It sucks when you get into a new pairing (this is the second in so many months) and you might find ONE or TWO fics that have a decent plot and spelling and grammar that doesn't make you cringe. Maybe the copy-editor in me has set standards too high, because I went through ALL of the M-rated fics in a C2 community devoted to Albel x Nel from Star Ocean 3 (TTEOT) and I was lucky to find anything halfway readable. Nothing worth reviewing, though, and thus, nothing to "write home about."
Why is it I keep seeing the same carelessness in fics? Whatever happened to showing your love of canon, your pride regarding your pairing (crack or not), and basic rules for clarity? I mean, even if you write just to get a plotbunny out of your head, you're still posting for the public- everyone knows there's the potential for reviews, or why else post it online in the first place, especially at a place like FFnet? Why else say things like "R&R" or "No flames!"? (And frankly, I find the last one stupid. Unless you've written something you know will "warrant" flames, why say it? You're basically asking for it when you say "Don't flame me!" because it really translates to: "Don't say anything if it's not mindless praise and useless drivel! I can't take constructive criticism and will tell you of all my illnesses and tragedies if you accuse me of forgetting to spell-check!")
It bugs me to no end when I see not just some simple, scattered spelling and grammar errors, but constant, repeated things within the first few paragraphs. In what I've seen lately with AlNel fics, it's stuff that's not specific to the fandom in any way, and could affect anyone, any time:
* Tense shifts. It's really, really jarring. I honestly think a simple proofread would solve this. Why don't people ever re-read their fics before they post? I do that many times over with my fics; it's how I catch most of my errors before I send the chapter off to a beta!
* Wrong word, wrong spelling, bad grammar. I saw "hallowed" instead of "hollowed." Yes, I know it's just a letter of difference, and from context, I understood the proper meaning, but still, since it's so easily FIXABLE, why not? A spell-checker won't catch it; you need to be diligent as a writer or have a beta who knows English! Why? Because something with an empty inside is much different from something that is considered sacred and respected. And of course, mixed up words like your, you're, their, they're, there always piss me off. GET THEM RIGHT! I also hate seeing it's or its used improperly. I'm just glad I have yet to see anyone use its'. And people who mix up words that should just LOOK wrong automatically like in this phrase: "They where sitting down next to the grapebind tree." What's wrong with that phrase? If you can't tell me, you fail. (And no, it's not the "grapebind," part, that's actually the name of a variety of tree in SO3. This is obviously something grammatical.)
* OOC. It bugs me when people say "yeah, they're a little OOC," and then they apologize, bitch about it, or say "fuck off" to the readers in some form or fashion. With most pairings, OOC means they're not the characters we're reading FOR anymore. Albel Nox and Nel Zelpher have such distinct personalities, to make them OOC in the slightest detracts from any quality the story may have had in its plot, writing style, etc. It's like cheapening a fine wine with seltzer water.
For those unfamiliar with the pairing, Albel Nox is the captain of a military power's infantry branch, known as the Black Brigade. He's a feared, ruthless killer with an incredible prowess with the katana and an ego that matches his reputation. But he's got a dark past and a thirst for bloodshed that are his weaknesses.
Nel Zelpher works for the country on the other side of the war, a country called Aquaria. She's a loyal woman, hard-working and strong, but she can occasionally come off as cold. She's also got a biting attitude sometimes. Her father died (technically without her knowing), so she, too, has a bit of a sad past. Unlike Albel, she's not missing any limbs or anything, but her ego's not as huge, even though she is well known as a spy and as the fierce edge of the renowned "Crimson Blade."
To take any of that away from them is to lose what makes them unique, tough characters, and then what's the point of writing fanfiction about them (or people with their names, at least) at all?
* "Guide to my writing." I used to do this when I was younger. But seriously, why the hell do people feel the need to mention that speech will be in "double quotes," thoughts will be 'italicized and in single quotes,' and things like lyrics, other languages, text messages, etc. will be bold/enclosed in brackets/marked off with asterisks, etc.? Ninety percent of the time, it's understood from context! I don't need someone instructing me on basic writing/English! (And for the record, I've written and even enjoy some songfics, but nowadays I'm seeing very little need to include lyrics --or at least huge chunks of them-- in fics. It's much easier to say "This fic was inspired by/has a scene inspired by XYZ by Artist A." Plus, you're not breaking copyright infringement by reprinting lyrics, then. And as an added bonus, there are no extra parts to bold/italicize/whatever to mark them off as lyrics (assuming your reader was too dumb to figure it out otherwise).
* High School fics/Movie or TV-based fics - I really wish this would end. When you take characters from a sword-and-sorcery-based world and try and dump them into a modern high school, modern hospital, or any other "modern" situation, it just ruins their characters. Albel Nox IS WHO HE IS because of WHERE HE WAS BORN, HOW HE WAS RAISED, AND WHAT HE HAS GONE THROUGH. You can't call him "Albel the Wicked" if he's pretending to be House, M.D. Nel wouldn't be who she is if she were years younger and some floozy at Aquios High. Parodies, yes, I can understand that, but... a real fic? It's one thing to dump the characters in a universe that the characters can still somewhat be fit into, but for a game like SO3, it's just not possible with these. Yet I've seen House, M.D., Cast Away, high school fics... ugh.
* Earth-based... - Okay, there's off-worlders like Fayt, Cliff, et. al. in SO3, but that doesn't mean that they're going to introduce a holiday like Valentine's Day/Christmas/etc. to Elicoor. And even if they did introduce it to Nel, Albel, or a city/a country, there's no telling if it would take, or if there wasn't already some sort of similar holiday in place! Consider the circumstances under which holidays developed on Earth. Without the same meaning on Elicoor, what's the point? Why would anyone place any significance to them, or care? Why would anyone ACT on them? It's stupid. It's MUCH easier, if you must have an excuse to write seasonal romance or whatnot, to invent a brand-new holiday. You can take elements of Valentine's Day, for example, and modify it to make something brand new. Even around the world, holidays aren't the same. So why not start with bits and pieces of one holiday and how it's celebrated around the world, and mush them all together? Or take multiple holiday traditions and mush them together? What if people on Elicoor celebrate a day of love in their coldest month, and partake of a chocolate treat after lighting candles on a tree? And what if it's called Eyun, or Rashul Day? It doesn't have to be "Valentine's" or "Christmas," or anything like that. (BTW, remember that Earth in SO3 is several centuries ahead of "modern time" anyway, so who's to say that holidays like those are even celebrated anymore, or if they are, that they're celebrated in even the remotely same way? Christmas now isn't celebrated like it was originally, that's for damn sure.)
* "Bad at summary's. Read." Er, no, I'll pass. Seriously, all a summary is: a single sentence briefly describing the plot of your story. And you know what? It can come in different forms. I know one summary that was a line from the story, but it was so unusual, it drew me in. It can be one of those standard "questions," where you put a character in a situation and then ask if they can get out of it somehow. BUT IT SHOULD NOT BE: a string of pairing names, emoticons, ellipses, references to friends/inside jokes, re-hashed information from canon, song lyrics, or a single word/short phrase having nothing to do with your story (again, such as the pairing name). Same goes for the title, too. MAKE IT RELEVANT. It's not hard.
Summaries also don't need to include irrelevant details (unless it's what makes your story unique, and frankly I DOUBT IT) like whose POV the story is written in, what there are spoilers for (seriously, that's what author notes are for), why it's rated the way it is, etc. It CAN include things like the fact that a chapter is new or revised, if the story is on hiatus or will never be finished, and so on. But it should basically give the reader a reason to read, a reason why your story should be picked out of the trash that is FFnet these days.
There are a ton of other things, too, like eLiTE caps, Random Capitals in the Middle of a Phrase or sentence!, misspellings of canonical things (Airyglyph, not Airigliph, Airygliph, etc.; Fayt, not Fate, Elicoor, not Elicloor, etc.), lack of/bad punctuation (thats, well for we'll, etc.), too much punctuation (*!*!*!xxStoryTitlexx*!*!*!)
I hate to say it, but it's not that much better on most private archives I found. That makes me sad that either writers of this pairing are so lazy, the good writers are so few and far between, and/or the moderators of outside archives aren't stringent. This is why I have an approval queue for Dragonfayth, and why I beta things that are on the verge of being good, but just need some (hopefully minor) changes. Sometimes I'm too nice and I really overhaul a story rather than rejecting it-- I've done it multiple times now with an author who apparently doesn't read the explanations I make an effort to include in my rejection letters.
I'm thinking that contribution to fandom is multi-fold:
* How-To articles on what makes the best fanfiction for X pairing or Y fandom-- just the basics, like what I mentioned above, not things like "The plot must be Z!" or "Character A should act exactly like THIS, all the time!"
* Contribution of your own work.
* Recognition and recommendation of others' work, because it can't be all that bad.
All of the above makes me want to get Epiphany up that much faster, because all of that can be in place with Epiphany. If only I didn't feel so damn tired and busy all the time. Playing SO3 lately has been my only relief, even though I know I tend to procrastinate when I play (e.g. sorting B&G's bills, working on my J371 project which is due next week, etc.)
*SIGH!* This entry has too many asterisks in it.