I'll regret posting this · 11:13am
(Note, this is basically a copy pasta of something I posted on Deviantart just now. Thought just incase there is someone who doesn't see me there wants to look at it, why shouldn't they be able to?)
First off, let me just note that the new chapter of CoE is done. It was more or less done for quite some time now, but I just couldn't work up the guts to finish it up and publish it. I won't put it up here just yet (nor on deviantart of course), but if anyone wants to see it right away or do me the favour of giving some pre-read feedback while they're at it, the Google Doc's file (with comment function allowed) is here: link
NOW to the part I'll regret more... Damn I will sound like some insecure bag of fragile china dolls. I'm not, or rather I'm not for the most part, but I am sort of when it comes to writing.
I don't believe I ever went back to edit my journal on the first Hobbit movie, but not long after posting it, I made a horrible realization. In it I claimed they never even mentioned the Arkenstone, with which I would have been okay with... But they did. They took essentially the Holy Grail, the Kaaba stone, the Ark of the Covenant, the Black Mountians, the... the... Basically the most "holy" symbol of dwarven culture, the symbol of Durin the Undying, the dwarf whom all dwarves can and do strive to be worthy of... They took the Arkenstone and made it some random jewel that some random dwarf digged out of a random corner of Erebor, and which had no greater weight to it than that it fed the blind, Smaug-esque greed of Thorin's Grandfather.
Let me repeat that. They took essentially the Holy Grail, and treated it in he narrative like it's just some fancy cup. You do realize someone got aged into dust for doing that once, right? I'm sorry, it's not even funny. It basically removes the soul of the thirteen dwarves' desperate crusade to reclaim their people's identity, and turns it into a version of Treasure Island with 100% less pirate ships and 100% more Gandalf. (Mathematically more than infinity% more Gandalf since it's a change from 0 to 1, but you get the picture.)
This is pathetically disrespectful and downright ignorant of the source material. And yet people like it. People don't even notice it. Same with Abrams' Star Trek. Who cares that it has nothing to do with Science Fiction? What? Isaac Asimov helped forge the franchise into possibly the only true Science Fiction television franchise that came out of America in any time period? Who the heck is Isaac Asimov? Why should we care? We have fancy space ships de-orbiting into San Francisco in a North to South angle, despite being in clear ~equatorial orbit next to the Moon, and never burning retrogade (which is the only way to not become stranded in orbit until someone comes to pick you up with engines offline). Logic and truthfulness to the complexity of space exploration? Who cares about that?
I know what you're thinking right now: What the hell does this have to do with me being insecure? Good question, here's the answer:
I feel like I THINK I know who my target audience is, but everyday looking around in the way people treat actually good writing, such as Tolkien's brilliance in world building. Not to mention how 98% of the things people nit pick about his story, Faramir not wanting to accept the Ring, Tom Bombadil, the Eagles not flying to Mordor, are all either infact discussed - not in some forgotten extra little writing in the Silmarilion but - in the self same books, or are MEANT to be noticed at a flaw at first, only that when thinking about it, it can help reveal something deeper about the world or the characters involved in the "plot hole". Wasn't the point of no one being able to resist the Ring, being that the Ring could promise and practically deliver on any wish anyone could ask for? Frodo wanted to defend the Shire, he could easily have become a great warrior with the ring as well as an agent of shadow, with a clouded mind, he could even believe that through this he posed a formidable defence for his home. Sam? He was in very similar shoes. Aragorn could have united Gondor, Gandalf could have amased greater power than any wizard before him and vanquish all he didn't deem worthy from the world. They all wanted these things and the Ring could give it to them. Then why not Faramir? (In the books mind you, the films basically skip out on this fantastic little moment.) That is what the "plot hole" is all about. Faramir isn't seduced by the Ring, because despite all its power, all the tricks all the influence the Ring has, it cannot give him the only one thing he ever wished for. The Ring cannot help him earn his father's love. The Ring could make him more like Boromir, a finer warrior, but Faramir is far too experienced to believe that trying to be his brother will ever gain him his father's approval. He cannot be seduced, because he has accepted that he will always be what he is at that time, and though he may fantasize about his father being more of a father to him, deep down, he no longer wishes it to be so.
This was the point of Faramir not wanting the Ring, despite it at the very least tempting every single other person it came in contact with. And even the 'hardcore Tolkien fans' consider this an oversight on Tolkien's part, because they do not truly look into the depths of the reasoning unless it is explicitly explained to them, Tolkien's extraordinary efforts being lost on his most outspoken fans themselves.
This, this is a writer's ultimate nightmare. Our work being forgotten or disliked, is bad. It really is. But it does not compare to our work being liked for the wrong reasons, because if once the idea is sat in people's minds that a particular thing is enjoyable for one reason, it will become very difficult to make them see something different. This is also the reason why I believe J.J. Abrams' mental butchering of the Star Trek name will cast a horrible shadow on the rest of the franchise that may very well deny it the potential cult following in the many decades to come, because probably experiencing his work first hand, those interested in Science Fiction will be put off by the new films and not look further back in history, and those excited about the new films will dislike the scarcity and downplayed nature of action in Star Trek. The few who can go past this barrier of human prejudice being few and far between.
So how does this translate to me? I'm afraid. I'm very, very afraid for my work. I try my best to actually write something worth people's time in this fan fiction, not just something people read when they have absolutely nothing better to do. Granted, the very small amount of feedback itself can make this difficult (Though I am immensely grateful for any feedback I get, even if I am too absent minded and possibly proud to say it enough.), the true issue comes from me being afraid that it doesn't matter, because ultimately people won't care for it. I don't mean to bash on my readers of course, because I'm very greatful for every single one of you reading my little writings here, whether or not I receive verbal or written or really any matter of feedback; but to a degree, the lack of any sort of opinions on what people notice/like or even dislike/hate/would do differently about my writing makes me feel I'm talking at a wall at times, and what I'm trying to get down to, is that I'm sort of doing exactly that, but it actually is part of the point in what is sort of a meta reasoning both outside of the writing I do and inside it.
As I noted with Star Trek probably heading into the Pit of Forgotten Things, if people have a predetermined view on something, they will find it difficult to see it as anything else. For proof of this, look at the reactions people who loved the Lord of the Rings movies had for the books, considering the "boring" exposition on the world nothing but pointless filler that didn't contribute anything but given detailed description on what was in the background of the movies for about 3 minutes. That of course isn't the case with the descriptions, but falsely seeing The Lord of the Rings as some sort of Action Adventure franchise (Which it definitely is not if properly picked apart) denies people to see the point of the long descriptions. It's like if the books would be a random set of small household items like monopoly figurines, car keys, small toys, a phone an ipod etc, and the movies would be a similar set of household items, some the same some different. Having just looked through the packet of items in the set of the movie's hill of knick knacks, it's hard to notice all the things in the set of the books that aren't in the set of the movies, because your mind subconsciously locks onto what is familiar and what you associate with the name "Lord of the Rings", thus you mostly only notice what you saw before in the other set of items.
Now consider. You or someone else looks at something and says: Hey, this is an MLP Fan Fiction!
BAM, they already have their expectations on what they think they'll find. Granted, some people have wider ranges of expectations, but everybody has some expectations when it comes to something like this.
Without saying that my story is nothing like the show, I have to admit that it's only like it on the surface. There are a lot of things being sat up constantly which I plan to refer back to later and essentially build what will feel like an actually living, breathing world where the universe revolves around more than six randomly chosen people, even if they do serve prominent roles in the conciousness of the greater community, while not defining it.
The issue from here could be pretty clear, but since my logic suggests it to be damn unlikely that anyone else spent as much time thinking about this work I'm doing as I did (for that is practically impossible, though thanks for trying if you did :) ), I feel that I should clarify:
I'm trying to showcase that there is more going on in the world of the show, than what is going on in the show. (Well, this is just one thing really, but one of the more visible ones that I'm not afraid to ruin for anyone who tries to look for themselves. Since it features throughout the whole series, even where I do follow the point of view of canon characters, this is also a good thing to start on.) This is practically shooting myself in the foot before the marathon, because the one thing almost everybody is looking for in a fic based on a show, is what they see in the show. They want to see the heroes be the heroes, they want them to go on grand adventures, and while it would be a lie to say that these two things won't feature in my story (more heavily in Book 3 than the rest and in a yet-unmentioned *cough* wibbly prequelish thing), you have to have noticed there being a lot more attention given to "minor" features of the world especially in Book 1 when I tried to hit to right starting note, saying that this will be about more than what's in the middle of the screen. (Think Café du Soleil, The Equestrian, more directly: Old Town and the history of the name "Feed Bag" - even if also a fun little reference if you got it - in Canterlot, not to mention the Royal Council of Magical Practices which I can't imagine not existing in any remotely functional society of magical beings.
A core idea here would be to not directly shove it into the reader's face, but generally give them the feeling that though they may go on and watch the next episode in which Rainbow Dash will be awesome, there is a lot more to the world we've seen than just a couple of ponies in any one place at any one given time, as most fics seem to set it up, even if not focused on the mane 6 at all. History is an important part of any world, not just because of how it is treated in fics like say, Fallout Equestria, where it is an excuse to give certain tools and settings and problems to characters, but also because history is what validates the very personality of any given character as well as society which is built upon that history. Again, think Tolkien here.
This should for the most part be a semi-simple concept in my opinion, yet many people have a problem with separating history from trivia. Just remember how Newton once said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants."? He doesn't mean that he's a regular sized person and those who came before him were far greater than him, despite the imagery suggesting as such. He wasn't THAT modest a man. Instead regular sized men like him have set in motion the wheels of history and put such influence on it and the advancement of Science that the world shaped around them and far after their death has their legacy slowly been expanded upon and truly used to its full potential, turning them into giants over decades and centuries if not more.
This isn't only for people either. Think of "The Times". Granted, the age of the newspaper is dying a miserable death at the moment, but for a long time, The Times and the many, many other newspapers were the source to everything people knew of the world at the time (aside from philosophy and history which they gathered more from books). This and other newspapers defined the lives, beliefs and views of many, many generations of men and women, thus defining the era shaped by the people who read them. Few things could carry more weight in history than these papers. Not having seen other methods of information in the show so far, all of this weight all of this pride transfers to any paper in the world of MLP, for despite them being pastel coloured ponies, they very much lead real lives within their own world and are affected by the things in this world just as much as the men and women of the 18th through 20th century were by newspapers. That doesn't even go to mention how knowing the power and responsibility they wield defines the person of those involved in the industry in this world, two of whom have been already showcased.
Of course, another understanding of the "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants." quote can very well undermine everything I said here, for how can one see the true reach of a giant and the shadow it casts, without climbing it and looking down from there? To understand the weight something as simple as a newspaper carries, and how much it's writing style can help define those who read it, one must first "climb the giant" that is the newspaper industry, has to be aware of what I detailed in the previous paragraph. And here comes another thing I'm afraid of:
Without any fault laying with them, most people don't understand the true, world shaping importance of a newspaper. Especially not today. Most people aren't encouraged to breathe in elements of the world that define their and others' daily lives like the paper for example, and never really see a newspaper - real or fictional - as anything more than a couple pieces of paper with words printed on it.
Think how revolutionary it seemed to many, that Siskel and Ebert would treat movies like something that defines the world and society at large, while really, this should be the norm, because everything defines the world and society and everything is more than what meets the eye. The problem being, that it's becoming more and more difficult to realize this, as fiction and what people refer to as "art" at large these days just stopped treating the world as a living thing, and instead focuses on a single story or character, instead of what shapes and defines the story and character. It's of course very much possible to showcase the world through the interactions of characters (in fact I try to do just that quite often, to the best of my ability), but if such practices are successful, it is debatable if they are so because they succeeded in bring the world to life, or because the world was already alive and simply allowed the efforts in proving this to be successful... If that makes any sense.
But again, I think we reached too loop around point once more: People treat the world as a setting, as opposed to part of the topic and theme. If with such mindset people begin to read a story focusing at least in parts to showcase the world, they'll see nothing but filler, and it's not even exactly easy if at all possible to describe what they should see instead, as describing it, would be like trying to describe the more complex principals of logic, something people who are getting paid to do it can't always do successfully.
In essence, unless people are aware of the everyday symbols and aren't unconsciously trained on looking for other things, it is hard to impossible to make them understand or enjoy a story using those everyday symbols, and I'm afraid my extensive use of them can cause people to not really understand some things I try to lay down without going into exugiratingly long pieces of exposition.
Aside from what people DON'T see, there also is the problem of what they DO see, but aren't meant to see. When I say they aren't meant to see, I mean that it isn't at all part of the story or narrative, and yet they associate it with the truth because they expect it to be so.
Nearly everybody I've shown Chronicles of Equestria believed at first glance, that Oakleaf is meant to represent me. That he is some sort of self-insert. I have to grant them, I didn't do myself any favours giving him a mark the exact copy of the symbol I use most everywhere, but should people know the symbol's true identity (something I hope one day they can), it would be a lot clearer that it doesn't tie to my person in any other way than that I came up with it.
The same prejudice towards the story people think they'll get, that stops them from looking at everything outside the box, is what causes them to irritatedly pick up things they accidentally noticed outside the box and then put it inside the box because it fits their mental processes better if they imagine that element fulfilling a role they expected to be fulfilled in the story they'll read. It's only human nature of course, so none of their faults. (I'm not sure if you could have noticed by this point, but some things I say, are similar to the way Colt Smith relates to his own writing. Although again, he also isn't any version of me, he would be much closer than Oakleaf if we get down to it.)
The meta reasoning I mentioned earlier however, comes in here. On a single level, I challenged myself that even if it seems impossible I'd at least try to tell a story in the classical way of using the world as much as the characters to drive the narrative and develop "the point" (or rather, points of the story). I knew that there is a duality between I'm trying to accomplish and what people will essentially see of it, but I decided to go through it anyway, resulting in the (not to brag, more to menace) extensive world which is slowly being built up in my work.
On another level, the narrative itself challenged this difference between expectations and goals by starting the story off with canon characters but slowly moving to less focus on things which are part of the canon and more to everything outside, not to mention the alteration of the canon (see Trixie's admittedly early return. Admitted as in not only by me but someone in the story as well).
Even more so, I could bring up the story ark of Colt Smith, but Book 2 being incomplete (not even mentioning Book 3 AND the already mentioned prequelish thingamajig) I wouldn't want to spoil anything. Let it just be said that he too shall notice the world and the narrative around him being different than what he expected, much the same way that a reader delving deeper into the narrative I'm trying to convey may notice it being different than "just another fic about ponies being ponies".
One last thing I'm afraid of, and this is probably the most prominent reason why I can't make myself keep to my schedules, is that I may be unsuccessful. It's easy to see the many many things I lay down in the story as I write it, since no one can possibly have a more direct insight into the structure of my creation than I do. It's also easy to call upon the above line of thought and claim that if certain small things weren't picked up on, it's simply because the readers lack the symbolic vocabulary or don't have it handy at the moment, but such things are no excuse for not holding the reader's hand and at least guiding them onto the right track.
It's of course impossible for a writer to create a story that all can enjoy with a narrative that everyone can delve into. But I cannot tell whether or not I'm doing the best I can to allow those with the proper set of interests to enjoy the story I've written for them.
I guess it all just comes down to the same thing after this huge "wall of text": As a writer I feel like I'm guiding my readers through an underground maze of my own creation, but I cannot tell without the torch of feedback, if I've taken all the right turns.
Hope I didn't bore you too much with this long line of thought, take away whatever you want from it whether it puts me in a good or bad light, or puts a light on things completely unrelated of me; and of course: Have a great day!