cesario has written the first part of an absolutely brilliant Snape/Luna (yes, you heard that correctly) fic called Pretty Good Year. It's lyrical and suspenseful and beautifully characterized, with a wonderful surprise twist at the end of Part One, and I truly cannot wait for the next bit. It reminds me, in the best possible way, of lizbee's fic Girl Most Likely, which is hardly anything like PGY in style or content, but pushes all the same shiny red buttons and makes the same pretty lights go on in my brain.
Which leads me into a ramble, or possibly even a rant, about the kind of writing I like... No, I'm going to bite the bullet and just call it plain good writing.
A lot of stories I've seen -- not just fanfic, either, although fan authors are much more frequent offenders in this area -- spill their expository guts all over the place. The heroes alternate between private, angsty soul-searching and Deep Meaningful Conversations with the other characters. By continually revisiting the characters' thought processes and motivations, the author hopes to win the reader's sympathy and interest; but for me as a reader, this just makes me bored and annoyed with all the characters involved. It's like being cornered at a party by someone who wants to spend the whole evening telling you their life story and all the bad things that have happened to them and the way they felt about every. single. one. No matter how polite, attentive and compassionate you might try to be at first, eventually the litany just wears you down and you start longing for a chance to escape.
On the other hand, some stories are so terse and cryptic they leave me scratching my head and wondering what just happened. Presumably the story made sense to the author, but so many details have been stripped away that I'd pretty much need to grab the author and quiz him or her to find out what they really had in mind. Or else the plot is so incredibly convoluted and the dialogue so self-consciously clever that I have to read at half speed -- or else read the story several times -- just to begin to figure out what's going on. I don't have time for that, myself. I'm all for stories that reward re-reading, but I do want to be able to at least grasp the main points the first time around. Otherwise it's more like reading for duty than pleasure.
I love writing that has subtle hints and touches of character development I can pick up on for myself; I love putting the emotional pieces together and getting excited when I find that my suspicions about a character's intentions or state of mind are correct. Although I've never been one to try and guess whodunnit before a murder mystery's over, and I don't tend to get invested in an intricate plot for its own sake, I do pay close attention to characterization and dialogue, and I love picking up on non-verbal cues and nuances of the narration that reveal a character's true state of mind.
I don't want a lot of long expository passages telling me exactly what the characters are thinking and doing and why; I don't want the characters to sit down and put all their emotional cards on the table at once. I want them to do something, to show me how they're feeling by the way they act. If that's done well enough, then exposition can be kept to a minimum; and conversations, instead of rambling all over the place, have maximum economy and impact.
This, to me, is quality writing. Both lizbee and cesario are fantastic at it, and I wish I knew of more fan authors like them.*
So. Pretty Good Year. Girl Most Likely. Go. Read. Adore. Review.
* Why, yes, I certainly will take recs if you've got 'em -- just het or gen, though, please.