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Hi guys! I'm not dead, nor incapacitated, nor in the bottom of a hole. It's been several months of life where my energy has mostly gone into a number of relationships, new and old, of different kinds, more travel and visitors than is usual for me, lots of cooking, and my job, which I continue to love. Places my energy has not been mostly going:

1. Exercising.
2. Maintaining a clean house.
3. Half-completed home improvement tasks.
4. Visual art.
5. Writing.

I'm hoping to start turning things around on points #1-5, though I recognize the stupidity of trying to tackle all five full-throttle at once. Writing is definitely high on the list. As part of trying to get motivated on the WIP I do want to finish, as well as starting new projects, I'm declaring it Take Your WIP to Class Day, and I'm going to post chunks of stories that I think I'm probably not going to finish (or that will take massive rewriting to be viable due to excessive Jossing). These are pretty long excerpts, so I'm going to give them their own posts to lessen confusion, and trust that after hearing not word one from me for about six months, y'all won't fire me for a minor posting flurry. Plus, it's a great way to kill time at an airport (where I currently am) waiting for a delayed flight (which I'm currently doing). Previous time-killing activity was a strip club, buuuuuuut that's a different story entirely. 

Anyway, look for two or three posts to follow this one over the next few days. As those of you who've been reading this journal since my SGA days know, stated intention to abandon a WIP is not necessarily reliable (see, uh, all 30k-odd words of Unidentified). Cheerleading, affectionate jeering, and constructive criticism are always welcome.

Posted!

Dec. 20th, 2009 09:07 pm
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I think I love this Yuletide fic as much as anything I've ever written. [personal profile] shaenie , [personal profile] thingswithwings , thanks again.

I don't know when the challenge goes live, or when the authorial reveal happens, but I'll link the story here when it's kosher to do so. In the meantime, I'm already filled with glee at the thought of all the amazing things I'm going to get to read soon.

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Of the good: I am writing again! Like, more than one thing, even!

Of the questionable: I think my writing mojo may be kind of ... skewed. On the phone with [personal profile] tropes, after telling her the set-up and then end of the story, I said, "So, okay, what should I do in that whole intermediate, 'stuff goes here' section?"

To which she said, quite sensibly, "Well, you definitely need to bring in [plot point x], and have you thought about what you want to do with [batch of characters y and z]?"

These being good questions, I did my best to answer them, and we batted ideas back and forth for a while until suddenly, it became apparent that my "this could maybe work if I can't come up with something better" idea was write the apocalypse.

Uh. I think one of my circuits may be misfiring.
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It's somewhat belatedly come to my attention that Who's Left and Who's Leaving received a 2008 Stargate Fan Award for Best SGA Gen Team Drama Story. Thank you, to whoever nominated it and to those of you who voted for it! I'm especially touched (if slightly guilty) because I've written so little in the last year.

While I'm on the subject, this seems like a good time to ask: does the sequel still hold any interest for anyone? It's been on hold for ... well, basically since I plotted it; grad school killed my writing mojo but good. That said, I've got a Google Doc with the first fifth of it, and I know the general shape of the rest.

Navel-gazing about what the hell's been taking so long; for my own benefit and definitely skippable. )
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So I've been reveling the glorious reappearance of free time in my life (dudes: awesome), and while on a really great vacation not at all conducive to writing, I inhaled a bunch of fic off my delicious network. And having plowed through a bunch of new and unfamiliar fandoms, there are four descriptors used in porny scenes that I have decided really, really need to be shelved, because that shit is overplayed like "Hey Ya" for about five consecutive summers. They are, in no particular order and with my purely subjective reasoning (and sometimes-sincere, sometimes-asinine suggestions):

1. impossibly, as in his eyes were impossibly blue or his thighs were spread impossibly wide, nominated because the first usage is clearly just hyperbole and the second makes my literal mind conjure up disturbing dislocation images. Try the sun lit his eyes up like sea glass or the taut splay of his thigh could have inspired whole new branches of engineering.

2. obscenely, as in he pulled off with an obscene slurping sound, nominated because it's not evocative enough to make up for the fact that it's lazy. Try he pulled off with a sound that was illegal in seven counties or she'd never heard that particular noise outside of a hentai dub audition.

3. the best [____] ever, as in even with [adverse circumstance], it was the best [erotic act] he'd ever had, because in my experience and as someone pointed out recently (if this was you, speak up so I can credit you!), when you're getting spectacularly kissed/blown/laid/whatevered, the last thing you are doing is ranking the experience by the numbers. (Unless everyone of your previous acquaintance has done whatever it is really poorly, in which case this usage is valid.) Also, for me at least, it makes the eroticism sound like it's less due to the quality of the connection between the characters and more due to the Magic Hoo-hoo or Heroic Wang (tm Smart Bitches). Instead, describe what it is that makes that particular [erotic act] so awesome. (That way, we can take notes on things to try later.)

4. sucking his brains out of his cock, as in sucking his brains out of his cock, because like I said before, I have a literal mind, and therefore, yeeeeech. Melty brains, especially melty brains being drawn forcibly out through orificies, is an image that grosses me out. Unless you are writing about historical Egyptian mummification or zombies, please do not melt the brains of your protagonists, I do not care what you do instead.

I realize this post sound uppity in a way I generally try to avoid, and guys, I don't mean it to. I've used at least two of these four devices, because at one point, I read them and they struck me as really evocative and effective (except for the melty brains, because ew). Part of writing in a community like this is that we all borrow the best shiny toys from each other. I love that about fandom 98% of the time, but the other 2% it leads us to repeat certain phrases and metaphors over and over until they lose all potency and become signposts. They're the Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" of fanfic: when a TV show or movie really wants you to tear up and isn't totally sure the script/directing/acting will manage it, they slap that song on the soundtrack. It's shorthand for "you: cry now." There's a gazillion awesome writers around here in fandom, and about every good story I read has at least one sentence that knocks my socks off. I just think we can make the signal-to-noise ratio (or maybe more aptly, the signal-to-advertising-jingle ratio) a little higher, you know?
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So far, I've been following RaceFail passively, via summaries and linked posts provided by friends more actively engaged in it that I am. Other than leaving a few comments of support, I haven't said anything much, thinking that I should devote most of my time to school right now and that mine wasn't a voice that needed to be heard. Recently, though, some of you have pointed out that for those of us who are white, remaining disengaged from this discussion or choosing to watch without participating is a choice enabled by our privilege. This was a point I'd failed to really consider, one I'm grateful you made, and since then I've been thinking about what I had to say that I felt might be worth someone's time in reading.

The first thing I want to say, I'm saying as a person who is queer; who is culturally, spiritually, and ethnically Jewish; who doesn't occupy gendered space in the usual ways; and who grew up in the United States in an affluent liberal family with cultural capital to spare. This is something I want to say to other people who are white, or who occupy white social space, while also having experienced marginalization for other aspects of our identities. What I want to say is aimed, essentially, at other people whose experiences are like mine, and it is this:

I do not believe our experiences of marginalization qualify us to understand the racism experienced by people of color. I believe that stating that those experiences are the same, in degree or in kind, co-opts the struggles of people of color while revealing profound naivete about what their struggles are like. I believe that we must learn to listen to people of color talk about their marginalization, oppression, or anger without jumping to our own defense or excusing ourselves based on our own marginalization. We must learn how to engage in conversations where people of color speak about themselves and their experiences, to interrogate our own feelings of discomfort, and to recognize and step back from impulses to make those conversations about us. I am not saying that our experiences are not relevant or should not be shared. I am saying we must learn to pause and consider whether it is the right time and place, and what our motives are for wishing to share them. I do not always do these things well; I am working to do better.

The second thing I wish to say is as a person who writes and who makes that writing available in public forums. What I want to say is not aimed at anyone but myself, and so I will cut it, but I want to say it here anyway so that I can find it again and hold myself to it, and the short version is: I believe I need to do better. )

If you are considering commenting on this post, I want you to know that my responses may be slow, but I will respond. If discussion arises, I will actively follow comments to ensure that the discussion remains a safe space (as I understand it), and I will moderate without delay should the tone of the discussion render participation unsafe. While I don't generally bring up RL on this journal, I have made a number of statements that stem from my own experiences, and I know that those of you who share similar experiences may well disagree with my beliefs. I will willingly engage in discussion of what my experiences are and how they have informed my beliefs.

Anything else, inquire within.
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So I've been watching with interest as some of you on my dual flists weigh in on the SPN misogyny debates. Having seen next to none of SPN S3, I have no informed opinion to offer on the specifics of the arguments for and against, and I'm not going to try.

What I'm mulling over is a more general conundrum:
1. Promoting hateful and biased opinions is not something I'm in favor of, but
2. limiting your major characters' viewpoints to the political beliefs you want to promote limits the range of characters you get to write about, period, and
3. structuring your stories to ensure they directly address those political beliefs can get old and preachy really, really fast.

I've written main characters who were, among other things, elitist snobs, highly amoral, excessively violent, capable of deep cruelty, and (on at least one notable occasion) completely insane. All of those are traits I'd consider flaws in a friend, but in a character, they give me the potential to tell different, interesting, sometimes deeply unsettling stories. I'd like to think that I, as a writer, would be willing to write a story about a misogynist, racist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted protagonist.

That said, I have no interest in writing a misogynist, racist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted text -- a text whose ultimate effect is to promote those views. And I don't want to have to rely on pedantic, borderline OOC or after-school special monologues by more enlightened characters to make sure the reader understands that I'm not in favor of the views my protagonist holds.

So what's the solution? So far, I've come up with three possible mechanisms, but I think they're pretty good ones:
1. Let the character be wrong because of those views.
2. Engage with those views in a context where they have the potential to make the reader uncomfortable.
3. Let the character change.

A more detailed explanation of what I mean. )

I may not be able to reply to comments any time in the next day or two, due to school eating me, but I'm really interested to hear what your thoughts are -- whether you think these solutions would work, whether you can think of other ways to tackle this, if you'd ever create a sympathetic character whose views you found abhorrent, what you think your ethical obligations as a writer/artist/etc. are in terms of using what you make to further the beliefs you hold dear. Please weigh in if you've got the time.
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Well, a whole lot more of you seem to have read the commentary on Unidentified than I expected, and it sounds like you enjoyed it as well. When I'd first floated the idea of doing a commentary, almost as many of you lobbied for Rebuilding Babel as wanted Unidentified, and I've had a few requests to do a commentary for RB since. I actually got a whole lot out of writing this last commentary -- it was hugely fun, plus I figured out some helpful stuff along the way -- and they're a good thing to tap away at when I don't have enough time to really sink my teeth into any of the stories I'm working on.

So, preamble preambled: I've started the commentary on Rebuilding Babel, and I figured I'd check in with you-all and see if there was anything in particular you wanted me to talk about. So far, two things I'm definitely planning to address are: 1) handling communication in a story with no dialogue, and 2) connecting the way I wrote the characters in this story to canon characterization. Is the other stuff that you'd like me to explore, questions or puzzles you want me to answer, anything like that?
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I think this the first year I've written enough to actually justify drawing up one of these things.


2007, by the numbers. )

A more reflective look at the past year. )

Mostly, 2007 has made me deeply, deeply grateful that I'm learning to write in this time and virtual context. I don't know if I ever would have started writing fiction if [livejournal.com profile] lifeinwords hadn't drop-kicked me into fandom (and L., sincerely: thank you so much for that), but I doubt it would've happened this soon, and I know I would never have found such an extensive, supportive network of people to guide, coax, and cheer me through it. To all of you who have read my stories and let me know what you thought of them, who have joined me in discussions, who have encouraged me and helped me and answered ridiculous requests and questions: thank you. You've made this the best creative year I've ever had, and I'm hoping the next one will be just as rich and full of pleasure.
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This was all the preamble that was going to go with the story snippet, which may now be ... post-amble? Whatever. I also haven't really done a post like this over here before -- they usually happen on my fannish filter on my primary LJ -- but presumably those of you reading here have at least some interest in my writing and/or the process behind it, so it seems like as good a place as any to talk about it.

I've been having this strange experience lately: since the quarter ended, I've on the one hand been really motivated and productive fannishly. I made my first vid (look for that showing up in a week or so), got a WIP 95% of the way to the end, and have generally been all gung-ho for creativity. I've been plotting, with the help of the ever-generous [livejournal.com profile] anatsuno and [livejournal.com profile] svmadelyn, to get a website in the works so my fiction has somewhere besides LJ to live. But I've also been almost completely roadblocked on anything I'm working on that's remotely serious in tone.

Speculation on why that is. )

Plans for stories that have been delayed. Probably only relevant or of interest to my cheerleading squad, aka those people who have read snippets or heard me talk about them already. )

So, the story that is tentatively called "Switch." I think I first had the idea while talking to [livejournal.com profile] seperis about her fascinating Story of a Girl, but I was in the middle of "Rebuilding Babel" and just starting to really percolate on "Probability," and it didn't rate very high on the idea totem pole. Then I spent today at work listening to [livejournal.com profile] dodificus's excellent podfic of [livejournal.com profile] trinityofone's thoroughly enjoyable You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl), and it sparked my urge to pick this idea up again. (Please note I am not implying this will be anywhere near the caliber of either of those -- that'd be seriously presumptuous, this early on.)

Now, here's the thing. As you may have noticed, I only post finished stories, not WIPs. This is a little because I like to go over and over the language in my stories before I'm happy with them, and a lot because I absolutely don't want to paint myself into a corner. By that I mean, I don't want to put something out there until I'm relatively confident of the plot, because I don't want to feel that my hands are tied if I realize later that I should have done something differently. But for the purposes of getting my momentum back up, there's not much that I find more helpful than a five-finger exercise: a story I'm not yet passionate about, where working on it gets me back into the rhythm of writing without representing any commitment.

It should be noted that Unidentified started this way.

So I think that, for now, I'm going to take "Switch" out of the box and play with it for a while -- and for a change, I'm going to do that in public, because honestly, the encouragement and interest of other people does more for my writing momentum than almost anything else. But I do feel the need to warn you: I don't know what the plot of this story is yet. I don't know what the backstory is. It is entirely possible that I'll end up going back and retconning myself halfway through, or that I'll hit a roadblock and never go any farther, or that the next quarter will start before I finish and there will suddenly be months between parts. This is an experiment in many, many ways, one that's starting from half-meta, half-PWP roots, and I have no idea if it'll succeed or fail. So anyone for whom this sounds too self-indulgent or uncertain, know that if and when I finish it, I will put up a final, cohesive version so that you can still read the story while sparing yourselves my mucking about.

Uh. I think that's all for now. I'm going to go write some. :)
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One way to think about psychological functioning is that mental illness and mental health are separated by differences in degree, not in kind.* By that interpretation, we all have different quirks that, dialed up high enough, might match diagnostic criteria for a certain disorder or family of disorders. So as a healthy and functioning person, you might lean in an autistic direction, or an obsessive-compulsive direction, or a schizotypal direction.

If you can apply this to people, you can apply this to characters. Which can lead in some interesting directions.

An example from SGA )

This is the kind of thought-game I like to play, because my favorite stories (to read, and often to write) are the ones where neither the reader nor the viewpoint character has a stable understanding of what's going on: what's real or not, who's right or not, what's happening and what's mis-perceived, etc. These questions make an appearance in just about everything I've written for SGA, and a lot of my earlier stuff: West, for me, was always about watching the characters walk the border of sanity, Calibrate about revealing the hidden mechanisms of power and consent, and To the Dead about how hard it can be to tell the things people do to you from the things you do to yourself. It's a pretty rich vein to tap into as a writer, and you can pay it off equally well in a big reveal or an ending that refuses to resolve the questions the story asked.


*(This is me speaking casually as a layperson, not as a professional in the field. However, I will say that there's a movement in psychology to reconceptualize mental disorders along this kind of spectrum model, and you can see some influence of this in how the DSM links different "families" of mental illness together.)
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In my defense, [livejournal.com profile] graycastle started it. Potentially more to follow later, but these were the things that occurred to me right off the top of my head. If you've read my stories, you can plug all of this into the background of any one of them (with the exception of Unidentified, though #1 and #3 still hold there) and not be wrong.

In which Rodney sleeps with guys like he's walked into a tree, John sleeps with women because it's rude to send your order back to the kitchen, the team argues about who's who in Firefly and BSG, and smackfights occur but food is emphatically not thrown. Discussion mildly explicit. )


What's your canon?
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All right, so it looks like I'll be writing a commentary for Unidentified. (Enough of you asked for Rebuilding Babel that it's entirely possible I'll take that on somewhere down the line -- provided people seem to enjoy this commentary, and once I've got enough distance from RB that I can't recite most of it from memory. *g*)

So, since I'm doing this out of the hopes that it will be interesting to at least some of you: what do you want me to talk about? Are there particular aspects of the story or the writing process you want me to address? Are there things you generally like (or don't like) to read about in commentary?


For those of you who haven't read Unidentified, should anyone comment on this post, it's probably best to assume the comments will be highly spoilery.
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So, as I said earlier, it may be a while before I post new fic. This is in part because I can't get much written without devoting at least forty-five minutes to it, and I'm reluctant to give myself an excuse to procrastinate that substantially when I've got a full courseload. However, I think I could use my shorter chunks of free time to bang out a DVD commentary. I thought I'd run the idea up the flagpole and see who saluted.

If you'd want to read a commentary on one of my stories, leave a comment telling me which of the following would interest you most (listed from shortest to longest):
- Pegasus Ethics
- Tab A Slot B
- the Coda to Unidentified
- Rebuilding Babel
- Unidentified

Most of you seem to be tuned in for the SGA fic, so that's what I've listed, but if there's something else I've written that you'd want me to talk about, feel free to suggest it. Whichever one gets the most votes is probably what I'll go with. And if no one comments, well, then I have my answer as regards your overall interest level. ;)

ETA: Uh, comments rapidly becoming spoiler for ... most everything I've written ever. Just, you know, fair warning.
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In a recent post, [livejournal.com profile] esorlehcar asked, "Why do people write fanfic for shows they haven't watched (or books they haven't read, or movies they haven't seen, or whatever)? Even beyond having no reliable frame of reference for the characters, even beyond the inevitability of producing badly characterized fic, why would you want to?"

This is a question I've been giving some thought to, because technically, I've done it or something like it twice now. In reading the comments on her post, I saw that almost everyone who had responded to her expressed negative opinions of a) the motives of anyone who would write for unfamiliar fandoms, and/or b) the quality of the resulting writing. I decided to take a stab at articulating a minority opinion -- I think it's an understandable choice to write fanfic for unfamiliar source texts, and I think it can yield genuinely good stories. I'm not doing this to defend myself (though I admit the impulse is there), but because I'd like to contribute to a broader view on why people become fannishly active, and what the purpose and pleasure of writing fan texts is. That said, I am going to draw on my own experiences, as a reader but mostly as a writer, because that seems to serve my purposes best -- a first-person perspective on this question, instead of a third-person analysis. As a result, I know some of this may come off as arrogant or self-centered; that's not the intention behind it.

Cut for length )
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Apparently there's a number of these going around, and I thought I'd toss in my two cents (less because I think any of you are looking for my advice and more because I like to keep track of this stuff, when given an excuse). In the last year or so, I've hit the point where I have started to consider myself a good writer. I'm not talking about my ability relative to other people's, but by my own standards. I'm happy with the things I'm writing these days, and with the progress I'm making from story to story. Since I've only been writing for about four years, the whole preceding learning curve is still pretty fresh in my mind. Here are the things that have helped me:

1. Read widely, eclectically, and voraciously.
2. Get good betas.
3. Learn to love the rewriting process.
4. Join or start a collaborative project.
5. Break the rules.


Explanations. )


I recommend that you go read [livejournal.com profile] astolat's advice; she's a successful writer of both fan and bill-paying fiction, and her tips were good ones.
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So for nearly a year now, I've been working on To the Dead, an HP post-war novella I started (and fully plotted) in my senior year of college and then promptly abandoned for two years. The original chapter got an overhaul, and oh my god but the whole thing's getting long (I'm at over 13,000 words right now, with chapters 4-7 left to go). Having gotten a hang of the characterization and mostly fleshed out a lot of the plot's framework, the main challenge right now is writing the magic-intensive sections, because JKR decided to invent a magical world, set the whole series in a magical school, and then make almost no effort to establish how magic actually works. (Oh, what the Harry Potter books might have been if all writers of magical fiction for kids had a little club and Diane Duane had volunteered to be JKR's beta.) I've been gearing up to start chapter four for a little while now, and keep stalling out because it's got a lot of magic use (not to mention characters researching alternate spells and improvising from theory), and I'm not the sort of person who can comfortably put down:

"You know," Draco said, "it's a little disturbing that I agree with you more now than I did when you were sane," and hit him with [INSERT SPELL HERE].

and fill in the blanks later.

So, my solution to this dilemma? Well, given the only general parameter for naming spells that we have (most but not all are bastardized version of Latin words), and given that I'm helping cover the front desk at work (and as I can't do any real work up there, I take that as a time to roam freely around all sections of the internet not rated above PG-13), I spent a good chunk of yesterday reading an online Latin-English dictionary and making a spell reference list. Which is not only a few hundred words long, it's also divided into seven categories (each of which is a made-up type of spell that I know I'll need several of), a batch of general-use words (mostly for modifying the basic categories above), and all of this internally alphabetized.

My girlfriend mocked me. Feel free to do the same.

Huh.

Nov. 5th, 2006 01:07 am
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So I started a sequel to an old story exactly one week ago, and from that Saturday to this one, I've written over 5,000 words. I'm pretty sure that's an all-time record for me.

Musings.

Sep. 26th, 2006 12:58 pm
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Been forever since I posted here, but not for lack of off-screen action. In the last seven months, I've worked on four stories set in the Westverse or somewhere next-door to it (two are in edits, one is about to get there, who knows with the fourth), gotten halfway through chapter three of "To The Dead," plotted one rather metaphysical science fiction novella I'll probably never write and come up with the character roster for an off-kilter superhero comic that I'll probably never script, and concocted a huge story arc for a project with [livejournal.com profile] shaenie that could easily surpass 200,000 words before the end of it. I went on a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler binge that may have finally cured me of the belief that when it comes to adjectives, more is more, and I've gotten to know at least two of my characters well enough that their dialogue and actions have started to write themselves.

I could do a whole post on the shifts I'm experiencing in my writing style and my understanding of the craft of storytelling (that sounds incredibly pretentions, but I feel like I'm starting to get what it means to tell a story on a blueprints-and-scaffolding level instead of just a paint-and-polish one), but what prompted me to post now is my decision that I needed to re-work a 2,000 word chunk of a story in edits. Read more... )
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Top 10 Signs You're Reading My Fiction

1. It doesn't break the 5,000 word mark.
2. It doesn't actually achieve any concrete kind of closure.
3. If you thought the main characters were totally going to Be Together / In Love at the end of it, well, you were wrong.
4. You finished it and thought, Uh. Wow. That just fucked with my head a little.
5. ... And that was more likely to be the story where the main characters ended up Together / In Love.
6. You can't shake the feeling that all the sex was a symbol or metaphor for something else.
7. All adjectives come in pairs of threes (separated by commas, though, because otherwise you're reading a story by [livejournal.com profile] shaenie).
8. It is never, ever in the first person.
9. Any colloquialisms indicating place or time show up in sporadic bursts that correspond to when I pulled up the appropriate online dictionary of slang.
9. There are probably roughly four words of dialogue for every fifty words of prose description (when there's dialogue at all). And the dialogue itself is probably exceeded in word count by the description of how people sound or look when they're talking.
10. The viewpoint character is way too detail-oriented and/or analytical to actually exist.

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