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My Twitter Mentions: The Trashening

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Now, I know that I’ve said I’m hanging up my Fifty Shades of Grey critique hat. And I meant it. But just because I’m done with a thing, that doesn’t mean that thing is done with me (see also: Catholicism, ice cream with too many wacky ingredients, my three separate lifetime bans from the Sprinkle Rd. Denny’s). And last week, whoo boy. Last week, Fifty Shades of Grey was certainly not done with me.

Are you ready to venture down one of the deepest, darkest rabbit holes you’ll ever find in fandom?

The day after the Oscars, I noticed something that really grossed me out.

A tweet from "DamieForever" that reads "Bellissimiiiiii #Damie #Oscars #DakotaJohnson #JamieDornan" with heart eyes emoticons and hearts. There are three attached pictures of Dornan and Johnson presenting at the Oscars, and one photo of Dornan's wife sitting between him and Dakota. The photo has been manipulated so that Dornan's wife is in black and white.

 

A tweet from "Fran" that reads "Look at her like she's the only one you see #Damie" with the same photo of Dornan and Johnson with his wife between them. The photo has been manipulated to place a giant heart over his wife, completely blocking her out.

This post is going to be wildly image heavy, so follow the cut if you’re curious to see how this all plays out.

The Big Damn Writer Advice Column

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Welcome to the very first installment of the Big Damn Writer Advice Column, where I answer your anonymous questions about writing and all that stuff connected to it. Every Thursday, I’ll be answering two questions from the Big Damn Writer Question Box.

Q: What are the best ways you know to combat writer’s block?

A: Recently, I’ve struggled with some pretty horrible writer’s block. I’ve spent days lamenting that I will never write another book again, that the well has run dry, that I should hang up my hat and quit trying. As scary as it is, I’ve just taken two weeks off from writing fiction. Even with books planned for the rest of the year, deadlines looming, I knew that if I didn’t have a chance to recharge my batteries, I was going to find myself in real trouble. Something had to change.

I spent much of those two weeks engaging in hobbies that usually get shoved aside in favor of writing. Knitting, coloring, making soap, and–gasp!–actually sitting down and reading some god damn books. There seems to be a common thread among writers I know who suffer from writer’s block. If you ask them when the last time was that they got to actually sit down and read for more than ten minutes on the toilet, they probably won’t have a very encouraging answer. I fully believe that reading in a long, uninterrupted block helps rejuvenate you for writing. You don’t have to read an entire book but read for a full thirty minutes, at least. I swear, it does something to your brain. Reading a good book can make you feel excited to write your own thing. Reading helps focus your attention, so when you do sit down, words will come easier and without the temptation to get on social media.

But above all, don’t try to force yourself. And if you do feel like you have to give yourself a little tough love, do it with a small goal. “Today I’m going to write five-hundred words.” And if you don’t make that goal? Don’t beat yourself up. Just say, “Tomorrow, I’ll do better.” And if you start making those 500 word goals, up it to 600 or 700 for a few days. Part of writing is habit and focus, and those are the first two things to fall by the wayside with writer’s block. And always, always remind yourself that you can always fix your first draft. Nobody is judging what you’re putting down on the first try.

And if all else fails, you could turn to New Age spirituality:

A prayer candle with Lin-Manuel Miranda dressed as Alexander Hamilton, surrounded by amethyst and quartz crystals of varying sizes, all arranged in front of my computer screen.

 

Q: Do you find that writing fanfic strengthens your skills in original fiction? Have you ever used an original character from a fanfic in an original story? What are your ethics on that? 

A: One of the best tools a beginning writer has at their disposal is fanfiction. Not just writing it, but reading it, reading thoughtful critical reviews, engaging with other writers, all of that will strengthen your skill. You just have to be willing to listen without getting defensive. Fanfiction can teach you how to be a great writer, but only if you don’t close yourself off from criticism from more skilled writers in your fandom.

Do not latch on to the “hot” fandom of the time if you don’t really care about it. It will show in your writing, and with the recent P2P trend, other fans are going to suspect your intentions are to steal from the creators of the thing they love. You don’t have to be in a big fandom to forge connections with other readers. In fact, some of the most engagement I’ve gotten has been in communities with small, close-knit fandoms. They tend to be more enthusiastic in my experience.

As for the use of an original character from a fanfiction in an original story, I have done that before. The book never ended up published, but I used an original character from a Les Miserables fic I wrote years ago in a historical romance I was kicking around. But when I realized that I intended to someday publish the story with the character from my fic, I took the story down from the site it was on. I also never used any of Hugo’s characters in my novel (though if you wanted to do so, his work is public domain. Just remember how poorly received Cosette was). As long as you separate your character out, don’t borrow plot or other characters, and don’t use the fandom or your fic as a way of advertising your original work, I don’t see anything ethically dodgy with keeping a character you created.

BONUS QUESTION:

Q: This is off topic, but I wanted to anonymously submit this to you because you’ve call out fakes and hoaxes and I love that about you. Max Monroe, the NYT bestselling secret pen name, marketed themselves from day ones as two NYT bestselling authors who secretly came together to write under the pen name, Max Monroe. It’s what brought them their fame–that story of who they might be. Turns out, it’s complete fiction, including their titles. Max Monroe is Laurel Ulen Curtis and Natalie Alcorn (https://www.bizapedia.com/ky/max-monroe-limited-liability-company.html). Amazon caught them first, and therefore, their bio on Amazon had to change. There’s nothing wrong with using pen names, even secret ones, but to lie about your accreditation? How many other authors are doing this? The new “Anonymous Girls XOXO” email going around seems like another copycat of both that and Erin Watts/Gossip Girls stories. It’s all so….sneaky. So many authors work really hard and now everyone’s afraid to call out these two, Laurel and Natalie, for lying because it could jeopardize their own careers. I may just be a blogger, but I think that’s wrong. If this interests you, please write about it. If not, please consider passing it along to someone who would. Thanks. Signed, Dream Crushed Blogger

B: I’m just posting this here so someone else can call them out and I can bitchily say that I loved the scene in their first book where the virgin heroine took the hero to sneak into the One UN hotel pool. It was really great and I wonder what inspired them.

giphy (2)

 

Wanna see your questions get answered (or just wanna air a grievance?) Put it in the box!

The Big Damn Writer Question Box!

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I get a lot of anon (and non-anon) messages on Tumblr asking questions about writing. People are looking for tips and tricks and what my process is and how their process should be, all kinds of stuff. Which gave me an idea. Why not make an anonymous inbox right here on the website, and turn it into a weekly column? The blog has been sparse lately, and since I answer Tumblr questions a couple times a week on average, it wouldn’t be a hardship. Use the form below to leave a big damn question, and I’ll answer two of them every Thursday.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E17, “Enemies”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone wonders if it’s something she ate or just a bug going around. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight/bi female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
  35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
  36. Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it. WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.

A Comprehensive Guide To Commonly Used Mario Kart 8 Terms*

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*applicable to the Trout house, only.

Items

Green Shell Green Shell

Red Shell Red Shell

Spiny Shell No, everybody!

Banana Peel Banana Shell

Any of the triple items Rotating [item]

Boomerang Australian Come-backer

Star Star Man

Fire Flower Ahhh bababababababababababababy I’m a fireball *imitate the horn line*

Blooper Squid Ink

Item Box Power Up Question Mark

Super Horn Sound Block

Bob-omb Bomb

Crazy 8 No! Oh holy shit I’m going to die I got the eight! I got the eight!

 

Characters

Princess Peach Princess Pee

Donkey Kong Dongly Knob or Knobbly Dong

Toad Tod

Toadette Todette

Baby Mario BM

Baby Peach Baby Pee

Tanooki Mario Mario 3

Cat Peach Cat Pee

Dry Bowser Dry Boner

Roy Woo-Woo

Baby Luigi Butthole Linguini

Pink Gold Peach Pink Gold Pee

Do you have any stupid names for characters in games you play? Are they as juvenile as most of these?

A Few Tips For Critics And Journalists Covering 50 Shades Darker

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It’s that time of year (which we thankfully only have to endure once more after this): Fifty Shades Darker is out.

I swore off Fifty Shades of Grey coverage on this blog, but since the reviews have begun appearing online, I feel like I need to address the people who are going to cover it. Namely, the men who will report on the movie with such astounding misogyny that one wonders if any women were involved in the editorial process at all. Here are some things I learned as a Fifty Shades of Grey blogger. Hopefully, someone will find them and actually use them.

Even though the movie appeals to women, it doesn’t appeal to “all” women or even a specific type of woman. Fifty Shades readers are usually described as bored housewives who are sexually unfulfilled and engaging in immature daydreaming. They’re middle or upper-middle class women who do nothing of substance with their time aside from a daily twenty-minute power walk with the other ladies in the neighborhood, followed by two-hour gossip session at Starbucks. They speak the book’s name in code since they’re so sexually repressed, and think everything in it is super naughty.

Or maybe they aren’t. Since over 150 million copies of the books have sold, it would perhaps be fair to assume that some of those readers aren’t hopelessly dull suburban clichés, but professionals in all fields, students in high school and college, people in nursing homes, and, shockingly, men. While it’s easy to stereotype Fifty Shades of Grey‘s audience,  it’s misogynistic to suggest that only women would ever take an interest in such silly, problematic content, or that only women who are sexually repressed would ever want to read about sex.

The intended audience doesn’t make it a bad film. There are plenty of things to be critical of when it comes to the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. The writing is terrible. The story is ludicrous and meandering. The book is a rip-off of a far superior novel. The leads lack chemistry. The movies are silly, overwrought, and boring. The relationship depicted is abuse portrayed as romance. The BDSM is misrepresented, and the sex scenes aren’t as shocking as purported. See? I could just keep going. And I did, for like, four years. But you know what I didn’t do in all that time? I didn’t suggest that the books or movie were bad simply because it’s there for women to consume.

All of the reviews I’ve read so far have taken pains to remind us that women are the intended audience of Fifty Shades Darker. While they’ve also pointed out the clunky dialogue and lack of chemistry, the more pressing concern seems to be putting the movie in its place. One video review continually referred to it as “porn for women” or “entry-level softcore porn for women,” until I had to turn it off. While the reviewer mentioned may of the complaints I listed above, he seemed most concerned with the fact that this movie was for women, and did not appeal to him as a man.  But the Fifty Shades of Grey books and movies aren’t bad because they’re for women and not for men. What makes them bad is the fact that they’re, well, objectively awful. And if the biggest criticism you can come up with is, “it’s for women,” then you’re ignoring the very real and damaging reinforcement of rape and abuse culture in the story.

In other words, you’re fine with movies that romanticize intimate partner and sexual abuse. It’s the fact that women like it that bothers you.

The movie was written by Niall Leonard. Not “Mr. E.L. James.” At least two (male) professional reviewers have referred to Niall Leonard as “Mr. E.L. James.” Apparently, adapting your wife’s novel into a screenplay is an emasculating task, and means she’s really calling the shots. In reality, E.L. James probably did call the shots on Fifty Shades Darker, because that’s what she did for Fifty Shades of Grey. The screenwriter of the first movie was so traumatized by the experience that she said it would be “too painful” to watch the finished product. Why is it such a big deal for James’s husband to work under the same conditions? Because he’s a man, and the original screenwriter, Kelly Marcel, is a woman? Is the not-so-subtle implication here that it’s one thing for a woman to boss another woman around, but another entirely for a woman to boss a man around?

And on that note, while I don’t believe that authors should have too much creative control over the movie adaptations of their work, why is it such a big deal that E.L. James does? Again, is it because she’s a woman? If a male writer wanted near-total control over what makes the jump from page to screen, we’d probably be reading about his dedication to his vision and how admirable it is that he won’t allow his work to be compromised.

If Nicholas Sparks demanded complete creative control over his movies, I doubt anyone would even be interested in writing a story about it.

Fifty Shades Darker was never published by Harlequin (and even if it was, that still wouldn’t be the reason the movie sucks). Again, at least two reviews (and again, written by men) have invoked the name of Harlequin as shorthand for “this movie sucks because it’s for women.” Yes, the Fifty Shades of Grey books are romance novels. But being romance novels isn’t the thing that makes them bad. They’re just bad books all around. And just because they’re romance novels doesn’t mean they were published by Harlequin. They were actually published by Vintage Press, a Knopf  Doubleday imprint that specializes in “influential works of world literature to cutting edge contemporary fiction and distinguished non-fiction.” So they’re more like really, really terrible literary fiction.

Books with two-dimensional characters, overblown drama, and awful writing can be found in every fiction genre. If Fifty Shades Darker had been slightly tweaked into a psychological thriller, it would still be a terrible movie. Not because it was originally based on a romance novel, but because there just isn’t any interesting plot other than two characters constantly making drama where there is none to be found. Meanwhile, there are thousands of other romance novels that are great reads. Fifty Shades Darker is only exceptional in that it somehow managed to become a successful book despite its numerous irreconcilable flaws. Don’t blame Harlequin or all romance novels everywhere for Fifty‘s mediocrity.

The Fifty Shades of Grey series was Twilight fanfiction. But that’s not why it sucks. I’ve said on a few occasions that I wanted to write a comparison essay on why Twilight isn’t as bad as critics make it out to be, and why Fifty Shades of Grey is ten times worse. I won’t do that here, but it’s a position I maintain; I was one of the people lurking in the Twilight fandom who actually enjoyed the books and movies, so I feel like I know what I’m talking about.

It seems like every article that mentions Fifty Shades Darker reminds the reader that it was once Twilight fanfiction. That’s fine by me; the more people who are aware that it’s so blatantly ripped-off from Stephenie Meyer’s far superior series the better. It breaks my heart to know that Meyer feels her original creation has been tarnished by the existence of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. But to add insult to injury, people are focusing on the wrong aspect of the fanfiction angle: what makes Fifty Shades of Grey and its movie adaptations suck isn’t Twilight. Twilight is fine. Fifty Shades of Grey sucks on its own.And it’s not the fact that it was once fanfiction that makes it terrible. There are, without exaggeration, hundreds of thousands of fanfics on the internet that are much, much better reading than Fifty Shades of Grey. In Fifty Shades Darker, one reviewer notes, a line has been added in which Anastasia Rose Steele tells her new boss he should publish more books by young women who write on the internet. It would be a shame if that line sends anyone away from the theater thinking that they’ve just seen the very best fandoms have to offer.

Call out the fact that it’s a rip-off, but don’t use the fact that it was ripped off from Twilight be the cornerstone for your argument about why it sucks.

Women don’t really give a shit what men have to say about the things we consume. I hate Fifty Shades of Grey. I loathe seeing people say, “It’s just a book! Get over it!” or imploring those who hate it to not be publically critical of it because it ruins their enjoyment. I think the writing is terrible, the characters are static, and the drama uninteresting and contrived. It romanticizes abuse, is touted to be what women really want from men and has set us all back twenty to thirty years in terms of how we view romantic relationships. For God’s sake, we have pundits blaming politicians’ scandals from decades ago on women who read these books, which weren’t even out at the time of those transgressions. There has never been a pop culture fad so utterly demoralizing and damaging on so many levels.

All that said? Women will consume whatever media they damn well please. If you’re a male journalist or critic covering Fifty Shades Darker your input on the tastes or preferences of women isn’t just unnecessary, it’s unwelcome. No one cares what you think about the women whose butts will be in movie theater seats this weekend (although from box office estimates, most of those seats will be located in theaters showing The Lego Batman Movie), and no one asked for your analysis of their wants or desires.And your witty comments about men being cruelly dragged to this movie by their Dornan-hungry girlfriends or wives (or happily attending it with their Dornan-hungry girlfriends or wives in the hopes of reaping the hur hur “benefits”) aren’t as funny as you think they are.

If we wanted to hear about how confusing, demanding, and unpleasant women are to their long-suffering partners, we’d watch an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.

No, watching this movie is not like BDSM. BDSM is interesting and sexy, and nothing in the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise is either.

I hope these handy tips can help you out in the next few weeks. When it comes in second to the movie about Lego, don’t blame that on the housewives, either.