Anna S. (eliade) wrote,
Anna S.

revisiting old fiction

So I thought I'd post some more about "A Little Vamp Tale" (read it here), because I think that in my usual lazy haste to post a few stray thoughts I've probably succeeded in being unclear and also possibly insulting to anyone who likes the story, in the way I exactly didn't intend.

So here are some blathery thoughts on the story, cut for length.

So, when I re-read this story, I had a lot of conflicting thoughts. I don't think it's badfic. But the very first paragraph made me wince right off--it starts with Scully's dialogue, and I'd had two "frankly"s in it ("Frankly, Mulder...blah blah blah...frankly"), one of which I've removed. I'd like to think that wouldn't get by me now. There may still be occasional slippage, but I'm incredibly anal now about making sure I don't repeat things too often in a story--specific words (especially distictive ones), catchphrases, nicknames, and so on. I vary sentence structure to break bad rhythms, and so that paragraphs don't start the same way. (It's so easy to have every paragraph start with someone's name, for instance.)

Much of the writing in Vamp Tale is actually quite good, technically. And not just craft-wise, but in turns of phrase. But overall, much of the story feels off to me--Stephan as an original character still amuses me and he makes a good foil to Mulder, but he seems out of place in an XF story. The whole bedroom scene between him and Mulder strikes me oddly now; as I re-read, I had this strange half-memory of having chosen to write Mulder as a cross between a British public schoolboy and a muffiny rentboy. Sort of a sodomite's wet dream. I'd set out what I meant to achieve, descriptively--my penchant for floppy-haired guys tumbling against each other like puppies in crisp cotton sheets is obvious--but it's clear to me that, back then, I was more willing to let self-indulgence preempt strict characterization. It's hard for me to gauge how egregious it is now, because as I mentioned previously, I'm very distanced from the fandom and from XF canon. But when I read this Mulder, I'm like: who *is* this guy? I know that I was *trying* to keep him in character, because that was the whole point of the exercise--in making him a vampire.

On the broadest level, there's a style problem. It's overwritten. Just watch this paragraph ease into a steady lope and then veer wildly out of control:

He stood and went into the bathroom, where he looked at himself in the mirror. His own familiar face frowned back at him, smudged with sleep and an edgy kind of awe at what he'd become. Touching his hair, pressing his fingers to his jaw and cheeks, he studied himself and wondered what the hell to do with his life from this point on. The stubble on his jaw had grown rougher as he slept; thus did another myth bite the dust. Eyes glittered, pupils like hematite, irises breathing green and grey in turn, and at their lower arc the orbital ridges appeared newly defined, like dusky feathered wings in their matching sweep. Pale, his face gleamed in the bright bathroom light, and it struck him that he looked mad or drugged, but he was neither, he was lucidly himself, a vampire.

Where the eyes begin to glitter is where my inner poet thrashed loose from her bonds and took rein. I still try to achieve intense imagery. But I try not to let the horses of prose gallop madly off the cliff. (The above example actually doesn't need to be completely whacked off. But it needs editing. I think "dusky feathered wings in their matching sweep" would, sadly, have to go.)

I also wrote this sentence: "She watched him for a minute, waiting, her medical anxiety over his condition blending with increasing trepidation for she knew not what."

She knew not what. That's just embarrassing. The rest of the sentence is fine, but man. What was I thinking? I know not what.

It's as if my writing *style* was this screen through which I wrote, that I wasn't even aware of--I didn't even realize it existed between me and my character, and that it was distorting things. I tend to think now that style can distort characterization as much as what you have a character say and do. What I never thought about then, writing so early in XF, was the skill of keeping a show's canonical tone--dark, light, comedic, dramatic, etc.

Because of this, a lot of my older fan-fiction reads much more to me like original fiction now, which is odd. You'd think it would happen the other way around. And, you know, I actually don't know if this makes it bad or "worse" than my current writing. I've speculated on this before--on the the possibility that I have *devolved* as a writer, in part by becoming a stricter craftsman of fan-fiction (fan-fiction being a genre that has its own special writing rules, different from original fiction).

I've occasionally gone back to read other XF stories. The series "In a Dark Time" was the second thing I wrote, and I think it still holds up. (Though maybe one day I'll return and it will be like ashes in my mouth.) I'd always thought that "A Little Vamp Tale" was one of my better old efforts. Not like, say, "Thai, Game, Beginning" which I find truly appalling. I re-read "The Hustler" last year and found it bemusing in much the same way as Vamp Tale; nice, but off. And it's odd; I'd known at the time of writing in XF what the risks were--I was always taking very deliberate risks by twisting and playing with the characters in some odd way. Apparently I'd just thought myself more successful.

And such are my thoughts of the morning as I prepare to go and slash Xander.


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