More musings about writing.


More questions and answers.

Genre: do you prefer certain genres of fic when you’re writing? What kind do you tend to write most?

I write mostly fantasy. (This works for fanfic, too. I have written a few ‘real world’ fics in one or two fandoms but even in cop buddy fandoms I’ve managed to drag in werewolves or dragons or switch everybody back into the middle ages.)

My original work is all, at the moment, in the fantasy genre. I have some plot bunnies that aren’t – for example a novel based around my mother’s wartime experiences – but whether they’ll ever get written is another matter. Oh, except that I also write poetry, and non fiction in the form of travelogues, but I don’t think I’ll widen the scope of this meme to include those.

Have you ever attempted an “adaptation” fic of a favorite book or movie but set in a different fandom or setting?

I suppose this would apply to an original fic that followed the plotline of source material that was well known in much the same way that West Side Story follows Romeo and Juliet or the current BBC Sherlock reboots Conan Doyle’s hero.

I might use a general style or ‘world’ such as accepting the usual ‘facts’ about Arthurian legend, but not the plot. Even when I wrote The Lord of Shalott I veered very sharply from Tennyson’s poem. However, I tweaked the story of Snow White for Silkskin and the Forest People and deliberately tried to keep to the traditional plot points and ending, at least partly to highlight the differences in my story. I did once write a semi-spoof cop buddy fanfic based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – a group of us were deliberately writing in the style of a book and the others had to guess which.

These are novellas. For novels, I don’t lack for plots of my own (although I accept the theory that there are only nine or ten in the world altogether) – I only lack time – so I don’t go looking for other ideas. However, I know lots of writers do and I enjoy reading the results.

Do you prefer canon or fanon when you write? Has writing fanfic for a fandom changed the way you see some or even all of the original source material?

The question is almost meaningless for original writing because there is no canon and no fanon. Although I suppose there is the issue of whether to stick to the main traditions when writing in, for example, Arthurian legend, or about dragons.

When I write fanfic I use canon where appropriate. Certainly for things like the essential character traits of the main characters, their looks, and their ‘relationship’ in terms of things like boss/employee or partners, etc. I enjoy exploring the characters and seeing how I think they might react in another story, or with different characters I bring in.

Of course, when writing an alternative universe it is only possible to take canon so far. I really enjoy putting canon characters in a totally different situation and seeing how they would behave. I’ve done this since I was a small child and played with the characters from my books and stories in my head. I remember a sort of strip cartoon but in book form, about a mouse called Mary Mouse. You have no idea where Mary Mouse got to or what she did in my mind!

And no, I don’t think writing fanfic has ever changed my perception of the source material. Nor has writing within the broad category of legends. Why should it? Canon is canon – open to interpretation and commentary but not open to being changed. I will have various interpretations from the start – all of them inspiring different kinds of story but none of them changing my basic view of the original.

The only caveat I have here is that when I wrote The Lord of Shalott I inevitably spent a great deal of time with Tennyson’s poem. I realised that I had always taken a general atmosphere from it, some kind of dreamy but sad romance with lush details. As I studied it more closely it began to irritate me in many ways. Not the story or the characters, just the construction of the poem and some of the language the poet used. So, litcrit of the source material but I still enjoyed the original story! I meanderd through various mediaeval versions too.
Ratings: how high are you comfortable with going? Have you ever written higher? If you’re comfortable with NC-17, have you ever been shocked by finding that the story you’re writing is gen rated instead? How explicit are your original works? If some of them are explicit, are you ever shocked to find yourself writing something general, with no sex or violence?

I don’t set out to write violence or erotica. These arise within the story, depending on where the characters take me and how much they want me to disclose in the course of the plot. I am personally perfectly happy to read explicit descriptions provided they are well written, and am happy to write them myself if I think the story demands them.

I currently have four books self published. Three of them are in the adult only section on both Smashwords and Amazon. They are fairly ‘tame’ by a lot of standards but are still explicit enough to be restricted on the shelves. I think that’s correct – parents and teachers can judge what their children are ready to read when they are quite young. Once they are old enough to realise that they don’t have to tell the truth when asked their age online and have the means to make their own purchases, then I have no problem with them accessing restricted material. I would only add that being Brit I tend to think of 16 as the cut-off age for independence whereas American sites go for 18 which I see as odd. In UK (and in some states) people can marry at 16 – and yet they can’t read about explicit sex?? And if they can marry at 16 there must be some kind of exploration of the issues, at least in theory, in the playground or in lessons, well before that. (I would not like pre-pubertal readers to access ‘adult’ material because they might well misunderstand and be upset by it.)

My novel, on the other hand, is mainstream or general.

The same applies to my fanfiction. Some of it contains explicit sex and some has no sex or violence at all.

I do think that the blurbs or summaries for books and stories should let the reader know roughly what they’re about to read (or reject) but beyond that I think it’s a case of ‘reader beware’.

So yes, I write sex. I tend not to write kinks much, but that’s partly for fear of getting them wrong. And so far as the sex is concerned I tend to focus on the emotions rather than the mechanics but I won’t usually fade to black or leave anyone at the bedroom door.

As a rule, the overall story is my main interest and I don’t try to insert sex scenes artificially. On the other hand, in some work I find them the natural order of things. One beta/first reader wanted me to remove some sex from a book that is not yet finished to make it more YA in nature, which she assumed it was intended to be. It wasn’t and I didn’t and won’t.

Anyway, to recap, I have two adult novellas and an adult book of short stories out there. I’m proud of them. I also have a mainstream novel which whilst it doesn’t ignore sexual relationships has no explicit sex scenes. This wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, it was just the way the story developed. And since it has, I’m quite pleased that the book – and in the end the series – will be accessible easily to older teenagers.

I have also written books for children and although they aren’t yet published they’re in the pipeline; obviously sex and violence don’t feature. There’s a sense in which the very existence of children assumes their parents had sex, but this is not mentioned.

So I will move from totally general/suitable for young children to totally explicit/restricted to an adult audience and then back again without even thinking about it.

Warnings: What do you feel it most important to warn for, and what’s the strangest thing you’ve warned for?

Mostly, I just let my fanfiction readers know that they might encounter almost anything so if they’re easily triggered they should stay away. I do try to let people know what kind of work they’re approaching. I think it’s more important to say whether something is a drabble or an epic, and whether it’s finished, whether it’s part of a series, than any actual content.

Original fic is a bit different. Books don’t usually come with warnings, other than the ones with explicit sex being relegated to the ‘adult’ section and ones with a lot of cartoon kittens being shelved in the children’s area. But I do think it’s only fair to warn readers that this is e.g. fantasy, sci fi, crime, comedy, tragedy, etc. Beyond that, they can read the blurb, see if they know anything else you’ve written, skim the first few pages (or even the end) and take responsibility for reading.

And as with fanfic, they can always turn away if they’re not happy with the contents.

Summaries: Do you like them or hate them? How do you come up with them, if you use them?

I think that for both fanfic and original fic summaries are a way of telling the reader roughly what to expect. As a reader, I really dislike starting to read something and finding it is a different genre or style of work from what I had been looking for. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to read it, just that perhaps I don’t want to read it on that particular day or at that particular moment. I would not read a hilarious spoof on the way to a funeral. I won’t read horror stories just before going to bed. I prefer not to read something that requires intense concentration when I’m likely to have to put the story down any minute (e.g. in the dentist’s waiting room). So I think authors should be fair to readers and I try to be. I know some people don’t like warnings or summaries at all and they are welcome to disregard them but I think they need to remember that probably 90% of readers prefer them.

I hate writing them. Distilling the essence of a story into a paragraph is hard even though Amazon tells us it’s the best way to market. I can summarise the outline of the plot but that won’t give you the atmosphere. I can suggest the atmosphere and leave the plot hazy. I mustn’t give away spoilers if I want the reader to suffer or be curious with the characters.

I agonise over summaries and usually end up asking my beta/editor to come up with something. The very worst are drabbles though I only write those for fun on my personal journal. How can you summarise a drabble in fewer words than the drabble itself?


What kind of genres do you like? What do you think about explicit works? What do you expect from a summary? I’d really like to hear your views.

And if anyone knows how to force WordPress to accept edits on line or paragraph breaks, please please please let me know.

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