Writers Anonymous
Writers, come in. Talk about your stories, problems, any advice you need, critique, etc. You don't have to be good, you just need to want to write! Fanfic or original fic writers, all are welcome. Read the rules before posting or risk Rhea's displeasure.
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Corinne Tate

I think you may have hit on something, Hippo - the wow factor. This last chapter was all about a pity party for one, and my main character got very drunk, then very sick. Then the woman he's been chasing since chapter one, showed up and they had a too honest discussion. Then she left, with intentions of marrying someone else. Interesting stuff, but nothing that really pops.

On a related note, when you review, do you expect a reply? I mean I don't necessarily "expect" a reply, but without some response, I'm less likely to review subsequent chapters. I don't like that feeling of dropping reviews into a black hole. I have missed sending replies for some of the reviews, as it's hard to know how to reply to three words. For a while, I geared my responses to be shorter than the review. So, "Another nice job," might get a response of "Thank you." The smiley face was a toughie, and I went with "t y."

But what I'd really like, is a response that will inspire honest commentary. I don't care about the numbers anymore, I just want honest feedback of what's right and what's wrong with the writing.

5/21/2012 #421

I don't reply to brief comments on FFN (it would seem strange to pm someone who only said 'nice chapter!') but I do on other websites where the response is public and I've resolved to answer every one even if it's just a thank you. Because they are public I try to take the opportunity to give out snippets of info like 'Thanks - yes, more on that in the next chapter which is almost ready.' A few of my public responses have been a substantial couple of paragraphs explaining something and the other day I even pondered a silly idea of putting in Drabbles as a reward - little mini-stories relating to the main story. I've touched on that in one or two A/N particularly after completion, movie-style, where I might add 'Jake moved to Manchester where he works in a bottle factory. He eventually married Mary and they now have two sons, one of which etc...'

All this is part of the theory: 'be friendly to readers and they will love you and post lots of reviews' - but it has no effect whatsoever in my case!

On a more serious note, although we might want it, I don't think we should feel readers should be obliged to actually give critical reviews of our stories. However, I do feel they ought to say thank you at least once if they enjoyed them even moderately. Anyone who reads more than a few chapters must be enjoying the story somewhat or they wouldn't continue.

5/22/2012 #422

On my first story(Still on chapter 12 -_-), I received some critical yet positive reviews. And then, a neutral one. I wasn't too happy, but when I re-read the story(It was on about chapter 5 then), the reviewer was right, my tenses were screwed over, the fight scene in chapter one sucked and so on. I rewrote the fight and corrected my tenses. I don't expect a long review about how great my story is, but I don't expect a completely negative review either. My stories are plot-based adventure stories(with the exception of my one-shots and one-shot collections). At least in this genre you don't get pairing freaks.

As for leaving reviews, I usually review with three or four sentences about what is good, what is bad, what can be improved etc, every five chapters if it is ongoing. If it's complete then I usually leave a full in-depth review at the end.

5/22/2012 #423
Lord Kelvin

Does anyone have issues with dwindling reviews?

Nah. In real terms, the story is a core product that is so stellar it sells itself or you need to do something more to increase the hype. Review counts have some factors that are easy to deduct starting with fandom, your contact tree on FFN, length etc. If you write a story for your personal enjoyment and consider the reviews just a bonus, that is what you'll get - just a bonus. Sure, you may get lucky and strike gold, but that is less likely in bigger fandoms.

If you're in it for reviews, but don't want to violate the guidelines, that is something you should decide before you write a chapter. You know what the target audience is like, so capitalise on that. Spread the hooks over X number of paragraphs, keep chapters N words long, plan out hype-driving events and do some covert advertising before you post. Basically, these things are really simple and don't necessarily void your own enjoyment or freedoms. All you need to do is think before you post. Some people I know scored big by creating hype for their average stories. Most amazingly, the swarm of feedback gave them motivation to improve the writing, so current readers would recommend the story as 'keeps getting better and better!'

All in all, it only takes a certain amount of people till it's nigh impossible to say something new about a story. After that, why not work for the bonus? Not a suggestion; the more writers use this logic, the less effective it'll be. Also, there is a sense of p*** if you pull the word down into a number.

5/22/2012 #424

hype-driving events ... covert advertising ... really simple ... creating hype

Can you point to any examples LK? I don't browse the forums much. I assume you're talking about forums dedicated to the category? Are we talking challenges? role-playing chat?

5/22/2012 #425

Hippothestrowl said:

All this is part of the theory: 'be friendly to readers and they will love you and post lots of reviews' - but it has no effect whatsoever in my case!

Hippothestrowl, this is me too, if I have been known at all in my fandom lately, it is as a nice, kind reviewer. Even one reviewer told me she noticed how kind I have been in reviewing, especially the writers who are less experienced. I truly like to review, even if they don't review me back and their review counts are much much bigger than mine. I am learning to not care anymore and just enjoy all the stories while being true to my own and not bending over backwards trying to please the crowd. :)

5/22/2012 . Edited 5/22/2012 #426
Lord Kelvin

Can you point to any examples LK?

Sure, provided the locals wouldn't copy as opposed to figuring out what worked best for them. There was a humour fanfic that I participated in to a great extent, but I am not known for humour, so it was not likely to grab as many readers. The co-writers got extra participation/ideas from some acclaimed names in the fandom as well as their endorsement of the entire thing. Along with pre-meditated profile announcements and poking non-participating humour writers that the story will surpass current interpretations of the concept, traffic went through the roof. As a result, it was the most successful fic in its category, review-wise. Any other story that discussed a similar idea had either less reviews or was deleted by the admins for infringement.

Another example is one writer sending review requests to all the current harsh critics in fandom, asking for input. The reviews became a driving force for future readers, critics with their own following adding to the audience as well as the author mentioning 'hey guise these people read the story' as-a-matter-of-factly using her own channels.

Simpler things would be updating several stories at once on a Thursday afternoon, replying to reviewers of previous chapters for the first time with an added invitation to see the updated content. Timing varies from fandom to fandom, but this assures you get a bigger cut of space on the front page when the number of fans is the greatest. The trick is to upload minutes before everyone else does after returning from school/college. These writers refresh the page, waiting for their own story to appear, and they see yours in a row. Why not check them out? You shouldn't expect all the stories to get huge numbers of reviews, but the readers will pick out a favourite that you can later pimp out. Other stories can serve (in addition to being good stories, of course) as an attention grabber for the main story you are focusing on.

Reviewing stories also works. I've learnt that people respond to positive and negative reviews at a similar frequency. Provided the review is detailed and at least slightly tailored to the story. Critique is more useful to establish a long-term relationship with a colleague while a positive review will get you one review back. The beauty of this is that neither you nor your colleague actively advertises his or her writing. A non-verbal contract is made, if you will.

I assume you're talking about forums dedicated to the category?

Forums are tricky. The examples above avoided forums because a forum needs to have established membership. Seeing how nearly all forums on FFN are idle and/or empty, you might as well put your imagination into something else.

Are we talking challenges?

Challenges, like forums, are subject to established membership. I've tried setting writing and reviewing prompts with real-world prizes to see how it worked out. An educational experience, but it took more planning than I was expecting. Participants wanted a challenge to be easy yet challenging, and witness endorsements/prior participants involved before they entered. Easy to do when you have a large circle of loyal friends, but they can be useful in a more straightforward way. Seeing how many challenges fail (we did have ads in this forum, too) participating in one can be dubious, if you want reviews that is.

Though, I will admit participating in this forum is a good idea if you want to extend your audience without actively advertising your stories. I check an OP's writings when there's a new and interesting thread. Doesn't look like I'm alone in this.

5/22/2012 #427

Thanks. Some good ideas there. I have had one or two writers read my stuff after I've reviewed theirs; maybe that'll build in time.

I already aim for Thursday (though not strictly.) I probably got that idea from you months ago. I aim for evening UK time though so maybe I missed something. So US east coast afternoon equals about late morning/midday in the UK. Might be worth trying.

5/22/2012 #428
Corinne Tate

I'm sorry if I made it sound like I was lamenting that I wasn't getting a bunch of reviews. I've sorta gotten over myself on that note. I guess what I'm getting at, is wondering if there's not some mystical way to interpret greater traffic, but dwindling reviews. I know it's just a bunch of speculation.

I've taken a lot of advice on this forum, and I've stopped with the Author's Notes unless there's a real reason for them I used to do my best to encourage readers to review, especially if they had something bad to say. I want to hear the bad, because if they're still reading, then I know I've got some good too. I really want to know what needs improvement. But now I don't beg.

I've also taken steps to write more for myself, and not worry about gaining a large following. I let my characters be unsympathetic, ugly, and flawed. I tell the story I want to tell.

I just worry that it's fallen completely off the track, and people are afraid to tell me it sucks. But like I said, the numbers have steadily increased, while the reviews have dropped. This is also on fictionpress, where reviews can be few and far between.

5/22/2012 #429

I suspect it's because I've slowly turned my PWP into an actual story, with real characters and -- gasp -- a plot!

It's possible that your PWP readers aren't interested in the plot, and potential readers who like plots never get past the PWP start.

(Note: I've never seen this story. I just know it's possible to put off readers if your first few hundred words give no indication of what's to come.)

You can't convert people to a genre they're not interested in with the quality of your writing. You just can't. I know it's tempting to think yours will be the story that makes them see the light...but it never happens. I've learned to accept that the "I'm not reading crossovers, they're all crap" people don't stop feeling that way just because what I'd like is for my crossover to appeal to everyone, for instance.

Edit: "US east coast afternoon equals about late morning/midday in the UK."

No, you have it backwards. The UK is ahead of the US. 5pm in the UK is midday on the US east coast, and 9am on the west coast. Exceot when summer time changes don't line up.

5/22/2012 . Edited 5/22/2012 #430

You can't convert people to a genre they're not interested in with the quality of your writing.

That's not entirely true. I have three readers that never liked watching the Dukes of Hazzard but enjoyed my stories. Two were co-workers and one is a friend. They read the series out of personal reasons since they knew me in RL. All three said that while they would have never opened up the story if they didn't know me they honestly enjoyed the story-line. None of these three are the type of people that would go easy on a girl's feelings BTW. LOL! One even went to her work and encouraged her friends there to read and they would discuss the latest chapters as they were posted. The trick was the plot. The constant suspense in both the main and sub-plot. That was a year ago and when I meet up with Sheree (I see her about every five to six months or so) she still will ask me if I plan to update soon. So while "Converting" is not typical it is not impossible.

5/22/2012 . Edited 6/17/2012 #431
Corinne Tate

I agree with you both.

I think there are some open-minded readers who can be influenced to stray from their comfort zone. If you can find a way to get them to read, people can find out they like something they never thought they'd like.

But in my case, I think I just might have pulled in one kind of reader, and then story turned into something they didn't expect. I believe they're still reading along, but it's probably a quick skim, hoping for the smut to come back. I'm thinking of making some changes to the packaging; adding a new title, and a fresh summary.

5/22/2012 #432

"US east coast afternoon equals about late morning/midday in the UK. No, you have it backwards. The UK is ahead of the US. 5pm in the UK is midday on the US east coast, and 9am on the west coast. Exceot when summer time changes don't line up.

Oh yes, of course. thanks. My mind flipped when I wrote that. So... I'm probably adding a new chapter at about the right time already - about 9:00pm UK.

However, as I've said before, there is something odd about the browse sort so with default filters they won't see my stories anyway. They rarely get on the front page and tend to jump about strangely each time I refresh the go button. The only way to stablise them is to put in about three precise filters: English, Books, In Progress. Then it usually goes to No.1 and stays there for as much as half an hour then gradually moves down as one would expect. I can imagine many readers might set the English filter but I doubt many set In Progress - more likely some set Complete (I mostly do myself) and some set All. As for Books - I think few would restrict themselves to Book canon because it filters out several other filters like pre-Hogwarts, Hogwarts, etc. Those filters are mutually exclusive but they shouldn't be because obviously a Potter story can be both set in the Hogwarts era and be book canon. And the default 'All' doesn't work at all.

5/22/2012 #433

Genre and fandom is two different things, JadedPhoenix. I can be be persuaded to begin reading in a fandom I have not followed before, but if I have an opinion about a sub-set of storeis, it will be very hard to change my mind. No matter how brilliant the writer.

For instance: I am not much for the crime/mystery genre. This is not because I think all those stories are bad, but because there is something in that genre that just don't interest me. The writer can be good, but I will still not like it very much. Or, to go to fanfiction, there are some type of plots I don't find interesting (most prominently in my fandom: tenth walker-stories). So there have to be considerable effort on the writer's part to make me even look at one (like PMing me and ask), and the chances of me liking it, and reading more than a chapter or two, are slim, even if the writer is doing a good job. I just don't find that kind of story interesting.

One possible reason for increasing number of hits/visitors and dwindling reviews, are that people might go back and reread. I know I do this from time to time, and if I have already reviewed that chapter, then I can't review again. I am also less likely to review an old story than a new or ongoing one. If a reader returns on different days, they show up as new visitors, so you can't really know how many are unique readers, and how many are the same readers coming back to reread. The overview of the nationality helps a bit, but only so far.

Rereading audiences are not a bad thing, though. I will only reread stories I think is very good, so I take it as a compliment if people reread my stuff. Even if that means they have 'used up' their review.

I do, on occasion, check out stories I would not normally look at. If it is a genre I am not fond of, I can't recall ever being so drawn in that I have to keep reading. Sometimes I do leave a review pointing out things I think can be done to improve-- and trying to stay within the genre when I do so. I usually also explain that the genre is not my thing, both as a warning to the author that there are genre-spesific points I might object to, but which are part of the genre and therefore my critics of those aspects might not be entirely fair. But also so that they'll know that I am not likely to become a loyal reviewer, or reader, not because their story is particularly bad, but because the genre is not my thing. Sometimes I have gone back to review again if the author asks, saying that they have made changes because of my review. That I will do, and then I will usually comment on the improvement, and perhaps say point to some other aspect they can work on. I usually try to make it clear that I am not going to become a loyal reader even with the improvement-- because of the genre.

5/22/2012 #434
Corinne Tate

I was just about to answer the question on the Original character game, but then I realized the character I was thinking about, who could answer it best, wasn't one of my original characters.

But then since there was only a sentence or two about him in the canon work, and I wrote a whole multi-chapter story about him, it felt like he was more mine than the original author's. Truly if I changed his name and his nationality, he would be unrecognizable from the original. What makes him a part of the canon universe, is that he interacts with so many characters from the canon work within my story. I just thought it was odd that he felt so much like an original character.

Has anyone else ever expanded on an original character like this? How well was the story received?

5/26/2012 #435

I haven't made a minor character a main character, but I do have one that is little more than a name fleshed out a bit in my WIP. And it is not a too uncommon occurrence in my fandom, since Tolkien have quite a lot of characters that are little more than a name. A friend of mine have more or less specialized in Éomer/Lothíriel romances, and while Éomer is relatively fleshed out, Lothíriel is only mentioned in the Appendixes, as the woman he marries. We know who her father is (and thus the family she comes from), but that is all. So she is more or less a blank slate. Yet there over 400 stories on here with her listed as one of the characters. Some are rather well-received too.

I think it will depend a bit on the fandom, and the writer, whether it is well-received or not.

5/26/2012 #436

But then since there was only a sentence or two about him in the canon work, and I wrote a whole multi-chapter story about him, it felt like he was more mine than the original author's.

Has anyone else ever expanded on an original character like this? How well was the story received?

LOL!! I did this with Jebb Duke. He was only in one episode but he is a major character in my writing now. I originally only written him in with the idea of having a small link to an OC but when I wrote my first three stories with my first OC several readers pointed out that they could easily see more developing since he wouldn't have been a Duke Boy if he hadn't had something going on with the OC prior to the story so that sparked the story "Words Spoken in Jest" which started a story-line that is still being written four stories (or books) later.

Since he was a canon character that was so underdeveloped in the series I was able to make him my own, just the same with the other cousins. I've given Jebb a back story and a family as well as friends that would fit the man that I imagine when I think of him.

5/26/2012 . Edited 5/27/2012 #437

Jaded Phoenix, one of the times I took a look at your stories, I was sure that I remember there being a Jebb Duke, and now you confirmed there was! I wasn't sure because "Jebb" just sounded like a Duke Boy kind of name, so I thought maybe you made it up. It was so long ago watching it regularly. Now, Jebb is Kira's love interest, right? I think he was, I am going to have to check your fics out again!

About fleshing out very minor, minor characters, some of us do that too with Beauty and the Beast fanfic. You know the opening song, with the village singing about Belle? And the objects like the spoons and the chairs in the castle? I gave some of the unknown village people names and personalities in a current fic, and in other fics the objects were OC sources. I was glad to get some good feedback about that too. :)

5/26/2012 #438

@civilwarrose Yes, Jebb was on a single episode in the fourth season. He was a fast talker and a fast thinker but that is pretty much all that was created for his character. The writers had the intention to make him a regular but I guess his character wasn't well received so they ditched that thought. And yes, I have him as Kira's love interest starting with "Words Spoken in Jest". By all means, let me know how you like the incarnation that I've created out of the loose characterisation that was formed out of the series. Another Duke boy that I took some liberties (though not too much) was Judd since he too was only in one episode so I wrote him the way I saw him. Maybe he'll have to make another appearance sometime. LOL! In the meantime, I think I'll have to go and check you B&B story out.

5/26/2012 #439
The Lauderdale

Has anyone else ever expanded on an original character like this? How well was the story received?

Hey Corinne. I think what you mean here is not so much "original character" as exceedingly minor or obscure canon character. For a rather esoteric example of this, I can point to some non-fanfic-type stories as well, and even a poem: Tennyson's "Mariana in the Moated Grange" is based on a throwaway line from one of Shakespeare's plays, about a woman waiting for a lover who never comes.

I tend to write all-original characters for Tolkien fandom, but in my AU drabbles I also included a few canon characters, specifically Saruman, Grima, and Fredegar Bolger. Fredegar, AKA "Fatty," is a hobbit friend of Frodo's, like Sam, Merry and Pippin. He is someone we know quite a few interesting details about, and from the depiction we have of him in the books, is a basically nice guy who likes his meals and doesn't want to leave Hobbiton, and so does not go with Frodo, but who is nonetheless a loyal friend and a good, brave person. His "onscreen presence" in the books is somewhat limited, and he has been summarily written out of every film version of LOTR that I know about: Sam, Merry and Pippin are quite enough additional hobbit characters for scriptwriters to be juggling, and the Scouring of the Shire (and indeed the entire occupation preceding it) has never been depicted in any of the films.

From the perspective of many fans, then, and particularly those whose entrypoint is the Peter Jackson film trilogy, Fatty/Fredegar is a minor and often unknown character, but nonetheless a rich character for further exploration. In my drabbles, which were AU, I wrote him as someone with clearcut PTSD, moving on automatic pilot in the wake of a long imprisonment, after having been "freed" by the same monstrous forces that his friends originally left the Shire to oppose. Drabbles are, perforce, a very nuanced and sometimes distancing way to approach a story, but if I ever write the more conventional narrative that I keep planning to write, based on these drabbles, about a Shire occupied by Orcs, I know that Fredegar will be a pivotal character. Tolkien's own mild approach to him gives me leeway to do a lot, and the circumstances in question are the kind of dramatic circumstances that can allow one to write a canon character in a radically different way from the original: essentially, he *is* a different person from the hobbit that Tolkien wrote about, because his experiences have so changed him.

5/27/2012 #440
Corinne Tate

I guess the reason I chose such an obscure character to play with, was so I could write my own story. In the canon work, this character was a Romanian vampire, and part of a pair. The other's name was Vladmir, so I of course took it to be a bit of a reference to the Dracula stories. Maybe this was Meyer's tribute to one of the patriarchs of vampire literature.

I wanted to write a darker story than Twilight, and I chose this Romanian vamp to be the blood-sucking fiend. Half the story barely touched on the Twilight material, but then it did bump into the more familiar canon characters. For the length of the story, it's probably my least read. I don't think it's because it wasn't a good idea or a good story, but because the fandom of Twilight is all about those precious pairings, and the pretty people.

5/27/2012 #441
April Dawn Irene

In the state that I live in, it is actually legal for a minor under the age of 21 to drink in certain situations.

1: It must be done in a private residence and the parent/guardian supervising.

2: If it's for some medical/religious thing, again, with parental supervision.

I too drank while underage. Now, I never got alcohol poisoning, nor did I binge drink, but I did drink to the point where I did not taste the alcohol or anything else while I ingested it.

As to your question about profanity. Profanity is a fact of life. There are people who swear. Some only swear under certain situations, while others swear nearly every other sentence. Because of this, I might have a character who swears in something that I am writing. I will give it a rating to reflect that. I do feel that swearing in general is more of a T rated thing rather than an M, but I might go for the M just to be safe and warn my readers that there will be some dirty language used.

5/31/2012 #442

Has anyone else ever expanded on an original character like this?

I have. There's a guest character in one episode who's a human working for the enemy, and there's this one throwaway line of dialogue that he was "a former member of G-Force." I thought that was fascinating - why did he leave, and what happened to the team when he did leave? Add in the fact that, as a 1970s kids show, he was of course sorry and they forgive him, and I came up with an arc involving his capture, them thinking he was dead, him being tortured into cooperating, and them then discovering he was in fact still alive and they'd left him behind, several years down the line.

Probably not what the show's creators had in mind :)

The story's been received fairly well. A lot of people like it, but there's been consistent silence from the people who write him as a bad guy, someone who deliberately betrayed them.

6/1/2012 #443

This probably is not the right place for this, but, does anyone want to beta my original short (it is approx. 6,800 words of near-future sci-fi) before I send it off for reject--er--publication?

6/1/2012 #444
Corinne Tate

Hi April Dawn,

Glad to see you join the discussion. This is one of the few topics that's fluid, and changes as people come and go. We try to keep it writing based, but it's a good place to chat up an idea, without starting a new thread every time the muse strikes.

It's interesting to see the different opinions on the subject of drinking and profanity. It's a good indicator that we all have different ideas and experiences on the matter.

Cathrl, I like taking characters who are supposed to be bad, and giving them reasons for why it happened and making them sympathetic. It's really fun when you can do it within canon. I'm in the midst of an outtake where I'm doing just that with a perceived bad guy. I wrote a story and made him even more horrible and outrageous than canon. And in the outtake, I'm giving reasons why he's sympathetic -- lots of fun!

6/1/2012 #445
The Lauderdale

Cathrl, I like taking characters who are supposed to be bad, and giving them reasons for why it happened and making them sympathetic. It's really fun when you can do it within canon. I'm in the midst of an outtake where I'm doing just that with a perceived bad guy. I wrote a story and made him even more horrible and outrageous than canon. And in the outtake, I'm giving reasons why he's sympathetic -- lots of fun!

There was actually a thread on sympathetic villains a while back... http://forum.fanfiction.net/topic/2872/53495858/

For a topic suggestion, I say we talk bad guys. Do you like 'em? Do you write 'em? What is your approach?

6/1/2012 #446

Normally, I wouldn't want to read a story that is peppered with profanity for profanity's sake, but it IS realistic to write a story where certain characters will talk that way, if they do, (or are likely to do so) in canon. One thing that always jars me, though, is when modern American profanity (and you know what words I mean) are used in a fic that is supposed to have a period setting. It could be used for a parody humor kind of story, but when it is more dramatic, it's out of place. If the characters are supposed to be "cursing" I have this habit of using pseudo-curse words like "blasted," "confound it," etc, lol. :)

I love writing about villains! In my fandom, the villain is hilarious and hard to take seriously, so we of course have a lot of fun with him! I just recently wrote a chapter that had his backstory, as well as the point of view of his sidekick friend as an unreliable narrator, who worshipped the ground he walked on. I couldn't stop laughing while I wrote it. :)

6/1/2012 #447

If I like villains... yes and no. Depends on each individual villain. :) I must be able to believe in his evilness, so to say.

I hate the stories told from the hero's perspective, where we always see the villain doing the most cruel and terrible things, without any hint that he's not all evil... But when they finally meet, near the end of the story, the villain tells his heart-breaking backstory - and everyone discovers he wasn't really evil, just misunderstood. Then the hero gives him absollution, and the former villain dies with a smile on his face.

I don't write many villains. The main character of my multichapter is an ex-assassin who becomes loyal friend/lover of his former mark, but that is given by the canon. In my story I focus on the process - how is it possible that someone like him was able to change within 1 year. I started to write it because I found it urealistic. :D

The other villain I write is a cruel sadist - also given by canon. I decided not to make him sympathetic. It was difficult to write him as a cruel, repulsive b*** without turning him into cartoon carricature, but it was also fun, to try getting into the head of someone like that and understand what he might be feeling and thinking while he murders someone.

6/1/2012 #448
Corinne Tate

My villains have crossed the spectrum. I love writing characters who think and act so different than I would. I've written several bad guys.

One was an abused child who grew up indoctrinated in hate. When he was twenty, he r*** a teenage girl in the story, after stalking her. In his mind, it was love. I actually told his back story from his abused mother's POV, and he came out somewhat sympathetic It was his father who was the real villain, as he was the one who created the damaged perpetrator.

In another I wrote a back story for a main canon character, where her father was a p***/murderer. Since she had a bit of precognition, she saw it before it happened, and tried to tell on him. He had her institutionalized.

I wrote a story with a female canon character who comes off as a B. in the story. I got into her psyche and showed why she was so prickly, but I didn't change her at all. Some readers understood her better, but others still hated her. I think once the canon story paints them as a villain, it's hard to change some readers.

I've taken the triumvirate of evil vampire leadership and made them even more terrible, then I gave them a reason for their sinister actions.

And my most evil character of all, was dead even before the story started, but he was equated to the vampire world's answer to Hitler. He was awful. He engineered a war, used his children as breeding stock, planned an Armageddon between vampires and humans. He did genetic experiments, tortured his subjects, kidnapped people, r***, murdered, and pretty much screwed up everyone's lives. I didn't try to whitewash him. His only redeeming quality was that he was a nobody, until he was provoked. In a sense someone kicked over a hornets nest.

In my original work, I've taken my favorite horror novelist, and turned him into a sadistic murderer.

I've also written a story where a crazy Russian mobster kidnaps, and r*** the main character. But I was then able to make him sympathetic enough that the readers wanted to see them end up together. I love knowing that I have the power to do that in writing!

6/1/2012 #449
The Lauderdale

I've described my "Orcs on their downtime" approach, which is showing my guys as their most horrible and also at their most mundane. Writing in a post elsewhere, I said,

The subject matter of r***, of violence, of evil in general, becomes infinitely more disturbing when the characters have some measure of depth beyond the evil they do. Which is creepier to your mind? The character who commits a r*** and then blasts his enemies with magical bolts and then spends hours chortling and posturing over his wickedness? Or the character who commits a r*** and then has a beer and hangs out with his buddies and tells dumb jokes and teases the one guy nobody likes? For my money, it's the one who "has a life" beyond the evil that he does and obliges me to take him seriously as a character with some depth. If I can believe him as a person I have to take what he does that much more seriously as well. I'm more scared of the basically amiable, even likeable fellow who is simultaneously capable of atrocity than I am of the posturing cat-guy living in the woods.

"Posturing cat-guy" refers to Mornelithe Falconsbane, a villain in Mercedes Lackey's Velgarth books. I do enjoy the posturing villain types, they can be fun, but I've always tended to write more minion- or grunt-type villains, and...not go out of my way to make them sympathetic. Showing them on their downtime, their quiet moments, their uncertainties, the occasional friendly gesture between buddies, does that without my having to talk at length about their horrible childhoods or traumatic past events. Even though I'm sure they've had them. It's par for the course if you're an Orc.

It seem to work. Some of my reviewers have said things that have just bowled me over for how simply and perfectly they summed up some of the characters. Like "He constantly recognizes that she's asking him for some sort of altruism he can't give... and usually he can't even feel any guilt over being unable to give it." Or how another character uses "the disappointment of love to strangle the little bit of gentleness he had in him." So there's a kind of sadness, and a tenderness, in and around the horror. [edited to add:] And humor. A lot of humor.

One thing that always jars me, though, is when modern American profanity (and you know what words I mean) are used in a fic that is supposed to have a period setting.

I keep writing, and keep losing through one misfortune or another, the same response to this! which essentially boils down to: I can guess at the words you mean but am not totally sure, and so cannot be certain whether I agree with you or not. That the chief part of the swears and profane gestures we use in English, including American English (such as b***h, p**s, c**t, f**k, s**t, use of the middle finger, etc.) are quite old, we tend not to see reference in the older written record because the further back you go the less stuff survives, and what we do tend to see is defined by what kinds of people tended to be writing and what they tended to be writing about. But we do know these obscene words and gestures were in use and with a similar level of opprobrium because of instances like Hamlet punning about "country matters," or a poem like "Flen flyys," or books by Thomas d'Urfey.

So that even if Elizabethan street toughs may not have referred to each other by so specific a term as "b*ttface" or "asshat," they almost certainly had some term or terms meaning the same thing. ;)

[edited to add:] I was focusing on bodily-based profanity above rather than blasphemy (use of "damn", taking the Lord's name in vain, etc.) although that has quite the colorful history itself.

6/3/2012 . Edited 6/3/2012 #450
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