Critical Behavior
August 13, 2001

Ok, first and foremost, Iíd like to make it very clear that this rant is NOT meant to:
† † † a) Attack character
† † † b) Publicly whine

Instead, it meant to do the equivalent of musing out loud, and, if Iím REALLY lucky, inspire thought/discussion. Should I slide back to attacking/bitching, dopeslap me. Please. And Iíd like to place some extra emphasis on the thought and discussion bit. I really would love to hear other viewpoints and opinions on this. Feel free to e-mail me (I will respond somewhat promptly!) or use the the forum. Donít worry, the links will show up again later. ;)

I am a horrible procrastinator. While Iím not quite as bad as the roommate who leaves her 5+ page reports until the midnight before theyíre due, Iím sending eternal apologies for the poor people who have letters lurking in my mailbox. Replying to mail is one of my major faults. An even bigger one is actually writing them in the first place. I rarely write to authors/artists, even when I love their work. Itís usually a matter of ďDAMN, that was cool! Ok, move on to their next work, and write later....Ē And that turns into even later, until I forget altogether.

While poking through the garg fan archive the other day, I was moved to mail an author. Urm. I was meaning to leave the name and the fic anonymous, but that sorta makes it hard to explain. Not to mention the details later on make it rather obvious. Blast and botheration. Well, she told me to ask other writers, so Iím taking that as implied consent. If not, it will be taken down the moment she yells at me.

It was initially boredom and random curiosity that prompted me to look at Jenigoyleís fiction, the description for Past Beloved catching my eye. Being insane as I am, I started going through her fic from beginning to end. Iíll restrict remarks about her works in general to the girl has a good eye for detail, but needs to work on adding an antagonist and NOT making Goliath and Elisa so Mary Sue-ish (that, Iíd like to make a cynical note, is merely my own opinion). I finally made it to Past Beloved, and was compelled to write her. Yes, I did put a copy of the letter here. Unedited, misspelled, and all. On a side note, a quick recap of Past Beloved in case you donít want to go read it: back in the tenth century, Goliath encounters a woman who looks exactly like Elisa, he falls for her, they have a subdued, sorta affair before she disappears, leaving nothing behind but questions (she was rather vague about home, family, and anything else that would indicate itís Elisa time traveling), a painting Goliath did of her, and a goodbye letter. Anyway, on with my letter.

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Heyas.

While poking through the garg archive, I stumbled across your fic Past Beloved, and felt I had to comment on it. The premise is interesting, and shows promise, but I had a great deal of problems with the fic. This is not meant as an attack, but hopefully helpful criticism.

The characters were rather off from the show. I don't think Xanatos has ever been visibly nervous, and just because he is "reformed" does not mean he's lost his ability to manipulate, play the odds, and otherwise move people the way he wants. He never does anything without a contingency plan. Fretting over Goliath's reaction doesn't fit that trickster persona, distressed or no.

Goliath also struck me as out of character. He has always been shown as honorable and of high principles, enough so that he wouldn't cheat on his mate. Perhaps consider and angst about, but never actually carry through with. I had difficulty seeing him as a painter (admittedly, part of that might be some nasty flashbacks to Titanic): when would he have the time to take up that hobby, particularly to the skill level of capturing Elisa at photograph exactness? His oath of "God's teeth" bugs me, but that might be because it sounds more like a Shakespearian oath than a medieval one.

There were several factual errors that were a bit glaring, mainly about the relics of Stephanine. The painting and library books (let alone one letter within) could not have survived a thousand years in an uninhabited castle left to the elements. Kept safely away in private colletions they might survive well, but not in an abandoned Scottish castle.

As I said, the plot showed promise, but the story fell apart at the details.

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Honestly, I was rather pleased with myself. I donít like confrontation, and I thought that while it was on the caustic side, Iíd done a halfway decent job of making sure it wasnít hostile, not to mention there was enough humor to make it clear I wrote only to help.

Yikes, that sounds so egotistical. But it WAS my purpose: she shows some talent, so I thought Iíd try to encourage that. Why? Enlightened self-interest, of course. If she writes more fic, and improves her skills, I get more good stuff to read. ;)

Anywhoo. Jenigoyle has a good turn around time for mail. Impressive. Hereís her reply:

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Hey, thanks for writing. Finally, someone who gave me honest criticism!! I've been waiting for this since I started, but no one has given me suggestions. I want to say thanks for your imput. Those details, though minor, are very important (I'm somewhat of a perfectionest). I do want to defend myself on some things though--as for Goliath's "cheating," well, I never saw him and Demona as very close, even in their past. I know, I know, he has integrity, but I thought the fact he would be willing to go for Elisa shows how much they love each other and how deep their connection is. I just wanted to explain that a little bit, but I see where your coming from. It's a matter of perception, I see one thing you see another, and that's totally fine. And as for his painting, I get tired of seeing Goliath as a singularly talented warrior. I felt that kind of thing would give him a little more depth. As for the castle being exposed to elements, perhaps the books were kept somewhere else and preserved--you'll note in my story that Xanatos said he'd gotten them when he'd gotten the castle; he did NOT say he got them there at the castle itself. I could've mentioned that, but it didn't seem important. As for Xanatos's "nervousness" he was just concerned. He was cool and collected as an enemy because he was emotionally distant from the clan--now he wants to repay them for helping Alex...you should know the story. He CARES about them now--he doesn't have that emotional distance anymore. Besides, if you were about to confront Goliath with something that could piss him off, would you be "cool and collected?" Xanatos knows his temper. Well, enough rambling. I just wanted to let you know there was a method to my madness, but I will watch the details later. Now accept a little criticism from me--don't take these fanfics too seriously. We aren't writing classic novels--just having fun. But I do try to write well and effectively, and I appreciate things brought to my attention. Most of the points you brought up though deal greatly with opinion and not fact. Perception can be quite tricky that way. Just try to remember when you give constructive criticism, you have to use facts, not opinions or perceptions, because any author can defend a matter of perception, as I just did. Hope you keep enjoying my work and please feel free to chat with me on Yahoo on Thursday nights, or email me with any more comments or questions. Thanks again and keep reading!

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My thoughts to that were along the lines of ďHmm. Innnnteresting.Ē My next, and probably worst thought of the matter was, ďToo seriously? Since when have I taken things too seriously?Ē ;) ďThis needs answering.Ē

Yeah, you read that right. I was stupid. I wrote her back to continue the... ďconversation.Ē ::winces:: I feel the need for a dopeslap coming on.

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Heyas again. Well, I hope you don't mind if I pursue this, now that things are getting interesting. :) You prefer facts to opinion? All right, let's go for facts, and let the debate begin!

Perhaps Goliath and Demona were not "very close" even at their best, but he loved her. In the Awakening episodes, he treats her with more care than the rest of the clan. Upon meeting her in modern day Manhattan, he promises her anything, mentions that "with you alive, I can start to live again." When she apparently dies falling off the building, he comes close to taking up her cause of genocide (yes, Elisa helped bring him back, but it's not in his character to be that psycho, not to mention Hudson said much the same as Elisa, and I don't think Goliath harbors any romantic feelings for him ;). That reaction is very similar to what he does in Hunter's Moon when he swears vengeance on the Hunters (for both Angela and Elisa), and the whole fight scene in the cathedral. In Outfoxed Goliath laments his integrity has lost his Angel of the night, while Reynard has lost his wife. I do think there's love involved. You mention that you wrote to show how much they love each other. Exactly: "love," present tense, modern day. During the middle ages, Goliath was in love with Demona. Yes, they had different views and goals, and had their disagreements, but I've yet to even hear of a couple that hasn't. The audience has the advantage of being able to look back and say that they weren't the best couple, but this is all hindsight. AT THE TIME, he was in love. He remained in love, if perhaps to a lesser degree because she "wasn't who he thought she was", through at least the first season (he's crying when she rants on in the Awakenings finale). Goliath has long proven his sense of honor (he saved Princess Katherine instead of going after the Captain and Hakon) and loyalty (Awakenings: Demona pulled a bazooka on him, and it took him how long to fight back?), why should that not extend to his "Angel of the Night"?

Goliath and painting. Expanding a character to make them more dynamic is great, but I just can't see him having enough time to learn the necessary skills for the level you're giving him. He was Second, then Leader for the clan. That implies he'd spend a good deal of time settling disputes amongst the clan, dealing with the humans about matters of defending the castle (not to mention settling disputes with them), and actually defending the castle with fighting skills he has to have spent much time practicing. You have him speaking English (presumably the variation spoken in medieval times as well as the present day tongue), Latin, and... *winces* "Celtic" (on a side note, Celtic is a language family, so that's like saying he speaks Romance Languages. I found some pretty decent information about this at www.celticcorner.com/language.html if you want to go further into this). He also reads Spanish, French, Italian, and German. Throw in the usual basics of living in tenth century Scotland (hunting, patrols, hanging out with his friend the Captain of the guard, wooing Demona, hanging out with his other close friends), and that doesn't leave much time at all. As for the art itself, this was the Middle Ages. The focus was on religious related art, with a style that did not include proper proportions or realistic features. Even elements as basic as shadows were not used. Yes, it is possible that Goliath was some sort of prodigy who could use techniques beyond the standard of the time, but that's highly unlikely.

Point, the books didn't have to be in the castle. The story implies that, however. There is no way for a reader to know what did happen to them- although upon a sudden realization, there's not really any way to know that Wyvern even HAD a library in it's original form. For all we know, Xanatos remodeled the armory to hold books. So anyway, should you ever rewrite this fic, you might want to consider mentioning their fate in the past thousand odd years. As you said, it doesn't seem that important, but fleshing out those little details help.

I still don't agree with Xanatos. You talk about him not having emotional distance to the clan. Well, during "Eye of the Beholder," he certainly wasn't emotionally distant from Fox, yet he doesn't get overly emotional the entire episode. He gets horrified when she first transforms, but gets it back together by the time Owen bursts in. He seems vaguely worried about her up through the end, but he never gets to the point of fretting or indecisiveness. There is always another plan. Would I be cool and collected confronting Goliath? Heck no! But I'm not Xanatos. He's faced off with Goliath countless times by this point, if I recall the Goliath Chronicles correctly they had reached a tentative friendship, so he's got that as well as all the favors he's already done the clan to hold over Goliath's head (a hypothetical "I gave you back your home, I saved your clan from the Quarrymen trap, you and yours are close to my family, and you want to kill/maul me? I don't think so. You're far too honorable for that"). Xanatos has also faced off against Demona (City of Stone), not to mention Oberon, who makes even Goliath look like nothing. And he's always won somehow. There is no reason for him to be afraid of pissing Goliath off. Even guilt is a minor matter. When's the last time he showed guilt?

"Don't take fanfic too seriously"? I'm not quite sure how that impression got across (well, ok, after rereading this letter, maybe it sounds like I'm that psycho. :) This is meant more for debate than getting obsessive over "minor details," I believe you put it). Yes, I do totally agree it's just for fun. If it's not fun, it's not worth doing at all. But that doesn't excuse people putting down any random trash that crosses their minds. That's not meant as either attack or view of your work, just a general comment on some of the scarier, poor[er] quality fic out there. The work that goes into making a story historically accurate, factual, and above all realistic (all within the defined universe) only improves writing. Just because it will never get published doesn't mean writers shouldn't strive for the highest possible level of quality in their product. I personally have found that researching details sometimes leads my fic into totally different directions than originally planned simply because history doesn't back up what I first plotted. Of course, there are also the times when facts fit to force onto another path, but all of that takes knowing exactly what you're working with, or at least taking that extra step of research and criticism. There's plenty of poor to mediocre fic out there, this elevates some of those to good or professional level writing.

And yes, I do realize that last paragraph of ranting was more opinion than fact.

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Ok, a bit of anger in there, but my focus was on the debate. She wanted facts, by golly sheíd get facts! Ok, the Celtic rant was a bit out of line (since it was for an entirely different fic), but itíd been bugging me since Iíd read it. And it did relate, sorta kinda, so why not? And I do maintain that nothing was meant as an attack. And that she kept up a very quick response time.

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Yes!! Debate Debate! hahahahahahaha! OK, insanity took over there, sorry ;). Anyways, if you aren't taking this way too seriously and if you don't consider MY work trash as much as you rant on and on, I'd absolutely HATE to get a letter of something you do consider trash. Are you a movie or book critic by profession? Do you write to other authors as well? If you do, congratz on having so much spare time. Now, on for the debate (I never back down from them ;)). I was just reading a fanfic called The Lost Son, maybe you've read it; anyways, the short of it was that Goliath and Coldfire cheated together one night and had a son, Dante, because of it. When Goliath told Elisa, she was upset. She talked to another cop friend about it and I liked what the cop told her. She basically told Elisa that she'd put Goliath on a pedastal and she's just now realizing that he's "human" with faults and shortgivings like everyone. And that's what you've done--you've put Goliath WAY WAY up there. And it is a strict matter of opinion whether or not Goliath would have ever cheated on Demona. No matter what examples of honor you site on Goliath's behalf, you CANNOT deny the fact that you CANNOT speak for him--you do not know what Goliath would or would not do. Nor can I. I just wrote the story as I saw it, not that I particularly thought he'd cheat on Demona, but I wanted to make it plainly clear that his love for Elisa transcended time. Again, that's opinion. But the difference between us is that I admit it. ;) As for Xanatos and Fox in the Eye episode, he was HIDING his concern from Owen--did you not see his expression after saying "Spilled milk" to Owen and then turning away? I'm sorry but you cited a very poor example there--he was simply masking his concern. And that's NOT opinion since I have the look on his face as at least 3/4 accurate evidence. And no matter how many times Xanatos helps the gargoyles, they'll always be a little distrustful IN MY OPINION. You gave your opinion that the gargoyles would trust him after saving their lives in Angels in the Night, but that's your opinion. And I'm tired of all the debates on Demona and Goliath, I don't know about you. So much of it IS opinion, despite examples people try to cite. Didn't it occur to you that Goliath tried to stay with Demona even after knowing she'd betrayed the clan and decieved him because he thought she was the only female gargoyle and they needed her to continue the race? Also, you criticised that I gave Goliath too many talents and that he couldn't have had time to do all of it.

OK, first, painting is a natural talent, you can't "learn" it--you either are a Leonardo di Vinci or you're not. And what else would occupy the gargoyles in the tenth century? TV? Movies? Jobs? They didn't really have any sports or hobbies! You really think he devoted all his nights to warrior and leader training? God, poor Demona must have been sexually frustrated, poor girl! ;) And it's not like I said he did it all the time! My god, he told Elisa as Stephanine that he'd told no one about it really. Again, this is opinion, but you needed to think that angle through. And even though you say you're not attacking, you really are. If you dislike my work that much, write your own stories the way you see fit. And as for constructive criticism, let me help you with that. This is constructive criticism---"In the story such-and-such, you said Hudson was born with his bad eye, but in reality, it was injured in a fight with the Archmage, see ep Long Way Till Morning. That's absolute undisputed fact. See the difference? That's why any fanfic writer you write to in the style you do now will NOT accept what you say as constructive criticism, because it is not constructive criticism. You are giving your opinion, which is fine, but state it as such. You could say, for example, "Jenigoyle, why did you have Goliath as a painter?" Instead you told me that YOU didn't see him as a painter. Well, I'm sorry, but that's your opinion, not constructive criticism. I don't know if I'm explaining well, but I hope your getting the hang of it. And if you're not or if you doubt me, simply talk to some other writers. Show them my email and see what they have to say. Anyways, I'm done rambling. I hope you've learned something. Don't be afraid to write back---I love good debates and I honestly love being proven wrong; keep in mind I said PROVEN. When I learn something new, I'm grateful. That's why I take the time to write to you. And I strongly encourage you to gather the opinions of other authors as well---I am by NO means the expert. Just using common sense. Thanks for writing and I'll hopefully hear from you again.

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Oddly enough, I had read that bit of the Lost Son Saga. I found it rather wince worthy, in it broke most of the rules about garg culture the show set up. ::shrugs:: Which is a long winded way of saying I still donít consider that a good fic to quote from, although the point is good....

So long as I mention Iím doing the opposite of perfecting Goliath. We are talking about the scary gargoyle that committed technical suicide with a spell to make him sleep (for what he considered) forever? Regularly breaks the law to play vigilante? Vowed complete, bloody vengeance on the Hunters for killing Elisa and tried to kill Xanatos for the death of Demona? Right?

::sighs:: Ok, Iím starting to whine. Sorry. Iíll drop that argument unless someone actually wants to debate that with ďfactsĒ from the show.

Back to her response. Yikes. I swear itís not an attack! Defending my point, yes, but attacking? I donít think so. ::sighs again:: Perhaps Iím just too close to the matter. Something else for people to comment on. I will, however, defend the art bit. Apparently there is no need in Jenigoyleís world for art schools, or perhaps theyíre for those without the talent. In my version of reality, there is talent, yes, but thereís also the need to practice and refine the skills that arenít natural. Even da Vinci didnít wake up one morning and just started painting the Sistine Chapel or Mona Lisa!

Aherm. Apologies. I needed to vent on that bit, because I wised up on my response. I concentrated on the bit of her letter that literally left me speechless (well, ok, then I shrieked at the computer for a bit). In a very not happy way.

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"This is constructive criticism---"In the story such-and-such, you said Hudson was born with his bad eye, but in reality, it was injured in a fight with the Archmage, see ep Long Way Till Morning. That's absolute undisputed fact. See the difference? That's why any fanfic writer you write to in the style you do now will NOT accept what you say as constructive criticism, because it is not constructive criticism. "

Ah. Well, if that's your perspective on the matter, then I guess that explains some things. Among them is I should probably just drop the whole matter altogether. We'll only end up irritating the hell out of each other. No, I've never run into that definition before. I've always considered that proofreading, plain and simple. Well, you've had your definition, now here's mine. First off, straight from Merriam-Websters: criticism-the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature; constructive-promoting the improvement or development. So in this case, that means finding the strengths and weaknesses in a piece of writing, and potentially providing suggestions on how to change the weaknesses to strengths (although that might be a side effect of too much time beta-reading). Of course, "weakness" and "strength" ARE generally matters of perspective, so yes, you are going to get opinions. Opinions, however, are based upon fact (admittedly, something faulty. You can get examples like: "Fact, Brooklyn went joyriding, and thought the bikers were kindred spirits, and I think motocycles are cool, therefore, Brooklyn's a really cool, free spirit type of dude". Then there's the other side, that could say "Fact: Brooklyn went joyriding, and thought the bikers were kindred spirits, and mommy said all bikers are nasty scary people, therefore I don't like Brooklyn"). Hmm. This bit about perspective keeps on rearing its ugly head. But I guess that's what it all comes down to. It's impossible to read/watch almost anything without forming an opinion on it.

And if your perspective is that constructive criticism is simply pointing out factual errors, ok. I can see that. I just don't remotely agree with it. So maybe it's just best to let things lie as they are.

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Ok, so this one was a kind of attack. Her definition of constructive criticism shocked me. And I guess, in a way it horrified me. That is PROOFREADING. That is why MC so kindly betas almost everything I do (well, that and sheíd take a baseball bat to me if I didnít share) even while I get Quietus to proof. Much as I love the man for his editing skills, when he needs to ask each fic which universe, not to mention his memory of the show (when mentioning my Brooklyn fetish, I believe the response was along the lines of ďthe birdy one??Ē. Twitch), I need someone to make sure I donít leave cannon. It shouldnít be something you rely on casual readers for, thatís a basic part of the writing process!

Alright, so maybe some things should be taken with a level of seriousness. Just not too much. Then you only turn into a neurotic, whiny geek who spends... too much time... erm... Heh. Moving on. ;)

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Well. That was one-dementional. As as for irratation, nope, doesn't bother me a bit to do this at all. If it bothers you, well, quit. Anyways, I'm enjoying this, so as long as you are too, I have no probs. And that flimsy definition of criticism is soooo open to interpretation. You obviously don't believe what I told you, so take my suggestion and talk to other writers. If you are so sure you are right, do that and prove it. I think people who aren't willing to back their talk like that are afraid to be proven wrong. I'm not. I'm the one who's telling you to give my opinions to other writers--if they disagree, so be it. If not, well, you've lost nothing--you've learned something new, and that's fine. But you must understand by now that you were attacking. And you are the one who keeps this going. Which is fine by me--I quite enjoy it--and I can do it forever. Not many things phase me at all. I am beginning to wonder if you write just to criticise and see if you can have others artforms conform to you. Art is made for an audience, yes, but what good is art if some of the artist isn't in it? Their vision, their passion, must be put into it or it will mean nothing--either to the audience or the artist. And that's why I write--to please others, yes to a point, but to please myself mostly. That's why I have a problem with your character attacks on what my characters, especially Xanatos and Goliath, are doing. They are not out of character IN MY OPINION. We can both give reasons why or why they aren't in character, so that defeats the purpose. You still haven't gotten the concept of constructive criticism, and your going to the dictionary proves it further--Noah Webster wrote the dictionary (basically) and he was a man with opinions as well as you. So it's laughable that you try to defend your opinion of constructive criticism with another opinion of it, simply because it matches what you believe to be right. I used common sense to define it, and again, I challenge you to go to other authors and see what they say. I'm going to write to some others, see what they have to say. I invite you to do the same. Well, I gotta run. It's been fun--hope we can continue! That of course is up to you. It's my pleasure.

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Common sense did finally manage to pound into my head at this point. I dropped the situation cold. And it gets increasingly hard to get past that sentence without turning into SuperBitch. Thank goodness for the delete button. So I guess this is the point to end the mess- and start another. I was challenged to get other opinions on constructive criticism. Yes, feel free to tell me I was an abusive idiot with my mail or whatever, but I know that already. Iím much more interested in what everyone thinks of criticism in general. E-mail, and I will answer (and beg to post, anonymously or not, your call) quickly. Well, in theory. ;) Or leave a message in the forum: thereís already a thread started in the Discussion area. Either way, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE comment.



One more time, to fit the rest of the rants! Comments can be e-mailed to Norcumi@backtick.net, or left in the Forum.

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