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29 September 2004 @ 08:11 pm
First star on the right, and straight on till metorite...  

It's a hard knock life, being an art student.

Was in fact, bloody cold and bloody wet. We had to partake in land art, which is the most pointless form of art in existance excepting perhaps anything by Mark Rothko. The brief was 'Ritual Art'. As my group consisted of myself (18), Mary (19), Niamh (19), Michelle (21), Joanne (19) and Anthony (12,002, roughly) we picked 'extra-terrestrial' as our 'divine force' and '[human] sacrifice' as our site's worship practice. Everyone else chose fertility and the wheel of life and the moon. They're that sort. I like to think I am a crazying influence.

Turned out Anthony was a UFOlogist. So that was good. Our 'temple' was the biggest (and best), consisting of about twenty hundred crop circles (in sand). My contribution was to make a sacrificed human out of seaweed in one of the inner circles.

Onto Sr. Loquacious! (The influence of Good Omens going strong...)

We had Art Appreciation yesterday and it was boring, but after all the two things are synonyms. This woman, or henceforth SL, decided to show off after EVERY slide, saying things like 'Isn't it amazing, the vigour portrayed here when Christian art afterwards was so stiff and rigid?' (slide of horse at Lascaux), 'At this time people were hanging pictures of dead birds' (Courbet's 'Stone Breakers'), 'Oh-ar, you should visit the Rothko Red Room at the Tate, it's so moving, he wants you to FEEL the emotion [of a bloody canvas painting entirely in dirty red and NOTHING ELSE]' (after one of Rothko's disgraces on canvas that pass for art). It was like, 'Woman, why the hell are you saying all this?!!?' and 'Why don't you give the lecture, you freak?'

She sat behind me on the bus to Inchydony beach so I got to hear her every word. And man were there a lot of those, the poor poor woman sitting beside her couldn't get a word in. Nothing she said was of the faintest interest to anyone but herself. As it happens, she can't even claim all her silly opinions for her own...she blooming well stole them off an Open University course she did. Talk about parroting...!

Operation Keel Sr. Loquacious goes into action starting NOW.

After my last post I did some thinking (mainly on buses, which are very conducive to it) and came up with a guide. For anyone reading it, suggestions, comments, alterations, ammendations and contributions would be appreciated before I offer it humbly to Lumos Dissendium, deleterius and anyone else ye lads can think of...because I'm for real here, I want to help Sues...

Perhaps medication is called for, but instead you get this.


There is no certified authority on who can and cannot name themselves experts in fan fiction. To back up my claims, however, I thought I had better explain the reason for this guide.

I have been in this fandom for quite some time, and I like it a lot. I don’t tend to frequent other fandoms because the word ‘Buffy’ scares me, and multi-fandomers have a propensity for dipping into it ever such a lot. I read voraciously. In RL, (due to a record kept in July 2004, a boring month) I discovered I read on average twelve books a month. Within the fandom, I went from reading G-rated het to indulging in NC-17-rated slash. In the end, most good writers and unbiased readers tend to gravitate towards slash. There are a multitude of reasons why many writers prefer this genre; in my own case, I find it more of a challenge. Being in its early stages (you don’t exactly get gay chick-lit, if you catch my drift) of development, it is mercifully free of clichés which have dogged run-of-the-mill het romance for centuries. This is not to say that it isn’t without its faults, but they can be summed up in one word: the authors.

However, this is not meant to a rant on the relative merits of slash versus het. While I prefer one personally, I read both, and am at heart a multi-shipper. I have few biases and fewer squicks. This being the case, I have delved into nearly every sub-genre and little-known ship that exists. One thing is common to all: bad writing.

Recently, I’ve started hanging out at the lj communities deleterious and pottersues. If you have an lj, you may have come across them. You may, indeed, have found yourself the victim of sporkage there. I love sporking. But I felt somewhat indebted to these Sues, who provide me with so much entertainment, and I felt I should give something back to the Sue community by writing this little guide. The do’s and don’ts of producing Non-Sue Fiction, from someone who has read a few good stories and hundreds of Sues, both in and outside the fandom. So, in no particular order, here are my main quibbles.

(BTW this doesn’t apply, really, to PWPs, as by their own account they neither want nor need a plot or any of a plot’s associated necessities.)



(Not to be taken as NAME FORESHORTENING, dealt with in the next point.)

- Very few people in HP canon have nicknames. The one that springs to mind is Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody. In RL, most people don’t get foisted with nicknames, and they are mostly used, not by friends, but by enemies. In almost all cases, they are cruel. Think ‘Josie Grossie’. Think, indeed, on a lesser scale, of Fred and George’s ‘Ronnikins’, and Draco’s ’Scarhead’. THE MORAL: Don’t give your characters nicknames.

- Pet names are plain stupid. Not only are the pairings in which they are most prevalent - such as Draco/Ginny and Draco/Hermione - the least likely to use them, following logically from the character’s personalities, but anyone with half a brain and a social awareness would not let someone call them ‘Poo-Bear’ or ‘Dracikins‘. THE MORAL: No pet names. Ever.



- Never, ever, shorten canon character names. It’s annoying to read, it’s annoying to see, and it’s OOC. (Ooh, rhyming. Go me.) Hermione is the most common victim. Now take a moment to think about this. Her name is pronounced ‘Her-my-own-ee’. Not ‘Hermy-own’ (as I once thought myself). Therefore, it is technically impossible to use ‘Mione’ as a nickname. Likewise ‘Herm’, although more logical, for me conjures up images of worms and sperm. This is even ignoring the blatant canon evidence which proves that all characters are addressed by their full names (even Fred and Bill, as JK has not yet stated if their names are Frederic and William or not). In fact, if you reflect on the most recent conversations you’ve had with your friends, you’ll find that often you’ll use their name at most twice - to say hello and to say goodbye to them. So why on earth would you shorten their name, in the majority of cases? THE MORAL: Please, no Herm, Mione, Drake, Sev, Remy, Siri, etc, for the sake of your reader’s sanity.



- Eye colour. Here I’ll take poor Harry and his benighted ‘emerald eyes’. It happens to be the most annoying one for me, as I have green eyes, and they’re about as far from emerald as it is possible to be. Green eyes do not equal emerald eyes. The only way he’d achieve that was if he invested in a pair of Johnson and Johnson contacts, and as yet they are unavailable in prescription (bah humbug). There are better synonyms for green, if you must have them, equally for blue (no sapphire), grey (no silver!), hazel (honey? Please) and black (not a common offender, I’ll admit). If you can help it, avoid reference to eye colour at all. Anyone who’s read the books and is interested enough to come to the fandom will know them already, and repeating them plus inane adjectives will not make them warm to your fic. THE MORAL: Stay away from jewels when it comes to picking alternative names for colour.

- Quit with using eyes as a gage for everything from lust to stupidity. Eyes make up quite a small part of the human face, and if you’re honest you’ll know that eye colour and sparkle and confusion and what have you, all these things that authors love to project through those overworked body parts, is in reality impossible to see. Not only because it’s not even there, but because generally you’d be too far away from someone’s eyes to see if they are ‘burning with lust’ or ‘incandescent with rage’. After all, there’s a reason it’s called ‘body’ language and not ‘eye’ language - because you project your emotions through your WHOLE BODY, not just your eyes. THE MORAL: Try focusing on other body parts for a change.



- THE MORAL: No makeovers for anyone at any time ever. Just, no.

- Again, in RL it is rare to find someone who is truly ‘stunningly beautiful’. Some people are pretty, if they are lucky. Most people are simply okay. THIS IS A FACT! If you find someone attractive, it will be down to a combination of factors. Yes, you might like their appearance, but not necessarily because they are beautiful but because you find them, for one reason or another, visually interesting, as well as generally liking their personality and actions. It is people’s imperfections that make them who they are. If you write your character as a formulaic Barbie doll, not only do you conform to a tired personality thumbnail that no one even bought the first time around, but you make anyone who becomes romantically involved with them shallow and petty. This is not to say you cannot describe your character in positive terms - just not in gushing ones! Here’s my take on Draco, continually portrayed as a Sex God for no discernable reason: ‘Although still bearing an unfortunate resemblance to the rat species, Draco’s face had matured somewhat as his nose caught up with his chin. He was now a little less than ‘of a pleasing countenance’, at least when he forgot to sneer.’ THE MORAL: When it comes to appearance description, think canon and think beyond the box.

- I can’t believe I have to say this…but I do. Here goes. THE ACTORS WHO PLAY HP CHARACTERS ARE NOT THEMSELVES THE CHARACTERS. In case that doesn’t get it across: Draco is not Tom Felton, Harry is not Daniel Radcliffe. Hermione is not Emma Watson, Snape is not Alan Rickman, and before the inevitable avalanche of Voldemort-love fics begin, Voldemort IS NOT Ralph Fiennes. I can only assume that this misapprehension under which many authors labour provides the seed for Draco’s Sex God-hood, Hermione’s frequent babe-transformations and Snape’s suddenly mellifluous voice, and so on ad infinitum depending on what any or all of these actors do for you personally. THE MORAL: Try sticking to the books, because the movies aren’t and never will be canon (mainly because in canon Harry isn’t made of cardboard…sorry…).



- I myself add a few lyrics to the start of fics to set the mood. This can be a pitfall, though. Like me, you may find that some words in a song sum up what you feel the fic, overall, is about. Well, confine yourself to them and don’t put in more than five lines of the song, tops. Otherwise you will lose people’s interest and they will not get the gist of what you’re trying to put across. THE MORAL: Maximum five, people!

- Songfics aren’t a branch of fanfic I’m overly familiar with, or indeed sold on. Well and good if that is what you are writing, however. If it’s not, resist the urge to transcribe large sections of songs into the middle of your fics! EXCEPT in songfics, the fic is supposed to be something YOU wrote. Readers are not interested in trawling through reams of lyrics from songs they may very well dislike, even if you think they are necessary. This becomes even more crucial when your fics are short, from one to four pages in Word. A large amount of song lyrics often makes the fic seem unbalanced. THE MORAL: Song chunks are not a good plot device.

- In terms of songs you might have your characters listen to - a reasonable enough deviation from canon given that JK has again not specified her character’s musical tastes - please keep in mind that Harry’s generation attended Hogwarts in the early to mid nineties, and the Marauders, the seventies. For authenticity and to avoid really annoying readers who know a lot about music, put in a little research so that you don’t end up having Harry listening to Evanescence, or Sirius to Nirvana. The nineties bands, off the top of my head, might include Blur, Oasis, Take That, Wet Wet Wet (for the girls, perhaps) and even the Spice Girls. I’m even less sure on the Seventies, but I believe you’d be safe with bands like the Beatles, Abba and Led Zeppelin. THE MORAL: If in doubt, leave it out!



- Draco Malfoy is a nasty little git in the books. Along with me, many authors find him an interesting character to write. And an easy character to get wrong. (This advice could probably apply to any Death Eater). No matter where you decide to start your fic, you HAVE TO make Draco an obnoxious twerp in the beginning. Also, if you decide to go the line of making Draco start to think for himself, please don’t make this a road-to-Damascus type-jobbie, and if possible NOT at the instigation or from the influence of Gryffindorian love. I just reread OotP, and from what I’ve seen he quite likes his status as a Death Eater in Training and Generalissimo Gryffindor Taunter. Try to come up with something plausible to explain his conversion rather than hurrying it aside as something to explicate in a sentence before getting onto the more important Draco/Ginny Harry Snape Blaise Ron Pansy Hermione etc etc fluff. THE MORAL: Never forget Draco’s git-hood.

- The ‘Draco is sent to kill [insert love interest here] by Voldemort but decides he can’t, after all’ plot line is very, very tired. So tired it is nearly DEAD. THE MORAL: RIP.

- Draco is a wizard who hates Muggles. THE MORAL: Why the leather trousers, people?



- Ginny seems a jolly, well-adjusted and sensible girl. She has recovered from her brush with Voldemort to become a little wiser, but that is all. By my own account, and that of most Ginny-shippers (I don’t rank among them, incidentally) she is neither a shameless whore nor equipped with any sort of Dark Radar. THE MORAL: If you can’t write a Ginny who isn’t pathetic, sluttish or Tainted by the Dark, don’t write her at all.



- Is a very angry young chap. Not overly given to being emotional or sappy. THE MORAL: WeepyTouchyFeely!Harry MUST DIE.

- In the five books written from his POV, hasn’t shown much sign of living in the gutter. In fact I’d say he is quite sheltered from all matters sexual, and thus, even had he the vocabulary, which he DOESN’T, would not refer to anyone as having a ‘hot ass’ or equivalent. THE MORAL: The whole point of writing is to write people who are different in personality from yourself. This means trying to see through their eyes AS OPPOSED TO grafting your personality onto theirs. This is called self-inserting and is the hitherto unmentioned Eighth Deadly Sin.



- Oh, god, the man is a bad-tempered recluse living in a dungeon. I really doubt that he has a wild and secret sex life in the past, present or future. Work with him as he’s presented to you. Trust me, greasy hair can be sexy (look at Ed Byrne. *drool*) to the right person. You decide who that is, but I doubt he’ll suddenly metamorphose into a Calvin Klein model for them, no matter who they are. THE MORAL: Snape is neither nice nor pretty. A person, not a pin-up, like everyone else, remember?



- Hermione is bossy and likes reading. One summer would not be enough to turn her into an eyelash-batting bimbo who suddenly decides to swap books for boy babes (of which there is canonically only one at Hogwarts - Cedric - up until he died, that is). One LIFETIME would not be enough to do that. THE MORAL: This is generally known as canon rape, and is punishable by extensive sporkage. (Hermione is a Main Character, better known and better loved AS SHE IS by most readers.)



- Remus is a werewolf. This is not cool or hot, but a life-threatening and dangerous disease that could be likened to AIDs in the real world. Lycanthropy is often misrepresented as a ‘living on the edge of cool’ sort of disease. Well, you could say the same of HIV but it certainly is not looking at the whole picture. THE MORAL: Lycanthropy is a vilified condition, not a method of pulling.

- Remus/Sirius is often touted as being THE canon slash ship. This may be true but there are few things worse than people who doggedly insist that it is so. One of the worse things is people who, for one reason or another, cannot handle slash or cannot write it, and instead resort to turning either Remus or Sirius into a girl. (Ditto for Harry or Draco.) This idea is so ludicrous, at least the way in which it is always presented, that all you will achieve by using it is gangs of slashers grabbing their sporks and pitchforks while muttering, ‘If you wanted R and S together why don’t you just PUT THEM TOGETHER?’ THE MORAL: If you like the idea of Remus/Sirius but not the fact of them both being male, DON’T just decide one of them should be suddenly turned female (before the fic even starts, in many cases), because in the end it takes all the interest out of that particular ship.

- Sirius IS good-looking. So fangirl/boy away. Oddly enough, Sirius is almost always characterised best by bad writers, probably because in many ways he is such an obnoxious Sue. (Don’t get me wrong, I like him, but I can’t think of another reason why Suethors get him right so often.) THE MORAL: Just keep doin’ what you’re doin’…



- Author notes are never, ever necessary. They break the continuum and are annoying in the extreme. You don’t see Tolkien popping up beside Sam and saying merrily, ‘I had quite a few pints earlier today and I’m feeling quite tipsy!’ Or JK wandering into a classroom giggling about how much sugar she’s consumed. And so on and so on. You want to talk about your life, get a live journal. THE MORAL: If real authors don’t do it, why should you? (ONE exception: parodies.)

- To avoid making basic errors in slash writing cliché, I would advise you to checkout arrmaitee’s live journal on which he has a list (on the side panel) of the 10 Worst Mistakes Newbies Make When Trying to write slash porn. Even if you don’t plan on writing porn, this will still help clear up the direction your fic may be taking. THE MORAL: Go. He sums it up more defintively than I ever could.

- Putting your love interests sitting together in Potions has been done to death. THE MORAL: Snape is no matchmaker.

- The fandom is a small place and almost no idea remains unique to one person for long. I suppose once upon a time Polyjuice, project partners and Head Boys and Girls having adjoining rooms were brilliantly original. This is no longer the case. Fair enough if you think you can add something new to an old formula. Some of the best stories out there provide nothing newer than a different take on an old method, plus good writing. But if you are simply lazy and want to get your characters together in the quickest manner possible, then you might as well try to think up an alternative modus operandi, as I doubt you’ll be adding anything else of worth to the fandom. THE MORAL: Like in any exam, twisting what you know to suit yourself gets the best results.

- Pepper Jack Cheese. Once, an author mentioned that she liked the stuff, and hence so did the character she was raping writing. Giving someone tastes, traits or belongings simply because you have/would like to have them is not only pointless, but obvious and irritating. So leave them out! THE MORAL: Wish-lists to be sent to Amazon or Santa Claus, not cut and pasted into your fic.

- Angst. Alert: important notice! ALMOST ALL pairings in the HP fandom are angsty! Even the ones in which Good Versus Evil doesn’t come into play - thinking Molly/Arthur, Tonks/Remus, Ron/Hermione - the nature of the characters is such that arguments are inevitable. When it comes to ships like Remus/Lucius, Harry/AnyDeathEater, Draco/Hermione, I beg you, leave the fluff to what it’s best at, ie adorning those hard-to-reach places behind the sofa. In addition, all cross-generational fics MUST HAVE a measure of angst simply due to the age gap involved. No one just jumps into a relationship with some one of their father’s generation without agonizing over it at least a little beforehand. THE MORAL: Angst is par for the course in Potterland.

- Oh, and plots ARE good things to have…but if you outline them all line first sentence of your fic, you leave yourself precious little to do afterwards. THE MORAL: A little suspense never hurt anybody.



- Obviously, there are more American fanfic writers than there are anyone else, and I have inured myself to their (or your) blatant discrimination against the letter ‘u’. Some things slip under the radar. Some definitively do not. These include putting American slang in the mouths of British schoolchildren, use of words like ‘cookie’ when you must know that the common British/European/Australian version is ‘biscuit’, you MUST, and the horror of horrors, omitting the ‘to’ in the phrase ‘I will write to you’. It is advisable to enlist the services of a Brit-picker AS WELL AS a beta, someone who reads your fic only to pick up on the little anomalies. I do realise that it is only fanfic, but PEOPLE WILL GET ANNOYED WITH YOU over things like this. It is a British series after all; and if you’re not writing it to please the people you’re writing it for, what ARE you doing it for? If you can’t be bothered with a Brit-picker at least take the time to read one of the many lists out there complied for your service. Here is one of my own, American to British:

Cookie: Biscuit

Candy: Sweets

Sucker: Lollipop

Sweater: Jumper

Sneakers: Trainers/Runners


And at least make an attempt at adding back in those poor neglected ‘u’ s to your words, at least to show willing. THE MORAL: Americanisms do not sit well in the Potterverse.

Current Mood: determineddetermined
Current Music: 'Life Goes On,' someone
henbock on September 30th, 2004 03:07 am (UTC)
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on September 30th, 2004 12:54 pm (UTC)
You can just save mine if you want. Alternatively, go to UK-Learning Forums to the Oxbridge thread and scratch around for it. ALTERNATIVELY, go to my profile page and to the icon communities I have friended and pick out one of thousands of icons.