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More random thoughts - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
More random thoughts
Headed off to a midpoint town to hang out with a_p_ tomorrow. Yay! It's been about a year since we've hung out, so, cool.

I put together a page with pics of Boston. Not everything or everywhere, but a handful of images that I happened to have lying around.


I'm thinking of getting bangs. I've had them on and off all my life, and whenever I have them, it seems like no one else does, and whenever I don't, I feel like everyone else does. Here's a page with pictures of me both ways. Any opinions?

Sigh.

I wish I still looked seventeen. I mean, I'm gratified that people think they can still get away with pretending to think I need to be carded (it's good for their tips), but I miss me at that age.


In the last installment of Shifts, Tonks thinks:
She'd nearly forgotten the kiss he'd dropped onto her fingertips, but somewhere in his dream, he muttered "Dora," and there was something in his voice that had thrilled and terrified her, and embarrassed her in some way. She had been very, very careful not to look at the loose blanket draped over him. That he was a monster under the moon was something she had long ago accepted as a fact of life. That he was a man beneath his robes was something she rarely thought about, despite nearly two decades of fuzzy-edged daydreams about living happily ever after at his side.


When I first wrote the scene, she, er... um... does happen to glance at that blanket.

That's why she's so freaked out.

On the one hand, I did, in fact, back off because I, like Tonks, was a little freaked at having "seen" that. Backing away from a notion of a scene because it makes me feel a little jumpy and nervous is a bad thing as a writer, right? Cowardly writing, not being totally truthful?

On the other hand, I like the version I have better. I think that Tonks would convince herself that she'd seen nothing of the sort by the time she's thinking of it. And something that anatomically specific wouldn't fit in the tone of the story on the macro level. And do we really need to know something that personal?

So I'm a little confused by my moral stance (don't back away from the truth of a scene) being in conflict with my editorial stance (it worked better when I backed away, no matter what my reasoning for doing so). I'm leaving it like it is because on a story, the story always trumps my writer's ego--which isn't always an easy thing for a story to do; quite a Herculean task to set!

But if a story is better--and I think this choice did make the story better--then where does that leave the moral question of fictional honesty? I've written other things that made me jumpy (pretty much all of the sorting of Tom Riddle gave me severe butterflies in the stomach because I was writing more accurately to feelings than I cared to reveal) and left it alone because it was true. If something is better when it's not completely true, is that going to open the door to backing away when I shouldn't?

Or... gasp... will I need to make the choice every time I write, rather than having a set determination ahead of time?

I know, as issues in a fic go, what Dora Tonks saw in the shack is a rather minor one. But I don't like chickening out.
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Comments
From: anatomiste Date: June 25th, 2004 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the picture with the funny hat best... You seem to be one of those very rare people whose bangs flatter their faces.

As to fictional honesty: What you left out would have been a little incongruous with the story's ambiance. But I've often found that the more details and possibilities in the story that the author knows about -- completely regardless of whether she includes them -- the more lifelike and familiar and intuitively right the story becomes.

It might not be the whole truth to leave out certain details, for whatever reason, but you still know what the whole truth is, and that's going to influence, for the better, the way you write your characters and their actions.

All of us have things we can't write. Sometimes we write things when, for our own sakes, we probably shouldn't. During my Bellatrix story, at one point I got so much into her head that I discovered I had this scornful grimace on my face when she was angry at her sister... it was pretty creepy. CS Lewis said something similar about the writing of the Screwtape Letters.

In my opinion, not writing something you know to be true, when it's incongruous with the story's flow or makes you uncomfortable, is much better than writing a scene that sounds good or adds something to the story when it isn't firmly rooted in your knowledge of how the characters think and act and speak. And I think you are very careful to avoid the latter, and that, to me, makes you a more honest writer than many others.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 26th, 2004 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)
In my opinion, not writing something you know to be true, when it's incongruous with the story's flow or makes you uncomfortable, is much better than writing a scene that sounds good or adds something to the story when it isn't firmly rooted in your knowledge of how the characters think and act and speak.

That's a good philosophy. I like it; it works.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: June 26th, 2004 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Bangs are such a pain.

I'm forcing one daughter to grow them out. The other two, thankfully, are now past that stage.

About your story.

I think that what you did wasn't dishonest. You gave your characters dignity right from the start. For example, Dora is not called Tonks, despite in canon her insistence on it. I don't find this OOC because it's from Remus' POV and it's how he addresses her in his mind, if not always in person. I've half expected her at any moment to lay into him for that, btw. But Tonks is less dignified an appellation for a young woman than using a name like Nymphadora. Shortening it is acceptable, as Remus has probably called her that all her life, with or without her consent.

Remus, too, you've made a stately character, a man of sorrows, certainly, but bearing it with courage and some grace. He's old enough to know his limits, human and lupine, and while it may be not what he wants, he's comfortable inside his skin.

And that may be why you pulled back.

His arousal is very private and even from himself he wishes to keep feelings far away because of the emotional cost they bear. You've given us an incredible backstory on the wolf's other predatory nature and how it caused him such distress. You didn't need to tell us anymore. You made the point with great subtlety and you are trusting your reader. That is one of your strengths as a writer.

I ultimately see this as a benefit to you when you elect to move them closer together. First, that you've made good characterizations makes their falling in love more realistic and, for the reader, you've got complete characters who aren't just shallow images that I don't care if they shag themselves silly because I'll just hit the backbutton. Second, you're creating tension for me as the reader. Dora is discreet, but the hint is there. Another hint, and another. Before the school year is out, I'll be chomping at the bit waiting for a first kiss (or more) because you've so carefully laid the ground for it. If they were to kiss right now, that would be anticlimatic.

Your Dora is still very young and innocent. Is that how you want her?

Kizmet
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 26th, 2004 05:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bangs are such a pain.

Thanks; that makes sense of why it felt a lot better to back off of it (and wasn't just me being a cowardly writer). It is something that would be out of character for either of them to say "aloud," even in their own minds.

Your Dora is still very young and innocent. Is that how you want her?

Oh, yes. Definitely. I read her as very innocent.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 26th, 2004 06:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bangs are such a pain.

But Tonks is less dignified an appellation for a young woman than using a name like Nymphadora.

BTW, I wanted to say that I also agree with your take on the name. Yes, there's something a trifle condescending in his tone in the kitchen ("I know this 'Tonks' business is another phase you're going through, but whatever, Harry, she prefers to be called by her surname only..."), but it's not a mean-spirited sort of condescension. He introduces her as a full fledged person (by both names) instead of as a schoolgirl very recently let out into the world.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: June 26th, 2004 08:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Nitpick

You're already commited to a moon cycle, but in case you're interested, here's a link http://www.40-below.com/sunmoon/ to a site that can give you the dates of the full moon, the rising and setting times for anywhere in the world you'd like. As England sits squarely on the Prime Meridian, you only need to determine the latitude of your full moon sanctuaries.

One of the things I noticed when playing around was how short the nights were in the north of Scotland during the summers. It fostered a rather interesting plot bunny.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: June 26th, 2004 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, easy. B-A-N-G-S. To me, your worst picture with bangs looks pretty dang good. Like my mom did at your age.
sreya From: sreya Date: June 26th, 2004 07:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Or... gasp... will I need to make the choice every time I write, rather than having a set determination ahead of time?

I think it's perfectly normal to "back away" from something in a story. You went with what worked with the story best, based on perspective, the pace, and where the story is currently at. You don't want to overload, or distract, your readers.

It's really the same as editing a story, and deciding that, as much as you adore a particular character's monologue on the beauty of the rosebush he's sitting next to and how alive the bugs are, it's really not necessary for the character to go on for three whole pages about it because it's distracting. So you go back, cut it down to the half-page that fits the story, and select the important parts about it. You convey that the character is fascinated by the rose bush and finds it beautiful, and fit it into the story.

You've still captured the heart of what Dora looking at the blanket would have conveyed -- that she's a little freaked out by thinking of Remus as a man, and not just her life-long friend. And it helps that you had just given us insight into how the wolf has affected Remus's perspective on sexuality, because that's a little uncomfortable for the readers, too, so the readers are quite ready to accept where Dora and Remus are coming from.

Hmm. I don't know if I've added anything new. But I don't think it's dishonest to back away from what you've written if it doesn't help the story to leave it there. In my opinion, an honest writer is someone who lets the story do the talking, instead of warping the story and characters to be merely a reflection of the self. (Unless that's the point of the story of course.)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: June 26th, 2004 09:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Warning: ramble alert

You know... I'm not sure that backing away due to "writer's cowardice" would have been automatically a bad thing either. Now, I may be influenced by having gotten extremely tired of one ficcer who persisted (and probably persists) in inserting, addressing, and justifying subjects he clearly was not comfortable with writing, and I'm sure you would not do anything quite so awkward...

But anyway, I actually do think that "This is/is not something I want as part of my work" is a legitimate reason to make a decision about a story. It may require some reworking if you find that the story appears to be leading up to it and you really find it important to change, or it may (as in this case) turn out that while in one way it came to mind, it didn't fit after all.

I'm not silly enough to think a writer is never going to run into things that are required for the story she wants to tell, natural developments without which it won't ring true, etc., but that are also uncomfortable, difficult, and/or unpleasant to write, but I think those are probably distinguishable by and large from... I'm trying to avoid saying "letting the story take charge" as if it's an entity with a will of its own, even if it sometimes seems that way ;)... from letting what you've started to say become more important to the story than what's really important to you.

You use By the Grace of Lady Vader and the sequel whose title I have embarrassingly just blanked on as an example sometimes and say that the sequel was needed because leaving things as they were at the end of the first story didn't fit the themes of Star Wars, of redemption and positive transformations even after things had gone bad. Given that these themes are part of what you like Star Wars for, I suspect you could also use it as an example of discomfort with leaving something out becoming more important than what "had to happen" just based on logical/causal developments. I could be wrong on that one though. *g*

In this case I suspect the discomfort of actually stemming both from personal embarrassment and from feeling it wasn't going to fit. Probably the decision each time will involve deciding whether those two possible are agreed or in conflict.

In other words, I'm being utterly unhelpful, which you'd probably noticed by now.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: June 26th, 2004 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's perfectly legitimate to back away from complete explicitness in some circumstances -- and having a character who'd be trying to convince herself she Didn't See That is one of them. Besides, pervy-minded readers will CERTAINLY be going "hmm, wonder if he was tenting that blanket?"

Case in point, famous: compare the edited and uncut versions of the scene where Ben bolts from the Nest in "Stranger in a Strange Land." In the edited version, the reader is left to imagine what, exactly, shocked him so much. In the uncut version, it's made explicit that what shocked him was Mike and Jill getting it on in front of him.

At thirteen years old, reading the edited version (all that was available then), I came up with the naughtier idea that Ben had left in a fit of homosexual panic because Mike had invited him to join in. I *still* think it's there as subtext. Neener. But the edited version did not fail to WORK because of its lack of explicitness, is what I'm saying.

Case in point, self-pimpage: http://www.harpertwilight.com/characters/evan/howsoon.htm

In this chapter from "Immortal Beloved," I made a deliberate decision to cut in after Lucius and Severus were finished, and to fade back out before they really got started again. I could have written very explicit chan there. I didn't want to, because even though Lucius enjoyed it, and had led Severus into enjoying it, I didn't want READERS to be enjoying it just for porn purposes. In the context of the story, as well as it would have been in real life, what happened was Not A Good Thing, and I didn't want to write about it as if it were.

I don't think that's cowardice.
From: pandora_hyde Date: June 28th, 2004 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Kismet wrote:
You didn't need to tell us anymore. You made the point with great subtlety and you are trusting your reader....

Second, you're creating tension for me as the reader. Dora is discreet, but the hint is there. Another hint, and another...

Your Dora is still very young and innocent. Is that how you want her?


I do hope you intend her to be young and innocent, as I believe JKR to be portraying her as such in canon. Even the name "Nymphadora" brings to mind a an incomplete metamorphosis insect in its "nymph" or neither-child-nor-adult stage.

Tonks' bonding with the younger girls at Grimmauld Place as well as her ability to talk brooms with Ron, show her to be a still young woman. A woman, yes, but a young one.

So the whole idea of man/arousal/her name being mentioned would be rather embarassing, wouldn't it? Add in the fact that the man is her long time Professor/crush and it becomes thoroughly unnerving!

Well, at least, that's what I took it to mean.

I think you show Remus' discomfort with her current stage of metamorphosis as well. He was comfortable with the egg (child) and, perhaps, will be comfortable with the adult - but this nymph stage seems to have him bedevilled. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2004 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I think you show Remus' discomfort with her current stage of metamorphosis as well. He was comfortable with the egg (child) and, perhaps, will be comfortable with the adult - but this nymph stage seems to have him bedevilled. :)

Ooo! I like the metaphor on the name. And it does fit with her in-between generation identity--she's not of either Harry's generation or the Marauders', and provides the first notion we've gotten a clear look at of the transition point from childhood to adulthood. I thought of that interpretation of the character, but never actually tied it to her name!
From: purplelake Date: June 28th, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love your SW stories, and I love your Remus, but for some reason, I don't get your interpretation of Tonks. Innocent, I understand, I like the idea that she's had the sort of childhood and loving home that so many of our canon characters hadn't, and therefore can retain a sense of innocence about the world, but sometimes I think that you make her tend towards the naive. It (even though I am a RL/NT shipper) makes me feel uncomfortable about their relationship, after all the age difference in years doesn't really matter in the wizarding world, but there seems to be an enormous psychological age difference. Remus is prematurely old, and she's childish. I trust that she will be doing a spot of growing up as the story progresses?




fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 28th, 2004 01:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes. Another level of shapeshifting is happening.

But I should point out that on that level, she and Remus aren't terribly different. He knows things that she's ignorant of (as she knows things he is, for that matter), but I don't have Remus ever having been in a relationship any more than Dora has. He blames it on lycanthropy, but it's really plain old fear.
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