Let’s Start at the Very Beginning: On Prologues

fireandwonder:

exitpursuedbyaclaire:

There’s a certain type of prologue that always makes me
deeply suspicious of the book I’ve just started reading. I don’t know if this
prologue type has a name, but I’m sure you’ll recognize it from a few examples:

  • Average Joe is doing something mildly dangerous
    that he often does in his line of work, like patrolling a castle rampart or
    taking a shortcut home through a haunted alleyway. He’s accompanied by his
    dear, disposable friends, Average Sue, Average Bob, and Average Jill. But this
    night, something is different. Something is coming for Average Joe. It picks
    off his friends one by one, always managing to stay hidden. And when Average
    Joe finally sees it, he screams “By the gods!”—or just screams—and we, the
    reader, are told that he sees it, and how he reacts, but not what the thing
    actually is. End Prologue.
  • Scholar Joseph is researching an ancient and
    mysterious force, being a scholar. He suddenly hits upon a shocking discovery.
    We are not told what this discovery, exactly, is. But the kingdom is in danger!
    He must warn the king—nope, too late, someone stabbed him in the back. End Prologue.
  • Evil Overlord Jxoxex is busy torturing children
    and kicking puppies when his Evil Advisors approach him. The Evil Ritual is
    complete! At last, after a hundred or a thousand years, he can rise again to
    complete his Evil Plan! What’s the Evil Plan, you ask? Who knows! Certainly not
    the reader. End Prologue.

Chapter one begins in a small farming town in the middle of nowhere
(or a castle scullery) in which a teenager of mysterious parentage is looking
forward to the Harvest Festival. The events of the prologue are not mentioned
again until 400 pages in.

I think I will call this type of prologue the Ominous
Prologue of Vagueness.

I have a cynical suspicion that authors use the Ominous
Prologue of Vagueness because they know that starting their story in a
pleasant, sleepy farming town is dull. The Ominous Prologue of Vagueness is
supposed to make us forgive 50 pages of mundanity in the hopes that soon, we’ll
get back to something interesting. But at this point in my life, I am utterly
desensitized to a prologue in which bad things happen to characters I don’t
know. Your world is in danger from an ancient evil? Get in line. Without any
kind of distinguishing detail, the malevolent evil force itself is only an
eyelash more interesting than the preparations for the Harvest Festival.

This reminds me of my recent rewatch of the original Star Wars movies, and my realization that the movies are absolutely brilliant from a storytelling standpoint. Because on one level it does do the jump from Ominous Threat to Sleepy Farm Town, but it does it in a way that works.

Let’s count the ways:

  1. First, it isn’t vague about the threat. In the first few minutes, we find out exactly who the players are and what is at stake.
  2. Second, it keeps the two parts of the story connected via the droids. In fact, it actually takes a shockingly long time for us to meet our supposed hero-protagonist; but it doesn’t matter, because we are emotionally invested in the droids. 
  3. Luke’s entrance is actually very understated, because we are still focused on the droids. He could almost be a quirky disposable side character that the droids meet and then leave ten minutes later. His entrance isn’t a “Okay now everyone look at this boring farmboy here I know he’s super boring but I promise he’s important because I’m making you look at him.” We are immediately invested in him only because of his connection to the big space battle we saw a few scenes ago (again, via the droids), not because there is a flashing sign over his head saying “Farmboy of Destiny Here.”

So in conclusion, if your prologue is not connected to your first chapter in an immediately obvious way, you need droids.

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Okay reblog if you’re an artist who STRONGLY PREFERS reblogs with commentary

deadcatwithaflamethrower:

dogmatix:

thesnadger:

bogleech:

People are apparently under the impression that reblogging someone’s art and adding a comment is frowned upon and that can’t possibly be true, every artist I know of sees a reblog-comment as like the ultimate definitive reward for their hard work.

Obviously don’t feel bad for NOT adding a comment if you’re shy or just don’t know what to say, but if there’s something you would like to say about a drawing you’ve liked enough to reblog, I’m pretty sure most artists crave hearing it.

This applies to art, fic, dumb theories, whatever! I totally love reading tags and commentary!

Definitely re-emphasizing that ALL reblogs, likes, etc are awesome! So don’t feel bad/feel obligated to add something if you don’t want to, but don’t hold back if you DO wanna add something because you’re worried it’s rude.

Well, I can only speak for myself (and probably @norcumi and @deadcatwithaflamethrower), but if you have stuff to say on any of our art/theories/fics, either in tags or in comments, YES PLEASE. 😀

(and yeah, don’t feel pressured if you don’t have anything to add – reblogs/likes are awesome, and I’m happy to know that ppl like stuff.  But if you want to comment/tag, that is also awesome! )

Seconding (thirding?) all of this.  Liking, reblogging, discussing, messaging about, commenting via tags = ALL AWESOME.

The only thing not okay is taking someone else’s work and claiming it’s your own. That’s what we in the biz refer to as a dick move.

FWIW, I totally agree.  I don’t art, but I do fic, and when people reblog it, it’s amazing.  When they reblog it and add commentary, either via tag or post addition, that’s SUPER AMAZING.  Even if it’s just this tag: “#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  That tag always makes me smile and do happy kicky-feet because I assume I’ve reduced someone to squeaking incoherently and flailing and that makes me so happy.  ^_^  (Alternatively, that tag accompanied by these: “#D:”, “#TT^TT”, “#;_;”, “noooooooooooooooooo” conjures up a wholly different, yet equally welcome image of a different kind of flailing.  ;D)

thorctopus:

misshoneywheeler:

so-caffeinated:

It’s okay if you write fanfic as a way to hone your skills until you are comfortable writing original fic.

It’s okay if you write fanfic because you love fanfic and don’t intend to ever write something original.

It’s okay if you only ever write one fanfic to work through some problems in your real life.

It’s okay if you write fanfic your whole life because you just can’t help falling in love with characters.

There’s no wrong way to write fanfic. THERE IS NO WRONG WAY TO WRITE FANFIC. Write what you love. Love what you write.

Be proud of your accomplishments, not everyone could achieve them.

It’s okay if you STILL write fanfic once you’re comfortable writing original fic.

It’s okay if you like coming up with fic ideas but never actually write them.

It’s okay to play and write the bits you like without making it a long, comprehensive epic. 

It’s okay to write a long, comprehensive epic.

And the best part is: no matter what you like to do, there will be someone out there who loves to read it.

YES. THIS.

Fantasy Pet Peeve #347

jumpingjacktrash:

the-real-seebs:

operativesurprise:

vorpalgirl:

geekhyena:

bronzedragon:

danbensen:

ladydomini:

danbensen:

Made-up bullshit names for plants and herbs. 

Unless in your world you get milk from a “milk-beast” you don’t put people to sleep with “sleep-weed.” There are dozens of real plants that actually put people to sleep:
Lemon balm
Valerian
Passion Flower
Chamomile
Poppy
Lavender
Catnip
Hops
Rooibos
Skullcap
Virgin’s bower
Lady’s slipper
Feverfew
Motherwort
Bee-balm
bergamot
perilla
figwort
I found them after 0.35 seconds of googling.

(herbologists out there: I know there are probably some mistakes there. Feel free to correct me)

On one hand, yeah, I get it that it’s nice to learn about something real in fantasy books.

But on the other hand…I am NEVER going to throw real herbs into my stories. Not unless I know it’ll be near-impossible for a child to overdose. Not unless I know I can take time (without an editor removing it) to explain how to safely prepare these tisanes.

Food preparations are one of the most easily made “fan creations” you can have rise out of a book series, since everyone has food on hand or can run out to a store to buy it, or go outside to try to forage it (if they see the internet says they have it living wild in their area). And you really, REALLY don’t want to accidentally lead someone who is young, or who just doesn’t know shit about cooking or chemistry or foraging, down a path where they poison themselves trying to make something. And that’s not even touching on foraging and “false friends”, where a plant might look one way in your area and be safe to eat, but might be poisonous elsewhere in the world where a similar-looking plant is found. There’s a mushroom in the united states that looks similar to an edible variety in Asia. As I understand it, a lot of poisonings occur among immigrants to the US from the region that has the friendly, edible type of mushrooms because they think the US variety is just as safe to eat, and it’s not. I would hate, hate, hate to set up a situation like that as an author, by assuming that a friendly, edible plant in my backyard doesn’t have false-friends elsewhere in the world.

J. K. Rowling handled this by making her potion ingredients fake or improbable to use. She could have had Snape talking about deadly nightshade, but he’s introduced talking about bezoars.  Bezoars are from an animal’s stomach–hard to get, and gross.

Patrick Rothfuss handled it by making sure the dangers of fucking chemistry up were very firmly highlighted.

Unless I have a lot of time and place to safely explain how to use a plant, I’m absolutely going to go the “safe” route (”cheap” route to some of you) of using made-up herbs. I’d rather people be irritated with me being cheap or having weak worldbuilding than finding out some reader went and made themselves ill or dead because they trusted that information from my work was complete or correct.

Sure, some or all of those in the list above might be perfectly safe with no poison lookalikes around. I drink Rooibos tea myself–although I’ve never gotten sleepy from it.

But I’m just not educated enough about plants–even after having lurked on several sites online for months–to take a chance in my writing, since it’s just not me that’ll be taking a chance, but possibly readers who assume I know what the fuck I’m talking about. (When I might not!)

A very interesting response. I admit I hadn’t thought of the dangers of realistic herbology, but you’re right, especially for children’s books.

I think there’s a more elegant solution than just making up a name, though. Say “a certain herb” rather than the specific plant’s name and you’re fine. Or smudge the details. 

Steven King does something similar with the crimes in his book—describing hotwiring a car in great detail but getting some things intentionally wrong so you can’t go out and do it.

In the vein of ladydomini’s response, I’d favor made-up herb names for an additional medical reason – even if something is super-safe or fairly benign in terms of side effect profiles, people generally don’t take these things in a vacuum, and you can never, ever cover drug-herb interactions in a fantasy world. (You can’t stop and say “Aeryn used St. John’s wort to help her mood, but wouldn’t have if she’d been on SSRIs like Prozac because of the risk of serotonin syndrome, or if she was on birth control, certain HIV meds, transplant drugs…”)

But there’s a second reason why you might choose to make up names, and that’s etymology. (It’s also why I picked St. John’s wort instead of going with one of the above herbs.) Because if you’re in a fantasy world where there are neither saints nor dudes named John, St. John’s wort doesn’t make a lot of sense to name-check, and referring to hypericum perforatum wouldn’t be any better. That’s not going to come up as *much,* but it’s definitely another reason.

(A third might be that you want an herb that has fantasy-world properties – something that doesn’t exist in the real world. Granted, you could randomly say valerian has magic-nullifying powers, but you might want magical plants for a magical reason – or maybe you want a plant with a pharmacological profile that doesn’t exist in the real world. I’m thinking here of ASOIAF’s moon tea and the tansy plant – it’s apparently both a very effective contraceptive and an abortifacient.)

So, yeah, this aspect of fantasy has never bothered me – I’d be more bothered by seeing real-world herbs incorrectly used, especially given the potential for RL trouble. (I guess whether you’d want your healers to be super non-specific or to say “I used tansy and athelas” is a matter of preference at that point; given the abundance of made-up names in the rest of fantasy, made-up herbs don’t bother me.)

Given how many times I read stories like that as a kid and tried to recreate ‘potions’ in the backyard….yeah I’m glad a lot of them were made-up names because me being a clever kid, I would have gone looking. Especially if I’d had the internet. Unless it’s like a practical, safe, real-world use (like “Annie put aloe leaves on her burn to help it heal” or “Margaret drank ginger and hibiscus tea to help her get over a cold”), I’d not include it. Made-up herbs work nicely and less chance of too-clever kids getting Ideas that could be a problem later. 

Hell, the side effects make this a valid concern even with ‘harmless’ innocent ones. Did you know for instance that only SOME hibiscus flowers are edible for humans? Or that parts of Dandelion or Aloe if consumed can be a diuretic – which can be dangerous if one is dehydrated? Even aspirin (or ‘willow bark’ if we’re going with old-school herbs) can be dangerous to the wrong person – it happens to be a blood thinner, which is sometimes good if you are having a heart attack, but not so good (i.e. potentially dangerous) if you are menstruating, hemophiliac, bleeding or anemic. 

I’d actually urge similar caution with crystals and rocks btw; some stones cannot be safely exposed to sweaty skin or water or heat or what not, because they produce unsafe chemical reactions under the wrong circumstances. 

as a former dumbass kid that had to be stopped from drinking poison nettle tea after reading a YA wiccan flavored book, 

please. Use fake names of plants. 

This is the kind of thing I would never even have thought of, but it’s a really interesting and valid concern.

i have indeed thought of it, and would like to propose a solution to satisfy both parties:

use made up plants, but put some effort into designing them.

don’t call it ‘sleep-weed’, call it ‘slugbane’ or ‘ketterling’s false poppy’ or ‘somniflora’ or ‘purple fretleaf’. give it a name that sounds like a real plant name. problem fucking solved.

Dear longfic writers

rederiswrites:

  • If you sometimes feel like it was pure, ridiculous hubris that you ever started a story that would take so much work and persistence to finish, I promise you, you’re not alone.
  • If you feel like you’ve already been writing forever and the “good bits” are still ages away, you’re not alone.
  • If you’ve been stuck for days or weeks or longer because you know what happens later but you don’t know what happens next, you’re not alone.
  • If you’re desperate to squeal about your beloved OTP but you feel like you can’t, because spoilers, and it’s driving you nuts, you’re not alone.
  • If you feel like you’ll never finish and you’re bound to fuck it up somehow, you’re not alone.
  • If you wonder if you’ve sabotaged yourself because who’s going to click through to a 28 chapter WIP, you’re not alone.
  • If you feel like you’ve been pouring your life into a single story for ages and will be for ages still and you don’t know why anymore because hardly anyone seems to care, you’re not alone.
  • If you can hardly even plan the further-away parts of the story or even think about them because thinking about them reminds you how absurdly far you still have to go and you get massive anxiety, please believe me.  You are not alone.

fannishcodex:

pinesinthewoods:

thesnadger:

Hurt/Comfort is such an interesting thing. It’s basically an entire genre of fanfiction. I’d argue it satisfies a very basic, vital need–the same way that horror satisfies the basic need to be scared in a safe, controllable space. 

And yet it doesn’t really have an equivalent outside of fan culture. "Tearjerkers” can sometimes come close, they’re probably the closest thing to a mainstream hurt/comfort genre that there is. But those types of books and movies don’t usually focus on the “comfort” aspect in the same way, and don’t make use of tension and release.

I think every good hurt/comfort fic makes use of tension and release just as horror does,

whether the writer is consciously aware of it or not. Though of course the tension and release in h/c comes from different sources than in horror. Instead of anticipating something frightening, you anticipate the intimacy and/or validation that comes from the “comfort” part you know is eventually coming. That’s what provides release of the tension built up during the “hurt” scenes.

I could write a goddamned essay about this it’s so fascinating. 

This is a great definition/analysis of it! I’ve been interested in this too. It’s always been my favorite fanfiction genre. It’s to the point where reading just angst is not enough, there is something left unfulfilled if the character does not have the ‘tension and release’ and just remains under whatever stressor at the end. I think part of the reason I like it so much, is often in mainstream media characters DO NOT have that ‘healing moment’, shall we say. Too often, there may be a sad/traumatic/stressful event and the character is shown to just pick themselves up from it and move on like nothing happened. Which is not realistic as we all know, so I think the hurt/comfort genre in fanfiction is a kind of a response to that. The “filling in the blanks” of when a character needs a moment of healing or validation to continue onward, because that in a sense is more relatable then the “super hero” character who can move through it like nothing damaged them. 

thesnadger:

Hurt/Comfort is such an interesting thing. It’s basically an entire genre of fanfiction. I’d argue it satisfies a very basic, vital need–the same way that horror satisfies the basic need to be scared in a safe, controllable space. 

And yet it doesn’t really have an equivalent outside of fan culture. "Tearjerkers” can sometimes come close, they’re probably the closest thing to a mainstream hurt/comfort genre that there is. But those types of books and movies don’t usually focus on the “comfort” aspect in the same way, and don’t make use of tension and release.

I think every good hurt/comfort fic makes use of tension and release just as horror does,

whether the writer is consciously aware of it or not. Though of course the tension and release in h/c comes from different sources than in horror. Instead of anticipating something frightening, you anticipate the intimacy and/or validation that comes from the “comfort” part you know is eventually coming. That’s what provides release of the tension built up during the “hurt” scenes.

I could write a goddamned essay about this it’s so fascinating. 

I personally do not think that what goes where in a sex scene has anything to do with who holds the power in the sex scene. Which character is the dominant character in the sex scene – if there is one – or who is in the position of power in the sex scene. To me, there is nothing inherently dominant or powerful in putting one thing inside of another thing. If you construct that act as powerful it’s because you think that the object being inserted is somehow more powerful than the thing it’s being inserted into. You’ve somehow come to imbue a penis with additional power and constructed it as more powerful than a vagina or a butt or a mouth. Think of it this way – you don’t think that you’re dominating a shark when you stick your arm in a shark’s mouth. That’s because you think of a shark as more powerful than an arm.

Leveling Up

metteivieharrison:

If you feel frustrated with your writing or creative life, and find yourself saying things like “I’m ready to give up” or “I don’t want to do this anymore” or “I hate everything I write these days” or “I’ve said everything I have to say,” consider that instead of being finished, you are actually subconsciously doing some very important work in preparation for a grand “leveling up” in a creative way.

As creatives, we often hit plateaus and while some are perfectly happy doing the same thing, most of us aren’t. The same critical edge that enables you to get better and to learn from the mistakes of others, also makes you unhappy with what once satisfied you creatively. You may need to try a new genre, a new age group target, poetry, screenplay, knitting or sculpting. Doing something else isn’t necessarily the same as giving up. For many of us, it’s a new way to get at the creative impulse and express it in a different way.

So if you think you’re ready to give up, consider that you might actually be ready to level up. It might take a few months or a few years, but you may end up doing something completely different and amazing, something you never thought you could do before. And all that frustration is really just energy that your subconscious is waiting to put to use.