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Things I Like and Things I Don't

A sort of laundry list of my likes/dislikes in stories, partly for myself and partly for my Yuletide Santa. Analysis of my psyche may now begin.

Things I love:

Setting, richly described - I don’t care where or of what. I like William Gibson for the ambiance, okay? Also China Mieville, Michael Swanwick, Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Dune... Deserts, forests, cities, huge Gothic buildings, polar tundra.

The wilderness, period - any wilderness.

Big weather. I loved The Day After Tomorrow, okay? Bring on the storm.

Sense of place. This is home. I’m away from home. Now I’ve found my home. Also moments of truth where the choice of leaving or staying signifies a whole lot more than one’s physical location.

Competent women - Zoe on Firefly, Pepper Potts in the Ironman movie. Competence in anyone, period, even in the most unlikely things.

Language and communication barriers, all variations: sign language, muteness, telepathy, language through song/math/fans/whatever.

Hard decisions. Flamboyant gestures.

Moments of grace between enemies/strangers/not-friends. Civility. Extravagant generosity from the heart.

Unlikely alliances - I am a total sucker for people teaming up across age/ideological/political/class/whatever barriers, either briefly or long-term. I especially love it when enemies are isolated together and have to talk to each other.

Isolation, period, socially or physically. One person or a group of people alone in the wilderness. Weird social microcosms that develop with isolation. Sailing ship stories and intrepid-voyagers-to-the-stars stories that do this.

Survival scenarios: stuck on a deserted island, in the wilderness, after the apocalypse. Huge fan of post-apocalyptic survivalist stuff, here, because it serves so many of my narrative kinks: survival, isolation, alliances, plenty of room for moments of grace.

Sympathetic characters.

Characters who live in their heads, who think too much for their own good.

Boarding-school stories.

Grammar and word geekery - I thought the best part of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the grammar jokes.

Humor that comes from context and character, rather than one-liners - my favorite insult in all of BtVS is, “And you have stupid hair!” Humor in serious situations, say House. Humor by weird juxtaposition of elements. Wordplay!

Redemption arcs, and all the character complexity that comes with them.

Emotion that is hinted at rather than stated. Characters disinclined to talk directly about their feelings. Yay, subtext!

Smells. Heightened sense of smell as a special power. Smell as a trigger of memory and a source of information. Sense of smell as a plot point.

Glimpses of the numinous - hard to pull off, but always beloved by me.

Huge scale and scope: historical, geological, astronomical.

Faith in the Christian God - often the kind of faith that’s hanging on by its fingernails, can’t see where it’s going or where it’s been, knows it doesn’t understand, and clings anyway. Faith amidst the darkness.

Angst, sometimes: some days I just want my heart broken. I have a deep and apparently inescapable love for Death-Glory-Tragedy.

Silent observers who see more than people think they do.

Structural funnery of all kinds (loved The Prestige and Memento both for this reason). Funnery with points of view.

Stories that explore the divide between body and identity, the feeling that one’s body is out one’s control, and the vulnerability (physical, emotional, and social) that goes with that. Thus, I tend to like handicapped hurt/comfort fics of all kinds (blindness, lost limbs, paralysis, etc).

Specifically: I have a deep and abiding love for pregnancyfic and mpreg. Bulletproof kinks, yo.

Sarcasm. Dry humor.

Symbiosis and host/parasite situations - mostly as related to SF, obviously.

Seasons, especially autumn (things dying, the fall colors, harvest, preparation for dark times ahead) and winter (snow, the lack of color, the time of settling in and waiting out the storm, higher stakes for survival, warm things (tea, fireplace, beef stew) inside while it’s cold outside).

Things I don’t love

Pettiness. Except sometimes pettiness can be endearing; it really depends on the character.

Characters "realizing" things they have no way of knowing: "She realized they could be happy together"; "He knew that she would never love him back."

When it comes to sexual situations in fiction, I prefer vanilla: no BDSM, non-con, incest, underage sex, slash. In fact, I prefer off-screen vanilla. Yes, I am boring this way.

Sex as recreation, without physical/emotional consequences.

Near misses: those “will she make it in time,” “if he’d only gotten there sooner” scenarios. That movie Serendipity? Hated it. Granted, this is much more an issue in movies/TV than in books.

Relationships that end Because All Relationships are Dooooomed (I’m looking at you, Joss Whedon). Breakups, period.

Love triangles.

Bathroom humor. Most sexual humor (although this is sometimes trumped by my love of wordplay).

Humiliation of the protagonist due to being a fish-out-of-water, being ignorant, being overconfident... A moment is fine, but extended scenes of this, especially when you know the guy is about to make an utter fool of himself, make me run away and hide. Literally. I leave the room.

Stupid characters. Like, characters that make you go, “No, no, stupid, don’t do that.” Like the parents in “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” for example. Characters that make choices that are obviously stupid to anyone who’s ever read a fairy tale. (This is different than multi-dimensional characters that make occasional stupid choices with character-consistent build-up. That I’m okay with.)

Overstatement: “It was the most peaceful sleep he’d ever had.” Unless it’s for comic effect - see P.G. Wodehouse.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 14th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Characters that make choices that are obviously stupid to anyone who’s ever read a fairy tale.

Okay - what if they're in a fairy tale? Still a problem?
Nov. 14th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
If it's an actual fairy tale, then no. But I don't read fairy tales the way I do regular fiction, and I don't expect from them the same fundamentals like distinguishable characters, explicable motivations, and worldbuilding that makes sense.
Nov. 14th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)

It's like... if I'm reading a regular story, and a character is described as "incredibly good looking", I wince. If a fairy tale describes them as "the fairest in the land", I nod and keep reading. Different rules.
Nov. 14th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
Nov. 16th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
Someone else who has the handicapped kink going. I thought I was the only one. I'm on board with the faith/God one too. And if you're vanilla, I'm vanilla with vanilla bean pieces.

Interesting to see your likes and dislikes.
Nov. 16th, 2010 01:12 am (UTC)
Well, it's really easy to do handicapped h/c badly. But when it's done well, I love to see both the comfort itself and the comfortee coming to terms with their new difficulties.
Nov. 16th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
I agree. It's hard to find a good one. But yeah, done well, it's gold. And I know that most of the time, especially in Spuffy, everyone gets better. But I don't mind it if they don't, as long as they, as you say, come to terms with it. Makes an interesting story.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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