Chapter 14 Angst vs. Wangst
What I find is that many poor writers write Angst backwards. I've seen writers do this with other emotions too but due to the heightened popularity of Angst fiction (and therefore a lot more crappy writers following the leader and an ever-growing hate audience to snark at it) and the fact that other emotions like Love in Romance fiction, while cheesy, are a lot more tolerable because at least they're feel-good emotions, Angst is the emotion most called on. What I mean by backwards is that they start with the angst first and the reason second. So you want a character who's a cutter? You load her with enough bullshit in her life that she the only logical thing is to cut herself. This forgoes a much more interesting story of who she is and what kind of other coping mechanisms are in place. And yes, self-mutilation is definitely a coping mechanism, but it's a maladaptive one.
Also unfortunately is that she usually starts off cutting and has one suicide attempt by ingesting nail polish remover (this was how an acquaintance tried to off herself after finding out she was raped. She did it spur of the moment as she was making herself up because, maybe she was wondering if it was her fault for 'tempting' him, or maybe because she thought it was pointless to feel beautiful anymore. Either way I've given you more about her in two sentences then you do about most of these girls after whole chapters. Why is it that they always use the same plan?) before stopping a couple of chapters later after the love interest tells her she's beautiful with no relapses and after a few more chapters no unfounded mood changes or reactions to what you'd think would be pretty emotional triggers.
Looking at the complex reasons for her not speaking out (self-doubt and self-loathing, feeling like she deserves it, loving the abuser who may do caring things in between the abuse or may be mentally ill and have moments of health, fear of separation from the only thing they know, ignorance of alternatives, etc) would be an interesting story except that it's not. Very unfortunately it rarely seems that the main character in Angst fiction, if female, can make a positive change for themselves until it's too far into the story for me to care about. Only once the abusers, mostly male, are done with them are they released on to the street. And only once the love interest comes to them and tells them that they are worth something do they believe it. Oh there's sometimes some vague plan; she might be saving some money from the stripper/hooker/(sexually harassing) waitressing job but they never implement it until he comes along. Why am I screaming sexism? When a female character, or a yaoi boy, is abused the most they do to their abuser is run away (until meeting them later and calling them out, usually with supporting friends around, fair enough since I wouldn't know if I could face them alone either, but what I hate is that it's a toss up whether the abuser ever gets more than a 'fuck you, I'm doing fine' instead of the police investigation that may stop them from repeating their crimes) versus a male character who will as often as not leave the abuser dead on the kitchen floor with a hole in their skull. This moves the male to action and at least sometimes looks at the cycle of abuse, wondering if he's the same. It moves the female to a crappy, mushy sex-scene or three that solves most her problems.
These characters are boring. Why doesn't the chronic abuse cause a life-time of emotional problems even factoring in the now supportive environment?
Because she's a tough girl. She doesn't succumb to that crap easily.
This is a real response from a writer I've gotten. If you don't see the problem I'll explain it: we have just been treated to a whole chapter (and it is usually all over in one chapter though I've seen better writers go on for three) of graphic incestuous rape and beating. This is directed at our most visceral responses: we want to stop this happening. We never want it to happen to us or anyone we know about. We want to erase this happening. It hurts and disturbs us* but we sit through it because there's a story that needs this to happen so that we can understand the characters and how they play out the plot. Well turns out we didn't actually need to sit through that. She's a tough girl and let's that crap roll right off her! Fuck you you stupid cunt writer.
*Unless you get off on this stuff…
Congratulations: you've exploited our worst fears so that you can explain off your character's slight stand-offishness and hesitancy of intimacy while failing at coming up at anything original or subtle. These character traits could have easily come from getting cheated from something that was rightfully hers, maybe from a man and maybe though sex. But thank you so much for demeaning the horrors of rape and child abuse for your cutesy tough girl character. And before you say 'oh but I know someone/this happened to me' I know three rape victims rather intimately, two were raped by family members and one by a stranger. I'm currently on a mental health ward for my clinical placement, meeting a couple more. I also have my big fat mental health text book and access to thousands of academic articles and personal accounts of rape. You do too: it's called the internet. They all have different coping mechanisms and different personalities, they all have reasons that they didn't tell right away and in one case the girl still hasn't told her mother. I understand that everyone handles it differently and people have difference levels of resilience. So when I call bull I call bull with some authority.
The fact is that by using the most horrific shit possible as soon as possible you dull the readers' senses and extinguish their excitement. I say this too because the rape is usually used as a launching pad to get the girl to run away and it usually stays at the launching pad level. There's no further exploration and the Writer doesn't think any is needed so it comes off as cheesy. This is understandable of course: the crisis is over so the healing may begin and the story must end before the normal healing process does so we can't be having flash backs of the rape and having her suffer PTSD when we only have three more chapters to go. We need those three chapters to set up her surprise (but happy) pregnancy.
I've been using rape and child abuse as the main example here because most new writers are teenagers and it's relevant. But don't think that Bad Angst stops there. If you follow Slackivist's commentary on the Left Behind series by T. LeHaye and J. Jenkins, or have read the books yourself you'll notice that even though all the children in the world have disappeared as well as thousands to millions of other people, sometimes whole communities, effectively sealing the end of humanity, people are, a few days and weeks later, mulling over whether or not they should accept a promotion. Parents whose children have just died are going to work and I'm not talking about the main characters or the medical teams, fire fighters, army, police, or the priests, councillors, social worker etc who may loose themselves in a sense of purpose and emergency. I'm talking about the baker who makes cookies at the airport. And apparently business is good. Restaurants remain open, so do real-estate agents and limo services. Yeah. The end of the world may in fact be happening but can we please not make too big a deal about it? We have a fucking story to tell.
I think what people who have such outrageous content matter in their stories need to be willing to write two or three stories into one. One is the story you want to write (Romance), the second is about the character who has suffered the Angst learning to deal with it on their own terms and the third is about what happened up until that point (everything you swashed into that first chapter). After all, what are flash backs for? Horrific tragedy is much more acceptable when it's not forcibly stuffed down our throats. I'm much more likely to be accepting of something when I'm asking the question 'why is the character behaving like this?' and it lets the writer know just how much Angst to add to the story before the Audience starts laughing.* There is a fine line between utterly devastating and so cartoonishly put upon:
…and then, after she had been beaten, raped, enslaved, raped, mugged, kicked out of home, raped, gotten HIV and raped again she scraped up enough money to call home to find out that her mother had died the day she'd been kicked out. She sat gloomily next to pay phone while a business man made his own calls. The way he looked at her and said 'honey, I'll be late home tonight' let her know that she'd be raped again very soon.
That crosses it for me. Because there's so much rape angst I'm quickly getting desensitised to it and find myself getting uncomfortable when I'm reading more subtle and better stories. Why does this story about a girl who lived her childhood years under the threat of incest disturb me so much more than the 100 stories where incest happened and it happened brutally? One of the reasons is the tension. I was never sure if and when it was going to happen and I was very empathetic to the girl's insecurities. It raised my heckles, I was constantly in a state of almost alarm whereas in other stories the rape's usually already half way through by the prologue. There's not much time to be disturbed, just grossed out. The undertones of incest carried the main story very well. The girl was constantly wondering why men said or did whatever they did. She was fearful and she had reason to be. We saw how and why that fear manifested itself as it did.
*Yes, I have laughed out loud at fictional people getting horribly traumatised but only after the story reached to 'logical' conclusion that the main character decided that humans were evil and couldn't understand love and fear like squirrels could (no, seriously,) and had the beavers make a wooden throne for him while he planned his come back as a eco-terrorist vampire. I still lol at this but apparently the writer was dead serious and told me that he never laughed at my work so show some emotional maturity.
Something that also really rubs me the wrong way about female Angst characters, apart from their uselessness is that they're bitches. Yes, I know in real life you can't say that that kid over there is a disgusting, loud, rude little shit because said bastard is in a wheelchair with a cancer bandana on their hairless skull, but we're not in real life. Your character's a bitch and you're not a good writer. She's standoffish, rude, thinks that all men are swine when she needs a man to tell her she's beautiful, likes making more innocent (re: naïve) characters uncomfortable and treats the audience the same way. And she gets away with it because she had a crappy past and is a tough girl. Well good for you. Now shut up and fuck off. Authors create this character because they know how bad whiners are but these characters are almost as grating. I could like them a lot more if the story admitted that they were slightly fucked up over their past trauma and that maybe throwing the lovingly cooked pie in the face of the naïve girl who is trying to connect shows signs of not-really-over-itness. But no, not only does the 'tough girl' feel justified, which is acceptable, but the writer also thinks that the tough girl *is* justified. Fuck that.
This happens especially in the other direction; we can forgive a girl who has been repeated abused for the last sixteen years in every possible way for having a 'why me?!' moment but we get bored easily with a rich, intellectually superior, handsome guy's inner monologue about how lonely and paralysed with inadequacy he is because the other kids don't talk to him/he isn't the favourite child/isn't as good at sports/is ill. All of these are legit complaints, the problem is that they don't feel realistic and it comes again as 'I'm allowed complain; here's my list of excuses' rather than 'these things happened to me and I'm a product of my experiences.' Also too, because these problems might be less obvious they need more explaining. This leads to intellectualisation: 'I'm angry because…' It's never as strong as the gut reaction shown above.
What kind of Drama Works?
Think about people you've met before in your life. Everyone deals with Angst differently but how does reality translate into Fiction?
There're the friends who have some major drama in their lives. If affects them for week, lingers for months. And then they slowly get over it except for the occasional drunken self pity and no one talks about it and then it becomes a bit of a joke between the group who are careful not to abuse the privilege by bringing it up too often. The friend participates in the jokes as much as or more then anyone and uses it to tell the younger generation what to watch out for. These friends are the 'Normals.' Crap happens but so does Life and they can pretty much balance them out.
These guys work well in normal fiction and the audience can usually relate. These guys are also the ones most likely to try and do something about the situation to fix it. Whether it works or not we like them more because they're trying to get out of it and they're not seen as useless. If you're writing General Fiction or long running fiction where the drama bomb doesn't happen immediately or before the start of the story then these guys are what you want to work with. They're strong, likeable and you can see why others want to hang out with them but like all humans they need the luxury of wallowing in self-pity at least for a little while after being knocked on their arse. You need to focus on how they pick themselves up. If you're writing Angst Centric Fiction then these guys aren't who you want to work with because Angst is about Angst. You pretty much want to create Agony Porn where the reader has the freedom to feel as sad and angry as possible and then exhaust it as the story finishes. These guys only momentarily wallow in their Angst.
Usually 'Normals' mix with the 'Supportive' type. These are the guys you'll be willing to have a four hour phone call with after their boyfriend dumps them because you remember that night that you got drunk and stranded and the person you were going to go home with was dropping E with some guy you wanted to get the hell away from and had more to drink then you did. It was three thirty in the morning and there were no trains from where ever 'here' was and you didn't know any 24 hour taxi service and as if you had the money so you called your friend and they go up, still in their pjs, flicked on the car light, consulted a crumpling map while half asleep because they couldn't afford a GPS and came to get your drunk sleep arse. It's not so much that you owe them; it's that you know they'd do the same for you in a heartbeat.
Even though the 'Supportive' type can't ever physically hold your hair back as you throw up we can tolerate someone's angst more if we see them dropping their own problems to take care of someone else in the story. But just like you can't have the Topper (except in really bad fiction) you can't have the natural exchange of sympathy. It's also human instinct, no matter that you know they're not going to take your advice to heart, to tell them how to fix their lives. That's why, very quickly, a 'Normal' can become an 'Other'.
Then there are the 'Dry Wit' ones. They don't actually need to have dry wit to qualify; they just need to be funny. My mate is one. She told me, in her upper-crust but slightly dotty British accent:
Jenny: Oh well, it is a little hard dealing with patients with dementia. On my ward I have R______. He's used to be a very respected man, used to be in the army. Every day his wife comes in to comb his hair and do his laundry. But he's started to fling poo at us now so we have to walk in with a sheet over us until we get as close as we possibly can before grabbing him. Poor thing; he's like a little chimpanzee now.
Me: o_0 !
Jenny stares me right in the eye and says 'yes well I think my boss will grant me a vacation now, don't you?'
I cracked up laughing. These are the people who can bitch to you for three and a half hours because everything they say is fucking hilarious. And often they're not looking for sympathy, just empathy: a fellow human being who also knows how unfair the world is and how many stupid twats populate it and don't mind listening to a whine and a moan. These people also suspend the 'why the fuck don't you do something about it instead of whinging you moron?' response because secretly you don't want them to.
Injecting humour, especially dark humour, into the character's observations (but be careful about sticking it into actual happenings) makes reading a lot easier and makes the complainer someone we like. Again, tragedy and horrible situations don't have to be corrected so fast because by giving us humour we know that we're allowed to 'enjoy' it. I strongly suggest adding a bit of gallows humour, it especially gets sweeter when other characters get theirs.
'The Topper': Fucking jackarses. I'm being a hypocrite here as I often do it myself but I hate these people who, when you've had a hard day, your feet hurt, you forgot your brother's birthday and you forgot to tell the nurse that the anorexic told you she was going to get diet pills when she got out because the self harmer apparently wanted to shave at six o'clock at night for some reason, razor blade pretty please? And you just feel really lost and scared that you're not doing the right thing and you just want someone to hear you out they interrupt you midway to tell you how once they had two birthdays two days apart and they forgot about both of them etc. But it is a natural human need to want to tell your own pain if you have to listen to others'. Sympathy for Sympathy. I'll swap you fifteen minutes of my life you listen to you about your diabetes and how you're scared for your health if you give me fifteen to hear about my son who doesn't want to work.
This brings me back to the above section; writers seem to try to out do each other in terms of how much angst they can pack into a story. Again, it goes past sympathetic to ludicrous. Don't be a topper.
The 'Complainers' are the chronic complainers who you just can't seem to please. 'Did you like that movie?' 'Did you think she was cute?' 'Do you like the food?' 'Did you like the game?' 'Fine then, what the fuck do you like?' Ask any of these questions to them and you'll get a long litany of why they just couldn't enjoy it ranging from their aversion to sunlight as they get burnt easily (which you should have revolved your plans around even though you already killed the movie idea because they 'don't really like movies,' and the shopping, and the eating out all for the same reason and are tearing your hair out trying to think of what to do) or because every single person is persecuting them. These people are constantly unhappy and constantly have angst. After awhile you get bored of them and when they whinge over the phone about how you didn't invite them out to that RomCom with your other mates (didn't you say that you don't really like movies? That the last three romcoms we saw with you were 'really stupid' and that it was too easy to pick out who she'd fall for, completely missing the point that we ALL knew who she'd go for and found enjoyment in the sheer fact that they'd get together) and you spitefully play the same passive aggressive little game that they play with you about how you were 'thinking about how you'd feel about going and didn't want to insult you by 'forcing' you to come along with us to do something you don't want to do.'
Now surprisingly these guys actually turn up in Angst Fic, especially Supernatural fic, quite a bit. You might not see it but these are the people who, on being granted immortality and sex appeal, would hesitantly complain that blood just isn't as enjoyably flavourful as red curry chicken and that yeah, I suppose it could be cool but no one really asked me and it's hard work living forever and they don't really give you many options…
Don't make the Audience hate them. Yeah, being immortal probably does suck quite a fucking bit and I'm sure there are a million draw backs. Same for being rich, pretty and talented but the fact is the Audience doesn't see that many cons, especially since your character is too busy whining about them instead of showing them. And the fact is that although these things do have their drawbacks, for the most part they're fucking awesome. I'm not saying being rich makes you immune from depression but it's hard for us to relate to a character riding around in one of his three jaguars and just not being able to enjoy life. And that's the thing: if you've been raped by your parents, sold into slavery and now have an AIDs baby I can understand how life might not be roses. But it becomes really grating when all this cool stuff becomes a chore. When you mix Angst with Escapist fiction you run the risk of ruining your story. We want to escape that whinging, moaning, boring co-worker who can't seem to shut the fuck up until they suck all the fun out of everything and then seem hurt that you don't want to talk to them anymore. What you're giving us is a whole story narrated by that scratching, grating whine* and what's worst it's the complainer who has all the cool powers while you're left on the side lines with anything positive lost in translation.
*For some reason every time I read about a vamp bitching about their immortality I hear a very put upon Fran Drescher. I dream of receiving an 'Anne Rice's Complete Works read by Fran Drescher: The Audio Book' for my twenty second.
But Ellie, you do need to examine the drawbacks, otherwise all the vamps, etc, will be Mary Sues.
Yes I know. But just like their real life counterparts the Complainers can't constantly dwell on the negatives. If they do I'll hear the screeching in my head and stop reading. There need to be moments throughout the piece where the vampire can bite some annoying shit's head off because they're a goddamn vampire mother fucker and the poor little rich kid rents out the whole theatre to chill out and watch her favourite movie because she can. We come to escapist fiction because we want to escape, not because we want you to walk all over our day-dreams and think you're intellectual for doing so.
To insert the ramifications of what it's like to have immortality you need to lure the Audience in. Again you may want to have two stories in one; the first being the dreary immortal counting the years as if they were days and the second being a lead up to realising how sucky being immortal is while having a good old romp turning into mist in girls' bedrooms and watching that bitch that picked on you in high school get crows' feet. Remember: keep the awesome.
Also, I'd better make note of it here: when you bring up legitimate problems you better fucking make them legit. Rich boy feels like people only love him because he's rich. Show us why? Have a 'close' family member whose every interaction with him revolves around asking for money, or a fiancée who expects to have a disposable income of $2, 000, 000, 000 a year plus the mansion etc. Better be making all the right decisions in the board room bub. You're a vampire who feels that their soul is important? Why is it important exactly? No seriously, I want a 500 word essay of what use a soul actually has in your world. And I want actual examples.
Ellie, on why her vamps aren't 'all that':
Without a soul you can't go to Heaven. What my vamps have done is 'sold' their soul for immortality and lots of other cool shit. But the end of the world is fast approaching, especially if you don't age and no matter how long it takes to get here it won't be nearly as long as the eternity in hell you'll be sentenced to for fucking with the natural order. Also, hell is real and my vamp's entered it before on some black magic business. It scares him.
All his family are dying. More then that they loathe him because he doesn't age and die with them, that is, the ones who actually recognise him.
His soul is his humanity and all his human pleasures. He's seen other vamps: after this it will be his hope, excitement, empathy, pleasure and anything that made him human. He'll slowly loose the pleasures of the flesh. Then it will be his intellect and he'll just be a thoughtless zombie (the oldest vampires). He won't even remember what it was like to hold his daughter or why something like that mattered. But he will remember on Judgement Day, the day he'll be able to at least feel agony again. The only pleasure he gets is from feeding on other people's souls and memories (which only sends him deeper into the pits of Hell).
He's a fucking vampire. One stray ray of sunlight will send him to Hell long before Armageddon. Garlic, holy objects and pointy things also make un-life dangerous.
The Audience doesn't like him because he feeds off 'decent' people. You see, being a vamp you can pretty much laugh at the cops. Feel like sucking the life blood out of a hot seventeen year old girl while raping her? Why not? Remember that 'soul' thing and that 'humanity' thing that I kept harping on about? Yeah, that was the only thing stopping you from doing that so why aren't you?
Time goes slower for him. He fails to recognise the subtle changes in fashion and culture. He doesn't know why people look at him when he dons his bell bottom jeans and tries to talk to children about Pokemon. Also, when did nice boys start to dress like niggers?
And if I get this:
Souls are important to my vampire because without a soul he's not human. And he's forced to live outside humanity.
I'll walk away. What does that even mean? You haven't said anything. You haven't defined the soul so how can you define what he's lost? Sometimes writers go on to say that humans try to stay away from vamps because they have no soul. Never mind that vamps are good at luring their prey, just look at the love interest who is drawn to them just because they're 'dangerous.' In fact, usually everyone loves them even when they're arseholes. That little twinge of 'ew, dangerous' isn't very strong at all. It's usually overthrown by a $50 tip. Otherwise people would be clearing the room left and right all the time. Police, who have to subvert that natural fear, would be constantly accosting him in the street. No, that's bullshit. People don't stay away from him, or at least they don't for long enough that he can still feed (if he wanted to. Because apparently not having a soul makes you a weeping pussy that can only kill animals or 'bad' people, something not even a lot of humans, with their souls wouldn't stand if they thought they could get away with it). Or the writer says 'omg he can't go to Heaven' when they never show in-story that Heaven actually exists so again, it's a massive cop out. Again, this is the "flaws" versus Flaws thing. If you say that being a vamp sucks, make it so.
Then there are those 'Other People'. The problem stays a problem for much longer than it should. I'm not talking cancer here; I'm talking break ups where the break up lasts longer then the relationship. Sometimes it can be one event that the person just can't move on from or one flaw in their lives that they can't help but fixate on, like their job, or keep doing the same thing again and again like borrowing money because they spent it all drinking. At first you feel sorry for them, then you wonder why the hell this is still a problem, then you think 'okay, this is my friend, they have problems but as a good friend I need to help them even when others say I should give up on them!' You put up with them even though it feels like every interaction you have with them increasingly involves/revolves around this issue. After awhile you find yourself scooping water out of the ocean in an attempt to stop yourself from drowning. And then they do just one more thing and you realise you can't take it anymore. It's hard to let go, especially when it's something like mental illness or unemployment where it's more out of their control. I had this friend. Everything in her life was a disaster but it was always because of something she did. At first I was supportive. She was sheltered and naïve so of course she'd make more mistakes then most humans, the fallible things that we are, but it got to be that every week it would be another drama, usually still about the same damn thing and the little things that used to annoy me a lot about her began to irritate the shit out of me. She made me feel so tired. Even when we scheduled meet ups with promises about talking about other stuff there'd be some new drama. Finally I had my moment.
Mine was much less difficult then the man who asked that his wife of ten years be placed in the psychiatric ward for manic bipolar because he couldn't take her spending thousands of dollars one week and attempting suicide the next, especially with the new baby that they didn't plan. That wasn't her fault; it was the illness and he still loved her. No, I'm glad that this was squarely my friend's fault. But the reason I stayed so long as I did, and the reason that he stayed as long as he did, was because we were friends and lovers. We had good times we remember with them which get us through the bad.
The audience doesn't have that with your character if they start angsting in the first chapter. They're not going to stick around for ten chapters, especially when they don't seem to want to help themselves and see everyone else as against them. Feminine writers I find get way too much enjoyment from having their characters knock everyone else away and for some reason these other characters keep coming back. Masculine writers launch their characters into a sea of self-pity, lacking the insight to see that that their doucheness and lack of talent is a major part of the reason they haven't been handed that corner office where they do their four hour job of picking employees for Hooters ($800, 000 p.a.). They also seem to loathe every female regardless and because of whether they let them into their pants or not and judge everyone else for doing exactly what they're doing (or want to do).
I find the best Angst is that which is properly explored. You can't just stick abuse in
Make it all about them. Before I said that Angst was less tolerated because it wasn't a positive emotion. Well, I lied a little. Pouring your angst out through a character is pretty therapeutic for me. I have a lot of petty little troubles and fears and hates that I can't even be bothered to articulate to myself. I also have major ones that just wouldn't be practical or socially safe to voice. But your character does have problems and they're massive ones at that. So they have the right to angst. Let me angst through them. Your character lost the love of his life and he's an 18th century aristocrat? Let him forever walk around the house that he will never finish building until he makes it perfect for her. Make it grandiose. This isn't for writers who can actually do Subtlety; this is for writers who pour all their effort into making the character angst and not enough in the actual angsting.
Indulgence is the key here and I'll say it again: don't stuff all your crap into the first chapter. You say your character got raped but show us exactly how long it took, how many opportunities did Daddy Dear pass up before he took her? What made Mummy snap? How many minutes did he sweat while waiting to see if he made the right business decision? This is the dark orgasm that the Angst writer creates in their reader. It's just like a real organism; stroke us the right way and stimulate our senses, tease us to the climax, make it a glorious one and bring us down gently and keep us in some suspense about what will happen the morning after. Don't be a two minute man with the rest of the story trying to get your pants back on and coming up with excuses and enticements because the first chapters were so unsatisfactory.
Main Angst Styles
Minimalism: This paints scenes in very few strokes, the only things acknowledged are negative or emotional things like the blood splatter on the girl's collar. It doesn't matter that it's lace or that the dress is green, the only thing even mentioned is the blood stain. Contrasts are done in few words. You don't need to say anymore because the Audience fills in the fact that if you say 'girl' you mean young and therefore innocent. In minimalist Angst style conversation is dropped like bricks and because the reaction of the character on the receiving end isn't written dialogue needs to be clear and striking. I like this style, especially when I feel like there are too many complexities between the characters to be properly teased out. Some thoughts and feelings are so subtle that to write them down would be to break them. This kind of Angst is best suited for stories starting off where the characters already have a lot of history between them. Using it for characters when they first meet, even if they have shared experiences like War or both falling for the same dame, is very tricky and I wouldn't suggest it.
Purple Prose: Already been covered but common in Angst. If you like Purple Prose make everything grandiose. Don't waste it on her cutting herself alone in her room; use it on her cutting down the whole damn world.
Purple Prose via Displacement: This is a way that people and characters alike deal with an especially traumatic incident. By throwing themselves into the sensation of the event, by hearing every rain drop and counting the golden flecks in their attacker's eyes people don't have the mental power left to realise the implication of what's happening to them. This can also be accomplished by describing the blood that's left on the knife after it cuts into the P.O.V. character even if they don't remember feeling it. A variant is the character analysing the event later, trying to remember everything to see what they could have done differently. When the variant's used it's usually a much more cardboard description, so again if you do this anyway make the excuse that your character's too traumatised to explain naturally.
Flashes: If you don't like Action but need it to kick off the story use flashes. Like Minimalism you only need a few, fragmented sentences to carry a powerful scene and if you repeat them again and again throughout the story with carefully thought out triggers* then you never actually have to write the scene.
*A trigger might be dreams or it might be similar events or sometimes personalities ('he reminded her of her father when he took that tone.') or words. I find object triggers cheesy and I think it's due to overuse by bad writers though I do acknowledge them to be real. What I think would improve them is if they were combined with personalities. For example:
She watched him carve the turkey. Impossibly long knives glinted in the light of a chandelier. He gave her a sideways smile that sent shivers down her spine. She tried not to think of that night. That his eyes were the same almond shape as her father's would not disturb her. Her past was too private for this man to invade and so she looked away but for the rest of the night she heard the chink of knife against knife and knife against bone. She tried not to think of that day but for the rest of the party the eyes haunted her and although she could no longer tell if they were blue or brown she did remember the knife held by the man they belonged to.
Is better than:
She watched him carve the turkey. Impossibly long knives glinted in the light of a chandelier. For the rest of the night she heard the chink of knife against knife and knife against bone. She tried not to think of that day but for the rest of the party all she could think about was the knife.
This coupling the object trigger with something else forces the writer to engage in much more dangerous fiction and stops the false starts where no plot actually happens while the girl has yet another panic attack because she saw a sharp object.
A/N This was chapter was spawned by Scripted's request to know when you've got too much angst so I was mostly focusing on that. Otherwise I think most of what I've said in previous chapters stands as far as any good fiction stands. I hate pointing to fanfiction, if only because most of us think we're above it, but go look at Unwell by Simply Obscure in the Harry Potter section on (Harry/Snape). It's not the *best* I've read but it is the best I've read for a long time. It goes to what I'm saying about indulging in the darkness of Angst. It's 41 chapters at the moment and we haven't even got to the Romance yet so good luck reading it.
So I've been missing in action for almost a month. I would whinge to you and make excuses as to why but I realised how much I hate that. Instead I'm going to focus on the positive: Omg! I got a kitten. My brother and I heard this really odd mewing and we opened the door and this kitten looked at us and just walked in. Our other cats hate her but everyone's been too lazy to find its owners so she's been sleeping on my bed for a week now. I've named her Billy II after our other cat that disappeared. If anyone's in the Sydney area and missing a cwte widdle kiddy give me a yell.
Sword And Sorcery: Thanks!
XTimeGirlX: Yeah, I think sometimes I need to make a chimera: I've got an interesting way of telling a story and an interesting story to tell so I smoosh them together to make an overall interesting story. I wonder if it's like that for poetry? Choose the form and the feeling separately and see what happens when you try to make them fit.
Ireswhateva: Lol, feeling's mutual. Ah, that sucks. Oh well, it's not like I don't have a stack of promising books on my To-Read list.
Kearston Marie Thank you. I'd love to take you up on that offer one day.
Scripted: I'm being quoted? Hurrah!
Moonlight24: I was thinking of Rei when I wrote that but I haven't seen NGE yet. I think that a huge part of what made it awesome was that the action and drama were so consistently intense and interesting that you didn't have to like the character but you could definitely understand them.
KonataIzumi1: I think just the fact that Remus had to be smacked around by a teenager was the last straw for me. And we never know if he actually did anything heroic. He could have gone into battle like he does everything: put upon and passive-aggressively complaining. Ah, I really loathe him so don't mind me. As for plot advancements, hmm… I'll point you to some good places right now: the Erotic Quills website has some really well broken down story structures if you do a bit of digging and Story Structure Architect (Schmidt, 2005) is more of the same though done really, really well. Again Hero of 1000 Faces is another structure book though if you've found that you've written yourself up against a wall that's a bit different. Email me and I'll have a look but yeah I'll try but the topic's broad.
Lord Vivian Darling: (I'm a Hufflepuff. Shush!)
Karma Fred: Yay, it's you. Third person's less powerful but also a lot less annoying. For some reason though, once a guy gets a girl right he really gets her right. Try to start off with tomboyish girls and very frank, grounded ladies and work your way down the feminine spectrum.
A/N: Updates on Saturdays now, but if I don't make next week's update for some reason I'm posting my other story up and will continue this when I have more time, rather then just letting people hang forever.