Well, I forgot to do my weekly roundup, something I had vowed to be consistent on, which might be the perfect lead-in to what I was planning to write, anyway.
I’m sitting here eating cold English muffins and eggs as my new cat meows behind me. She just caught a spider a few minutes ago, and we’re both feeling smug. Like the ship cats of yore, she has a job to do in this household: kill things. Considering how enthusiastic she was to commit murder (after some light sadism) just now, I’m confident I hired the right feline for the job.
She’s also cute.
Anywho, my plan for the day consists of cleaning, errands, and writing. I always add writing to the list because, if I don’t, it would be considered giving up. Denial is the first step to not giving up! And it’s only denial until the day I actually check writing off of my to-do list.
One asset I’ve been adding to my arsenal of procrastination tools is PlanningTM. So many plans have been made, written, excel-d, google-doc’d, notebooked, and google kept over the past few weeks. Plans are pretty things that exist in a realm meant for those who can follow them. I made a plan to alternate between working on Guides and … an older story.
That’s my cycle, if no one has noticed yet. I get a new idea I’m excited about (ABO! Inherited!) and then I think back to all my old, less exciting WIPs and think, wow man, like I’m never going to finish shit ever. Whiskey? The Only Light? Wasn’t I excited about them at some point???
So I erase Plan A. I open a new page of my notebook or whatever I’m writing my delusions in that day and list: THE ONLY LIGHT. FINISH.
Seems doable. The second step in my CycleTM is to pull up the first chapter of the old story, thinking I’ll do some light editing as I refresh myself on the story, and then I have an allergic reaction to the words and die.
At that point, I don’t want to write anymore. I don’t want to start something new, and I cannot stomach old shit. The nascent spark of creativity flickers and then goes out. Womp womp.
(I just gave Chata my plate of cold egg scraps and now at least one of us is happy).
I think every writer is jealous of what they perceive another writer has. For me, it’s the ability to focus on one project until it’s done that makes me seethe. MUST BE NICE, I say as I turn on Breath of the Wild and ignore the world. If dabbling in the LGBT publishing world has taught me anything, it’s that I am not a book writer… yet. I’m an occasional poster.
Again, though, that sounds like giving up.
I used to get mad at my mom for randomly deciding we were going to make healthy smoothies for breakfast every morning or for buying endless gluten-free cookbooks when she never used recipes from the old ones. I knew none of these ambitions would pan out. One time, I finally said just that. “You’ll never actually follow through with it.”
She looked at me and replied, “So what’s the alternative? Just give up and do nothing?”
I felt ashamed. For one thing, my attitude had sprung from how my dad always talked about my mom. She never finishes anything. Secondly, it never occured to me that giving up was the alternative to optimism. If she didn’t keep trying, then nothing would ever happen.
Most likely, I will make another plan tomorrow. I’ll add writing as an objective, and maybe pick one old story to work on. If it doesn’t happen, there’s always the next day.
I tweeted a story idea yesterday that was born from the last few minutes of an Elementary episode, but boiled down to its essence, the idea follows the same trajectory as Ventures and Investments.
People who read one author’s books over a short period may notice similarities–strong ones or not, but visible either way. Personally, and there be some self-preservation involved in this opinion, I don’t see any problem with writing the same story over and over. If I HAD to pick the one theme I was bound to for the rest of my writing days, it would be VAI.
Trite as it may seem, I write for myself. And I love the idea of someone stripping away the ego, power, and confidence of the person they supposedly love so that the object of their desire is wholly dependent on them. Of course, I’m also a big softy, so I like a redemption of sorts as well.
Ventures and Investments was a very early-stages, clumsy attempt at writing this like of mine. It was also fun as hell.
This idea I tweeted, it would be rife with betrayal and fury. It would be delicious.
Still on Elementary— it’s definitely settled into itself, but a new thing I’m annoyed about is the total lack of respect for civil liberties. Like we the audience are supposed to side with Sherlock and Watson for breaking into homes and flouting that in front of judges.
Story I thought about: They Shoot Guides, Don’t They?
Not just thought about! I got 1,500 words in over the past few days. Hopefully May shapes up to be the month I get Patreon going again.
I keep finding myself aiming for those cliffhanger moments, but then questioning myself. What does it serve the story to drag something out just so I can have that Moment? It doesn’t. I do mourn the excitement that would have come with ending a chapter on my original plan, but I think the pacing would have suffered for it.
Project I worked on: Mosquito netting
The bugs are coming. My first experiment: using a bed net to block off my patio, and hang it up on Command hooks.
The week of 4/23 consisted mainly of spoiling Chata– I bought her a remote control car, and then…. another remote control car that’s arriving on Sunday and promises to be 4WD and grass-proof. Watching her run after the car, grab it by the spoiler, and bring it back to me like a fresh kill with a look of pride on her face is probably the most funny and most heartwarming Chata moment I have witnessed thus far.
For the uninitiated, The Room is a series of puzzle games in which you have to escape… the room. (Although, to be honest, only the first game follows that mission statement.)
Old Sins seems to be a “back to basics” attempt to make up for The Room 3, which involved a bunch of tedious running back and forth through hallways to do anything. I’m enjoying it a lot. There’s a creepy dollhouse, some mystical elements, puzzle-solving, and no running around!
A woman’s memoir about growing up with an anti-government Morman family. Her father is probably bipolar or schizophrenic and her mother is an enabler.
I actually didn’t finish this—the story was gripping, but there was a slickness to the storytelling that rubbed me the wrong way. It was almost as if an editor or some publisher wonk said, “Okay, but now add some mixed metaphors and Deep Thoughts.” If the author is a dry person, I don’t mind reading a dry memoir — it’s the clunky attempt at purple prose that made me grimace.
For a similar read that struck me the more sincere effort, I suggest The Glass Castle.
Whew, just the crime-an-hour drama I needed. Unfortunately, there’s one little issue that bothers me. Many of the criminals end up being oppressed/stereotyped/underprivileged—a female professor, a Jewish nonprofit head, a woman who used porn to escape her oppressive country. I can’t say if these were done with a reproachful tone, as if condemning the people for their choices, but I CAN say that where I am, in season 2, Joan has been the only competent, non-criminal female character.
Hopefully, as the seasons go on, this will change!
Project I worked on: Quilt!
So I’m very into the shabby chic-Pinterest-milk paint look, and as an extension of that—I want to make a very floral quilt. I know nothing about quilting.
For instance, I did not know it would be very EXPENSIVE to get into quilting if I wanted to buy pretty, high-quality fabric (including pre-cut fabric). So I think the first order of business is finding a bunch of cheap old linens from thrift stores to practice on before investing my hard-earned cash on something gorgeous.
The quilt pattern I’m following is based on the quilt-as-you-go style, which is meant to ease the work it takes to actually quilt the quilt. With only a normal Brother sewing machine and absolutely no experience, I would not trust myself to get an entire twin-sized blanket past the needle without fucking things up.
Story I thought about: Inherited
For a while now, I’ve wanted to start a project that would run alongside Guides–the updates would alternate with the new project posted here, on my site. My original plan, an ABO I feel will be VERY FUCKING GOOD, struck me as something that needed to be finished entirely before I started posting it. But I came up with a satisfying Plan B.
Inherited is a soap opera-esque, highly dramatic piece of fluffy trash involving rich people, scam artists, and backstabbing. During what should have been a moment of triumph, the main character learns he’s not inheriting what he’d always expected.
First off, they were Law & Order and some yaoi. Looking at the notes I wrote during work instead of working, apparently the most crucial takeaway was: Idiots, D/s.
As no one would say, I have good taste.
In Law & Order, detectives Briscoe and Green were being aided by a narcotics officer who was grilling an informant for them. The informant was blissfully stupid, like adorably so, and I got the distinct feeling the cop found him cute like a puppy, even as he threatened prison time for the informant. That seems plausible, right?
And then in the yaoi comic, there was an arrogant idiot who thought he had the upper hand against another dude, but he was woefully wrong. The other dude played him like a fiddle, uncaring and mean. This particular one shot left me with negative feelings—however there were some elements I enjoyed.
It wasn’t until I was sitting bored at work, that I realized that what I liked about the L&O episode and the yaoi were thematically linked. But when I did, I set to breaking down what it was that caught my attention. Here, word for word, I recreate the lists:
Would Have Liked
Idiot, rat sub
Dom mean, but sweet
Dom has a line
Dom [illegible] infatuated
Dom enjoys his superiority over idiot but this translates as caring for idiot
Not enough sweet
If Dom lost his “cool” facade once. Not like gets angry, but shows an embarrassing side. Also exposes how invested he is in the idiot.
Yeah, the lists are simple and um… pretty repetitive. But they helped me narrow down what bothered me about the media I had consumed, and then brainstorm what I would have needed to happen for me to love said media.
“What could make me not hate this?” is probably one of the most common catalysts for new writers. I would have loved the yaoi one shot, if things had gone my way, but they went that author’s way instead. HOWEVER, even though I didn’t necessarily like it, I absorbed the feels and dynamics that appealed to me, which could be synthesized into one of my own stories later. (Of course, some of these elements have already popped up before; for instance, The Rebel pairs a cowardly idiot and the beleaguered almost-sadist who loves him.) But new inspiration helps me refocus my ideas.
In L&O, I liked how the cop verbally cornered the informant like a cat traps a mouse between its paws. I liked that the cop seemed to enjoy this game. I liked that he seemed attached to the informant. And there was a very similar scene in the yaoi. But I liked the L&O episode more.
The informant may have been a lowlife caught in the cop’s sights, but he knew the game. The cop’s barbs may have hit their mark, but then they slid off the informant’s impenetrable shield of stupid, barely leaving a scratch. There may have been a power imbalance, but the informant knows how use that imbalance for his own ends.
… I mean, that goes a little beyond the scope of a two-minute scene in L&O. But you could extrapolate all the ways those two men interacted; you could fill in the dots, which is how a lot of my ideas start.
Does this mean the yaoi was trash that should be disregarded entirely? No. Things you hate still mean more than things that leave you apathetic, and this yaoi made me angry because I could have loved it. So why did I hate it? What would need to happen for me not to hate it?
Well, not hating something is a low bar. So there are levels to consider. I’d probably have enjoyed the yaoi if the sub stood up for himself, or if the dom was less mean. I would have definitely enjoyed it if the dom’s cool exterior cracked at least once, showing that he was just as human as the sub.
If I wanted to dig a little deeper, I’d expose the dom’s investment in the sub. If he could walk away from the sub without caring, then that dom is dead to me. The fact that he’s expended so much energy in this person, antagonizing him, sure, but focusing only on him nonetheless, should prove his commitment. It ain’t healthy, but it hits that sweet spot.
So how would I put these amorphous feels and ideas into play? Usually random stories will bubble up, and I spew them, unpolished, at innocent bystanders. Example:
What can I say? I like what I like. But as mentioned in the above image, this idea holds many similarities to Space Pirate (although Jimmy is a different kind of idiot). Something tells me that I’ll spend my whole life reconfiguring themes and dynamics over and over, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you why. But even a random scene in Law & Order spoke to me; one conversation between two characters we would never see again wove itself into the already established canon I pull my writing from.
So this, in a way, is how the sausage is made. I don’t break the thought process down so much usually, because once the idea or “feel” is filed away in my brain, a lot goes without saying. (Or thinking, I guess).
My ideas always come down to the pair: Character A, Character B, and what happens when they meet. For a long time, while I was in my tweens and teens, my day dreams consisted of “Orin” and “Riley”; the stand-in names of my fantasy protagonists, and whatever adventures they had together, be it high school drama or traversing a post-apocalyptic desert.
So the names might have been the same every time, but the personalities were different. And not just the personalities, but the dynamics.
Dynamics are to me what romantic plot tropes are to romance readers: Very fucking important.
Although I started writing in original slash on FP, like many other people, I started reading slash in fan fiction, which is where I developed my personal taste in dynamics. I was twelve years old when I read Fushigi Yugi. There are numerous, excellent pairs in that series, but the one I really glommed onto was Tasuki/Nakago.
Nakago was the big bad, and he really did suck (a lot). But one of the miracles of fanfic means you can sweep away the suckiness and just keep what you like. (Did I mention I’m one of those people who don’t give a shit about canon? I really don’t.) Anyway! This was probably my first, or one of my first, slash OTPs—Tasuki was a (literal) firebrand; hotheaded and willful. Also kind of an idiot. He meshed well with Nakago’s icy aloofness.
How would Nakago view Tasuki? Amusing? Precious? But also, maybe, as a source of ease. Which brings me to my first dynamic addiction.
Soothing through Stupid
Nakago is an A-type warlord personality who dealt with a lot of traumatic bullshit in his life. He’s living in a pit of vipers, constantly having to be on his guard as he survives the court’s machinations.
And Tasuki is… basically just an idiot.
No, he’s not blandly stupid. He’s brash, excitable, but more importantly he’s on the up-and-up. Tasuki is not a viper, he’s a dog. In my world, Nakago would meet Tasuki, and he would see the unattainable, yet deeply desired gift of someone he could trust wholeheartedly . H ow he might react to such an discovery, however, could go in completely different ways.
Nakago may resent what he can’t have. He may do anything to obtain it, thereby corrupting and destroying what he coveted. I read a memoir by Lindy West recently, and she mentioned the phrase “love with an open hand,” as in…if you hold a bird in your hand, you may want to keep it, but caging it will only hurt it.
Nakago loves with a closed hand. He has to learn to uh, not do that, or everything will be ruined. Makes for great angst! (And yes, I have a story cooking with this dynamic).
But things don’t always have to go that dark. Soothing through stupid works on the grumpy too. Examples: The two mains from The Rundown (a really stupid movie), Hiei/Kuwabara from Yu Yu Hakusho, and Korben Dallas/Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element. The whole point is these gruff, grumpy guys have enough people trying to kill them. What they see in the idiot, is someone they don’t have to figure out.
Luckily for the stupid archetype, they just don’t give a shit about looking stupid and/or ridiculous. It’s who they are, with no shame.
Some of you may know that Ventures and Investments evolved from the feels™ Iron Man 2 gave me (to the extent that I named the two main characters after Tony Stark and Justin Hammer). VAI isn’t fan fiction—besides the names, I only pulled the dynamic. Oh, but (deep sigh) what a dynamic it is!
Justin Hammer very much cares about looking stupid. He just doesn’t know how not look stupid, and ridiculous. His envy of Tony’s everything (brains, fame, popularity) had birthed such a massive inferiority complex that he went to enormous stupid lengths just to beat Tony. And failed. Because Justin is a failure.
I love failures. And in my world, Tony does too.
It may start as a game; a bit of a sadistic streak on Tony’s part, poking at that ballooning inferiority complex. He may take pleasure in seeing the overreactions he can garner from Justin. He may, just a little bit, become intoxicated with the knowledge that Justin is obsessed with him. Or, like how it went in VAI, Tony just may really love Justin, but Justin can’t see this because of his delightful inferiority complex. I used a little bit of this in Somnolence as well.
“Healthy” is not how I would describe this dynamic. In fact, it usually comes off as toxic. What appeals to me is how Character A is so wrapped up in his miasma of jealousy and bitterness towards Character B that he loses sight of his own attributes. However, there is an important relationship ingredient missing from this dynamic.
My fandom OTPs can be grouped together under keywords, but these keywords would create an intersecting venn diagram. If I took the inferiority complex and bitterness of Tony Stark/Justin Hammer, and mixed them with a need for equal partnership in which the two players support each other, I would end up with movie-verse Aragorn/Boromir.
Let me just get this out of the way: I loved Boromir before it was cool to love Boromir, and long before he was a meme. In middle school, I rocked a Boromir t-shirt. Ok?
Anyway. Yes, even at the ages of 12, 13, and 14, I was already “into” the once high-standing, revered man losing his spot to some grungy interloper. Everyone (in the movie and out) loved Aragorn more than Boromir. Who cares that Boromir was brave, played with the hobbits like a cool dad, and was generally loveable, right? He wanted the ring (because he was only human!!!) so everyone hated him.
Except Aragorn, who obviously loved him very much, in my world.
I think Aragorn would have been jealous of Boromir in his own way—Boromir took up the mantel of responsibility with a zeal that Aragorn had run away from. Aragorn may have felt like an imposter, and so respected Boromir for his convictions. Unfortunately for Aragorn (but not us, because we love angst), Boromir would have less positive feelings in return.
And the truly sad thing is, if there weren’t all these complex, resentful feelings in the air, Aragorn and Boromir would make for an excellent equal partnership. They would have each other’s backs, one bolstering the other in times of hardship (and vice versa). They could counsel each other about important matters, because both carry so many responsibilities and so many lives depend on them. Basically, they could be each other’s rocks.
Leather Pants Draco
There’s a phrase I like: “Take what you need, and leave the rest.” For me, this holds true with writing… only it would probably be changed to want, not need.
For the many, many fanfic authors who saw Draco Malfoy as a sexy, minx-like, leather-pants-wearing siren, his “canon” traits were not needed. Or wanted. This never bothered me, (even if a snively, weasley Draco appealed much more than the sex god fandom wanted him to be) because I wasn’t reading Harry Potter. I was reading someone’s fanfic—where there aren’t any rules and the points don’t matter.
(I think my general *shrug* attitude about OOC fic it probably a part of why I never got into writing fanfic. I cannot, for the life of me, inhabit other people’s characters with the degree of skill that many fanfic authors do.)
Sure, if someone’s Draco had brown hair and loved rainbows after the rain, I probably would pass on that fic because… why. But as long as the character was recognizable from his bones, I could get into it. There are basic core features of Draco’s character that make him appealing.
Justin Hammer is not appealing based on his canon character. And neither, frankly, is Tony. But I could take what I needed (bitterness, jealousy, inferiority complex, power imbalance), and leave the rest.
If you were to list, in keywords, what you loved about an OTP, what would it consist of? Funnily enough, my list has not changed that drastically over more than ten years, although the fics I see those keywords in are few and far between (sobs).