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Getting Started with Our First Exercise

So as a way to get back into things I was thinking about starting with
talking about what makes us read a story, whether it's fanfiction or just fiction. So the first assignment would be to name five things that make you want to read a story. It can be anything from characters, plot, fandom, parings to writing style. You don't have to be concise, feel free to write a paragraph for each.

Also, what are your top five pet peeves when reading a story? What makes shut the book and throw it to the nearest trash can, or close the tab with a story in it?

Please don't mention authors by name or stories. This is not a bashing session. It's an exercise where we can learn what are the things that make or break a story. The idea is to learn what people like or what they don't like and keep that in mind when writing. Being creative is all fine and everything, but we also need to know our audience. We have two weeks, so this will be closed on the 11th of February.

Comments

Likes and dislikes

Likes:

#1.- Well written characters. There's nothing better for me than reading interesting characters. They can be weird or just plain quirky, but there has to be something about them that's just interesting.

#2.- In character. In fanfiction it's always awesome to read a story and feel like you're watching an episode of the show.

#3.- Character driven stories. This can be in either fanfiction or original fiction. For me, I enjoy stories that focus more on the relationships between characters than in the plot though having a story do both kill me!

#4.- Unusual stories. I like weird. Something that deals with a strange, unusual situation is love at first sight for me.

#5.- AU. In fanfiction, I adore reading stories with my fav characters but in different worlds, or with different abilities or even genres. It's always interesting to see what people can come up with.

For my pet peeves, I have a lot, but I will manage to contain myself :-P.

#1.- Out of character. I fanfiction, nothing annoys me more than seeing one character turn into a simpering fool or a total emo whimp. If you know the characters, there's no reason why you can't have them stay true to themselves. In fiction, it's so frustrating when a character suddenly does a 180 eighty halfway through the story until you can't recognize them by the end of them book.

#2.- Character bashing. This just annoys me to death! I have read so much fanfiction that tears one characters down and makes them such b or b just because they can.

#3.- Bad pacing. It's terrible when a story is just getting good and suddenly there's a crappy explanation and an ending that leaves me with a WTF! Or one where it takes forever to get anything to happen. Not very patient for this.

#4.- Shifting POV. I so hate it when you're reading and halfway through a paragraph the POV changes without warning.

#5.- Cop-out endings. Oh this is the worse for me. When I'm reading a story, and I'm so into it and then suddenly, it ends, just like that. Almost like the author got bored with it and just wanted to end it. Arg!

Well, there's my lists.

Edited at 2012-01-29 03:47 am (UTC)

Re: Likes and dislikes

You know I was going to do this assignment, but in reading your list, it's very similar to mine. So... *points up*

Re: Likes and dislikes

Lol! Yeah, I know what you mean :-P. Well, there is always the discussion!

Re: Likes and dislikes

I'm looking forward to it.
Likes:
1. Strong worldbuilding. This can be tricky to execute, but a story that builds a vivid world in the course of conveying a story is wonderful.

2. A character to connect to. This is certainly variable and not necessarily something the writer can control. If the story starts with a stoner, I'm not going to care in the slightest what happens; but if the story is fanfic about characters I know I like, I'm already interested. With original fic, I usually need someone to identify with or have interest in.

3. A (non-sex) point. PWPs are fine for what they are, but they're not for me; and vignettes that don't really go anywhere tend to bore me. I like stories that involve some sort of closure or the accomplishment of some goal by the characters.

4. A genre of interest. I'm much more likely to become invested in SF/F than a historical romance or a police procedural over a horror story. That, again, isn't really something the writer can control. This can be deceptive, though; I don't often care for Westerns, but if the setting is typical for Westerns but the story is really about friendship between quirky characters, I'm in.

5. Competent characters. I don't mean they need to be flawless; but a scientist should be good at science, a guardian should be good at guarding, a diplomat should be good at diplomacy, and so forth. I don't mean informed attributes, either; it's not enough for the narrative or other characters to claim the competence is there. What I love is watching the competence or mastery play out.

Dislikes:
1. Rampant textual errors. Homophone abuse, bad punctuation, frequent misspelling, and poor formatting are profoundly distracting. Anyone can have the occasional typo, and that's fine, but with enough of them, I give up rather than fight through the mess.

2. Inaccurate (for fanfic) or inconsistent/undifferentiated (for original fic) characterization. Ronon Dex of SGA should not have the same speech patterns as Spock of Star Trek. Rodney McKay of SGA would rarely be the calm, emotionally supportive type. In an original story, I should be able to recognize dialogue and actions by more than simply being told to whom they belong. If the characters are behaving in ways I simply cannot believe, regardless of any justification within the story, I'm gone. (As a 2a, if the entire cast of a story is behaving unlikeably — if at any point I think the story would improve by the sudden injection of "rocks fall, everyone dies" — I'm similarly uninterested.)

3. Egregious errors of fact. Some things are obscure or difficult to research, and that's fine; and the occasional mistake will happen. Often the writer can simply write around such matters. But if a story has a lengthy scene with numerous wrong details, I'm appalled — particularly when the smallest amount of research would reveal the inaccuracy. If the writer chooses to base a story around a lengthy hospital scene, for example, and deliberately includes laughably wrong specific medical treatments and statements, I'm actively annoyed. It's so easy to either look up the details or simply not include wrong ones that I just don't see any excuse. The reader shouldn't be so busy cataloguing the many ways the detailed elements would kill the patient (inadvertently destroy the evidence, get the case thrown out of court, lose the war, be impossible within any known version of science, etc.) that he or she forgets about the story entirely.

4. Poor narrative flow. This is highly subjective, of course, but if the narrative language is so clunky or the POV handling so inconsistent that I just can't get into the story, I won't spend very long trying.

5. Blatant "isms" in the narrative. Some characters are absolutely sexist or racist or ableist or what have you; so be it. The narrative itself shouldn't be detectably so. Once more, this can be a delicate balance, but I don't want to stick with a story if that story is merrily upholding damaging tropes. I see no need to stick around for elements like those in the next comment. [cont'd.]
Examples for 5a moved here due to comment character-count limits: If all women and people of color in the story languish helplessly as the white male hero rides alone to the rescue yet again; if the story makes a character right for reducing a class of people to a disorder/a self-delusion/a single negative stereotype; if the story positions women as sluts but men as suave for sexual experience; if the story makes clear that the only het pair-bonding and parenthood should be valued; and so forth ... then I don't usually care to continue the story.
I'm right with you with these. In this day and age when information is easily available that not getting the details right is just being lazy. Not that people should be able to technobabble or be able to go into the "big words" of doctors, but at the very least people should know that doctors would wire a jaw shut and not just wrap vertically a bandage around the head. Or have the doctor give explanations that make them sound like they're five. :-P

I'm also a very character focused or enjoy certain genres more than others, but if the characters are good and the story about friendships and family, I'm there.
What I like in a story (specifically fanfic for these responses - and apologies that some of these have already been mentioned by others above)

1. Good canon characterisation. I don't mind the characterisation being slightly altered to fit an AU situation so long as they are still recognisable as character 'x', 'y' and 'z' - and the alterations are only minor and needed to fit that era, genre etc in a believable manner. In non-AU fics, the characterisation has to be canon-based unless there is a very good reason for it being otherwise (drugs, alcohol, alien possession etc), and even then they need to be recognisable as themselves! I know one or two of my past fics has pushed the boundaries of canon-established character traits for Rodney and maybe I should rewrite them (but have no time or inclination to do so), so I do have some sympathy, but wildly inaccurate characterisations really throw me!

2. As you can see from above, I like AUs of varying kinds. From minor alterations to canon to different historical eras, complete rewrites and even fusions with other TV shows! But they do have to well written and believable. Now for historical ones I don't mind historical inaccuracies so long as the author admits to them and tries to at least get the feel of the era across, because I don't expect fanfic writers to be experts, though it's always nice when a little research has been done and this shines through. And whatever the AU, the characters still need to be recognisable even if minor changes need to be made to fit the new situation.

3. Good world building is great, though at the same time I don't want to get too bogged down in the details. This is a balancing act between making a believable world and exploring it, and stuffing in information that is not necessary or gets in the way of the action or plot. But on the whole, I like a bit of good background.

4. Give me angst Rodney and I'm pretty much a happy fangirl! Enough said!

5. Crack!fic makes me laugh, so I'm pretty much cool with most of this genre!

Pet peeves

1. Glaring canon errors can throw me right out of a fic. I realise that some errors are easy to make (I've made some myself) and certain facts are easy to miss, but the glaring errors where a simple bit of research would have avoided can drive me up the wall. Especially in tie-in books. 'Death Game' annoys me because the author states that the shield on the planet is exactly the same as the one on M7G-677 (the planet from 'Childhood's End'). We then go on to find out that a) electronic equipment works within this shield (therefore it's not an EMP field) and that it is a physical shield that can be flown into (whereas the EMP field in 'Childhood's End' is not physical - they flew into it without hitting anything). This is really annoying because a look at the transcripts or watching the episode (and the author claims to be a fan, so would that have been such a hardship?) would have stopped this error. I would be ashamed if I had written this.

2, Whump for the sake of whump, with little to no plot surrounding it. This tends to turn me off. I like some whump when it is part of a larger story, but when the whole story is about the whump and little else it can feel hollow and like 'just an excuse to hurt' whoever is suffering. I also dislike really graphic torture and horrifying imagery.

3. Some fixing canon fics. There are some fics that 'fix' something in canon (eg Carson's death) that I don't dislike, but that is because it's not the focus of the fic, merely a by-product of it - ie, a fic that is set before 'Sunday' and, as part of the natural outcome of the plot, changes things so that the episode doesn't occur as it did in canon. The majority that I've read, however, seem to want to fix 'situation x' anyway they can, not caring about the overall plot, the believability or even sometimes common sense!

Continued in next comment...
4. Character bashing. I get that people might not like 'character x', so I suggest they write fics without that character in them. Writing fics that bash 'character x' leaves a bad taste in the mouth regardless of whether I like or dislike the character myself. It suggests that because the author doesn't like 'x' then no one else could possibly like 'x' and if they do, then they are wrong, wrong, wrong! It often also hits my pet peeve of out-of-character writing.

5. Changing either POV or tense partway through a paragraph can be very annoying! I can cope with bad spelling as I tend to cut and paste into Word and do a spell check first anyway so as to convert British spellings (for ease of reading), but some (not all) bad grammar can grate after a while (and I make exceptions when I know or suspect that the writer's first language is not English). Of course, some spelling errors can make you smile - door jam, for instance, makes me think of a jam (jelly) make out of door. Mmmm, tasty!!! And the occasional typo is no big problem, because we all make those from time to time! ('He put a gin to my head' was one that, fortunately, my beta spotted before I published!) Misspelling the character names can bug me a little, though I try to give leeway as the writer may be new to fandom and not know where to check the spellings (GateWorld, Stargate Wiki etc).

Hmm, that last paragraph may take me over five pet peeves. Sorry!!!
Heh, not a problem. I'm so with you on all of these, but most of all the Whump for the sake of whump. I hate that! I like stories with a plot, thank you very much and a point to thing happening. It's the same for me when there's sex just for the sake of having them have sex or pairings just for the sake of pairing people off. Oh, and let's not forget that whole pairing everyone under the sun in a fic. Seriously!

Heh, I too seem to have gone over the five limit. Oh well. There's also one that bothers me so much, is when all the women of a fandom or more of them are bashed or they are made to look just incompetent people just because. Eck! :-P
Why is it that pet peeves are easier to find?!

I don't read het or slash, but if I did, I imagine the sex just for the sake of it, or pairing everyone up in a forced manner, would drive me mad too! I don't mind fics that are character studies (ie no big action/plot), so not all fics need to have a plot as such, but there's a difference between character studies and having 'x' just for the sake of 'x' type fics!!

Thinking about it, character studies tend to have some form of plot - even if it's a 'thoughts of the person' based plot instead of an action/situation one. If that makes sense?

Oh, and I hate people making characters incompetant when they're not! There's was a bit too much of that with Keller for my liking - sure, she is uncertain of her abilities in canon, but she's not incompetant. There's a BIG difference!! And I admire that she took training sessions with Ronon because she felt a liability offworld - in other words, that she realised she wasn't up to the fighting side of things and did something about it!

Um, sorry, I could rant about Jennifer bashing all day - kind of a sore point with me, 'cos I quite like her and her social awkwardness!! Reminds me of someone, just without the ego and snark...!
Sniggers, I can see that. I think doing something just for the sake of doing it, no matter what it is, annoys.

And yes, I do like Keller. I felt that she was perfect for Rodney because she was just as smart and had her quirks and insecurities. I just didn't like how they finally got them together. It felt trite and forced. Sholio does such a good job with this pairing, but other than her, I haven't read a lot of fic with Keller in it that doesn't bash her in some way or another.
Yes, Sholio does a good job with Jennifer - and I have read other Jennifer positive fic, but can't remember any offhand to point you to.

And I agree, I think she's good for Rodney - but yes, the writers didn't handle the relationship very well. Rushed it too much - which doesn't help people like it.