Wherein I Get My AutistiSnark on

Feb 24, 2011 11:02 am
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Forgive me, I usually try to keep the snark away from here, but I just finished watching this week’s episode of Criminal Minds and it compelled me to dig up something I wrote some time last year.

Standard disclaimer: I’m not saying all of these things are automatically wrong or never ever happen in real life. I’m just saying they’re really, really, nauseatingly clichéd and I may need to start throwing lawn chairs around if I see them again anytime soon.

Additions welcome.

Corinne’s Rules for Writing Autistic Characters™

  • Some of us are female.
  • Some of us are over the age of twelve.
  • Some of us have actual personalities beyond ‘autistic’.
  • Some of us have identities beyond Difficult Witness or Precocious Child.
  • Some of us aren’t savants. Boring, I know.
  • Some of us will, in fact, know when you’re being condescending and/or talking about us as though we’re not in the same damn room together.
  • Some of us have emotions beyond PANIC and BLANK.
  • Some of us may even do a freakish thing like hold down a job or have a relationship.
  • Some of us can explain our condition ourselves instead of needing throwaway character X to do it for us.
  • Some of us will be autistic even when it’s inconvenient to your story.
  • Some of us can communicate in ways that don’t include far-fetched puzzles. We might even speak! Using words!
  • Some of us will simply cringe instead of scream at the top of our lungs when touched unexpectedly.
  • Some of us exist for purposes other than to make your main character look ~*sympathetic*~.
  • Some of us will, in fact, refuse to look your main character in the eye or allow a hug even when they’re trying to have a moving scene. Sorry. We’re self-centered jerks like that.
  • Some of us could even be main characters ourselves. (Maybe even in a story that’s not about autism. Shhh, don’t tell anyone!)

/PSA

Back to your not-so-regularly-scheduled not-so-snarky blog posts soon. :)

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The Good, the Bad, and the Sparklies

Feb 17, 2011 1:31 am
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The good: I am now officially on submission.

Yes, that requires sparklies.

The timing is pretty cool, too — a month and a day ago, I sent out my first query for the YA version of this project. I’m still dizzy over how fast all of this has gone. Probably not something I should get used to, in this business. *g*

Unfortunately, there’s also some bad news. If you’ve followed this blog (or my Twitter) for a while you’ll probably already know my dogs, Razzi and Bo. If not, here’s a reminder. (And if so… I don’t care. Look, cute puppies!!)

These photos were taken last year, back when I had hair and looked all of thirteen. (These days, I look fifteen, thank you very much.) (Also, that cow in the distance totally shows up in Always Read the Fae Print.)

Anyway, they’re only my dogs part-time. Their actual owner works long hours, so they come over here several days a week, enjoying the extra space and attention and walking time.

Sadly, their owner is no longer capable of even looking after them part-time, and me taking them in full-time isn’t an option either. We’ll be looking for new owners who do have the time to look after them, as well as the space, inclination, discipline and experience — Akitas are tough dogs to handle.

It’s good for them — they were cooped up alone in a small apartment far too often. At the same time… They’re my bay-bees. I get weepy just thinking about losing them. So that’s putting a bit of a downer on the otherwise celebratory mood.

It helps to know that we’re going to be super-picky about selecting new owners, though, and that they’ll have a much better life this way. I’m trying to focus on that.

Oh, and writing. I guess there’s that, too. ;)

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Community: Why Y’All Should Watch It Right This Second

Jun 26, 2010 8:09 pm
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Man, I’m stealing blog topics lately like… um… is there any kind of animal out there that regularly steals blog topics? No? Okay. That’s probably what makes that simile fall kind of flat.

Anyway, this blog post was inspired by a) Jodi Meadows’s excellent post on the things Stargate SG-1 taught her about writing and b) the unrelated realization that, yes, I love TV shows as more than just distraction from writing. I know a lot of people harp on how you shouldn’t watch TV if you can read/write instead, it’s just a waste of time, etc. etc. but I really think that, in addition to the sheer entertainment value and closing-off-your-brain factor you sometimes need as a writer, it’s a great way to study storytelling. It won’t teach you to write prose, but it can teach you plenty about other things, and studying how and why TV shows do what they do can be an excellent way to learn.

Which is a kind of long intro to me saying that, holy crap, I love the TV series Community and if you haven’t seen it yet, you ought to do so. Right this second. Or at the very least when the DVD-set comes out. It’s a very smart comedy which far exceeded my expectations based on its rather standard premise: community college! band of misfits! shenanigans ensue! It’s probably my favourite comedy series in a long time, on par perhaps only with Better Off Ted.

(Which you should also watch.)

Warning: as I discuss what I think Community does right, I’ll use comparisons from certain shows who try to do similar things but don’t pull it off, in my opinion. By ‘certain shows’, I mean Glee. I’ll try to be fair, but my unparalleled loathing of Glee1 may colour my analysis. Fair warning!

1. Know Thy Tropes
Whether you want to avoid them, subvert them, or ridicule them all to hell – know them. Your audience will, too, and they’ll appreciate being taken by surprise or seeing a clever spin on something they recognize.

This means reading/watching in your genre, and spending a lot of time on TV Tropes. If you don’t know the site, prepare to waste an ungodly amount of hours there.

(Note to self: next time you link to TV Tropes, do it at the end of a post, or you’ll lose readers.)

2. Go There – But Know Where You’re Going
This applies to anything ~controversial~ or otherwise shocking: go there. Don’t back down, don’t play it safe. It’s okay to be outrageous.

But please, know what you’re doing. Don’t just do random shit for the sake of being edgy and then wonder why people are annoyed or offended when you fuck up.

Community is a silly comedy and they regularly tackle issues of racism or sexism in the least PC way possible, and they succeed2. Glee is a silly comedy that regularly tackles issues of sexism or racism in the least PC way possible, and they fail on multiple levels, because they’re doing it for kicks without understanding what they’re doing. Sometimes this results in laughs. But usually, when it comes to the issues they address, they do more to alienate the groups they’re trying to support than anything else. I think that’s a shame. With that kind of cast and talent, they could do so much better.

3. A Little Goes A Long Way
Community is a comedy show and it KNOWS this, but it can still tackle solid drama. In one episode – minor spoilers to follow - the students have a Halloween party. One of them, Abed, dresses in a Batman costume and plays the role awesomely, raspy Christian Bale voice et al. Jeff, the lead of the show, is embarrassed by his friends’ immaturity and tries to avoid the party, but keeps getting dragged in. At one point, he snaps:

Jeff: Britta, I don’t care about your high school soap opera. Abed, you’re not Batman.
Abed: I know I’m not Batman. You could try not being a dick.


Paraphrased, since I can’t seem to find the quote online. When I watched this, I went, ouch. When I rewatched the episode with a friend, he gasped.

It’s so simple, so direct, and it works so damn well for both characters. There’s no need to harp on the point whatsoever.

4. Make Up Your Mind
For the most part, Community doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and I love it for that. It’s the same reason I love shows like Chuck: they don’t take themselves too seriously. This doesn’t mean that Community can’t do drama on occasion. Just watch the episode Introduction to Film.

But it does mean that it knows its genre and doesn’t bounce between different styles. Only very few shows (Buffy!) can pull that off without giving the viewer a mental whiplash.

Now, certain shows have a big problem with this. They try to be satirical high school comedies and then interject it with moments of tearful Very Special Episode-style drama, played completely straight. Even people who have liked Glee since the beginning have expressed issues with this, and the more pronounced it gets, the more people are getting annoyed by how the show can’t seem to figure out what it wants to be.

It pains me to say this, but here goes: In its first season finale, Community did the exact same thing. It went from a trope-subverting ensemble cast to a one-man-show that played entirely by the rules, annoying love triangle included, and it irritated a lot of its die-hard fans in the process.

(See? I can be fair and criticize the shows I love!) 


1 Believe me, I gave Glee a fair shot: I started the show fully expecting to love it, and gave it a full season to redeem itself when it didn’t quite catch on. It just ended up annoying me more and more. Sorry, Glee fans. (I still love the singing-and-dancing.)

2 It doesn’t succeed all the time. I’ve been rather annoyed with its treatment of Britta and Shirley. Still, it does a lot better than 95% of shows out there, so I think the point is valid.

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The Great Fanfic Debate, pt. 2: Why Fandom Ain’t As Bad People Think It Is

May 09, 2010 11:47 am
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Previous post on The Great Fanfic Debate: Why Fandom Is Good For Authors.


 
I’d like to clarify something about my earlier post – if authors aren’t cool with fanfiction of their world/characters, that’s a-okay. I’m not trying to say “you should be okay with it, and this is why!” – though, of course, it’d be cool if I did manage to change some people’s minds. The post was more about trying to show the other side of things, of why it might not be as bad as a lot of people are making it out to be. If you don’t like fanfiction, that’s your choice. I just see a lot of people making that choice without knowing the first thing about fanfiction. To see Diana Gabaldon form such a strong opinion about the matter before she even realised that fanfiction comes from a place of love and inspiration tells me that she really, really didn’t know much about fandom in the first place. (I’d link to the post where she said that, but it’s since been deleted.)

So that’s what I’m asking. Try to get where it comes from and why people do it before you shoot it down. And, for the love of kittens, realise that no one is claiming credit for your work and no one is making money off of it.

Moving on!


There were a few points I saw brought up a lot in these discussions:

  1. All fanfiction sucks, anyway.
  2. Fandom is nothing but ego-stroking; you can’t learn in an environment like that!
  3. The only reason people read fanfiction is because they like the character. It says nothing about the quality of the work.
  4. It’s not a good place to grow as a writer. Create your own characters/worlds – at least that way you’ll learn something.

Again, I suspect that a lot of those sentiments come from people who only took a cursory glance at fandom. So let me just consider those statements one-by-one.

1: All fanfiction sucks, anyway.

Short answer: no, it doesn’t.

Long answer: a lot of it does, though. In published writing, you have gatekeepers. Agents, editors, publishers, all those neat people. Without them, can you imagine how much crap would be flooding the market? (Of course you can. I’m sure you’ve seen some self-published work. /rimshot) So yeah, 98% of fanfiction sucks. Just like 98% of original writing sucks – you’re just a lot less likely to encounter it. It says nothing about the inherent value or quality of fanfiction.

There are, in fact, a number of professional, published authors who will still write fanfiction in their spare time. They just tend not to connect their professional identities to their fandom identities.

2: Fandom is nothing but ego-stroking; you can’t learn in an environment like that!

Short answer: that’s not true.

Long answer: I guess it’s sorta true. It depends on the community. Sure, in some places you can post whatever you want and as long as it contains the names ‘Harry’ and ‘Hermione’ people will fawn all over you. But consider this: fandom is a large place. Lots of people, lots of fanfiction. People don’t have unlimited time. In order to get people to read your work, it has to get their attention and keep it, or they’ll move on to the next shiny thing. Kind of like original fiction!

There are also lots of communities that focus on constructive criticism. Most people who are remotely serious about their fanfiction have at least one beta reader. It all depends on what you want to accomplish: if you want to learn, fandom is a supportive, friendly place to do so. If you don’t, well, then you can just have fun. And if that’s someone’s goal, who are we to say they’re wrong?

3: The only reason people read fanfiction is because they like the character. It says nothing about the quality of the work.

Short answer: There is no Praise Police. Nor should there be.

Long answer: will involve sparkles. You have been warned.

So what? would be my first response – a lot of people read paranormal romance because they like paranormal romance. A lot of people read noir detectives because they like noir detectives. And yeah, a lot of people read Angel/Spike slash because they like Angel/Spike slash. That doesn’t automatically render them incapable of judging the quality of it. (Also, see point 1: fanfiction might actually be worth reading sometimes!)

My second response: why are so many people hammering about the quality of fanfiction? What’s the purpose? I honestly don’t understand; are people somehow offended that certain work is getting a lot of attention they don’t think it deserves? No one is making you read this stuff. If you don’t think it’s any good, then ignore it. Or laugh at it. Share it with your friends. Whatever floats your boat. But after that: let it go. There is no Praise Police. None of us get to decide on a case-by-case basis who does and doesn’t deserve praise or attention, and it’s really not worth getting so worked up over.

What I’m going to say now is very, very important. So important, in fact, it can only be expressed through sparkles:

PEOPLE ARE JUST HAVING FUN.

That’s all I have to say about that.

4: It’s not a good place to grow as a writer. Create your own characters/worlds – at least that way you’ll learn something.

Tune in tomorrow for that one, because this post is getting way too long as it is.


Next post on The Great Fanfic Debate: Why Fandom Is Good For… Er… Authors.

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