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Hmmm. - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
I was randomly looking at some of the comments on my LJ ficlets over the last year or so, and I noticed something curious. I wrote Beauty Marks to show the Cho-Marietta friendship, and why Cho supported her after the "SNEAK" marks showed up, and a lot of the comments dealt with feeling sympathy for Marietta and so on.

But here's the thing.

I have no sympathy for Marietta, and when I wrote it, what I intended was that Marietta had been a manipulative bitch all year, prolonging Cho's grief in order to be emotionally indispensable to a popular girl.

I had these two paragraphs to describe it:

But she'd thought it would be good for him to have a cry about it. She herself had bottled it up all summer, and it was only when she came back and Marietta talked her into letting it out that she'd really let herself feel it, which had to be healthier than just shutting down in the traditional English way. Or the traditional Chinese way, Cho supposed; it wasn't as if her parents had encouraged her to cry.

Of course when Marietta had offered her a shoulder, the floodgates had opened. And she'd been there all year, encouraging Cho to talk about it, to let herself feel it. Marietta had hugged her and stroked her hair and kissed her forehead as her mother should have, and just let her cry, and promised her there was nothing wrong with it.

To me, this kind of behavior screams "emotional manipulation"--Cho is definitely seeing it as freeing, because she's living inside of it, but looking from the outside, I'm seeing a girl who was fragile but doing relatively well being urged by a rather sadistic classmate to wallow in her grief, causing the excessive (and unhealthy) behavior we see throughout the book from Cho. It's one thing to let it out once--that first time, I'm sure, would have been healthy--but the fact that she keeps prodding at it is something that horrifies me. She's more or less established herself as "the only person who understands" and has emotionally tied "being understood" to the notion of prolonged grief... friendship means being in pain and picking at wounds that are trying to scab and heal.

But I realize reading it that, because it's in Cho's POV and not in my POV, that it's actually sort of difficult to get that across, because by the time of that scene, Cho has very much bought into this business and based a good deal of her self-understanding on the idea that she should be violently mourning very frequently, and any suggestion that this might not be healthy would be met with great resistance. In her POV, Marietta is an angel who opened the floodgates and let her become herself. That the person she's been turned into never laughs, is a poor flyer, and has become socially inept doesn't occur to her, because she has identified pain as her defining personal characteristic, and Marietta never asks her to be anything else, no matter what the circumstance. Ergo, Marietta is her "true friend," and in her POV, all of this is good. It's just in my POV that it's a horrifying kind of forced dependency, taking advantage of a girl in a fragile state.

Now, I'm not saying that anyone who allows a grieving person to cry is being manipulative. There is a point when it's supportive and right, and of course the person is going to be shaky for awhile and a good friend is willing to be gentle and not make a lot of social demands (or be instantly forgiving if a social demand doesn't work out quite right). For me, it's the constancy of it, the reveling in grief that sets my teeth on edge--Marietta isn't trying to help her get over it; she's making it go on as long as she can.

But being in Cho's POV, I have no clue how I could have gotten that across, because Cho is happy about it.


A puzzlement.
12 comments or Leave a comment
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: May 2nd, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I misunderstood, as I had felt a little sorry for Marietta in the respect that I feel she *did* only do what she thought was necessary.

That said, I feel more sorry for Cho.

Oh, and believe me, I've had the opposite - I wrote a fanfic in which a character goes insane, and a reviewer told me "haha, she deserved it." I personally don't see how making a childish comment merits that, but everyone reads into thigns differently. Heck, look at what people have done with Draco! (Poor JKR, I feel sorry for her - everyone says she has no idea how to make someone three-dimensional, and yet, she *has*, just not people like Draco).
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: May 2nd, 2005 04:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well I read the ficlet after I read your comments on it, so, of course, I was able to see where you were coming from. I enjoyed it a lot. I don't particularly have sympathy for either of characters and I thought you higlighted the reasons I don't like them well.

Maybe you could have made Marietta's manipulative side more defined with something like...and when Cho thought she was ready to move on and feel happy again, Marietta was there to gently remind her of all she'd been through, making sure Cho didn't push her pain aside too soon. Of course, that's pretty much a crap sentence, and might be rather using a sledgehammer, when the rest of the story is quite subtle.

vytresna From: vytresna Date: May 2nd, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, there's a thought. "Whenever she began to forget what Cedric meant to her, Marietta was there to remind her."
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: May 2nd, 2005 11:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now that's NOT a crap sentence that really conveys the manipulativeness!
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: May 2nd, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)


I didn't get the idea that Marietta was manipulating Cho until I saw one of your replies to the comments.

Part of the reason is probably as you say: it *is* Cho's POV and she thinks of Marietta's actions as wholly good. The reader is left with no clue that anything weird is happening.

Now, I did think the girls had a .. weird.. relationship, probably co-dependent or something. The kissing and the hair stroking added to the weirdness factor. But I actually know some people who do that sort of thing with their friends in RL (my reaction: eww) so I just thought... they related to each other in a weird way.

And because I personally dislike Cho, rather, I thought it was *both* the girls who were causing each other's emotional unhealthiness, albeit unknowingly.

That was my reaction to what you'd written.

*slips out of WR mode and into beta mode*

I think you need to make it clearer that it was Marietta who was taking the lead in the relationship and being manipulative. It's *there* in your story when I'm looking for it, but if I read it without prior knowledge, the fact that Marietta is the one who makes Cho open up is open to many interpretations.. the most obvious one being that M is a sappy sort of girl who's just looking out for Cho the best she can.

What you need in these to paragraphs is something that is obvious to the reader as manipulation but Cho is oblivious to. Cho might say, I didn't want to cry so much, I didn't want to turn into a crybaby, but Marietta told me there was nothing to be ashamed of in letting my feelings out, and she was right - I did feel much more in touch with my feelings, I was able to feel my grief more deeply and give Cedric the mourning he deserved, and my bond with Marietta grew stronger because of this ordeal.

That still isn't blatant enough, but... I can't think of anything stronger to say.

sreya From: sreya Date: May 2nd, 2005 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure how much more obvious you CAN make it through Cho's POV alone. Because she's only thinking back on what she's gone through, and the two girls are alone for the "present", Cho's perspective is going to dominate.

If this was part of a longer story, I'd suggest something like a third person who might make some comment about how Marietta's suggestions aren't very healthy, and Cho defending M from the accusation. Having been manipulated by many friends myself, until the person being manipulated is ready to confront the idea, they'll reason their way out of any suspicion.

Personally, I've always wondered just how much of M's motivation for revealing the DA to Umbridge was to specifically target Harry and chase him away from Cho. Again, manipulative, but I saw it as something driven more by jealousy -- "She's my friend, you creep. Back off." Unfortunately, my brain is muddled from studying and I can't remember exactly what in OotP gave me that impression.
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: May 2nd, 2005 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I kind of got that feeling too. I think it might've been from Marietta's hesitation and obvious unwillingness to be in the DA. It seemed to be more against Harry than against the group. Is that what stirred your thoughts too?
sophonax From: sophonax Date: May 2nd, 2005 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
The way I read it was that Marietta wasn't so much manipulative as just *wrong*--there is a very popular school of thought that says your emotions are more important than anything else in your life, and that any attempt to disguise them or overcome them is a denial of the true self, nearly hypocritical. I've seen it often enough to just assume that was what Marietta thought about how to deal with feelings--I didn't think she was consciously trying to manipulate Cho.

It's a very bad way to live, though, certainly. As Cho found out, feelings, no matter how sincere, can often get in the way of a full and interesting life, rather than becoming the basis for it. Whether or not Marietta was actively trying to isolate Cho, she wasn't doing Cho any favors by encouraging her to be ruled by her emotions.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: May 2nd, 2005 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)


I was just thinking - how very well the whole betrayal of the DA was executed. Anybody who wants to accuse Rowling of stereotyping people by inventing the house system should take a look at this.

Marietta is Ravenclaw. Can you imagine? Wise, intelligent and supposedly able to think things through rationally. How many times in fan fiction have we seen Ravenclaws who are withdrawn, bookish and utterly rational? Marietta is jealous, socially manipulative (not just in Fern's fic, because I agree that she's jealous of Cho spending time with Harry) and her 'logic' is so flawed. Heh. I want to know what made the hat put her in Ravenclaw.

From: psalm_27 Date: May 2nd, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Insight into Cho and Marietta's relationship prior to Cedric's death would have probably made Marietta's manipulation clearer to the reader. To keep the story in Cho's POV, I suppose you could've used flashback scenes, perhaps demonstrating Marietta attempting to get between Cedric and Cho. Of course, it would have to be very subtle as it would be coming from Cho's POV. I think that this would have shown the reader that Marietta wanted to be Cho's only friend, while showing how Cho dealt with her prior to Cedric's death and how she is now dependent on Marietta.

BTW, I thought that it was a great ficlet, your insinuation that it was Marietta's manipulation that kept Cho down and out all school year is a great take on the story. I thought that Cho's reactions to both Hermione and Marietta were great, while just hinting to the reader that Hermione was the bad guy in this, putting a contract like that together without warning the signers.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: May 2nd, 2005 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)


*seriously fangirling now*

Fern, I just read your Ted, Andromeda & Sirius ficlet - the one where Sirius goes around charming bits of floor to sing? WHOOAAAA.

*pauses to push eyeballs back into sockets*

Would you pease, please finish that? I can just see McGonagall in my head, dancing a solemn minuet with Flitwick..

Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease finish it.

From: (Anonymous) Date: May 2nd, 2005 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
The problem is that every reader has their own experience with grief, and everyone experiences grief differently; I think most people will end up projecting their own experiences with grieving onto Cho to a certain extent. Some people havehad the exact opposite experience of what you are writing about here, where they were mourning and clueless but well-meaning people were telling them that they should "move on" because they've passed some arbitrary deadline.
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