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Thread: November Activities 2011

  1. #1
    'Til the end of the line Ravenclaw
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    November Activities 2011

    As I do, I was sitting at my computer doing super important stuff (*scoff*), and a rather charming song came up on the shuffle, one I hadn't really listened to for a while. It was a song from the animated film Anastasia, called Once Upon a December. It's a song about Anastasia having subtle vestiges of memories in her head, but she can't quite place what they are or what they mean. My first thought: ooh, shiny!

    Your challenge is to write a drabble about a canon character (major, minor, or interview canon . . . Just as long as the character is of JKR's making) who has a memory that is vague and they cannot quite place what it is or what it means. Whether you resolve it by having them realise what it is/what it means or if you leave them hanging and wondering is up to you. All I require is that there are enough bits and pieces for us as the reader to see what it could be, but it doesn't have to be blatant.

    • As usual, all drabbles must meet MNFF submission guidelines (no horrible grammar or OOCness or things that are forbidden — incest, bestiality, crossovers, etc; you know the rules) and be affixed with proper warnings.
    • They may not exceed 6th/7th Years and may not feature the following content: Non-Consensual Sex, Strong Profanity.
    • The length should be anywhere from 300-800 words; if you exceed the word count and don't wish to cut for length, you may submit your story to the archives and post a link upon approval. However, you will be subject to stricter submission guidelines, and the story must be validated before the end of the month; use caution if you choose this option.
    • Please use the following form when submitting your drabble:
      PHP Code:
      [b]Title: [/b]
      [
      b]Rating/Warnings: [/b]
      [
      b]Word Count: [/b]
      [
      b]Author's Note: [/b] 


    As with all regular monthly activities, all entry posts must be in before the end of the day on 30 November (US Pacific Time/GST -8). Happy drabbling!
    Jess WritesJess DrabblesJess DuelsJess PoetsJess Draws



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  2. #2
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    November Discussion — Buzzwords

    I recently came across a book reviewer's blog (she is a Harry Potter fan, by the way), and there was a very interesting subject matter in one of her past articles that felt like it was perfect for a SPEW activity. What was it about? Well, here's a blurb from the article:

    The top 20 most annoying book reviewer cliches

    Michelle Kerns
    Book Examiner
    March 11, 2009

    In 1984, George Orwell created newspeak, a language "whose vocabulary gets smaller every year."

    While newspeak exists only in fiction (or does it....?) an even more pervasive, destructive language-killer has infiltrated the newspapers, news sites, and literary blogs of the world — reviewerspeak.

    The purpose of reviewerspeak is to force every free-thinking book, movie, and art reviewer into the submissive parroting of only a handful of approved reviewer words to describe any item that may come their way. Call it laziness, call it the incessant demands of the ever-wakeful internet, call it fear of the wrath of Harold Bloom, but reviewers — particularly book reviewers — spew out these same, tired old*clichés with the force and regularity of Linda Blair in a scene from The Exorcist.

    The problem of reviewerspeak is not a new one. Strunk and White addressed the bane in The Elements of Style:

    The world of criticism has a modest pouch of special words (luminous, taut), whose only virtue is that they are exceptionally nimble and can escape from the garden of meaning over the wall. Of these critical words, Wolcott Gibbs once wrote: '...they are detached from the language and inflated like little balloons.' The young writer should learn to spot them — words that at first glance seem freighted with delicious meaning but that soon burst in air, leaving nothing but a memory of bright sound.
    And to punctuate her point, This article got me thinking about my own reviews and, namely, my own dastardly practice of recycling the same words and phrases in my SPEW reviews. What are these words to which Ms Kerns is referring? You shall find them below:

    1. Gripping
    2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant
    3. Compelling
    4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, "The writing in the book is really great. I just can't come up with the specific words to explain why."
    5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.
    6. Tour de force
    7. Readable
    8. Haunting
    9. Deceptively simple: as in, "deceptively simple prose"
    10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books
    11. Fully realized
    12. At once: as in, "Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict is at once a compelling mystery and a gripping thriller." See, I just used three of the most annoying*clichés without any visible effort. Piece of cake.
    13. Timely
    14. " X meets X meets X": as in, "Stephen King meets Charles Dickens meets Agatha Christie in this haunting yet rollicking mystery."
    15. Page-turner
    16. Sweeping: almost exclusively reserved for books with more than 300 pages
    17. That said: as in, "Stephenie Meyer couldn't identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read."
    18. Riveting
    19. Unflinching: used to describe books that have any number of unpleasant occurences -- rape, war, infidelity, death of a child, etc.
    20. Powerful
    21. Unputdownable (later added after the article was published)

    In addition, Ms Kerns has even invited her own column readers to take her to task if she ever uses any of these terms or to send in book review cliches that send them into a rage.

    Sound familiar to anyone? I thought it might. I am guilty of well over half of this list. It is not unlikely that several of you have used some of these words a lot, as well. My challenge for you in this discussion is to, in one of your reviews for this month, not use a single one of these commonly overused terms. Post a link to that review, and in the discussion, talk about how easy or difficult it was to dodge these words that had probably become a comfortable part of your reviewing arsenal.

    The purpose of this assignment isn't to banish these words from your vocabulary forever, but to alert you to any potential phrase recycling that might be happening in your reviews and maybe even in your own writing. I stand guilty as charged. These words are okay to use, but the reason they became cliches in the first place is because they were beaten to death by book reviewers far and wide until the mere sound of them made thesauruses weep in their solitude.

    As is customary, ask and answer one TQ. Here are a couple to get you started. Good luck, because this isn't as easy as it looks.

    Are there any particular terms on this list which appear more than any of the others?

    Have you ever received a review with any of these terms and found it annoying?
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  3. #3
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    November Feature — Historical

    A vast majority of the stories on MNFF revolve around eras featured in the books, such as Marauder Era, Trio Era, and Next Generation packing off to Hogwarts. A great number of others 'fill in the blanks', such as Post-Hogwarts.

    But one category amongst these 'fill-in-the-blank' eras that doesn't get quite as many contributions from fan fiction writers is Historical. Why? Well, as the key word is 'history', it's always been in my own personal experience that writing in a historical setting requires research into both character dress, scene setting, what inventions were or were not around, and several other things one might not even consider until it pops up like a little mole to poke a hole in their story foundation. But on the other side of the coin, a Historical story that makes it past all the tribulations of era pitfalls is a beautiful thing.

    My challenge for you is to find a Historical fic and review it with these types of things in mind, such as noticing the details the author wove into it or how well the characters come across as ones from the applicable era.

    As usual, ask and answer one TQ. Here are a couple to get you started. Happy hunting!

    Have you ever before now purposefully sought a Historical fan fic to read? If so, did you do so with a specific time period or subject matter in mind? If not, why?

    Does your interest in Historical fictions grow or wane as the time periods of the stories go further and further back in the past?
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  4. #4
    Ebil Lieutenant Ravenclaw
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    Have you ever received a review with any of these terms and found it annoying?

    I don't think so. I don't get that many reviews, especially because I haven't done much writing lately. Also -- I think people whose writing is described as "poignant" and "gripping" -- they have some credibility or readability, surely. Sure, it's an exaggeration, or a cliched term, but they're phrases/words I use occasionally, especially "lyrical". Thing is, my writing is never lyrical, lol, so I never receive reviews saying that.

    I'll just go through the list and comment on them as I go along, to have some kind of structure to this...

    1. Gripping

    I'll admit that I use this occasionally, but not very often and definitely not in reviews. Erm, I'm a bit boring and I say "interesting" or "intriguing" a lot. It's possibly an understatement, since "gripping" is more... complimentary?

    2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant

    Okay, this is like, MY word. I use it in a lot of reviews -- this is one I've used to death. I suppose there are other words, but they sound just as cliched, like "moving" or "it moved me to tears", although especially with the latter, this seems to ring true for me.

    3. Compelling

    I will admit I hardly ever use this, though I do see it on the back of books quite often. This one seems like an unnecessary exaggeration, though, whereas 1 and 2 are just overused words.

    4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, "The writing in the book is really great. I just can't come up with the specific words to explain why."

    Okay. In SBBC, Carole/Equinox Chick used this word when discussing a rec, Lacuna Mentis by hestiajones. She said "You have to reread it to get all the nuances" or something similar. I didn't really understand what that meant, but I thought it was another word to describe the tricks, or the mystery in the story.

    5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.

    Well, when judging for my QSQ cat, I used the word "poetic" which basically means the same thing, but I don't see what's wrong with that. It's possible for writing to be poetic, or lyrical, and I don't think this is exaggeration or a cliched word. I rather like it, in fact, and I don't think I've ever come across this in an book review -- though I have for fanfic reviews.

    6. Tour de force

    I do GCSE French and I'm not entirely sure what this means. Tower of Force, perhaps? Ah, I will Google it.

    Okay, it says on Wiktionary that it means "feat of strength". Hmmm. Interesting. I haven't ever come across this but it may be because I don't read book reviews. However, I've never come across this in a SPEW review, so I don't know... again, it seems to be an OTT phrase and an unncessarily exaggerated one at that.

    7. Readable

    Pffft. EVERY book is readable if you know how to read. That one is just silly. The book I'm reading right now (Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane) has this on the back: "enter the compulsively readable world of..." which makes sense, I suppose, but is the word "readable" necessary?

    8. Haunting

    Hem hem. I use this one a lot. But I don't know... I think this is perhaps a little melodramatic and not the best alternative to "poignant".

    9. Deceptively simple: as in, "deceptively simple prose"

    Never heard of this one, and I think simplistic, or plain, is a better word.

    10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books

    Never heard of this before because I've never read comedy or adventure books.

    11. Fully realized

    That's just silly.

    12. At once: as in, "Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict is at once a compelling mystery and a gripping thriller." See, I just used three of the most annoying*clichés without any visible effort. Piece of cake.

    "At once" just makes is sound over dramatic. Why not just say it's a compelling mystery and a gripping thriller?

    13. Timely

    I've never come across this before.

    14. " X meets X meets X": as in, "Stephen King meets Charles Dickens meets Agatha Christie in this haunting yet rollicking mystery."

    This just sounds silly. You can just say "a mix of thriller, murder mystery and classic" or something similar. And, chances are, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie and Stephen King have never met each other, lol.

    15. Page-turner

    This one isn't applicable for fanfic, but while it can be true, I still turn the pages of a rubbish book so this is just silly.

    16. Sweeping: almost exclusively reserved for books with more than 300 pages

    Never heard of this...

    17. That said: as in, "Stephenie Meyer couldn't identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read."

    I agree with this statement, but disagree -- what's wrong with saying "that said"?

    18. Riveting

    Ugh. This is so OTT.

    19. Unflinching: used to describe books that have any number of unpleasant occurences -- rape, war, infidelity, death of a child, etc.

    I don't agree with this, and I don't think books including these themes should be labelled as "controversial" either.

    20. Powerful

    I like this term, actually. Sometimes, and I can remember reading What Money Can Buy, by Deathlex, and I think someone described the story as "powerful" in the review. Words have power, and I don't think this is OTT or cliche.

    21. Unputdownable (later added after the article was published)

    Pssssh. Nuff said.

    TQ for discussion: Is there anything wrong with exaggeration in reviews? Where is the line between cliched and uncliched?
    Last edited by babewithbrains; 11-17-2011 at 04:24 PM.

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  5. #5
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    Title: That Face
    Rating/Warnings: Character death.
    Word Count: 797 words
    Author's Note: This is a canon character, even if he's not mentioned in the books.



    That face. Everything else is dim but he can still see that face. Heart shaped, and curls of ebony, and eyes like chocolate. Small and fragile, and a tiny hand outstretched towards him which he desperately wants to grasp and never let go.

    “I’m sorry.”

    Is that his voice? It’s feels like a long time since he spoke aloud. He’s unsure what he sounds like.

    “You should be.”

    And who is that? Not the face. There’s anger in that voice, and anger is an emotion that has yet to cross that face. Who could it be?

    “I am sorry.”

    No answer. He wishes he could remember. Looking around, he sees people passing by, so many people. Maybe one of them will know that face, but how can he ask? He inhales and realises he stinks. Who would want to talk to him?

    How long has he been in this doorway? He’s not sure. It feels like years but time passes slowly when you’re sitting in a doorway, so maybe its less than that. After all, how long can you sit in doorways before someone wants to get in or out?

    There’s a door, he remembers suddenly. A door he’s walking towards with a very heavy heart. Then he hears the scream. For a moment he panics, runs, fears the worst, arrives on the threshold to be confronted with that face, scrunched up as it bawls and bawls and bawls. It? No, that face belongs to a he. His he. He has a son? A beautiful son. So maybe that voice, full of anger, is the mother?

    
And suddenly there she is, swimming in his minds eye. Bushy, frizzy dark brown hair, wide lips that he has kissed so many times and longs to kiss again, and dark chocolate eyes that are identical to that of her son. Their son.

    What is he doing, in this doorway, rather than that one?

    But he can’t even remember where he lives. Where they live. Maybe she wanted him to go. But in that shard of a memory its him leaving. Why?

    He stands up. He’s unsteady on his feet, pins and needles shooting up his thigh, and he stumbles, catching on the doorknob for support. He doesn’t know how to begin. His pockets. Yes, maybe in his pockets they’ll be something that will tell him who he is.

    He pulls out pieces of paper, receipts, chocolate wrappers with frogs dancing across them. A photo. But its not of either face, but someone else. Is that him?

    He peers at the doorknob, and even in that grotesque reflection, realises the photo is not him. A relative perhaps? They have the same dark skin, same bold features, same bushy eyebrows. The man in the photo smiles and winks, but won’t say who he is. He turns the photo around, to see scribbled on the back: Kingsley.

    His brother. A brother named Kingsley. He wonders if that’s his writing, or Kinglsey’s, and digs deeper in his pocket for a pen. He doesn’t find a pen, but instead a long stick. Holding it in one hand, he stares at it.

    He’s a tramp in a doorway staring at a twig. No-one disturbs him.

    It feels warm. Why should it feel warm? He grips it and suddenly a memory, faded and vague, returns of him holding this wand, pointing it at himself and saying something. But what? Obliviate.

    What the hell does that mean? And when did he realise this was a wand?

    Of course its a wand, he thinks. You’re a wizard. So why did you choose to forget?

    Suddenly fear grips him. He must have done something horrific. His wife or girlfriend, or whatever she was, someone he loved certainly, and his son, were they all right? What if--No. He could never hurt them. He sighed with relief, confident in that and his love for them, if nothing else.

    He puts the wand and photo away and begins to walk. He finds himself in a park. There, when no-one is around, he experiments with his wand, finding more spells coming back to him. Maybe he’ll remember. Does he want to remember?

    Suddenly his wand flies from his hand. He turns around and sees three people in black cloaks, standing in front of him. They’re wearing skull masks. They should look silly, but something about them makes his blood run cold.

    “Dean Shacklebolt,” one of them says. “We didn’t expect to see you cowering here.”

    He doesn’t say anything. He’s not that stupid. And then, suddenly, he doesn’t have to say anything ever again. There’s a flash of green light, but before it hits him, he remembers that face, scrunched up in a smile, as he holds it in his arms.
    Last edited by welshdevondragon; 11-24-2011 at 02:49 PM.
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  6. #6
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    Title: Engagement
    Rating/Warnings: 3-5th years but no warnings
    Word Count: 330
    Author's Note: I hope this is clear...or at least that the title helps.

    He can remember bits and pieces of it. He can only see bits and pieces of what he yearns to remember, something that he is sure is very important.

    There’s a pale hand, dropping a flower as its bearer walks. And he’s sure the flower is important, but god, he can’t remember. It was so long ago, a last attempt at something, he believes.

    He feels like he should be able to remember, or maybe he forced himself to forget. He can see the swish of red hair in the midst of the fog, and he thinks that it could be Lily, walking away from him for the last time, but that can’t be it, because surely he would remember it.

    He clasps his hands together and does the closest thing to prayer that he has done since he was small and his father walked him to church. Before his father had started hating everything around him.

    He needs to remember just this. All he has is a crushed blade of grass on a rainy day, a teardrop that he could nearly mistake for the rain, a thin ring on a finger. If only he knew when or where this took place, it might have all made sense and clicked together. But the blade of grass and the teardrop and the ring are only bits and pieces.

    How can he have so many other memories full of pain and sorrow, but not remember this one? He can remember the moment that he heard the news of what had happened that night in Godric’s Hollow, the moment that the awful word escaped his lips. Surely this memory is no worse than those ones.

    But he could not tell you for sure.

    He knows it was a last meeting, a fateful day. But what of? He, of all people, did not deserve even that. Severus Snape could tell you that he did not deserve much of anything anymore.

    Least of all Lily.
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  7. #7
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    Does your interest in Historical fictions grow or wane as the time periods of the stories go further and further back in the past?
    Somewhere in between actually. I'm not generally a fan of Founders fics, mainly because I've not often seen them done well and the necessary medieval feel seems to often be lacking. But most more recent historical fic tends to take in Voldemort at school or else Grindlewald, and those just don't tend to interest me much.

    I'd really like to see more historical fics that cover the things within the huge swathe of time between the Founders and the Second World War. There are some out there, Victorian stories that cover members of the Black family Tree for example, but there are all sorts of interesting periods of history that are rarely if ever tackled and it would be interesting to see what effect a lot of major events in the Muggle world had on wizards.

    New TQ: Do you think there is a difference in reviewing a historical story to an ordinary story? Do you approach it as a story that just happens to be set in the past but still has a lot of the same concerns of characterisation, plot, etc or does whether the historical element worked become the overriding factor for you?

  8. #8
    Fourth Year Ravenclaw
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    Have you ever received a review with any of these terms and found it annoying?

    Hm, perhaps this isn’t the best question for me to answer as I haven’t had a review in a long time! But it does make me wonder whether or not we as writers have the right be annoyed by these words in a review.

    On the one hand, they are somewhat cliché, and I can imagine reading a review that’s littered with these words and wondering if the reader actually took anything away from my writing that they couldn’t have from anyone else’s work. If you can’t find anything unique or specific to say as a reviewer, surely that means there’s nothing interesting about the writer’s work?

    But on the other hand, at least that person did take the time to review, and surely having something to say is better than nothing?

    Personally I’m not sure which is worse: no review at all, or a review that (although it lets you know that someone has indeed read your work) doesn’t tell you what the reader took from it, nor gives you any direction for improvement or inspiration to write more.

    TQ for discussion: Is there anything wrong with exaggeration in reviews? Where is the line between cliched and uncliched?

    I’m not sure I’ve ever read/written an exaggerated review – gushing praise is one thing, but I can’t say I’ve ever gone over the top (well, not consciously, at least!). I suppose the line should be drawn at the point where you stop making comments that are specific to the piece of writing, and possibly when you begin struggling for the correct vocabulary. I mean, if it’s a particularly unfamiliar feeling or quite complicated, fair enough, but if you’re just using synonyms for “good”, then you should probably call it a day for that particular review!

    TQ (because I can’t quite decide on the answer myself!): which is worse - no review at all, or a review that (although it lets you know that someone has indeed read your work) doesn’t tell you what the reader took from it, nor gives you any direction for improvement or inspiration to write more?
    Student * Wannabe Author * IB Survivor * Ravenclaw

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  9. #9
    Fourth Year Gryffindor
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    Have you ever before now purposefully sought a Historical fan fic to read? If so, did you do so with a specific time period or subject matter in mind? If not, why?

    I've sought out a Historical fanfic before but sadly, I don't quite remember the story. I do remember though that it during the early days of Hogwarts (no, it's not a founders era fic). It was a mystery, I think. Discovering the mysteries of Hogwarts. That's as far as I can remember. I really wasn't that enthusiastic about it.

    Does your interest in Historical fictions grow or wane as the time periods of the stories go further and further back in the past?

    No, not really, but to be honest, my interest in Historical fictions wasn't that big to begin with, nor has it grown. I just think that any Historical fic in any timeline is as interesting as the near present. It's just the summary that I judge on whether or not I'll read it.

    Do you think there is a difference in reviewing a historical story to an ordinary story? Do you approach it as a story that just happens to be set in the past but still has a lot of the same concerns of characterisation, plot, etc or does whether the historical element worked become the overriding factor for you?

    I just review it like any other story. I can't really go on about the historical elements and whatnot since I don't know if I'm sure about the facts of the timeline or not and I'd rather not embarrass myself.

    TQ: Are there any historical fics with certain plot/timelines that you would like to see more?

    Review: A Friar's Story by Black-Sand

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