weir of The Martian fame, and it's basically The Martian + alien friend).

    Fantasy is all over the place. TV is mostly novel adaptations and I wouldn't call them particularly dark. Honestly, romance is the dominant theme in modern fantasy adaptations, since paranormal romance has rather significantly flooded the zone in recent years and tends to be cheap to adapt (Netflix loves hiring groups of attractive 20-somethings to run around in Lower Mainland BC and/or Metro Atlanta while CGI-ing up the backdrops) compared to major fantasy epics.

    The one sub-genre that could really be labelled as consistently dark is near future science fiction, but then it kind of always has been, and if it has gotten darker that's arguably a reaction to real world trends (or perhaps a perception of real world trends, since aside from the environment the data suggests most things are getting better).

    There are plenty of positive and uplifting stories out there, even famous ones, found with a little looking. I mean, the 2020 Hugo went to A Memory Called Empire, in which poetry saved civilization (and a piece of space opera I'd recommend to any Star Wars fan). And indulgence in hyper-violent cynicism doesn't always last forever. Joe Abercrombie, who was sitting at the absolute pinnacle of that zone in fantasy appears to have slammed hard into diminishing returns with his Age of Madness trilogy (count me among the many who stopped reading).
  2. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    Using the article as a sort of springboard for my thoughts and ramblings about art and literature:

    I think writing with hope can be valuable but that writing and art in general can be a sort of pressure valve for society and for the individual writer and artist. A way to wrestle with negative emotions, ideas, and situations. To confront fears. To deal with death and loss. To face traumas. To acknowledge horror and grief. The negative emotions are as much a part of the human experience as the positive ones.After the Black Death swept through Europe, for example, we see the development of the Danse Macabre (or Dance with Death) in the Late Middle Ages, that was basically intended to show the universality of death. How it struck everyone regardless of station. The Black Death killed people of all stations so no wonder this theme got so much exploration in the art of the Late Middle Ages. Similarly, memento moris (reminders of death) also crop up in the artwork of the Late Middle Ages and effigies of nobles/royalty began really emphasizing the horror of death (depicting skeletons or decaying bodies) instead of idealistic portrayals of the dead as if they were alive as was more of the style in the High Middle Ages. The Black Death was one of the most traumatic events in human history, so people wrestled with that trauma in art. And we can still see that wrestling in art in cathedrals today and in other places. So, if there is a big surge in dark art, I think it behooves us to ask why that would be. Why the mood of the time is so pessimistic. If dark art is speaking more to people in a certain age or era, why is that? What trauma are they facing? What horror are they confronting? It'll be there in the art. The art that is speaking to the people and to their fears. Their traumas.

    During the Cold War, the apocalypse often came from the fallout of nuclear warfare. This is society confronting the fact that humans now possess the power to destroy the world many times over. Even works that some might consider optimistic wrestle with the reality and implication of world destroying weapons. The OT, for example, features not one but two Death Stars. Two weapons that can destroy worlds with a single push of a button. The Chronicles of Narnia feature Charn, a world destroyed by a single Deplorable Word, and a warning from Aslan to Polly and Diggory that soon there world will have weapons capable of destroying it. Basically, a warning that nuclear weapons will exist in the lifetimes of Polly and Diggory. An acknowledgment that we humans can absolutely destroy our world in a children's book series that I don't think anyone would classify as particularly dark or pessimistic. In fact, most would probably consider the Chronicles of Narnia fairly innocent and idealistic in its outlook. In more modern works, the apocalypse often comes from environmental disaster. Makes sense for a world confronting global warming and climate change and the implications thereof. Society asks its big questions and confronts its big fears through art.

    Moving on a bit from that point, I don't think it is fair for works that deal in the more hopeful, optimistic end of the spectrum to be dismissed as lacking depth or being meaningless fluff or whatever. At the same time, though, I don't think it is fair to dismiss works that may deal with darker emotions as just being jaded, cynical, and not enjoyable, etc. (Especially since not all fiction is meant to be enjoyable or happy. For example, Macbeth is one of my favorite plays, but I don't know that I'd define it as enjoyable and I certainly wouldn't consider it happy. It's tragedy. It puts me through an emotional wringer. But I'm not sure that it is happy. It's still worth watching and reading, though.)

    All that isn't to say that I think it is wrong to have personal preferences and tastes about what one enjoys in any type of art (music, painting, literature, theater, movies, TV shows), etc. Everyone will have their own personal preferences and tastes, and to me each person's preferences and tastes are worthy of respect. The problem for me is just when an individual person acts like his or her preferences and tastes are the standard for what constitutes good or worthwhile art, or acts as if the only art that should be produced is art that happens to align with his or her preferences and tastes. Using myself as an example again, I think it's perfectly fine that I prefer to watch historical dramas and period pieces than action/adventure films, but it wouldn't really be fair of me to act like the only TV shows that should be made are historical dramas and period pieces. Or it's fine for me to prefer to look at the paintings of the Impressionists rather than most modern art but that doesn't mean I should be dismissive of modern art or people who have different taste than me and prefer modern art. Or it's fine that I don't tend to buy a lot of romance novels (I prefer fantasy, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc.) but it'd be wrong of me to act like bookstores and libraries shouldn't sell or offer these books for borrowing. All different arts to suit all different palettes can coexist and appeal to different audiences. And there can sometimes even be crossover between audiences.

    I would also say that there are a lot of great creators that can't be pigeonholed into one type or style of writing/art. The poet William Blake gives us the Songs of Innocence but also the Songs of Experience. Shakespeare gives us the lightness and humor of Much Ado about Nothing but also the darkness and tragedy of Hamlet and Othello. C.S. Lewis gives us the Narnia books but also A Grief Observed. J.R.R. Tolkien introduces us to the wonderful world of the Shire but also shows us the scouring of the Shire, and we may get the heroes of Frodo and Aragorn, but we also come to know Gollum and Boromir. Some of the best creators seem to want to explore a range of ideas. A range of emotions and experiences. So, my inclination is to give them that space and scope. That freedom to explore the highs and lows of what it means to be human.

    Let the man who wrote Surprised by Joy also be the one to wrestle with the Problem of Pain if he so chooses (if he chooses not to do that, that is fine too). Both can be worth writing and reading. I have both in my Audible and Kindle libraries. Both speak to me when I am in different moods. It can be good to be Surprised by Joy but also to confront the Problem of Pain. And C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, so I enjoy doing that with him. Joy can be transcendent. So can grief and pain. And if I want anything in my art, it tends to be a sense of transcendence that I long for most. I would say that it is wrong to tell William Blake he can't write Songs of Innocence because it sounds too much like sparkling rainbows and dancing unicorns. At the same time, though, I think it'd be wrong to tell William Blake that Songs of Experience shouldn't be written because, well, it is just too bleak and depressing. My stance is both should exist so people can be moved by reading and writing them if they so choose. And if they don't so choose that is fine as well. (Unless it's for a school assignment. Then it just has to be done, lol.)

    I do think "grim, dark" became something of a trend in adult fantasy after the popularity of the TV show Game of Thrones, but I would be reluctant to even label all of George RR. Martin's Westeros fantasy as "grim, dark." The short stories collected into A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms following the knight, Sir Duncan (often called Dunk) and his squire Aegon (affectionately known as Egg) are more innocent and light-hearted in tone. (And the audiobook version is read by the guy who plays Viserys in the Game of Thrones TV show). Those who are intrigued by A Song of Ice and Fire but want a finished series with a less dark tone might want to check out The Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series by Tad Williams. If they find themselves falling in love with Osten Ard, Tad Williams is still publishing novels and novellas set in that world, whereas it is looking increasingly likely that the A Song of Ice and Fire series won't ever get finished. I will also take a moment to plug my absolute favorite fantasy author of all time and recommend Guy Gavriel Kay whose writing offers a poignant mix of the beautiful and the melancholy. He is not as prolific as some other fantasy authors, but he is still active in publishing and usually writes books that be read as standalone or part of a duology, which is nice for those that don't want a commitment to a super long series that may never be finished a la George RR Martin. I understand not liking "grim, dark" fantasy (it's not for everyone) or getting tired of it when it seems that the market is oversaturated with it, but then I would just recommend doing the research to seek out alternative series or authors. George RR Martin not your cup of tea? Well, maybe Tad Williams will be more up your alley. Or maybe he won't be. Who knows? It's a matter of checking out different authors to see what styles and stories resonate with you.

    I will also say that I think there has been a tendency to equate "grim, dark" with "realism" and that is a bit of a mistake. "Grim, dark" is often not realistic in the same ways that many happily ever after stories aren't realistic. To use Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire as an example a quasi medieval world with a feudal society structured around agriculture could not realistically sustain itself with winters that last years and come about on a random, unpredictable basis. That's "grim, dark" world building for sure, but it isn't exactly realistic world building. The Dothraki are also an unrealistic culture (just compare them to the Mongols who are probably their closest real world inspiration). The Dothraki are "grim, dark" and arguably a stereotyped portrayal of a nomadic people but they aren't exactly realistic. It's okay that a world with dragons and ice zombies isn't realistic (it's fantastical) but it does show that "grim, dark" and realistic may not be the same thing despite the tendency many people have to equate them. More realistic would be historical fiction like that by Bernard Cornwell and Elizabeth Chadwick. Bernard Cornwall's works can be quite dark and bloody; Elizabeth Chadwick's less so. But both are fairly realistic (Bernard Cornwall's for the Dark Ages and sometimes for the medieval era; Elizabeth Chadwick for the High Middle Ages). Even more realistic still would be works of non-fiction like The Great Mortality by John Kelly or A Distant Mirror: The Calmatious Fourteenth Century by Barbara Tuchman.So, again, if someone is seeking realism, I wouldn't recommend A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones. It simply isn't realistic. It's grim dark fantasy. Which is fine but an entirely different kettle of fish than realism in my opinion.

    I do think that in general many readers of fiction want likable characters, but people's definitions of likable characters may differ. Some may love the classic hero archetype and find those types of characters very likable. Others might found those types of characters very boring. Some will prefer the Han Solo to the Luke Skywalker.

    What people will want in fantasy world building will also differ. Some will want a world they long to live in or visit. Others will want a world that frightens or disturbs them. Some will want a world with a richly developed history. Others won't want to hear or read so much lore. Some will want a complex magic system. Others might prefer only a little sprinkling of magic in their fantasy. All have their fans and devotees, and some people will appreciate different types of fantasy world building depending on the story being told or on their mood, etc.

    Moments of joy can be moving to see on screen or read about on the page, but I also think other moments and moods are worthwhile and important.

    I guess I wouldn't want joy or hope forced on creators or audiences (is it really joy or hope if it's forced, anyway?) but I also don't think that "grim, dark" is the only meaningful or important art, and certainly I have my qualms about equating realism with "grim, dark" because "grim, dark" is often not very realistic at all. There's nothing inherently wrong with "grim, dark" or realism or happily ever after or anything in between. I can appreciate them all depending on my mood and the story or art.

    I think the biggest thing I like to celebrate in art and writing is just the difference and range of what is being created. The huge variety of emotions and experiences captured.

    That being said, I do like the exercises suggested in that article in terms of writing likable but flawed characters who have friends and creating a world where you'd want to live is good advice for many who might be interested in writing in science fiction or fantasy genres.

    Bottom line is I don't suppose I agree with everything in the article or the perspective/position of the writer, but I do think that there is some good writing advice at least for certain writers in there.

    Basically, I am just like, "Give me mush, but also give me tragedy. Don't make me choose between them. I want both depending on my mood."

    Thank you for listening to my incoherent ramblings.
  3. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 25, 2010
    100% basically this.

    I just watched an interesting YouTube video called the "Rise and Fall of Teen Dysopias". While it's an hour and a half video you probably don't need to watch, the creator basically theorizes that the genre of The Hunger Games and Divergent ended circa 2016 because American teens no longer wanted fiction about dictatorships when suddenly the person in charge of their country wanted to be one. But I think these things are a bit more trend-based. Sure our media is influenced by our political landscape and always has been - sometimes as a reactionary response and sometimes as an escape. Thesis and dissertations can be written on the subject matter and it isn't simple.

    My brain is still kinda tired mush right now but I have a tangentially related issue. My muse has been a bit frustrating lately but I got an idea from the latest OTP. Problem is, the idea deals with the death a character I don't want to kill. I know the writer's advice of not being so attached to characters that you aren't able to kill them... I just don't want to kill off this character, no matter how moving the prose would be. As I said previously, I am all for catharsis and dealing with difficult subjects... but life has been hard enough and I don't want to deal with killing a beloved OC right now. But I want to write and that's the best idea I've had in a long time.
  4. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2010
    Mass market YA fiction is incredibly trendy, with the trends being actively chased by publishing houses. Divergent, for example, had novels that had yet to be written optioned for movies because everyone with in a rush to try and cash in. It's not clear why YA fiction (and the movie/TV adaptations that flow from it) function in this way, but I suspect it has to do with having a small but extremely voracious market to feed. Specifically, YA has become something of a gateway/replacement for traditional romance novels and the romance novel market is known to be a market with a relatively small overall readership, but at the same time the readers of romance novels read a truly astonishing amount (the go to example being how Scribd had to modify its user contracts because romance novel readers were chewing through offerings at a pace that cost them a lot of money). Romance novel readers have traditionally liked what they like and 'hit repeat' on the same idea over and over again, leading to famous romance novelists publishing novel after novel that differ from each other less than the average two episodes of 'Law & Order.' YA, and especially paranormal romance YA, seems to operate by fairly similar strategies, but, because the audience - mostly female teens - 'ages out' of the genre fairly rapidly, the trends chance on a sub-decade timescale rather than a generational one like traditional romance novels.

    Note: I'm using romance mostly as an example here because it's a well known one from the novel format, but money-chasing trend-following is found in many other areas. It's quite noticeable in East Asian publishing formats such as manga, manhwa, manhua, and the light novel industry.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2021
  5. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
  6. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 25, 2010
    What do you do when your muse wants to go on a murder spree but you don't want to write anything super depressing so your heart/brain really isn't into writing what the muse wants... let alone do it justice? Anyone else have this problem? I need a good cry but I dont want to.

    Pretty sure this is 100% a hormone issue that should resolve itself in a few days
    pronker and amidalachick like this.
  7. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 25, 2010
    :oops:I hate my muse sometimes. I've spent the past 2 weeks working on plan B for my OTP challenge - I felt kinda meh about the idea but I wrote it anyway (or like 90% of it anyway). Then, last night, my muse comes up with a brilliant plot for plan A (satisfies the prompts, my need for angst, without a death). So it's back to a blank page. At least Monday is the start of NANO.
    amidalachick, pronker and Findswoman like this.
  8. amidalachick

    amidalachick Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Aug 3, 2003
    I just want to complain for a minute. That's literally all this post is so you won't miss anything by skipping over it. :p

    I've been struggling with writing on and off for about a year, and really struggling for about six months now. All my ideas feel so phony and pointless and stupid, and I haven't even touched my stories since September. But I miss it and I still want to do it, and in the last two or three weeks there have finally been a few times where I've gotten inspired and almost made it to the point of actually writing.

    And something's happened every single time.

    Extra shifts at work, drama at home, health stuff, other stuff - something always comes up and by the time I've dealt with it I'm back to being too tired/depressed/anxious/etc. to write. It's so frustrating. Like, is it really asking too much of the universe to let me have just an hour or two blissfully ignoring the toxic trash fire known as real life? Apparently the answer is 'yes'.

    Okay, rant over now. :p
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2021
  9. darkspine10

    darkspine10 Chosen One star 8

    Dec 7, 2014
    I've definitely been there before, many times. From February to October this year I wrote almost nothing, before finally deciding to crack on with a plot idea I'd been sitting on all that time (I'm now about 8/10ths done with it). It definitely takes a lot of willpower to sit down and start chugging along. That was what kept me from first earnestly writing back in 2019, before taking the plunge and letting out an avalanche of words.

    Impostor syndrome can certainly hit hard, especially in the early drafting phases (I find editing a blissfully peaceful process in comparison). Partly I find first drafts a matter of getting the important details down, then refining around them, almost like planting a seed, then coming back later to trim the grass around it or clip dirty weeds away to let the good stuff shine. There's a lot of really awkward stuff I find I always slip in during the early phases, so many 'he furrowed his brow', or having the teeth-pulling fun of describing mundane actions like crossing a room to talk to someone. Those are the bits that slow me down most often, even more so than big sweeping plot decisions (which are their own can of worms, but at least more stimulating to think about and ponder). I just hope in the editing sweep I can work with what I laid down, tweaking and nipping and tucking and so.

    Anyway, back to the initial point, I always find that once I start in earnest, even if in a small way by writing a small section of full prose, it's often enough to make myself invest in the story and want to see it thrive. I've found this is the way many times in the past, that by setting out with the intention to begin, it gives me the momentum to see things through. It isn't always a smooth process though, and often repeats in miniature for individual chapters or even tricky sections, where I leave it for a while, before coming back and storming through in no time.
    amidalachick and gizkaspice like this.
  10. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 4

    Nov 27, 2013
    I hear you; actually I'm in that position now. I don't think your ideas are phony/stupid/pointless, but if you're too tired/depressed/anxious, it certainly can feel like your ideas are phony/stupid/pointless. I know that because sometimes I have a spark of inspiration to do a thing and then I'm all "why bother?" When life sucks, it sucks all your energy to care about your hobbies.

    I agree with @darkspine10 to start small..that's what I've been doing lately. Even a paragraph every 2 weeks is an achievement or in the moment of inspiration. You will see your process and hopefully the momentum stays to continue!

    One of the problems I'm currently having is I think about story ideas a lot but I have no motivation to write them down. After work, I'm just tired of life and want to sleep and not care or think or anything like that or I have other problems clouding my mindset. I've been trying to take even 5 minutes on a weekend to JUST write a sentence and it's been helping a bit (I know that may sound ridiculous but to me it's an achievement :p)
    amidalachick and darkspine10 like this.