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References and plot-lifting

This is something I'm struggling with in my current story, so advice is very welcome.


Last night, I ignored the story I'm writing for the ficathon in favor of reading a fic on ffnet. It was added to this Doctor & Donna community that I follow, written by one of the authors, junoinferno, that the community owner seems to love, so I read it hoping for a new DD author to follow. The fic I chose was An Ordinary Human Life.

I haven't really decided if I liked it or not. It's an AU in which Donna is married to a tall, skinny man named John Smith and they have four children, and Rose lives in London with Jackie after the Doctor abandoned her after the Sycorax invasion, disgusted that she tore the TARDIS open, committed genocide with the Bad Wolf power, and ignored him when he was sick, letting Mickey and Jackie take care of him while she sat and whined about him dying and changing and abandoning her. I won't reveal any spoilers here, in case you want to read it.

I really liked the structure of the story, which is told in small snippets jumping back and forth in time and viewpoint (each one is told from a different character's eyes, even the children's), rather than in a linear fashion. I'm not fond of her writing style, which tends to be long strings of dialogue without description. I didn't really like the part with the children and the boxes (again, not going into specifics, but if you've read the fic, you know what I mean) but I think that's a personal preference with plot devices like that.

There is, however, one thing that I really didn't like. The story covers events that happen from 1996 to about 2007, which means a lot of the events that happened during the Ninth Doctor's run and Tenth Doctor's first two seasons occur during the story, though either from a different viewpoint (for example, the Sycorax invasion is seen from Donna's point of view on the ground wondering why all these people are standing on the edge of buildings) or handled by different people in different situations. In all of the events, they ended up handling them the same way as they were in the show, with the same dialogue, and it just seemed... forced. That's really the word. I really wanted the characters to come up with their own solutions or at least react differently, but it was the same and it turned me off quite a bit.

And that's what I'm struggling with right now. In one of the stories that I'm working on, it's an AU, and in a couple of cases, the characters end up in situations which are similar in theme to scenes in DW and I have a character saying something that's a direct quote from the show. It's meant to be a reference or a parallel, but I'm wondering if it's too much. Let me give an example off the top of my head. John Smith and Donna Noble are fleeing a sinking ship with two hundred people on it after doing everything they can to try to save them. Donna sees that he has the opportunity to go back in and save one person trapped on the deck. When she points it out, he refuses, and she begs him, "Just someone. Please. Not the whole ship. Just save someone."

This is obviously a direct reference to "The Fires of Pompeii" and is meant to parallel John to the Doctor, but is it too much? Does it come across as lazy? Or worse, pompous, since I'm obviously trying to use the series to bolster the plot of my story? Should I reword it so that it's not a direct quote? One friend I asked said, "People like references. You should keep it," but after reading the fic last night, it's leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Thanks very much for any insight!

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
tkel_paris
Aug. 10th, 2016 09:18 pm (UTC)
I know the story. I have mixed feelings about it, too. I do feel like it could've been given a better treatment, but haven't put the thought into how it should be done. If I did, I'd be writing my own version. :)

If something doesn't feel right, don't include it. Maybe the phrase can be revised to not sound so exact, but still rings true as a parallel?
shivver13
Aug. 10th, 2016 11:36 pm (UTC)
I do plan to read the sequel, even though she's already hinted where it's going. It was interesting enough that I want to find out what happens.

That's a good suggestion - changing it slightly. I'll have to see if I can find a good way of doing that.
dm12
Aug. 10th, 2016 10:42 pm (UTC)
I agree, if it doesn't feel right to you, adapt it so we can still make the comparison, yet works for you.

It's been a very long time since I read that one, but overall (as I remember) I liked it. At least the format was interesting and you got the feeling of jumping around in time. I may need to take another look.
shivver13
Aug. 10th, 2016 11:35 pm (UTC)
Yes, I'll have to think harder about this one. I've been ambivalent about it since I first put the references in, but this story really made me think hard about it.

I also really liked the format. I believe Catch-22 has the same format, where you see snippets of what's happening out of order, and you only figure out what actually happened at the end, when you know all of the events and can put them into the right order. I think I need to keep that in mind for a future story.

Edited at 2016-08-11 12:05 am (UTC)
dm12
Aug. 11th, 2016 01:00 am (UTC)
It can drive a person crazy, though, while trying to figure out how everything fits together! But that's half the fun...
a_phoenixdragon
Aug. 10th, 2016 11:54 pm (UTC)
I don't know the story you are referencing, so I can't comment on that one. But I DO like your Pompeii reference and find it suitable. The parallel feel may be something many readers enjoy as well (I know I do!)

Either way, go with what the Muse wants, honey. If it feels right and sounds right, go for it!

*HUGS*
shivver13
Aug. 11th, 2016 01:31 am (UTC)
Thanks! Though, isn't it the worst, second-guessing everything you write? Argh!! :)
a_phoenixdragon
Aug. 11th, 2016 02:23 am (UTC)
It is...but it gets better, honey. :D Sometimes by questioning ourselves, we gain new insights, new momentum and discover the story for ourselves. If that makes sense. :D
shivver13
Aug. 11th, 2016 04:10 am (UTC)
Id does make sense. It's just funny that sometimes the smallest things, in this particular case four little words, can bring me to a crashing halt. But I'll figure it out. :)
dtstrainers
Aug. 11th, 2016 01:31 am (UTC)
I haven't read the piece you mentioned, but I think references are a dependent on the circumstances of the story. I enjoy a few references and repetitions at time- I mean, New Who routinely repeats lines from Classic Who- but they have to have a reason for their existence. In Who, the self-referential lines serve to either further the story or are presents to classic fans. They're not laziness. As I said, I haven't read the story you're discussing, but it doesn't sound like it meets my criteria.
shivver13
Aug. 11th, 2016 02:00 am (UTC)
Yes, I see what you mean. In the example of the Sycorax invasion, it was very nice to see the story handle it - it drove home the point that the story was set earlier than I thought. With the usual Donna-instead-of-Rose-in-Series-2-and-3 stories, it's set in 2006 or 2007 or so, but having them live through the Sycorax set the year back. I don't think many of the other instances meet your criteria. Thanks for your explanation!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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