1706: Heroes and Villains – Chapter Sixteen, Part One

Title: Heroes and Villains
Author: Horrible’s Igor
Media: Television / Movies
Topic: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer / Kitchen Sink
Genre: Supernatural/Drama
URL: Heroes and Villains (Now Defunct)
Critiqued by TacoMagic and Eliza

WARNING:  Things get rather offensive this week. If you don’t want to see a tragedy trivialized for the sake of author tract, go elsewhere.

“Hi!  Taco will be just one moment.”

*Taco is wheeled into the riffing chamber on a dolly by a pair of Darkwraiths.  He is heavily restrained by multiple chains and comically large locks.*

I don’t think this is necessary.

“Well if you’d stop running away, it wouldn’t be.”

How about if I promised not to run away again?

“Like you did last time?  Plus, do you see that warning?”

Shit.  Okay, fine, I’ll stay in the chains.  Can we at least skip the recap so I don’t have to relive the random scene flashes and domestic abuse parallels?

“‘kay!”

Setting The Board

So are we going to watch them play board games?  I’ve no idea if that would be more or less interesting than what we’ve had thus far.

In order to make a story go the way it needs to, analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each character, then manipulate accordingly.

Bahahahahahaha!  Igor, are you seriously trying to put in writing advice into THIS fic?  That’s like a Columbian drug cartel organizing a D.A.R.E. program.

“Ah the sweet, naive hubris of youth.  It’s so adorable!”

If you say so.

Being the heir of the pair, Elsa had had to learn how to be a politician by the time she inherited the throne.

Technically they both should have, since Anna would be second in line in case anything happened to her sister.  Not to mention that younger children would still often have political duties, though more as ambassadors or through political marriages to solidify alliances.  I’ll let this one go a bit since the movie dropped the ball on this particular nugget of canon.

As such, she had been taught how to read people and discern the best way to achieve what she needed for Arendelle in order to either stay the course as a small Scandinavian island kingdom or gain power and pave the way to dominate the European arena.

But, remember, she was a bad queen and needed to succeed.

“Is there no in between?  It’s either the island or the whole of Europe?”

Worked for Britain.  For a while, anyway.

She’d heard rumours when she was Queen that America might become the world power within her lifetime, and now, in 2014, she had to say they were true.

Oh good, we get to see Igor’s viewpoint on modern politics.  How I longed to see more of this.

The burgeoning land of English renegades that dominated the cotton trade was now the quintessential democratic republic of the world étage.

“Or at least we get to watch Igor throttle a thesaurus, poor thing.”

It didn’t surprise her that it also drew the world’s ire– but of course, the ravenous business politicians had descended upon the capital and made the public duty another cutthroat market for the scum of the earth to fight in.

There’s the political author tract!  I knew we were going to see it.  And it’s just as oversimplified and extreme as I’d expect from a teen.  Glad I wasn’t expecting something novel.

She despised those that claimed to be virtuous when they only had their own interests at heart.

Which, if this character was written well, would be ironic given what she’s done.  Some very memorable villains have been built on these perceptual inconsistencies.

She preferred Miss Rosenberg’s honesty to a politician’s promises.

“Willow has been honest?”

*Taco tries to shrug under the chains*  She really hasn’t done much, so  it’s hard to say whether or not she’s honest.  However, she did initiate a heist and had her lackeys rob a dude, so her brand of honesty must involve something other than being honest.  It’s also hard to know how much of her lack of honest has to do with incompetence as compared to actual malice.  It seems that malice would require a lot more effort on her part, so is unlikely as her motivation for dishonesty.

“In her favor, she did send warning letters to her biggest foes before not doing anything.”

This is true.  Stupid and unnecessary honesty is still a form of honesty.  Maybe that’s what Elsa means.  And, to be fair, I’d probably take idiotic honesty over political posturing most days.

It was just about dawn when she woke up. The sun was rising directly behind her, the rose and orange and yellow light refracting off every tessellated facet of the walls.

Behind her?  You mean in the bed?

“She could be sleeping on her stomach.  Aren’t you a stomach sleeper?”

You win this round, fic.

Most preferred sunsets, but Elsa could not resist sunrises.

That’s fair.  I’d like sunrises more if they didn’t involve morning.

“Morning is the best part of the day!”

Ugh, I hate morning people.

She loved seeing how the undersides of scattered clouds were lit as the sun pulled its way up into the sky. Her favourite ones were when there were just enough clouds to blot out about half the sky, and the sun was at just the right angle to make the entire canvas look as though it was on fire.

And with that, this hypothetical sunrise has had more narrative establishment than anything else in this entire fic.  Let that sink in.

When she was young she would always try to stay awake all night long so she could see both the sunset and the sunrise, but it wasn’t until about 15 that she actually managed it, and by that point she had lost the desire to watch them. It was too hard to appreciate the beauty of fire when everything in her world had frozen over.  Thankfully, she had been able to regain that little pleasure again, and she couldn’t help but let a small smile tug at the corners of her lips as she sat up.

“Hey! That actually wouldn’t be too bad for character building if it wasn’t buried in the glut of over-elaborate prose and political author tract.”

Not to mention the extreme apathy in the characters that the fic has inspired leading up to now kinda spoils the moment.

To her surprise, there was a mahogany dresser against the wall facing her.

“Suddenly and from behind: Armoire!”

She got out of bed and went over to it, opening a drawer to find it filled with… apparently, 21st-century clothing.

You know, clothing, FROM THE FUTURE!

“Like a spring dress or something?”

I’m going to picture a jogging suit and loafers.

She noticed a yellow Post-It on the top of the dresser bearing a short note in neat print. It read:

These are for you. They might be a bit big ’til you get back that lost weight, but they should still fit. You should get into the habit of wearing them– you blend in better. –Willow

“Which she couldn’t read because it’s in English.”

At this point I’d even take a hand-wave as to why Elsa is fluent in English.

Elsa frowned, opening each of the drawers to see what they held.

“Does it count as clothing porn if Igor describes all the clothing that’s in the dresser?”

Yes?  Either way, it’d be weird to have the most described character in the fic be the dresser.

She saw no dresses, nor skirts, but instead either short or long-sleeved shirts and dress pants, along with a few suit coats. She considered them all for a moment, then sighed in exasperation and made a full-length mirror before looking at them all again and beginning to choose what to wear.

“That was pretty lack-luster clothing porn.”

Yeah, I’m somehow disappointed.  Maybe it’ll change when she actually puts something on.

In the end she decided on an ice-red button-down shirt with long sleeves and a pair of black pants, which was a nice shift from blues and greens, though they still were her favourites. She wasn’t sure how to feel about the cut of the fabrics, though, particularly the pants. The part of her that had liked the dress also liked the idea of breaking the mould and trying out pants, but the traditions of the 1800s she was used to made her reflection hard to look at.

Closer to good ol’ clothing porn, but still kinda lackluster.  I think Hypothetical Sunset still has the most description.

She eventually allowed it, because Miss Rosenberg was right: she would feel better and safer if she joined the fold.

“She allowed what?  Her reflection?”

I guess so, that’s the last object that was mentioned.  Though I suppose she could also be allowing the traditions of the 1800s, as those were the last primary objects mentioned.

With that unexpected snag taken care of, she showered, dressed, did her makeup and hair, then went down to the cafeteria for breakfast.

“What unexpected snag?  Was the need to dress herself in something really that unexpected?”

It was a reference to the Suddenly There™ dresser, I think.  You gotta make sure to tie them down so they don’t vanish when you leave the room.

“Scene change!”

And thus the thrilling author tract and dressing scene comes to a close.

“What was the point of the scene, do you think?”

Something along the lines of: ‘Damn kids these days and their new fangled pants!’

“Elsa and Crunchy would get along surprisingly well, I think.”

Despite how late it was when he finally went to sleep, he found himself waking up with the sun that morning.

“Moral of this chapter is something about getting up early, isn’t it?”

Hell if I know.  Morning people suck.

“So you said.”

He checked the time: 6:25. Reasonable enough, he knew, but he certainly felt like he’d only gotten 5 hours’ sleep.

Which, if we knew when he went to bed, would actually tell us something.

That’s what he got for working until 1:30 on the Freeze Ray.

So wait, he got less than five hours of sleep, but is complaining that it felt like he only got five?  When did Horrible become this much of a whiner?

“Probably around the time he stopped getting enough sleep.  He’s all tired, grumpy, and hasn’t had his coffee yet.”  *Looks pointedly at Taco*

Touché.

His digital clock also informed him that today was Patriot Day: September 11.

More author tract inbound!

Just the date brought back bad memories. He remembered that he had been just about to head out for class when his roommate Andrew turned on the T.V., and the first thing they saw was the South Tower collapsing in a burning pillar of metal and smoke and dust. The rest of the day seemed to pass as though through someone else’s eyes, like he was looking through a veil, a new world that had suddenly thrust itself into his own.  He thanked his lucky stars that he didn’t know anybody in the area. The whole debacle that ensued in the Middle East bothered him exponentially more, though. Yes, let’s turn a tragedy of 3,000 into a war of about half a million that tanks our reputation even more and only makes matters worse.   By the time ’08 rolled around, he didn’t even bother to show up to the voting booth. The only way to affect change that meant something now was through a total revolution.

Three things, author.

First, you’re unlikely to win points with your audience by clumsily and transparently drawing on a tragedy or atrocity to either garner sympathy points or indulge in author tract.  You’re quite a bit more likely to piss some of them off.  See Jedi’s Destiny by Victor Tarsus for an extreme case of what it looks like when you do this.

Second, you continue to try to have it both ways, which accomplishes neither.  You want main characters who are villains, but you can’t bear the the thought of people hating them or something they do.  So, at every turn you are utterly frightened of actually have them be villains.  You always attempt to paint them in the best possible light without any balance.  Not only does this completely gut what you are going for, but it also exposes how flimsy they are as characters.  Not even the author is willing to go through with their characterization because they couldn’t possibly stand up to doing anything truly ugly.  They are no deeper than the one-dimensional trope characterization of anti-villain.  A trope you announced proudly to the audience without actually following through on it.

Third, this passage has nothing to do with anything.  We don’t care what Dr. Horrible thought about 9/11.  We don’t.  It has no place in the fic, it has no bearing on the plot, and it has no importance to the character.  The only reason it’s in here is going back to my first point: this is a cheap grab for emotional impact and author tract.

“And it had impact, all right!”

It sure did: I’m starting to get actually angry with you, Igor.  I know, I know, you were just a dumb kid who was full of himself when you wrote this.  But even now that wasn’t all that long ago.  So, bit of friendly advice before you try this kind of thing again: Pull your head out of your ass and actually give a shit about what you’re doing.

Though, to be fair, you did eventually think better of actually having this fic publicly available and deleted it, which was the only smart thing you did in relation to this self-aggrandizing mess.

After spending a few minutes contemplating the ceiling, then another few making sure the lab was completely unpacked and set up, he headed down to the cafeteria for breakfast.

See, told you it didn’t matter to anything.  Didn’t even merit more than a paragraph before breakfast derailed everything.

He spotted Elsa sitting by herself at one of the long tables, and raised his hand in greeting. She nodded in acknowledgement.

*Taco frowns in consternation*

*Eliza texts in phone*

Will you put that down!

“Sorry.”

He ordered some cereal, which came in the tiny boxes like they had at the Yosemite Lodge, along with a carton of soy milk, then made his way over to Elsa’s table.

Sweet crap, Igor!  What the hell is wrong with: ‘He got himself a bowl of cereal and went to join her?’  Why are you so devoted to filling every line with pointless minutia!?

He almost commented on her red shirt, but instead he said, “Scrambled eggs and sausage? Make the eggs fried and you could pass for an American of Nordic descent.”

Because Americans with Nordic heritage never eat scrambled eggs.  Nope, no sir.

“Don’t you have some Nordic roots?”

Yup.  And I never eat scrambled eggs because of it.

“What about yesterday morning, pretty sure I saw you with bacon and-”

Nope. Never eat them.

“Not to mention your youngest loves-”

Nope.  Definitely your imagination.

“Our head chef at the castle was English,” Elsa told him.

“There’s that English shoe-horn you were looking for.”

Greeeeeeeeat.

“This sort of breakfast was normal for us.” She eyed his box of cereal curiously, cocking her head.

Which is strange because traditional English breakfast generally uses fried or poached eggs (though scrambled is not unheard of since the stipulations on a full English breakfast are not hard and fast).  Keep in mind, scrambled eggs are present in pretty much any culture that had eggs.  They date back at least as far as the Romans (first written record of them is 14th century Rome), though they probably date back a lot further given how simple a food they are, and are present in all European cultures, not to mention most others around the world.

Igor, it helps to do a little research beyond the Wikipedia article if you really want to get to know something.

“That, however, was not. What is it?”

“This is breakfast cereal,” Doc said. “It’s basically oats and grains, but there’s a lot of other ingredients for flavouring and nutrition too. This particular brand is Cheerios. May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease!, it says.” He poured his first bowl.

Things Igor could be doing with the fic right now:  Exploring what Buffy is doing in the wake of getting curbstomped by a random goon, look at what the league is doing to reclaim their lost man, follow Willow’s organization as they prepare for making a grab for world power, or look at two characters talking about cereal.

“Oh!  I think we’re going to see-”

It’s the cereal one.

“Awww.”

“Very interesting,” Elsa said.

“She must be reading something that we aren’t.”

I don’t blame her, this fic is boring as shit.

Suddenly, her gaze focused on something behind Doc. “Oh– there’s Miss Rosenberg.”

Suddenly!

“And from behind!”

Doc turned his head slightly, and indeed, Willow was entering the cafeteria. He quickly looked away. “Hmm. … I feel like you should know this if you’re going to try to integrate into modern American society, but, uh… today is September 11, also known as Patriot Day in the United States.”

*ALARM BLARES*

Oh for fuck’s sake, didn’t we already cover this?

Um, where-

“The Wednesday DRD shift gave up getting killed for Lent.”

Oh, I didn’t know they were Catholic.

“I’m not sure they actually are, but we decided not to mention it.”

“Patriot Day?” Elsa repeated, brow furrowing.

Great, now we get to see an infodump on September 11.  I’m sure that’ll add a lot.  You know what, looking down at it, it’s basically just a bad paraphrase of sections of the Wikipedia article with some author tract interjected in it.  The whole thing is forced as fuck, doesn’t sound like realistic dialogue at all, and is just Igor indulging in literary wank.  Since it doesn’t add anything of value and is just a longer version of the section we already tackled, we’re just going to skip over this part entirely.

You’re welcome.

She looked up and saw Willow standing next to her, her breakfast still in her hands. Willow didn’t notice, too busy looking at Doc with an odd expression on her face, somewhere in between curiosity and… pity?

Feel sorry for Horrible because he remembers a tragedy!  Lots of other people dying makes him feel really sad!  Feel sorry for him!

Doc didn’t notice her stare, focusing on his cereal.

“Speaking of which, I liked the fic better when it focused on cereal.”

She eventually sat down, and the light sound of the tray against the table made Doc’s head jerk up. The second he saw Willow’s face, he averted his eyes back to Elsa, who raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

Do I need to start calling this thing Heroes and Villains High?

“So,” he concluded, swallowing, “now you know all there is to know about the events of the morning of September 11, 2001. Sometime today I should show you the footage so you can get the full effect.

If you actually rehash this whole thing AGAIN just to narrate the footage, I’m going to give this fic a spanking.  I’d email Igor a spanking, but we’re still working on that particular technology.

You don’t have to be, like, devastated– there’s a lot of teens these days that were alive then who don’t remember it but know of it.”

*Cough* Igor *Cough*

“You should get that cough looked at.”

Willow looked at Doc again. “Where were you when you heard about it?”

Doc gave her a mildly acidic look. “I was at college,” he replied. “I tuned in right when the South Tower fell.”

“I was at home working on a spell,” Willow said. “Then my old friend Xander came in and said, ‘You need to come down and see what’s on TV; they’ve attacked the World Trade Center.’ It was… intense.”

“To be specific, she was working on the spell to resurrect Buffy.”

Yeah, interesting accidental juxtaposition Igor has made by forcing all this into his fic.

“So how is this all ‘setting the board’ again?”

I dunno.  Maybe ‘setting the board’ is some kind of fanfic writer slang for heavy-handed author tract.

Doc nodded solemnly. “It was.”

The three resumed eating in silence.

And with that, September 11th is never mentioned again in the fic, which pretty much broadcasts the exact reason why Igor put this all in there: a blinding sense of self-importance.

Anyway, I think I’m calling it here from the week.  While this section doesn’t make me as angry as Vic’s careless, egocentric handling of the holocaust, it’s pretty close.  Better to stop now before I start getting really mean-spirited.  In the end, this whole mess is less about Igor being a truly bad person, and more about Igor being young and stupid.  He was a teen when this was written, and may still be, and teens are amazingly good at being pretty clueless and self-centered at times.  I remember much the same about myself at that age.

Luckily Igor, unlike Vic, has some time to grow out of it.  Removing the fic from FF.net was the first step on that path.

Until next week, people.

 

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31 Comments on “1706: Heroes and Villains – Chapter Sixteen, Part One”

  1. DasCheesenBorgir says:

    ice-red

    Pardon my ignorance on the finer details of colors, but how exactly would that work?

  2. SC says:

    You want main characters who are villains, but you can’t bear the the thought of people hating them or something they do. So, at every turn you are utterly frightened of actually have them be villains. You always attempt to paint them in the best possible light without any balance. Not only does this completely gut what you are going for, but it also exposes how flimsy they are as characters. Not even the author is willing to go through with their characterization because they couldn’t possibly stand up to doing anything truly ugly. They are no deeper than the one-dimensional trope characterization of anti-villain. A trope you announced proudly to the audience without actually following through on it.

    This is something I used to be guilty of, but now it’s just such a foreign idea to me anymore. Herr can tell you, I can’t even sit down and pop out a one-dimensional character template for someone else to use without that template accidentally being a damn good start for who they’ll be and how they’ll develop.

    The idea that people can be so bad at making good characters – even characters I despise – just doesn’t add up for me anymore. I think that’s what gets me about most Mary Sues, or just bland characters in general: it’s not hard to make a realistic character. Just make a Joe Everydude, and expand on that, and there you go, you’re now on your way to making a good character.

    Of course, admittedly, I’m also perfectly fine with beating the crap out of my characters and having them do things that could be seen as questionable, which seems to be the crux of the issue in a lot of cases: Authors not having the balls to do anything that will make their characters seem weak or that will deviate them from established personality.

  3. BatJamags says:

    In order to make a story go the way it needs to, analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each character, then manipulate accordingly.

    In order to make a story go the way it needs to, outline that shit, and adjust the strengths and weaknesses of each character accordingly.

  4. BatJamags says:

    ice-red

    Huh?

  5. BatJamags says:

    His digital clock also informed him that today was Patriot Day: September 11.

    Oh for the love of fuck.

    • BatJamags says:

      Doc turned his head slightly, and indeed, Willow was entering the cafeteria. He quickly looked away. “Hmm. … I feel like you should know this if you’re going to try to integrate into modern American society, but, uh… today is September 11, also known as Patriot Day in the United States.”

      Igor. Stop.

  6. BatJamags says:

    He almost commented on her red shirt, but instead he said, “Scrambled eggs and sausage? Make the eggs fried and you could pass for an American of Nordic descent.”

    I- but- you- what- that-

  7. BatJamags says:

    “Our head chef at the castle was English,” Elsa told him.

    He was brought to Norway by THE POWER OF NARRATIVE CONVENIENCE!

    • TacoMagic says:

      *Taco walks in with an open letter*

      The PCC’s new subsidiary, NCC, have issued you a cease an desist for unlicensed utilization of their slogan.

      Turns out that they filed the trademark paperwork moments before you used it.

      • BatJamags says:

        Hey, my comments and riffs are directly sponsored by the PCC, and have been for quite some time.

        Speaking of which, are you tired of bullshit cease and desist orders? Sick of being bothered by lawyers? Look no further than the ALL NEW PCC-Brand Lawyer-Repellant Plot Spray™, brought to you by the PLOT CONTRIVANCE CORPORATION™! Now you too can conveniently sign the formal paperwork for your sponsorship five minutes before your sponsor’s subsidiary can file trademark paperwork ABSOLUTELY FREE for a value of only 2.5 Contacts’ wallets!

      • SC says:

        It’s honestly a wonder that the PCC and NCC can even say that they’re related with this kind of cancel-out business practice going on.

      • TacoMagic says:

        It’s called cyclical business creation. By providing competing and canceling products, they validate the need for both.

  8. BatJamags says:

    “This is breakfast cereal,” Doc said. “It’s basically oats and grains, but there’s a lot of other ingredients for flavouring and nutrition too. This particular brand is Cheerios. May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease!, it says.” He poured his first bowl.

    Igor, I’m going to explain something as calmly and rationally as I can.

    I DON’T FUCKING GIVE A SHIT!

    • TacoMagic says:

      I think the root of Igor’s problem is that, for as much as he wants to say, he actually has nothing to talk about.

      This fic is the literary equivalent of awkwardly looking for a topic after you’re done talking about the weather.

    • GhostCat says:

      Also; oats are a grain, which makes that statement a little redundant…:is thrown in shark tank:

  9. BatJamags says:

    Well, technically they were in Canada, though some Norse artifacts like coins and stuff have been found as far south as Maine. Still, I was more confused about the idea that Americans of Nordic descent need to eat fried eggs instead of scrambled, or how anyone could tell the difference.

    • BatJamags says:

      Crap. That was supposed to be a reply to SC’s comment on my desk flip.

      • SC says:

        Yeah, I deleted that comment because I got the thought in my head that that probably wasn’t what you desk flipped over.

    • GhostCat says:

      That’s not really an accurate way to assess someone’s genealogy. I mean, my area is mostly of Scots-Irish and English descent and we’ll fry damn near anything that sits still long enough.

      • SC says:

        I come from the family line of the dude who bought Alaska, so we can pretty well assume there’s a trace (however slight) of Inuit in me somewhere. Probably Russian too, by that same line of logic.

      • TacoMagic says:

        Mostly Scotch, with traces of Nordic and Mi’kmaq First Nation.

        I never eat scrambled eggs because of the Norse ties. It overrules everything.

        “Wasn’t there some in that breakfast sandwich you-”

        Never. Eat. Them.

      • GhostCat says:

        See, if you were Southern you could have red-eye gravy – which is basically coffee and pork (ham or bacon or both) juices.

      • BatJamags says:

        I’m not exactly sure what I am. I’ve got a lot of German on both sides of my family, along with some Scots-Irish and regular Irish. My mom says she’s 1/8 each Sioux and Apache. There’s probably a fair bit of English mixed in there as well.

        Not sure I can identify any real influences, other than the fact that I like cheese, pretzels, sauerkraut, and bratwurst, I’m somewhat obsessive about doing things just the right way, and I think I’m a lot funnier than I really am.

        Probably comes from my Irish roots.


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