Forum: Sexuality in Middle-earth

Discussing: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

An e-mail exchange and some exploratory reading got me to thinking about this vast and underdiscussed region of fanfiction once more, and I thought I would reproduce and expand on some of the points here for the purposes of entertainment and curiosity.

The uses and abuses of PWP ("Plot? What Plot?" or "Porn Without Plot"). It sounds rather like an oxymoron--like military intelligence, smart jock, sinfully good, short-winded Dwim. You shouldn't be able to use or abuse a PWP--I mean, the thing admittedly HAS NO PLOT. It shouldn't be able to be used as a tool in itself. It's pretty much just everyone's favorite fantasies on screen, for the enjoyment of whoever, right? So it cannot really be abused, given that, just as it can't really be used.

Or can it?

To start with, I view PWP as a genre in its own right. It describes a specific story type or mode of narration independently of any single subordinate element. As such, however, it must have a purpose--a reason why this particular fic form is as it is. There must be some specific benefit to the structure of a PWP that is lacking in other ficforms. Most will say the PWP's purpose is strictly to let fantasy play out with utter freedom from any constraints of plot or logic (and occasionally, free of the constraints of human anatomy). But I wonder whether this is really so, and whether the PWP must always be confined to private fantasy in a public place.

It's hard to see PWPs functioning as tools because their content (usually graphically sexual) overpowers any ability to analyze more than arousal levels (or lack thereof, often enough). But I do see a metafic-level use for them, and so have others: use them to shock and wear down audience resistance to fics featuring graphic or explicit sex. The PWP is certainily well-suited to this particular task, yet one might do the same by incorporating graphic sex scenes into a longer, plotfilled novel wherein the sex scenes are justified for reasons of plot and specific character development. Hm.

Which leads me to think that using PWPs in this metafic manner seems less about opening up a specific fantasy world (such as Middle-earth) as using the fantasy world to make readers question their own preconceptions about what can and cannot be written and written well. Which, if I am correct, forces me to ask whether PWPs are truly fanfiction at all, if we accept 'fanfiction' as meaning 'derivative fiction written by someone not the original author, with the intent to explore the characters and world of said original author.' The best Tolkien PWPs I've read have to be Keelywolfe's 'kink ficlets', yet with barely any effort, I could remake most of them into original fiction, and not know the difference. According to our own guidelines, that's grounds for rejection of the work as a piece of Tolkien fanfiction yet I admit I'd not want to give them up. (Note: do read her work, if you're of age and curious--I'm not being negative about them in any way, far from it. She does things I can't fathom, and gets away with it all!)

Given all this, and assuming that I'm at least partly correct, has anyone got any ideas about what it is that in general defines the well-written PWP (and I do mean a real PWP--no larger plot than the sex act and its effect on the participants)? Structurally, I mean. How do you 'make it work' without a plot (asks she who can't seem to do anything without a plot)? What would define poorly written PWPs structurally? "It didn't turn me on" is not the answer I'm looking for, here, as that is the end result of a poorly-written PWP, not the cause of its being poorly-written. Has anyone got an idea of how PWP relates to fanfiction?

A further question: Usually, the PWP is assigned sexual content as its proper content. But if we go with the "Plot? What Plot?" definition then clearly, that *need* not be the case, it simply has been, historically, that PWPs are practically synonymous with 'sexfic.' But there's much to be said about the 'pornography of violence' as it were--can the PWP successfully portray plotless violence in an artistic manner, paralleling what I've outlined above for the sexual PWP? Or is its plotless structure only suited to the idea of "(sexual) porn without plot"?

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Well, now. Here is a nice restart to this forum, thanks Dwim!

I'll muddy the water for you a bit. If you consider a lot of character pieces, they also have no plot. So can you do a PWP with the stated intent to explore the character, or the character's reaction to the sexuality that one assumes would have been present for most characters, and do it well? I tend to consider them poorly done if they are OOC, except where humor is the intent. Allowing for the inevitable OOC ness of certain characters having sex without marriage, or at that time of life, or with that gender; some writers can keep the characters relatively true.

There definitely are some well done PWPs out there, if not as many as one would like.


Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

De nada. To broaden what I think is your main thrust (no pun intended):

Can we define 'plot' first, please? And what is it about the unfolding of events in PWPs that causes them to be labeled 'plotless'? Does not sex as an act have a beginning, middle, and end, with attendant reactions in characters, which seems, in the abstract, to resemble the structure of most 'plotful' stories?

I think you also touch on a phenomenon that is, possibly, unique to derivative fiction. Because someone *else* has done the work of providing a plot for a character to react to, it is possible to write a 'plotless' piece of character development. But I don't think that I can think of any original fiction that can get away with that. This is why I say that in a major way, we are doing what, for example, Tolkien *could not* have done--he could never have just written, for example, Maedhros angsting over the loss of his hand and wondering about how to deal with Fingon. Fanficcers can, because they have a context already, alongside of which they can do what the 'plotted' story could not (for reasons of plot coherence).

Anyhow, others? PWP, structure thereof?

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!


*waves a newbie "hi" and jumps into the discussion* ;)

Does not sex as an act have a beginning, middle, and end, with attendant reactions in characters, which seems, in the abstract, to resemble the structure of most 'plotful' stories?

You have a good point there. I think many people tend to think of "plot" in terms of long stories, but the structure can definitely be also applied on the level of individual scenes. In fact, one of the main principles of constructing a classical three-phase drama is to build each single scene around the problem - conflict - resolution structure.

In a way, writing a sex scene is not very different from this. It needs a tension that builds towards a climactic turning point and is resolved into a (mutual, with few exceptions) satisfaction, or restored balance.

Based on this, I'm tempted to claim that writing a PWP may serve as an exercise in constructing a basic plot structure in a miniature form, with heightened focus on sensual experience.

Lyllyn's comparison between PWP's and character studies is also an interesting one. Both could be seen as a writer's attempt to explore a single aspect of the fictional world in an in-depth manner, and when the purpose is this, the plot structure may be pushed aside or neglected, because it's not the main motivation and driving force behind this type of a story.

Plot structure, and more specifically the classical, "Aristotelian" beginning-middle-end structure is the most widely used and accepted way of shaping fiction. But it's not the only way. For my part, I think I see PWP as something that simply shifts the focus from the plot to other things to serve a different purpose (exploring the sensual experience of the characters, and in well-written PWP this may even add to the depth of the characterisation!), but doesn't necessarily ignore the plot.

Hope I didn't stray too far from the original questions, Dwimordene. The topic is fascinating.




 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

*waves a newbie "hi" and jumps into the discussion* ;)

Hi! Glad to see a new face.

In fact, one of the main principles of constructing a classical three-phase drama is to build each single scene around the problem - conflict - resolution structure.

Agreed. So we'll take 'plot' as meaning just that: 'problem, conflict, resolution'. I'm no literary guru, so I don't know what the modern literary novel is 'supposed' to look like and how it ought to differ from the classic structure.

But taking that nice classical structure, a PWP (as commonly understood) would be specifically anchored by the questions revolving around getting into bed, going through the motions, and then getting out of bed again, as it were, with most of the emphasis and attention focused on the middle segment and minimal attention given to the beginning and end. So I would say.

In a way, writing a sex scene is not very different from this. It needs a tension that builds towards a climactic turning point and is resolved into a (mutual, with few exceptions) satisfaction, or restored balance.

Based on this, I'm tempted to claim that writing a PWP may serve as an exercise in constructing a basic plot structure in a miniature form, with heightened focus on sensual experience.


I'd go further and say it's not sensual, it's simply erotic experience. Sensual puts me in mind of an antique shop, with its funny smells of wood varnish, multiplicity of visual curiosities, the quiet, the feel of the items that you touch (I am not a country girl, so the sensuality of nature is not one I'm going to attempt to describe). PWPs, by common agreement, employ the senses to one end--sexual titillation. The less the focus is on the sex itself, the more that beginning-middle-end structure stands out, and the more the beginning and ending are seen as having a real bearing on the merit of the story.

So perhaps that's what is meant by PWP structurally: it's not that the plot doesn't exist in three distinct stages, it's that only one specific part of it is allowed to determine the story's worth and unfolding, as a general sort of rule. The more equal the emphasis in terms of plot elements, or the more focus there is on one of the other stages of plot, the further the fic moves from a PWP, perhaps. Of course, that might well knock Keelywolfe out of the PWP category...

Hm. What do you think? I wonder, if we were to provisionally accept that, then how would this definition of the PWP's plot structure affect our understanding of what sort of content can be given a PWP? Is the PWP really only/best suited to explorations of erotic sensibility? Or can violence or the sensual (as opposed to the subcategory of the erotic) be successfully treated according to the PWP schema proposed?


Hope I didn't stray too far from the original questions, Dwimordene. The topic is fascinating.

Oh, I wouldn't worry too much. These things tend to spawn new approaches, like so many tentacles on the Watcher in the Water. ;-) I can usually find ways to reintroduce my own questions if I feel I want to.

Also, if you want to spare your fingers the extra keystrokes, I go by "Dwim" in most conversations.

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

I was going to say something about plot but I find that Lyllyn said almost exactly what I was going to say!

I'd add that there's a certain amount of self-deprecating humor in the tag PWP itself--a reflection on the lack of "respectability" of pieces that exist frankly for the sake of eroticism. I don't think most well-done PWPs are, strictly speaking, plotless at all -- for the reasons Lyllyn said, and also because a lot of my favorites also have some conflict or tension around these characters doing the deed at all. Will they? Should they? Can they? Maybe they shouldn't, but they will - uh oh! There are negotiations, courtships, decisions made. Maybe this all happens within minutes or a few paragraphs, but it's still a plot. And yes, I do think of good PWPs as a sort of variant on the character vignette or maybe the inner-drama tale.

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Lady E wrote:
Lyllyn's comparison between PWP's and character studies is also an interesting one. Both could be seen as a writer's attempt to explore a single aspect of the fictional world in an in-depth manner, and when the purpose is this, the plot structure may be pushed aside or neglected, because it's not the main motivation and driving force behind this type of a story.

Forgive me, I'm using this as a jumping off point to talk about a thought prompted by the proximity of "PWP" and "character studies" in your post.

Here's the thing. The term, "porn without plot" generally, in my experience, is meant to refer to stories with neither plot nor purpose apart from titiliation, but much more often actually refers to stories which are using sexuality as a form of character exploration. I've rarely seen a story labeled PWP that was *only* focusing on the sex - there's usually a whole lot more there. Now, whether it's a plot or a character study, and whether a purist would buy it as an appropriate method of character exploration in LOTR fanfic or not, a lot of these stories are using sexuality to show us elements of the characters' hearts, minds, and personalities that we might not have seen otherwise. Keelywolfe's 'kink ficlet' series is a *perfect* example.

So, to consider Dwim's opening thought,

You shouldn't be able to use or abuse a PWP--I mean, the thing admittedly HAS NO PLOT. It shouldn't be able to be used as a tool in itself. It's pretty much just everyone's favorite fantasies on screen, for the enjoyment of whoever, right? So it cannot really be abused, given that, just as it can't really be used.

Or can it?


I'd say that not only *can* it be both used and abused, it nearly always is either one or the other. I would say that a PWP that drags its characters radically OOC - except in the case of humor, and with the understanding that we're starting from the position that the sex alone does not pull them OOC - is an abuse of the form, just as it is in any other kind of fanfic. Likewise, I'd say a PWP that shows us insights into the characters and their relationships with themselves and each other is being used, to good purpose. I think Keelywolfe's kink ficlets are a beautifully-written and emotionally fraught exploration of the nature of power, and of the relative attitudes towards power held by Aragorn and Boromir. The fact that they're also really hot is quite the little bonus.

Does any of that make sense?

Is it remotely related to the topic at hand?

*presses "Post Reply" with some trepidation*

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Here's the thing. The term, "porn without plot" generally, in my experience, is meant to refer to stories with neither plot nor purpose apart from titiliation, but much more often actually refers to stories which are using sexuality as a form of character exploration. I've rarely seen a story labeled PWP that was *only* focusing on the sex - there's usually a whole lot more there. Now, whether it's a plot or a character study, and whether a purist would buy it as an appropriate method of character exploration in LOTR fanfic or not, a lot of these stories are using sexuality to show us elements of the characters' hearts, minds, and personalities that we might not have seen otherwise. Keelywolfe's 'kink ficlet' series is a *perfect* example.

Interesting that many people who label their fics PWP are really doing more. Katakanadian's 'By Previous Arrangement ' is labeled PWP, but isn't IMHO. She has 3 chapters up, (and damn it, I want the rest) and they haven't done more than kiss passionately. It's an exploration of character and a gapfiller that happens to use sex. I like that in a fic . There are also stories that purport to do more, but are PWP.


I'd say that not only *can* it be both used and abused, it nearly always is either one or the other. I would say that a PWP that drags its characters radically OOC - except in the case of humor, and with the understanding that we're starting from the position that the sex alone does not pull them OOC - is an abuse of the form, just as it is in any other kind of fanfic. Likewise, I'd say a PWP that shows us insights into the characters and their relationships with themselves and each other is being used, to good purpose. I think Keelywolfe's kink ficlets are a beautifully-written and emotionally fraught exploration of the nature of power, and of the relative attitudes towards power held by Aragorn and Boromir. The fact that they're also really hot is quite the little bonus.

Yes! I can think of some PWPs that do try for and acheive character insights. Where sex is the metaphor, as it were. A/B fics are often those where the power metaphor really comes through when well-done. It's the problem with a lot of A/L fics, they are an abuse as they can't explore the characters and keep them in character. There are definitely good ones, but too many turn Legolas feminine. Or into a parody of feminine.

So perhaps the question should be "what are the attributes of a 'good' or 'useful' PWP"?

Does any of that make sense?

To me, absolutely!

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Interesting that many people who label their fics PWP are really doing more. Katakanadian's 'By Previous Arrangement ' is labeled PWP, but isn't IMHO.

I think you all are making a very interesting point here. I've been lurking around this forum since yesterday, and I've been wanting to write but feel like I really should not be saying anything since I don't read much PWP; but I've read Katakanadian's 'By Previous Arrangement' and I absolutely love it. What are the reasons some PWP's don't work? What are the reasons some are so sucessful? I think much of it depends on the characterization, or the main goal of the story, more than the plot. Let me see if I can make a coherent explanation...

Dwim was working out a definition of plot as 'problem, conflict, resolution.' In the strict sense of that definition, I think there cannot be a story without a plot. Even sex scenes have a plot, although the story may not be driven by it, and some PWP stories have poor "sex plot" (if that's a term); but, I think the main reason why those are unsuccessful is because they don't accomplish anything (well, they're giving specifics about the sex, so I guess they are doing something) and that is a bit ironic since the genre is "plot, what plot?"

BUT, what is the point of writing a story if it's not going to accomplish anything? So, there's the thing, as I see it. We cannot, therefore, write successful PWP without specific goals in mind. Rachel was saying that PWP could use sexuality as a means to explore character traits that could not otherwise be shown, and I think that is a very good reason to write one such story, as is the case with Katakanadian's.

So, drawing from my *very little* experience with the genre, I'll try to draft my answer to Lyllyn's question:
So perhaps the question should be "what are the attributes of a 'good' or 'useful' PWP"?

For useful PWP, I think, first there has to be a reason why we are resorting to the genre to outline or highlight or bring across something, and if the story is not going to have a "plot" (by the standard definition) then it needs to be strong in other areas, like characterization, or any other of the author's choosing. I don't think characterization takes away from a PWP, quite the opposite. I have heard authors say that they cannot worry about their characters when writing PWP because... well... because it's PWP; but, in doing so -or not doing so, rather- they are just taking away from their story!

If the story does not have a plot, then it has to engage the reader somehow. For some readers, the sex by itself will do this, I suppose, but some others are looking for something more and are likely to put those stories out because they are doing nothing more (are they just porn, then?) There's were the characters steal the show, so to speak. If the characters are well-drawn, the story might be on its way to be a good one.

To be successful, it needs to be well-written, it needs to have good use of language that's appropriate for the characters (and in Tolkien fiction, speaking of sex can be a challenge because of the language, so that's a great plus for an author who can do pull this off). And, to have language that's appropriate for the characters, you are doing characterization in a very subtle level that will also add to your tale.

I think it was Lyllyn who spoke about the plausibility of the relationship/pairing and canon events and *to me* that would also be important.

I guess, in the end, I'd say that a PWP is successful when it is justified, supported by a good reason. My question then is, does that NOT make it a PWP? Is the genre's name that's wrong here? I realize I've gone on at length without answering anyone's questions... I think I better go back to lurking now...

This is interesting guys,
Starlight

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

I think I better go back to lurking now...

Don't do that, Starlight, you bring up interesting points!

For useful PWP, I think, first there has to be a reason why we are resorting to the genre to outline or highlight or bring across something, and if the story is not going to have a "plot" (by the standard definition) then it needs to be strong in other areas, like characterization, or any other of the author's choosing. I don't think characterization takes away from a PWP, quite the opposite. I have heard authors say that they cannot worry about their characters when writing PWP because... well... because it's PWP; but, in doing so -or not doing so, rather- they are just taking away from their story!

This is a crucial point, making the difference to me between something readable and enjoyable, and something I find ridiculous. If the characters don't matter, why bother to do it as fanfic? Just write a sex scene using x and y and achieve the same effect. The reason one would want to read them at all is because they do involve characters we are interested in. And if you put a name on it, say PWP involving (plucks name out of the air) Merry; well if you can't see Merry in it at all, it's the same as if it said x and y.

There's were the characters steal the show, so to speak. If the characters are well-drawn, the story might be on its way to be a good one.
Precisely!

To be successful, it needs to be well-written, it needs to have good use of language that's appropriate for the characters (and in Tolkien fiction, speaking of sex can be a challenge because of the language, so that's a great plus for an author who can do pull this off). And, to have language that's appropriate for the characters, you are doing characterization in a very subtle level that will also add to your tale.
A good point which I hadn't considered.

I think it was Lyllyn who spoke about the plausibility of the relationship/pairing and canon events and *to me* that would also be important.>

Yes, it has to be a pairing that makes a point, even if an odd one, or a pairing I'd want to see for some reason. I've actually written a PWP as a birthday present for AE, and it was an interesting process. I felt I couldn't be any less careful that if writing a 'real' story. It strikes me that if one is creating an erotic mood, it is at least as important as in any other story to avoid jarring the reader out of the mood.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Warning: immature outburst ahead.

Squee!

Outburst over.

I'm amazed someone mentioned 'BPA' without my having to do some SSP. Thank you Lyllyn and Starlight. I'll change Ch 4 to public shortly.

Dwim was working out a definition of plot as 'problem, conflict, resolution.'
Damn! Does this mean I can't call it a PWP anymore? I had no intent originally to do any plot or character development. It just snuck in there as I attempted to work around my own embarrassment at writing sex.

shadow975 said:
I'd say that not only *can* it be both used and abused, it nearly always is either one or the other. I would say that a PWP that drags its characters radically OOC - except in the case of humor, and with the understanding that we're starting from the position that the sex alone does not pull them OOC - is an abuse of the form, just as it is in any other kind of fanfic.
When I criticize a PWP, I almost never criticize the actual sex but sometimes criticize the abuse of characterization or the lack of plausible setup (which I guess means plot which does seem to make the term PWP oxymoronic).

Back to the rest of you who have much more interesting things to say.

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Warning: immature outburst ahead.       Squee!       Outburst over.

That's the kind of outburst I like to hear!

I'll change Ch 4 to public shortly.
Lyllyn squees in turn and jumps up and down.

When I criticize a PWP, I almost never criticize the actual sex but sometimes criticize the abuse of characterization or the lack of plausible setup (which I guess means plot which does seem to make the term PWP oxymoronic).

And this is the important point, I'm realizing the characterization is extremely important in a PWP, as there is so little else to say 'Yes, this really is based on Tolkien's characters.' If an author writes a longer piece during which there is a sex scene, that scene can rely on the rest of the story to anchor it to Middle-earth or whatever fanfic universe one is working in. The characterization is already done in other chapters.

Which brings me up short about some of the longer stories I have read and given up on. If the characterization is off, I won't bother reading just to see sex scenes, unless the writing is so good I'm happy to read about OCs.
I believe this to be a problem with many Mary-sues or OFC romances. The characterization is way off, and the writing isn't good enough to make me want to read it as original fiction.

Back to the rest of you who have much more interesting things to say.
Nonsense!

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

And this is the important point, I'm realizing the characterization is extremely important in a PWP, as there is so little else to say 'Yes, this really is based on Tolkien's characters.' If an author writes a longer piece during which there is a sex scene, that scene can rely on the rest of the story to anchor it to Middle-earth or whatever fanfic universe one is working in. The characterization is already done in other chapters.

And yet, some of the most successful PWPs manifestly do NOT have a noticeable attachment to the observable personalities of the characters we know. Power struggles between Boromir and Aragorn for example: there is very little in the books that would suggest that every night, for forty nights heading down towards Caradhras, they'd relive in bed their daily power struggles. The characterization comes far less from the characters than from the idea of two powerful men who use sex as a means of pleasurably manipulating each other into roles of submission and dominance. If it's done really well, I'll read on despite seeing nothing of Aragorn or Boromir there except the looks and the names.

This is why I said, in the original post, that I had to wonder about the connection or connectability, rather, of PWP to fanfiction. If it is essentially the translation of a few characters into a typical relational unit (in LoTR slash, king/minister is the usual one for A/B in stories that generally ignore everything but the sex the 'going through the motions' middle stage, with minimal attention given to the other two stages of plot), then in what sense is this still capable of being called Tolkien fanfiction? The character of the characters is made subordinate to their societal function --a king commands, and so would in bed as well; a minister serves, and so would in bed as well. Sometimes you get someone who tries to have Boromir top Aragorn, or have Aragorn be a "pushy bottom" as it were, but that's rare, and it's a simple reversal that usually isn't particularly well done, or at least, I can't think of but a few that I'd bother reading more than once.

So how does this fit with the claim that the characterization has to be done a) well (which is possible even for OOC--it just has to be well-written OOC) and b) in a way that would make a reader say: 'Yes, this really is based on Tolkien's characters'? How loose an interpretation of 'based on ' are you, as a serious student of PWPs ;-) willing to accept? Names and faces, and stereotypical power roles? Or does there have to be something more there for you to say it's a successful Tolkien PWP (because I couldn't just change the names and have it work still)?

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

So how does this fit with the claim that the characterization has to be done a) well (which is possible even for OOC--it just has to be well-written OOC) and b) in a way that would make a reader say: 'Yes, this really is based on Tolkien's characters'? How loose an interpretation of 'based on ' are you, as a serious student of PWPs ;-) willing to accept? Names and faces, and stereotypical power roles? Or does there have to be something more there for you to say it's a successful Tolkien PWP (because I couldn't just change the names and have it work still)?

You ask good questions, and I have to refine my answers and question my assumptions.

The first thing I'd say is that if it's well written enough I'll read it for the pleasure of the prose (or poetry, thinking of Flick's 'Steel and Flame') alone. If it explores the roles well, I think my mind fills in the characterization that comes with those roles automatically, and I 'see' it as well-done characterization even though I suspect you're right - it isn't.

there is very little in the books that would suggest that every night, for forty nights heading down towards Caradhras, they'd relive in bed their daily power struggles.

No, of course not. But there is enough in bookverse, and even more in movieverse, to suggest the uneasy power relationship between the two, and Boromir's ambivalent feelings about Aragorn (though of course there is no hint of sexuality about it.) I can see the desire to take that ambivalence, and use it to further a PWP, and if it is well written, it can become not only erotic, but a metaphor for the power struggle.

How's that for disguising the desire to read PWPs as a deeply serious and poetic pursuit?

Lyllyn

 

 

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Yee haw!

Thanks, STB! I really wanted you to post this because I think looking at a PWP with this in mind gives us a way of dealing with character that gets us out of the bit of mess that we were in (ok, that I was in and that I dragged Lyllyn into).

If characterization is typical rather than psychological, then we have an answer to the question: how loose an interpretation of "based on" are we willing to accept for a PWP? Under the Aristotelian model presented, the characters fulfill a type for the sake of the function of the plot, rather than the psychological characterization of a character helping to dictate what the constraints of plot are.

So, to reiterate a point that came up in e-mail discussion (sorry to bore you since STB has laid it out, but I kind of want to expand on it a little), if Aragorn is typified as the king in a PWP, then characterization inconsistent with the type "king" is grounds for saying the PWP has a structural flaw. Likewise, typifying Aragorn as the servant would also be grounds for saying something is structurally off given the characterization of Aragorn in LOTR. Aragorn isn't a servant figure in any obvious sense, and to make him one would require a great deal more work and reflection (and possibly a Frodo/Aragorn pairing: see "Aragorn Stew" for a great use of this, but with a more psychological and comedic characterization) on the part of the PWP author. Hence we also have connection back to canon that isn't merely arbitrary, so PWP remains fanfiction through its recognition of the types that each character can be made to portray (and which ones are at the very least highly unlikely).

Using Aristotelian characterization, one might also be able to answer the always annoying question of the generic dividing line between a PWP and a short story: when the characterization ceases to be typical and becomes psychological, while remaining still within a particular range of content (sex, as commonly understood by the term PWP), then you've moved out of PWP and into the realm of a short story. At that point, it's a question of whether or not the psychological portrait is well-done (with all the usual qualifiers), and whether the author has also been able to balance the 'beginning-middle-end' structure or (for the Aristotelian take) successfully imitate praxis. If s/he has done all of this, then you have a short story with all the recognizable trimmings; if not, well... somewhere along the line, something went wrong, but in any case, it'd be incorrect to label the story a PWP because it failed to deal well with a psychological portrait; it'd be a poorly-written short story with a modern sort of characterization.

What say you, Lyllyn and Starlight? Does this get us somewhere with respect to questions of characterization in a PWP?

[sigh] I suppose this means I have to scratch a mark on the wall for Aristotle. [goes off to deface property]

 

 

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

After thinking about all this erudition for a few days, I'll start by quoting Dorothy Sayers. As Lord Peter Wimsey said in 'Gaudy Night':
"That is out of my stars. I have not the philosophic mind."

With that disclaimer out of the way, I now feel free to ramble without being taken too severely to task.

In light of what STB has posted, I can return to your question
How loose an interpretation of 'based on ' are you, as a serious student of PWPs ;-) willing to accept? Names and faces, and stereotypical power roles?
and say that yes, by those standards writing within the power roles will work, and I am likely to interpret it as 'in character.' I daresay there are several stories (PWP and otherwise) I regard well that are technically OOC but since the 'type' works, I can look at them as a different explanation of the character or situation, without getting distressed. Perhaps that's why whiny!Aragorn is more likely to make me click away than one that's overbearing.

So I will agree that simply keeping to type will suffice in a PWP.
Are you saying then that writing true characterization takes it out of the realm of PWP? Even if the only plot is the sexual act? And what would you call such a portrayal if not PWP?

To return to PWP: which best way to arouse the proper emotion of this genre,which, I think, should be "surfeit" or "desensitivitation"?

Remind me, why did we want to achieve "surfeit" or "desensitivitation"?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Use and Abuse of PWPs--no, really!

Remind me, why did we want to achieve "surfeit" or "desensitivitation"?

In my original posting, I had said that I could see PWP having a sort of metafic use--to wear away at the boundaries of what is considered acceptable to write or what one thinks can be made to read well (kinks, etc.). I think if you take the overall Aristotelian frame STB has described, this is a necessary part of defining the PWP as a genre, because of Aristotle's teleological bent that dictates that there must be an end towards which a genre is geared, which elicits a specific response from the reader.

So I guess that'd be:

final cause: destruction of boundaries related to sex/violence (goal).... desensitivation (proper emotion)

As to generic boundaries, I think if we take that Aristotelian take on PWPs, then once the characterization ceases to be typical, you're out of PWP land. If you take the tri-stage plot that Lady E first outlined, then it would depend on how much emphasis there was on other plot stages to define it as a PWP, and less on the specific mode of characterization. And it may be that you can trade off on definitions depending on what fic you're reading. Which makes me go "hmm" and wonder whether the two can be united somehow.

And I'm quite with you on Whiny!Aragorn. There are ways and ways of being OOC, and I'd rather Dominant!Aragorn than Whiny!Aragorn. If one is going to screw up (no pun intended), at least do it based on a trait that can actually be derived from the character.

 

 

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