This will be my last post for The Scrap Pile. I wanted to leave you all with something meaningful, so here’s a few words on writing advice, rules and taking chances.
When it comes to writing advice, whether from a book, a blog like this, or someone critiquing one of your works, always judge it for yourself.
Read it, synthesize it in your mind, and then decide whether it’s right for you, and the story you want to write. This is especially true when listening to comments on your specific work. It’s your story and ultimately you have to make the decisions about what it is and isn’t going to be.
I hadn’t planned on writing about this, but since it seems like such a big concern for many writers, I figured I give my two cents. First I’m going to break it down, then I’m going to go over how to handle these situations.
Types of Theft
1) Genuine plagiarism. This is when someone copies your story word for word, and either tries to pass it off as their own, or switches fandoms, changing the names to fit their fandom. This is easily identifiable, straightforward, and a despicable act to those of us who write.
2) Story Theft. This is when someone “rewrites” your story. Same characters, same plot, and same events. They may change a couple things, but it will remain pretty recognizable from the original work.
This is not finding another story in which Tony and Ziva have hot monkey sex and Ziva turns up pregnant a month and a half later.
This is finding another story in which Tony and Ziva have hot monkey sex in Tony’s Mustang (let’s pretend it wasn’t blown-up), Ziva gets pregnant with twins, Tony names them Mo and Curly, Abby throws a Goth-themed baby shower, and Ziva goes into labor while stuck on an elevator during a blackout.
It’s the details that matter in this case. The odds of two people coming up with that story with those specific events independently are small enough I’d think to be negligible.
One of the hardest things for many people to write, and the easiest to screw up on is sex scenes. They are not easy to write, regardless of how much sex you may or may not have had. So, I offer you five tips to writing sex scenes that may help you along.
1) If you are uncomfortable writing it, it will read like you were uncomfortable writing it.
Write it out a few different ways until you’ve gotten yourself comfortable writing sex. It may seem tedious, but it will read better in the long run.
This also means if you can’t comfortably use words like penis, anus and vagina, you shouldn’t be writing a sex scene. Desensitize yourself to the anatomical terminology before you try to write sex.
2) Make sure it’s physically possible.
Don’t twist your characters into pretzels without really considering if the move is physically possible. And FYI, taking a penis completely into one’s mouth is called deep-throating* and it’s a learned skill. Not everyone can do it. Also to consider, not every place you’ve seen people have sex on TV is as comfortable as they make it look. The ground has rocks and tree roots, and cars are cramped.
3) Avoid slang and phrases like “meat sword”.
Seeing things like “juicy pussy” and “throbbing cock” pull me right out of a story. You aren’t writing for Hustler or Playboy; sex scenes do not equal pornography, even if there’s no emotional component to the sex.
At the same time, you don’t have to write like your writing for a Victorian or Puritan audience. Don’t be overly poetic or flowery. Vaginas do not sing to anyone.
When in doubt use proper terminology or be cagey and don’t say it at all (ex. He slid himself inside her).
4) Not every moment of intercourse is an explosion of passion that’s perfectly choreographed.
Not every sex scene you write has to be an explosion of confetti and a rocket to the moon. Normal people tend to have normal sex, without tearing each others clothes off or humping each other at work.
5) There are erogenous zones outside the penis, vagina, butt and breasts.
Be creative. Neck, stomach, underside of the knees, toes, etc. are all good places to use. Think about which areas turn you on, or if you’re a virgin, google erogenous zones (please be super careful doing that though, I don’t know what you’ll find).
*The code name for the Washington Post informant Deep Throat actually came from a porn movie of that name about a woman who could deep throat.
Does anyone have an thoughts or tips to add?
I’m calling this Rape 101, hoping that people will use this to educate themselves before they write a story about a rape.
1 out of every 6 American women has been raped or been a victim of attempted rape. (RAINN)
Likewise for 1 of every 33 men. (RAINN)
In 3 out of 4 rapes, the perpetrator was known to the victim. That means only 25% percent of rapes are the “grabbed by a stranger on the street type” that most women fear. (DOJ)
Less than 1/3 of incidents involved a weapon. (DOJ)
Basic Chronology of Reporting a Rape
Obviously not every incident will play out this way, and different jurisdictions may handle things a bit differently.
- Victim is raped.
- Victim reports rape.
- Victim goes to hospital.
- Victim gives information to intake nurse.
- Victim gives statement to patrol cops (first responders).
- Rape kit.
- At some point, the detective arrives, and the victim talks to him/her as well.
- Victim goes to Special Victims Unit, Family Violence Unit, or whichever detective unit is designated to handle rape cases, and answers more questions.
If the rapist is caught and there is enough evidence and the victim is credible enough, he/she will be prosecuted. I didn’t include the chronology of this, because most stories don’t get that far.
Also known as: SASE, SAE, and various other names contain a variety of materials specific to whichever jurisdiction the rape occurs in. These have to be performed by a person trained to do so, usually a SANE nurse (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner).
Usually swabs are taken from the vagina, and the mouth and anus if necessary, pubic hair is combined, clothes are taken as evidence, the victim’s body is examined for injuries and evidence, fingernail scrapings are taken, and photos are taken of injuries.
Drugs to prevent transmission of disease are usually given, especially PEPs (Post-exposure prophylaxis) if it’s suspected the victim was exposed to HIV. (I know less about this area.) Information on HIV testing is here.
At some hospitals, but not all in the States, EC will be given. EC, or emergency contraception, is used to prevent pregnancy. The sooner it’s taken the more effective it is at preventing pregnancy. EC works by either keeping the egg from leaving the ovary or the sperm from joining the egg. EC DOES NOT TERMINATE AN ALREADY EXISTING PREGNANCY.
More info on rape kits here.
There are multiple kinds of force.
Physical force: Fairly obvious, someone beats someone else or holds them down.
Drugging: Again fairly obvious, use of drugs/alcohol incapacitates the victim.
Coercion: Less obvious and less understood. Often the victim has a relationship of some kind with the perpetrator (romantic, familial or friendship), and is pressured and pushed into intercourse. Basically, coercion means the perpetrator takes away the victim’s ability to say “No” via psychological manipulation.
Any one of these can be used in the commission of a rape.
These links also hold good information on domestic violence, which tends to involve rape, especially the book.
Tomorrow, we move onto more fun topics. I just wanted to get these all out in a day.
This will be fairly short, the second part to this which will have more information will be longer. These tips came from an evening I spent reading rape fics in several different fandoms. It was not a fun night, but fanfic writers do a notoriously piss poor job writing rape. I’m desperate to remedy that, or at least try.
Some of these may sound a bit harsh, but these are actually me leashed and muzzled.
1) If you’re uncomfortable writing it, the reader will be able to tell. Rewrite it until you’re not uncomfortable anymore.
2) Don’t dress it up in fussy language. When a man shoves his penis into a woman’s vagina without her consent, it’s isn’t pretty. Don’t try to make it pretty.
3) With dialogue, less is more. To my knowledge, there doesn’t tend to be a lot of chit-chat in rape. You can use dialogue, just don’t use much.
4) Avoid comic relief, it just comes off as insensitive. If you’re trying to inject comic relief into a rape scene, you clearly aren’t comfortable writing it. Rewrite it until you are, or don’t write it.
5) Physical injuries are actually very rare, even rape where physical force is used. Most rape survivors walk away without black eyes and broken wrists, if you want to write it realistically lay off the near-death beatings.
6) Whiny, guilt-ridden boyfriends are obnoxious. If I have to read one more story where some pathetic, self-centered shmoe is getting coddled by his recently victimized girlfriend, I’m going to vomit. The partner of a woman who was raped may feel guilty, he may even be an emotional mess thinking about what happened to her, but he needs to collect his sorry ass and put his misery away long enough to be supportive to her. Give the victim’s partner someone else to comfort him/her.
7) Do a bit of research before you try to write a character with PTSD. PTSD is far more than just bad dreams and jumping at noises or touches, and not every person demonstrates the same symptoms. It’s just the showiest ones that end up on TV and in movies.
8) Don’t use rape is as plot device to romantically link two characters. Just don’t. It’s insensitive and overdone.
9) Emergency Contraception does not cause an abortion. Also known as Plan B in the states, this is a pill or pills that prevents pregnancy. It’s usually high doses of hormones. It does not terminate an already existing pregnancy.
These apply any gender of victim, partner and attacker, and both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
The bottom line here is the same as any other type of writing: if you don’t know or aren’t sure, do some research.
Sensitive topics aren’t necessarily controversial, but they do require a delicate hand. This category includes child abuse, domestic violence, rape and racial issues among others. While these may be uncomfortable for some readers and writers, they happen in our society, and could occur in the lives of our characters. They may have even occurred in a character’s past, or during the timeline of the original work.
The first thing I will say about these topics is to do your research. Don’t think you know about it because you’ve read the stories of others who have used it, or seen it in movies. Google it. Read about it.
Handle these topics with respect. Domestic violence in fanfic always turns into a complete melodrama. Real people suffer through these everyday, think about them when you write. Try to tell their story, the pain that they’ve lived through.
If you’re cocking your head to the side and thinking racism doesn’t fit in that description, talk to someone who’s lived it. They will tell you how painful racism is.
The key to writing sensitive topics is empathy.
This means that even more than usual, you put yourself in the characters shoes. You let yourself feel what they’re feeling. Suffer with them.
A six year-old being beaten by his mother would obviously be frightened. Go beyond that. He’s all alone, he has no sense of security, and probably no hope. He doesn’t have to worry about the monsters under his bed, because he lives with a monster everyday. He doesn’t trust anyone, and why should he?
Being empathetic, feeling with your character, it means going beyond the clichés. Yeah, a woman who’s raped will feel dirty, she’ll have flashbacks and she might have an exaggerated startle response. But, it’s so much more than that.
Her rapist took away her control. He took away her sense of safety. He took away her power. She’s left feeling vulnerable and exposed all the time, like there are eyes following her around ready to attack again.
Do not use these topics as a plot device to bring your ship together. There are few fanfic things that aggravate me more than this use, usually of domestic violence and rape. If all you want is to get your ship together, find another way to do it.
A litmus test for posting stories with sensitive content.
1. Pretend someone who’s lived the scenario you’ve written is going to read it, are you comfortable with that? If not, rewrite it.
2. Did it hurt? When you wrote it, did you bite your lip anxiously, did your hands sweat, did your stomach turn, even a little? If not, rewrite it.
Controversial issues that you may find yourself writing about include abortion, euthanasia, and slash/femslash, among other things. Slash is an entire subgenre, and while generally accepted in the fanfic community, from author’s notes I’ve read, these writers still get grief.
For those who don’t know, slash is homosexual relationships. Femslash is specific to between women.
Setting slash aside, the cardinal rule with controversial topics is to know your audience. Shows like Private Practice and Law & Order deal with controversial topics frequently. As a result, your audience will likely be conditioned and not bothered by reading about them. On the other hand, How I Met Your Mother and Supernatural don’t really get into these topics, and your audience may be more sensitive to them. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write about them, it only means that you should be a tad more delicate when you do.
I asked oshizemi to elaborate on her comments on one of my posts, and she was kind enough to do so. The below is about possible issues with Livejournal.
In the past there have been big purges on LJ, I can’t remember the details. I think they coincided with the ownership of LJ changing hands and various policy changes. Large swaths of the readership have left the site more than once.
There was a mass exodus of fic writers and artists a while back; they were banned and deleted without notification in most cases. It was similar to what is going on now with FFn. It makes me hesitant to recommend LJ to anyone who writes fanfic.
I’ve been on Dreamwidth since closed beta. There seems to be a lot of fanfiction, fandom, and role playing journals on the site compared to what I see of LJ. DW’s policy is one of noncensorship. This has some more information than I can explain :P I hope this helps!
Thank you, oshizemi.
So who has become part of the exodus from FF.net, and which site did you immigrate to?
This is going to be my last post on the Purge (unless something huge happens), because I think it’s tapering off, and frankly I’m getting a bit tired of all the drama surrounding it. First though, I just want to go over my own thoughts on it a bit.
While FF.net is certainly entitled to keep their site “clean” of any above MA-rated stories, they aren’t going about it the right way. I also feel the lack of clarity regarding their rating system was begging for this fiasco to happen. I thought lightly described sex was fine in an M story, not porn, not erotica, but sex like you’d find in a mass market crime novel. Apparently, it is not.
I don’t really have an issue with their non-MA policy, but I do have an issue with their K (G) rated summaries/titles policy. This is a ridiculous policy for all of the fandoms I write in, which involved investigating homicides (i.e. killings). Seriously, if the story is rated M, has violence, cursing and non-descriptive sex, does it really matter what the summary/title is rated? If a kid can get to the summary, a kid can get to the story.
If FF.net wants to avoid all content inappropriate for kids, then they should never have allowed for adult fandoms, or they should have separated that part of the site years ago. And I think that’s my biggest gripe with this; when you try to make everyone happy, you end up making no one happy.
So onto the Purge. The only new info I really have is the names of a few sites that people are switching to from fanfiction.net.
- archiveofourown.org (AO3, Requires an invitation.)
I would like to reiterate that contrary to rumors flying about, Critics United is NOT responsible for the purge. Check out their forums for more info.
I would also like to thank my guest blogger this week, tfm. You are awesome.
Previous posts on the fanfiction.net purge.
- So what’s the latest on the Fanfiction.net Purge? (6/6/12)
- More Thoughts on Fanfic.net Purge. (6/4/12)
- FF.net Purge Update (6/4/12)
- Fanfic.net Purge! (6/2/12)
On Tuesday, tfm began discussing crossover fics, today she concludes with tips on writing crossovers.
Know Your Fandoms
Really, this should be a given for fanfic in general, but I’ll say it anyway. If you don’t have a pretty good knowledge of the fandoms in which you’re writing, you probably shouldn’t be writing crossovers. I’m not talking a “I can remember the chronological events of every single episode by heart, and I also celebrate the birthdays of the characters with more excitement than I do my own family member,” but you probably shouldn’t be the person going “Wait, is Dean Winchester the hot one?” (that’s a trick question, by the way – they’re both pretty hot).
You should at least make sure you know the key events in the history of the particular fandom you’re working with, as well as key moments in the history of the character. Depending on the focus of your story, you should also be checking up on the events that have significance to its outcomes. Especially in cases where the backstories themselves are inconsistent, nobody’s expecting any author to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything that’s happened, but as with all stories, it should be good enough to make the story believable, even if they’re fighting giant robots.