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Gavin Luper
3rd June 2008, 08:34 AM
~ The FanFiction Forum E-zine ~
June 2008






Contents


In Defence of the Overworked Editor
Gavin Luper

Conversations with the Stars – darktyranitar
Lady Vulpix

The Only Thing The Online Writer Ever Feared
Gavin Luper

The Grammar Nazi – Passive-Aggressive
mr_pikachu






In Defence of the Overworked Editor
Gavin Luper


G’day and welcome to this month’s issue of the Fanfiction Forum E-zine! Yes, I am fully aware that in most (if not all) parts of Earth it is now the third day of June, which if we are to be technical is not exactly the first day of June, which is when the e-zine would usually be posted. By way of explanation, I refer you to an electrical storm preventing the submission of an article, a bothersome part-time job and a mountain of clothes, books, CDs and general crap that occluded the pathway to my computer (honest).

There’s plenty in this month’s edition: our esteemed interviewer, Lady Vulpix, discusses writing, moderating and second languages with one of the four moderators of Fanfiction, darktyranitar; Gavin Luper (okay, it’s me!) takes a look at a major issue in writing and how it pertains specifically to online writers; and in his monthly column our resident Grammar Whore, mr_pikachu, has a look at the distinction between, and use of, passive and active sentences.

Special mention also goes to mr_pikachu for being voted by his peers as TPM’s first inductee into the Fanfiction Hall of Fame during May. After the initial voting stage resulted in a tiebreaker situation, a second poll was held, in which mr_pikachu was the clear choice of his fellow fanficcers. I believe Brian is a very deserving inaugural inductee to the Hall of Fame. Having worked with him as a moderator for over two years now, I have the utmost respect for his opinion and find his dedication to the Fanfic forum most commendable. He is one of the most dogged moderators I have ever met, a skilled writer and poet, a learned critic and a reliable friend to boot. So, on behalf of the Fanfic Forum: Congratulations on your induction, Brian!

With many of us wading through end-of-semester assignments – and cramming for those cruel exams – May was a relatively quiet month on the forum, though there were still several new fics posted, as well as activity in the Writer’s Lounge. Another Writing Contest was run and Smiley Town received a surge of posts.

For the month ahead, Fanfic’s horizons are golden. For many of us, June marks the beginning of the holidays, that blessed part of the year when we renunciate the evil rigours of school and kick back, perhaps with a drink or two at hand, and launch into that story we’ve been waiting to get a chance to write. June will also mark the beginning of this year’s major award season, with the Golden Pens Suggestion Topic coming soon – so get reading!

Until we meet again: best of luck to everyone for a prolific and enjoyable month!







Conversations with the Stars – darktyranitar
Lady Vulpix


Lady Vulpix: Would you like to begin the interview now?
darktyranitar: Sure, would do =)

Lady Vulpix: Alright, then. Obligatory first question. How long have you been writing?
darktyranitar: Well, it started somewhere when I was 12 years old, I believe. It's more of some random romance thing, I dunno; something I wrote about a girl I had a crush on (hehehe). I write some other really random things too - they're mostly based on video games, comics etc. I only write 'for real' after I found TPM.

Lady Vulpix: So TPM encouraged you to write more seriously? How did that happen?
darktyranitar: Well, before I came upon TPM, I wasn't really too much into reading books (except for comics and some short stories compilation). And when I found TPM - or Fanfiction, to be more accurate - I found out that there are actually people who write stories based off Pokemon (or rather, Trainer fics). And being the Pokemaniac I was at that time, I thought, "hey, what if I write a Pokemon story with a these characters, and these storyline, etc". But I didn't write anything straightaway though. I just went on and read some fics - and I never post any comments in them too. Yeah, I remained a closet reader for quite awhile.

Lady Vulpix: Why didn't you post comments?
darktyranitar: Well, I wasn't so confident of my English at that time, heheh ^^;;. Plus, at that time, I noticed that comments are usually given out in full details, covering aspects from plots, characters, settings... and things like that. I have never thought of posting something that goes like... "hey, great story. Keep it up." If I remembered correctly, the first fic that I actually posted my comment in it was Toxicity (then Kikyo)'s To Those Who Still Care. Incidentally, it was after reading that fic that I actually posted something in Fanfiction.

Lady Vulpix: Did that fic inspire you?
darktyranitar: Yes, I suppose it does. It's just like the fic's subtitle suggested: "not an ordinary trainer fic". Prior to reading the fic, most of the fics that I read (although I'll admit that I didn't actually read other original trainer fic, such as Lisa The Legend for example) usually goes on the typical formula for the Pokemon game/anime, with a little modification on starter, storyline etc. But To Those Who Still Care was something different from the rest of the fics that I've read. It's got the dark elements and a good amount of emotion, the two elements that wasn't available in those other fics. I dunno, I kinda like a story to be dark and emotional. Guess I'm just a bit morbid, eh? =P

Lady Vulpix: Are your own stories like that too?
darktyranitar: Some of them, but not all. I found myself liking a bit of humour too. My first fic was planned to be quite dark as the story progress... but somewhere in the process, I kinda lost the will to write dark stories. My second fic was meant to be a dark fic - right from the beginning. But it suffers the same fate as the first fic, and it died down before it could progress any further. Other than those two fics, I've written some rather random one shots (for example, Gone DP!), but they're neither dark nor emotional. I do write some other stories though; random stories that are either dark, or they have a dark undertone in them. But I lost interest in writing them halfway, and those stories were then left unfinished.

Lady Vulpix: Are you writing anything at the moment?
darktyranitar: Well, I have a few ideas that are floating in my head. But I only have a rough idea on how the fics are going to be, though; no details yet. Currently, I'm focusing on these two ideas: one is going to be a Pokemon fic, but I haven't actually decided if the second one was going to be a Pokemon fic or not (since I'm more used to writing Pokemon fanfic). The first one is going to be something that is rather random, and rather absurd ... but it's going to be dark at the same time too. The second one is going to be a rather dark affair. Something like my second fic, I suppose. Besides that, I'm also thinking of entering this month's writing contest. I have an idea, and I'll try to work on it.

Lady Vulpix: You use the word 'dark' a lot, but I find it to be a rather vague word. In which way are those stories dark?
darktyranitar: What I view as 'dark' is... something that is certainly not happy, yes. And preferably something with a little tragedy. Say... death, accidents... or violence. I guess I'm kinda vague as well in describing what is it that actually makes those stories 'dark' >>. Incidentally, were you referring to my past fics, or the fics that is yet to be written?

Lady Vulpix: Both, actually. Or are they dark in different ways?
darktyranitar: Ah. Well, my first fic is dark as in... the presence of an ominous force, who comes in the story once in a while in dreams (at least, that's how I recall it). The second fic is dark in the sense of violence, despair, and fighting one's inner demons. I can't say much for the fics that I'm planning though, but the second out of the two fics in planning is probably using the same dark element that is used in my second (written) fic. Tell me if I'm still being vague or anything. ^^

Lady Vulpix: I think it's clear now. ^^ Besides writing, you've had a lot of activity on the Fanfic forum lately. What can you tell us about it?
darktyranitar: I can't say much on my activities, I think... since I've been on hiatus for a while due to college. Um, I handled this month's issue of the Fanfiction E-zine - and the articles are very good (if those who submit those said articles are reading this: once again, thank you for those articles =)). Other than that, there's the Fanfiction's Hall of Fame. Can't think of anything else, I'm afraid ^^;;

Lady Vulpix: Doesn't any of that demand much work on your side? That, and moderating.
darktyranitar: Yeah, sometimes it does. The other fanfic mods are great people though (cheers Brian, Gavin, and Ada) so it wasn't very stressful or anything.

Lady Vulpix: How do you put together an E-Zine issue?
darktyranitar: Well, you have to have the articles being submitted in first, of course. Then you compiled them all together, arrange those articles, put some coding tags. When everything's done, the E-zine is then posted in the Fanfic board. Simple as that =) (But if you were to ask the most difficult part, it would be the articles itself; I'm sure we all know about this ^^)

Lady Vulpix: Doesn't the editor have to write an editorial too?
darktyranitar: Well, there's that too. I've forgotten about it; my bad.

Lady Vulpix: What's the most demanding aspect of your work on the Fanfic forum?
darktyranitar: Hm... I don't think there's any specific particular aspect of the Fanfic forum that is demanding. I'd say... it's the position of being a Fanfic mod itself that is the most demanding aspect on my work on the Fanfic forum. We have to plan - and handle - fanfic activities such as the Golden Pen/Silver Pencil Award, the Writing Contest, E-zine, and other similar activities. Can be hectic sometimes. And then there's the - I don't know what it's actually called, and if other mods experience it as well - pressure of being expected to be really excellent in writing. With English being my secondary language, I've never thought of moderating the Fanfic board. Oh, and here's an interesting story: I initially told the other mods that I'm not so confident on moderating because I'm rather weak on grammars. Heheh =D

Lady Vulpix: But there's a lot more to moderating than writing correctly, isn't there?
darktyranitar: That's true. And it's definitely an interesting new experience for me.

Lady Vulpix: And has the language barrier brought you any problems?
darktyranitar:None at all =)

Lady Vulpix: That's good to hear. :) It's funny that we're conducting an interview in a language that's a second language for both of us, but it's good to be able to communicate with people from different parts of the world. It would be sad if the activities on the fanfic forum were restricted to people who share one particular native language, wouldn't it?
darktyranitar:You're right. And that's what makes the place more interesting, isn't it? Plus, you have the edge of speaking words that no one else probably understand... betul tak? (It's Malay for 'isn't that right', if anyone is interested ^^)

Lady Vulpix: I think that can be interesting as long as you let others know what it means. [i]¿No estás de acuerdo?[i] (Don't you agree?)
darktyranitar:Si, si. (That's 'yes' in Spanish, if I recalled correctly. Apologies if I misspelled it or anything ^^)

Lady Vulpix: The i should have an accent (otherwise it's 'if', not 'yes') but you got it nearly right. How has your interaction with other members of the forum worked so far?
darktyranitar:By members, are you referring to the moderators, or other fellow TPMers?

Lady Vulpix: Everyone who posts on the Fanfic forum.
darktyranitar:Quite good =) But interactions were quite scarce in the past few months, though; I was just adjusting to the moderating aspect, and I also have just entered college at that time. I'm currently reading through some fics I've missed in that period.

Lady Vulpix: What are you reading these days?
darktyranitar:Oh, some series that I've been sticking with. Communication (by Sike Saner) and The Pokemon Master League (by Chris 2.0) is among the said series (with the latter dating back until 2005, if memory serve me correctly). I haven't read all the newer works though- but I did read Weasel Overlord's Beware the Fury of a Patient Man. And for books: there's Brave New World and 1984. But they're still in the 'to read' list; I'm reading another book.

Lady Vulpix: Which one?
darktyranitar: A Malay book; 'Menjadi Survivor Dalam Dunia Penuh Cabaran' (roughly translated: Be a Survivor In a Challenging World). A rather serious book, as the title suggest. But that's another story.

Lady Vulpix: Do you reply to the fics you read now?
darktyranitar: I still have the bad old habit of closet reading on occasion. But I do try to reply to them - the fics - as much as I can.

Lady Vulpix: What about the fics you write? Are you satisfied with the replies you get?
darktyranitar: I've received some constructive replies for my fics. But since I haven't really written on a constant interval... well, replies can be scarce. Still, I'm satisfied with the replies. It's a reassuring thing to realize that people are reading your fics, I suppose.

Lady Vulpix: It is. So... do you have any advice for your fellow readers and writers?
darktyranitar: Well... for those who have been writings in fanfics: keep it up, and don't believe those who say that writing (in) fanfic is not serious writing; that it's nothing but a pastime activity. And for those who still lurks, i.e. the closet readers: get out of the shadow, and reply to those fics. Believe me, we writers really appreciate replies. Oh, and do continue to support Fanfic, as well as RPG, ASB - and TPM, in general =).

Lady Vulpix: Thank you. :)
darktyranitar: No problem. And thank you for bearing with me during the interview ^^

Lady Vulpix: It was fun. :)







The Only Thing The Online Writer Ever Feared
Gavin Luper


A fellow writer recently revealed to me that he was often concerned about posting his fiction online. We were discussing some of the issues faced by online fanfic writers; in particular, the relatively common fear of being accused of plagiarism or copyright infringement by a publishing group or multinational corporation. While this is a timely and complex issue (see past issues of this e-zine, as well as mr_pikachu’s recent Fanfiction Documentary ( http://pokemasters.net/forums/showthread.php?t=17117), which provides a fairly comprehensive discussion), my colleague admitted that his more pressing worry was not that he might be accused of plagiarising another writer’s work, but rather, that someone might plagiarise his own original stories.

I knew what he meant. The internet is so exposed and difficult to police when it comes to keeping tabs on intellectual property that it would be natural for online writers to worry about their work being lifted. And, outside the legal grey area of fanfiction, this is a legitimate issue of authorship. If a hypothetical online writer – we’ll call him Sam – decides to finally begin posting his original fantasy novel, The Seven Swords of Somemadeupplace, he immediately exposes himself – as we all do – to an unlimited internet audience. But while it is a marvellous tool for exposure, the internet can be a double-edged sword (haha). Even though Sam is the original author of his novel, anyone is able to simply copy each new chapter of his story and post it elsewhere – at another forum, perhaps – claiming it as their own work.

What can we make of this brand of plagiarism? We have been taught, as writers, readers and citizens, that to take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own is a morally bankrupt act; certainly, I believe this to be the case. In the publishing world, laws exist to punish anyone foolish enough to plagiarise another writer’s work: heavy fines and punishments can apply. The act is treated with similar gravity at universities and other tertiary institutions. The internet, however, is a nearly lawless state. If someone steals your story here, there’s no legal advisor looking over your shoulder, no authority to harass with your sob story. And why should there be? Your story isn’t published, so you won’t lose sales or profit; and your online writing ventures are usually not an integral part of your academic studies, so there probably won’t be a fail grade handed out there. If you’re writing online, you’re probably doing it for fun. What stings you when that work is plagiarised is simply that someone else is getting credit for something that you wrote; and in my opinion, giving credit where credit is due is of the utmost importance in writing and, more broadly, in life.

When my colleague voiced this concern, I made mention of my own experience with online plagiarism. Back in 2005, I discovered that someone was plagiarising my fanfic Lisa the Legend – and that they had been doing so for several years. (It was a shoddy job of plagiarism, too, I might add; the person in question simply replaced “Lisa” with their own name and posted it on another website – though in one chapter they forgot to do this and posted an entire chapter naming the main character as “Lisa”. Readers were not only confused, but disillusioned when they realised what was going on.) When I realised that someone had literally highlighted my story, copied it and pasted it somewhere else – and was lapping up favourable comments – I was livid. It didn’t matter to me that I technically hadn’t lost anything from being plagiarised: the fact was that the story I had worked hard on was now attributed to another person who had nothing to do with the creation of, or writing of, my story.

What can you do if you find out your work of online writing has been plagiarised? Not a lot; certainly nothing that exerts any sort of force over the other person. You can confront the writer directly and demand they remove the piece; or you could expose them as a fraud before their duped audience. But in the end, it doesn’t stop them from trying it on again tomorrow, on a different website, with a different writer’s stolen material.

We simply need to be aware of the parameters of writing on this thing called “the web”, especially in regard to original fiction. If we post a new fic, we open ourselves up to be potentially plagiarised by anyone. And that “anyone” may just grab your manuscript, rework it and, if they’re clever enough, get it published and make some money off it; and you may never know. Such is the phenomenon of online writing. (Incidentally, if you wish to publish something, posting it online is a very risky move, and could result in your piece not being publishable.)

However, being plagiarised doesn’t have to be a terrible thing for you as a writer. Though, in my experience, it can truly incense you and leave a very bitter taste in your mouth, it does end up reflecting more on the character of the plagiarist than anything else: most plagiarists are cowardly and insecure with their own writing. Plagiarism is both a malicious act of theft and an abject form of flattery. Moreover, being plagiarised doesn’t stop you writing your own story: I obviously didn’t abandon LTL after the incident in 2005, and there’s no reason to. I continue with the story because I wish to please myself and my readership on TPM; incidents of plagiarism outside of TPM are out of my control if I don’t know about them. In this case, ignorance can be both bliss and a blessing.

With works of original fiction, however, there could be more cause for deliberation, and indeed, more cause for concern. My colleague added that he was always careful about what ideas he ended up including in his online pieces, fearing that these could be plagiarised and he would lose possession of them; this then forced him to dilute his fic with sub-par ideas. In other words, out of fear that his ideas would be stolen or unpublishable, this writer sacrificed the quality of his online piece in order to preserve the potential future of an as-yet unwritten novel.

Each of us, as online writers, needs to make this decision – or a similar one – at some point in our careers. What is our approach to online writing? Do we write on the internet just for the joy of it? Or are we trying to work towards a goal of publication; and if so, are we aware of the risks involved if we post our stories online? Are we aware that we could be plagiarised? In the end, do we even care?

I wish you all luck in coming to your conclusions.







The Grammar Nazi – Passive-Aggressive
mr_pikachu


With all the homonyms, comma rules and parts of speech that grammar scholars love to throw in your face – or, depending on your English teacher, at your face – it is easy to forget about the nuanced yet critical distinction between active and passive sentences.

Most aspects of grammar are hard-and-fast rules. That is, while scholars may debate a few ambiguities and exceptions, the general idea is that breaking the rules is wrong. There is simply no good excuse for breaking these rules in fiction.

While active sentences are generally considered best, however, that doesn't necessarily make passive sentences incorrect. The terms are simply guidelines for skilled writers – so they should be perfect for you, right?

Let's briefly break down the meanings and differences between these two terms.

Active sentence: Uses the S-V-O structure (Subject-Verb-Object). The subject performs the action on the object. "Anne kicked Joe."

Passive sentence: Uses the O-V-S structure (Object-Verb-Subject), in which the subject comes after the object and action. "Joe was kicked by Anne."

Don't confuse passive sentences with the past tense. Passivity can come in any tense ("Joe is kicked by Anne" instead of "Anne kicks Joe"), while the past tense may clearly use either the active or passive forms. One does not imply the other.

As you can see, the passive sentence uses more words, a problem that almost always holds true. This lack of eloquence may weigh down the reader and make him or her lose whatever excitement your work may have held. Sure, the two extra words here don't look like much. An inattentive reader may not even notice the flaw (though why you would want your readers to be unfocused is beyond me). What's the big deal?

Here's the thing. If you carelessly mix your sentence structures, tossing in the passive form every other sentence, a moderately long novel could quickly add 50 pages of unnecessary words. There's no reason to bore your audience with such drivel. It's more work for you and it weakens your prose. So, rather than excuse individual errors like the one above, it's best to avoid passive speech altogether if you can.

This, however, brings about another conundrum. It would seem that passive speech is completely useless. Why structure your sentences in such an undesirable manner? Why would any teacher permit such a form in school, and why don't grammar scholars make a rule prohibiting its use altogether?

Well, sometimes you don't have a choice but to accept this lesser structure. Journalists are notorious for using terse, snappy sentences, but even they have to switch to passive speech in many crime stories. For that matter, any situation in which you have missing information can warrant passivity. "Somebody killed John," after all, sounds much weaker than "John was killed." If you don't know who is performing the action, it is often stupid to mention it.

In fact, strategic writers may choose to use passive verbs in order to weaken a few choice sentences. Again, that seems pointless in the vast majority of cases. On the other hand, how many times have you heard politicians say "Lives were lost," or "Mistakes were made"? Passive speech in these rare instances is specifically designed to take some of the emphasis away from those words, thus lessening their negative effect. Who made the mistake? Thanks to this tactic, the audience never has to know.

You probably don't want to be a boring speaker. If you're trying to persuade a crowd, though, you might like them to be a little inattentive as you gloss over the downsides.

Let's review. In active sentences, the subject appears first: "Lisa dribbled the basketball." This first item carries the weight of the sentence. Passive sentence reverse the order of the actor and the object: "The basketball was dribbled by Lisa." It doesn't matter what tense you use; this will add extra words – assuming, of course, that you have a clear subject.

Active sentences are better in general for keeping readers engaged, but passive sentences are helpful when you don't have a subject, as that unknown actor cannot carry the weight of the sentence, or if you want to downplay an aspect of the sentence. Rather than use a makeshift V-O structure, you can cite your sole remaining noun first in the O-V pattern.

"Somebody took the corn" is aesthetically uninspiring; for that matter, it may be wrong. Was it a person who took the corn? Maybe the dog was hungry. Perhaps the vegetable was outdoors and a raccoon swiped it. Hey, for all you know, maybe it just rolled away. It's fine to say, "The corn was taken." You could look very stupid otherwise.

"Somebody took the corn. Or maybe it was something that stole it. I mean an animal, not a person. Maybe it was a bear. Do bears eat corn? Hard to say. Anything could have done it, really. In fact, the corn might have wandered away of its own accord. What, does that sound silly to you? How should I know what happened? Nobody tells me anything! The corn is gone! It’s just gone, dang it! Leave me alone! "



http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/101205/passive-aggressive-dog-training.gif

mr_pikachu
3rd June 2008, 09:03 AM
...and in his monthly column our resident Grammar Whore, mr_pikachu, has a look at the distinction between, and use of, passive and active sentences.

...

Beware.

Okay, seriously. I really liked your article on plagiarism, Gavin, particularly since it was notably devoid of whoring. Very thought-provoking, as you covered a lot of the problems that exist beyond the bounds of the law. Plagiarism takes many forms, and all of them are horrid. It's a painful thing.

Another great interview by Gabi, as well. I wonder what it would be like to have a fic here entirely in another language... I seem to recall some rule against posting on TPM without an English translation, but it'd be an interesting experiment nonetheless.

This is the sort of issue that makes you look forward to the next one even more. ^_^

Blademaster
3rd June 2008, 11:11 AM
ROFL @ 'Grammar Whore.'

Congratulations, Brian: You now have a new nickname! :D

classy_cat18
3rd June 2008, 01:43 PM
He's a guy. He should at least be a Grammar Pimp.

I really enjoyed the conversation between both sides of the globe. It must've been kind of hard for one of them.

Houndoom_Lover
3rd June 2008, 05:21 PM
That was a good one artical! ^_^ I didn't finish mine, unfortunely, this time around, but there's always next time! ^___^ Anywho, I enjoyed reading this one, good job everyone!

firepokemon
3rd June 2008, 11:33 PM
These are certainly enjoyable to read. The interview was rather lovely to read and I see Darktyranitar also had some type of plan for the writing competition. So that makes MistySakura, darktyranitar, myself and I presume Houndoom_Lover was planning something as well. Oh well.

Gavin's two articles were interesting and one day hopefully I'll check this Lisa the Legend out. It'll probably be forever though. Once again I still have to read Mr. Pikachu's early grammar articles because well I need all the help I can get.

And congratulations to Mr. Pikachu on becoming the first one to enter the Fanfic Hall of Fame.