1484: Heroes and Villains – Chapter Three, Part TwoPosted: July 27, 2016
Title: Heroes and Villains
Author: Horrible’s Igor
Media: Television / Movies
Topic: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer / Kitchen Sink
URL: Heroes and Villains
Critiqued by TacoMagic and Eliza
Hello, and welcome back to another installment of ‘Heroes and Villains’ the script-turned-fic that tries to answer the question: ‘How much nothing can you describe with seventy-eight thousand words?’
With me again this week is Eliza, who, if I’m not mistaken, is packing a pair of snow-cones.
“I thought they’d get us into the spirit today.”
Did you make those?
“Yup! This one is soy sauce and this one is pickle brine. Which would you like.”
Uhh. Wow, that’s tough. I’d hate to deprive you of one of those.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine with whatever one you don’t want!”
I’ll take soy sauce.
Anyway, last time we had … I don’t even know what I’d call it. It’s like Willow had some kind of mental break or something, but everything was so freaking vague and horribly formatted I can’t even decide what the author was trying to go for. It was just a hot mess of pronoun misuse, random dialogue, and spliced-in italicized thought.
“Lucky for us, this week we get to start off with a new character!”
*Takes a lick of his snow-cone*
The shrimp paste mixed into the ice is … unexpected.
“I thought the ice could use some texture.”
Hundreds of miles away, far removed from the turmoil that was brewing atop that snow-capped peak, there lay a quaint city called Sunnydale.
I’d make a counter for that, but it wouldn’t last more than two or three of these Sunnydale scenes.
“Even before Sunnydale was a crater, it wasn’t really all that quaint. It had about forty-thousand residents. That makes it about the same size as San Bruno, California, Bremerton, Washington, or Lewiston, Maine. Not a big city, but I wouldn’t say quaint by any stretch of the imagination.”
Heck, it’s only slightly smaller than the city I grew up in, and we had all the trimmings of a modern city. Including a Costco.
“Is that really how you determine what a decently-sized city is?”
Hey, if you get a Costco, you’re doing pretty good as a city.
Nothing much was terribly notable about it- the usual movie theatre, a few malls, sightseeing spots, the obligatory SoCal beaches…
“Giant hell-crater and debris.”
‘Nothing much was terribly notable about it’ should have been the summary of this fic.
There were really only three eyebrow-raising things in this place:
I’m betting none of them is the giant pit.
a living snowman searching for his mama; countless vampires, demons, and other creepy-crawlies waiting to ensnare hapless victims once night fell; and one Slayer who spent her days working and her nights split between attending school and killing the aforementioned baddies. This Slayer was Buffy Summers.
Oh shit, we have a class three temporal disturbance! Time dun got all squiggly up in this fic!
“If we assume this slayer is Buffy, which we have no reason to doubt at this point, in order to be where he is, Olaf would have had to travel back to at least eleven years into the past to be in Sunnydale while Buffy is still in school.”
Olaf takes getting lost VERY seriously.
A few years back, she’d heard that her old nightmarish residence had been rebuilt, she’d just known that that meant the damned Hellmouth had opened up shop again- so it was her duty to fight back.
Why hello, nonsensical shoehorn, glad to see you could show up and give us a hand-wave of all expectation of reasonable explanations for why any of these canon-breaking events would have happened.
“I think we can just call it a victory as long as Buffy isn’t back in high school.”
Sad as it is to admit that the bar really is that low, yeah, as long as Buffy isn’t in high school, we can at least hope that the author remembers that Buffy is in her thirties at this point and would be going to college if she was in school.
This time, though, she was also going to be sure as she could be that she wouldn’t have a repeat of her first attempt at living on her own means- she was going to night school while going back to work for the Doublemeat Palace to make ends meet until she could get a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice.
“So I guess that her past experience as a school councilor is just going to be forgotten.”
It’s actually kinda fair, here. In the wake of the whole ‘Death of Magic’ plotline, Buffy moves in with Xander and Dawn and goes to work as a coffee shop waitress. She had plenty of reason to want to keep a low profile after the Slayer organization was broken up, so she probably avoided her work history to those ends.
“Does that mean canon Buffy had gotten over that first stint as a waitress?”
I imagine after her time working at Doublemeat, she realized that anywhere had to be better. Which is fair; her waitressing didn’t have anything to do with the events that lead up to her living on her own, so it’s work experience she could draw from. Actually, you would think she’d avoid going back to work for Doublemeat if only because a large organization like that might look into her background more than a little mom-and-pop restaurant would.
Seemed fitting: Slayer, crime-fighter by nature… what could go wrong?
Subtle foreshadowing is subtle.
“Given Buffy’s vigilante nature and how badly her dealings with governments have been, law enforcement isn’t actually that great a fit for her beyond her physical skills. Really, with her experience running the Slayer Organization, a business degree would make a lot more sense.”
She had to take other classes, of course, so she looked for ones that sounded interesting. One that had caught her eye was Noir California- while perhaps a bit dull, it was being taught by Professor James Marlowe, one of her favorite professors.
Forgiving the fact that the word-order is wrong, what the fuck kind of class is ‘Dark California!?’ That sounds more like a low-budget History Channel show than it does a class.*
*UPDATE: Amazingly, Noir California is actually a class in the University of California system. So score one for the author, his research was better than mine. A redemption cookie and all the trimmings is awarded.
He had an uncanny resemblance to Ian McKellen, and it helped that he hailed from England.
Oooookay? Why is this important?
He had a thing for green apples- something about the sourness- and he was always going on about how much pop culture had degraded compared to the classiness of the 40s and such, and knew all sorts of little tidbits from American history, like when each Amendment was ratified and what they entailed.
And again, I have to ask: why is any of this important?
“He’s probably her new Watcher.”
I dare to hope that the author didn’t go with such a painfully obvious setup.
He may have been a little on the old side, but he was the type you either loved or hated, and she was firmly on the ‘love’ end.
And suddenly I’d rather he be her watcher than the love interest.
“She does tend to go for older men. Most of the people she dates are over a hundred.”
If she was totally honest, she would say that part of the reason she liked him so much was because he reminded her of Giles a little.
Subtle foreshadowing is super subtle.
It was the first day of classes for the 2014-15 year, and Buffy found it to be much the same as before.
Whoa, there, slow the fuck down a second, wasn’t it just 2011 in the last chapter!? You can’t just jump over three years in one scene break like that!
“Time is getting all squiggly again. Maybe the timeline needs to imodium.”
Imodium isn’t a verb.
“Well it should be.”
As she’d hoped, despite a slight portent of boredom to come from the material, Professor Marlowe would see her through once again.
The hell is a ‘portent of boredome?’
“The summary of this fic?”
He knew his stuff. It had felt like barely ten minutes before she heard him say, “So, for your first assignment, due Monday…”. She sighed, packing her things back into her backpack. Next up on the list: let’s kill some vamps.
“I certainly hope the professor knows his stuff. He’s a college professor after all.”
The hell is with that punctuation!? Let’s see that shit again!
This has got to be a new low for punctuation in the Library.
As she headed out, she heard Marlowe call out, “Are you alright, Buffy?”
You would think an aged professor of Dark California Studies 101 would be used to hearing dejected sighs from his students after he assigns homework.
“What?” she replied, turning back as she processed what he’d said. Despite what one would think, she was not a night person all the time. “Oh, no, I’m fine, Professor. Just a… long day.”
This is actually pretty fair. Buffy canonically takes on pretty insane schedules. In this case she’s working a fast-food job, going to night school, and still doing her nightly patrols for the forces of darkness. She probably has a lot of long days, especially if she’s done the whole ‘alienate all your friends’ thing she does from time to time.
The man smiled. “I can imagine. Grading papers all night, however , is a little different from working two consecutive shifts at the Doublemeat Palace.”
“Way to rub it in, gramps. Maybe you also want to bring up how she doesn’t have any friends right now?”
She grinned. “Trade places one of these days?”
“I certainly wouldn’t mind,” he smirked, turning to pick up the book he had on the side of his desk.
Dude, that was Marlowe’s car!
“It’ll buff out. Probably.”
“It would give me a chance to finish my novel.” He held the cover up. Divergent, it read.
No, it really wouldn’t. Have you even been inside a fast-food joint!?
“I heard about that book,” Buffy remembered. “Is it good?”
That all depends on how arrogant Marlow is.
“Or how many best-sellers he’s already published.”
Yeah, a track record of publishing stuff that makes the New York Time’s list would give you some credibility when you claim your own book is good.
Marlowe nodded. “Oh yes. The third book doesn’t have the best plot, but I feel the emotional intensity makes up for it somewhat.
Oooooh, he’s reading the novel, not writing it. That makes more sense.
“Hazard of the riffing trade. Whenever you see the phrase ‘finish the novel’ you assume they mean writing it.”
Yeah, our bad on that one.
Even so, working fast-food would still not give you free time to finish up your book.
“I’m not sure Marlowe knows what ‘trade’ means.”
Classic James Marlowe: master of balanced reviews.
“That wasn’t really a review, nor was it particularly balanced.”
Shh, the author is trying to tell us what to think about his character.
She almost wanted to suggest he go into the movie critic business.
Because he gives vague and unhelpful reviews of novels? Yeah, he’s a real shoe-in for being a movie critic. Maybe he can also try his hand at being an architect while he’s at it. I mean, he is in a building right now, after all.
“Maybe she was being sarcastic.”
Actually, yeah, that does sound like Buffy.
“The main character reminds me a little of you , facing challenges in society, trying to prove yourselves… It’s bittersweet. But, sadly, that is the price we pay.”
Ugh, it’s like the author is just stringing phrases together hoping they’ll sound deep and wise for his mentor character. Trouble is, this doesn’t make any fucking sense!
First off, we have no basis for what societal challenges Buffy is supposedly facing right now! We know she’s working a crummy job and going to night school, but there’s no indication of what strife this is causing, if any. We also know she’s patrolling the streets to guard against the vampires and demons, which is a challenge, certainly, but it isn’t one that society has dropped on her. The hell are these challenges of society he’s referring to?
Second, how is she trying to prove herself? She’s going to school to get a degree in something that she’d arguably be okay in doing without having to take these classes, or at least take all the pointless classes that come along with the ones she needs. Seems like, if anything, she’s just trying to make her status as an agent of justice official by jumping through bureaucratic hoops. That’s not proving anything, really, that’s just doing the paperwork so that people can/will acknowledge the skills she already has. It’s like having to retake a college class because your credits wouldn’t transfer. You’re not proving anything, you’re just following the trail that the system requires you to follow.
Third, why is the action of facing the challenges bittersweet!? Sure, I can come up with my own ideas of how it could be (such as the taste of a success after a litany of failure), but the act of facing challenges is itself not inherently one that would cultivate ambivalent feelings.
Fourth, ‘the price we pay’ for what, exactly? The price we pay for facing challenges? What the hell are we paying, then? Or is the very act of facing challenges the price we pay for something? Is bittersweet feelings the price we pay for facing challenges? The hell would that even mean!?
Author! Words. Mean. THINGS!
“I often just nod when people talk their mindless gibberish at me. It’s faster than asking for an explanation that usually turns out to be much longer gibberish.”
To her, Marlowe’s one small flaw was his borderline obsession with drawing connections to everything.
And suddenly this becomes A Beautiful Mind.
He could find metaphorical resonance in a jar of pitch.
“Ahh yes, everyone knows Marlowe’s Allegory of the Pitch Pot.”
I think they ended up calling the paper ‘Noir Callifornia.’
“Yeah, that sucks sometimes… I should probably go. Dawn’ll be waiting for me.”
“What is Dawn doing in Sunnydale?”
Eh, it’s a hard call. The franchise’s current timeline stops in 2007, so if Buffy has ‘reset’ back to being a singular slayer in 2014, maybe she brought her sister to help with rent.
“Oh, of course,” he responded, and she began to leave. “I look forward to reading your paper.”
Probably that homework which was alluded to earlier.
“Not a good sign that she can forget her homework in only a few minutes.”
Anyway, at this point we get a scene break which sends us over to:
Elsa felt like someone had just jump-started her brain.
“Syl dared made me do it. You do not just ignore a dare!”
Somebody out there had managed to psyche her out of her stillness, and it seemed like they really wanted her.
Dammit, Syl, Stop shoving your lust into my fics! And stop daring Crunchy to jump-start things with Force lightning!
Frankly, the sheer surprise was the thing.
Who on Earth cared about her?
“How many copies of Frozen have sold since the movie was released for purchase?”
Around 7.4 million in the U.S.
Especially this Earth, far beyond Arendelle and anyone who ever knew who she was?
At least the fic is finally acknowledging that she shouldn’t be here. Now if only there was a not pieced-together explanation of what she’s doing in this reality.
“And what the fight with her sister was all about.”
She sat on a grandoise sofa in the living room of the palace, holding the papers from the envelope handed to her just yesterday.
Palaces don’t have living rooms, they have studies, lounges, libraries, and/or sitting rooms.
For the longest time she had almost been afraid to try to open it, almost believing it would vanish if she touched it, and she would be alone again.
“The prose is certainly not almost wishy-washy.”
But it was real. It was actually there- and the words were another surprise on their own.
It’s just a letter, dude. And you already know the gist of what it says, the messenger already told you.
“Dear Elsa,” she read aloud- They know my name?
“It would be pretty strange to offer a share of the corporate presidency to you if they didn’t.”
This version of Elsa is apparently not very bright.
“It is a pleasure to finally contact you. I have been looking for a partner for some time now, and when I started reading about you, I must admit I was rather interested. It isn’t every day you meet someone with the ability to manipulate elements.”
Indeed. As a major practitioner of magic, meeting those with elemental control is more of an hourly thing.
She knows about my powers?
Nope, that’s why it’s in the letter. Try to keep up, Elsa.
“With this, and your experience, in mind, I offer you the position of co-president in my company.
Maybe the co-president is in charge of making snowmen.
“Best job ever!”
We look for those with ambition and certain talents to help us prosper, and you are the perfect woman to do so.
What part of her moping around the castle and doing nothing for three years yells ‘Ambition!’ to you?
Enclosed you will find our address, and a number you can contact me at should you desire to do so, as well as a small description of our company.
Pithy, but accurate. Probably. What does this company actually do again?
Please look through these documents, and either call me or come to our headquarters and we can talk. Thank you. Sincerely, Miss Rosenberg.”
You know, just show up whenever. It’ll be cool. We can hang and do interviews and stuff, brah.
She stayed still, the impact of the letter still hitting her.
“I see Bifocals has finally gotten that anvil-launching stationary on the market.”
I still think it wasn’t as good as her scratch-and-get-attacked-by-wild-lemurs postage stamps.
These people knew about her.
Which, again, if somebody offers you the co-presidency just out of nowhere, you should expect they know who you are.
“Or you should expect that they’re setting up a fall guy.”
Yeah, that one is way more likely.
She didn’t think anybody here would know she even existed, let alone know her name and where she was.
She was so overcome by surprise that the magical spell she maintained to keep the italics demon imprisoned faltered long enough for it to escape.
“I’ll get the containment team to wrangle it into one of the sub-levels that’s lined with strip_tags().”
Don’t tell Goeth that we have one.
It was a little scary- but it gave them a great deal of credibility. If they had managed to find her, they could definitely deliver on whatever they promised.
“How does the ability to find people add to their credibility?”
She pulled out the second sheet, placing it over the first, and delved back into the world opening up before her.
“And the portal stationary, too!? It’s been a very productive ten minutes for Bifocals.”
“Our company desires to return a semblance of recompense for those who have been wronged by others and seek redemption in some way, shape, or form.”
Author, the thing you need is a dictionary, not a thesaurus. It’s more important to use the correct words than words that sound fancy.
“So is the organization evil or not?”
“I’m beginning to think you’re right. This Elsa is too easily confused.”
She does seem to constantly have trouble grasping simple concepts.
“We are not picky about how we do so- I find it isn’t as effective to stick to the law 100% of the time. While you have your wrongs righted, you will also join me in my attempt to better the world.”
“That doesn’t sound sketchy at all!”
I’m pretty sure soup-for-brains here won’t see anything wrong with it.
What does that mean?
That’s what we’ve been asking!
“What I need are people who are willing to forego fighting for the “justice” that those who claim to be pure fight for, and go to any necessary means to show them what we go through as the wronged, losing side.”
“That seems even less sketchy.”
They may as well just own up to being the Revenge Avengers; their obfuscation isn’t very good at obfuscating.
“How do they turn a profit, anyway?”
The banks wronged them, so naturally balancing the scales of justice requires lots of targeted wealth reallocation.
“That’ll teach them for having such long lines and short hours on the weekends!”
We’re losing her. Somebody stir the soup!
You will be relocated to Mount Lassen, where our headquarters are housed, and will have the opportunity to have your own wing of the HQ, constructed to your specifications.
Provided that those specifications involve caves.
You will be required to work full-time, but you will have many opportunities to take time off.
You might want to inquire about what exactly it is you’ll be doing full time. Laughing maniacally eight hours a day sounds easy, but the throat gets really raw.
Consider your resolve before joining- those who have a change of heart will not be allowed to continue their position here. Thank you for considering.”
“Bill, you have the light of kindness in your heart. You’re fired!”
Her head pounded as she slowly stood, leaning into her cane as she stared at the letter.
What is it about this fic and headaches? Take a fucking Advil or something, people!
The words swirled in her mind as she made her way to the balcony, the room suddenly too small and claustrophobic to process so much.
So much? It was like seven sentences of relatively straight-forward, if vague, information! Let me boil it down: an organization based on reaping revenge wants you to help run them. There’s also some self-rationalization and victim mentality in there, but that’s part of the standard shallow revenge package. What is so mind boggling here!?
“Those who have been wronged by others and seek redemption…” she repeated, looking up at the setting sun.
“Still doesn’t make any sense. People who have been ‘wronged’ don’t seek redemption. It’s those who do the wronging that seek it.”
Shh, the author learned a big word and wants to use it.
“Attempt to better the world… What makes her think that I’ve been wronged-“
She’s just projecting that victim complex I mentioned. I wouldn’t pay it much mind. Mostly because the attention will encourage her.
Suddenly it all made sense.
“If only, fic. If only.”
Yeah, I’m not holding my breath on this one.
The reason she had been given this letter- why she was suddenly so wanted- crystal clear. “Anna. Kristoff.” She knew. Somehow, Miss Rosenberg knew what had happened.
“Great! So, can you have her share it with the rest of the class, please!?”
If she wasn’t so dead-on, Elsa might’ve been offended- but the truth could not be ignored, and she was right.
Please. Any kind of explanation at this point. I don’t care if it’s contrived, just give us something. Anything! Have it involve a magical kangaroo! You like kangaroos, right!?
“Leaving me here… Because I brought them… and they left me…” And the more she thought, the more the phrasing made sense too.
“Well, that was certainly something. The rift happened because Elsa brought them all to California.”
It still doesn’t make any sense!
“You said ‘anything.'”
I said any explanation! ‘They’re mad because Elsa brought them to California’ is not an explanation!
“I was only trying to help…” And now it was beginning to reach deep inside her, rekindling the fire that had roared inside her for the first days alone, the anger and the bitterness and the vows of never forgiving each other ever again.
“I’ve got it! I know what happened to break them apart!”
“No, but I thought I’d give you hope.”
“They left me,” she repeated, “they betrayed me… We could’ve thrived here… Arendelle was doomed and all they saw was leaving it behind… I was just trying to help, and they left me here!”
Ahh, so something happened to Arendelle, Elsa did something with ice, and they ended up in modern day California; therefore, rage. QED.
Why can’t you write anything specific, author!?
And now the ends were obvious: Anna would have to pay dearly.
“If anyone is having trouble picturing Elsa thinking this way and coming to this conclusion, it’s because she’s been dragged extremely out of character in order to make this ‘plot’ possible.”
She had ripped Elsa’s heart out, and no amount of love would ever heal that wound.
Wait, when did victim complexes become contagious?
“I’m not taking any chances!”
*Eliza wraps the computer monitor in clear plastic*
I’m not sure that-
“Wronged indeed, Miss Rosenberg… Wronged in-deed.“
And now she’s being sarcastic to herself. So does she buy this whole situation or does she see through the bullshit!? That’s the problem with relying too heavily on vagueness to instill a sense of mystery in your fic. It tends to bleed out and make the entire fic insubstantial and confusing.
See, the better bet is to carefully control your reveals under a larger pile of actual description and information so that the reader knows that they’re missing something, but can’t figure out what it is because of all the available information. Check out the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Cristie, Edgar Allen Poe, and John Dickson Carr for some examples on how to pull this off.
And this is a reminder to all writers who are serious about their art: The biggest, most important thing you need to be doing as a writer to improve your craft is to be reading. Everything. Constantly.+
And finally her mind was working again, and it all, at last, made sense what she had to do now.
“So you say you’ll help me get revenge?… I’m listening.”
“Hey look, the author finally found the right word!”
Yeah, ‘redemption’ my left butt cheek. You weren’t fooling anyone, Willow. Not even soup-brain, here.
The rage returned, and she swiftly turned, her powers surging beneath her fingertips as she stormed towards the door.
“Wasn’t she already all ragey?”
*Living Stone peeks around the doorframe*
Sparkle Lizard there?
“Hi! I’ve got a new kind of glitter enamel. Once we get you heated up, you’ll be pretty forever!”
Living Stone just give warning today. *He quickly leaves*
She raised a hand, and the palace doors burst open.
We’re getting close to a ‘Because Ice’ counter. It’s ‘Subject 23’ all over again.
The wind began to howl, a blizzard rising up as she marched confidently down the stairs and began her trek down the mountain. She had a deal to make with Miss Rosenberg.
I was going to say she should probably call first, but then I realized that the chance of somebody from her era having a phone was vanishingly … small … can you pay attention?
*Eliza pokes at her phone* “Sorry, I was instagramming a picture of Stone all prettied up.”
First review today. You guys are seriously awesome- you have no idea how happy it makes me feel to see someone actually leave me a message saying that they enjoyed my work.
Poor guy must have been new to FF.net when he typed that. Gushy reviews are a dime a dozen. You know you’re doing well when you get concrete criticism because you only see one of those about once every few hundred reviews. In this case, the fic is two years old and has seven reviews, six of them gushy one-liners by the same person, and four of those are the exact same copy-pasted ‘review.’ The other review is an anonymous one that basically says the same thing as the other six, so is equally without value.
Don’t get me wrong, praise is nice to receive, but an endless string of ‘Omigosh I luved dis!’ feels pretty empty and isn’t providing any real feedback. It’s not something you can really control as an author, but it’s something that grows old pretty fast.
“Unless you’re just writing for attention, in which case empty praise certainly scratches that itch.”
Every time I update I’m afraid that I screwed up a character
You haven’t just screwed the characters up, you’ve mangled them beyond recognition. Which is impressive for only being three chapters in.
“Buffy was somewhat close.”
True, but she only had one very short scene. I don’t hold out a lot of hope that she’ll stay on point, but we’ll keep an eye on that.
(I swear, sometimes this feels so forced from them), so reviews really help me to shut up those voices in my head.
That hurt to read; it quite literally made me cringe. The author, at some level, realizes that they’re completely forcing the characters into these situations/personalities. Instinctively, the author knows that they’re doing something wrong. But the false praise is reassuring them that everything is okay, and that nothing needs improvement or fixing. This, right here, is why empty praise is sometimes worse than useless.
Author, if you think something is wrong with your fic, like really, really wrong, and you can’t figure out what it is, get somebody to read it and have them give you actual feedback. Like go over it with them in excruciating detail. You need them to enumerate precisely why your characters are fine or why they aren’t.
And, when it comes down to it, if you think something is wrong, it probably is. If you feel something is wrong, tear it apart and figure out what needs fixing. Writing is like an engine that way, sometimes you can’t see what’s wrong until you pull everything apart and look at why it isn’t running correctly. In this way, you need to be the first and harshest critic of your work. More than anyone else, you need to be prepared to tear into your work and expose the flaws.
Author, you need to listen to those voices and ignore the praise.
Thanks again, and the next chapter is coming soon.
Which is as depressing a prospect as you can hope to run into in the Library.
“Well, that, or another Victor Tarsus fic.”
Nothing is more depressing than that.
Anyway, thanks for reading and we’ll catch you next week with the first half of chapter four. Until then, stay frosty, patrons!