First, because I know you've all been waiting.... the new podcast is up: Ni-ju kyu, Oetsu. The title is my attempt at combining the number of our podcast 29 (ni-ju kyū, in Japanese) with the character Oetsu who CONSTANTLY does this kind of number rhyming thing with his name in the current chapter of Bleach. We also review Fairy Tail, Toriko, and Ao no Exorcist (even though I wrote that one up as well.)
I have to say, for us, this podcast is pretty darned articulate, and since we forget to sing the spoiler song, there's 50% less annoying singing!
All wins, in my opinion.
I also wanted to report on my fan fic class at the Loft, which was part of the Youth/Teen Writers' Conference. The nicest thing about the conference is that it's free, which means that attendance is huge. There were probably about 25 teens in my class, which means there was a TON of energy. It helped that I started class with a "what's your fandom?" question that elicited some squee when people heard their own favorites mentioned. I also said before we started that this was a no shaming class, so you know, if you wanted to confess to still reading some One Direction bandom fic, no one was allowed to laugh TOO loudly at you.
The thing that I decided to do since everyone seemed keyed up to share was to ask them what THEIR list of fan fic pet peeves were. I got some interesting results.
NUMBER #1: grammar/spelling errors.
So, for all you grown-ups who think that the next generation doesn't give a toss about language because they're texting all the time, you would be so very, VERY wrong.
NUMBER #2 (and actually some other ones later could fall under this one): Tagging, Get it Right
The complaints for this one including being surprised by a fic that started out moderately dark that then took an unexpected left-turn, "Mature" rating that wasn't hot enough, and similar things.
We did discuss how hard "tagging the dark" can be when you're posting as you write... since you might not notice how dark something is getting. But, a lot of the answers boiled down to: get a beta reader and listen to them. I learned that there's apparently a beta reader/writer connection place on Tumblr called "Writer's Halfway House", which among its many tips, will connect writers to beta readers.
NUMBER #3: Self-insertion/Mary Sue.
No surprise there. Mary Sue has been disliked since the very first fic of its kind was penned. HOWEVER, I did point out that there's nothing wrong with Mary Sue especially when you're young and first trying things out. My very first piece of fan fiction (which happened to be my very first piece of fiction, period) involved Han Solo rescuing me from my dreary life. Nothing wrong with that... IF YOU TAG IT.
Which, by the way, was pretty much a solution to a lot of problems: tag, tag, TAG.
NUMBER #4: Weak endings/Didn't stick the landing.
Far more problematic, especially given the way a lot of fic gets written--which is to say, on the fly. We talked about general strategies, especially the idea of outlining or starting with an actual point. (Not required, of course, particularly for drabbles and such, but if you want to have a strong ending, you need a strong start. A strong start is far more certain when you have a THING you want to say, a point, a theme, a thesis, if you will.)
NUMBER #5: OOC for no reason
If you're a fan and you're writing to other fans about beloved characters, for goodness sake try to keep the characters IN CHARACTER. This lead to a side discussion about the point of AUs. Some people suggested that Alternate Universes were good for focusing on character, because you're taking them away from the world and it's about the core of what makes them who they are. I suggested that this can also be the pitfall of Alternate Universes, which I tend not to like, because more often than not they feel, to me, like original fiction with the names stuck in just to trick people into reading it--but that may be harsh. I have been burned. But, I've also been pleasantly surprised. One of my favorite fics is an AU involving Renji and Byakuya were it all starts as a sleazy hook-up in a bookstore's back closet and they're entirely human, living in the modern world.
NUMBER #6: Spearbearers made of cardboard/OC (original characters) who are flat
I felt particularly capable to talk about how to do original characters right because more than once I've gotten complimented on my original characters in my fan fic. (I suppose this skill comes from inventing characters for, well, novels, but still.) The answer, in it's simplest form is: treat all your characters as human beings. No human being has only one characteristic. We are all interesting, even the vile ones have something about them that is redeeming and charming, etc.
NUMBER #7: Evasion of plot
I was very surprised and pleased to hear this one come up. What is meant by "evasion of plot" is two things, 1) a tendency of fan fic writers not to go for the gold. They'll get to what should be a very painful moment and they back away out of a desire not to hurt their babies. But, what ends up happening is that the reader feels cheated of a bigger moment, a bigger payoff. And, 2) the similar, if different, problem of the author being coy with information that really just needs to be said. It's the whole 'why didn't they just say that earlier' problem. Or it's something that the reader should have been told, but is instead held back in the wrong-headed assumption that this makes the story more dramatic. The solution to that was: yeah, don't do that.
NUMBER #8: Fucking up the fucking
Yeah, we went there. There were a number of very interesting complaints about sex in fan fic. Firstly, the teens in my class do NOT want you to use inappropriate lubes. Please, people, do your research. A quote from class: "Peanut butter? JUST NO. So much NO." Similarly, do not break the laws of physical possibilities, which we labeled "parts doing the NO." I recommended the classic fan fic resource: Minotaur's Sex Tips for Slash Writers.
My students also really craved sex scenes that skipped all the purple prose of "his alabaster skin" (guilty as charged!) but to the excision of actual feelings. We discussed, actually, the similarity between writing a good fight scene and writing a good sex scene. I told them that in a fight, what you want to concentrate on is a singular point of view and remember that a fight isn't just about the dimensions of the instrument, what part goes where, and for how long (like sex) and that it's actually a highly emotionally charged event (like sex.) So parts are important (like sex), but ultimately it's about feelings (like sex.) So make sure your fight scenes aren't gratuitous either. Make sure there's a reason for the fight and for the sex.
Similarly, we discussed romance and how they want it to be so much more than love at first sight (which this generation firmly believes is crap.) They also absolutely hated when a write had a gay man who spent any time wondering "when they turned into a girl." They found this offensive on so many levels it wasn't funny.
Foreplay was discussed as both something that could go on too long and that there sometimes wasn't nearly enough of. So we ended up spending a lot of time discussing ways in which we could work to make the romance and sex feel REAL. I said that, even though part of the appeal of fan fic is its fantasy element, there is some value in considering real life situations while writing about sex. It can make sex cute, funny and resonate more deeply when you take some time to try to add the people parts of sex that make it awesome--an example I used is consider breaking up the hot and heavy action with the classic... and now the cat has wandered in and is sitting on someone's butt or staring at you from the dresser. This makes the moment (potentially if you can pull it off) funny and real feeling.
NUMBER #9: The art of the Summary
We didn't get to this one because sex and romance ate up the majority of our class period, but people want better summaries from you, oh fan fic writers everywhere. Please take some time to figure out how to best summarize your fic. (This may be something that Rachel and I can spend some class time teaching because I believe it's an art that can translate to original fiction skills, as it's the same one that you use when you write synopses for agents and editors.)
Those were the major ones. We got kind of specific, like "wanton" versus "wonton" but obviously that falls under grammar and spelling. Likewise, there were a lot of specific questions about sex, which I fielded like a pro, that ended up as part of the list which I combined into a giant #8 above.
Yeah... we had to shut the door. No only were we screaming about lube, there was just a lot of general excitement to get to talk to someone about this sort of thing--not just the sex parts but the whole "oh and this drives me insane" thing.
So I would say the class went well. It'll be interesting to see what the various evaluations say.