Recs: Right Up There and Guilty Pleasures
I’ve been looking at other people’s rec lists for some time now, and frankly, I don’t know how they do it. I’m overwhelmed just thinking about keeping up something like that, and part of me just doesn’t even want to try. But. I’m keen to keep track of the stories I’ve read, what I liked or didn’t like about them, what I could learn from them. Plus, I’m well and truly spent trying to search through the e-piles on my computer trying to find that one story that eyelash scene, you know, the one where Sam can feel Dean’s eyelashes on his neck. I’m tired of looking for that one, so once I do find it, I’m going to put it some place safe. Here.
But my list isn’t going to be like other lists I’ve seen. Since this is my list, I’m going to have my own criteria for what lives here and why. Plus, I’m not going to have a list per se. This page is only going to have the criteria for what makes it on the list, and the name of the two tags, any of which could be changed. But to see my list of what I love, all you have to do is select one of the tags, depending on your inclinations, and everything thusly tagged will show up. I don’t have to duplicate my work and I can talk about writing to my heart’s content. That’s the theory anyway.
So okay, the first tag is Right Up There. I would have made the tag say “Rec” but that always sounds like someone crashed. The criteria for Right Up There is rather stern at best, unyeilding at second best, and very, very subjective. My criteria isn’t someone else’s so the reasons why story makes the cut or not is because I liked the story. Someone else might not.
So here’s the criteria for Right Up There, in no particular order:
1. Strong Character Voice. If a writer is writing Dean and Sam, or Bodie and Doyle, or Starsky and Hutch, then the voice of the character should be the character being portrayed on the show, and not just a talking head with that characters looks and name but nothing else. Granted, this voice can be expressed in lots of ways, some not to my liking or so new I’d never would have thought of it in a million years, but I respect a writer a heck of a lot more when she can create a voice that I can believe in and stick with it. I fall in love with a writer whose character voices match the voices in my head. Makes me feel comfortable ‘n all.
2. Strong POV. The story should have a POV that makes sense and stays constant. If the POV switches, then it should be done on purpose, and not nooodle around. Flip-flopping POV can be fun and is doable, but I’ve seen more stories ruined with a confusion of characters ensues. I’ll be the first to admit how easily I get lost when there are too many characters, the only multi-POV, POV jumping, cast-of-thousands book I’ve ever been able to master is Gone With the Wind, and that’s because I’m in love with Rhett Butler. But that’s another story.
3. Good Structure. Harder to describe, because story structure isn’t something taught much in college and whenever I start talking about rising and falling action, or triangles as compared to circles, I get blank looks and yawns. So while stucture, I think, is about shape, it’s also about how a story is built. There’s a certain pacing that happens in a story, and whether a story rises to a climax (ha ha) or floats away whimpering, I can feel it in my bones when a writer hits it solidly on the mark and whacks it out of the ballpark and any other metaphor you can name. Boom, boom, boom. Structure happens, and sometimes by accident. Some writers have structure in their bones.
4. Realistic Situations. I am leery of wingfic, genderswap fic, sisterfic, though I’ve been known to read a few simply because they were rec’d, and while they’re good, well -written, and entertaining, I don’t hold them dear because I like my fic to resonate in the land of possibly-could-happen. And while I believe in magic, I don’t belive wings can sprout from a man’s shoulders. Though, in SPN-land, as I’ve seen, anything is possible.
5. Good Sex. I’ll happily read Gen, especially in SPN fanfic, because the boys fascinate me so, but I’d ruther read slash. Honest. But. The criteria for that is as stubborn as Sam, for what works and what doesn’t. One comment I read somewhere complimented the writer on getting her over that little “bump” that happens in slash fic, where the characters move from not having sex to having it, and the suspension of disbelief that must happen at that point. And ever since then, I’ve seen that bump in a lot of stories. I’m willing to overlook the bump if the writer works hard at working out how the sex happens. What I’m not willing to overlook is somewhat more nebulous. One of my worst squicks is a story where the characters have lusty thoughts about other characters like something out of a gay porn story. Gay porn is not slash, and I’ve had many a gay friend agree with me on this. I’m willing to allow that guys think about sex every 10 seconds or so, and that they have lusty thoughts, but I have to draw the line at one character thinking the other character is so good looking (even though they are). I dunno. I think my preference is for sex that happens in spite of any strictures or taboos in place, where the love is so deep that it can only be expressed in this physical way, or where sex occurs because there’s nothing else that can happen, that, like in Water For Chocolate, where the characters must have sex or burst into flames. (Actually they have sex and then burst into flames, but you see what I mean.) Also, I’d ruther the sex be internally motivated, rather than by a spell or something. Cause in SPN-land, the demons and succubi and apparently everything else out there has nothing better to do than dream up ways and reasons for the boys to have sex, and it gets old, in my book, for the boys to get pushed around and manipulated like this. Although I confess that I did recently read a genderswap fic where this exact thing happened, and it was done so brilliantly…all my criteria falls apart. Which brings me to my other tag.
The second tag is Guilty Pleasures. I have come across any number of stories that don’t fit my weird criteria, listed above, but yet have a scene, or a line, or the writer is super super good at some aspect of writing that’s jawdropping, while the rest of the story, for me, falls short. I think the eyelash story falls in this criteria, though I’ve not found it yet. I will, dang it, I will. This tag will include those stories that missed the beat but pushed my buttons anyhow. Stories where the POV was like a mad cow running around, but where the description was rather more like a concert by Mozart. Or stories where the plot foundered around like a teenager on his first date, and yet the character of Dean was so shiny, so perfect, it made my heart ache.
So that’s it, for now. I wanted a way to get started thinking about writing all the time, instead of racing through fanfic like a madwoman. But have you calculated the number of SPN stories out there alone? If the newsletter gives us on average 15 stories, and the number of newsletters has surpassed 600, then there are over 9,000 stories out there. I can read fast, but I can’t read that fast! And since, behind that, there are 15 more stories daily, I will never, ever catch up. So, I resort to doing quality reading rather than quantity reading.