Tag Archives: Fiction

Best Genre Treatment 2

Best Genre Treatment 2

For the best genre treatment 2, let’s take a look at my best stories in four more genres. Hence these are what are (to me) my best Star Trek fan fiction stories in particular writing genres.

Historical

There can only be one for the Best Genre Treatment 2.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Concord | Best Genre Treatment 2
Concord

While I also love Crackerjack, and all of the HG Wells stories, I believe that, by far, my best historical fiction story is Concord.

I have never, ever worked so hard to get a story right, than I did with Concord.

From its cover (that’s the bridge leading from Lexington to Concord and, yes, there was an engagement on it), to determining whether men would tip their hats to women (yes), to figuring out Colonial Era market prices, to even deciding the name of one of the cows, Concord is an absolute labor of love.

The premise of the story is an interphase: Malcolm is transported to April 1775 Lexington, Massachusetts, and takes the place of an ancestor, just as a future time traveler, during the time of the Genesis Project, takes the place of his own ancestor, who is fighting alongside Malcolm’s ancestor. Injured in the fighting, Malcolm and the time traveler, Robert Lennox, are quartered in a home, where they meet, among other people, Benjamin Warren.

IDIC

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Future Matches | Best Genre Treatment 2
Future Matches

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations brings to mind LGBTQ story lines. In this genre, my favorite (which is also a reader favorite) is Detached Curiosity & Idle Speculation.

Working as both a prequel to There’s Something About Hoshi and a sequel to the E2 stories, Detached tells the story of how Dave Constantine and Frank Todd started dating.

With what is almost 20/20 hindsight, the men know that they were together and that their relationship worked out. But it’s still tentative and a little strange. But when they kiss, you want to cheer.

Romance

This was easily the most difficult decision, to figure out which was the best of these many stories.  Three stories get an honorable mention here. First is The Reptile Speaks, which is a Gorn romancing a Cardassian.  I loved the idea of putting together a rather different couple, and how someone who looks so menacing could, at bottom, be a truly good person.

Reversal has to be mentioned, as it is not only the love of the dark stranger for the light, but it’s also an amazing kick-off story. A ton of roads lead straight to Reversal.

The Honky Tonk Angel also deserves mention, as it’s another odd couple type of story, as Kevin O’Connor and Jhasi Tantharis go on their first date.

But the winner, the best one (and I might change my mind tomorrow) is The Three of Us .

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Three of Us
The Three of Us

All of the E2 stories were labors of love, but Three is really the big one. That is also due to, in part, its size.

Characters move from misbehaving and acting childishly, to acting criminally, to eventually maturing. Kindness, friendship, and togetherness, lead to more.

As you might expect from such a title, the relationship is an unconventional one.

But the parties persevere, and grow, as time pulls them along and they experience not just romantic love, but also brotherhood, fellowship, parenthood, and, ultimately, tragedy.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Sparrow and the Blue Jay
The Sparrow and the Blue Jay

This image becomes particularly important, and is a part of one of the story’s many high points.

I love this story, from its tentative, scared, damaged people, to its criminals, to its hopefulness, to its sorrow. As Lili O’Day says in Fortune, “There is something there.”

Tragedy

Nothing really comes close to Seven Women, when it comes to tragedy.  From the very start, I tell the reader that Tommy Digiono-Madden is going to die. A fireball is coming, the fire door is shut, and he cannot outrun any of it. He knows this is it. But instead of having his life flash before his eyes, Tommy instead thinks of seven pivotal women in his life. They range from the three women he called mother, to his first girlfriend, and more.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Seven Women
Seven Women

This was a character I had only written little snippets of, and very few as an adult.  As readers got to know Tommy, so did I. The best decision I made in that story was to not bow to internal pressure to give him a happy ending.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t get one.

Upshot

The best romance story was easily the hardest of these decisions to make. Tune in; I may do this again next year.

Best Genre Treatment 1

Best Genre Treatment 1

I  write in all sorts of genres. Hence I have put together what I think are my best treatments of them. This is in conjunction with all of the story reviews I have been posting, and future reviews.

I have written a good 200 or so stories. Choosing what is ‘best’ is subjective and certainly my ideas change over time. These stories are not necessarily the ones with the greatest reads or review counts. Sometimes it’s just the best in my mind. I don’t always agree with my readership.

Comedy

One of my favorite genres to write, comedy speaks to me.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before | Best Genre Treatment 1
Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before

I love to make people laugh, but I also don’t want to create mindless slapstick.  This is why I love Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before.

From the amusing title, to its start as Chip Masterson is busted by Deb Haddon for keeping Tripp‘s stuffed gerbil toy, Stella,  to their romance, to Chip’s nascent to friendship with Aidan, the story celebrates a number of below decks themes.

Canon characters abound, as the story is also one big shout-out to the canon First Flight episode. Jonathan Archer, Liz Cutler, AG Robinson, Soval, and Admiral Forrest all show up.  There are even very brief cameos by T’Pol and Jay Hayes.

The basic premise is a prank war. This all happens during the invention and perfection of inertial dampers. This canon piece of equipment is about the dullest bit of Star Trek technobabble, so it was the perfect backdrop for a ton of hijinks. After all,  this would mainly bore the inventors (it’s a competition). They would be itching for something to do.

And then there’s the goat ….

Drama

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Saturn Rise | Best Genre Treatment 1
Saturn Rise

I write a ton of drama and it can sometimes be difficult to sustain. Right now, today, as I write this blog post, I feel that one of my better, if not my best such stories, is Saturn Rise.

I had wanted to not only showcase more of Pamela and Treve’s relationship, but also to attempt to resolve some of the unfinished business in Intolerance, Temper, and Fortune.

Further, I wanted Malcolm to have to deal with introducing his parents to Lili, and possibly risk their disapproval.  Done within the context of introducing them to Declan, I also wanted to present an alternate point of view regarding the acceptance – or not – of Lili and Doug‘s open marriage.

Just as Pamela has to have it out with her mother, Malcolm has to have it out with his parents.

Holidays

One of the first Star Trek fan fiction stories I ever completed, The Light covers Chanukah on the NX-01 and a lot more.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Light | Best Genre Treatment 1
The Light

As Ethan Shapiro learns of his great-aunt’s death, young Jewish crew members are brought together. Part of this is to properly mourn the woman’s death, but another reason is a budding romance, as Andrew Miller is looking to ask out Karin Bernstein.

I introduced not only these original characters (plus Josh Rosen), but also covered the subject of the existence of a Starfleet Rabbi, Leah Benson. Because I love these characters so much, they all have fan fiction futures. And this includes Mirror Universe stories, as they meet dissimilar fates. Leah in particular is very different on the other side of the proverbial pond.

Horror

Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Day of the Dead | Best Genre treatment 1

I have never been a fan of slamming doors, zombies, things going bump in the night, etc. Plus I don’t like them as stories or films. I just plain don’t like terror for my entertainment. Hence I hit upon an idea, and that was to show what I feel is far, far worse. And that’s the Holocaust.

Taking place over the course of Halloween weekend, Tucker, a classic horror film buff, has helped Chip line up several classic horror movies. October 31st gets the old John Carpenter film.

Canon characters such as Phlox and Amanda Cole sit through the picture, as do a number of my own original characters.  And then Tucker disappears.

As a crossover story, he’s whisked to 1945 Upper Bavaria, and becomes a part of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, which includes freeing Milena Chelenska, her sister, and their neighbor. Furthermore, he witnesses a war crime. This is where the managers of the camp (by this time – true story – they were mainly just kids, as the real management had fled) are shot to death by firing squad, without trials.

It turns out that he’s been interphased rather deliberately, as Wesley Crusher and the Traveler work to get him back, thereby neatly tying into Crackerjack.

Upshot

Beyond the fact that I think these stories are some of my best work, my peers have agreed. Where No Gerbil Has Gone Before and Day of the Dead are both award winners.

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

In order to dovetail with my recent blog post about the Trek Blogging Community, here’s a post about the Writing Blog Community I hang out with that isn’t Trek.

There are non-writer bloggers who I follow, too (well, of course everyone who blogs is actually a form of writer, but what I’m really talking about here are bloggers who also dabble in fiction writing). But this post is only going to be about fiction writers who blog – with one notable exception. These aren’t really in any particular order.

Puckishwird’s Blog

Joshua C. is an experienced blogger – he’s been doing this longer than I have! I love the old-timey look to the pages. The prose is fascinating, but the writing samples are even better. Very well-organized, this blog is clearly the work of someone who’s been doing this for a while, and loves it. I know Joshua from a NaNoWriMo group on Facebook.

The Frog Blog

Katrin Hollister is a friend from Wattpad who is new to the blogging scene.  She’s a far busier student than I am, and is balancing a new blog, Pinterest, Deviant Art (she is also an artist), and of course her studies. One great use she recently made of her  new blog was for a cover reveal for her Wattpad epic, The Windcaster.

RAvishing Thoughts

Miriel of Gisborne is a writer who I’ve seen on several sites, both Star Trek and non, over the years.

Blogging Community (non-Trek)

Currently, she’s immersed in writing Bilbo/Thorin Hobbit slash, and so her Tumblr blog is devoted to actor Richard Armitage.

Like most Tumblr blogs, hers is very visual. There are some great images of Armitage, mixed in with terrific covers that she has made herself. The blog also links directly to her fiction and acts as a cross-promotional vehicle.

Howlarium

SeeThomasHowell is another Wattpad friend. On Wattpad, he doesn’t just write, read, and review. Jason also conducts interviews of fellow writers. A lot of these interviews end up on the Howlarium, which is a mix of his own writings and promotions, interviews, and promotions of others’ work. It’s a grand and generous collection of cross-promotions.

Alex Karola

Another Wattpad friend, and another brand-new blogger, Alex is both a writer and a teacher. She is looking to break into the YA market.

Maniac Marmoset

Jessica B. is another NaNoWriMo Facebook pal and another new blogger. Her blog has been mainly devoted to writing snippets and all sorts of original poetry.  She is currently in the query part of the process of becoming a published author.

Special Guest Star Blogger

Give it up for my publisher, Riverdale Avenue Books!

A mix of promotions, announcements, and guest blogs, RAB’s blog is intended as a cross-promotional vehicle for their books. This blog feeds a number of their other social media enterprises, such as their GoodReads page.

Beyond Blogging

For me, this kind of a blogging community advances more than one purpose. It’s a place to cross-promote works, of course.  But it’s become more than that. For me, it’s become another vehicle to making friends. It’s a joy to be able to, just like with my Star Trek friends, be able to talk to these people about a lot of things. And for them to immediately get it.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Writing Process Blog Hop

This is a somewhat different post, as I am (for the first time! Sound the trumpets!) participating in a Blog Hop. I’ve been tagged by Alex Karola, I’ll answer a few questions, and then I will tag three other folks to continue the chain. Those three folks, who I will mention again at the end are Jessica Bloczynski, Katrin Hollister, and MirielOfGisborne.

Without further ado, here are the questions.

1. What am I working on?

Egad, it feels like, what am I not working on? I have a WIP which is wholly original, that I am going to submit to my publisher. If all goes well, it’ll be a trilogy. Well, it’ll be a trilogy whether it’s accepted for publication or not. But I’ll be the first to admit that it could use some tightening.

Writing Process Blog Hop

I’ve got the Barnstorming series. It has stalled recently, in favor of schoolwork, wholly original work, and various short prompted stories. I have a wholly original work in progress for Wattpad that hasn’t been posted yet but I’d like some more chapters before I start. I have The Social Media Guide for Wattpad. The draft is technically done, but I’m always finding more to say.

Hence the answer is – ta da! – lots of stuff.

2. How is my work different from others of its genre?

Writing Process Blog Hop

I tend to add a philosophical bent to a lot of my work. Without getting into the details of what I want to present to my publisher, one of the underlying themes is: what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be sentient/intelligent? I think when we start to answer those questions, we will begin to understand our own selves better. I like to explore that inner essence (I’m mainly a science fiction author), and that generally isn’t explored while stars and planets are being explored. I try to change that.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Part of it is for my own purposes; I try to write what appeals to me as a reader.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Part of it is also for the purpose of creating art. I like to be creative.  A part of it is also to slip some philosophy in there. I think the study of thought and thinking is going by the boards. I see people spouting stuff all the time and it has no basis and no foundation. It’s not philosophy; it’s just a lot of posturing. The real thing is becoming rare.  This is not to say that I’m busily slipping philosophy into my works, much like someone might grind up carrots and shovel them into burgers in order to stealthily get people to eat healthier. Rather, it’s a part of the dish/story. Read it for the science fiction, read it for the philosophy, read it for both. I like to think readers will get something out of it, regardless of their preferences or foci.

4. How does my writing process work?

I am naturally overly organized and I wouldn’t be shocked if I were OCD as well. I keep an enormously long timeline (which is published on the site, in pieces) and that is an incredible help. I am able to do things like look at it to determine who is older than whom, who could meet, etc. I also keep a long list of every character I have ever made. These characters are paired with various actors/actresses. For canon, of course, it’s whoever really played them. For originals, I make judgments, and those eventually start to inform my work. E. g. if a character is short, that decides a few things but generally not major plot points.

Writing Process Blog Hop

I keep an idea bank, too, and sometimes it’s painfully scant. E. g. the Daranaean Emergence series was started with a two-word phrase: smart kangaroos. When I have an interesting dream, an idea for a name, a title, a series, a story, all of those are typed into the bank. While I do answer prompts, the bank helps when I am really stuck.

For longer works, I tend to flesh out the ideas, but I don’t go with a formal story line. I tend to have ideas of where I want to go, though, or sometimes scenes play out in my head. Funny thing is, sometimes a scene that I have been thinking of for a long time can end up far shorter than I had thought. In Reflections Down a Corridor, I had a vision of Jay swimming, swimming, swimming. That whole scene is maybe a few pages long, yet I thought about it for months. Was I sick of it? I can’t honestly say.

Sometimes scenes are written in order. Sometimes, they aren’t, although usually that’s because they are standalone short stories. But some of that can be laid at the feet of the timeline. I have ideas of where I’m going with this or that, and I need to go through X to get to Y so I’ll sometimes write Y and then realize, oops, I’d better prefigure that with X.

Blame Fortune and Reversal, too, as both of those stories, along with The Cure is Worse than the Disease and Release, have a lot of little gold nuggets in them that can be mined for even more stories. I’m finding  that Intolerance has become a gold mine, as well.

Upshot

And there’s my stop on the blog hop.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Please tune into the following bloggers as they continue the process:

I hope you like the plot bunny, at left, who is resting from hopping.

Thank you for reading!

Lessons from Fan Fiction

Personal Background

I have been writing (with considerable time off), in some form or another, for the past 4 1/2 decades, no exaggeration. My initial writings were crudely drawn images in old calendar books that would have otherwise been discarded. Inevitably, they were all about more or less the same thing – anthropomorphized dogs going on adventures.

I used to own (many of them are still in my parents’ house) little plastic farm animal toys.

English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st...
English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st…

Many of these came from my father’s business trips to Munich, and they were fairly well detailed. When not drawing picture books, I would play act stories for these toys. Usually, it was some sort of journey.

The toys still exist, but the old calendar books are long gone, in some landfill somewhere (they were discarded before recycling was really mainstream).

As a teenaged girl, I had diaries, but all of those are also gone to a landfill. I did not get back to writing anything resembling fiction until my senior year in High School, when I had an AP English teacher who encouraged such things. I took Creative Writing in college, and a Law School boyfriend also encouraged me to write. Then I set it all aside until maybe 2000 when I did some short works and then started writing fan fiction in 2004.

After a few more short works, I set it aside until 2010. Ever since starting up again (with Reversal), I have written something pretty much every day, whether it’s Star Trek: fan fiction, wholly original works, blogging and/or fiction outlining.

Lessons Learned (in no particular order)

Write to keep writing

While I suffer from writer’s block, just like every other writer, I suffer from it less than I probably should, because I make an effort to write nearly every single day. This keeps it all going.

Take and Keep Notes

I have a large timeline for fan fiction, spanning a few millennia. I have other timelines for wholly original fictional universes. These are kept with MS Excel. Timelines are incredibly useful, as you immediately know things like ages, and if character lifetimes overlap.

Fiction Stacks
Fiction Stacks

I keep wikis (more like informal detailed outlines, as I am the sole contributor) for all major series, and separate ones for wholly original fiction. These are for world-building, and they contain everything from character heights to birthdays to naming conventions for various items. It’s all decided once and the references are at my fingertips.

I also keep a list of plot ideas, which also contains possible titles, species ideas, possible character names, etc. (Eriecho was originally going to be Klingon). This ‘parks’ new ideas so that I can concentrate better on the story I am trying to finish.

Don’t Throw Anything Away

Character names from 1986 have shown up in fiction written in 2011, no lie. A quarter-century later, and in a different universe, the names still work.

Your Work Should be Shared

I belong to several writers’ groups online, both for fan fiction and for wholly original work.

Fan fiction in the making
Fan fiction in the making

There are a lot of people who are terrified of sharing their work with others. These are not people holding back because it’s work they want to try to have published. They just plain aren’t ready to share anything.

And that’s unfortunate, as their work can stagnate with no feedback. Fiction isn’t meant to be hidden away, locked in a drawer somewhere.

 

Constructive Criticism is Gold

English: Crystaline Gold
English: Crystaline Gold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone providing constructive criticism of any sort is fantastic. Being told that I need to define a character better, or provide more details, or that a scenario is not credible – any and all of these criticisms makes me a better writer. Learning to take constructive criticism graciously was an enormous lesson I have learned.

 

Destructive Criticism is Dirt

While not everyone will love what I have written, I’ve learned to separate critiques into constructive and destructive, and can tell the difference.

Vermont dirt, up close.
Vermont dirt, up close.

There are those who go into reading a fan fiction who are biased against a particular series, or character or character pairing, etc. They might dislike a certain plot point (e. g. not everyone likes time travel), or they just might dislike all fan fiction.

Most of what these folks say is not worth reading, or repeating. Fortunately, I haven’t run into too many of these folks in my travels.

As for those who engage in personal attacks, they should be blocked without a second thought. No one needs to be trashed in order to be effectively critiqued. Ever.

Do Your Research

In one of my first-ever fan fictions (There’s Something About Hoshi), I misspelled MACO as MAKO, and was corrected by a reader. At the time, I was overly sensitive and felt it was petty. I have since come to realize that of course this person was correct, and they were only trying to help me get better.

Pay it Forward by Reading and Reviewing Others’ Work

Sitting back and expecting everyone else to do the heavy lifting of reading and reviewing is pretty selfish. Writers, of course, should take care not to steal from each other, or plagiarize. But the building, nurturing, and sustaining of writer communities means that you, the writer, need to also become the reader, and the critic. Always be a constructive critic.

Practice and Edit

Not writing does not make you a better writer. Only writing, and reading, can make you a better writer. So do both.

Don’t Crowdsource Your Ideas

I see this a lot, where potential writers, terrified that they have a bad idea, ask their peers for a judgment about whether something is a ‘good’ idea.

This is bass-ackwards. Instead, writers should be writing. Their ideas are, likely, perfectly fine. Why do I say this? Because most ideas are fine; it’s their execution that demonstrates quality, or the lack thereof. Consider the following story idea.

Kafka
Kafka

A suddenly disabled man is late for work one morning. Ignoring his new infirmity, he tries to go to work, as he is the sole supporter of his mostly ungrateful family. When they become, by necessity, more independent, they abuse and neglect him and, unappreciated, he eventually dies. They go on without him.

Don’t know that plot? It’s Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, easily one of the top 100 (if not 50) works of fiction ever written. Ever!

But that plot summary isn’t too promising, eh? It’s in the execution where Gregor Samsa comes to life.

Your ideas are fine, except for the idea that you need others’ approval before you can start writing. Nonsense! Write anyway.

You’re Better Than You Think

Unless you are out and out plagiarizing someone else’s work, there is probably someone out there who will like your writing. That leads to my next point.

Find Your Ideal Audience

Sites which cater to, say, only Star Trek: Enterprise will not appreciate Star Trek: Voyager fan fiction as well as sites that focus on it. That may seem obvious, but it’s a point that people sometimes seem to miss. If your work isn’t being read, try other sites. You might do better elsewhere.

Fix Your Technical Problems Before Posting

Always look over spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word choice (e. g. make sure you are using the right words, and they mean what you think they do), and grammar. A few stray errors are fine, but try to fix most of it before posting. This is a courtesy to your readers.

Not Everyone Wants to read your entire Saga

Readers’ time is as precious a your own.

Busy
Busy

Their not wanting to read your entire 10 million word saga is less a reflection on your abilities (or their love of your work), and more on their own busy lives.

Expecting your audience to read your entire saga is a discourtesy; you are not being respectful of their time. Respect their time by mixing in some short stories as most people can find the time to read something less than 10,000 words (even better, less than 5,000).

Compete With your Peers

This ups your game considerably. Put yourself out there, and don’t expect to win. Competitions are also a great way to get more people to read and review your work.

Keep Track of your Stats

You don’t have to be as analytical as I am, but it pays to at least have a handle on what’s popular, and what isn’t. These findings will probably differ from site to site, and having objective data means you’ll have a better idea of whether a story will go over well or poorly at a particular site.

Use Your Time Wisely

We all have lives, so writing time often has to be rationed. Determine what you want and need, and how well various sites satisfy those wants and needs. Do an informal cost-benefit analysis – does a site offer ease of posting? Better critiquing? A bigger audience? A better-matched audience to your work?

Build a Readership

Book reader
Book reader

When I learned I was going to be published, I told pretty much everyone in my network. A lot of people said they were excited about potentially seeing my wholly original work in print. This is not only ego-gratifying, it’s also, potentially, a source of reads (and even sales) and reviews for professional work. I’m not saying to become a writing mercenary.

Rather, cultivate and nurture your most loyal fans.

That doesn’t just mean being kind to them (which should be a given), and thanking them (another given); it also means listening to them. Do they want to see more original characters? A new horror story? More time travel? Do they think your last book dragged in the middle? Take them seriously. They are really trying to help you succeed. Let them.

Upshot

I have come a long way from picture books that I showed to no one, and stories that I left to rot in a trunk and are no more. Fan fiction has improved me as a writer, and has taught me to believe in myself. It has led me to becoming a published author. I owe it a lot.

Thank you.


You can find me on .

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Reviews, a Love/Hate Affair

In the continuing saga of looking at Boldly Reading blog prompts, we have the second such prompt about Star Trek fanfiction (and, really, about any other kind of writing, for that matter) – what do you like to see in a review of your work? what do you comment upon yourself in a review? has a received view changed your opinion on a story you wrote or were writing? and finally, has a review sold or warned you off another author‘s story?

The Good

Everybody loves good reviews. They make us feel warm, happy and special. They pull us up when we’re feeling low. Good vibes all around.

thumbs up!
thumbs up!

But really short good reviews (e. g. I loved it!) are nice but they are dissatisfying. It’s like a half a sip of really good coffee. Hence, whether I read a review or I write one, I feel that a good review should have a little more depth than that. Why is the story so beloved?

Here are a few ideas –

  • Are the original characters believable and multidimensional? Do you, the reader, understand who they are, their motivations and back stories? The answer does not necessarily have to be yes to all of these questions, by the way, but what is it about the original characters that grabs you?
  • Are the canon characters well portrayed? If they step out of character, is that explained in a satisfying manner? Can you, the reader, hear the canon character’s voice in your head, saying these words? Can you see the canon character performing these actions?
  • What’s the driver of the events? Is it a new ship or person? A conflict? A discovery? A problem that needs solving? A mystery? Was the situation believably introduced, showcased and wrapped up?
  • Where is (are) the climax(es) in the story? What is it leading to? Is it the logical release of the build-up that has occurred throughout the story?
  • How have the characters or the situation changed by the end of the story? If the story was a reset, does the resetting to the beginning make sense?

The Bad

Sometimes, a story does not completely work, but there are redeemable elements of it. When that happens, I think it’s time for suggestions. And again, a short review is not too much help. Authors need to learn (and be nice about this!) how to improve their works. It is possible to help someone become better, and writers should take the suggestions in the spirit in which they should be given.

sideways
sideways
  • I thought ___ was a bit of a hand wave. If you were rewriting the story today, how would you correct that and add more drama to that element?
  • ___ is incorrect, per (cite research). Are you looking to write an alternate reality?
  • I loved your characters but I thought the situation didn’t quite suit them. Do you have other stories with these characters?
  • I thought the situation was compelling, but I’m unsure about the placement of the characters in it. Do you have stories with similar situations, but different characters?

The Ugly

Sometimes, it’s just … oh God. You feel like sowing the ground around someone’s computer with salt. What to do?

thumbs down :(
thumbs down 🙁

One option is to simply not review at all. After all, even in a review hunt challenge, you could forego the points and just bow out of reviewing. But that does not help the author get better. Can they get better? It’s a definite maybe. There are people who take suggestions to heart. And there are others who might accept the suggestions later. Then again, there are also people who think that everything they write is so wonderful that you must be the problem.

  • Try to find something positive to say, anything! Did they get a canon character’s voice right at all? Was the situation unique? Were there any memorable lines?
  • Once again, constructive criticism is the way to go. Be specific and detailed, but also be kind. E. g. a review that says, In canon, Scotty is not an Eskimo, and I’m just not so sure I’m buying him as one. I think that’s specific, and it does not trash the author or attack them personally. Hey, someone else might be convinced, but you, the reader, are not.
  • Are they new to writing? Maybe comment on the maturation process in writing. This is not to say that you insult people by suggesting that no one under the age of 40 can write, or that you need a decade’s worth of experience to be any good. Rather, you can suggest that continued writing, over time, often changes and hones one’s style.
  • Out and out plagiarism should not be rewarded, of course.

As for me, I look at the number of reviews I get, and the number of reads. For short stories with no reviews and a high read count, that raises a red flag with me. But for longer stories with no reviews, it’s less of a flag, as there are plenty of longer stories that people just don’t stay with. It’s not necessarily due to the quality of the writing. Sometimes that’s just due to readers’ personal schedules.

And I can’t say that I love criticism, but I am a writer and I expect it and I understand it. People have told me that something looked like a hand wave, or that they couldn’t stick with something. I think that’s fine, and that tells me where to improve, and tighten things up. But I do have an ego and, like everyone else, it can sometimes be bruised.

So I ask, if you hate it, and you still choose to provide a review, I do hope you won’t just trash me. And I vow to you that I will do the same.

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What Do I Like to Read?

As a part of The Twelve Trials of Triskelion, the program is coming to an end, but we on Ad Astra are looking to keep it up. As a result, we’re looking to expand blogging. And now there’s a new book club, called Boldly Reading, with its own blog!

So – the first prompt is – what do you like to read? what fanfic story type/era/character and heck even name an author here you gush over do you like to read?

And so I’ve gotten to thinking.

Challenges

I’ve realized that while I love the Star Trek Enterprise and The Original Series eras, that doesn’t necessarily define what I seek out. More often, I go looking for a good story, and then whether it fits into my own personal era preference doesn’t truly factor into it. Good stories are good stories.

I also have great respect for people who put themselves out there for the challenges, in particular, the monthly challenges. For newer authors in particular, it has got to be daunting. It presents the old what if they don’t like me? fear that I suspect all authors have inside us.

Once I’ve read a challenger (even if they don’t win, and even if I didn’t love their story), I try to look at more of their works. Sometimes people are just off, and one story didn’t hit its marks but that doesn’t mean that others won’t. But if I’m disappointed enough times (and I can’t honestly say exactly when that moment occurs, but I know it when I see it), I’m done, unless it’s for a monthly challenge. Then I’ll read all of the entries because I don’t think I can vote in good conscience without reading all of that month’s entries. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to love the author who has disappointed me. Unfairly or not, that person now has more of a hurdle to climb over in order to get my love. But it’s not an impossible hurdle.

Characterizations

For authors not involved in monthly challenges, I am looking for good characters. I love action sequences, but the truth is, they’re hard to write. Sometimes what you’re thinking of just does not translate well to pixels. But characters can. Someone who is not a Mary Sue. Someone who isn’t just described in some huge data dump as if the author were picking the character out from a police lineup. Someone who I can hate or love or be repulsed by or laugh with or at or want to hug or kick. Someone who stays with me.

Give it up for Templar Sora!

One author whose works I have loved pretty much from the beginning has been Templar Sora.

Star Trek Online
Star Trek Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two of his characters I have particularly enjoyed are Jessica St. Peter and Seymour Sonia. Jess is an unlikely leader, a person thrust into the role when everyone around her falls down on the job or is too scared or damaged or inexperienced to step in. And, as a young leader, she deals with something that a lot of young leaders in fan fiction never seem to have to deal with – insubordination by people who think she should not have her place.

Enter Seymour Sonia, the consummate jerk. Everything from hitting on Jess (before she gets a command) to openly being hostile to her, he’s a fun character to despise. The beauty of this character is his passive-aggressive nature. I have found that often jerk characters are written as utterly one-dimensionally, as authors might feel they have to stack their decks. After all, who could possibly hate a Starfleeter?

Try me.

Upshot

I love a lot of what I’m reading. But to really hit the stratosphere, give me a character where all I want to do when I see him in a scene is yell, “Bite me!”

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