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First, ze links. We had an exciting weekend at HDJM because we have our first advertisers going up, slowly but surely. Be sure to click on our supporters when you go for a visit (and check their fabulous products, etc. More to come this week.) Also, SPARTACUS IS BACK! And Liz is back with her breathless and energetic recaps.

Merlin! Melody has this week's recap waiting for you and your juicy thoughts.

And thank you again to everyone that is helping us get noticed by tweeting links, tumbling, liking - it's just a click for you, but it helps us TREMENDOUSLY. <3

My poor kid was sick all through the weekend, but rallied mid-day yesterday (his actual birthday) and we had a small family dinner. He'll get to have a proper party this coming weekend, but still. Poor buddy.

But now for my shock. SHOCK, I SAY! So, most of y'all that have been around here for a while know that I LOVE reading crappy fanfic. Like, really really bad. Comically bad. "He egressed in the seat of her audience" bad. (That remains one of my favorites. That and "he put his think in her butt.") That stuff is hilarious and entertaining. Then there are the stories that you think, "Huh, that's really boring." Or, "What the hell? This is the story everyone is going on about? REALLY?"

I am not going to link you or post names, because that's shitty. But I haven't been able to get these two stories out of my head for DAYS NOW, because I am so AGGRAVATED by their hit counts. <-- I am a child, yes. Your point? Lol.

That's an awesome concept! But LAWS, what terrible execution.
This is the worst, in my opinion. A story that sounds good on paper, and then you read it and think, why aren't you working with a proper beta? NOTE TO BABY WRITERS OUT THERE: you need a beta. YES. Yes, you do. And a beta isn't your BFF who thinks you are wonderful. A beta is someone that actually understands composition and grammar, that (hopefully) understands the characters, and is willing to tell you NO. That last one is the most important part.

"NO. No, Laura, you do not need fourteen paragraphs of fart jokes in this story."

(For example. Which we know is a lie, because fourteen paragraphs of fart jokes is AWESOME.)

Things a Good Beta Does:
  • tells you to stop abusing the same word. (I read "keen/keening" FIVE TIMES in one paragraph. And no one was confronted with a banshee, huh.)
  • tells you to not drop the ball on emotion - if it's important enough to write about, it's important enough to finish the thought
  • tells you when a joke doesn't land
  • tells you when you've used a word INCORRECTLY. (omg, clamor doesn't mean to get on top of, the fuck?)
  • tells you when you've misspelled a word. Oh, you may have spelled the wrong word correctly, but if it's not the RIGHT WORD, it's spelled wrong. (Leaks for leeks, for example.)
  • tells you when your characterization is slipping.
  • when you've written the same damn thing over and over for the space of three pages. We don't need multiple paragraphs about the bare trees. The trees are bare, it's cold and stark. BOOM, move on to the story.

They also encourage you to keep going and to improve. I highly recommend you get one. Lord knows my writing has improved tenfold since I started working with flaming_muse.

The other kind of story... hmm.

The kind of story that is the literary equivalent of watching paint dry - and yet it has thousands of hits.

I almost called flaming_muse last night until I realized that it was 1:30am where she lives and she would be very mad at me if I had done so. And why? because I came across a story on the AO3 (which I am loving for multiple reasons) that had just over a couple thousand hits, loads of kudos, and I thought, "You know, normally I don't care for this author's story telling [to be honest, I'd only tried to read one or two of their stories and found them not to be my liking] but hey, maybe all of these people know something I don't?"

Nope. The public is stupid, I had it reconfirmed. (I am making up examples, because I'm not actually a finger pointing jack ass, so bear that in mind.)


Character A called Character B and asked about laundry sorting. B said, "Well, I find that sorting clothes by color first, and then texture second, leads to the best results."

A, "Oh? That's so fascinating. Did you know that the codes on your clothing were instituted by a Federal Law crafted in 1983 after John Henry, a laundress with a man's name--"

B interrupting, saying, "Oh, that's so unbelievably interesting! A man's name for a laundress?"

A said, "It is unusual, is it not? However, back to the riveting tale of how a triangle and a circle mean dry cleaning and so forth. I would like to talk for another nine paragraphs about how this works."

B said, "I would also like that. I would like that a lot. I like that."

A, "(nine paragraphs later) By the way, my cock is hard, shall we suddenly be boyfriends and have sex?"

Narrator: and they did.


Character A has bought a day planner and is going to outline all of his life's goals in excruciating detail...


WHAT THE FUCK?! Wait, wait. The writer established a friendship, they yammered bullshit about laundry, and then they had sex OFF CAMERA?! I hate you. I hate your parents for making you. I hate the teachers that educated your parents enough to put them in a place in life where they were free to make you. Also, I hate your dog. JUST BECAUSE.

No one wants to read minutia. They don't. Details are not minutia. POR EJEMPLO:


Billy loved ballet When he was three and a half years old his mother took him specifically to the Ballet on Bleaker Street because it was close to his house and his mother only had a few minutes a day to devote to things that didn't involve her job because she worked for Mrs. Johnson up the street, and Mrs. Johnson was really mean to her and her husband was a banker so they had a big house with a lot of rooms for Billy's mother to clean, like lots of floors and windows and carpets and things to dust like knick knacks and lamps and tchotchkes and books and statues and small dogs. The bank often had tens of millions of dollars in transactions each day, transactions like deposits and withdrawals and other types of transactions that I would list if wikipedia was up today, and Mr. Johnson was happy about that, but he usually stayed at work for long hours, which made Mrs. Johnson unhappy because she was lonely. Her own parents had been workaholics and also she loved the color orange.

So Billy went to his first ballet and his mother went back to work for Mrs. Johnson where she pulled out all of the cleaning products and lined them up alphabetically and--

vs. Details:

It was a hardscrabble life in Manchester where the women worked their fingers to the bone and their children suffered for it. Billy was no different. Billy wanted to join the ballet, but no boy from a neighborhood like his would allow it, nor would his mother, a housekeeper for a mid-level banker, be able to afford it. But Billy continued to dream, even as his mother continued scrubbing floors.

No one gives a shit about Mrs. Johnson, unless she suddenly pays for Billy to go to ballet school. Or has sex with him. LOOK, I DON'T WANT TO STIFLE YOUR CREATIVITY.

Just...Christ. Details matter, minutia doesn't. I haaaaaaaate stories that aren't about the people, but about the thing they're doing. Like taking pictures, for example. I don't want to learn how to use a dark room, I want to read about the people USING THE DARK ROOM. In that they're doing something, then they do something else. I don't need the chemicals used, the length of time explained for each process... that shit is BORING. Are they developing pictures of a murder scene? Tell me about the pictures! Otherwise, no one gives a shit that you read three wikipedia pages. Really. I'm telling you this so you can get better.

(This is not to say that I think I'm an amazing writer. Because HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, no. Anyone that knows me knows that i have horrible self esteem. BUT. I do know how to keep an audience. After all, you read this, didn't you? BOOM, gotcha. Lol.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to write a story about Abraham Lincoln trying to make a light bulb. And then I am going to write it in real time so it takes you 24 hours to read about his 24 hours.


Jan. 30th, 2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
*nod nod* I'm completely in agreement about minutiae vs. detail. Rereading the Little House books with my girls, I was amazed how Wilder managed to get so much detail in simple words. She managed to make cheese-making, cabin-building and *laundry* interesting enough so that a 7-year old girl wouldn't yawn and say 'bored now, what's on TV?' Sure pioneer life should be fascinating, but I've read some snoozer AU fic about it.
Jan. 30th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, weren't those the best?! I was just thinking about those books last night, actually! Great minds, etc. etc. ;)

She had such a way of engaging the audience. I hung on her every word and used to play act DAILY that we were best friends and making cheese together (or sewing or making a ball out of a pig's bladder or...) <3
Jan. 30th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
Okay, now I feel better about the detail level in a thing I wrote recently! Every time I did the Rikibeth Shows Off Her Eighteenth-Century Learnings, I felt terribly self-indulgent, but my readers were going "eee! period detail!" but I was worried that it was mostly because they were history nerds like me. And the longest detail swatch I did was in a kitchen, 'cause, well, I've cooked in one. I tried to keep things in the story at "camera holds establishing shot long enough so that viewer gets a sense that a) there is unfamiliar tech and b) people are busy with it," not "camera slowly pans around the drawing room, lovingly dwelling upon the various upholstery fabrics and the style of the crown molding, before remembering that there are people there."

I mean. If I were in that drawing room, and the museum people would let me? I'd go around poking and petting at ALL the fabrics, and turn over the chairs to see how the seats were put together, and curl up in the window seat and fool with the drapes... but if I went to write about it, I'd try to concentrate on how the little girl could scrunch to one side of the window seat without anyone realizing she was behind the drapes, and then talk about what she overheard.

I'm TERRIBLE in museums. I have to keep my hands shoved in my pockets so I don't pick stuff up and fool around with it. Plimoth Plantation is awesome because it's all reproductions and they let you TOUCH ALL THE THINGS.
Jan. 30th, 2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
I think there's a way of having detail in there that establishes a mood or a setting, and then there's detail that just feels gratuitous. I don't need to have a history on whale boning, you can just tell me that she's wearing the corset with whale boning as the blah blah didn't lend itself to the style/doesn't show her station in life.

(I have no idea if you've written that, I'm just using an example.) I don't like feeling like I'm in a class. Also, as a reader, it feels wonderful to realize AFTER you've read something that you now know details about [whatever the background on the story is] and didn't realize you were picking that up.

I just hate when it feels like the action stops, the characters turn to the camera and say, "You know Opium was legal in the United States from blah blah to blah and..." What does that have to do with solving the murder? Nothing? Then skip the needless exposition.
Jan. 30th, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I'm still feeling iffy about having a character in a different story do a (single short paragraph!) infodump on a historical character (to whom he was comparing his boyfriend) - I tried to lampshade it a little by having the boyfriend say "where are you GETTING this stuff?" and then I had the infodumper get a little sheepish about it, REALIZING he was being a nerd about it, and admit to a college course that he'd loved, AND that happened to be where he'd met the friend who introduced him to the boyfriend... but it was still an infodump, and I knew it, even though I couldn't see quite else how to manage the thematically important thing I wanted to say with it.

Well, I'm still learning. :(

Oh, also: LOL at the whalebone corset example, because that is totally the sort of thing I might do if I weren't paying attention and reining myself in. I was VERY PROUD of myself for writing "tunder her lace cap, her hair still showed traces of Archie’s reddish-gold, although now somewhat dimmed by gray," and NOT pointing out that all married women wore caps, or the fact hers was lace showed that she could afford expensive shit.

Edited at 2012-01-30 04:52 pm (UTC)
Jan. 30th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
I'm still learning, too. That's why I looooooove my beta as she's a legit editor and knows how to tell me to STFU and get to the point. Oh, the words I've deleted... But it gets easier. Kind of? Pah, I'll get the hang of it eventually. When I'm 70.

Hahaha, yes, that extra info about the lace caps is exactly what the reader doesn't really need. Save that for when you're famous and at conventions and your adoring fans want to hear you talk about all the details behind the scenes! :D
Jan. 30th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
Save that for when you're famous and at conventions and your adoring fans want to hear you talk about all the details behind the scenes! :D

Or at the very least when you're geeking out with your friends who also know a little something about the period, so you can go "see what I did there? aren't I clever! LACE cap! And she's embroidering, because she has a fucking ARMY of servants who are doing the hard work, and she can be goofing off, relatively speaking! She probably embroidered that bell-pull she just yanked so that she could get somebody to bring them all seed-cake."

But all the readers really need to know is that she has a family resemblance to the other character (because she, not her husband, is the actual blood relation, and this says a little about the amount of financial support he got from them, but it only has to be hinted at) and that she's offering them cake. They like cake.
Jan. 30th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
Rereading the Little House books with my girls, I was amazed how Wilder managed to get so much detail in simple words. She managed to make cheese-making, cabin-building and *laundry* interesting enough so that a 7-year old girl wouldn't yawn and say 'bored now, what's on TV?'

I'll bet that that skill came partly from her years of "seeing out loud" for her blind sister (which according to biographies she actually did in real life, not just in her Little House books.) She had to quickly scan their surroundings and then cull out what she didn't think would be important/educational/entertaining/necessary/etc. to her sister (and later, to her readers), and then describe the interesting, informative stuff to sister Mary in a clear, concise manner that didn't take forever and ever. A great example of that takes place during their train ride in On the Shores of Silver Lake, in which Laura whispers a running commentary to Mary -- a commentary that combines accuracy, simplicity, and poetry: "Now the man is taking a drink. His Adam's apple bobs." "The telegraph lines are swooping past. One-oop-two-oop-three! That's how fast they're going."
Jan. 31st, 2012 12:53 am (UTC)
You know, she even got existential in the books meant for a SMALL CHILD. In a few words. From "Little House in the Big Woods"

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, "What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?"

"They are the days of a long time ago, Laura," Pa said. "Go to sleep, now."

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, "This is now."

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.


Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

Time Wot It Is

April 2017
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