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Obsolete: Fic/Author of the Month

Thesaurus rex
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This month we're featuring as star author the lovely @Juliko! She's the author of quite a few stories by now, notably the journey fic Pokémon: A Marvelous Journey, but also a host of other one-shots. We didn't have a studio to sit her down in, but here's what she has to tell us anyway:

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BP: You've published a variety of stories on Bulbagarden now: what has been your favourite genre to write, and why?

Juliko: Well, I wouldn't say that I have a specific favorite genre to write. I just kinda write when inspiration strikes, or when I feel like it. I have been experimenting with short stories lately, like with Bubble Buddies, my Popplio one shot (Even though that was written before concrete info on Sun and Moon came out, so it's terribly dated at this point), and Less Is More, my Doki Doki Literature Club one-shot, and I've been finding writing those to be pretty fun. If I really had to pick a favorite, it would be slice of life. You can do just about anything with it. You can write about silly stuff, like a bunch of kids having fun just for fun, or you can write about people having to deal with various real life problems, like divorce, illness, death, and other things. Slice of life tends to get a bad rep, especially in the anime community, for having a bunch of stories in that genre being about people...well, doing nothing, but it actually has a lot more wiggle room than people tend to assume in terms of writing. I haven't posted it on here, but I feel that my best work, which happens to be slice of life, is a Harvest Moon fan fic I wrote called Open Book. It's just about two girls who become friends, but I've gotten a lot of praise for it on Fanfiction.net, so slice of life as a genre does have value, right?

BP: Which do you prefer writing: long stories, or one-shots, and why?

Juliko: I don't really have a particular preference. Both formats have their good points and bad points. I've been experimenting with one shots lately, and those have proven to be pretty good for certain things, but I do want to work on more long stories, since I have sooooo many ideas on long stories that I really want to write in the near future. I did finish a long Tales of Zestiria fan fic earlier in the year, which was about 22 chapters long (Which is kinda long by my standards), and it's rare that I actually complete a long story. Of course, I tend to lose inspiration and motivation for certain things, and it can happen when I'm writing a long story, to the point where I don't really want to work on it anymore, which is a shame since I feel like I'm abandoning something I'm working hard on. Thankfully, I don't intend to leave the long stories I'm working on right now to the dust. I'm getting very close to MarJour's end, I started on a long Harvest Moon fic which I intend to work on after this, and I intend to see them through. I planned them out and outlined them in notebooks that I keep, so I know how long they'll be and how I want them to go. The tricky part is getting them down on paper in the way I want them to.

BP: It's been a while since we last talked about Pokémon: A Marvelous Journey. How has the story progressed in that time?

Juliko: Hoooo boy. A LOT has happened in-story. The characters get more badges, Team Rocket's up to some pretty bad things (Though I do realize that I need to follow up on one subplot I haven't gotten around to working on much fairly soon), the trio learn some pretty harsh lessons about life and doing the right thing, Caiseal faces some of his inner demons and opens up about his past, and since the story is getting very close to ending, there's still more to come! Considering MarJour has been my pet project since August of 2015, I've labored over it, constantly experimenting with later chapters and applying new things that I've learned, both on here, Fanfiction.net, and other places to improve it from some of the admittedly rough early chapters. It's been a really great, enriching experience working on it, and I've loved Pokemon since I was a kid. Plus, I've FINALLY been able to write certain chapters that I've been dying to write ever since I started planning it out, so the next couple chapters I'm working on right now will be a breeze to write! I'm really happy that I managed to come this far with it, even more so that people love it as much as I do. It currently has almost 400 reviews on Fanfiction.net, which is the most reviews I've ever gotten on any story ever. So even though I know parts of the story aren't particularly great compared to others that I've read, I'm happy that I've worked on it as much as I have and that people read it.

BP: A lot of your characters seem to be square pegs in society. Does this theme hold any special significance for you?

In a way, yes. I'll admit, I've had it easier than others that I know, but I've always been fascinated by stories about people who never really fit in, who yearn for friends and to be loved but others just can't stand them or don't want anything to do with them, often for really stupid reasons if you apply logic to them. I was always the weird kid in my school years, the kid who loved Pokemon, anime, manga, games, and all that stuff. I got along better with boys instead of girls, the latter of which were mostly interested in makeup, fashion, boy bands, rap music, clothes, and going to the mall, and I never really saw what the big deal was with those. It didn't help that for some reason, which I still can't fathom how it came about to this day, from 7th grade all the way to the end of my senior year in high school, whenever some people saw me, they would sing the Barney song. You know, the one that goes "I love you, you love me..." and all that crap. But that was about as far as any bullying I had went. I still made friends and gained a really good support network, but being autistic does come with its own set of challenges in and of itself. One of the first books I read of my own volition was Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah, which is an autobiography of a woman's early childhood where she was ostracized by everyone in her family because her mother died after giving birth to her, and everyone considered her bad luck, even though, if you apply logic to it, it wasn't her fault, and if her family could have been more reasonable, they'd have realized that these things just happen and that Adeline shouldn't be blamed for something beyond anyone's control. I guess in some way, themes of being ostracized and shunned do resonate with me, and there's always one or two characters in my stories who have to deal with those things. I do wonder if I'm going a bit overboard with it sometimes.

BP: What kind of challenges does adapting the game's story present? Do you prefer game or anime tropes?

Juliko: Actually, I haven't found adapting the game to be challenging at all. I don't really have a particular preference when it comes to the game or the anime, as both have their good points and bad points. But I do find writing battle scenes to be one of my weaker points. Writing epic action scenes have never been my strong suit, and many authors I know are able to write them far better than I can. I've been trying to rectify this, though whether I'm succeeding or not is still up for debate. I have decided that I wouldn't write about the anime, specifically about Ash and friends, since, 1. I've read other stories that write about them far better, 2. I'm just not interested in writing about Ash and friends, and 3. I wanted to write a story about OCs from the start, since with OCs, you can make them into whoever and whatever you want without the constraints of an already established character and the strict rules that come with it. But I did intentionally take some tropes from both the anime and the game to make up MarJour's universe, including some stuff from Pokemon Adventures (I personally consider that to be the best adaptation of Pokemon, and it was the very first manga I ever read) and other Pokemon media. I've even thrown in little references here and there, so there's a treat for every PokeManiac out there, with more to come in later chapters!

BP: You say you're a big deerling fan - tell us about that!

Juliko: Oh my God, I can go on and on about this for years! Seriously, I LOVE Deerling. It's my favorite Pokemon ever! Ever since I was a kid, I've always wished for there to be a deer Pokemon. I didn't like Stantler all that much, because...well, it wasn't cute! Deer have always been one of my favorite animals, and I'd always be delighted to see one, whether in my home state or somewhere else. Though, ever since I moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, I've been seeing a LOT more deer, especially in our yard, so more deer is always a plus for me! But before Black and White came out, I was content with Pikachu, Chikorita, and Buneary being my favorite Pokemon of all time, but I did wish that GameFreak would make a cute deer Pokemon. Then Deerling was revealed. My God, I fell in love with it at first sight! Come on! It's a cute, Bambi-like fawn Pokemon that's pink and has a flower on its head and changes color when the seasons change and it's just so freaking adorable! I knew I HAD to put it on my Black and White team as soon as I saw it! I always name the male Bambi and the girl Faline, because, well, Bambi reference, ha ha ha, and Bambi's my favorite Disney movie of all time, so why not? I loved it even before it's English name was announced, I've drawn lots of pictures of Deerling, I keep a crap ton of Deerling pictures and screenshots in folders in my hard drive, and one Christmas, my best friend from high school ordered a Japanese Deerling plush off of Ebay, which I still have to this day, and I cherish it with every fiber of my being. Oddly enough, I've never been able to write Deerling in any of my fics save for one, and in that one it was just a minor character, which is a shame, because I really want to! I do have one potential fic planned with Deerling as a main character, but there's still a bunch of things I want to smooth out before writing it. Although, Pokemon Adventures kind of wins points since one of the main characters catches a Deerling (YEEEEES). That said, I actually think Deerling's French name, Vivaldaim, is pretty amazing and creative. So...yeah, I'm a Deerling fan girl and probably will be until the day I die. Nothing can top its cuteness for me!

BP: Has Disney had any influence on your writing?

Juliko:
I'm...not sure where that came from. What makes you think that? I love some Disney movies and all (with Bambi, Tarzan, and Fantasia being my faves), but they've never really been the main influences on my writing. That honor goes to anime, manga, books, and games. But lately, I've been reading more books, and I've been trying to learn more about writing and writing styles in general so I can polish my own. Even other fan fics that I read have influenced my writing a lot. To be honest, I really want to be a published writer someday, and I want to learn as much as I can so I can achieve the level of skill and polish that can justify getting published.

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That's all for this month! Remember, there's a bonus 2 Review League points available this month for reviewing anything Juliko has written
 
Princess of Dorkness
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Hello! This month, rather than focus on a story, author or other event of the month, we'll be focusing on our first reviewer of the month! Interested in becoming reviewer of the month yourself? It's as simple as achieving 1000 lifetime points in the Review League! As such, the reviewer of the month for March 2019 is none other than @Beth Pavell! Let's get into the questions.

Q: Which do you prefer to read and review? Longer stories, or shorter stories?

A: The length of the story doesn't really matter to me, I find. Most stories are released serially anyway, so I'm usually reading a chapter at a time. That being said, I like to finish a chapter in one sitting, so really long ones can be a trial. After about 7,000 words it can start to feel like you're really reading an arc rather than a chapter. You can leave some chapters half-read and come back to them, but finding where you left off on a forum isn't completely straightforward. I've noticed that some authors, aware of this problem, split their chapters across several posts, which does help. Often the choice of where to split it makes good narrative sense, though it does beg the question of why they're not simply separate chapters in the first place.

I've never really understood why some readers are put off by long stories. My feeling is that I can read as much or as little of them as I like - actually with a long story there may be enough chapters for me to read at my own pace.

Q: Have you ever found inspiration for your own story in something you reviewed? If so, can you provide an example?

A: Back before she started Land of the Roses, Misfit Angel had a story called Storm Island, which some older members may remember. At the beginning of Season 2, the protagonists end up shipwrecked, kicking off a survival arc for the next two or three chapters. I had once before thought about writing a silly AU-style spin-off, with Joshua Cook of my own The Long Walk in a kind of Cast Away parody, but this one got me thinking, and then actively writing. The result was a 'between the scenes' chapter where Josh recounts being stranded in the wilderness north of the Lake of Rage. It's a little different insofar as the characters aren't complete magikarp out of water, but certainly different in tone compared to the rest of the story.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of a story to comment on? Which is the easiest?

A: I suppose that technical accuracy and style are the easiest to comment on. Technical accuracy is pretty simple - it's a matter of right and wrong usages, with some small grey areas. Style is tied with worldbuilding, I suppose. Style is a little more difficult, since you could say that's where the real art of writing lies. But for that same reason I like to think about it, discussing the stylistic choices the author makes and whether I find them effective or not. Worldbuilding can easily overlap with style, since it's not all about what makes sense in the world, canon vs non-canon, etc. Worldbuilding choices are often stylistic ones, where the details of the world support the tone of the story.

Q: Similarly, what is the most difficult, and which is most uncomfortable to provide feedback on?

A: I have a really hard time commenting on fanfiction when I'm not familiar with the source material, or canon as it is usually called. In the context of Pokémon this usually means Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. All fanfiction, to a greater or lesser extent, is borrowing from the tropes of the canon (Certain genres of fanfiction have common tropes all of their own). So I always worry I'm going to be criticising something that isn't the author's invention, but comes from the canon. Similarly, most fanfiction won't bother to explain ideas and concepts that are basic to the canon - anyone who knows anything about Pokémon knows what a Poké Ball is, so fanfiction authors never bother to explain it. All this can leave you somewhat locked out if you're coming into the fanfic 'fandom-blind'.

Probably the other biggest 'uncomfortable' moment comes from noticing a really big problem in the story, the kind of problem that would demand a huge rewrite to mend. No author wants to have to scrap the majority of their story - it's demoralising, and I try above all not to demoralise in my reviews.

Q: How do you feel if an author ignores your feedback? Does it make it harder to continue providing feedback?

A: That depends what you mean by 'ignore'. Rule one of being a fanfiction reader is that you are not a customer: the author owes you nothing. So I really have no bone to pick if the author does nothing to change their story in response to the feedback I'm giving. I may stop reading, but there's no rancour involved. That being said, as a matter of common courtesy I think authors should at least drop a Like on the reviews they receive. Authors that don't do that tend to get their stories kicked down to the bottom of my list. Because yes, it absolutely makes it harder to keep reviewing. It's harder still when the author responds to feedback, but does so in a way that's essentially argumentative, either explaining away negative criticism or trying to explain why you didn't get it.

Q: What kind of advice could you offer to those that are interested in reviewing themselves, but are unsure of how to do it?

A: The first thing I'd say is that reviewing doesn't have to be some kind of high intellectual art. Most authors aren't expecting that, either. At its heart, a review is you saying what you did like, and didn't like, about the story (And being polite about it!). Yes, there are finer points to giving good reviews, but isn't that true of everything?

If you find yourself lost for words, it may help to divide your thoughts into categories. My Technical Accuracy/Style, Story, Characters, etc, are probably familiar by now, and I've certainly found them useful ways of organising thoughts.

Q: Similarly, what advice could you offer that would cover most types of authors?

A: Get the basics down. Technical accuracy is the easiest issue to mend in a story, but it makes such a disproportionate difference to how your story looks. Likewise, spend a little time on the presentation. Chapter titles standing out nicely, author's notes tidily separated from the rest of the story ... all those little touches that make the story just a little bit easier to read.

When it comes to taking feedback, I've found it helps to read it once, then ignore it for twenty four hours. That helps to stop knee-jerk reactions from blinding you to useful criticism. Processing feedback is the point here - maybe you'll think about it and decide that you're not going to change anything, maybe you'll decide the reader has a point and make some big revisions.

Q: Of all of the stories you've read along the way, what would your top three recommendations be?

A: Well, that's a bit of a "how long is a piece of string?" question. I suppose the following are stories that are worth trying even if they're not usually to your taste, and that's why I'm recommending them:

- some rise by sin, by kintsugi: One of the overlooked strengths about this story is kintsugi's willingness to rewrite based on the feedback she gets. The result is a story that reads consistently strongly, having been improved several times over the years. I often think some rise by sin isn't given enough credit for the emotional maturity of the writing, perhaps overshadowed by the YA genre and some of its own clichés. To an extent, kintsugi has grown into the story as an author.

- Love and Other Nightmares, by diamondpearl876: Although, almost any of her stories could potentially go here. These are stories you should give a try simply because you'll never read anything quite like them. diamondpearl876 is an author who constantly defies genre and cliché, even by fanfiction standards. This isn't a crackfic (Which are highly predictable in their own way). It's different. I sometimes think that her stories are a little too different for their own good, though as of the current rewrite Love and Other Nightmares is more rigorous in the finer points of plot progression.

- Different Eyes, by unrepentantAuthor: This one actually isn't to my taste, but it's the sort of thing that's a rare find. Different Eyes is a pokémorph story that's disinterested in being cool or fetishistic. unrepentantAuthor's prose is firmly competent and highly polished I think the plot is romanticised, though whether that's a positive or negative trait is really in the eye of the reader.

Q: Do you have a favorite genre that you like to read/review? A least favorite?

A: I do like to read slice-of-life, that blurrily-defined genre encompassing a lot of common plots. There is surprisingly little of it in the Pokémon fandom, dominated mostly by the journeyfic. Journeyfics are notorious for falling into cliché, and indeed many of them are game rewrites that are really more melodrama than slice-of-life. When I find a good one I tend to stick to it. Land of the Roses is the currently active one in the Writers Workshop at the moment.

Conversely, I'm not a huge fan of the 'dark fic'. There's a little more of this out there, and a lot of it is predicated on the idea of a 'realistic' Pokémon world. Problem is, a lot of authors' idea of realism is quite juvenile. I have occasionally come across some done reasonably well (some rise by sin being an exception), but on the whole, this genre usually ends up near the bottom of my priority list.

Q: How have you kept yourself motivated to continue reading the longer stories?

A: The hardest scenario is probably when I'm reading a story I'm not in love with, but don't hate either. I have a rule where if I actively don't like a story, I'll stop reading (So yes, I think 'don't like, don't read' absolutely has some value). But some stories are just ... ok. I'll try and pace myself with those. For Awards judging I've read a chapter per day so it doesn't feel overwhelming.
 
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