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  1. #1

    May Activities 2009

    This month's featured author is the fabulous and terrific Haylee!

    You can find Haylee's author's page here.

    • You must review the featured author for it to count as your monthly activity requirement.
    • Post the link to your review here - you may also post it in the May review thread for credit as a review, if you wish.
    • Questions in this thread are not part of the monthly requirement, but they are greatly encouraged. Also, they must have something to do with the subject of writing.

  2. #2

    May Discussion: Story Commentaries

    This month the topic is story commentaries.

    A story commentary is basically when someone takes a story of some kind and, much like an audio commentary on a DVD, makes comments on various aspects of the story/writing/charactes, etc; There a few key differences between a commentary and something like beta-work or a review. A commentary, for one, is often done on one's own writing than on another's writing. Also, whether a commentary is done on one's own writing or another's writing, it tends to make more personal comments as well as comments that would be considered "irrelevant" in a review or beta-job.

    Some of you may have come across a commentary, some may not have. (I'm attemping to find a link for an example as I type this...) (Okay, so I can't find an example. Anyone who has an example may feel free to post it here.)

    Some basic questions to round the discussion

    • What is your opinion of story commentaries?
    • Have you ever written a story commentary? For your own story or someone else's?
    • If you haven't written one before, would you consider it? Or if you have, would you consider it again?
    • If so, what story/stories would you like to do a commentary on and why?
    • What kind of things do you think should be/do you like to see included in story commentaries?
    • What do you think the benefit of a story commentary is, as far as improving writing and/or reviewing skills?

  3. #3
    Oh dear. My reviews tend to be more like commentaries than helpful critiques, don't they? Have been noticing it for some time.

    Perhaps because the stories I pick to review triggers praise and gushing rather than a critique. *grins at the word 'irrelevant'* Sometimes, none of the comments are irrelevant, though. At least for me. I don't know about the ones I made. I do tend to ramble in those.

    When I first began reading fan fiction, I only made reviews for the good stories. That was my perception of it. If it's good, review it, give the author their due. If it has many reviews, it must be good, having triggered reaction from that many readers. And these reviews are commentaries, aren't they. Not critiques. Only when I received and read SPEW reviews did I see the light.

    My favorite SPEW reviews begin like commentaries before getting down to business toward the middle, and then gracefully swings back to being commentaries in the end. It leaves a sweet aftertaste.

    I have no one to comment on my work for (While I'm writing/revising it, I'm already commenting on each new sentence/element in my head). Oh, in respond to reviews, yes. I would also call the reviews I receive commentaries, even if very short, unenlightening ones. I love them just as much as my SPEW reviews. They give me the perspective of the reader and I'm constantly surprised at and pleased with what they notice even though I have written a certain scene for a certain detail to be on spotlight and have been expecting it to be noticed!

    I write book reviews for a book mag, you ladies remember, although 'review' couldn't be the word for it because how could you review the Classics and Contemporary Classics? Perhaps this influences the manner I review, or rather, comment. In those books, you couldn't critique at all: the exposition and heavy description we discourage now have been necessary then because people had nothing much to do to kill time besides read, and travel wasn't easy, and the pages-long sentimentalities have been de rigeur then just as it isn't now. Flowery language was the norm... I can comment on how I wanted to skip those passages, but I also can't help but highlight the book's many merits, mentioning my feelings on them, and even speculating on the author's, too.

    Although the author is long dead and will therefore take no pleasure or displeasure in my gushing, the reader is enthused then to revisit the book. Which is the goal of my column (Retro: Books to Revisit).

    During my hiatus, I've received several goodly reviews both from SPEW, and other readers who only squeed or begged me to write more, sometimes quoting a line and saying they laughed/cried/tore something because of it.

    Without fail, these reviews made me revisit my story, seeing it in the eye of the commenter. If it weren't for those pesky BR tag thingies, I'd have done several edits already. Like a comprehensive critique, commentaries do improve writing, too, in that they make the author reread their work, and thus see things-- to relish, to recreate, to revise.

  4. #4
    +What is your opinion of story commentaries?

    It has to be for a story or from an author that I absolutely love, or else it's really not worth a lot of my time to read a story commentary. But, in general, I think they're very entertaining and fascinating to read, and when I've written them, they entertain, amuse, and help me think more about what I've written.

    +Have you ever written a story commentary? For your own story or someone else's?

    I have, in fact, written a commentary, and this monthly discussion reminded me that I began another commentary and want to finish it fairly soon. Perhaps I'll have it be my project for the rest of this week. I haven't written a commentary for any one else's story. I mean, I've written reactionary comments on LJ that are kind of blow-by-blow this is what I loved kind of things. But the way that *I* see a commentary, from ones that I've read and from watching DVD commentaries, is that you've got to have an absolute understanding of the piece you're giving commentary on, and what I most enjoy about reading/listening to commentaries is finding out the author or actor feelings and motivations for different aspects of the story. I want to know what motivated them to make certain choices, what challenged them, their favorite parts, etc. And obviously I couldn't write that about like something Leanne wrote, or anyone else.

    +What story/stories would you like to do a commentary on and why?

    I kind of always want to do a commentary on everything I write. Well, not every-everything, I guess, but anything that I spend a long time on or have a particularly notable emotional or creative investment in. Part of it is because I want to tell the story behind the story. I want to share which moments were triumphs for me while I was writing, where I struggled and then finally/hopefully got things right. I like to share when it felt like characters really pushed me in directions I hadn't been planning on.

    +What do you think the benefit of a story commentary is, as far as improving writing and/or reviewing skills?

    I think the biggest benefit for me when I do write commentaries is that it makes me focus on how I write, what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I enjoy to do. It makes me reflect on the process in a way that nothing else does. It's interesting to go back and reread my stories, but it's even more interesting to go back and reread a commentary, because I can see how I wrote then, and how I write now. It's just.... so incredibly beneficial. For real. I think it pushes me in a better direction as I continue writing.

    As for what it does for my reviewing skills? Well, first, it helps me to keep clear in my mind what is a commentary and what is a review and helps me keep from giving other authors commentaries instead of helpful reviews. It also helps me to appreciate the work that I can assume went into the fic I'm reviewing, and it helps me to think about what an author really can benefit from hearing.

    I just basically think that commentaries are teh awesome. The first fanfic commentary I read was by Jenna for a chapter of Blood Debt. And I went back and found it, but it's a locked entry on her old LJ. But here it is, if you wanted it, Jenna. Ehm, as for the commentary I actually have posted at this moment, I wrote it particularly for Leanne one time. You can find it here. It's for the Gauntlet fic I wrote like two or three years ago about Regulus, and the story is incomplete, but I did kind of like the story.

  5. #5
    So, I can't really remember the first time I ever came across the concept of a story commentary. I know it was on LJ, and that's about it. But, the idea intrigued me. At some point there was also a meme going around where you could request a commentary on a specific story. I think I read one by Seren, once, possibly as a result of that? /vague prologue to post.

    I have a written a few commentaries. I know I've done at least one chapter of Sins and Blood Debt each. Beyond that, I can't remember. I've never officially done a commentary of someone else's story, but I have done reviews that are pretty close.

    I've been considering, and have actually started, left, and gone back to, a commentary for my fic Black Forest, White Flower. There is actually so much to comment on in that story, because of all the factors that went into writing it, and because of all the backstory that exists in my mind that I'm never going to write. One day, maybe.

    As to what should go in a story commentary, it's basically when you sit down and watch a really great DVD commentary. Some of it is real serious talk about the plot or characterisation, or the technical aspects that went into creating the work. There are also your somewhat-related tidbits, trivia and anecdotes. Some off-the-wall jokes and random humour. An occasional "Yeah, this is completely ridiculous, but I don't care!" (found in any standard Firefly or Alias episode commentary.) A balance of serious and fun, really.

    How it relates to reviewing - I think it's a form of reviewing in itself. It's best done as a commentary of one's own writing, and that way you get to go over your own work and talk more about your characterisation, your writing style, your plot. It makes you more aware of your craft.

    It's also good because sometimes it is so hard to really sit and reread your own writing, in the way someone else would read it. It flows through your mind differently, and it's easier to skip through things. With a commentary, you're doing more than a read through, or checking for technical errors; you're really genuinely reading your own work thinking about it on a level that you wouldn't usually.

    I do think they're beneficial, and I'd love to see more story commentaries from SPEWers.

  6. #6
    I didn't know people wrote story commentaries until this discussion popped up. So no, I've never written one (although in year ten, I handed in a short story for English class with at least half the story's length again of handwritten notes detailing all of the symbolism I put in down to the significance of each character's hair colour >.>).

    I find the idea really interesting, though. Commentaries on DVDs are always great fun to listen to - you get interesting facts about how and why certain things were done, as well as funny stories from the making.

    I would definitely consider writing commentaries on some of my own stories... it would help me critically review my own writing (I pretty much pour a story onto the page, read through it to check for glaring errors and then post it), and it would also be a way to share some of the quirky facts and thought processes behind my work with others. For that second reason, I'd also like to see others write commentaries of their own work - I always like to skim the reviews of a story to see if the author mentioned any interesting tidbits.

    As for writing commentaries on someone else's work... I think I would probably only do it for fics that are amazingly detailed and well-written, for an opportunity to squee over how brilliant the author is. There are fics that I don't review because I don't feel like I'd have anything constructive to add, but I'd love an opportunity to share their genius with others.

    Elements of commentary do come into my reviews, though. When I've beta'd I've tended to slip in comments about what I liked, as well, but commentary can be quite a large aspect of reviews on MNFF. I can think of some authors who have a fanbase that leaves detailed responses to the events of each chapter - in fact, conversations can almost develop on the review pages. And I know that I recently mentioned in a review that a scene reminded me of a movie... a relevant inclusion in a SPEW review? Not really. But I think we do this because a review is the most direct link we have to an author and their story. If we want to share with them how the amusing part of their story reminded us of an experience we once had... well, most of us are not likely to strike up a conversation via PM or something to make those sort of comments? But this sort of response to a story is probably better suited to a location outside the review box (especially for SPEWers). The problem is, no such location really exists.

    Commentary-like aspects of reviews are something that the RAC frowns upon, I've noticed - but I can completely understand why reviewers continue to include them. Even if not helpful, they're relevant to the author and there doesn't seem to be any other place to put them.

    But they are definitely an interesting way to respond to a story other than in a review, and it would be great to see more of them around.

  7. #7

    May Drabble Challenge

    (All photos taken by Anna/Fantasium, and can be found on her Fotoblogg


    • Drabble can be between 250-800 words.
    • Content should not be any higher than a 3rd-5th Years rating.
    • All content that would require a warning on the MNFF Archive should be labeled.
    • This thread is for responses only. If you have a question, PM me.
    • Responses must be posted by May 31st 2009.
    • Please post using this format:

      Title: Frimärken
      Photo #: 1
      Word Count: 450 (This may be approximate)

      Story Text Story Text Story Text Story Text Story Text Story Text Story Text
    • As with all activities within the SPEW forum, this challenge is open only to SPEW members.

  8. #8
    Honigkuchenpferd Hufflepuff
    Dobby's Sock Addiction Begins
    luinrina's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    currently in the Botosphere
    My first attempt at writing second person POV. Oh, and I absolutely love the picture I chose. It's so awesome.

    Title: Left Behind
    Photo #: 2
    Word Count: 681

    It’s been a year. Time has gone by so fast, and you think it has been only yesterday when you last saw her. Her hair hadn’t been the usual bright pink, but a mousy grey. Like the time had been grey. Nothing had been coloured; all had been lifeless. Trist.


    But now, while you wander along the path in the woods, on your morning walk, you see the colours coming back. Green sprouts from the trees, and millions of leafs flower out. You can nearly see the movement with your naked eye. Along the path, small flowers grow and open their blossoms to catch the light. They are dots of violet, red and many other colours, myriads of a rainbow that seemed to have fallen from the sky and been laid to blanket the earth. You realise that truly, slowly, spring is coming back, chasing away the winter and its white and grey colours.

    After all, isn’t life only worth if it’s colourful?

    The wood opens up into a meadow with lone trees standing around. A small hill rises towards the other end and the path you follow winds its way up the hill. You walk it. You feel slightly adventurous, curious to find out what lies beyond. After all, you’ve never been there before.

    But you wish you wouldn’t have to still your curiosity alone. You know she would have loved to go with you. She, and he, too.

    You miss them so much. They’ve been everything to you. Especially he, the reason why you broke up with what you once called home and family. What you called life. He had been your anchor for so many years, and now that he is gone, you feel like you drown. You wonder if you have ever learnt to swim, or if you were just pulled along by that anchor.

    ‘Ted,’ his name slips from your lips, a lone whisper in the early morning breeze that accompanies your path up the hill. A single tear spills out and rolls down your cheek. You don’t touch it but continue on on your way up the hill. The top is close, and you already feel the excitement of success over having climbed it.

    And when you reach it, the top, you see it, the return of the light. Over the trees’ tops, on the far horizon, the sun rises, and its light reaches out, chasing away the last shadows of the night. The feeble warm touches your skin, reassuring you that life is indeed coming back with the return of the spring.

    But in your heart, you know that those who already lost their lives will never come back, and once again you mourn their loss.

    He was your heart, your love, your husband. And he lies buried in the cold, still winter hard earth.

    She was your soul, your diamond, your daughter. And she lies buried in the cold, still winter hard earth.

    There is nothing left, only sadness.


    You turn around at the sound of your name. It’s the man who ultimately saved you and every life by killing the one who brought the death. He’s the godfather of your daughter’s son.

    And then you remember that there is something left for you, despite your loss. You have a child to care for. He needs your love, and you are determined to give him all the colours in the world to see the beauty of life.

    The greyness has gone. Life has returned. But even after a year, you mourn them, because they have been your life.

    ‘It’s time for the anniversary ceremony.’

    You nod and follow him down the hill again. But before you walk into the wood once more, you turn back and see the sun slowly rising up to the sky. The light touches the meadow, and this picture is burned into your mind forevermore.

    The picture of hope.

    You will never forget the day life and hope returned. As you will never forget that death is inevitable, but still sad for those that are left behind.
    No longer a mod and no longer in charge of any forums.

    author ~*~ BA banner ~*~ giggler
    Banners by Tiffany and Samarie ^

  9. #9
    WOW! I just read luinrina's drabble. Our drabbles are different in many ways, but it is clear we both got a very similar, and somewhat morbid idea when we looked at picture number two.

    I Like yours alot, luinrina! EDIT: That is, I like yours alot, Bine! (Sorry, still working on getting used to names vs. usernames)

    Title: An Auror’s Memorial
    Photo #: 2
    Word Count: 555

    Ten years later, the sun smiles upon these grounds as though nothing had ever happened. Brilliant flowers burn brightly in the blinding light and bare an unnerving resemblance to smatterings of dancing flames that dotted all the bushes and trees from curses missing their mark. Rainstorms have eroded away craters caused by exploding jinxes. The grasses have over-grown the scorch marks and crimson stains left on the ground.

    Only those ignorant of its history would call this place beautiful.

    An old man who had been walking along the path suddenly pauses, looking up at the flowering thicket on either side of him. He recognizes this spot. His knees begin to wobble and he tumbles to the ground. Tears stream down his face as he places his hands in the soil and kneads it with his fingers.

    He has returned here every year since.

    So much in the world has changed since that night, since that last stand. The world has proclaimed victory over darkness, triumph over evil. Yet, here he is a decade later, a bitter man who feels cheated by fate.

    A bird screeches in the distance and his head snaps quickly in that direction. It was all too much like a scream. “No!” he cries as the visions start again.

    Rays of light burst through the canopy of leaves and hit him directly in the face, in the eyes. He raises an arm to shield himself as though an explosion has gone off only feet in front of him. His eyes move wildly about the scene as if he sees things that are not there. He climbs to his feet and begins backing away shaking his head violently.

    “No! No!”

    Then, inside his head, he sees that same horrifying green flash. This time, just as he has rehearsed every year since, he freezes on the spot. It is in vain. He cannot erase the memory, he cannot revise the actions he took that night when he leapt aside, dodging the Killing Curse. Once again, he hears the unmistakable thud that a human body makes when it drops lifelessly to the ground.

    “No!” he screams, now bawling out-loud.

    He sinks his fingers back into the dirt and shovels a handful of it up. He jams his nose into it, tears causing the top layer to change instantly to mud. He can smell it – he can smell him. It is the same smell he recalls from when he was just a baby. The scent is the same as the one he remembers, the one he loved so much, the one he got sinking his nose into his hair after he had bathed him.

    This was the place where he fell, only a few yards away from a monument commemorating the battle. This is the place where he had stood side by side with his son, dueling two Death Eaters. This was the place where he had elected to dodge a curse intended for him, not knowing his son had moved directly behind him. This is the place where he wished to God he would have stood his ground, taking the curse himself.

    Many described this place as a beautiful memorial, a tribute to those who gave their lives here. For him, it is hell, forever a reminder of the one night he wishes he had back.

  10. #10
    Savannah Hen Slytherin
    Sirius Black Entered Gryffindor Tower
    coolh5000's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Wonderful England!
    I've had this written for days but for some reason never got around to posting it...

    Title: Coming Home
    Photo #: 1
    Word Count: 800 <--

    An owl came sweeping through the window and Ginny jumped up to untie the letter from its leg. She spotted the familiar handwriting and her heart leapt; as she hoped, it was from Harry.

    She studied the envelope carefully before she opened it. Most people would not even hesitate to glance at the envelope before ripping it open to find the letter inside. But Ginny could learn so much from the envelope. It could sometimes tell her more about her husband than his brief letters could.

    First she looked at the writing. On this one, the address had been scrawled quickly across it, the words almost joining in to one another, the T’s in ‘Potter’ not quite crossed. She knew that meant that whenever he had been writing this, he had just been catching a brief minute in between duties to let his wife know that he was okay. Sometimes, the letters would be addressed in a neat, swirly writing. These were the times when she knew he had had more time to spend on the letter, and that he had spent time brooding over her and thinking about her as he wrote out the address, giving each letter individual attention. Those letters were the ones she usually looked forward to receiving most. It was when reading that particular type of letter that she felt closest to him, even though he was so far away.

    The second thing she noticed was the stamp. He was often based in Muggle areas, and avoiding unwanted attention was vital, meaning that he sent his letters the Muggle way, affixing a stamp and posting them into a post-box. At some point along the way, the letters were intercepted by wizards who worked within the postal system and were responsible for finding all wizarding mail and forwarding it using the preferred owl method.

    Every time one of Harry’s letters arrived, Ginny would carefully tear off the corner which held the stamp and add it to the pile she was collecting in the kitchen drawer. Each stamp gave her some tiny clue as to the places Harry had been and the things he was experiencing. They had come from all over the world and she sometimes wondered why he was travelling so much. Though she could not reply to his letters and ask him as she did not know where to address them to. This stamp, however, surprised her as it was British. The recognisable figure of the Queen stared up at her from the red background. This could mean only one thing – Harry was back in the country.

    No longer content with studying just the outside of the envelope, she tore it open and pulled out the letter within.

    Dear, Ginny,

    I am coming home. Our field training is over and I am able to return. I will be back within the next couple of days though I do not know exactly when.

    Sorry this letter is brief, but soon I will be home with you and we can talk for as long as we want about everything I have missed.

    I love you, Ginny and cannot wait to be back with you.


    Ginny thought she might burst with excitement. He was coming home! The unit of training Harry had been carrying out was one of the most important in finally qualifying to become and Auror and it counted towards the final exams they would be sitting in just a couple of months time. However, it was also one of the hardest, requiring the trainees to spend three months away from home, with minimal contact with their loved ones. Harry had told her that this was the part of the course with the highest drop-out rate, with people finding themselves unable to stay apart from their families. She had made him promise that he would not do so – she told him she would not be the reason for him ruining his dream and if they had to be apart for three months then so be it!

    And so, somehow, they had managed it. She had been lonely in their home without him and frequently spent nights sleeping at The Burrow, though she did not want her mum to get the idea of her moving back home. However, she had been busy with Harpies training and spent the evenings socialising with her team mates or ex-Hogwarts friends. She had missed him, but she had not sat around moping without him.

    She picked up the envelope from the table and tore of the corner which had the stamp attached. She then took it and added it to the drawer. She smiled in spite of herself. This would be the last time she did this. Because soon he would be with her. He was finally coming home.

    Adrian won a QSQ! Thanks to Minnabird for the beautiful banner. Click on it to read Stolen Magic - the story of the second wizarding war through a very different character's eyes.

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