catlarks: Shalnark from Hunter x Hunter grinning against a red background. (Default)
Lira ([personal profile] catlarks) wrote2016-02-07 03:53 am

Dear Authors Present and Future: My Likes and Dislikes

The more I write "dear author" letters for exchanges, the more I recycle the things I've said about my interests in the past. I've decided to forego all coyness about doing this and simply write up a masterlist of my likes and dislikes which I will be able to link to from here on out.

General Likes:

-thoughtful characterization, character study, meta-disguised-as-fic; I love fanfiction as a means of getting more of characters I already love and I adore stories that celebrate canon characters for their flaws as well as their strengths.

-strong worldbuilding, expansion on setting and systems within a fictional world; a lot of series show us fantastical alternate realities without being able to lay out every detail, and I love stories that fill in those gaps and make the canon world even more real.

-tropes; everyone hates an overdone cliche but tropes are so recognizable because they're useful building blocks and I love to see them combined in unexpected ways, inverted, subverted, and put into new contexts.

-good pacing; I feel like a natural sense of how to pace stories is invaluable and I really appreciate an eye for the balance of action and downtime, for knowing how to build tension and when to give the reader space to breathe.

-mentorship; one of my absolute favorite things is seeing one character act as a teacher or role model to another, I love the inherent patience that comes with being a mentor, the satisfaction of passing on one's skills and helping another person to grow, the trust involved, the bittersweet satisfaction when the student surpasses the teacher, I love all of it. I love it platonically and when it develops into romance, please just show me the beautiful symbiosis that is mentoring.

-leadership and authority; I love characters who are natural leaders, who implicitly understand how to take charge and organize other people and who use their authority to good ends. Show me stories about leader-types solving problems, managing subordinates, struggling with duty or the balance of power in their relationships.

-caretaking; I love seeing characters being good to each other, depending on each other, being strong for the other when they're feeling weak or just need a break, helping the other through problems and stress. I love things like hair-brushing, bathing together/bathing the other, cooking for someone or cooking together.

-domesticity; in a similar vein, I love quiet moments between characters. I love them best strung through with a bit of tension — anxiety about the relationship, petty squabbles, ordinary disagreements — but where these things happen around mundane activities like cooking together, doing chores, having tea, going over work brought home from the office. I also love seeing characters navigating cohabitation and how to exist in each other's space, first starting to live together, drawing boundaries for each other.

-friendship; I really love platonic relationships! I love childhood friendship, friendship through adversity, seeing characters overcome enmity or initial dislike in order to build a friendship. I love seeing the way people depend on one another, and I love when a character's platonic friendships feature prominently in stories about that character's romance.

-teamwork; I love seeing characters work together! I love it in a professional context, personal context, or especially in the context of sports teams, I love seeing characters bond over a common interest and over struggling to reach the same goal.

-power dynamics; I'm of the firm belief that literally every relationship has a balance of power. It might not be a steep one, or an unbalanced one, but every relationship involves checks and balances and making the occasional concession or negotiation in order to make the relationship work. I love seeing this. Power dynamics are my bread and butter; I love seeing healthy ones but I also love seeing strained dynamics and situations where power is abused or has to be carefully navigated to make sure it isn't abused and the relationship doesn't become unhealthy. Couples well with leadership/authority and mentoring.

-rivalry and competition; I love seeing characters challenge each other. I love rivalry as a force for good that motivates characters to improve and surpass each other, but I also like it with all the rough, jagged edges it can entail, with two people sincerely trying to crush each other. I love seeing characters fight hard at something they're good at, but I also like seeing characters compete over areas where they're weak and struggling to compensate for that.

-contrasts; I love seeing opposing points of view and opposing situations! I love when two characters with completely diametric viewpoints both think they're right and have to navigate working together and reaching common ground. I love foils and seeing characters contrasted against each other. I love dichotomy and I love juxtaposition and I love relationships where one person's strengths are the other person's weaknesses.

-morality; I love characters struggling with tough situations and having to make difficult choices. I love when a character's personal value system is at odds with another's, or with the culture's standard values. I love orange-blue morality, or any instance where a character definitely has a moral code but it doesn't line up with the usual black-gray-white spectrum of what's "good" and "evil."

-mental games; I love characters playing headgames and trying to psych each other out. I love spies, cat-and-mouse, politics both in the literal running-a-country sense and in the sense of inter-office or interpersonal politics. I love subterfuge and any instance of characters each trying to feel out what the other knows.

-polyamory; I love relationship negotiation and navigating boundaries and contrasts in how one bar of a multi-person relationship works when compared to the others. I love polyamory so, so much for the complicated, messy beauty of such relationships and I love seeing it work well.

-alternate universes; I love AUs more than almost anything, and have written a separate post to highlight my favorite AU settings. A good rule of thumb, however, is that fantasy, sci-fi, or crime-related AUs are the surest way to my heart, while more mundane, realworld AUs are a lot more hit-or-miss.

General Dislikes

-excessive angst; I can happily read things about characters making tough choices or being in untenable situations, but I just really dislike tragedy for tragedy's sake, or anything really over-the-top horrible.

-pregnancy and childcare; unless otherwise specified, please avoid writing stories about young children. Pregnancy and all the related complications are one of my biggest squicks and any content ranging from attempts to conceive up through taking care of the baby will make me very uncomfortable. Please never give couples non-canon children. In very specific circumstances, I do like stories about characters caring for children, but I tend to prefer if the caregiver is doing so in a context other than "two parents raise their blood child" and I prefer the child to be about eight years of age at minimum.

-foot fetishes; this is my other biggest squick. I actually really like cute socks/stockings and boots/heels/footwear, including in a sexy context, but please avoid any description of feet themselves or of mouths being applied to feet.

-terminal or mental illnesses, character death from illness; these things just make me really uncomfortable and are rarely handled to my personal taste and I'd prefer they be avoided. I am not, however, opposed to all forms of character death and will honor it in canons where it's established as a possibility.

-rape, abuse, physical assault; I cannot stomach personal violence and would very, very much appreciate it being excluded from any gift story for me. While I am occasionally interested in manipulation and psychological horror, I am only comfortable with those things between characters who would otherwise be equals. I would prefer they be avoided in conjunction with parent/child relationships.

-homophobia as a plot device; in my experience this is most often used for cheap angst and makes me personally uncomfortable. Please avoid it. If you are considering it as a source for drama, please consider other alternatives. In my opinion the alternative is always superior.

-jealousy as a plot device; I just really hate jealousy plots. They're another source of cheap angst and drama and while a little jealousy in relationships is natural and understandable, I hate when jealousy is used as a means of getting characters together or when it is allowed to fester instead of attempting to communicate about the problem.

-improbable miscommunication; characters being insecure and nervous about talking is one thing, whereas miscommunication that could be solved with a two-minute conversation is entirely another. Please avoid writing any story that relies on preventing characters from talking just to make the plot "work."

-first person POV; I'm very picky about this with published work and it's just not to my taste with fanfiction. I'd prefer not to receive a gift written in this perspective. If you're confident with second person, that I greatly enjoy on occasion, but third person will always be your safest bet.

-high school or very generic "modern" AUs; with series not set in the real world I tend to just find these sorts of AU to be incredibly boring and would rather not receive a gift with this sort of plot.

This all said, these are for the most part general rules. While I would prefer to have all of my "dislikes" excluded from gifts, in any instance where my likes or my prompts themselves seem to contradict my "dislikes," feel free to use your best judgment. A number of my dislikes boil down to "this thing is sloppy writing" so if you have a thoughtful, heartfelt story to tell that veers towards one of my dislikes in execution, not content, chances are I will still love it.

Likewise, I do not remotely expect to have all of my "likes" included in a gift. Many do work well together but some are mutually exclusive. This post is merely intended as a set of guidelines to highlight the kind of fiction I most enjoy; how you use these guidelines is up to you.