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Oh, why not? Random fanfic rant. - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Oh, why not? Random fanfic rant.
I just discovered something about myself. As much as I enjoy deleterius, I can't quite bring myself to initiate a sporking. I don't know if this is an exquisite moral sense or total cowardice on my part, though I suspect the latter. Maybe I'm afraid that the ghost of my great-grandmother will give me a disapproving frown for eternity.

So, having found a spork-worthy fic and being unable to spork it in its particularist glory, I will generalize some hair-tearing notions. I assure you, the fic in question, in the course of about eight pages, hit all of these.

Generational repetition
You all know this one, in which a generation's children duplicate them exactly, with no mitigation even from the second parent of the child in question. Occasionally, there might be a gender switch, but it's cosmetic, and usually made for snoggability purposes.

I'm not going to sit here and argue the realism factor, because I don't think that's at issue--I doubt even the Suethors say, "Wow, it'll be just like real life, where I'm a carbon copy of my dad." No. I'd like to talk about on the level of interest.

Why, in the name of all that is holy and unholy, would you want to write another generation of Marauders who are exactly like the first one? You already have the first one to play with. Yes! Fanfic gives you freedom to time travel, and if you love the Marauders, then you can go back to Marauders-era Hogwarts and spend all the time you want to with them. Or if you really like the idea of pranksters and practical jokes at contemporary Hogwarts, why not hit Fred and George Weasley, with a healthy side of Lee Jordan? You can have the same fun, but explore different people while you're at it. Why make little carbon copies of Remus and Sirius (never Peter!) to run around with Harry, who is a carbon copy of James? Just write about the characters who do interest you, for heaven's sake.

And yes, of course it's stupidly unrealistic. (Oops, I guess I am talking about it.) Not only do these children have a second parent to account for, but they've grown up in a different era, with different cultural influences. And that's not even getting into the question of differing personalities that they may have by nature.

Which brings us back to the whole question of interest again--if the point of a new generation is to have both generations on stage, isn't it more interesting if they aren't little carbon copies of one another? Yes, it's possible--even probable--that kids raised by a parent who likes to read will in fact like to read. Remus's children or Hermione's children are likely to have a steady diet of books from a young age, and that generally will contribute to good reading habits. That doesn't translate to Hermione's daughter being obsessed with Hogwarts: A History, or Remus's spending all her time reading moon phase charts or DADA books, or either of them always agreeing with the parents' positions. What's the fun of writing a dinner table conversation if everyone is saying exactly the same thing, not even disagreeing on nuances or personality points?

At least get your own spelling right
Okay, so you want to name your character Dzennee-Fir Zmyth. I'll twitch a bit and complain because that's just stupid, but whatever. But if you're going to do it, then for heaven's sake, keep her as Dzennee-Fir. Don't, in the course of the same paragraph, call her Dzennee-Fir, Jennifer, and Zhenphyr. 'Kay?

Establish your devices
If you need a time travel device, figure out how it works and how your people get hold of it and how they get around the Ministry of magic. Don't just have Sirius say, "Gosh, I wish we could see the future" and immediately get sucked into the future-seeing vortex.

By the same token, make your plot devices make sense. Okay, so your AU is one where Sirius got a fair trial. It's going to take more than one sentence to change everyone's mind about who the Secret Keeper was.

And for AU? Canon, canon, canon
Putting an author's note on something saying, "Okay, so Ginny's not friends with Luna and Neville, but now she's friends with Tom Riddle's granddaughter and Dumbledore's grandson" doesn't make it AU, even if you do preface it with, "You guys are going to hate me for this, but..."

An alternate universe must make sense within the scope of canon. There are no exceptions to that rule, and no get-out-of-Azkaban-free cards if you break it. If Harry didn't meet Ron and Hermione, then why didn't he meet them? What are the practical implications on his character? And what would your new characters actually bring to the plot and how would they change things? AND WHY ARE THEY THERE? No, seriously. I'm not saying, "Don't make up OCs"--I love OCs--but we're 5/7 of the way through the series. If someone is meant to be close to Harry at that point and that person hasn't so much as has his or her name mentioned so far, then you got some 'splainin' to do, Lucy. And you don't do it in the author's note or in an expository paragraph. If there is no reason other than, "I felt like it, so waa-aah," then frankly, you're SOL. AU=canon through the looking glass. AU=/=canon rape.

Sentence logic is your friend
The fic I read contained a sentence that I had to look at for a long time before I could parse it. Since I don't want to skewer the exact fic, I'll make up a sentence that resembles it.

"I think we should go for it!" said Siria, the girl who looked like Sirius adventurously.

I'm not entirely sure how you adventurously look like someone. Unless, of course, you're Tonks taking a dare...

Don't cry wolf
Put your story on an emotional budget. If you don't spend profligately early on, then you'll have some saved up for when you need it. In other words, if Severus bursts into deep, scarred tears when he gets an E instead of an O on an exam, what's he going to do when wicked James steals his true love? There's just not much wiggle-room when you have the emotional volume turned up to deafening decibels in the first scene.

After awhile, emotional scenes will have a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" feel to them--your reader, seeing this level of emotion, will think it's a climax (and I could think of a scenario where Snape's emotional reaction to a lower grade than expected could be a climactic one--after all, such little things can really tip the balance for someone who's already stressed). Then you go on and there's another such scene, and then another. And next thing you know, you're at the actual climax of your story, and your readers are going, "Meh... another one?" Build it. Make the climax a real pay-off.

(Of course, this is scary. The more build-up I do for the various threads in Shifts, the more I know the climaxes better be damned good when I get there, and that's a little intimidating, but that's part of writing. Oh, well.)

Cross-posted to fanficrants.
41 comments or Leave a comment
titti From: titti Date: November 22nd, 2004 10:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Fly-by post to tell you I adore you.

I was reading that HP is the fandom with the most fics. If we take all the ones that fall into your points, we'd be back to a normal amount (making it easier to find good fics.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 22nd, 2004 11:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. :)

Yeah, it occurs to me that it would cut the list down fairly significantly. Being an elistist snob of the first order, I guess I'd be okay with that. ;)
mamadeb From: mamadeb Date: November 22nd, 2004 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)
All excellent points.

Can you add something for those who misspell canon characters' names? Because, it's not like they're written down somewhere.

Except, you know. They are.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 22nd, 2004 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, the one I was working from didn't have that particular error (amazingly, and probably only because Hermione had been replaced by Remus's son, who had a one-syllable name). But yes, argh.

The author did confuse her original character's identity a bit by switching back and forth between Ellie and Eli.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
mylla From: mylla Date: November 22nd, 2004 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Okay, so you want to name your character Dzennee-Fir Zmyth. I'll twitch a bit and complain because that's just stupid, but whatever. But if you're going to do it, then for heaven's sake, keep her as Dzennee-Fir. Don't, in the course of the same paragraph, call her Dzennee-Fir, Jennifer, and Zhenphyr. 'Kay?

Wow, props to you for creative spellings. I wouldn't have worked out that "Dzennee-Fir" was a variation on a real name if you hadn't pointed it out. :p

Great rant, as usual. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 22nd, 2004 11:21 am (UTC) (Link)

My Jennifer and Kimberly collections will be available at tacky mall shops next season... with apologies to my two best friends for torturing their names!
liwy From: liwy Date: November 22nd, 2004 11:16 am (UTC) (Link)
since it doesn't make sense to have a whole different post...

It always does if the content you want to add is unrelated to the other post.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 22nd, 2004 11:18 am (UTC) (Link)
True. I'll move it. I just feel weird making all kinds of posts.
mcgray From: mcgray Date: November 22nd, 2004 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I couldn't agree with you more. Although I don't write fan fiction, I do read quite a bit of it, and a vast majority of what one finds at Fiction Alley and FF.net is utter crap when it comes to plot, characterisation, and believability.

I think the amount of fan fiction would be *less* than normal when compared to other fandoms if you could make all of the poorly written ones vanish. I say that because a majority of the fandom is 15 and under. That's not to say that younger people can't write wonderful stories, but a majority of them can't, or they make things too far removed from canon to suit their personal whims.

I hate calling myself a canon-thumper, but when it comes right down to it, I am. Be it art or fic, I want to know exactly where I am in JKR's world or exactly where the split from canon happened.

LOL, you should make a writer's guide to Harry Potter fan fiction. It would be wonderful, if time consuming. :D
jolie_black From: jolie_black Date: November 24th, 2004 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
you should make a writer's guide to Harry Potter fan fiction. It would be wonderful, if time consuming.

Do you know, Fern, I think mcgray is right. You really should. Combine all those great and necessary and much needed rants into a guide. It would be a bestseller. I know so many people I'd happily link to it, in fact I know so many people that have expressed they wish there was something like it for the HP fandom specifically that I've considered giving it a go myself. What do you say, is that a project that deserves some thinking about?
mctabby From: mctabby Date: November 22nd, 2004 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've just seen a Sue named Latitial Smick. Eh? *runs away*
jolie_black From: jolie_black Date: November 23rd, 2004 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do you know, I admire that you can still be bothered to point this out. Every time I come across a fic like that, I just shrug and walk away. I won't find it particularly funny (hurts too much), but I don't think there's anything that can be done about it. Those people will never understand. Or maybe they will, much later - who of us elitist snobs hasn't written completely atrocious and ridiculous stuff back when we were thirteen, and who of us wasn't ashamed of it later? Maybe our only saving grace is that the internet wasn't around at that time. I'm not telling you you're wasting your time - maybe I'm just trying to justify why I'm not getting worked up about this stuff any more. But I do think that all we can really do to change anything and to promote quality in the HP fandom is write good stuff ourselves if we can (like you do!!!), point friends directly to good stuff others have written, leave con crit where there is a hope of improvement, and try and show people how to get around the fandom without stumbling into the pits of FF.net Sueing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 23rd, 2004 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I definitely did some embarrassing junk when I was thirteen, and even up to sixteen (written about in this entry, with a link to pictures). And I thank G-d that the internet wasn't out there.

But I will say for myself that I was always a canon thumper. The first sign that I'd learned to read was when I corrected the grown-ups on whose lap I was sitting if they got a word wrong on the pages they were reading to me. I don't recall ever writing a imagining a version of SW where Han and Lando were bestest friends with Admiral Piett, or saying, "Okay, so in my world, Luke and Leia aren't related..." If I hadn't liked that, I'd have just gone and been a fan of something else instead.
zoepaleologa From: zoepaleologa Date: November 23rd, 2004 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here via daily_snitch.

I'd type word but that would hardly do justice to my admiration of what you have said here.

Excellent rant - says it all, and should be made compulsory reading by new authors. Certainly, should be issued as a good "starter kit" on how to keep off deleterius.
painless_j From: painless_j Date: November 23rd, 2004 02:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've suspected that you are one of the most sensible people in the fandom, so why don't I read you more often?

As much as agree with absolutely all the points you're making here, I don't believe a 'writer' who baked an example for your sporking can be taught by the means of a simple explanation, even when it's as crystal clear as yours. I'd say it's a fanwriter psychotype that passes with age (sometimes not). But it's always a pleasure to read such sporking for other people :) Thanks!
painless_j From: painless_j Date: November 23rd, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not friendly either with words order or with pronouns today, sorry for that.
woelfle From: woelfle Date: November 23rd, 2004 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
*drops in from daily_snitch*

What an exemplary rant. Thanks, I enjoyed reading it a lot. It's about what I would have said (if I were eloquent enough) back when I still read those kind of fics out of pure curiosity at the wide range of quality in my newly discovered playground.
Long sentence. And probably grammatically incorrect. Sorry.
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undeadgoat From: undeadgoat Date: November 24th, 2004 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now I want a link . . . *puppy eyes* Please?
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From: stellahobbit Date: November 24th, 2004 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I found this post through daily_snitch and, after an hour of trawling through deleterius, getting sidetracked by sparklypoo comics and weird pirate monkeys, I've had to friend both you and the sporking community. I don't know why I haven't done it earlier - you both make me laugh!
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