myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
Myaru ([personal profile] myaru) wrote2015-12-12 01:43 pm

100 Things 020: Mystery Formula

Brought to you by the mystery novel formula, although the post isn't about mysteries of that sort.

In the end, I had to give my Tales of Zestiria obsession a little outlet. Not too much, because the last thing I need is an epic on my hands, but something. I found out I'm pretty rusty when it comes to fan fiction. I also noticed a few other things.

1. It took approximately 0.05 seconds for me to slip right back into the Pairing Fanfic Formula.

2. I hit the same story/characterization triggers every other Zestiria author does, though I didn't know that until I looked at the AO3 archive afterward.

3. Gasp, this... is not actually a bad formula.

I also realized that I open original stories differently, but that's another topic. Short stories - at least as I write them - involve more plot, and therefore need more precise openings... not that I always manage to make that happen.

The formula I default into isn't a bad formula by itself. It has setting, buildup, and payoff, which is why it can be satisfying to read; it can, and often does, have some kind of "emotional turn" that makes the scene feel complete-- like something happened. (I don't recall which writer gave me the phrase "emotional turn," but it has served me well every time I've bothered to use the concept while writing.) It just so happens that in pairing fic these elements are focused on cuddling instead of something else. It's actually not a bad basic structure for individual scenes.

I think this would still be true if the content is entirely fluff. You can still have a transformation of mood and/or emotion in the scene, which satisfies the requirement for "change" in fiction, which I know people loooove to argue with. Stories don't necessarily need conflict! Shit doesn't have to change! It can still be interesting! And I guess that's all true in fan fiction, when a reader might want to just wallow in their obsession with Mikleo Sebastian Maglor a character they love, and see some stream-of-consciousness contemplation on a canon event. I don't think that's very interesting, but whatever. Some people do. Point is, it's more interesting if something changes, even if that change means we're just moving from contemplation to happiness, or giddiness to contentedness, or some other minuscule difference. The formula can do that.

Which isn't to say I think I should write it all the time. It IS a formula, and if I write ten things according to this formula, they're all going to sound the same, since those ten things will definitely all be pairing fic. Somehow this doesn't happen if I use it for the basis of my scene structure in a longer story, because there are other things happening (and how exactly is a Sorey/Mikleo makeout session not something happening, I mean really) and the formula becomes a vehicle for other elements of craft.

So yeah. I haven't come up with an excuse for #2 (automatically falling into all the cliches) yet. Give me a few more hours for that one.
bonnefois: ghost_factory @ LJ (Default)

[personal profile] bonnefois 2015-12-12 10:34 pm (UTC)(link)
Actually, standard pairing plot is pretty much lifted straight from romance novel conventions. That's why I've always scoffed at people who go on and on about how romance novels are the worst genre every, kill all rom-coms and then write stuff which is wholesale romance novel cliches and pretend like theirs is somehow better because it's fannish? Even more so if they're writing het fic which basically is a fan romance novel. I mean, if it was gay I guess they could just be hating on the het-ness of romance novels, though there's plenty of f/f and m/m romance novels out there as well...they tend to be less fun than the het ones, and fandom doesn't usually take the tropes from those as much as popular movies and romance genre.

Actually if you've written a lot of Standard Fandom Pairing fic, you'll have a good heads up on being a romance novelist, which is one of the biggest possible money points. If you can do PWP and long, plotty romance epics, you basically have all the skills you need to start a career there.
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2015-12-12 11:08 pm (UTC)(link)
For #2, I had an interesting conversation at my FE14 blog about "easily comestible" pairings that might be relevant:
samuraiter: (Default)

[personal profile] samuraiter 2015-12-13 12:16 am (UTC)(link)
As long as you hit the right character beats, that formula is pretty guaranteed to work, just like [personal profile] bonnefois said.
samuraiter: (Default)

[personal profile] samuraiter 2015-12-13 06:57 pm (UTC)(link)

I suspect there might be an unwritten rule about that, like the rule I espouse that having OCs play major roles in a story is guaranteed to drop your comment / review count by 90%. Perhaps introducing plot into a genre story that is only supposed to have the minimum of it has a similar depressive effect?
hilow: (Default)

[personal profile] hilow 2015-12-14 10:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Interesting observation. Re: OCs I think it depends on the fandom. In a fandom that doesn't have a ton of characters, I think one can more easily get away with an OC playing a major role, but in fandoms that are filled to the brim with characters try it, fandom seems to dislike it greatly as they're already overflowing with characters and it seems counterproductive to add even more (without exceptionally good reason).

Personally for me it's all about storytelling. If it works in the story I'm chill with it, but if it feels like 'lmao pair the spares' or 'i want my hot OCs to get with [character]' then I'll admit I'm less forgiving.

Because of this, though, it wouldn't surprise me if similar things could apply to adding long, involved plot into something. But idk. Fandom is so fickle sometimes--and about the weirdest stuff.
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2015-12-15 12:03 am (UTC)(link)
IMO it would be more accurate to try to model these kinds of things off of market share and supply/demand rather than Rules. For awhile I was baffled about how my fic about relationship misunderstandings that includes dubcon and not a particularly happy ending has done remarkably well for no-Robin!FE13 fic, even apparently inspiring a wave of imitators.

Then I went surfing for Henry/Olivia fic one day and discovered that it was basically the only longform Henry/Olivia fic and probably among the better written in that department, so the hungry masses probably managed to put my pretentiousness aside.

Then they wrote fix-it fic.

One early piece of feedback I got about one of my imitators: "But their story was sweet! Yours made me uncomfortable tbh."
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2015-12-15 12:00 am (UTC)(link)
The things I wrote that I loved most tend to be those that got the weakest reception, but after writing a few blockbusters that were met with broad adoration I've come to not mind as much. Over here in Column A I have stories that satisfy me on some deep spiritual artistic level, and over here in Column B I have stories that I expect will do well at the box office, and I've developed totally different expectations of them--so different that I'm kind of astonished when something in Column A ends up doing relatively well in terms of readership.
aurumite: (Default)

[personal profile] aurumite 2015-12-14 12:22 am (UTC)(link)
For #2, cliches are cliches for a reason, and I'm pretty sure eeeveryone has a handful that they really love and want to use, out of nostalgia or wish-fulfillment or just virtue of their personality. So why excuse it? ;P I think it should be fine to write cliche-indulgent fanfiction on that alone. (I can definitely see where it'd get boring after a while, like with The Formula, but in the meantime if it's enjoyable to read/write for you, why not?) (Or at least, that's always been my excuse, haha.)
hilow: (Default)

[personal profile] hilow 2015-12-14 10:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I think with clichés it always depends entirely for me on how they're written. A cliché isn't necessary bad storytelling (even formulaic bullshit for Fannish Funtimes), but it can be written poorly and then it is bad.

(Obviously there's more to it than this, like there are CLEARLY some clichés that make most feminists cringe, but I mean this in general.)

I think the idea of subverting tropes and clichés is also pretty popular and fun to do because it lets you use some tropey garbage while still doing something that feels fresh with it. And this can happen in fanfic or original fiction and be pretty effective.

But then again with fanfic I take the same approach I always did, and that's "write what I want to write when I want to write it." Of course I'm constantly filling Tumblr prompts and stuff, but I don't write anything I don't want to/feel inspired to. Usually I dig into pairing stuff because it's for some reason. idk. I tend to not get much attention for anything that isn't pairing 'fic. (And then my favorite shit, which is when it has to be a certain amount shippy to attract the fans.)

Anyway, I was going to say something about conflict. So before I forget. I do agree with you. I don't mind lack of change/conflict if the story is really short (like, <1,500 words). But even then, it's usually served best when it's less than 700 words long, because generally speaking having a character ruminate on a situation and walk away from their deep thinking feeling the same as when they started it is...kind of boring and pointless? And in some fandoms it's been done ten thousand times. Like yes we know That Scene was sad and Character Person is sad but goddamn we don't need 9410 stories that show us Character Person's inner thoughts about Being Sad. Changing States is usually good in fiction, even fanfic.
hilow: (Default)

[personal profile] hilow 2015-12-16 04:43 am (UTC)(link)
I seem generous but I'm actually more critical probably. You should see the way I internally tear apart fanfic.

I love bullshit tropes that are stupid. Platonic sharing a bed? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP. That doesn't even need subverted. Man, if it's written *in character* I'll love it. That's what gets me the most I think. I looove cliches and tropes but my biggest issue with them has ALWAYS been that people write them because they like them, even when they could literally never fit the characters they're using. That's a huge issue for me. But if it fits? IDK I mean, forget about subverting it. Just have fun.

Character likability works the best in everything. Psycho Pass has kind of a dumb plot and the villains are truthfully unbelievable. But damn do I love the characters. Fire Emblem 7 has a corny as hell plot,but again: good characters. I guess the same could be said for FE8. Even Awakening had some good characters (tho the plot blew asssssss).
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)

[personal profile] amielleon 2015-12-26 05:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh yeah, so it just popped into my head today--I believe that the Japanese way of describing story structure in four parts describes the third part as the "turn". (I just wiki'd this and apparently it was originally Chinese and spread throughout the region.)