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Within the Guidelines: Moderated discussion thread

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Mistress_Renata, Jul 27, 2004.

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  1. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    This thread is to discuss issues on how to write within the guidelines of the FAQ, with discussion on how to sensitively deal with mature or darker themes.

    Death, suicide, angst, infidelity, insanity, substance abuse, etc... They are not verboten in and of themselves. It's all in how they are portrayed. Bridge to Terabithia, for example, deals with the death of a child's friend. It is terribly sad and dark, but not graphic. Yoda died in Return of the Jedi, and Qui-Gon died in Phantom Menace.

    This is NOT a place to complain about why the boards should be PG-13 and how that policy needs to change. The PG policy is set by the owners of this site. They are the only ones who can change it, and they have no intention of doing so. Rants, flames and abuse directed at any user (including mods) will not only be edited but the person posting could face a ban, since that behavior is a violation of TOS. Keep things to the point.

    I mentioned a specific example of death with Bridge to Terabithia. Anyone have other examples?
     
  2. Jade_Max

    Jade_Max Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 28, 2002
    I may not be a moderator, but the first piece that comes to mind is Old Yeller and the second would be Where the Red Fern Grows

    No, neither movies deals with the death of a person, but it does deal with the painful death of a companion (even if they are an animal) and does so in a manner that's tactful, if not angsty

    I realize that both movies were done by Disney, but they're live action and even though there was a good deal with blood, it dealt with it tactfully, using it only as a shock point.

    Now that I think about it, a lot of PG Movies use blood as a shock point to make it all that more surprising.

    If I had to think in terms of literature, I'd say Charlotte's Web is a good view. Doesn't deal with people, but the emotions are real all the same.

    Side note: I haven't read Bridge to Teribithia in -forever-. Wow! And that was a good book!

    Anywho, that's my two cents.
     
  3. NarundiJedi

    NarundiJedi Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 8, 2001
    I never knew that "Where the Red Fern Grows" was a movie, but I read the book as a kid. While I was sad about the deaths, there was nothing in it that would lead me to believe a child of twelve shouldn't be reading it.

    Both Old Yeller and Red Fern are about animal death. I think human death is a little different just because of a human's ability to better communicate pain and how they're feeling.

    Last night I took my first stab at a death scene, merely because a bunny hit. In it the dying character is disoriented, and in his dying confusion we see him struggle to comprehend his surroundings (much like Vader/Anakin Skywalker in the narrative of RotJ, where he thinks he feels rain on his lips when it's really Luke's tears) I'm still trying to figure out a good way to portray the small amount of blood that would be present with an internal injury of this kind. So far I've mentioned a salty taste in the character's mouth that he can't place. I don't know if wiping his mouth on the sleeve and then from his perspective he notices his sleeve is stained is allowed. To me it seems different than showing it dripping from the corner of his mouth, sort of like the severed arm in the Star Wars cantina scene.

    If you'd like, I could PM an excerpt to one of you. I don't want to post it here since it contains massive spoilers for my series.

    Jae O:)
     
  4. MariahJade2

    MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2001
    So far I've mentioned a salty taste in the character's mouth that he can't place. I don't know if wiping his mouth on the sleeve and then from his perspective he notices his sleeve is stained is allowed. To me it seems different than showing it dripping from the corner of his mouth, sort of like the severed arm in the Star Wars cantina scene.

    I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with describing blood from an injury. Certainly, wiping his sleeve logically flow's from what happened before. And that sounds perfectly acceptable to me. I think the trick is to just not linger on describing in minute detail how it looks, or the texture, or how it drips onto the floor for paragraphs. Then the reader starts feeling like they've stopped to watch a car wreck. The books have gone far beyond the cantina scene in that regard, so it makes it harder to decide where the line is. The movies aren't without violence. They just show those scene's quickly, and move on. It might take longer to do that with the written word but the principle is the same.
     
  5. SilSolo

    SilSolo Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Mar 5, 2004
    I say SbS and DW are good SW ones.
     
  6. NarundiJedi

    NarundiJedi Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 8, 2001
    Thanks Mariah. :) It's nice to hear an archive editor's opinion. The scene doesn't really dwell on gore. It's more about the relationship between father and son, if you can imagine that. Sort of a parallel to Luke finding his father only to lose him moments later. I plan to use my medical knowledge of what goes on in the brain moments before death to show the readers some pretty interesting stuff going on inside the dying person's head. I think shifting the focus to what the characters are thinking is a better approach to a tricky scene. In a book you can do that.

    Jae O:)
     
  7. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    I like that round-about description of an injury, the implied, but not graphic. I attempted it in a post today by having someone say "Oh, good, you're finally responding," then saying the character "responded all over his boots." I agree that SbS was a very well-done way to deal with death and darkness.
     
  8. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    Okay, before everyone starts snickering at my response, let me say this is my personal philosophy so try not to ban me for it:

    Death, suicide, murder happen. They do, of course, happen in the GFFA as well. There is a way to do them in a way that expresses appropriately the reasons for them, that make the characters grow. I have been accused many times of being a fanfic bloodhound, someone who has gore, death, destruction, and doom for the amusement of myself. This is why I was nicknamed Ishtar and I decided to let it stick. But I believe that glorifying tragedy is not right. This is why my personal philosophy is: Pain with Purpose, Love with Limits.

    Example of suicidal thoughts appropriately and believably: The Cell by oboana

    Example of death done well: Soldier's Dance by Clarus

     
  9. Arin_Atona

    Arin_Atona Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 10, 2004
    For the sake of discussion, I will use some of my own excerpts.

    Insanity (which is poorly defined, IMO) needs to be tread upon with dignity. Most people that are 'insane' do not wish to be, and are often looked down upon. The drama that goes along with that (both the effects and the treatment of those individuals) can be an interesting, but dignified dramatic element.

    [blockquote]Whatever else she is, Kali thought, she has a very serious mental disorder. Kali found herself feeling differently toward Nori now; not fright or terror, but pity.[/blockquote]

    Much depends on the plot arc. One of my characters suffers from something similar to paranoid schizophrenia, brought on by the effects of Force-extended life. The element, I think, is a very real possibility and I wanted to explore what effects such a disorder would have on a Jedi, who is part of a culture that values control over their own minds more than anything else.

    Suicide is another topic that can be very touchy. The element itself is very dark -- probably one of the darkest -- and shouldn't be used in jest.

    [blockquote]He spent the rest of his miserable life huddled in a corner, never able to do more than bite or gnaw on anything that happened to get close to his mouth? including nibbling on the muzzle of the blaster that he knew could be used end his torment - but he could never remember how to operate it.[/blockquote]

    In this element, I alluded to suicide as an end to torment. This was not to glorify suicide, or torment, but to show the darkness of what was done to this character, in the form of a classic 'fate worse than death'. This is made even darker by the apparent insanity he suffers -- which isn't natural, but forced upon him by someone else. Even though this was a very evil character, I found myself feeling sorry for him as I wrote his fate.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that the use of dark elements themselves are not bad things... they are reality. Gratuitous use of those elements can be a bad thing. I guess it depends on the approach. I suppose the questions authors should answer are: Is this element required to get my point across? If so, do I handle it with dignity? If I don't handle it with dignity... is there a very valid reason for not doing so (i.e., dealing with the results later on)? If you end up with a 'No' at the end of that line of questioning, you should seriously consider leaving that element out.
     
  10. Miana Kenobi

    Miana Kenobi Admin Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2000
    I don't know if this example stays inside the lines of PG or is PG-13...

    In Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, he describes the attack on humans from dinosaurs. However, he doesn't go into such great depth on it. At times, he will simply say "they felt a pain across their chest, looked down, and saw blood." I mean, that's not so bad, and definitely PG. I mean, heck, Anakin and Luke had their hands chopped off. :p

    However, a few times, Crichton says "they felt a pain in their stomach and realized that they were holding their intestines in their own hands." If you leave it as that and don't go into any more detail, is that far PG or has it crossed into PG-13? I mean, we're allowed to talk about blood but not intestines?
     
  11. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    Good question. I'd consider intestines PG-13, since we don't see intestines in, say, Mulan.
     
  12. EmilieDarklighter

    EmilieDarklighter Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 19, 2002
    This is not a complaint, just a question...I'm just curious as to when the boards changed from PG-13 to PG. I've been here for nearly six years now and it used to be PG-13. When did it change?
     
  13. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    Probably people abusing the -13 rule. I have a former padawan who was a mod and she said that there were some problems with that, occasionally.
     
  14. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 7, 2002
    Emilie - That's a good question. One that I don't know the answer to.


    *****

    INFIDELITY/ABUSE

    One subject we don't see a lot of is infidelity. Understandably, it can be a very touchy subject. No one wants to think of their spouse as involved with another pseron.

    I've recently tackled this problem with my "Fidelis" series. Also included were the subjects of emotional and physical abuse. This could, on the surface, look like a sex-and-violence issue, but there are underlying themes to all of this that make it a much more, shall we say, mature theme?

    Abuse is a highly sensitive subject, and it's often difficult to write, or to even understand. I've included at the end of this post a bit of a profile on the subject.

    First is the issue of infidelity. There's no need to go into great detail here, because there are things you can say that would make it implicit without being graphic.


    Emotional and physical abuse is a lot more difficult to deal with. In the case of this series, the abused wife, after fleeing her unfaithful, abusive husband, blocked the memories, insisted that she wasn't abused.

    To pull a few examples from my series:

    [ul]If she'd stayed, she'd never have been a trophy wife, brought out only for the times when her husband needed to impress someone. She wouldn't be regarded as the oddity, the strange one, the quaint "Rebel from Known Space". "Fidelis: What If"[/ul]

    And then, directly contradicting that, is her thought:

    [ul]Somehow, Jag had found out, and he'd never forgiven her. He'd made life unbearable. He hadn't hit abused her, phsycially or emotionally. Unless one counted his moving into a separate bedroom, using hers only when one of his mistresses wasn't available. "Fidelis: What If"[/ul]

    She leaves her husband only to find that the other man she loves has married in her absence. He's not in a happy situation, either. He doesn't love his wife, but they've married because she got pregnant.

    Wrongly, and ironically, they conduct an affair under his wief's nose. Both characters a wracked with guilt over this, because they know it's wrong.

    [ul]He knew it was wrong, that he loved Jaina while married to Elsha. He had a family with Elsha. With Jaina . . . it was nothing but torment and pain, endless nights of longing, and interminable days of a wracked conscience. "Fidelis: Hold On"



    Now that he'd given in, it seemed he could only fall deeper. he knew he was just digging the ground out from under his feet, and every passing day made the hole deeper, the fall harder.

    A large part of him didn't care.

    He talked with Elsha every evening, talked to his son over the holocom . . . and after he lied to his wife and told her "I love you", he would find himself in Jaina's arms, telling her the same words, and meaning them.
    "Fidelis: Hold On"[/ul]


    At this point, in three short 'fics, the subjects of infidelity, abuse, and love vs. obligation have been brought up. But no sex has been described; it isn't needed.

    The affair ends, and the husband returns to his wife. He has to struggle now to keep his secret, living with a wife who is increasingly jumpy and behaving out of character. Their son is a big issue in why they're staying together. The husband has some suspicions about the wife, but says nothing.

    Eventually, the husband and wife divorce, which is another subject not often brought up in fanfic. Their son is Force-sensitive, and the wife can't stand it; she's come to hate the jedi, hate her husband, and by extension, hate her child, which leads, in a small degree, to the issue of neglect. The wife does not play with her son. She hands all duties relating to the child over to her husband.

    The husband finds out that his wife has indeed been conducting an affair. But is it his place to get angry when he himself was unfaithful at one point?

    The husband gets custody of the child and takes him to the Jedi academy, where his former lover is residing. She, naturally, won't have anything to do with him now.
     
  15. _Derisa_Ollamhin_

    _Derisa_Ollamhin_ Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2000
    Wow. Colour me seriously impressed, Dantana! Those are great examples of how to write about "mature thems" within the PG guidelines.

    Abuse, infidelity, broken homes, et cetera are things dealt with in real life, but rarely in the escapism of fan fiction, (although they are occasionally dealty with in the body of the EU: witness Han's abandonment of his family after Chewbacca's loss in Vector Prime). Even chronic illness is seen as not fitting the GFFA, yet realism makes the writing more accessible, and can provide inspiration and insight into these real life situations, as well as be inspired by them: see Miana's brilliant story [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=1923413]Incurable[/link] for a solid example.

    You deal with a lot of it very well, Dana, and that's good to see (as well as making me want to read the stories: please send me a PM with the links? Thanks!) I think there is much to be said for honesty in writing, and for being willing to address these issues. If readers want escapism that doesn't address this sort of thing, there is plenty of that sort of story on the boards: for them, those stories with a "Mature themes" warning posted in the thread title should be avoided. For the rest of us, a little goes a long way: no explicit descriptors are needed for us to understand what is happening or how it has affected the characters.


    *Derisa*
     
  16. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    "Color me impressed"--understatement of the century!
     
  17. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 7, 2002
    _Derisa_Ollamhin_ - Wow. Colour me seriously impressed, Dantana! Those are great examples of how to write about "mature thems" within the PG guidelines.

    Thank you. :)

    Abuse, infidelity, broken homes, et cetera are things dealt with in real life, but rarely in the escapism of fan fiction, (although they are occasionally dealty with in the body of the EU: witness Han's abandonment of his family after Chewbacca's loss in Vector Prime).

    Yes, that's a very good example. But we really don't see much of it beyond that.The closest one I can think of in the profics is Kell Tainer and his wife, Tyria Sarkin. they're married, but they hardly ever see each other. But they're relatively happy that way.

    Even chronic illness is seen as not fitting the GFFA, yet realism makes the writing more accessible, and can provide inspiration and insight into these real life situations, as well as be inspired by them: see Miana's brilliant story Incurable for a solid example.

    Off the top of my head, I can only recall two examples of serious illnesses: Mon Mothma in the Jedi Academy Trilogy, and Mara in the first half of the NJO. And as for fanfiction, well, there are a lot. For example, there's a story in which Jag Fel finds out he's got cancer and he's going to die. I haven't read much of it, kind of lost track, but cancer's a big thing, and it's not something a lot of people make an attempt at.

    You deal with a lot of it very well, Dana, and that's good to see (as well as making me want to read the stories: please send me a PM with the links? Thanks!)

    Thanks. :) I didn't realise quite how uch I'd packed into those until I reread them as I was finding excerpts. (Now, if only I'd won for best series . . . :p)

    I edited my last post and put the links in at the bottom, for anyone who wants to read them. it IS K/J, but . . . I hope you'll give it a shot anyway.

    I think there is much to be said for honesty in writing, and for being willing to address these issues. If readers want escapism that doesn't address this sort of thing, there is plenty of that sort of story on the boards: for them, those stories with a "Mature themes" warning posted in the thread title should be avoided.

    Yes, definitely. I'm certainly not one to shy away from the tougher subjects. In one of my stories, Jaina has a miscarriage and her marriage nearly falls apart because of it.

    In another, Luke and Mara find out that their marriage has been invalid these lat ten years because when he was younger, he sorta accidentally got himself hitched and he has a whole other family he didn't know about. I'm still working through that series; the first one's finished, it's called "Aftershock". That one, however, also deals with some other serious things, such as one character misusing their Force abilities to manipulate and seduce another character. And there's also the issue of teen pregnancy in that one. I kinda went overboard. :p

    For the rest of us, a little goes a long way: no explicit descriptors are needed for us to understand what is happening or how it has affected the characters.

    Right. We're smart enough to figure it out, we don't need big flashing signs and arrows. :)


    DarthIshtar - "Color me impressed"--understatement of the century!

    Thanks. :)


    Dana
     
  18. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2004
    Quick question: If we are writing something that we are not sure meets the guidelines and we want to be safe, who do we send it to? I ask because I am writing a story with someone right now and we have a wedding night scene coming up. I'd rather just write something that can be posted and read by all, but I realize MY standards may differ from board standards. So who would tell me it is okay or it needs to be toned down? Thanks! :D
     
  19. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 7, 2002
    Send it to whichever of the mods you feel like asking. :) Or more than one of us, that works, too.


    Dana
     
  20. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    I'm sorry I'm so late. I was just reading the first few posts when a HUGE thunderstorm rolled in & the lights flickered. Knowing my luck with technology, I logged out in record time.

    So... good comments and good examples, everyone!

    I was wondering about the PG/PG-13 too, Emilie, so I went looking for it. It's alluded to in the FAQ. It didn't actually CHANGE... from Jedi Galadriel's post of 10/15/02 in [link=http://boards.theforce.net/Fan_Fiction_Resource/b10304/9161396/?75]Just a reminder about swearing, etc.[/link]:

    [blockquote]We've been asked to keep the boards from "G" to "PG." This comes down from the owners of the site. Please restrict swearing to the level heard in the movies ("hell," "damn," and not much else). Sexual scenes and violent scenes should also be within the PG bounds. That's a pretty wide spectrum of possible stories--G/PG covers everything from Disney's dancing silverware to the Tusken massacre in AotC. It's less what happens than how it's handled.[/blockquote]
    I think it has to do with TF.N's desire to stay on good terms with Lucasfilm, who have a vested interest in protecting the "family friendly" aspects of their brand name, and since the movies were PG, so are the boards. It led to a long discussion of "Obi-torture" and how much was too much, as well as another discussion of slash, and I believe that the confusion in that thread led to a major rewrite of the FAQ.


     
  21. Miana Kenobi

    Miana Kenobi Admin Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 5, 2000
    *Nods* I was wondering also. I mean, I remembered that it was still PG-13 before we switched to Snowboards in 2000. After that, I don't think I ever paid attention. :p



    *Reads up a few posts*

    Oh, lol, I didn't even notice that link, Derisa. [face_blush]
     
  22. Darth_Tim

    Darth_Tim Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 26, 2002
    Most of my violence happens in battle scenes, and usually my characters are too caught up in trying to accomplish their mission and not get killed to dwell on what they see.

    -Tim
     
  23. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    I was at an advance screening of a wonderful WWII movie last night called Saints and Soldiers and at the Q&A afterwards, the director made an interesting point. He said they'd wanted to get a pg-13 rating on the movie, the story of five americans and a british soldier fleeing a massacre in belgium to get intelligence to the american lines, but the rating was forced to become R for one reason: The board decided that we were too attached to the characters if/when they died, so it became something called personalized violence.

    Question to the mods: Does this apply in your opinion to fanfic? How? What can we do to make it board-appropriate? Will we get flamed for personalized violence?

    Most fanfic I've read has this kind of 'personalized violence' because what is a good fanfic if you are not attached to the characters? I understand that this is the sort of thing that has led people to boycott my stories because I get very personal with the characters and then have the audacity to have some of them not survive war. But where do we draw the line?
     
  24. AlrikFassbauer

    AlrikFassbauer Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 2, 2003
    Hello.

    Just wanted to throw in that the German word "Angst" is used in German quite differently (as I learned recently) than in English. So don't be surprised if a German is slightly confused ...

    What surprised me was the use of the word "verboten" here ... - has it really wandered into the English language ! :eek:
    I'm German and I'm *very* surprised about it ! (It is even used here in the same meaning I know it from my own language.)
     
  25. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Hm, good one. I'd never heard of that. Well, I dunno... lots of people were attached to Qui-Gon and HE died. In ANH, Obi-Wan died. Boba Fett (who had a huge following) died in RotJ... until some author decided to resurrect him several years later. I mean, YODA died!

    I think it has to do with the manner (personalized VIOLENCE). If it's not described graphically (blood, intestines, etc.), a character who the readers have grown attached to is probably fair game (Chewbacca, anyone?). But a blow by blow description of their death agonies with specifics on how it was accomplished is not necessary.
     
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