Emmie (angearia) wrote,

Fiction: Happy Places and the DNW Zone

Forever ago, penny_lane_42 [link] and snickfic [link] wrote their likes/dislikes in terms of stories, I meant to write mine up, never did, forgot about it, and then ceciliaj [link] and blackfrancine [link] posted theirs today and I finally found the motivation.  Here it goes!

In stories, I like:
  • Psychological explorations: how does the mind work, how does memory work, the breakdowns and the realistic struggle to restore a semblance of balance; how we tenuously cope with our place in this world. See also: explorations of introversion, depression, etc.
  • Feminism. Equality. Progressive social attitudes. Exploring and questioning the construction of gender identities. Inverting traditional power dynamics.
  • Women women women. This seems self-explanatory, right? I get bored if there aren't great women in the picture and my favorite stories often feature women as the protagonists. If there's great women, I want to go to there. Witty women, smart women, competent women, kickass women. This is why Jane Austen and Joss Whedon work for me. The words that come out of their mouths, I love it all.
  • Communication: no words necessary. When people know each other so well that words only get in the way: I love these moments, the quiet moments, the moments when people speak with their eyes and their hands.
  • Snarky characters who question everything and mock the overly self-righteous. Also, people who insult each other to demonstrate their affection. The contrarians, give them to me, I want them all.
  • Transformative connection, moments of humanity and grace from the most unlikely sources. E.g. sympathy from one's enemy, robots loving robots, robots loving people, actually let's segue from my robot fixation (blame Wall-E and Terminator) to...
  • The beauty of the human-animal connection. I love stories where characters essentially have literal spirit animal companions. A horse, a dragon, a wolf, a dog, a tiger, an elephant, a dolphin, a turtle – why not? This correlates with moments of humanity and grace from the most unlikely sources when the animals are the ones who reflect an incredible capacity for compassion and loyalty to their ~person.
  • Damaged individuals who the world loves to knock down. They fall, but always find a way to once again stand tall, they miraculously keep on walking and don't know quit. Best exemplified as Strong, Stubborn Women: Buffy Summers, Scarlett O'Hara, Daenerys Targaryen, Katniss Everdeen, just to name a few.
  • Battle. I'm bloodthirsty, I swear. If you've read my longer fics, you'll see it front and center. I'm a pacifist in real life (and real life for me includes interactions on the internet), but when it comes to fantasy and fiction, I find violence to be a release (it's cathartic, like how people express and release aggression through sports).
  • Survivalism*. Characters forced to fight for their lives, humanity vs. nature, overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles with ingenuity and perseverance. What Lost prominently was about in its first season before the wowza factor took over.
  • *As a sub-category of survivalism only on an internal level (the individual vs. him/herself): realistic depression narratives. This is why Buffy Season 6 will forever reign in my heart.
  • Claustrophobia As Catalyst: we're trapped in this room, we're trapped by society's rules and forced to dance with each other at this ball, we're trapped in the country, we're trapped on this ship, we're trapped in this igloo, we're trapped in the desert, we're trapped in this prison cell, we're trapped in the past, we're trapped in the future, we're TRAPPED TOGETHER – whereby all trapped encounters inevitably lead to friendships/romances that would never have happened if not for the forced catalyst of I hate you but you're all I have and maybe I don't hate you after all? Then when they return to their ~normal~ lives, they start to fall apart because of the changing societal pressures and expectations, but they're still drawn to each other, and they realize that they've become the most important people in each other's lives, and they MAKE IT WORK. (Haha, this one got overly specific!)
  • Past lives and reincarnation – especially when it crosses genders. This is one of the few instances where I'm on board with the idea of soulmates because it's not about overly romanticized sentimental schmoop (aka denying reality in order to live in a fantasy world dictated by society's definition of a perfect relationship), but the interconnected psychic wasteland created by two people's shared experiences that's left such scars on their souls that the pain travels with them from life to life, and they keep colliding in the hopes of finding a long-denied resolution.
  • Betrayal & Forgiveness. People who begin relationships with ulterior motives, discover a genuine connection, the truth is revealed, PAIN, but they ultimately overcome their overwrought feelings and find forgiveness (hopefully after a good long spell of wreaking vengeance, being horribly petty, stubborn, and vindictive, and then rising above it all, wising up, and being a good person again).
  • Revenge. Because sometimes the betrayal is so great and forgiveness isn't an option. Join it with my love of battle, survivalism, and strong ladies: rawr, I'm there with bells on. See: Shoshanna in Inglourious Basterds.
  • Women's relationships represented in dynamic and complex ways Mother-daughter, sister-sister, best friends, cousins, neighbors, enemies. With the enemies, that's only welcome when it's balanced out by positive women's relationships, if the only options for women are enemies/rivals, then no thanks. Plus, the best part about the enemies dynamic is when they have a mutual respect for each other, even come to love the cutthroat games they play, and come together against a common enemy. “I'd rather be fighting you anyways.”/“Mutual.” Which really is its own favorite:
  • Enemies who come to love each other as enemies. I.e. no one gets to kill my enemy but me, and even then I probably won't do it because I love him/her too much and what would life be without my other half, the yin to my yang, the order to my chaos, the Joker to my Batman, etc etc.
  • Living in disguise, living on the run, a fugitive from the law, run run run. This relates a bit to my love of survivalism, only instead of surviving the elements, here the characters are attempting to survive within society as its threatening to slam them down.
  • Superhuman feats. When the impossible becomes possible, e.g. so overcome with adrenaline that the character can lift a car.
  • Outrageous expressions of emotion. Being so overwhelmed with rage that out-of-control doesn't begin to describe the character (exception: men venting their wrath on women, adults venting on children, any sort of power abuse is a DO NOT WANT scenario, but say rage inspired by injustice or grief? HELL YEAH). Other extreme emotions also apply, see: so much joy that Character A literally leaps into Character B's arms and they topple to the ground in a tumble of limbs; grief so powerful that you collapse from the weight of it. Essentially, feelings and their overblown expression.
  • People who grew up together and that bond never dulls. Combine this with damaged individuals in the sub-category of shared formative damage, bonding through struggle, and survivalism, and it all magnificently collides into an essential connection, that may or may not be ~healthy, but who cares because it's essential.
  • A lot of these can be boiled down to the common denominator of Transcendent Connection. Friendships, loyalty, love: all best expressed by the willingness to sacrifice for another (an act made especially poignant when done by the most selfish characters).

And I don't like:
  • Women who sacrifice everything in order to be with the man they ~love~ – their careers, their identities, even their lives. Only the sacrifices are done because it's expected of women where as the men aren't willing to make the same sacrifices (if a man's willing to sacrifice, I find it more interesting).
  • Romanticizing rape. Ugh, this is a romance novel trope and it's disturbing to me (especially in how I read this trope without concrit when I was younger, eesh).
  • Strong women's stories (and sometimes their voices) being devoured by men's narratives. (E.g. the Tuatha De Danaan Queen in The Fever Series.)
  • Cheating. I hate it. Hate it. With one exception: if people are in loveless marriages and in particular if the woman is cheating as a way of finding solace from neglectful/abusive/absent husband. But if either the husband or the wife is still emotionally invested in the relationship and is being hurt by the cheating: UGGGGH. It makes me want to stab things. If one person is being faithful while the other person isn't, and it's often the woman who's being cheated on, the relationship power imbalance grates and then I start yearning for a REVENGE STORY.
  • Gross OTT white privileged testerone-meets-steroids-meets-jockstrap dude humor. Ugh. Have you heard of The League? Like that. Vomits.
  • See also: privileged people prioritizing their privileged pain over the pain of others and the text expecting us to sympathize with them (I sense this is gonna be an unpopular opinion, but whatever: Jon Snow from A Song of Fire and Ice; I don't know, I just got tired of his moping, boohoo, you're a bastard who was treated kindly by your lord father and actually given the choice of what to do with your future; eh, I don't hate Jon, I just got... bored).
  • Neverending descriptions that set the scene and are lauded as great writing because ~worldbuilding is important~ but after so many pages describing the minutiae of the setting your brain checks out and you wish the story would return to the characters – yeah, I dislike stories that disconnect from the characters for too long. Incorporate the worldbuilding in non-boring ways, k? Thanks. (I feel like I'm reaching for dislike categories here. This one is essentially: bad writing. Ehhhh.)
Phew!  That was a lot and I still feel like I've missed boatloads.  
Tags: meme
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