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Anla'shok PM
Biography
Joined May '12

"We walk in the dark places no others will enter."
"We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass."
"We live for the One, we die for the One"

– Anla'Shok credo (Babylon 5)


Welcome, reader!

Once upon a time there was a kid with a head full of stories. Awkward stories with overpowered characters, an unfocused plot and all too many adverbs. Many trees were tragically killed as those stories were written and rewritten on paper. Until the kid, one feet into the adult world, realized she'd stumbled upon a story worth sharing. It was about other kids murdering each other. Or, to be fair, how impossible situations break or make us. It was about monsters and heroes, and everyone in between.

And that's how it all began, with the Hunger Games. I cared little for the love triangle and very much for the politics, the perverse power of propaganda and terror, the impact of traumatic events. I wrote about people, survival, rebellions and dictators. Suzanne Collins' world is a wonderful sandbox and the research I had to do to write my stories has made me a wiser person.

Finishing graduate school left me with little creative energy and even less free time. I finally started writing again after a year and a half of hiatus, hungry to flesh out some of J.K. Rowling's minor characters. I'd missed my imaginary friends.

Now I'm to very soon become a mom (how time flies!). No promises made for the future, except that I'll finish what I started.


The best praise I can give a story is that it made me think.

MY STORIES

HARRY POTTER

The first fandom I was ever part of, so maybe it's only fitting I'd finally contribute to it now.

1 - Lots of love (and some dark magic)

We've all read about all kinds of Lily Evans-Potter, the ones that can't do anything wrong and the ones who seem to hold a grudge for absurd reasons. The ones who marry for love and the ones who were fed love potions by an evil James Potter. I enjoyed meeting them all, but now I'm presenting my own. The one that makes sense to me.

The girl born in the 70s who got married at the tender age of 18. Who was said to be the brightest muggleborn witch of her generation yet chose to have a child at 20. The woman who fought in a war and somehow protected her son from the killing curse.

"The power of love," Dumbledore said. Blood magic, canon keeps repeating. Come on, there's no way that's not dark. But how could a muggleborn barely out of her teens, and married to a light wizard, have access to such knowledge? Well, that's where former Slytherin best friends come in.

Chapter 2 is about The Love, Lily's spell inside Harry, the Horcrux and young Harry growing up at the Dursleys.

2 - Defiant Until the End - In Progress

Lots of Love didn't quench my thirst for Lily and James, so we're back to war stories. It's sometimes easy to forget that those two are just teenagers in love trying to navigate a war much too big for them. We all know how it ends, but, Merlin, they put up a glorious fight.

I also wanted to focus on the "born to those who had thrice defied him". With the idea they had defied him together three times, as partners. Too often in stories Lily stays home, somewhat helpless until that fateful Halloween night, while James is out fighting the bad guys. So, yes, Lily is no auror, but that doesn't mean she's twiddling her thumbs. As for the fighting, let's be real: James isn't out there dueling Voldemort and his chief Lieutenants. That would make for one short, tragic story. Reality is much messier.

Slow updates.

3 - The Choices that Make Us - In Progress

The Blacks in all their glory. Dysfunctional families are a horror in real life and a goldmine in writing.

Sirius, Regulus and Narcissa are some of the most complex characters of the HP universe and I just couldn't not dig further. Andromeda's backstory says so much in so few sentences. And Bellatrix, almost the perfect villain, so fascinating because she's not the perfect villain. Why is she so loyal to the Dark Lord? How much of her was already there and how much was damaged by Azkaban? What were the Black sisters like, before they grew apart?

This story is actually pretty tough to write, because there's a lot of dysfunction and outright abuse (even if I try to keep it reasonably light and offhand, on the surface, with the Blacks not quite realizing what's wrong until they're in their early-to-late teens, depending), and the main characters themselves have warped conceptions of things because of their upbringing. The point is they don't think like me. Which is half the fun, and most of the challenge. I also struggle to let my characters make bad decisions, so I'm hoping that my motivation to keep the Blacks in character will be strong enough to cure me of that particular flaw.

POKEMON

Easier Said than Done

When I was a novice teenage writer, I wrote a pokemon story I never showed to anyone. An epic Journey tale. It was terrible, but like most terrible things you pour your heart in, I'm fond of it. Today, I have rewritten it, and behold, it now actually has a plot!

Summary: Two best friends begin their Journey, their minds filled with dreams of freedom and adventure. On the fifth day their starter pokemon are stolen by a talking gengar. That's when trouble begins.

Or how two pre-teens run away on a journey and get in trouble because they'll have to give up their dreams if they ask for help. It's about navigating friendships and figuring out who you are (aren't all stories?). And of course, pokemon, those creatures that can be geniuses or near animals, slaves or their trainers' best friends, and who most importantly have their own ambitions.

HUNGER GAMES

1 - Showdown: No Holding Back

Twenty-four teenagers, willing and unwilling, are thrust in the 63rd Hunger Games. The Gamemakers have set the scene: a televised arena of stone, ice and creepy holograms. Behind the scenes, Capitol sponsors send money to whomever they find the most entertaining, leaving boring tributes to their tragic fates. Every single teenager, and most of all the trained Careers, knows they must not only survive, but also offer their audience a riveting show.

The second part of Showdown follows the victor. It explores Capitol politics, President's Snow grab for power, PTSD, mentor-relationships, and finishes with the Rebellion.

Showdown's characters are all my own (it's not a SYOTS). Canon mentors, President Snow, and Caesar Flickerman have minor roles that become more major after the Games end.

Edited in 2015-2018. Showdown was the first piece of writing I exposed to public scrutiny, and my first foray in the Hunger Games universe. After writing Checkmate, I wasn't satisfied with some aspects of Showdown, most notably the Careers' characterization and the 'it's a televised game' aspect. It's much better now, go read it :D.

2- Checkmate

I'd finished Showdown and didn't know what to do with my life anymore, so I decided to write a story featuring Hunger Games that weren't Games in the traditional sense. Checkmate is a story of rebellions, of cracks in the system that expand day by day, over decades. In my head-canon, Katniss put fire to a pile of kindle built by generations of rebels before her. She was the spearhead of the rebellion, and Checkmate is about the spear.

The central characters is Mags, District Four victor extraordinaire. She's lived through everything, and she knows what's up. Checkmate's aim is to paint the history of Panem, from just after the Dark Days up to and including the Second Rebellion, by living it alongside Mags but also Plutarch, Finnick, Paylor, Alma Coin and other major and minor character's.

Mags was first and foremost a mentor. You'll see that every victor has a tale, every system has its secrets, and yes I am quite proud of my monster of a story.

Checkmate: Behind the Scenes. Because Checkmate is over 600k long (and deserves to be edited, but I can't bring myself to do it), and even I try to keep the filler to a minimum, but some filler, even when it doesn't quite fit in the story, is still worth a look. So in Checkmate BtS it goes.

3 - The Career (one shot).

The first Hunger Games had one big flaw: the tributes wouldn't kill. The horror was there, but not the entertainment. The victors were broken and pathetic. After Vicuña's brother died in the Games, Vicuña decided no innocent in District One would ever be reaped again. The Games would be for girls and boys like her: those who had nothing to lose and would not regret their victory. She'd give the Capitol the entertainment it sought if that was the price to pay. She was the first Career.

'The Career' is about Hell being paved by good intentions, how the Games evolve, who the Careers are, and why Mags is a very special kind of Career (it's also an offshoot of Checkmate, but it's stand-alone).

4 - SYOTS Writing for Dummies

I got tired of reading stories held together by a bunch of good ideas and crap execution. I got even more fed up with authors who blame lack of conflict or poor characterization on 'the submitters' who 'won't review if the author is mean to their characters' because come on. So I thought hard about writing and tributes and arenas, and what made me say a story was good or wasn't. SYOTS WfD is all about turning advice into something fun to read and enlightening for beginner and confirmed writers alike.

And after writing a few chapters, I realized I should take my own advice. So I edited Showdown.

5 - Legacy of the Darkest Days: the origin of the Hunger Games (oneshot - for now)

Why the Hunger Games? Of all the things the Capitol could come up with, they picked Hunger Games? Was it vengeance, politics, chance? Was in intentional, or did something go very wrong? Was there an actual long term plan besides murdering kids? Why were people okay with it?

A long oneshot about the Dark Days and how they gave birth to the Hunger Games.


FUTURE STORIES

Actually being worked on

Harry Potter one-shots and short stories. Mostly pre-canon. What's more fun than digging in an already rich universe?

On the back-burner

Easier Said than Done (Book 2): this time with bonus psychic abilities, conflict between psychics and normals, and interfering alakazam. ON HOLD. I'm not sure where I want to go with this. It's been partially written, rewritten, never finished and I've come to realize I'm trying to tell too many stories in one.

SYOTS Writing for Dummies (continued) : I've written about conflict, characterization, world-building, juggling multiple characters, and plain old logic. So that's already a bunch off stuff to take in. I'm not saying there never will be anything else, though. But nothing's planned short term, unless somebody comes up with a good prompt.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

This is, off the top of my head, a short list of books I heartily recommend for fantasy lovers. Fantasy is not the only thing I read, but it was the easiest to make a list for. If you want recommendations for non fantasy, send me a PM.

The Empire Trilogy, by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts. One of my all time favorites. Everything from plot, to characters and worldbuilding is top notch.

The Bloodless Assassin (and sequels), by Celine Jeanjean. Excellent fantasy.

Circe, by Madeline Miller. A new take on Greek Mythology. Stunning. I really need to buy and read her other stuff.

The Fifth Season (and sequels), The Killing Moon (and sequel), by NK Jemisin. Not the most gripping characters, but I love the worldbuilding and settings of Jemisin's books. I'd never read something quite like it.

Red Rising (trilogy), by Pierce Brown. Dystopian YA. If you liked the Hunger Games, go for it.

The Bartimaeus trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. YA. A gripping story that never fails to make me laugh.

The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. MZB's Darkover universe has some gripping books too.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. A poetic and haunting battle between mages through their apprentices. The writing style is superb.

Just about anything by Terry Pratchett. Very clever and funny fantasy that doesn't take itself too seriously. Neil Gaiman also comes to mind.

The early trilogies of Raymond E. Feist (awesome medieval/Tolkien style fantasy).

Inkheart (and sequel), The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke. MS/YA. Haven't had that much fun reading books marketed for kids in ages.

Oh, and the "classics" of course: Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Dune (Frank Herbert) and prequels... but if you're here, you've probably already heard all about them.

Aaaand, I'll probably add a few.

Fantasy series that start strong (the last books are totally readable, but I just wasn't as hooked as for the first tome) : His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Ender's game (and sequels) by Orson Scott Card. House War by Michelle West. Blood Song series, by Anthony Ryan. Lightbringer, by Brent Weeks.

TV Series

The Expanse (brilliant Sci-Fi like I had given up of ever finding again). Babylon 5 (Sci-Fi. I love you sooo much. But it's a 90s series, new viewers might faint at some of the special effects, and some of the early seasons pacing.) The Wire (One of those series that changes how you see the world). Once upon a Time (starts very strong, then... *sigh, but wow, so many characters to love). Penny Dreadful (gothic victorian, with a bonus poetry-loving Frankenstein monster), Sense8, Doctor Who, Avatar: the Last Airbender, Hannibal, Sherlock, Jessica Jones, Star Trek, Game of Thrones...

...and a whole other bunch, probably. But the ones above are the ones that really stayed with me.


A short guide on avoiding unlikable over-the-top characters

And on figuring out if that nasty reviewer has a point or if they're just bashing on your perfectly fine (original) character.

Mary Sue: name originally given to an author self-insert. Now more broadly used for an overpowered character (male or female) who hogs all the attention in a story and has no real challenge to overcome -also called 'pampered protagonist' out there on the web-.

How to know if you are in danger of writing a Mary Sue? I have written my own "rules" because, in order to avoid Sues (or turning canon characters into Sues), most internet guides would have you make boring characters instead of interesting and special non-Sueish heroes. And because many people throw around the word "Sue" for original characters they dislike.

Mary Sue rules:

0) Ask yourself honestly: is this story about the plot, about character growth and overcoming obstacles, or is it about showing how awesome your hero is, and bashing characters you dislike? If it's the latter, you most certainly have a Sue.

Now, if it's a hero loads of people love, and you're bashing characters loads of people dislike, a well-written Sue story can still be very popular ('SuperHarry' trope, anyone?).

1) Sue/Canon-character-turned-Sue is much more powerful (or wealthy, or smart) than the antagonists and therefore winning is no challenge (often wrongly shortened to 'Sue has no flaws').

Heroes traditionally have to sacrifice things to get their way. Heroes should be special. They also should face villains/situations that are at first glance even more powerful or there is no conflict. It's hard to root for someone who doesn't have to break a sweat to get their way.

2) People become idiots/pushovers around her.

If to make Sue shine you have to make the other characters weak/stupid/cliche or too out of character, you're doing it wrong. If she's the only one to notice something obvious, there is a problem. If no-one ever contradicts her, if they let her walk all over them, if people immediately trust her or think she's important for no reason except the fact that she's Sue, you've lost the realism and often the reader's interest.

In the same way, if everyone becomes hateful bullies, mistreating her for no reason, it's ridiculous. Be careful with "tragic pasts". These should never be slapped on just for sympathy points and, please, research trauma and abuse, as well as its consequences on people, before writing about it.

3) She's always the right person in the right place at the right time.

Some situations require an impulsive and aggressive hero to tackle, others require patient planning and subtlety. If you make your character aggressive, subtle, impulsive and patient you have a coherence problem. You should throw big stakes-filled trouble at your characters, and make them tackle situations out of their comfort zone. You should allow them to fail, to face consequences, to be wrong. That's where they'll grow.

Also, there's nothing more satisfying than seeing a hero deserve their victory. Don't hand it out to them.

4) She's special because she exists, not because she does anything truly noteworthy. Everyone important must either love or hate her, or at least talk about her.

If everyone says a character is a great person and/or awesome, you have to show them *being* truly good and/or awesome. That's a label you've got to earn. Not treating people like dirt is not 'good'. That's normal. Don't make everyone else treat others like dirt to make your normal character look good in comparison.

If you notice that every antagonist hates (but still grudgingly respects) Sue and makes their life all about hating her (but being ineffective at making her life truly difficult), rethink it. If everyone who dislikes her is evil/stupid/a deluded liar, rethink it. In the same way if people let Sue get away with everything because she's just that special, there is a problem.

Whatever you do, a story must be interesting. Readers are quickly going to remember there's a whole internet full of interesting things out there.

5) Readers can't relate to Sue.

This one is maybe the hardest, because it's subjective, but there are some constants: a likable character (hero or villain) has motives and aspirations people can understand. Good protagonists struggle and don't always get their way. They're not always right. Their actions have consequences (flaws 'count' only if they penalize the character. Otherwise, it's not an actual flaw) and they have fears, insecurities and feelings (that aren't overblown. Too much angst is a turn off). Everyone should have something they care about, something to lose, and something to fight for. And if they're a traditional hero, have empathy and do their best to treat the people around them well.

6) This doesn't feel like fanfiction of the chosen fandom.

Remember, you're writing fanfiction. If we lose the feel of the original universe, it's become original fiction. That's not what the readers are here for. We want something new but still familiar. As usual, if the writing's excellent, it's possible to pull it off. But why make your life that difficult?


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