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친구 – Friend

“Look at me. I’m a heterosexual cisgender white American male. Under forty, even. You know what that means? It means I can support anyone I damn please. Nobody can stop me. I have a lot of fucking power that I don’t want. I’m gonna use it on behalf of other people.”

This is part of a character dialogue I wrote in August. It’s in the latter half of a book I started writing in July, which I’m nearly done editing now. I wrote it because a protagonist’s best friend behaved like a derp pretty much of the time, but he had hidden depths. In his first major dialogue, he warned one of the protagonists not to “chase after pretty boys just to piss off his dad.” Kind of an asshole about it. He’s not very eloquent usually. I wanted to clarify his behaviour, and I felt that this explained where he’s coming from. He’s a young man, married with two small children. His wife works and he stays home with the kids. He gives people a hard time, but he cares. He gives some people a hard time because he cares. This speech is simply an answer to another character’s question: “How are you so cool about this shit?”

Today I saw someone express a similar sentiment only to come under fire. Perhaps it’s easy to misunderstand–to accuse a person of creating a divide when they meant to promote unity, or to see condescension instead of love and concern. It’s a damaging social attitude, to seek negativity and to condemn without empathy or contemplation. I choose to think about what people say and try to understand what they mean by it, not just what their words mean to me. This can be difficult when communicating only through text, email, or social media posts. I think it’s worth the effort to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I think anyone who can respect someone else’s opinions or values without also sharing them is admirable.

Everyone’s feelings are valid. They don’t have to express them well, and you don’t have to like them. But they are valid. Always. Invalidating someone else’s feelings is never a good thing. I know I want to be treated with respect, and I assume all people do. Having been in abusive relationships and bullied in school, I know what it’s like to be disrespected and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. There are worse things in the world than being insulted or ignored, but scale doesn’t render small problems nonexistent or painless.

I bolded empathy and Everyone’s feelings are valid because those are things I’ve lot about a lot over the past few days. This character, as a function in the story and a fictional person, is first and foremost someone’s friend. Like any real person, he’s imperfect and doing his best. I couldn’t think of a title for this post, so I chose a positive word from a language I’m studying right now. Sorry if it looks generic or cryptic.

As a sort of disclaimer, I suppose I should say that this character doesn’t represent me and he isn’t based on anyone.

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Mature Relationships in Fan Fiction

Continuing from yesterday…

All of the fics I read featured adult characters in romantic relationships. And yet, not one of them really acted like an adult in a romantic relationship. There is a great article I read recently that lists nine “signs” that tell you you’re in a mature relationship. Very few of the things on that list even happen in a teen romance.

It seems like the kinds of things that get explored in fan fic romance are high drama (“1. Being your significant other’s partner isn’t hard.”) and low substance. Fluff is fine, but too much can be like eating cotton. Bleh. Take another look at that list–a lot of those signs not being in evidence will tend to be the source of drama conflict for a fic. The same kind of place teen romance gets its drama.

To contrast, I will describe an adult romance with actually adult characters. In Put Up Your Duke, there are both internal and external conflicts. Internal: Isabella has low-ish self esteem and is trying to develop her identity, while Nicholas is a unsure of himself around her and doesn’t know how to work with a partner, let alone a wife. External: Isabella’s abusive parents turn their bad behaviour on her sister after she has married, and the man who lost a title to Nicholas (legitimacy debate) is bitter and trying to get the title back. In their relationship, they fail to communicate occasionally, but that is not the major source of conflict. In fact, they have frank discussions that either prevent or clear up problems that would have a fan fic for any fandom blowing out the drama speakers.

My feelings boil down to this: most fanfic seems based on relationships the way that anime characters portray them. Since the target audience for anime are teens and children, there is a decided skew when the characters are adults. (it also really bugs me when non-Japanese writers apply very Japanese tropes from anime to non-Japanese characters, but that is a topic that I should probably not raise…)

And that is probably where the mischaracterisation starts. Maybe it isn’t all a case of Can’t Write Guys. Some of it could be the age gap. A young writer might think a shy man and a flamboyantly extroverted man would have huge relationship bumps to overcome over the space of years, based solely on those aspects of their personalities. They might miss that Captain America and Iron Man fought over more subtle things than not being the same kind of person, or that Black Widow and the Hulk might have come together over something more complex than We’re Both Broken Birds and tragic purple prose.

Teen romance is fine. But when I want to read fan fiction about fictional grown-ups I love, I would like to see them be grown-ups… unless it’s an AU where they are teenagers. I would probably love that. But only if that’s what it said on the tin and it was what I wanted to read right then. I want to choose it, not click through seven fics and not see one grown-up wearing grown-up pants.

We do not live in a world where a person stops mattering when he or she passes the age of 30. (hell, RDJ is 51, you guys.) People continue to have sex and fall in love after that. And holy crap,they are IMMENSELY more interesting when they do that stuff when they are any age older than 20.

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Fanfic Guys Need to Act Like Guys

This is something that has been bothering me for an incredibly long time. Today, I think I have finally nailed it down to an expressible idea. Probably it is due to the combination of reading old posts on Pottersues, Avengers fan fiction, and a particularly pragmatic Megan Frampton romance, all in one very long morning. And it might be a long post, so bear with me.

Spoiler: The point mostly pertains to fan fiction.

It’s (fairly) commonly accepted that most people who write fan fiction are women, and a significant number of those are quite young. I’d say under 25, or under 20, depending on the fandom. I think it would be fair to assume a lot of them do not know or understand men very well. Particularly the ones who are not talented writers. (and/or are 16)

The point about not knowing or understanding men (or boys, but the former is worse and I’ll get into why) is one reason that there is a lot of fetishising M/M romance with damaging tropes.

I’m all about smashing gender stereotypes, but male characters who use emotional manipulation more than direct confrontation, cry prettily, and squeal over cute things seem less like barrier-breakers and more like a lady who couldn’t write a male character, so she just gave a female character a masculine pronoun. And I strongly believe that men and women should be allowed to cry without being maligned for doing so. But these characters are not part of that kind of thinking. They are just girls disguised as guys. They use feminine language, have feminine habits, feminine priorities, and solve problems and communicate the way that adolescent girls do. Sometimes like women, but usually like teenage girls.

I’ve seen this in original and published M/M romance, but fan fiction is where this shit LIVES. While happily getting my Avengers fic addiction fix, I read some Cap/Iron Man fic. I love these characters. Love the actors. I am so not alone in that love, which is pretty awesome. For a long time after I realised the ship was a thing, I was happy just knowing it was a ship. I’m easily pleased. Just exist, I said. So actually reading fan fiction was rather a step up in my participation. (I don’t do fandom stuff much…)

Reading it was… awkward. I tried to feel happy and do the fangirl squee thing, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I know we all experience our movies and comic books differently and not everyone will see characters the same way, but it was distressing to me that someone sees Captain America, this guy:

ca_bucky

as a mealy-mouthed, thumb-twiddling virgin who can’t say “penis” without dying from a blush-induced heat stroke. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any characters who are virginal at any age, or who are embarrassed by sex. There is something wrong with a large consensus of people seeing those traits in a character who is not characterised that way anywhere in canon. And comic books have more canon than the Santísima Trinidad.

Steve Rogers is an adult. Not only does he have a penis, he can probably say it if he has to, especially considering all of the health issues he had at the beginning of the first movie. I have been an old-fashioned virgin. I did not like to speak bluntly about sex or genitalia, but I didn’t blush when someone said words like “oral sex,” and I didn’t fall to shy pieces if the subject came up on any level. What I did do, and what I have seen Cap do, is tastefully avoid the subject and if it did come up, stay quiet or use polite euphemism until the conversation changed. It’s an adult way to handle one’s feelings on many subjects.

“I don’t want to talk about it because I think it’s private and in this situation inappropriate,” does not equate to, “I will melt down if I try to talk about it in any situation.”

And that is only ONE thing that is going sadly, sadly wrong in fan fiction. Characters are mischaracterised (ugh that feels so redundant) all the time in fan fic. That’s a risk you run–I learned this reading pottersues when the blog was new. But by that same token, it’s not okay. It still sucks. I’m not the only reader who dislikes it. Just in this case, it links to my issues with male characterisation by writers who seem not to understand guys at all.

Which brings me to my second point–relationships. But I’m gonna have to break this into two posts. I started writing this about 14:00 today, and kept getting interrupted by an appointment with my doctor and needing to drive places. Second half of this will be written and up tomorrow morning.

 

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No Sick Days

My cold is turning out to be a real ringer. I spent the day in a daze, pretending I wasn’t sick, and reading The Labours of Hercules. It’s been a couple of days since I finished a book, and it’s starting to annoy me. I haven’t had a lot of time, and it seems like there are even more things to do. …and I just thought of another one. Oh my me.

I wrote a couple of things yesterday, but nothing I’d post yet. I researched a bit, something I try never to deeply indulge in, and I found some old stuff that was rather funny.

~Snippety~

I curled up in the backseat, my bare feet pressed against the window. The snow on the other side transferred a blessed chill to my skin. Dad had cranked the heat up so high that I was tempted to strip down to my bathing suit. Steaming temperature aside, I was cozy. No need to move. Not until my earrings melted out of my ears, anyway.

“Don’t you think it’s time I drove for a while?” I asked, anticipating another ‘no’.

“We can’t stop in this weather.”

I rolled my eyes. Dad had grown up in Tucson. He could handle rain, thanks to monsoon season, but snow freaked him out. “It’s not even sticking.” My view from the nest of blankets and similar comfy jetsam was pretty much limited to the ceiling. I could have actually looked out the window, but I was fighting a losing battle anyway.

“Are you kidding? It’s roiling into a major storm.”

Only my dad used words like ‘roiling.’ I thought it sounded like a term for snails mating. “All the more reason for me to take over. You bust out in tears if someone starts talking about snow tires.”

He might have risked looking back to shoot me a glare. He and Mom had had me so young that it was often hard to think of my dad as <i>a</i> dad. He still belonged in the category that most people put their brothers. Older or younger, depending on his moods.

I twirled a lock of hair round my finger. It was so long that it actually counted as part of my backseat nest. To my knees, and sorely in need of cutting. Half of it was split ends, and the rest wept from the weight. “I’ll just ask you again in twenty minutes.”

“I am not going to let you drive for the duration of this trip. The last time you did, you tried to drive back to Oregon.”

A plan that would have succeeded if he hadn’t remembered a landmark for the first time in his life. I huffed as I adjusted myself, careful not to tug at my hair. My feet squeaked against the window, leaving streaks. “Enjoy driving in the storm, then.”

Perhaps he didn’t deserve it. I still thought we could have made a go of it in Portland. Dad’s opinion usually differed from mine, but this time, I knew it was a matter of right and wrong. As usual, I was right and he was wrong. I still thought  that paying off debts was better than running away from them.

I clipped out bits here and there, and I cut off a full half of what was there, but it’s indicative enough. This is the kind of thing I’m working on now. Not contemporary, but with a heroine who’s had a few bad hands dealt her and is just cynical enough to accept a date and then expect no actual plans to follow.

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Why I don’t use outlines

Last night I stayed up late writing even though I had finally gotten an ARe account and bought A Dangerous Invitation for a dollar. I already had 400 words or so that I’d written ages ago, but I’d given them a quick skim, edited a little to update it to my current style, and then added to the end because it was nagging at me.

The original idea that I had in mind was to take the train of exiles idea from Final Fantasy 13, solve the many, MANY logical fallacies with sense and do it for a reason rather than just to set up the government as the most generic bad guys ever. In fact, the government in this story is no more corrupt than any well-functioning one in a modern setting. I’ve been reading about Eleanor of Aquitaine, so I have this thing for actual thinking in politics.

The changes that I had in mind were to have the process have very clear reasons and be based on resignation, rather than a load of cryptic control and uninformed fear. The region is bordered by a vast wasteland, which is inhabited by monsters. Sometimes, monsters break in, at a frequency of once every few months, maybe a high of four or five a year. When this happens, there’s property damage, usually people get killed, and almost always, the monster spews spits on everybody and those people will draw other monsters.

Logical choice is to send these people out into the wastelands. Presumably, people do live there, it’s not impossible, and with four monsters a year, more will have to go. In the wastes, they can afford to be nomadic, and the spitty scent on them disperses better in the open country. The monsters act very differently in their own ecology than when they stumble into the city. Maybe they’re even just like old lions or starved wolves. The point is that the wastes are not certain death.

However, should people want to die rather than leave their homes behind for a hard, probably nomadic life that is nothing like what they know, the transport that takes the marked people into the wastes is outfitted with suicide pills. Life is all about choice.

People know about monsters, they know about exile, and the suicide pills might even be common knowledge. It’s just one of those things. Most people live their whole lives without having to worry about it. My main character figured she’d be one of them. And… she might be. I don’t know now.

While I was establishing her personality and profession (the oldest profession, heh), some things changed. I figured I’d just send her home to fight with her roommates, which would make her stand around in a part of the city she usually avoids, and then the monster would show up there. But then, while I was writing, events sort of got away from me, and she ended up fighting off a mad-eyed client and running naked down the fire escape.

Who knows what will happen now. I had some loose notes, like the stuff I wrote here, but now I’m kind of playing with what happens as it comes up. This is a girl who does things.

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So today, a book made me cry

Good Book Noise.

Seriously, I remember reading The Governess Affair and not liking Serena’s sister Freddy. Mostly because she was The Load, but also because she and I have this thing in common. This embarrassing thing. That I’m sharing on the internet.

Freddy has horrifyingly intense agoraphobia. She cannot leave her rooms. Her daily exercise is to walk around them. When Hugo used the threat of kicking Serena and her sister out of their home to get his way, he did not know that this was crossing the line labelled Don’t Use Nuclear Weapons. Faced with being forced out, Freddy’s Bitch Mode turned on.

I disliked her for it. Because I understood it. About when I was early-days pregnant, I fell into this scary rut of not driving, and not really going anywhere. It has worsened as my anxiety has worsened, in a nasty cycle that actually resulted in my consulting my GP. I’m not so much afraid of leaving home, as I am afraid of my home being invaded. Freddy scares me because I don’t want to end up like that.

She comes into the picture again, in a bigger way than I expected, in the second book, The Heiress Effect. This may be my favourite book ever, as in I would re-read it on the same level as Going Postal if given the chance. (maybe even as many times as Redwall, which is crazy because my reread count on that is literally innumerable) Part of the reason is certainly because of the part Freddy has in the story.

Spoilers to follow.

Continue reading

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So that’s over with.

I finally finished reading Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle today. No surprise, it was incredibly disappointing.

At least they finished it. CLAMP is notorious for just not bothering. Which is funny, because they are super type A about other things. Like comparing themselves to others.

This is a story I have from my husband, so it’s both funny and depressingly true. He used to be really big into the convention scene, he was often if not always staff. He was also in an improv show called Whose Line Is It Anime? I gather that it had some behind-the-scenes problems sometimes, but it was a good show that was fairly popular.

At one particular convention, the show was more popular than CLAMP, who had come all the way from Japan. ….actually, it’s a little funny that in the land of my blog and like… the three people I know definitely read it, my husband is better known than CLAMP. Anyway. Not only did the improv attract waaaay more people (standing room only!), this group of four ADULTS were upset about it.

Dollars to doughnuts that they were saying things like, “These Americans are lame, they don’t know what’s really cool.” Or something about not getting it. That’s the usual fallback. *cough*FinalFantasy13*cough*

More understandably, they were probably upset when they were made fun of for banning photos. If you want a CLAMP photo, you have to pay for it. …man, they suck.

Seriously though, the comic is… disappointing really is the most suitable word. I’m not angry. By the end, I had nothing invested in it. It’s like I had invested plenty, and then slowly withdrew until I was just flipping pages.

But the phrase, “And not a f*** was given” doesn’t quite apply. I really like the beginning. Tired tropes and silly J-E translation traditions aside, it’s actually a compelling premise.

A young man goes on a journey across dimensions with an weird magical creature, an angry swordsman, and a cryptic magician to regain the lost magical items that comprise his sweetheart’s soul.

See? It’s pretty cool, right? Granted, every world they go to is just Japan. But it’s episodic, which manga loves, and it has old gold stereoty–I mean characters in an ensemble centred around the romantic leads.

Then it all goes into the toilet for some kind of death-defying, clone-infested, time travel bullcrap.

Every time there was major twist concerning the male lead, it was echoed by the female lead in an infinitely less interesting way and somehow at just the wrong time. I think “death-defying, clone-infested, time travel bullcrap” is spoiler enough without having to go into specifics. The name thing was just… boring and pointless, especially since this was supposed to be the CLAMP version of Kingdom Hearts.

I’ve read a range of CLAMP’s work. Clover was the first (Wikipedia says it’s finished, but it isn’t), Clamp Detectives made me vomit, Wish (finished, but the art is so bad that it looks like a name) Chobits (also ruined by too many twists and too much drama), Cardcaptor Sakura, Angelic Layer (another one that looks bad because it’s rushed and has almost no backgrounds).

But apparently none of that matters, because every single one of those works is only given a little bit of lip service. Characters show up, familiar faces divorced from their personalities and circumstances. Seeing Ora devoid of poignancy is kind of heart-breaking.

I’m glad it’s over. I may read just the beginning again. CLAMP is lame. Go finish Clover. I wanna know what happens to Ran and if his guardian is really his boyfriend or something.

…you know what? Also, do a real gay couple for once, instead of teasing.