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dcorvus

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Hey,

I was browsing the forums and I thought that there definitely wasn't enough activity going on here. So I decided to toss in a few topics that I thought would be interesting; feel free, forum masters, to split this into different threads if the need arises.

1. Pet Peeves. This is a fun one. What makes you slam the 'back' key on your keyboard as fast as you can? What ruins a story in the space of a phrase? Basically, what do you really hate to see in writing? Is it terrible grammar? Cliches? Cheesy names?

2. The Power of the Heart. It is a truth universally acknowledged that we love romance -- reading romance, engaging in romance, seeing romance splattered across tabloids and television sets. So how does one write romance well without coming off as disgustingly cheesy? Are there things to avoid? Cliches to eschew? Or do you feel that any kind of romance, no matter how melodramatic and cheesy, is good romance? Also: do you prefer love-at-first-sight (or touch) stories or the more... gradual kinds?

That is all.

dcorvus

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1. Pet Peeves. This is a fun one. What makes you slam the 'back' key on your keyboard as fast as you can? What ruins a story in the space of a phrase? Basically, what do you really hate to see in writing? Is it terrible grammar? Cliches? Cheesy names?

Bad grammar ruins a story for me. No matter how good the writing is, I wonder "is this person stupid or just lazy?" I am not referring to disputed comas, punctuation, etcetera. I mean grammar that is an affront to the English language. I make allowances for younger authors who may not know better, or typos. I'm talking true affronts:

1. Your going home.

2. He took it's temperature.

3. Their too old to work.

Anyone who doesn't IMMEDIATELY cringe at those, needs to have their computer taken away. :)

Another peeve is stories where two characters meet and are having sex within a half-page. It doesn't work that way. A story has to BUILD, damn it.

I also tend to avoid stories with drug use (not my scene). Stories with racial/religious epithets don't get read either. How people in the gay community can use terms like that is beyond me: Of all people, the gay community should KNOW better.

All that being said, even a story that peeves me can still hold my attention if it's good enough. No story with horrendous grammar has ever held my attention, though I've been amazingly forgiving on some :)

Are you sorry you asked?

I will be frank* and tell you I've been very gentle in this post. As an exercises, I read all stories in a few NIFTY categories. Precious few make it past the first three paragraphs, even fewer do I ever return to read a second chapter. If I ever do get to the second (or third) chapter, I write the author. I recently read one story so bad, I was sorely tempted to write the author and ask him to never write again. My standards are unreasonable high, and I accept that. But that's me.

-- wbms

* Hello, Frank. I'm WMBS. How are you?

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2. He took it's temperature.

Anyone who doesn't IMMEDIATELY cringe at those, needs to have their computer taken away. :)

Hmmm... I think I need my computer taken off me, as I think this is a perfectly reasonable statement:

A creature (probably alien) with the unusual name of "it" is having its temperature taken.

Graeme

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Okay, now I have some time to respond....

Pet Peeve: Plots that are just too unbelievable. I can suspend a lot of belief, and I have no problems with an unlikely situation being used as the premise or initiator for a story (these things DO happen), but when they start to pile up, it really annoys me.

*muses* Maybe this is why I like SF and Fantasy so much; the genre allows me to suspend more disbelief than a contempary story. *end muse*

I can skip over a lot of grammer and spelling mistakes without it bothering me (though I'll stop if there are so many, I have trouble working out what they are saying), but to me, a plot has to be both reasonable and interesting.

I like to avoid cliches, too, but it is very hard to avoid them completely. After all, cliches exist because they often DO occur a reasonable amount. The operative word is reasonable. Over-use of cliches makes a story dull.

Romance: I've only tried one romance story, and I couldn't avoid bringing in a light spicing of reality -- probably a personality flaw in me as an author. *shrugs*

Love-at-first-sight is something I've never experienced, and so I usually don't think it's realistic (see above). That's just me, and I'm sure there are people out there who have experienced this and will object to my statement.

Lust-at-first-sight is completely different. I find that totally reasonable and realistic. Transforming that into love would make an interesting and challenging story.

Romance stories are often formulaic. Falls Creek Lessons (shameless plug) is a good example. Plot-wise, it is nothing exceptional. It's not your traditional "boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy, boy-gets-boy-back-again" plot, but the standard "discovers-love-under-his-nose" type. What makes or breaks a romance story along these lines is simply the quality of the writing: can the reader picture themselves in the story; do they fall in love with the main characters?

Trying to do something exceptional or new in a romance is difficult. The good news is that most readers aren't looking for that -- they just want to see two people fall in love, and are usually just imagining themselves as one of those people.

My opinion only, of course.

Graeme

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:arrow: Make a story about gay characters just as entertaining and involving and thoughtful as any other kind of story. Whatever the characters are like, whatever topics are covered, whatever the plot, make it believable.

:arrow: If it's gratuitous, if it's too graphic, I'm likely to bail.

:arrow: Tough topics are not off limits, but they must be handled well. That's a bail point.

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Speaking purely as a reader, not an editor or writer (yet):

The Power of the Heart:

Romance is nifty. Love is cool. I like my lovers to fall in love slowly, to talk to one another, and come to love each other for what's in their hearts and heads, rather than their physical attributes. Which leads us to...

Pet Peeves:

Bad grammar, absolutely. The odd mistake is a fact of life, but repeated language abuse yanks me out of the story.

Cheesy names. If I wince every time I see a character's name, I'm not going to be reading for long.

Sex mere seconds after "hello". Unrealistic, unlikely, and not what I'm looking for.

Full physical details and measurements in the first paragraph. I don't need to know this yet - reveal it as needed in the story.

Impossible anatomy - if it's as thick as a beer can or measured in feet then your character has a serious medical problem. Seek help. :-)

Lack of dialogue - I need to hear your characters speak; I want to know what's in their heads, and how they express it.

Poorly formatted dialogue - I also need to know who's speaking.

Incoherent or illogical plot. Real life can often be messy and confusing, simply because none of us are omniscient narrators or viewing our life in the past tense. Fiction doesn't have to be. You're telling a story because you have a story to tell. Work out what it is, and focus on doing that as clearly as possible.

Impossible plot. I can suspend disbelief with the best of them, but your stories have to work according to the rules of the universe you set them in.

Gratuitous (especially parental) death. A well-written death, with realistic reactions from other characters, can add an incredible amount of emotional depth to a story. When it's done purely to get a character out of the way though (especially with the infamous "parents die in car crash"), I go cold. There are better ways to advance the story.

Characters acting stupidly. People do things for reasons, usually. They may not always acknowledge them, but they're there. I need to be able to understand your characters, to sympathise and empathise with them. If your character is doing something out of character, you need a reason, and you need to communicate that, otherwise it's just sloppy storytelling to force a plot point. Any plot that depends on the characters being stupid or doing stupid (by their standards) things is a major turnoff for me (which is why, for example, I love some episodes of Frasier and despise others).

Lack of plot and/or extensive descriptive sex - I like a good word-picture as much as the next guy, but after pages of nothing but descriptions of sex I get bored and start skimming until I hit the next bit of plot or dialogue. If all you have is physical sex and no plot, I can't connect with the characters, so it's just noise to me.

Phew. Big rant over. :-) Seriously though, I'm a voracious reader, and skim or read dozens of stories every week. Like wbms I try to read pretty much everything on Nifty in all but a few categories. There's some really good stuff out there, but some days it's almost drowned out by utter, utter drek. It does, however, make those few buried jewels - and sites like this - all the more precious.

I remain in awe of the writers here. The ability to craft a tale and do it well is one of the greater human attributes, and I thank you all for taking the time to share.

Regards,

Pete

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Hey,

1. Pet Peeves. This is a fun one. What makes you slam the 'back' key on your keyboard as fast as you can? What ruins a story in the space of a phrase? Basically, what do you really hate to see in writing? Is it terrible grammar? Cliches? Cheesy names?

Un-speakable dialogue (unspeakable dialogue I can put up with). I mean the kind where no one ever contracts the copula - always I am rather than I'm - or some other common auxiliary like we will rather than we'll. Nobody speaks like this! Real speech, even of educated people, is characterised by a less rigid register than written texts. And, Lord, have mercy, would of and should of - now, where on earth does that come from?

But, I have to confess, I frequenly find mistakes in my own writing just after I've posted it, just not these ones. Just this week I found a grocer's apostrophe in a chapter of mine on Nifty. Oh, the shame. So, somethings do make me grind my teeth but I try to be fair: I make mistakes too.

Punctuation is not so much of an irritant. I had a pretty traditional education punctuation wise but I have to punctuate in two languages and the rules are different, so I tend to be liberal about it.

Spelling only really bothers me where it leads to some ambiguity or difficulty in comprehension.

Inconsistencies, implausibilities and incoherence of plot are much more likely to make me stop reading. OK, it's true that, for example, there are wildly implausible aspects to Brew Maxwell's stories in some respects but there's enough drama and humour in those that they are easily forgiven. The ones that I drop are those where having apparently deliberately set up a difficult situation or scenario for the characters the author produces a deus ex machina (or more usually a million dollars ex hitherto unknown rich uncle) to get them out of it. Why? What is the point of illustrating people in difficult situations if you don't deal with it in illuminating ways? And yes, I know that some people read stories "therapeutically" and they want that feel-good factor anyway they can get it but I read 'em as literature.

Still, I have to be charitable again since I produce inconsistencies. In one chapter a character is described - quite unnecessarily as it happens - as wearing fatigues and a thousand words later he's wearing cargoes. I am not without sin, my excuse is only that this is not the first stone I'm throwing.

Sex without consequences for the characters. I can't be bothered with graphic descriptions of sexual activity that aren't related to the plot or character development. And as for all these sixteen year olds who are hung like angry bears - what's up with that? Isn't it possible to write about sex without all this exaggerated obsession with penis size?

Anything written in the second person. Just wrong. Don't, please.

Characters with no voice. I know it's hard to achieve but people when they speak have distinctive voices and it's one of the important ways that we recognise them and identify them. An author should at least try to give their characters voices. Oh and while I'm here, people who can't use their with a singular antecedent: get over yourselves, it's as old as Chaucer! And people who write

He stood between Pete and I

as part of their campaign for better grammar. It's He stood between Pete and me. Check: you don't say I stood between he and Pete you say I stood between him and Pete or I stood between them. If people are going to be picky, at least get it right!

Writing which gives no cues to imagining the environment. I want to visualise the story - at least I almost always do - and some clues about where it takes place help.

Oh well. I shouldn't vent. But somebody did ask!

2. The Power of the Heart. It is a truth universally acknowledged that we love romance -- reading romance, engaging in romance, seeing romance splattered across tabloids and television sets. So how does one write romance well without coming off as disgustingly cheesy? Are there things to avoid? Cliches to eschew? Or do you feel that any kind of romance, no matter how melodramatic and cheesy, is good romance? Also: do you prefer love-at-first-sight (or touch) stories or the more... gradual kinds?  

I don't think that cliche is a particular problem for writing about romance. Any genre can be hackneyed and cliche ridden. My feeling about gay romance - especially youth/rites of passage romance - is that if the heart is in the right place then a certain dosage of cliche is easily forgiven.

Personally, I don't mind either love-at-first-sight or gradual romances: both happen and both can be written about interestingly. What I find dull is "romance" that isn't - the assertion of love (at first sight or otherwise) with no evidence presented that the characters even like, much less love each other. The absolute antithesis of this kind of stuff is Karla Schulz's Carrots and Celery where the emotional bond between the two boys is palpable in the writing. Even if the words were never mentioned, you would conclude those two were in love.

I do also just move right along if I encounter pornography, but not because it's bad writing - it's a personal, religious thing in that case.

I've written far too much...

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And people who write

He stood between Pete and I  

as part of their campaign for better grammar.  

This was probably me in some of the earlier chapters. :roll: I admit that when I started writing I butchered the craft as well as anyone, but I think over the last two years and some, my writing has measurably improved.

Disagreements?

Please??

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And people who write

He stood between Pete and I  

as part of their campaign for better grammar.  

This was probably me in some of the earlier chapters. :roll: I admit that when I started writing I butchered the craft as well as anyone, but I think over the last two years and some, my writing has measurably improved.

Disagreements?

Please??

Total and absolute disagreement. I could shoot myself for using the name Pete as an example! Of course your writing gets better over the series Dewey, but from the beginning the emotional realism and the simple, straightforward prose style make it instantly readable. For the record For the Love of Pete was a story so compelling that I almost missed days of school after being up all night reading it the first time round.

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Campy Dialog.

"So what do you think of Sean?"

"Oh he's just a big girl ."

"HeHeHe. He' a CD though."

"You have got to be kidding girlfriend! He shops at Walmart for God's sake."

"Well, even if he shop's at Walmart, it looks good on him."

"Oh my God! Are you falling for Sean?"

"He's the MOMD!"

===================================

OK- what's wrong with this conversation?

Besides for needing the secret gay decoder ring, nothing.

Who talks like this? Yeah a few left over club kids maybe but jeez!

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OK, someone please pass me the secret decoder ring. CD? I'm guessing the MOMD is the "man of my dreams." Yes?

Trust me, Sean's straight. Great guy, though.

Campy dialogue: There are guys like that. But hey, even "boi" or "boy" puzzle me. That's just me, I guess. "Girl" and "girlfriend" bug me, because, well, I know what's in my shorts, and it isn't girly.

-----

What second language, sumbloke, may I ask? You mentioned French things in another post.

:snicker: I loved the line about being "hung like an angry bear." Now, I've never asked any angry bears how they were hung, and wouldn't recommend it. (Wait, maybe that's why they're angry, no one asked?) :laughs:

Most guys have an average build and an average package. If a story has a char. who isn't average, fine, but deal with that realistically.

On the other hand, you could always go for humor.

Or, as Tragic Rabbit did recently, you flip the whole thing on its ear so it is not clich? or formulaic, by how you handle it. (Handle it? Quit thinking like that. Honestly! lol.)

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What second language, sumbloke, may I ask? You mentioned French things in another post.

I'm (supposedly) bilingual French/English and my education is in French. There are differences in punctuation conventions in the two and most especially in how you punctuate dialogue, but also use of commas and semi-colons. It's not really a good excuse for making mistakes because I've lived in London, UK for almost my whole life but I do find that I tend to filter out quirky punctuation errors without much noticing them.

In fact the very first version of the story I'm writing now was written in French and set in France. I'm not translating that one because I've moved the setting and so everything really has to change except for the major plot structure but it is one reason that I think I've let minor inconsistencies and continuity problems creep in. Oh well, there's always the redux...

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Unrelenting, unmitigated angst. I can't tolerate any character who can't step back and laugh at himself a little bit.

as i've mentioned before (again, and again, and again, ad nauseum :roll: ), stories where the campy and/or promiscuous are viewed as second class citizens, while the "straight-acting" jock is held up as a paragon of virtue.

Cross generational sex, where one partner is underage. Can't give a reasonable defense for this one, but it's a huge bail point.

gratuitous violence/death, the glorification of slavery, etc.

Excessively weepy romance. I can't deal with characters who cry at the drop of the hat.

And, to finish the list, excessively bad grammar, syntax, etc. Though I'm willing to put up with a lot for the sake of a promising plot line or really well visualized and likable characters.

cheers!

aj

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I know what's in my shorts, and it isn't girly.
:shock:

:roll: He went there, yes he did.

On the other hand, you could always go for humor.

Or, as Tragic Rabbit did recently, you flip the whole thing on its ear so it is not clich? or formulaic, by how you handle it.

Would this be Oaklawn Cats that's so formula-free funny? Blue, would it surpise you to know that people really talk that way? People I know? (Naturally, I never talk that way) I'm not clear on what you think, so I'm mentioning. The cattiness is part of the humor, but it's mixed in with everything else. The fact that some of it requires a decoder ring is probably a legacy of the closet, I'm thinking. And I'm wondering how it sounds to people who don't know anyone who talks that way and can't imagine it, or are actively hostile, allergic to other gay people or whatever. I have such non-patience with the actively hostiles. 'Straight acting'! No one must ever guess! And then there is such a worship cult thing of the (alleged) Uber-Butch that I get a bit catty myself sometimes. I think most of us have a bit of yin in our yang, otherwise where's the fun? But Oaklawn Cats is more a humorous micro-tragedy, you know? Public cattiness/private pain. For so many reasons, the pain is private but that doesn't mean that others don't grok you. Everyone's been hurt; everyone has suffered losses, the losses that dare not speak their names. All part of why I'd rather buy coffee in gay-town, surrounded by GLBTQAXYZ people, than anywhere else in town. I feel safe, it's home. Cats notwithstanding. And, in a story, this is bad?

Bleh. No Kisses. :twisted:

TR

PS. Anyone else get a rush hitting that 'Submit' button?

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TR, I was *complimenting* you on your story, dammit.

Only the one sentence was referring to your story, Oaklawn Cats. The rest referred to other things entirely.

Yes, I got that you used everything in your story to achieve a specific purpose and to point out ironies and to make comments on things, including the conclusions in it.

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Your points are well made, despite having been made in response to something that probably didn't warrant them. And yes, I've always gotten a little thrill out of hitting the 'submit' button. About three years ago, the security people at the local Gay Pride festival wore tee-shirts that said, in big letters across the chest, "Obey Me!" which i rather liked. Always wanted to get one of those.

the "de-coder ring" aspect of gay camp is indeed a hold over from the days when it was absolutely necessary to be covert. I like the example of asking someone "Are you a friend of Dorothy's?" if you wanted to know if that person was gay. Every persecuted subculture has examples of these kinds of phrases...the fact that these kinds of things are fading is indicative of the slow acceptance of gay culture into the mainstream.

aj

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TR, I was *complimenting* you on your story, dammit.

Only the one sentence was referring to your story, Oaklawn Cats. The rest referred to other things entirely.

Yes, I got that you used everything in your story to achieve a specific purpose and to point out ironies and to make comments on things, including the conclusions in it.

My comments were only partly to do with the story or directed towards you, mostly, as is usual, I used them as a jumping off point for other commentary. But we discussed that tonight in IM and I think we're cool.

I meant more about my life than my writing, although they are intimately connected in ways even I don't understand.

Pax.

TR

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the "de-coder ring" aspect of gay camp is indeed a hold over from the days when it was absolutely necessary to be covert. I like the example of asking someone "Are you a friend of Dorothy's?" if you wanted to know if that person was gay. Every persecuted subculture has examples of these kinds of phrases...the fact that these kinds of things are fading is indicative of the slow acceptance of gay culture into the mainstream.

aj

Come to think of it, gays in the military refur to themselves as family.

If you hear someone saying that "sorry, this party is for family only", unless you KNOW what the deal is, most people probably wouldn't give it a second thought.

I like the use of family as a code word and wish it would spread. :smt049

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the "de-coder ring" aspect of gay camp is indeed a hold over from the days when it was absolutely necessary to be covert. I like the example of asking someone "Are you a friend of Dorothy's?" if you wanted to know if that person was gay. Every persecuted subculture has examples of these kinds of phrases...the fact that these kinds of things are fading is indicative of the slow acceptance of gay culture into the mainstream.

aj

Come to think of it, gays in the military refur to themselves as family.

If you hear someone saying that "sorry, this party is for family only", unless you KNOW what the deal is, most people probably wouldn't give it a second thought.

I like the use of family as a code word and wish it would spread. :smt049

Where do you live? Everywhere I've lived, 'family' IS code for gay/queer/GLBT. Seems like its been a while, too, I know that the We Are Family song has been kind of a gay anthem for quite some time. And family is nice, we make our own families, my (gay) pastor says, and make them better than biological ones. Family of choice. So family is maybe a good word?

Kisses...

TR

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