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mr_pikachu
1st April 2007, 01:56 AM
The FanFiction Forum E-zine
April 2007






Contents


State of the Forum
mr_pikachu

Conversations with the Stars – mr_pikachu
Lady Vulpix

Genesis of a Story: Tilting the Balance
Master of Paradox

The Grammar Nazi – It’s the Journey, not the Destination
mr_pikachu






State of the Forum
mr_pikachu


My fellow Fanficcers,

April will be an exciting month for our forum, as we are preparing to revive one of the most successful ventures in the history of Fanfic – besides the E-zine itself, of course. Unfortunately, I cannot yet reveal the nature of this project, but it will undoubtedly inspire your literary talents.

The Golden Pens are also looming on the horizon, so the best and brightest of TPM will undoubtedly begin jockeying for the attention of their readers.

We hope you look forward to this intense period in the saga of Fanfic.







Conversations with the Stars – mr_pikachu
Lady Vulpix


(23:16:51) Lady Vulpix: Alright, then. Let’s start with a different question this time. Since this is for the E-Zine and you’ve put so much work into it so far... how do you feel about it?

(23:20:53) mr_pikachu: Well, considering the trouble we had starting it, things have turned out amazingly well. We’ve been getting some great contributions that I honestly didn’t expect to be so good. You’ve done a great job with the interviews, for instance – I anticipated that someone might do them but just slap them together – and Master of Paradox’s analyses have also been quite insightful. I do wish we could get some more contributors, as we tend to scramble like crazy at the end of each month trying to collect enough articles for a decent issue. But all the articles we’ve gotten thus far are really good, and I’m proud to have been a part of that.

(23:23:58) Lady Vulpix: :) How do you normally get inspiration (for both articles and other things you’ve written)?

(23:32:28) You missed 2 messages from mr_pikachu because they were too large.

(23:32:46) Lady Vulpix: It says I missed 2 messages because they were too large.

(23:32:55) mr_pikachu: Well, let me cover the articles first, because that’s easier. As you may have noticed, my running column is all about grammar and its use in writing. One of my pet peeves is horrid use of grammar; that’s one of the reasons I detest fanfiction.net. They’re overloaded with tons of garbage that has to be deciphered in order to be read. Needless to say, if a piece requires a translation, it probably isn’t written well enough to be worth the effort. That’s one of the things I’m trying to convey – impressions count! Whether it looks bad to an audience or to an editor, people aren’t going to waste time on your work if it isn’t easily read. I see too many decent enough works that get ignored because they lack this basic feature, so I’ve made it a mission of sorts to help writers improve. I do wonder sometimes, though, if any members of my target audience actually read that column.

(23:33:03) mr_pikachu: As for my prose, I’ll get inspiration from just about any source. Sometimes it comes from something I saw on TV. Maybe I’ll see a potential subplot in a news article (although it’s usually news from the internet, since I don’t watch television news or read the papers often these days). It could be a mood that I developed from listening to a particular song. Maybe I read someone else’s work and said, “You know, that would be a lot better if this part had been expanded,” and then tried it myself. And sometimes it comes from my own past. A lot of crazy stuff has happened to me over the years, so my memories are almost always a treasure trove of information.

(23:33:10) mr_pikachu: (My apologies.)

(23:38:18) Lady Vulpix: Hehe. I can relate to not knowing if anyone is reading. Do you always post replies to the FanFic topics you read?

(23:46:53) You missed 2 messages from mr_pikachu because they were too large.

(23:47:02) mr_pikachu: Nowadays, I almost always do. The way I see it, people can’t improve on their work if they don’t know what can be improved. It’s just common courtesy to give them a little guidance if they take the time and effort to show you what they can do. If they spend hours and hours writing something, the least you can do is take five minutes to comment on it. Unfortunately, I haven’t had as much time as I would like to read fics lately… school is really becoming aggravating.

(23:47:13) mr_pikachu: I’m going to diverge from the question momentarily to make a point, if it’s okay. I think it can be difficult to know how to reply to fics. Yes, I go by the philosophy that absolutely anything can be improved; no literary work is without some flaws. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good points, as well. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when we really want a writer to improve. There are always problems, and they should be addressed. But people probably aren’t going to keep writing if every reply they get is an outright flame. I’m not condoning ego-boosting like the kind that seems to occur on most fanfiction sites, because that does nothing to help the writers improve. But when people comment on the bad parts of a fic, they ought to mention some good things as well. Not only does that lessen the blow of criticisms (and make writers more receptive to them), but it also provides a useful contrast between what is already good and what really needs to be developed. That helps each writer to create a strong, yet well-balanced writing style.

(23:48:23) Lady Vulpix: Can you remember any advice that has helped you in the past?

(23:48:57) mr_pikachu: Just to clarify, do you mean in terms of my writing, or my responses to others?

(23:49:31) Lady Vulpix: To your writing.

(00:01:00) mr_pikachu: Well, the first fic I ever wrote was a short piece called “Misty Returns!” I think the number of chapters (13) really signified how poor it was in comparison to the other works in Fanfic. If I recall correctly, my chapters averaged less than a page in Word, and the plot as a whole was sorely lacking. The whole thing was a basic Pokéshipping fic, really, with very few reasonable twists.

(00:01:07) mr_pikachu: Aside from being told to develop my plotlines more, the comments about my fic’s frequent absurdity really stuck with me. Just to summarize, at one point Ash went into cardiac arrest shortly after being blasted by Pikachu’s electricity. That was the most serious moment of the fic; after all, death is a very somber subject. But this was in sharp contrast to Ash locking himself inside a safe room with no way to escape, Brock sprinting from city to city with very cartoonish speed, Misty jumping through a glass window to get to an unconscious Ash (that wasn’t supposed to be ridiculous, but it was), and a slew of utterly horrible one-liners. I could’ve easily been verbally assaulted for that, but instead people simply told me to consider my plot twists more carefully and to make them fit the rest of the fic. My poor blend of extreme seriousness and stupid comedy simply didn’t work, and reviewers told me that point-blank.

(00:02:01) mr_pikachu: Ironically, I think a few people also told me to work on my grammar, and they were right to do so. Now it’s one of my pet peeves.

(00:02:17) Lady Vulpix: Hehe. Funny how things work out.

(00:03:33) Lady Vulpix: But how do you manage to have a lengthy and detailed answer for every question?

(00:05:42) mr_pikachu: Well, I’m typing most of them in Word before I respond. That way, I can safely review their contents and make sure they’re adequate. It’s a perfectionist thing. And maybe it has a little to do with ranting, as well.

(00:07:07) Lady Vulpix: As long as the post doesn’t max out... ;) Ok, let’s change the subject. What do you enjoy reading the most?

(00:15:36) Lady Vulpix: Are you still there?

(00:15:52) mr_pikachu: Yes, I’m just busy writing my response.

(00:16:02) Lady Vulpix: Ok, now I’m afraid.

(00:16:11) mr_pikachu: Don’t be. ^_^

(00:24:55) mr_pikachu: Well, in terms of fanfics, I love Lisa the Legend by Gavin Luper. That fic has completely transformed since its inception, so much so that I can honestly envision Gavin being published someday. It started as an everyday trainer fic, grew a little into a battle between the heroes and Team Rocket, and then enveloped a massive backstory that now defines the fic. The character development has really improved (I never would have expected Gavin, the character, to change so much), and the overall plot is just outstanding.

(00:25:07) mr_pikachu: dratinihaunter13 definitely needs to be mentioned here. Many people have read his recent comedy sketches, and those are quite good. But I really wish he’d continue Damon’s Menace. That was one of the best dark fics I’ve ever read on TPM. His plotline was decent enough, but the way he delved into the psyches of his characters was fantastic. I’ve tried to incorporate that into my current works, but it’s difficult.

(00:25:26) mr_pikachu: Dragonfree is another strong writer who has really grown since the original version of Quest for the Legends. It’s still a trainer fic at its roots, but the writing style has developed a lot since its origination. Dragonfree has added a lot more detail to her recent works, and that always helps for establishing scenes.

(00:25:41) mr_pikachu: If you want to delve into major classics, I loved When Destinies Collide by Citrus Crush Chikorita (now Last Exile). That fic really got dark in a hurry, and it used the full gamut of emotions to make things exciting. It’s a shame that it was scrapped just before the conclusion, because I would’ve loved to have seen how CCC would have closed the book. I still recommend it to people sometimes; it made that much of an impression on me.

(00:25:56) mr_pikachu: As for real-life authors, I’m a major fan of Eoin Colfer. He’s an Irish author whose most notable works are those of the Artemis Fowl series. One of his best qualities, I think, is his ability to make things very dramatic without relying on adult language, sexuality, and so forth. (He does use the made-up curse “D’Arvit,” but I’ll let that slide.) It’s a very accessible book for almost any audience, I think. In fact, he’s the only reason I ever stray into the children’s section of my local bookstore – most kids can read it, but it’s great for more mature audiences, as well. He also meshes technology and fantasy with remarkable skill, and that’s something I’ve tried to adopt into a few of my own projects.

(00:28:01) Lady Vulpix: Hm... I guess I’ll have to check that one out. Ok, I think that if this gets much longer, it won’t fit in one issue. So... any final words to the readers?

(00:34:33) mr_pikachu: Hey, I can always present the issue over multiple posts.

I guess my only comment is to tell fanficcers not to give up. If they’re posting in Fanfic here on TPM, they’re going to get some criticism, because we’re one of the toughest fanfiction boards on the internet. But getting criticism doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good. Think about the comments you receive and how you can improve based on those suggestions. If you get really good at writing, start looking around more for inspiration. Don’t just watch TV and try to remember the things you see there. Talk to people and ask them what they like to read. Look at the work of others and try to appropriate their techniques for yourself. Try different styles to see what works best for various effects. You might even carry around a journal so you don’t lose any brilliant ideas because you weren’t sitting in front of your computer. And practice, practice, practice. The more you write, the better you’ll get.

Who knows? If you keep working on it, you may even be published one day.







Genesis of a Story: Tilting the Balance
Master of Paradox


Many of you have likely looked at my story, Yu-Gi-Oh: Tilting the Balance, and asked yourself, "How did he come up with this?" (I flatter myself thinking that; many more have likely asked themselves, "What sort of madman could...") I feel it would be enlightening to both the readers and myself to answer that question, and so I shall. For the benefit of my readers and any younger authors who wonder how a more experienced fanfiction writer works, I will now detail the creation of the story titled "Yu-Gi-Oh: Tilting the Balance" (hereafter called TTB).

But I will open with a caveat: Tilting the Balance had a slightly unusual birth, made all the more out of the ordinary by being filtered through the maelstrom I call my brain. Others who try going about it the way I did, your mileage may vary. In addition, my memory is patchy on several points. Be warned.

First Conception: TTB had a very simple origin - I wanted to create a story to feature the character of Gerald Laxina, whom I had created as a user character for Brian Corvello's "Yu-Gi-Oh: The Thousand-Year Door" (TYD). Thus, TTB's genesis began with the character. Let us turn to how I came up with him.

Brian had begun the story before I registered on Pokemasters, and had called for user characters shortly after it started. The two of us began to converse shortly after the submission period ended, developing an Internet friendship.

Near the end of the first act of TYD, one of the user character submitters dropped out of sight, and their character (for reasons I can't recall) became unusuable. Seeing no other choice, Brian asked if I would like to submit a character to replace that one. I agreed, and turned my mind to the character I would like to make.

Most characters in Yu-Gi-Oh fanfiction are very driven, ambitious figures, out to win at all costs (short of cheating) and fueled by a boundless enthusiasm for the game. I decided to create a character who was the polar opposite of all that jazz, someone who couldn't care less how it turned out. Taking this a step further, I made him lazy as all get-out, someone who, should sleeping become an Olympic sport, could sleep for their country.

With that in mind, I began to flesh out the character. The name came first: I gave him the first name "Gerald" because I like the name, simple as that; his last name, Laxina, contains the word "lax", or slack, as his personality. (It is not coincidental that Snorlax contains the same word.) I gave him very bland physical characteristics, and made his favorite color (and clothing) gray, the universal "blah" color. The last touch was his deck theme - I gave him Final Countdown, as once it got started, all he would have to do is not lose before time ran out.

After giving him a rudimentary backstory (he didn't need it expanded until TTB), I sent the character to Brian, and Brian proceeded to use him about as I had envisioned him, albeit with a few too many exclamation points. And that was that, for a while.

Around Christmas 2004, I finished my story "Shadow Realm: Fifteen" (the genesis of which is a story for another time). Following the holidays, I decided to begin another story. It was at this time that I realized Gerald had fascinating potential, and I began to plot a story in my head based around him. Usually, these mental stories ("thought experiments", as I call them) never leave my mind, but this time I could not resist, and snatched up a nearby notebook. I opened my pen and moved to the next step.

Plot and Character Brainstorm: The first thing written into the notebook was a five-paragraph summary of what, it turned out, would be the prologue and first two chapters of the story. It was essentially the backstory, leaving me room to fill in the details as time passed. Off of this base, I began to devise characters, beginning by recapping how I saw Gerald changing over the story, and then coming up with his allies.

I had decided early on that Gerald would be the only TYD character to appear in this story (later I added cameos from Merlee, and another TYD character was added into the plot to fill a hole much further on), so I had to come up with the entire cast myself. Two of them, the other members of the Three-Man Band, were already in existence by the time I finished the plot summary (although Chad changed drastically between his original brainstorm and the actual writing). I cannot recall when I decided to add Lucifer Allumette, a character from my stillborn earlier works; he does not appear in the notebook, so I'm left to conclude he was a "throw-in" during the writing process.

With the allies in place, I had to come up with a number of enemies, this being a duel-based story. Since I had decided before even writing the summary that I would not be writing a tournament-based story, I needed some reason for all of them to oppose the heroes. The first enemy character I came up with Jean-Vic Viper, and as I wrote a capsule description of him, I wrote, "...infected by the Darkness..." At the time, I had just needed a short way to imply this wasn't his idea, but that spiraled up and into the idea of the Darkness Infection as a whole. (Writer's Rule #898: Always be receptive to the small ideas that want to grow bigger. The better writer that lives in your head may be sending you a message.)

At this point, I just let the ideas flow. Almost every character I came up with at this stage found their way into TTB at one point or another. Many would be altered as the plot developed (Bethany's infertility, for example, was originally supposed to be deliberately caused by Degas); some changed in appearance (Hanzaki's original description describes him as "snappily-dressed"; I have no clue when I changed that aspect); many changed deck themes as I decided to show off different strategies (Ida and Vivienne both suffered this fate repeatedly; in the final version, when Vivienne is trying to settle on a deck theme, the ones she throws aside are ones I originally considered for her).

With the characters in place (at least for now - half the cast was added after this brainstorming session was long done), it came time to work out just what they were all doing here. Coming up with character ideas helped considerably, as I had come up with contexts for many of them that formed a rough "plot skeleton". Sitting down, I began to devise just how the story would arc out. Eventually, I decided to do what I often do - start writing and let the plot build itself.

Open Writing Process: The last step, which is still continuing on, was actually writing the story. I began with a prologue that would show the events of Monster Island from Gerald's point of view - which, of course, meant not much would happen in the prologue, as Gerald rarely does much anyway. After that came the story proper.

Detailing the writing itself is not necessary - how much difference is there between how I tap keys and how you do? Some of the ways I work are worth discussing, though.

I never bother to outline a story from beginning to end before I sit down to write. I likely will change this when I finally decide to write the Great American Novel, but for fanfiction purposes I like flexibility. Thus, the story has changed and mutated on me as I work on it, much like "Shadow Realm: Fifteen" before it. Originally, I did not outline the duels, either, but this changed with the climatic duel between Laura and Graz'zt; I liked the stability of a prepared series of events so much that I now outline every duel that occurs.

One of the hazards of having no outline is that your story is very likely to be influenced by what you're doing at the moment. This has some very interesting consequences, especially with regards to pop culture leakage. The appearance of dueling video game characters, for example, started with two unrelated events - my renting the game Capcom vs. SNK 2 from the local video store and the official release of the Destiny Heroes. Taking a liking to the character Geese Howard, I decided to include him in the story, giving him the Destiny Heroes. The release of the first Alien cards and my corresponding purchase of Metroid Prime led to Samus Aran's appearance in the story, as well. Minor events are not the only results of this influence - one of the most dramatic chapters in the story, Graz'zt's aforementioned duel with Laura, came about because of my reading the Dungeons and Dragons supplement Book of Vile Darkness.

While it is a risky thing to work freehand like this, sometimes it can greatly improve the story. At one point, I had considered inserting a thinly-disgused version of myself into the story to duel against Gerald, wielding a deck composed of my favorite cards. I began to write the duel, but soon stagnated and decided the idea was unsound. I scrapped the duel and all reference to "J.E.O.", and instead considered another path. Although I cannot recall the exact chain of thought that led to its birth, the final result of this rejection of the plan was Chapter Fourteen, "Sinner", the turning point of the entire story's mood.

As you can see, my creative process is as uncouth as I am. If any young writers out there take inspiration from my method, well... Ultros preserve us.







The Grammar Nazi – It’s the Journey, not the Destination
mr_pikachu


(The Grammar Nazi is not affiliated in any way with Nazi Germany or Adolf Hitler.)

A comma, not to be confused with a Japanese Kama blade, is arguably the most misused punctuation mark in the English language. As such, we will spend a significant amount of time discussing it.

While there are many different ways to use a comma, they all involve dividing separate parts of a sentence. Since the rules for commas are so vast, only a small portion of their most common uses (and misuses) will be covered.


The first of these uses is to set aside an introductory word or phrase. I assume all of us have read fairy tales that began with “Once upon a time,” right? Well, that is one of many possible introductory phrases that can begin a sentence. A sentence with an introductory phrase might be posed as follows:

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived with her stepmother and three stepsisters.

The introductory phrase isn’t completely necessary, as the same basic idea could be presented by saying, “There was once a girl who lived with her stepmother and three stepsisters.” But sometimes an introductory word or phrase can be useful for aesthetic purposes. In this case, it sets the tone of the story.


Commas can also be used for parenthetical phrases, or thought interruptions. These come in well over a dozen different varieties, only a few of which will be listed.

Original sentence: My little brother beat me in a game of chess.

Address (identifies to whom the person is speaking): My little brother beat me in a game of chess, John.

Interjection (adds an interjection): My little brother beat me in a game of chess, dang it!

Aside (adds an unrelated comment): My little brother, in case you didn’t know, beat me in a game of chess.

Appositive (adds a static description of the subject): My little brother, a horrible kid with a bad attitude, beat me in a game of chess.

Free modifier (adds a description of the action to the end): My little brother beat me in a game of chess, concentrating harder than I’ve ever seen.

These can be used in the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence, as long as doing so would not violate another rule of grammar. It should be noted that each phrase is set apart from the rest by commas. Parenthetical phrases that end sentences only need to be preceded by a comma, those that begin a sentence should end with a comma, and those in the middle need commas before and after their appearance.


Next, commas can separate two independent clauses that are joined by a conjunction. Consider the following examples.

Correct: I like marshmallows, but I don’t like chocolate.
Note that each clause could be a distinct sentence: “I like marshmallows. I don’t like chocolate.”

Incorrect: I like marshmallows, but not chocolate.
If the clauses are divided, we have: “I like marshmallows. Not chocolate.” Technically, you could write this as a bit of creative license, but it is not grammatically correct since the second sentence is actually a fragment. As such, the second clause is dependent on the first and should not be set aside by a comma.

Correct: I like marshmallows but not chocolate.
This is the proper way to join these two thoughts if the second one is left as a dependent clause.

It should be noted that commas can separate a dependent and an independent clause if the dependent clause comes first. Observe:

After they won the game, the team stormed the field.
The first clause is dependent on the second, since you cannot correctly say “After they won the game.” But it is followed by an independent clause, so they should be connected by a comma. Also note that in this case, no conjunction is needed before the second clause.


Finally, commas can coordinate adjectives that directly and equally modify a noun. If the same meaning would be present if the adjectives were switched or if the word “and” was placed between them, then a comma is warranted. Consider the following examples:

The large, sturdy cauldron was in the dungeon.
The cauldron was large, and the cauldron was sturdy. The adjectives modify the noun equally, and you could easily say “The sturdy, large cauldron.”

The small spider monkey leapt from tree to tree.
Using a comma here would be incorrect. Spider monkeys are a breed of monkey, so the beginning of this sentence is not interchangeable with “The spider small monkey…” Nor would “The small and spider monkey…” make any sense.


There are many other uses for commas beyond the ones listed here. For instance, they can be used in giving dates, in representing long numbers, in omitting certain words, in ending quotations, or in making lists like this one. But these are the most commonly misused uses for commas. The other areas are will be a discussion for another day.

Gavin Luper
1st April 2007, 04:48 AM
Awesome issue guys! Well done Brian for co-ordinating it all again, as well as for the latest Grammar Nazi segment (which reminded me of a tutorial I had at Uni recently), and to Master of Paradox and Lady Vulpix for their articles, which were, as usual, very enjoyable.

And Brian, since I can't find either an 'embarrassed' or a 'flattered' smilie, this will have to do. :s: :keke:

Cheers!

Chris 2.1
1st April 2007, 07:15 AM
Great edition. Mr P's interview was really really interesting, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. That was the part of the article that stuck out to me the most I'd say.

Go Mr_P!