skazka: (young hannibal chilling by a tree)
skazka ([personal profile] skazka) wrote2014-10-12 12:13 am

Dear Yuletide Writer 2014: The Writening

It's that time of year! And without further ado, I am going to totally jump the gun on posting this nonsense.

This letter gets kind of rambly, so if it's seriously tl;dr you're not obliged to wade through the whole thing. Style and format-wise, I'm wide open to whatever you want to do -- if this is the Yuletide you want to want to branch out into writing interactive fiction, or 2k of scriptfic, or 30k of second-person fic from the POV of Gloriana's skull, by all means go for it!

General things I dig: historical domesticity (for modern settings, general lifestyle/domestic details -- a sense that these people are living in a particular environment, not necessarily curtainfic); little gleams of joy or scenes of happiness for characters who in the long term might not see a lot of it; allegiances and loyalty; characters who aren't certain if they can trust their senses and perceptions; dreaminess; gothic horror-y tropes to do with claustrophobia, doubt, guilt, and decay; people being disarmingly tender in a difficult environment; chains of events that have been building for a long time; symbols of status and political office/social role; ambiguity; a sense of transience, of time being against characters or societal change going on around them; spooky atmosphere; cozy atmosphere; always-a-girl genderswap; family relationships and friendships; schemes; dramatic irony; in-universe documents (letters, manuscripts, musical scores, etc. -- whether real or fictional); characters who have loved different people at multiple times in their life having those multiple relationships treated as all different but all valid/important.

Kink-wise, I dig tender domestic intimacy and screwed-up bleak bad-guy noncon and anything in between. (Dubcon is also fine.) Casual/easy-going relationships with however many people; loyalty kink (both the mutually-respectful kind and as a power play); domestic sex and characters who are familiar with each other's bodies; characters stealing a little pleasure when they don't have a lot of time; clothed or semi-clothed sex. Adversarial sex, companionable sex, sex as a powerplay or sex as the place where civilian roles fall away and the characters can come together honestly and without pretense. On the darker side of things: characters whose ideas of how sexuality is normally exercised have been warped by their surroundings; screwed-up personal boundaries and transgressing what's socially acceptable in-universe; sex as a power play; physical and emotional whump, with or without comfort. This whole random assortment of stuff I dig is as mix-and-match as you want it to be, and you are under no obligation to include all of them, or many of them, or any of them. (Generally speaking, I am totally fine with any level of explicitness or non-explicitness you want to go for, and there's nothing at all disappointing about gen.)

I'm signed up both for Crueltide and Yuleporn, so if you want to check that out for more specific darkfic/smutfic likes, feel free!

Do-not-wants: Magical or phlebotinum-induced genderswap; A/B/O or BDSM AUs; sexual initiation as "practice" for later relationships or later partners; One True Love stuff where a character's previous (or future) relationships are meaningless in comparison to their unique soulmate; ageplay; eating disorders; self-harm; child grooming; underage. With these last three in particular, "none of these things to a degree above and beyond canon" is a good general guideline -- for instance, the Duchess' first marriage in DoM takes place between the ages of 13-19 according to some sources --you don't have to ignore her whole first marriage, since her being a widow is a huge part of canon, but I'd rather there weren't explicit flashbacks to her sex life with her first husband. Similarly with self-harm, it seems reasonable to expect that Ferdinand might be a danger to himself as well as others while experiencing his fits of lycanthropy, but I'd rather not read self-harm as an expression of distress for characters who don't manifest that in canon. I've requested some gnarly canons this year, so if any of these end up in a fic anyway despite your best efforts, or you're not sure, feel free to ask via a mod and you can't go wrong by tagging.

In general I'm fine with depictions of historical/real-world -isms and similar heavy subjects (racism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, partner abuse, torture, etc.); you don't have to strive to include them, but you don't need to strive to exclude them either. (Also, deathfic. I am fine with deathfic.) The long and short of it is that I have never, ever gotten a fic I didn't like for Yuletide, and I'm sure I'll love whatever you write for me! You are a champ.

Now for actual fandom-specific prompts, I swear:

The Duchess Of Malfi - Webster

(This play is available to read online here and here with commentary.)

[What the hell happened to this family? (Ferdinand's lines about love dwelling "'mongst quiet kindred that had nothing left / by their dead parents" seem ominous in light of his unhealthy passions but they also make me wonder if his particular kind of sickness or his brother's was always this vicious.) Maybe something where the Duchess gets to show off her strengths and virtues in circumstances that aren't totally dire; something pre-canon with the Duchess cautiously deciding on her plan or deliberating on how to go about courting Antonio; something about how Antonio sees this household or the servants' parts in their masters' fates. Bosola as an intelligencer, as someone who's been mistreated who mistreats others in turn, as somebody who does recognize goodness even as he's aware he possesses very little of it -- maybe something about Bosola's own virtues, his interactions with his employers and the woman whose torment he's tasked to oversee. I love this canon's atmosphere and would love anything set in this seedy, poisonous, tortured milieu -- any pairings or gen.]

Right off the bat with the title character: the Duchess manifests tremendous courage and authority as well as wit, but she's far from unmoved by her suffering, and she goes through such a spectacular parade of horrors -- there's a hell of a lot going on in her head and her grief and anger are really powerful. The way she talks about merit and nobility (and about her marriage with Antonio) says a lot about the both of them, and her situation as a widow is already rather unusual before her brothers start actively interfering. What does she see in Antonio? How does she start hatching her plan to wed again, and how long has that been brewing between them? On the flipside of this, how aware is she of her brothers' tendencies toward treachery and how does she contend with that? Have they kept in touch over the course of her marriage, or has their corruption blossomed worst when she's away? And relatedly -- are there ways in which she's not so unlike her siblings, aside from how ethically they all employ their rank and their abilities? She seems to have a knack for attracting people's admiration and I'd love to see more of her as a graceful host, an authoritative politician, or acting in her capacity as (in her own words) a prince even in the private sphere.

I find Ferdinand's caustic melancholy (as another prince) and his obsession with the Duchess really compelling -- I'd rather not read reciprocated romance between the two of them but I would certainly be interested in reading more about his love-madness, or if you like, what his nastiness is like when it's directed outside his family. (His sense of his own doubleness with his twin sister is very troubling and it makes me wonder how on earth he took the fact of her first marriage in the first place. In general his preoccupation with their twinnedness, and the inexplicable venom he reserves for her when he's hardly spotless himself, is really fucked up and I am all about it.) How competent is he at skulduggery? Write about him tag-teaming with Bosola and the Cardinal, or getting something done all on his own. Jealousy is obviously a theme with him; where else does it manifest and who else does he destroy and undermine along the way? His relationship with Bosola is also fascinating to me -- loads of resentment and blame and professional contempt, but also a terrific dependence, and Bosola is the firsthand witness to how fucked up he is. What's their deal? Is there anything attractive in Ferdinand like there is in his sister, even if it's only fleeting and swiftly eclipsed by his descent into spittle-streaked lycanthropic madness? You can explore that if you feel like it, whether through character study or in the course of schemes and plots or any other way that strikes your fancy.

Bosola is a real piece of work himself -- absolutely cynical, acidly funny, and viscerally disgusted by basically everything at court even when he's no peach himself. In his own estimation he's been used poorly, and he's very good at manipulating events himself (even in very odd ways -- the whole fruit scheme, wtf!) but his philosophical slant on all the events of the play is also very interesting. He tries to redeem himself somewhat the only way he really knows how (by killing more people) and when he sort of half-revives the Duchess, only to have her slip away, it sort of seals his fate -- I'd be very interested to read something where that goes a little better. (Or at least differently badly.)

I find Antonio every bit as interesting as all the grim weirdos in this canon, and his worldly experience and his view of court corruption both put him in a unique position of being able to look around him and be wryly critical at best, indignant at worst, about what's going on around him, and yet he's still very much at the mercy of other people's machinations. His admiration for the Duchess (and his care for their children -- the bit with him having an astrological chart drawn up after she gives birth is precious) is super sweet, but also super doomed. You could write about how he and the Duchess came together, his adventures in the courts of other states, or more natal chart hijinks.

[ETA: I didn't end up requesting this character, so the following paragraph has the massive caveat that you are under no obligation to do anything with this character whatsoever!] I have a huge soft spot for Cariola -- she's a voice of reason and an important ally to the Duchess, and her death scene is seriously painful. She doesn't get a ton of screen time in the play proper, but if you want to include her I would totally be down for a fic with her in it. All the talk of bed-sharing says a lot about the character of their relationship (role-wise, with regard to class and also intimacy) in the recent Sam Wanamaker Playhouse staging, she sings a madrigal with both Antonio and the Duchess at one point and it's delightfully OT3-y -- so if you wanted to roll with that for Cariola/Duchess or Cariola/Duchess/Antonio purposes, that would be rad. (Or anything else you want to do with their relationship, though I'd prefer no "they secretly hate each other" fic.) What does this whole sordid court situation look like from the position of someone who's not of noble birth? What's her life like outside of her time spent with her mistress?

Feel free to explore the court-intrigue setting if you feel like it, reframe it in another place and time or another planet or in the conventions of another genre. If you want to include any other DoM characters, that would be totally fine, and crossovers with any other figures from Elizabethan/Jacobean drama (however obscure) or the like would be very welcome. (Also, given the downer-ish way this play proceeds, if you feel like writing fix-it fic on any level, feel free. I'd prefer no outright crackfic in my fix-its, but the Duchess and Antonio escaping to another city, or another play, or taking refuge with a coven of virgin witches... go for it.)

Only Lovers Left Alive

[I'd love to know more about Adam and Eve's histories, both separately and together -- where did Adam come by his understanding of science? He seems like such an enthusiast, even if by the present day he's burned-out and overwhelmed by anxiety, and I would love to read fic about his enthusiasms and hobbies and all the things he's sought out and learned, all the people he's met or a few of the things he owns and loves. How did Eve enter the picture, and how did Eve exist before meeting him? (You're under no obligation to include Ava or Marlowe but if you want to factor in their presence in her life that would be perfectly fine.) How did her own philosophy as sort of an undead bon vivant come to be, and how does her own tranquility stand up in the face of time and grief? Something with Adam as someone who makes music, and Eve as a dancer. How does Ian move through the world as Adam's assistant/secretary/dogsbody and what does he think of him and his music? Maybe an AU where he doesn't get totally snacked upon, or where he meets Adam and Eve in a different era or under different circumstances. If you want to add a little more worldbuilding detail about this universe's vampires, that would also be cool as hell -- any pairings or gen.]

Adam is a big huge massive mope, and it's both hilarious and sad -- I'd be down for fic where he starts to learn to lighten up, or where learning to lighten up has been a struggle for most of his existence, but the cause of his dourness is very real and he seems to be a man with a lot of real anxieties that he more or less masks by acting like a grumpy rock star and lashing out at a world of people with whom he feels increasingly out-of-step. The theme of blood contamination in the movie is a heavy one and very interesting to me -- did something shake up this little cadre of vampires' world, or have they discussed this amongst themselves? Adam feels to me, a lot of the time, like an exhausted old man who's still stuck with a young man's angst, and I love the note of hope the film leaves him with, so you can fool around with that if you like.

This one is dead obvious, but -- how did Eve and Adam meet? How did they first strike each other? Were they in love at first sight, swept up on a whirlwind of otherworldy passion, or did they spend a while together (either while Adam was still mortal, or at the start of his unlife) as just good friends, fellow scholars, etc. before they got up the nerve to get together? How has Eve managed to move through the world this way, as a predator and as a seemingly unaccompanied woman -- and yet maintain her dry wit and whimsy and good humor? How does she fit herself in to other eras and settings? (This is also a total opportunity for loads of clothing porn.) Did she once have vampire peers, or a mentor and maker, or other vampire associates besides Kit and Adam and Eva? It's possible she was once more sociable, walking among the living, but it's also easy for me to picture her as sort of a priestess recluse, and either is exciting to think about. Her vivaciousness is in no way detracted from by all the things she knows -- what's up with her sort of semi-psychokinetic Vampire Druid Powers? Compared to Adam, who's so overtly moody, Eve is a real mystery to me and anything that would unlock her a little (or just show off more of her gracious spooky mystery from a different angle) would be rad.

With Ian, I love his earnestness and there's something kind-hearted about him -- but he's also just a bit clueless and a little bit of an oddball himself. What does his Detroit look like, as a young person full of dorky interests and enthusiasm? I can't imagine it's much like dying hulk Adam sees as someone who's already long since weary of the world and fearful of change, and anything about Ian's place in that kind of modern milieu would be neat. If you want to write fix-it fic where he doesn't get eaten (or gets made into a vampire instead of just into a midnight snack) I would love to see his continuing efforts to chill with the jet-set vampire crew, how he adjusts to his new life and seeing his friends for what they are, or if he doesn't do that, who he thinks they are and what he likes (and maybe fears) about them. What brought him into Adam's employ, and why? (If you want, I'm definitely curious about the possibility of Adam/Ian, Eve/Ian, or Adam/Eve/Ian -- Ian having a bit of a starstruck crush on his boss, or getting his own figurative space on the wall of promising artistes Adam has dallied with, or something with how Eve perceives him in his earnestly vivacious inexperience -- whether you take that an OT3-ish direction, or with both of them separately, or just Adam and Eve toying with a cute young thing, all of that sounds very interesting to me. I didn't request Ava as a character, simply because she's a total mystery to me, but you don't have to omit her from this equation either or from whatever you do end up writing.)

This film's dreamy, melancholy atmosphere is practically a character too -- a big part of canon is just vampires screwing around without any big drama, wandering around town and listening to music and things -- and if you wanted to write that or any variation on it, I would read the hell out of it. I am also a big fan of vampire fiction in general, in all eras and media, so a pastiche-y fic with OLLA's vampires in another setting of subgenre (pulpy, highly metaphorical 19th century novel vampires! filmy 70s softcore Hammer vampires! world-weary social commentary 80s vampires!) or other tips of the hat to more conventional vampire fiction would be very welcome if you'd want to try that.

The King of Shreds and Patches - Interactive Fiction

(This game is available for download here, though you'll need an IF client to play it on your computer.)

[I really enjoy the game's depiction of poets/playwrights/printers/magicians and its take on friendships and conspiracies. Who is Croft, and who is Marlowe? How do they relate to their work, and how does what they do help or hinder the cosmic-horror nastiness of what they face getting its hooks into them? I'm fascinated by the effects the King in Yellow manuscript has on everyone involved, and would love a more in-depth exploration of that, from any POV -- something focusing on Lucy's suffering the influence of the King In Yellow manuscript or an account for Moore's losing his mind. You could write about romantic entanglements among cosmic-horror-afflicted hard-drinking fuckups, or Lucy Henry as a more active participant in seeking out things man (and woman) was not meant to know, making a new life for herself after her brush with the play and with the Yellow King cult. Any pairings or gen.]

I am super fascinated by the way the physical manuscripts of The King In Yellow has changed hands and how the contagious ideas within it have spread (and the powerful implications the printing press and the theater carry in this particular time frame for the spread of ideas!) , the cabal of people associated with the play and the King, and in particular the influence it has on artistic circles, especially ones who are already a tight-knit group (if not emotionally close and supportive, then at least dimly aware of one another and occasionally cooperative/competitive) or who have perhaps other secretive ties besides. Our entry into the fucked-up nightmarish aspects of this story really begins with John Croft's death, and I'm curious about him as an individual -- as the boisterous dining companion our protagonist once knew, as the pathetic has-been "always nursing a crush on some young pretty-boy actor or other", as the traveler abroad. Delve into the circumstances of his death, if you feel so inclined (the discovery of his body, arranged as it is, is one of the viscerally creepiest scenes in IF and in horror fiction period); I'm really interested in his downward spiral as documented in his journaling/compiling and the way the King In Yellowe manuscript gets under his skin, the terrific unsettling highs he speaks of and the terrifying soul-sapping lows. Something about his collaboration with Shakespeare, maybe, the work they seek to recreate together, or his past professional relationship with Marlowe?

I'm really curious about David Moore, both who he used to be prior to exposure to the King in Yellow and what the King's influences work on him. His future's not looking too bright after game's end, and an examination of the nature of his madness could go some really dark places, but I'm keenly interested in the form the play's intrusions into his consciousness take and his slow decline, if matters could have gone differently or if he could have been saved. What was his relationship like to Shakespeare and to Croft, maybe to Marlowe? As a musician, what are his specialties? What kinds of collaborations has he written and how does he feel about his work? What's his disposition while sane? How does the King's influence take root in him, and why does it take such a disturbingly sensuous manifestation in the Jester? (I'd be really interested in something with him or another affected by the play's contents trying to articulate this in private, in a position where he's more lucid than when he accounts these experiences in-game, and either he or his audience being cringingly aware of the uneasy undertones to what they're hearing.)

Marlowe has the benefit of being based on a real historical figure, with some conjecturable personality traits and a real extant body of work, but the game's specific version of him has some curious connections -- I'd love to see how to get from Marlowe as brilliant and underhanded and cheerfully impious to him meddling in things beyond anyone's control and getting fucked over by well-connected cultists. Did this overlap with his much-speculated-upon spy connections, and what kind of thing intrigues him about the King in Yellow narrative -- to what in him does the play as we know it appeal, and what were his hopes for it as a work, before it became clear how catastrophically dangerous even attempting a literal-minded translation was?

Lucy's a bit of a puzzle for most of the game; she and the player-character have an awkward history together, though they're still friendly, and her notes, though welcome, rarely herald anything good happening. Have her experiences with the cultists' play left a mark on her body of work as a writer? I'd be very interested to see her struggling to reintegrate into her earlier habits and life after her brush with the occult, perhaps along with Fletcher, if they even can. (Des Robert ever come clean regarding his suspicions about her chastity/romantic ties to Van Der Wyck and co.? Do they end up on the same page? I can't imagine her being thrilled at some of his suspicions along the way, or perhaps the player's, if they're especially genre savvy.) She's been personally betrayed by someone to whom she'd grown close, and lost a young, vulnerable family member as well. How does she grieve her cousin? If you wanted to do something less dire, I can definitely see her winding up in a creative-types cabal of her very own in the end, hopefully without human sacrifices.

This canon is also fair game for other cosmic horror crossovers, for exploration of any other cosmic horror element you find intriguing (though I tend to find the way these forces manifest for the people who encounter them more interesting than the forces themselves personified) or guest appearances by any other Elizabethan artistic types, or for general exploration of the Elizabethan setting.

The Revenger's Tragedy - Middleton

(This play is available to read online here and here.)

[Anything with these characters, together or separately -- This play is such a glorious clusterfuck. Anything exploring the overlapping schemes and all the treachery at play, the perverted family relationships, the weird atmosphere of sexuality (Lussurioso/Piato is a possibility and it is deliciously messed up) and the catharsis of a revenge that ultimately is a long time in coming and not easily achieved. Maybe a fic with genderswapped Vindice considering her place in her family and what separates her fate from Gloriana's, or something with Lussurioso catching up to what Vindice is trying to pull in 2.3 and coming up with his own response. How does Lussurioso take after his father? Whether speed-chess plotty scheming or pensive character study, I'd be fine with whatever you want to throw my way. Any pairings or gen. ]

The universe of this play feels so ruined and corrupt, and the characters respond accordingly -- there may be surviving instances of virtue, beauty, familial affection, and decency, but they're few and far between, and constantly threatened. The elaborateness of it is impressive -- it's all schemes built upon schemes and festering bitternesses culminating in topically-applied skull poison and family members practically tripping over one another vying for power, and I would totally be down for blackly comic clusterfucks as well as semi-serious introspection about what's going on in these characters' heads.

Vindice is a one-man font of bitterness and misogyny and grief, and his meditations on mortality really interest me -- the absoluteness of his resolve and, underneath it all, his obvious conviction that the world is not what it ought to be, that mothers should not pimp out their daughters and dukes should not be rapists, that Gloriana should not be dead, that this is wrong and it needs to be revenged. (At the same time, he seems to get plenty of mileage out of Gloriana as a skull, like his morbidness has gotten counterproductive, even self-indulgent.) Feel free to disregard this next bit as a prompt if you're not into genderbent characters, but how would this play out in a universe where Vindice is also a woman? (Whether this alters her disguise as Piato much is up to the writer.) How does this frame her visceral contempt for the Duke or her horror at her mother's willingness to betray Castiza's virginity? I get the vibe that some of the general angst of the play is a bit meta, after the death of Elizabeth I and the sense that a serious regime change just went down, and playing on that with Vindice or fem!Vindice as somebody who misses the old days, whatever those were, could be neat.

Lussurioso has a lot going on -- he's got his shit together much more than Ferdinand from DoM, for instance, but he's still defined by the irregularity of his lusts. He has a keen sense of where other affinities begin and end (warning Junior of exactly how far he cares about him, for instance) and a generally observational approach regarding other people and how they suit his purposes -- how does that normally function for him? It does seem like he has some kind of moral understanding of the world, but he's too pragmatic and too lustful to do something so self-defeating as live a restrained married life. If you felt like, something about how he rationalizes his lust, or how he came to know of Castiza in the first place and when his lust for her struck him. You could write something about how he came to formulate his pessimistic philosophy about mankind as either fools or knaves (a formulation that is nevertheless totally workable in a court like this one) or something elaborating on why he's as vulnerable to Vindice's machinations as he is, despite being generally shrewd.

Castiza doesn't have a whole hell of a lot to do in this play, besides be chaste and pissed off about attempts to undermine this, but surely she has her own opinions on the Duke and on the turmoil what's left of her family as she knew it is going through. Could she be an active collaborator with her brothers' schemes, or is there anything she can do to restore the world to what it ought to be once the dust has cleared and the body count's been taken?

In general, AU-wise -- reframe this story or rearrange it in any setting you can think of. Vindice manipulating it up in a modern setting where the Duke is a casino-owning mogul with too many squabbling kids and a canny trophy wife, or the events of the play transposed to a 19th century domestic drama as much along class lines as literal titled nobility; set it in the 18th century at Carnival or in ancient Rome, in high school or in a reality show, etc. This canon is also fair game for crossovers with other tragedies, appearances by characters who weren't nominated but who you'd like to include, etc. Go to town on this one -- I love it a lot and it has a lot of neat aspects.


So here we are -- I have no idea how to close a DYW letter that's already gone on for probably too long, but I hope something in here sparks your imagination and I wish you a fun and fruitful Yuletide!
liadtbunny: (Devils Sexby)

[personal profile] liadtbunny 2014-10-12 03:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Great letter - I'd probably steal from it if I was doing yuletide! Er, make a homage, yes;p I hope you get what you want in the right hue.

[identity profile] 2014-10-12 08:36 pm (UTC)(link)
YULETIDE! I am so excited. (For some reason, I thought you were going to request Demon Knights.)

[identity profile] 2014-10-14 09:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Alas, no! I might offer it, though, Yuletide and fic exchanges are the extent of my fandom participation with that comic and it makes me so sad.

[identity profile] 2014-10-15 08:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I am also offering it. Yeah, I wish I could participate more in the fandom for this comic, but there doesn't seem to be much of one.

Any favourite IF clients, btw?

[identity profile] 2014-10-15 09:07 pm (UTC)(link)
On a Mac I'd use Zoom, but if you're using a Microsoft operating system, this one looks neat -- I wish I knew for more platforms!

[identity profile] 2014-10-16 09:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Thnak you!