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Fan Fiction Quarterly: Edition 5 (May 1, 2016)

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by AmericanPi, May 1, 2016.

  1. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    [​IMG]
    Edition 5 (May 1, 2016)

    Welcome to the fifth edition of the FFQ! We FFQ contributors have been posting new editions every few months, and will try to stick to a schedule of one issue every three months. Do read and share your thoughts in this thread!

    Each edition of the newsletter has featured both a current fan fiction and one from the glorious archives. Also included is an interview with a section reviewing regular, updates on what's going on in the section and a writing prompt challenge!

    Credit goes to American--Pi for going all-out and writing everything but the Challenge, JX Valentine for much-appreciated fine-tuning on the whole thing, and Umbramatic for coming up and writing up the dastardly Quarterly Challenge and winner summaries.​



    Editor's Choice

    Our first column deals with a staff pick: a single story published or updated within the past three months that we, your dutiful FFQ editors, feel is most worthy of your attention. It's a tough pick, one that's based on a variety of factors, including update reliability, creativity, and mastery of the basics of storytelling. In other words, set out to tell a good story, and you too might get a spot right here under Editor's Choice.

    This time around, we're featuring a fic by a well-known face around the Fan Fiction forum. It's a journey fic based on a Nuzlocke run at its heart, but has many traits that make it unique and enjoyable. That's right, it's...

    Electric Sheep
    by JX Valentine​

    This is, in its essence, a journey fic based on a White Nuzlocke run, but one look at the setting and you'll understand immediately that things are more interesting here. The fic takes place in a somewhat dystopic future version of Unova, where urban development has overtaken the region and the Trainer's Journey has been reduced to a comfortable passage through artificial, constructed, and designated safe areas. Every Trainer travels through the region with a Companion, a humanoid robot that acts as a Pokedex, an item storage system, and a general source of information. Most of the Pokemon in the region are "fauxkemon", machines that battle, evolve, and largely act like the Pokemon we know and love.

    In this futuristic version of Unova, Doreen "Door" Hornbeam, a fifteen-year-old assistant to an assistant Pokemon Researcher, begins a Trainer's Journey. She doesn't start it willingly, though - annoyed and dissatisfied with the artificial state of the region, she hopes to become an actual Pokemon Researcher someday and work with real Pokemon, not fauxkemon. However, after Door saves a knowledgeable, mysterious man named Geist from thieves, Professor Bianca Ironwood sends Door to protect Geist while taking him back to Accumula City, where he was an assistant to Professor Amanita Fennel. Door decides to catch some Pokemon along the way, but much to her annoyance her errand does not end in Accumula, and she is thrust into a full-fledged Trainer's Journey, complete with rivals, catching Pokemon, and gym battles.

    Considering that Trainer's Journeys have been used as a plotline many times, the premise of Electric Sheep may seem uninteresting. However, JX Valentine has plenty of tricks up her sleeve to deliver a dynamic and enjoyable fic.

    The author keeps readers engaged in the story with vivid description, entertaining battle scenes, interesting plots, and a good dose of humorous moments. Using fun-to-read description, the author unravels and builds on the futuristic Unova the fic creates. Door engages in many dynamic battles, from a double battle in a dark cave to a gym battle full of riddles. Several plots keep the reader engaged, such as the gradual mysterious reappearance of real Pokemon in Unova and an organization called Team Matrix whose goals are mysterious - they strive to set free Companions and fauxkemon, and for some reason they're after Geist. Finally, Electric Sheep is certainly not devoid of aptly humorous moments, from Door's amusing interactions with her rivals to the hilarious description of a Tail Whip.

    That's not to say that the fic has no flaws - one particular chapter is rather difficult to read through, because it contains many large chunks of dialogue and exposition. In addition, Door initially comes off as cold, arrogant, and generally unlikeable, and at first it is difficult to root for her. However, as the story goes on JX Valentine does an excellent job at developing her character and showing a nicer side of her. Door later frustratedly opens up to Geist that she has dreams and ambitions, but just has no idea of how to get there. Electric Sheep also features interesting, well-written characterization on the supporting characters, such as Geist, Door's rivals, and Door's Pokemon. For example, Blair Whitlea, one of Door's rivals, comes off as an arrogant and hot-blooded Gary Oak-type Trainer at first, but is later revealed to be insecure and sympathetic.

    All in all, if you're looking for a story with an interesting setting, or just a really entertaining read, Electric Sheep is the fic for you. It is a piece of excellent fanfiction that sets itself apart with its many positive traits, and definitely deserves this spot in Editor's Choice.​


    Reviewers' Feature

    In this part of the Quarterly, we sit down with one reviewer we feel has done an exceptional job within the past three months. We're talking about reviewers who are active, give great advice, and generally interact with the community on a positive level. In other words, be an awesome reviewer, and you might have a contributor stop by to say hi.

    In this edition we interviewed [Imaginative]:[Clockwork], a reviewer whose work revolves around one-shots and how they convey a story in a relatively small amount of words. Characterization is one of his favorite things about stories, and he loves reading one-shots that explore what makes a character tick.

    Examples of [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]'s reviews can be found here, here, and here.

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]
    What makes a character tick?

    Fan Fiction Quarterly: So to start things off, when did you start reviewing fics, and why?

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]: I think I joined my first fanfic community in 2007. Receiving reviews was the biggest thing that led me to reading other people's fics, since I wanted to repay my readers. Plus, I really enjoy reading, so reviewing was just a natural extension of that.

    FFQ: Receiving reviews is definitely a common way for people to start giving reviews themselves. So these days, what types of stories are you drawn into? What makes you click on a story, and what makes you keep reading?

    IC: Well, I don't always have a ton of free time. This means that I'm naturally drawn to the stories that I can read and review in one sitting, which is why I review lots of one-shots!

    As far as content, however, I'll read almost anything, but if you really want to draw me in, strong characterization is your best bet. Characters are my favorite part of stories, so if they have clear personalities, I'll probably be hooked. Other than that, I enjoy it when an author is confident enough to tell a lighthearted, low-stakes slice-of-life story, since I find they're usually the most relatable.

    FFQ: Interesting! It definitely makes sense to review one-shots if you're short on time. And you make some interesting points about character-driven and slice-of-life stories. In slice-of-life stories you don't really have an intense conflict, so that gives you a lot of room to develop characters.

    IC: Growing up, my favorite movie was Kiki's Delivery Service, which is well known for having no antagonist. I think that really influenced how I approach stories. Reading a story without a villain is enjoyable in a weird, relaxing kind of way. Like you said, it also puts the attention squarely on the protagonist. I love that, because then the audience gets to explore what makes that character tick.

    FFQ: I remember loving the characters in that movie, so I can see how it influenced you! Aside from pointing out characterization, how else do you structure your reviews? What goes into your decision to drop a review for a fic, and do you try to review everything you read?

    IC: I do review everything I read, although I wish I read more. I guess I feel like if I enjoyed a story enough to read it to completion, the author deserves to know that I liked it.

    My reviews almost always start out on a positive note. I find that leading with a positive helps soften the blow of the criticisms. After that, I just try to give fair and honest critiques. Personally I improved because people would give me real constructive criticism, but what kept me going was the fact that they usually had tact in their reviews. So going forward I always tried to imitate that strategy of reviewing with compassion.

    One thing that catches my eye in stories is the structure and pacing. I know from experience that those are tricky things to get right, so my reviews typically spend a decent time focusing on that. I try to look at the impact the author was trying to create and whether or not I think they were successful.

    FFQ: You definitely have a pretty effective reviewing style! That said, in what ways have your reviewing style and habits changed over the years?

    IC: My reviews used to be much shorter. As I've gotten older, though, I've started to move beyond gut reactions and have spent more time thinking critically about what I read and trying to figure out exactly why what I like works and why what I don't like doesn't. I've definitely shifted my focus toward giving better explanations, which I think has helped me become a better reviewer.

    FFQ: It's great that you've taken to giving longer and more detailed reviews! Is there a particular interaction you've had with an author that sticks out in your mind?

    IC: This is kind of a negative story, but a few years ago I reviewed a journeyfic. The author didn't respond very well, and any attempts to explain myself further just seemed to make things worse. Although I don't think I was being unreasonable, I've definitely been more careful about my tone since then.

    FFQ: I'm sorry that it happened! But alas, reviewing, like everything else, has some negative experiences that come with it, you know what I'm saying? I hope the positive experiences have far surpassed the negative experiences, though!

    IC: They definitely have! I love reviewing, if only because I know the excitement (and nervousness) that comes when you see someone has posted on your story. The fact that I get to do miniature critical essays is just a bonus!

    FFQ: I agree, reviewing is definitely a lot of fun. What advice do you have for reviewers looking to improve their skills? How about for authors who want to catch the attention of readers?

    IC: For reviewers, I would suggest really spending time thinking over what you liked and disliked about a story. If you're able to put into words why something does or doesn't work you'll not only have a longer review, but also probably a better one.

    As for catching the attention of readers, I have two pieces of advice. The first is to have a great title! I almost always click on interesting or unusual titles, even if it's just to see what's going on in there. My second piece of advice is to review other people's stories, post in the author's cafe, and be open to criticism even if you disagree. If people recognize your name and think you're pretty cool, there's a good chance they'll drop a review.

    FFQ: That's a really nice bit of advice! Lastly, is there anything else you want to say?

    IC: I'm racking my brain, but I honestly can't think of a good final thought! :|

    FFQ: That's totally alright! Thanks a million for taking the time to sit down and give this interview - it was a pleasure chatting with you, and I garnered a lot of food for thought. See you around! :)


    Blast from the Past

    In this part of the Quarterly, we take a trip back in time to examine a complete fic worth noting. Whether they were culturally significant to our fandom or just really excellent completed work, these are the fics your staff likes to call blasts from the past.

    In this edition, we shine our spotlight on a Pokemon-centric fic that's emotional, heartbreaking, and most of all, well-written. The fact that the fic was written under the constraints of a NaNoWriMo makes it even more impressive. Presenting...

    Foregone Conclusion
    by elyvorg​

    As the title of this story suggests, this fanfic has a foregone conclusion. Writing a story that has this trait requires a lot of ambition and skill, because the readers already know how the story will end. Because the suspense of not knowing the ending is removed, one of the main reasons why readers keep reading a story is no longer present.

    The challenge in writing a story with a foregone conclusion, therefore, lies in keeping the reader engaged in ways other than suspense. In her NaNoWriMo 2010 novel, skillful author elyvorg successfully uses an effective writing style and interesting characters to deliver a heartbreaking, emotional, and above all enjoyable (in a strange and depressing way, of course) fanfiction.

    In short, the story follows a Pokemon species called Archopy, an alternate evolution of Grovyle that existed in prehistoric times, as they try to survive while an extremist group of the physically stronger Sceptile commit genocide on the entire species of Archopy. It is a foregone conclusion because we know that the Sceptile succeeded in wiping out all the Archopy - after all, in the Pokemon canon, Grovyle can only evolve into Sceptile. While the plot can be summed up in one sentence, this sentence does the complex story a huge disservice. The sentence does not even begin to cover the highly emotional twists, turns, and trials the well-written and largely sympathetic characters go through.

    Foregone Conclusion takes place on a prehistoric island, one free of any human influence whatsoever. The setting makes the fic entirely Pokemon-centric, and the fic itself offers a good amount of worldbuilding. However, Foregone Conclusion is, first and foremost, a highly character-driven fic, and fans of strong characterization will definitely enjoy it immensely. Readers follow the point of view of several characters as they each deal with the dangerous threat of the Sceptile in their own way.

    Forsira, the eventual Archopy who has the first point of view, watches her parents die in front of her as a Treecko, and lives the rest of her life relying on others in fear of death and being left behind. Zathern, Forsira's first friend and an eventual Sceptile, allows himself to be tempted by his villainous father after he watches all of his Archopy friends die. Germane, a more minor character who turns to the side of the genocidal Sceptile when he figures that siding with the Archopy is a lost cause, comes across as arrogant at first but is really just as terrified as everyone else. Every single point-of-view character, and even some of the villains, has an utterly tragic and heartbreaking story to tell.

    The only negative thing about this fanfic is the way it portrays Sceptile - there are a few sympathetic Sceptile, but it is apparent that most of the ones that are focused on in the fic feel no qualms about murdering Archopy. Obviously, this portrayal might not sit well with Sceptile fans. However, elyvorg has stated that her anti-Sceptile preaching is an old shame, a product of the earlier chapters of Lost Evolution, the fanfic that Foregone Conclusion is a prequel of. In Foregone Conclusion, elyvorg uses the technically villainous but highly sympathetic characters of Zathern and Karsa to reduce the fic's anti-Sceptile sentiment.

    All in all, however, Foregone Conclusion is a very well-written character-driven story that writes every single one of its characters in a believable and understandable way. The personal tragedies the different characters go through are flawed and conflicted in their own ways, but most of all utterly heartbreaking. If you're looking for an emotional roller coaster that effectively plays with your feelings, Foregone Conclusion is definitely worth a read. But most of all, it is just a really good fanfiction, and anyone who reads it will not be disappointed.​



    Events

    What's going on in the Fan Fiction forum for the next few months? Check below for all our upcoming events!

    Now: For those of you who haven't noticed, the 2015 Fan Fiction Awards' results have gone up. Congrats to all the winners! And to everyone, although the 2015 awards have drawn to a close, don't forget that it's your hard work and dedication that makes this annual event interesting. Keep up the good work, and may the 2016 awards be even better!

    Now: The main phase of the inaugural Collaborative lasts from now until the end of June. The Collaborative is a possibly yearly event where many different authors can pitch in on a writing project and work towards a common goal. The thread announcing the Collaborative and detailing the workings of the event has gone up in the Authors' Cafe. If you're interested in contributing a one-shot or two and participating in a fun event, then definitely consider signing up!

    Soon: Want to help with writing next edition's FFQ? Check out the Fan Fiction Quarterly Edition 6 Planning Thread, which will soon go up in the Authors' Cafe. We always welcome writers, so if you're looking for a way to contribute to the Fan Fiction community then look no further.

    Soon: Exquisite Corpse threads will be going live soon, allowing participants and the rest of the world a look at all the mayhem that has been wrought over the past couple of months. Keep an eye out on the main forum as each corpse draws to a close. In the meantime, thanks to all the participants for making the very first Exquisite Corpse absolutely exquisite!

    Soon: Like in previous years, a new Fan Fiction contest may occur later this year. Keep your eyes peeled!

    July 1, 2016 - July 31, 2016: Is November's NaNoWriMo too hardcore for you? You're in luck! From the same people who brought you NaNo comes Camp NaNoWriMo, a summertime edition of the classic annual event. The rules and the brutality of the challenge are still the same, but it's set smack in the middle of your summer fun season! If you wish to participate in the challenge, be sure to keep an eye on Author's Cafe for a new productivity tool that will be released just in time for your Camp NaNo fun! There will also be a special Camp NaNo thread for those of you who need a place to cry.

    August 1, 2016: This is the FFQ Edition 6's projected release date! The contributors to the FFQ are trying to keep FFQ releases to a solid, workable release schedule of four times a year. Again, if you want to help with writing the FFQ, check out the Fan Fiction Quarterly Edition 6 Planning Thread.​



    Quarterly Challenge

    Looking for something to flex your writing muscles? Try this challenge on for size! In the following section, you'll find a writing prompt. Write one or more fics fulfilling or related to those prompts, post your fics in the forum where they'll work best (Pokémon fics in the main forum, original fics and non-Pokémon fics in Non-Pokémon Fics, and shipping fics in Shipping Fics), and link to your finished work here! At the end of the Quarterly period, all of the fics will be gathered up and posted in an honor roll at the end of this column.

    Additionally, everyone who completes the challenge is guaranteed to get a review from at least one mod. (Usually, they'll just show up, but feel free to ask for a review request.) That's right! Complete a challenge, get a review! So do your best and write! You can do it!

    1. All Fan Fiction rules apply to all fics. This includes the minimum length requirement, so all fics must be a minimum of two pages long. Additionally, please submit material appropriate for the Fan Fiction forum. Although NC-17 fics are okay in Shipping Fics, please do not submit NC-17 material to the challenge. Other forum rules likewise apply.
    2. If a prompt is an image, a quote, a song, or a video, it's perfectly okay to be inspired by the prompt. What that means is you don't need to include the exact quote or the song or the exact situation depicted in the image or video for it to fill the prompt. So long as the essence is there, you're fine.
    3. If a prompt has multiple parts, your fic needs to fulfill all parts, not just a handful. There is one prompt per quarterly, and this prompt is designed to be pretty short in terms of its list of things you need to include. So don't be too intimidated!
    4. The exception to rule #3 is the extra credit part of the prompt. Extra credit is exactly like what you remember from your tests in grade school: optional, but it'd be cool and a cherry on top to you if you did it.

    Have fun with writing and get your creative juices flowing, so relax, put your digits to your keyboard, and write whatever story the prompt inspires you to write! Good luck!

    This quarter's prompt is:

    Write a fic where your protagonist has unusual powers of some sort.

    We know, we know. Such characters are inherently irredeemable Mary Sues who always break the story with their sparkly special powers and anyone who uses them is automatically worthy of being cast into the depths of fanfic sinner hell. Right? Right?

    ...WRONG!

    Contrary to popular belief, it’s not so much the traits as how they all add up in execution that makes the dreaded monster Mary Sue, and it’s totally possible to create a character with unusual powers that’s actually likeable and compelling in-context. So your job, fine scriveners of the Serebii fanfic boards, is to do exactly that! Write a story about a character with powers paranormal and make them and their story work!

    Though before you put your thinking caps on and then fingers to those keyboards, dear ficcers, there’s some important notes to know about this challenge, starting with two caveats:

    1. To avoid a flood of fics on them and to keep this an actual challenge, 2.5 staple superpowers of the Pokeworld are off-limits here: Psychic/Aura abilities in humans and the ability to speak to Pokemon. Why? Well, you see, these powers have been explored long enough and often enough in fanfic that plenty of people have figured out how to do them in actually fun and interesting ways already!

    2. That said, the power used still must be one with a basis in some official part of the Pokemon franchise. How you take this part is up to you, dear writer. You can, for example, explore immortality (a canon power thanks to AZ and his Floette), or you could go beyond game canon to explore powers like outright human witchcraft or Pokemon reality-warping in the anime, the TCG’s Delta species, or Smash’s take on Aura-wielding Pokémon. Feel all too free to be creative in how you interpret the term "power," too. Like, exactly what beyond good ol’ cartoon physics saves Team Rocket from certain death every time they’re blasted off? Think about it! There's oodles of story potential in any of this and more if you take the time to look deep enough.

    So, you have a lot of ground to cover with this one. Get cracking, folks. And if you want even more of a challenge, extra credit to people who worldbuild on the featured powers, feature a character with multiple powers that still works in context, and/or feature multiple characters with different powers and see how that plays out. Don't forget to fulfill the main part of the challenge though, which is to give your protagonist a superpower that has a basis in at least one official Pokemon canon. Anyways, good luck, everybody, we’re looking forward to those answers!

    Last Quarterly's Winners:

    • American--Pi with "Betterer", a fic which kicks up the crossover a notch by hybridizing Adventure Time, Pokemon, and… real life, specifically throwing fictionalized versions of celebrity tennis players into the mix. The result is a sporting clash of the ages that needs to be read to be believed - with a bit of cute on the side.

    • Kutie Pie with "Caillou and the New Neighbor", a oneshot inspired by the infamous Caillou trollfics of FFnet. Thankfully, not only is Kutie Pie’s crossovery take on the subject much more G-rated, it does what a crossover crackfic should - use its disparate source materials and tone to both baffle and amuse the reader in equal measure.

    • The Teller with "Courage's Double Trouble", in which a familiar cowardly dog is confronted by an equally familiar trio with intents on kidnapping him, and things proceed to go about as horribly - and hilariously - wrong as one would expect.
     
  2. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

  3. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Awwww yeah here we go. Sadly my entry to the last challenge decidedly did not make it due to real life screwing me over for two weeks solid, but I'm finagling what to do about that RE: the challenge and still full well intend to up and finish the thing regardless since it's a fun story (though pity it couldn't be the oddball tone-wise among the entries we got like I hoped XD).

    Speaking of the challenge as the guy who came up and wrote the one for this Quarterly (again with some healthy-fine tuning by Jax) I am very much looking forward to reading any answers and will likely try to review them all too! I won't be doing any answers for other Challenges in the near future due to stories in the pipeline I want to make things ASAP, and someone's already doing the August challenge, but I do have a pretty evil idea or a Challenge down the line Jax knows about. ;D Maybe end of the year?
     
  4. PhalanxSigil

    PhalanxSigil BONK!

    ...you know what I just realized? Convergence actually fits the Quarterly Prompt perfectly, and I was gonna touch on that in Chapter 7, which just so happens to be my next chapter. The characters have already touched on Derek being unusual, so they were gonna discuss why in the next chapter (along with other reveals, of course).

    I'm kinda curious, would that be an acceptable entry, even though it's just one chapter in an already established story?
     
  5. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    With all Quarterly Challenges, we'd prefer it if you wrote something from scratch, as having something already planned that just so happens to coincide with the challenge kinda defeats the purpose of the "challenge" part of things, y'know?
     
  6. PhalanxSigil

    PhalanxSigil BONK!

    Eh, kinda figured as much. Oh well, never hurts to ask. Thanks for the input. I'll just have to get creative, y'know?
     
  7. [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] X-treme trainer

    I'm so late, but this was great! I wish now that I would have given more detailed answers, but hopefully my little pieces of advice were helpful to someone haha. Thanks for interviewing me! Now it's time to get back to reviewing. :p

    Speaking of, I really need to jump on Electric Sheep! Unova, semi-dystopia, and journeyfics are my dang cups of tea, and it sounds really interesting! I've never read a Nuzlocke fic, though, so hopefully the emotional toll won't be too much. ;.; The Foregone Conclusion write-up also reminds me of the treasure trove that is the completed fics section.

    I'm not sure how to go about this challenge, though. I'd like to write something, but I need to wait on an idea to hit me first. :/ Hopefully I can come up with an idea, because lately all I've written is academic stuff and I need a creative break!

    But great job as always! I love having something like this that ties the forum together and gives us a sense of community. Also, it just looks like a heck of a lot of work, so kudos on that too!
     
  8. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    For the record, as the guy who wrote up the Challenge I'd love to read and review your take on it if you manage to come up with one!

    (Plus we still need people to enter this one in general, hehe. ^_^; )
     
  9. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    I'm rather delighted one of my characters from my fanfic Glitched fitted the prompt quite nicely, so I wrote him a one-shot. Here it is - Switch
     

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