Author has written 2 stories for Harry Potter.
Nha Trang's Hot Heavy Literary Hates
Mostly I read HP fics, with a soupçon of Doctor Who and some crossovers. But there's so much awful fiction out there, and here's my (partial) laundry list of How Not To Write:
1) Typos, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors: Look. You're supposed to be doing a good job. Doing a good job as a writer means writing well, and writing well means doing so with proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, phrasing and editing. If you don't intend to do a good job, what the merry hell are you doing posting fiction works on a site where people get to fav and review your stuff? If you don't have the skill to write properly -- or the pride in craft to bother to learn -- why should I bother reading your swill?
2) If you're writing 250K slice-of-life stories in which nothing really happens, consider getting an editor. Everything you write should involve (a) character development, (b) plot development and/or (c) setting development, and these ought to have a material effect on the plot. (If you don't know the concept of Chekhov's Gun, you should.) I've suffered through a few too many 20 kiloword chapters of Soandso Goes Through Great Trials To Learn Some New Weird Magic That Has No Material Affect On The Plot. If you have the energy to write all those meandering throwaway chapters which go nowhere, you have the energy to write a quick, dense piece and then go on to a new fic. (In the alternative, why not put an author's note at the top stating that you're writing a soap opera, and that advancing a plot isn't your goal?)
3) Will you for pity's sake write dialog reflecting how people actually speak? One of the surest ways for me to abandon a HP fic a third of the way through the first chapter is to see teenagers talk like pompous fifty-year-old academics. People speak in slang. (And that slang ought to be age- and era-appropriate, too. ) People use contractions. People don't often throw out polysyllabic gobsmackers. People don't often launch into ten sentence soliloquies in the middle of casual conversations. Tell you what, try a trick: speak every bit of your dialog out loud. If it sounds stilted and funny, change it.
4) Keep in mind that the Hogwarts stories take place between 1991 and 1997. Unless you're writing AU or post-Hogwarts, cell phones are far from ubiquitous, few are paying attention to Leo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet, John Major's the Muggle PM throughout, the cocks of the walk in sport are Michael Jordan and Thierry Henry, and not only have Napster, ICQ or AIM not been invented yet (let alone Myspace, LiveJournal or Skype, let alone FB, Twitter or Discord), the Web itself didn't go free and public before 1993 and online users were still wedded to proprietary services such as GEnie or Compuserve. Oh, by the way, the characters are almost all British. If you've written a non-AU scene where Dudley Dursley's munching TexMex while watching the Red Sox win the World Series on his iPad and checking his Twitter feed, you're either lazy or an idiot.
5) Laying it on too thick: Look. Sure, you decided to write a fic heavily bashing Dumbledore. Great. You're entitled. But after the umpteenth chapter in which Dumbles still keeps trying to lie, cheat, steal and manipulate Harry into being his pawn, twenty thousand words after it's been painfully obvious that it's stopped working, and after the third or fourth bitch-slap HP's given him, you're just proving yourself as moronic as you're making him out to be. People don't (for instance) get to the top of the political heap and stay there for decades by being complete idiots; they do it by doing things that work. The same premise holds true for any one-dimensional punching bag story. How about you not just keep writing the same chapter over and over again?
6) The frigging cliches: I am sick and goddamn tired of reading how Hermione is the Brightest Witch Of Her Age. I am sick and goddamn tired of reading how Harry Has His Mother's Eyes. (Quite probably the characters are sick of it too. Heck, I have my mother's eyes, cobalt blue -- my brothers don't -- and it's been mentioned less than a half dozen times in my life.) Every third fic repeats the same catchphrases, over and over. Yes, I get it, Snape is always Greasy, Draco's always a Ferret, Ron always stuffs his face, world without end, amen. Now how about everyone stop parroting JKR's words? SYNONYMS. They exist.
6a) The frigging fanon cliches: DG Always Being An Ice Queen. TD Always Being Her Short Bubbly Sidekick. SB with a porn star rack. DM being the "Slytherin Prince." Marriage contract fics. "You mean no one ever told you you were Lord Potter-Black and have seven guaranteed seats in the Wizengamot?" At this point, unless you're an amazing author (and Sturgeon's Law applies here), for pity's sake come up with something new.
And, finally ...
7) Cry me a river. Aw ... so your wittle feelings are hurt because Grammar Nazi Nha Trang called you out, so in comes the anon irrelevant review or PM? Unless you put in an author's note along the lines of "Plz, I onli want praise and egoboo, so meanies go awai," either stick your crap in Blogspot or LiveJournal so only your friends and family can see it and you can suppress reviews you don't like, or suck it up and accept what you get. (Plainly, also, you haven't read the Fanfiction.net content guidelines. You know, things like "Here is a list of conducts that should always be observed," "Spell check all story and poetry. There is no excuse for not performing this duty," "Proofread all entries for grammar and other aspects of writing before submission ... No one is perfect but it is the duty of the writer to perform to the best of his/her ability," "Not all reviews will praise the work," "[Failure to] use proper textual formatting ... is not only incorrect but also a disregard for the language itself." You're not claiming that you're too good to follow the site rules, are you?)(Also, speaking of egoboo: I will write a review if I feel moved to do so. Trust me, the more you whine and beg at the end of every one of your chapters for reviews PLEEEEEEEASSSSEEEE, the more I'm likely to give one you won't appreciate. If you need someone to fawn all over you all the time, adopt a puppy.)
My tastes in HP fiction? Well, for one, I don't paint Jo Rowling as clueless as a lot of people like to do:
First off, cut her some slack. Of course the golden snitch alone makes Quidditch an absurd, unplayable game. Of course it's nonsense that your 12 year old needs a signed permission slip to go to into town for an ice cream but doesn't need one to play aerial death sports. Of course having your police casting stunners at Death Eaters who return the favor with death spells is insane. (That being said, all you Americans do take into consideration that Brits are far less reflexively murderous than the average Yank.)
Ya know something, though? JKR wasn't trying to create a comprehensive, coherent, logical world that would resist deconstructing by millions of picky adults. She set out to write entertaining children's stories. For a self-taught writer without exceptional education or accomplishments, writing mostly as catharsis, she didn't do so bad a job. Highest selling books of all time not named the Bible? Yeah, not so bad.
(And what the hell, I live in a state where it's illegal to possess nunchuks, but perfectly legal to own semi-automatic rifles ... and in a nation where not only half the voters think that a blowhard asshat lying con artist was legitimately the best choice to be Leader of the Free World, but still thought so even after four years of his incompetent tyranny. And let's not get started on how Rowling's country is committing political and economic suicide for no better reason than half the voters wanted to give the finger to The Establishment, or that Rowling herself has been condemned as a transphobic bigot for nothing more than expressing skepticism over declaring oneself one gender or another on the crest of the current fad. Think the Wizarding World has a monopoly on idiocy and inconsistency?)
While I'm a shipper on just about any pairing BUT H/G (I admit I'm fond of H/Luna, H/Hermione and H/Daphne), teenagers get crushes on the people they get crushes on. No rhyme or reason to it, and it's not unrealistic for HP to fall for a cute girl with whom he's had about two conversations, ever. Yes, Ginny's largely a colorless cipher in canon, and it probably didn't help shape people's opinions that while Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe had chemistry from almost the start, Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright have all the mutual electricity of a pair of mismatched, sodden socks. Rowling's no more to blame for a 11-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl cast in 2000 to fail to grow up to flash sparks on the screen nearly a decade later, than she was for the actress playing the "plain" character growing up foxy and the one playing the "blazing" character growing up dead average.
(And that being said, sheesh, ease up on the Ginny-hate, wouldja? She is not, in canon, presented as a "rabid fangirl," a malevolent stalker or the like. She's a young girl with a crush. Young girls -- and boys -- do get crushes, and almost always for superficial reasons. My wife opines that a girl's romantic preferences are heavily influenced by which boy pushes her off the swing in 2nd grade.)
I agree a lot of things in canon stretch credulity. Dumbledore as a manipulative, cold bastard resonates with me, because there's too much he should've known, could have predicted, or just didn't bother with. But again, how much of the sweep of the plot arc did 25-year-old Jo Rowling grasp in 1990, when she first started setting down this interesting inspiration she had? Would this be the series she'd write today? Dunno. Probably not.
So, anyhow, I wrote a short story that's been bouncing around in my mind. Yes, it's a one-off (even if there are those of you thirsting for long chapters of Draco getting boinked by husky Arabian sheikhs, I'd get bored awfully fast, leaving aside my less-than-zero interest in slash). It's obviously a few years after they graduate, and it isn't Epilogue compliant. At this remove, I wouldn't hold my breath for more.
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