bITS 'N CHUNKS
I figured I would start off with something I actually enjoyed and ended up being helpful. If you follow me on social media, you may have heard back in August I had a death in my immediate family. In the midst of all that, I was also going through some pretty heavy shit before and after. I'm the exact opposite of religious but there are times when I take comfort in religious ceremony and, strangely enough, orthodox practices. What I'm trying to say is, I was watching The Last Temptation of Christ and made a connection with Lazarus of Bethany.
This actually ended up on my AO3 account which I will never share so if you see it there and here just remember real Gs move in silence! Omerta and all that!
So I've started becoming more sensitive about where I take inspiration from and why. I've admitted several times out loud, to myself, workshop guests, my cats my writing is a little overly theatrical sometimes. Like I'm just begging for a movie adaptation one of these days.
It sucks because it makes things hard to transcribe from a very lucid visual point to a very literary point. Simply put, you're not going to see exactly what I see nor am I interested in you having the exact same interpretation.
Now, there's things we have to agree on. When I say a character is a black female, she is. When I say someone has red hair, they do unless I forget continuity and suddenly they don't. What I'm saying is this…
In my fiction class in college one year, I introduced myself with stating I'm a film student and I hadn't read a book in a long time. That was pretentious but it was correct -- up to that point I hadn't really read any books, much of my college course material was books I'd already read and did not need/want to read again, and I'd taken more to watching a lot of Japanese cyberpunk and New Wave.
I think what happened was I needed a new template. At some point literally all I did was read, read two to three books at a time to the point where I was literally getting behind on my coursework because I was too busy doing other things (this became a thread of my life). When I decided to write, until I figured out my own style I realized I needed a template. The books I was reading served as that template, but it was a weird time because I was reading a mix of Victorian literature, Russian modernism, and the young adult assignments I had to read in class. So looking back, of course I was finding my way but I don't really feel like I was writing as a real person. I was inhabiting various historical figures and writing as they would. A myna bird, basically.
Then what happened was I got mighty pretentious about it. I was shy in real life but on the internet I definitely got the big head. At this point I was writing almost exclusively fanfiction and people were praising my work and I was getting massive views. It was hear I learned to…monitor my activity. That's right folks, writing fanfiction will teach you a few things. While keeping my dashed together "style" I also started catering to my audience. But instead of making connections I was snickering at other people's writing because I didn't think they were as good as me. Look, I'm classically trained! These other punks sounded like amateurs.
I got humbled when I started branching out to original fiction and I realized nobody was really following me there. I was reading other people's works and wondering why they were so much more successful. Well, there's a few reasons young me -- being able to put together a cohesive story, good dialogue, character development, plotting and pacing…I had to sit down and figure it out. It wasn't just enough to copy Alexandre Dumas but the point was to learn from him.
At some point in my wayward youth, I drifted into something pretty hardcore: the underground movie scene. Now, I've been watching b-movies my whole damn life but I didn't realize there was an actual internet community for them until I was like maybe thirteen or fourteen. Then I was obsessed. I was in a place where biker babes were good and you said "feelm" with as much irony or gusto as you dared. Also, the people were funny and had a similar sense of humor. At that point I was Misfits horrorpunk trash. I read a ton of reviews and I wanted to write my own, too. In doing this, I made new friends, gained some damn people skills, and more importantly found a new template.
Yes, I started copying schlock movies. Except better this time because now I understood the principles of writing.
As I watched more underground movies, that became my template for writing. It kind of worked for a while because at least I was new and fresh again, but it got a little stale and I started struggling again. I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
Recently, I did a little comparison on myself. I compared what was essentially a songfic to something I'd written channeling a movie more or less. The songfic flowed so much easier without revealing it's obvious influences, it was subtle and dare I say kind of good. The other piece…well, it was trying but it was too wordy. Too emotive. I had a hard time getting to the point. You know what that means…
I need to get out of my own head and stop overanalyzing.
I was originally going to talk/lament about my most favorite of fanfic derivatives, the songfic. What they mean to me, why they're so nostalgic, et cetera. While I was looking up the anatomy of a songfic, I came across this curious quote on Wikipedia:
In an essay in Music, Sound, and Silence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, University of Sydney professor Catherine Driscoll commented that the genre was "one of the least distinguished modes of fan production" and that "within fan fiction excessive attachment to or foregrounding of popular music is itself dismissed as immature and derivative".
Well, first off that hurt my feelings a little bit even though it's an old quote.
I love music and often find myself inspired by it, but most importantly I look for music recs. Yes, I discovered a lot of new music (mostly J-pop and nu-metal) by reading songfics in my youth. It brought a tighter sense of community knowing you shared something in common with someone besides a love of smut and crackshipping.
In my original fiction, I find myself inspired by a combination of music and movie scenes. I love a lot of lavish imagery and I love invoking some of my favorite film/art movements -- New Wave is a great example. Likewise, music conjures up certain moods. Maybe even internally creating a soundtrack. Stuff like that is fun and vital. And when I do music, in addition to looking for recs I like to share recs. That, to me, creates a sense of community with my readers. There's even the time honored tradition of using song lyrics as story titles. Everything is a damn songfic.
Of course, I still do fanfic too (pretty regularly). Do I think songfics show immaturity? I think it depends. I think your writing is going to show maturity or not. It's possible song choice will date you whether intentional or nah. Most of my characters are my age if not older so I end up with a lot of 90s-70s music. Movies use period specific soundtracks for aesthetic, right? I like to do that too. Also, weirdly enough, with cars. More on that later.
What's a songfic look like? That changes a lot. The purpose, like a movie soundtrack, is always to pick a song to reflect the mood of the story. But one could insert fitting lyrics in like poetry, epithet style, or even write about the song itself. In rare cases, you would get a story with absolutely no relation to the song at all. Back in the day, you could find whole lyric pages inside a single story even if it breaks up the flow of the narrative. Good authors credited their sources, but as it turns out song lyrics are a copyright issue so unless you just don't give a damn gone are the days of learning the words to your jam. If you only use a couple lines, is it still a true songfic? Sure. Now, I think we treat songfics like AMVs -- action laid on top of a song that happens to be playing in a background. I like to sneak in a secret boombox or an MP3 player when it's appropriate so lyrics aren't just hovering over the page. Sometimes I'll just rearrange a line from a verse as a title and hope someone savvy will pick up on it as an inside joke.
Songfics are not original music, by the way. That's why they're kind of contentious. That, friends, is called a musical which is ALSO a dying art.
Man, nothing makes me long for the good ol' days like seeing a paragraph of lyrics smack dab in the middle of a camp fire scene because songfic popularity seems so rooted to a particular timeline. I wanna bring it back but I'm thinking maybe it should stay there. Leave the memories alone, you know?
You know, for being total shounen trash (that is, a fan of anime targeted at young boys) and a bit of a sentai freak, I'm terrible at fight scenes. Because I was prolific in anime fic at one point or another, I kind of had to write them. But as a staunch shoujo supporter (that is, a fan of anime targeted at young girls) I tended to be best a dialogue and drama. Where the two often crossover is humor, specifically slapstick. Well, I try anyway. I label things comedy, who knows.
But, you'd think after a while I'd get better at writing fighting scenes but I haven't. I still try, but I'm bad at it. I don't have any real combat experience and watching all the wuxia movies in the world hasn't improved my choreography. I watch wrestling and MMA and look up fight terms so I look like I'm in the know, but it's a sham!
Why do I bother? Because I'm trying to get better. At this point, unless I'm doing something for my own fun, almost none of my stories involve climactic battle scenes anymore. I'm not afraid of them or anything, my protagonists just have a habit of dying at the end so it's all moot. I'm from the Lovecraftian school of monstrous creatures that could kill us with a glance, so the only fighting is mental.
But I'm trying. I figured maybe I just need a little more inspiration other than movies. What encourages me to fight? I also grew up with industrial music and AMVs, so I figured that would help out. Whenever I think I'm getting to the final showdown I just channel my favorite club hits and Akira. And since anime is totally known for its accuracy, the results are often cartoonish in a bad way.
Sigh. I'm trying. I thought I'd switch music. I like 80s inspired synth and various waves (cold, dark, no, sine, so on) like Pertubator, so I thought that would get me hyped. The results naturally come out very retrofuturistic. That's getting better but still…what am I going for?
Ironically, actual fight music does nothing to get me inspired for writing. I might want to run out and fight for Gondor, but I don't want to take any of my adventures down, you know? I tried my favorite epic soundtracks. Makes me remember movie scenes, but not actually fight. Especially if they're not in the same genre.
And books? Forget it. I'll just stick to my Art of War and tough it out. I'm probably not meant to be an epic fantasy fight scene writer but, y'know. I'm trying.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...