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 Post subject: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2020 2:35 pm 
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An idea I had in mind for a long time; it takes place after Burning Home, the last part of Sharaka's origins of which you can find the working notes here if you don't mind spoilers. Putting myself from writing until I've finished Burning Home would be borderline painful, so here it is. For understanding this piece you only need to know that since Healing Path Sharaka realized she has some natural talent for empath magic and had some training.

Title could definitely use some help.
the lover and the father (1k words)


extra

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Last edited by Huey Nomure on Tue Apr 14, 2020 2:03 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:39 pm 
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Interesting story, and you can tell that this is further along Sharaka's personal development than we've seen yet. Parts of this felt a little fragmented, especially jumping into the scene, but I don't think that's a problem, and I liked the connections between human/viashino relations on Sharaka's home plane vs those on Jakkard.

I'd also like to point out how great I think this line is: "And sadly, sex with strangers seemed to be more traded than shared." That's just a great little observation, very nicely phrased, and a really subtle insight into Sharaka's personality.

Thanks for posting, Huey!


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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:04 pm 
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Fragmented... it's certainly very condensed, cutting the first part of the prostitute's encounter and the entire "idiot with a gun" part, but I didn't think I had something good to write about that. I could have taken a few more time to let the ideas simmer more comfortably, but I feel like Sharaka's first months - maybe even years - as a 'walker are pretty eventful, with the tangle of issues and good intentions she has. And certainly Jakkard has more than enough trouble to find for people who are unable to keep their snout away from it...

You know, it was supposed to have a second part, but... I'm not so sure now? Like, I don't think my idea for the last part is as strong as this. Probably I just have to think of a few angles or some twist to keep the attention high.

Thank you for reading and commenting!

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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:05 pm 
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You know, it was supposed to have a second part, but... I'm not so sure now? Like, I don't think my idea for the last part is as strong as this. Probably I just have to think of a few angles or some twist to keep the attention high.

It might be kinda cool to do a series of little microfics about Sharaka's time on Jakkard. Take that fragmented feeling (which might just be me, who knows) and play with it a bit, a few snippets here and there strung together like an pulp fiction book that's missing a few pages.

~shrug~ Might be fun.

Thank you for reading and commenting!

No problem. It's good to see stuff go up from time to time. I haven't written anything in months, and probably won't for the foreseeable future, so I'm glad to see some stuff going up.


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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:49 pm 
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It might be kinda cool to do a series of little microfics about Sharaka's time on Jakkard. Take that fragmented feeling (which might just be me, who knows) and play with it a bit, a few snippets here and there strung together like an pulp fiction book that's missing a few pages.

~shrug~ Might be fun.

A thing to consider, to be sure. It may be my version of slice of life pieces, who knows. And we have some kickass microfics around, especially in Jakkard, so there's illustrious precedent.

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It's good to see stuff go up from time to time. I haven't written anything in months, and probably won't for the foreseeable future, so I'm glad to see some stuff going up.

I totally get it, I had a number of issues with productivity lately well before all this pandemic mess. I don't mind having activity in the shop thread, even if I don't interact a lot, but it's good to see stuff get done, by my hand or otherwise. Writing helps me processing things, once I actually manage to get some grip on them, so it's good for myself in more ways than one.

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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 9:57 am 
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some typos and quibbles


For my more overarching thoughts, it feels a little cliché to me, especially with the whole "just walk away" inner monologue, but I think this is a really strong character piece. You do a lot with a little, here.

That said, I'm also bringing my own baggage here as I read it. I'm a bit of a prude, so I never really enjoy talk about sex and sexuality like where this story starts from. I've also never particularly cared for Wild West settings, even if some of the M:EM's best work (and some of my favorite stories) has been set in Jakkard, though to be frank the shortness of the piece doesn't give Jakkard as a setting much time to show through. I'm also pretty sure I haven't read a single piece of Sharaka's story before now, though what you've written here is a pretty good introduction to the character, IMO.


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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 11:22 am 
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For my more overarching thoughts, it feels a little cliché to me, especially with the whole "just walk away" inner monologue

Guilty as charged there :V

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I'm a bit of a prude, so I never really enjoy talk about sex and sexuality like where this story starts from.

I get that, the theme is often polarizing and not wanting to engage with it is certainly valid. Not sure if this required a further response, but here's an overlong one :D

In-universe: Sharaka comes from a very sex-positive culture and it's pretty obvious when it's relevant - which is not in 99% of her previous canon stories, btw. She has no problem using being graphic in thought, dialogue and act if given the chance.
Writing: Since the focus of the piece is not sex but how her upbringing clashes with Jakk culture, the writing tries to portray Sharaka's situation and train of thoughts while staying away from crude detail. All terms are "tellers" and not "showers" to walk that line, so anybody can imagine the scene as luridly as they wish.
My personal PoV: Beyond personal preference, I wish talking about sex and sexual matters could be more seen in a more casual light, though (maybe because) my very self gets flustered by some of the relative topics. While "random sexual fantasies" might not be about the stories at hand (don't mind me, I'm vagueing about a WotC employee's post :D), such topics are very relevant to certain characters just as they are very relevant to certain people, so IMO they have an important place in storytelling. That said, content warning is an important thing that exists, and I'd be in favor of putting some if appropriate.

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to be frank the shortness of the piece doesn't give Jakkard as a setting much time to show through.

True, though I hope to remedy that in potential future snippets.

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I'm also pretty sure I haven't read a single piece of Sharaka's story before now, though what you've written here is a pretty good introduction to the character, IMO.

It is a sort of re-introduction after the events of her origin, so I'm glad it works!

Thanks for reading, commenting and the editing tips!

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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:40 pm 
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I'm a bit of a prude, so I never really enjoy talk about sex and sexuality like where this story starts from.

I get that, the theme is often polarizing and not wanting to engage with it is certainly valid. Not sure if this required a further response, but here's an overlong one :D

In-universe: Sharaka comes from a very sex-positive culture and it's pretty obvious when it's relevant - which is not in 99% of her previous canon stories, btw. She has no problem using being graphic in thought, dialogue and act if given the chance.
Writing: Since the focus of the piece is not sex but how her upbringing clashes with Jakk culture, the writing tries to portray Sharaka's situation and train of thoughts while staying away from crude detail. All terms are "tellers" and not "showers" to walk that line, so anybody can imagine the scene as luridly as they wish.
My personal PoV: Beyond personal preference, I wish talking about sex and sexual matters could be more seen in a more casual light, though (maybe because) my very self gets flustered by some of the relative topics. While "random sexual fantasies" might not be about the stories at hand (don't mind me, I'm vagueing about a WotC employee's post :D), such topics are very relevant to certain characters just as they are very relevant to certain people, so IMO they have an important place in storytelling. That said, content warning is an important thing that exists, and I'd be in favor of putting some if appropriate.

I wasn't planning on talking about this, but since it came up (shut up, HS Tryst...) I may as well.

I admit that my initial reaction to the beginning of this story was to sort of prudishly crinkle up my nose a bit, but it was an initial gut reaction. I don't have a problem with sex or sexual themes coming up in fantasy texts as long as they are handled well. Jakkard is at least somewhat sexualized already. The first story written featuring Jakkard was Ruwin's "Two Bullets and a Pocketful of Hate," in which Cosette attempts to trade sex for Fisco's aid. Another early Jakkard piece, Orcish's "Love and Theft," has the "waitress" Ruby literally bargain with Jackie for an hour or a night of fun. Even Trotter is, canonically, a former prostitute. So Jakkard specifically already has that sort of highly sexualized atmosphere, which fits into Old West tropes, where every town in every movie seemed to have a saloon and a brothel, often as the same establishment.

There are plenty of other examples throughout the M:EM of sexual themes coming through. We have Alessa's pansexual attractions, scenes with Daneera and Kerik throughout their story arc, Kimberley's make-out sessions with Lord Eijo's son Jin, and basically all of Tryst's backstory. We even have instances of non-consensual sexual assault, like the rape scene in Tevish's "Parts Unknown" or Daneera's ascension story. So there is a lot of precedence for sexual themes in M:EM works.

But it all comes back to the caveat of as long as they are handled well. In this story, I think they're just fine, though perhaps a little jarring coming without context at the very beginning of the story. Like I said, I really love that line about "traded" vs "shared." But I think one reason that people (in this instance Lord Luna and myself) have an initial negative reaction to sexual themes is because so often, especially in fanfiction, these things are NOT handled well. It is so easy for new writers to come in wanting to fetishize something that turns them on personally and then defend it on logically weak platforms like "it's gritty" or "it's 'real life'" or the worst of all, "other people write about sex too!" "After all, if Game of Thrones can show incestuous sex in the first episode, why can't I write about [whatever it is they want to sexualize]."

I do not remember in what context he said it, but I remember Ruwin saying something about sex on these forums, something to the tune of "You shouldn't show sex unless it's relevant to the story." If my increasingly shaky memory serves me, he went on to say that you shouldn't show ANYTHING unless it's relevant to the story, which is something I mostly agree with. There's a big difference between showing two (or more) characters going off into the bedroom, and vividly describing what happens therein. Unless you are specifically writing porn, or unless there is something profoundly significant about what happens in that bedroom that greatly informs something that the reader needs to know about that character, I'm of the mindset that you should pull the shades.

There's a scene in "Instinct" where, after I think two months of Daneera trying to get Kerik to open up, the two finally make love, but even then, it is only implied that that's what happened. Kerik kisses her, apologizes for kissing her, she says she's not sorry he did, and then pulls him close. The very next line starts off by jumping ahead several hours with no commentary on what happened in between. It isn't important to the story, or to the character development, so I didn't include it. What happens between them is implied, but not overt, and personally, I think that's the way to go in most cases.

I don't think we (whether that be us here in the M:EM or writers at large) should shy away from adult themes, be they sexual, violent, or otherwise, but I also don't feel we should revel in them. I've never been a fan of the gritty, graphic sorts of literature that shove every nasty element of life down the readers' throats and say "look at how vile life can be!" I live in America, so if I wanted that, I'd turn on the news. But I'm also not a fan of sugar-coated "everything will always turn out okay!" sort of fiction, either. I like middle ground. The more you move away from the middle ground, the more potential readers you will alienate, in general. But that doesn't mean you won't find new readers on the extremes. To each their own, generally, but we do have the general integrity of the project to keep in mind, as well.

TL;DR: I think sexual themes are fine if handled well.


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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 1:19 pm 
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I think Raven just articulated my thoughts on sex and sexual themes much better than I ever could. There's nothing in this story that I can object to, and as Raven put it, it was more of a gut reaction because we started out mid-scene in an alleyway with a prostitute, which kind of sets up a few... let's say expectations. It probably doesn't help that I've also read a "healthy" amount of actual porn in multiple languages.

I think what you have does inform about the character and exists for a very good reason, it's just a combination of past experiences with poorer authors (whether that be those with no real skill writing actual porn; or those with some skill using sex as an excuse to write about a personal fetish; or just "hardboiled" stories that loose sight of why a story should have blood, sex, and violence) like Raven says, and my own personal fluster/embarrassment around the topic like you seem to have as well, that caused that first gut reaction to the opening. I didn't think it right to let it go without comment, though, and to me it seemed more pertinent to do so than in other instances, since it was so important to establishing the character.


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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 3:15 pm 
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I admit that my initial reaction to the beginning of this story was to sort of prudishly crinkle up my nose a bit, but it was an initial gut reaction.

And that gut reaction is what I wish was less common in our culture. Again, I'm not judging anyone's feelings, just quickly addressing the widespread prudishness that prevents, for example, the existence of a solid standard sexual education in many countries, mine included. Beyond personal taste, it's something that many people, me included, have internalized to a point, which sucks. Ok, quixotic rant over.

Quote:
So Jakkard specifically already has that sort of highly sexualized atmosphere, which fits into Old West tropes, where every town in every movie seemed to have a saloon and a brothel, often as the same establishment.

Jakkard's foundational pieces set the atmosphere as pretty pulpy, which makes both sex and violence close to hand when writing there, and that is one of the reasons why I think Sharaka could fit well there, narratively speaking.

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In this story, I think they're just fine, though perhaps a little jarring coming without context at the very beginning of the story.

It seems some sort of habit of mine, since for somewhat different reasons I did something similar - albeit even more explicit - in Broken Stars, and met a... skeptical reaction, if I remember well :D

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If my increasingly shaky memory serves me, he went on to say that you shouldn't show ANYTHING unless it's relevant to the story, which is something I mostly agree with.

May I inquire about your opinion about "slice of life" media?

I understand the underlying feeling of the statement, but... I dunno, I've rewritten this paragraph multiple times. Like, people read novel-length coffee AUs for a reason. And while tight and powerful pieces are awesome, that's not all there is to writing, or even stories. For example, once I get very attached to a character I have zero (0) problems in reading tens of thousands of words of them messing around with friends, from heartfelt discussion to just wacky shenanigans.

This one of the reasons I want to be able to write something in the general vicinity of slice of life. I want to be able to imagine a character carrying on their life when there's no traumatizing stuff going on. Because while people show many depths in high-stress situations, do you really know someone if you, I dunno, never seen them enjoy their hobby? Talked with them about the ridiculous pet peeves that make them absolutely livid?

Quote:
The very next line starts off by jumping ahead several hours with no commentary on what happened in between. It isn't important to the story, or to the character development, so I didn't include it. What happens between them is implied, but not overt, and personally, I think that's the way to go in most cases.

And while I understand and respect your decision there, sexuality is a big part of everyone's life, including those who feel no sexual urge whatsoever, and informs a multitude of aspects of someone's personality. As such, exploring it can give insight about their relationship with their own body and their partner's, how the many kinds of intimacy connect for them... it's a world in itself, and one that often lives very deep within each of us, and as such I think "in most cases" there would be something to gain from showing, if not the details, the feeling of those moments. Writers can refuse to go there for whatever reason, and certainly by giving space to those moments there might be something to lose, in global synthesis or in interest from a part of the audience that might be put off by it, but it's always a trade-off, and as such the specific terms of the "deal" is what matters.

All this rambling to say that it's a matter of taste, both of the writer and of the reader, and that I found experiencing media falling in very different points of that spectrum positively invigorating, and I daresay life-changing in a few instances.

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I like middle ground. The more you move away from the middle ground, the more potential readers you will alienate, in general. But that doesn't mean you won't find new readers on the extremes. To each their own, generally, but we do have the general integrity of the project to keep in mind, as well.

The thing about middle ground, as with equilibrium, is that everyone has their own. I agree that pulp and grit are better when they have a reason to exist in a story, but I'd argue that their absence also benefits from a strong reason. Take for example the classic blow to the head=clean KO trope (which I apparently use here too, but not really): it posits an easy and consequence-free way to handle violent conflict, which brings a level of idealization of both violence and conflict that sets a certain atmosphere and light on the story, and as such IMO it shouldn't be chosen just because it's common trope and/or is useful to the plot.

What do you mean by "general integrity"?

I think Raven just articulated my thoughts on sex and sexual themes much better than I ever could.

And yet, without your post I'd never had thought that someone could associate the starting line of the piece with porn. The forum's automatic censorship of words like **** would prevent such a link from ever existing in my head, while I take a guilty pleasure in exploring what words are deemed not censure-worthy and milking them for everything they're worth.

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It probably doesn't help that I've also read a "healthy" amount of actual porn in multiple languages.

A fellow man of culture, I see :D

To return to a more concrete topic, do you think the piece warrants some kind of content warning? As Raven pointed out, many Jakkard pieces are pulpy, but I wouldn't be against it.

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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 7:31 pm 
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May I inquire about your opinion about "slice of life" media?

I understand the underlying feeling of the statement, but... I dunno, I've rewritten this paragraph multiple times. Like, people read novel-length coffee AUs for a reason. And while tight and powerful pieces are awesome, that's not all there is to writing, or even stories. For example, once I get very attached to a character I have zero (0) problems in reading tens of thousands of words of them messing around with friends, from heartfelt discussion to just wacky shenanigans.

This one of the reasons I want to be able to write something in the general vicinity of slice of life. I want to be able to imagine a character carrying on their life when there's no traumatizing stuff going on. Because while people show many depths in high-stress situations, do you really know someone if you, I dunno, never seen them enjoy their hobby? Talked with them about the ridiculous pet peeves that make them absolutely livid?

Interestingly enough I've recently been having talks that swerved right down this same alleyway of discussion.

What's important here is to make the distinction that "the story" isn't strictly a line from plot point to plot point to plot point. It's like that old line that dialogue should either advance the plot or reveal character. Character pieces may exist that don't focus on an overarching narrative (e.g. Aggretsuko; Over the Garden Wall; Desert Punk), and mood pieces may exist that don't focus on any one character or have the setting itself be the focus (e.g. Durarara!!; Kino's Journey; Interspecies Reviewers), and you can have stories with various levels of all three. For some examples:
  • Spice & Wolf is very much a character piece that focuses on the main duo's relationship with the setting being a close second in importance
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex is a mood piece focused most intently on its setting while having an overarching narrative
  • Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit has an overarching narrative that is set up in order to let it focus mostly on its characters

Just because something is relevant to the story doesn't mean it's relevant to whatever you want to refer to as "the plot," if that even exists in a normal 3-act-structure, heroes-journey kind of way or not.


All this rambling to say that it's a matter of taste, both of the writer and of the reader, and that I found experiencing media falling in very different points of that spectrum positively invigorating, and I daresay life-changing in a few instances.

Here's where I think my prudishness is going to hinder me and probably make me come across more harshly than I intend to, but I'll try to say a few words about it anyway. I apologize in advance.

I think there's a line between sexuality and romance that tends to get blurred in certain languages and cultures. In English, there's basically only one word for it, "love," and it seem that in Western culture the concept has basically been boiled down to a strict progression where sex is the end goal -- like it's "the reason" to fall in love with someone,1 rather than loving them for the sake of the feeling of being in love. More recent movements seem to aim to "free" sex from its cultural taboos, so that we can speak freely about something that does form part of a person's identity, but a lot of people (especially online) seem to combine this with the worst parts of how we "love" to argue that the physical act of sex, rather than the feelings of romance and sexuality are what form large portions of people's personality. When you listen to that sort of talk, is seems talk about the nearly-uncontrollable biological urges that gets people off is more important than what attracts them in the first place or any of the myriad of non-sexual things that a normal person does in their daily lives that informs who they are.

I think a very good parallel to draw here is that line that Raven zeroed in on earlier, "Sex here seemed something that was traded more than shared." While superficially it's about sex, it is not about the physical act of sex, but rather of the culture surrounding it -- the nature of its intimacy for both the setting and (implied) the character whose POV we're riding. You can talk a lot "about" sex without ever needing to describe the actual act or how engaging in coitus affects the character, and I think that's the "general integrity" Raven was talking about: to not have blood, sex, or violence become a focus where it doesn't need to be.


To return to a more concrete topic, do you think the piece warrants some kind of content warning? As Raven pointed out, many Jakkard pieces are pulpy, but I wouldn't be against it.

No, I wouldn't say so. I'd give this a PG rating (by U.S. Hollywood ratings) at the worst. Why we're having this conversation is because Sharaka's relationship to her sexuality seems to be a core part of her character, more than anything that actually happens in the story. It's why I brought it up in the first place, unlike in many other places we've seen sex in the M:EM (IIRC, Alessa has had a few escapades just off-screen before in addition to the Jakkard-specific pieces Raven mentions). I, and I'm going to have to be supremely frank here, being both a "virgin" and someone who has never actually had romantic feelings2 toward another person, take a lot of notice of that because it's not something I can relate to.


1I want to say that, evolutionarily speaking, that is true to the extent that the biological processes responsible for making us fall in love were originally intended to help spread our genes, but that's not exactly relevant to the argument.

2I want to be clear that I do not count the tiny handful of "puppy love" incidents from before I had even started entering puberty. That kind of kid stuff is mostly aping adults and doesn't reflect actual love.


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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2020 11:11 am 
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Just because something is relevant to the story doesn't mean it's relevant to whatever you want to refer to as "the plot," if that even exists in a normal 3-act-structure, heroes-journey kind of way or not.

Fair enough, I may be using the term in an improper way.

Quote:
[...] More recent movements seem to aim to "free" sex from its cultural taboos, so that we can speak freely about something that does form part of a person's identity, but a lot of people (especially online) seem to combine this with the worst parts of how we "love" to argue that the physical act of sex, rather than the feelings of romance and sexuality are what form large portions of people's personality. When you listen to that sort of talk, is seems talk about the nearly-uncontrollable biological urges that gets people off is more important than what attracts them in the first place or any of the myriad of non-sexual things that a normal person does in their daily lives that informs who they are.

I... don't think I ever encountered that kind of Discourse? At least, not on that terms.

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You can talk a lot "about" sex without ever needing to describe the actual act or how engaging in coitus affects the character

True, though obviously both of those things can contain important information. The tricky thing is engaging the reader's notions of sexuality, intimacy and/or romance (depending on the case) without putting them off, but that line changes from reader to reader and can change for the same reader depending on the moment or over time - again, speaking from experience here. We can agree on a general stance for this project, but I don't think there's an universally "right" way to go about this.

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 Post subject: Re: An Eventful Stroll
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:46 pm 
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Just because something is relevant to the story doesn't mean it's relevant to whatever you want to refer to as "the plot," if that even exists in a normal 3-act-structure, heroes-journey kind of way or not.

Fair enough, I may be using the term in an improper way.

To be fair, you're not, really. It's culturally accepted that "the story" refers to "the plot" the same way "the writing" does, but I like to make the distinction to get more use out of the words. I consider things such as scene choreography and the setting as parts of writing, even in audiovisual media such as movies/television/animation. There may be some overlap with cinematography based on how I use the word, but my understanding of actual cinematography (such as framing and blocking) is incredibly limited.


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