mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Makers must be choosers, drat it

I'm considering this Woxin AU fic I've been poking at sporadically for over a year now, and why I drag my feet now that it approaches its ending. It only approaches its ending because I have decreed it shall, on the grounds that stories must have climaxes not stopping points or else they aren't doing their job.

Normally I have no quarrel with that traditional definition. Have little use for a story or novel that wanders around doing nothing much while the author indulges (usually) himself while trying the patience of the people reading him. (Exceptions made for people who really are trying something new, so long as they engage the audience one way or the other-- intellectually if not emotionally.) YMMV but I tend to be equally irritated by genre books that deliberately defy narrative expectations. Not genre conventions, mind, but narrative conventions. 'Stories have movement? Stories have climaxes not endings? My story won't. And I'll break fourth walls and talk to you all the bloody time-- and not in my narrative voice either, but mememe the divine author.' Can't abide Joanna Russ for exactly those reasons (nor Neveryon either.) Or maybe it's because these books fail to engage at any level either. A feminist tract wrapt in a scifi hide is still a feminist tract and comes better from a feminist theorist. (Or not. Theory is the death of movements-- and the more I read about things like the Great Leap Forward, evidently the death of people as well.)

31_days fics are episodic by definition. A series of episodes ought to end up somewhere, have some kind of conclusion or closure, to be considered a fic. But do I even want to write a fic-like fic here? I think that if 'Damn the narrative conventions!' can ever work, it might work in a fannish product.

Because one reads fanfic not so much for plot, generally, as for character. One wants to see More of these people. This mindset gives you stories that pay loving attention to Character A washing his hands, which so try the patience of those not a fan of Character A. An extreme example, but I think the principle is fundamentally correct. Nor does it matter if you get many varying takes on a character through many varying authors. That's just part of the cornucopian abundance; that's why I loved doujinshi so much, and was distressed when I realized the takes defaulted to certain stock types.

In this case I want to see Fu Chai and Gou Jian not headed in the direction of history and the series but somewhere else. The 31-Days format gives me the opportunity to show that happening in a series of moments. Must that series have a direction? Must that direction be towards a resolution? Must all those moments even be part of the same series? Am I allowed only one resounding O-kotowari! (= 'shan't!') to series and historical fact before I go back to the depressing reality of what really happened in history and the series? Why can't Gou Jian and Fu Chai go on playing chess forever, understanding each other's purposes, misunderstanding each other's purposes, having sex, not having sex, heart-burning over Fan Li's closeness to Gou Jian, heart-burning over Fan Li's closeness to Fu Chai, being utterly indifferent to Fan Li because he's a bore in bed or because he's unhavable or because Gou Jian/ Fu Chai is ultimately more enticing and willing and Fan Li never is? Why can't they be doing all these things simultaneously in an AU universe that's a different AU universe with each episode?

The primary male sin, the French feminists said, was to choose. To choose one aspect (say, to give a thing a name) is to reject all the others (all the other things it might be named, not to mention the elements of that thing for which there can never be names) which in turn denies the complex reality of the thing you're contemplating, and reduces it to a lie: an arbitrary construct suggesting a false simplicity and a oneness it doesn't possess. Do not choose-- refuse to choose-- and you reflect a more basic reality than artificial (male) narrative modes are capable of.

Take this line far enough and you do indeed end up with Joanna Russ and an unsatisfying read (though you might as easily end up with Greer Gilman and an impossible read.) I'm tempted by it only because the 'every time different' approach is exactly how my fannish mind does it in RL. I've moaned before how the finished posted story requires you to jettison all the roads not taken and things that didn't happen-- all the stories I tell myself while walking to work or falling asleep, the many wandering detours of plot that can't be included because narrative makes you choose one line and follow it.* It'd be nice to have a narrative that didn't require choose-and-reject; except, I fancy, that few people but the author would care to read it.

Or not in toto and after the fact. As an ongoing happening, Kleenex read-and-forget, it might suit; but where then is one's monumentum aere perennius? Exactly where it is for the fic you've laboured over and done three drafts of and had beta'd by three people before doing a fourth and fifth draft. Most readers will read it and forget it at once. Since fame is a) unlikely b) fleeting and c) bestowed by people whose taste one has deep misgivings about in the first place (blockbuster hits are never critical hits for a reason), I might as well be enjoying myself in the ongoing moment.

(*'My characters made me do it' is in fact a real experience. There are times when the road you choose is one they simply will not follow, and writer's block ends any attempts to push them. But I fancy some of us leave it to the characters to decide just because we don't want to have to choose and reject for ourselves.)
Tags: woxin, writing

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