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21 December 2006 @ 05:13 pm
Random Blithering and a Poll on Prompts  
Obviously, I am obsessing about Yuletide just a bit - it's nearly time! Yay! And since I can't get my act together and actually post recommendations, I thought I'd post a summary of Things I've Learned About Prompts.

See, I suck at giving prompts. Most of the year, this is a minor thing, barely noticeable except to the people who issue "come one, come all" prompt requests when I am tired and weak of will. And even then, those people can ignore those prompts. (Or sometimes they step up to the plate nobly. My hat is off to you few, you proud, you band of - well, crazed writing women.)

At Yuletide, though, my little issue becomes more of a problem. Because - okay, let's consider one of the prompts I gave for my first year of Yuletide. (This is the one my writer, milkshake_b, actually wrote, but they were all the same. That's yet another sign of my Prompt Dysfunction, I now realize - if you can say the same thing for four extremely disparate fandoms and characters, it probably isn't a really good prompt):

Nero Wolfe (Archie Goodwin/Saul Panzer)
Details: Would prefer slash.

Yup. And I thought I was doing well. I thought to myself, "I am giving carte blanche! My writer will not be constrained! She will be unfettered and free!"

And then I got my own assignment and I realized that carte blanche (which my recipient did not give me, thank god) would kind of suck. I would really, really prefer to have some fetters. Having a prompt and not having a prompt was, for me, the difference between staring at a blank screen and having a few sentences already written; sure, I might not keep those sentences, but still. They were a start. They gave me something to build on.

So I realized - constraints (note: I did not say restraints, though I totally support those, too) can be nice. (They also help you diagnose cases of Terminal Bad Fit; for Yuletide, TBF doesn't necessarily spell disaster or require defaulting, by the way, but it is good to know about it as early as possible, because that gives you time to line up the right Yuletide Support Team to correct your deficiencies. Like, when my recipient requested hot het porn during my second year of Yuletide? I knew that I needed expert porn betas, because I suck at porn. And not the good kind of suck, either. Fortunately, I found some highly talented ones who, among many other services, kept me from losing John Smith's cock and pointed out that at some point in the proceedings Jane Smith would probably be more comfortable with her pants off. And I also got a whole team of people who united to reassure me ("Really not that bad! STEP AWAY FROM THE LIGHT! You can do this!") when I decided that the porn I had written was the antithesis of hot, the absolute zero type of porn that turns everyone who touches it frigid.)

My second year, I think I hit the right note with my details, although you'd have to ask 3pipeproblem about that. I provided her with a useful place to start (after the end of the canon, as it happens) and some suggestions about what I might like to see. I think, of all my Yuletides, that was my best year in terms of prompt-giving.

This year, I veered waaaaaay over into the other side, where the crazies live. (I knew I was doing it at the time, but I just could not shut up, even though I was embarrassing myself. We've all been there, sure, but usually it involves intoxicants, not challenge sign-up forms.) Next year, I am seriously considering enlisting a Request Beta to determine if I am writing the kinds of prompts that make writers cry or not. I have come to realize that there is no shame in having a Prompt Dysfunction and that it's okay to ask for extra help.

Better than terrifying whoever gets assigned to me.

But this year, in addition to learning I have the crazy ever lurking inside me, ready to punch up into the light at the first sign of a prompt entry, I also learned something new about how prompts are used. See, my request went to pinch hit this year - lucky #13! - and I picked up a pinch hit this year, and I learned that prompts serve a different purpose on the pinch hit list. (I also learn that if you write a prompt that SHAMES YOU because you are crazed, you should be aware that you will be shamed before the whole Yuletide community, not just one person, what with potential pinch-hitting and NYR.) When your request goes to the pinch hit list, several hundred people are scanning your details and thinking, "Could I write that?" A prompt is key in that situation, because - okay, maybe you spelled it out more in your Santa letter, maybe it would be obvious from reading your journal what you wanted, but if your request looks like this (based on one of my own requests from this year, although with my crazy prompt redacted):

RPF - Charles Baudelaire
Details: None

That is all the pinch hitters will see. That's all they have to base their decision on. They have no idea who you are or what else you might want. So the only person who is going to respond to that prompt is one who is dying to write a Baudelaire story. (Or, you know, a crazy person, which fortunately 65% of pinch-hitters are. The good kind of crazy, though, I assure you. Salt-of-the-earth crazy. At least, I hope so, since I am one.)

So, these are my new notes-to-me, ones I hope will help me address my Prompt Dysfunction next year in a way that does not Ruin Yuletide. I want to remember:
  • A prompt is good. And it should go in the details section; the Santa letter is for expanding on things I generally like and for thanking the Santa. It is not for attempting to explain my details. (If the details need a whole letter of explanation, the details are broken. Yes, this does apply to me, and I'm so, so sorry to the two writers who got saddled with those prompts this year. And my Yule hat is totally off to the person who saw those prompts and picked my pinch hit up anyway; you are MADE OF AWESOME, pinch-hitting Santa!)

  • An out is also good. In future, I will try to remember to steal milkshake_b's strategy, which is to provide a prompt and a secondary prompt. So I will write, for example: "A crazy space adventure with lots of sex would be wonderful! Or anything with really screwed-up robots!" (I'm still undecided about exclamation points in prompts. Do they add a fun, devil-may-care tone? Or is it more of a crazed, stressed, likely-to-snap tone? Something to ponder in the year ahead.)

  • Characters can go in the details section. This isn't precisely optimal, but sometimes it's unavoidable. (See here for lots of examples of how character selection can get complicated.) So I can pick characters A and B in the selection part, then say, "Gen is always great - any characters you choose from the whole canon, not just limited to the two listed here. Or, if you go the pairing route, some A/B sexin' will be most welcome."
So. What are your prompt lessons? Oh, and hey, while you're here - feel like helping me with my Prompt Dysfunction? Take this poll!

When you're writing for a story-exchange challenge, what kind of prompt do you most like to get? (Note: please choose based on style of prompt rather than content.)

No prompt at all. Give me room to work!
1(0.7%)
Just a few guidelines: "Angst and wretchedness = yay!"
20(14.0%)
More detailed guidelines: "Snarky, super-hot porn with a side order of wacky hijinks."
19(13.3%)
Really detailed. As detailed as possible. Way too detailed to fit into a single poll option. ("So, anything in which A and C are together, but I'm also hoping it's post canon, and if you throw D in, could you age him up? Also...")
3(2.1%)
Story ideas. "What happened after A left B? Did they ever meet again?"
14(9.8%)
An assortment of story ideas. "A gen piece about A's time in the Solar Defense Militia. Or anything A/C, post-canon. Or maybe you could bring D back from the dead."
74(51.7%)
Story summaries. "After A leaves B at the end of the canon, he goes on a journey to Tibet to find himself, and meets C along the way. Red-hot A/C lovin' follows, and then they meet the Old Man of the Mountain. It all ends well, although B is dead!"
1(0.7%)
Warnings about what not to include. "Please no B-bashing or anything about D's addiction issues."
6(4.2%)
Something else, which I will explain in the comments.
5(3.5%)

And, in story exchange challenges, what kinds of prompts do you hope not to get?

Absent ones.
13(9.0%)
Just a few guidelines: "Angst and wretchedness = yay!"
0(0.0%)
More detailed guidelines: "Snarky, super-hot porn with a side order of wacky hijinks."
0(0.0%)
Really detailed. As detailed as possible. Way too detailed to fit into a single poll option. ("So, anything in which A and C are together, but I'm also hoping it's post canon, and if you throw D in, could you age him up? Also...")
6(4.1%)
Story ideas. "What happened after A left B? Did they ever meet again?"
0(0.0%)
An assortment of story ideas. "A gen piece about A's time in the Solar Defense Militia. Or anything A/C, post-canon. Or maybe you could bring D back from the dead."
0(0.0%)
Story summaries. "After A leaves B at the end of the canon, he goes on a journey to Tibet to find himself, and meets C along the way. Red-hot A/C lovin' follows, and then they meet the Old Man of the Mountain. It all ends well, although B is dead!"
6(4.1%)
Warnings about what not to include. "Please no B-bashing or anything about D's addiction issues."
1(0.7%)
Something else, which I will explain in the comments.
1(0.7%)

When you're participating in story exchanges, what kinds of prompts do you tend to give?

Absent ones.
2(1.4%)
Just a few guidelines: "Angst and wretchedness = yay!"
9(6.5%)
More detailed guidelines: "Snarky, super-hot porn with a side order of wacky hijinks."
14(10.1%)
Really detailed. As detailed as possible. Way too detailed to fit into a single poll option. ("So, anything in which A and C are together, but I'm also hoping it's post canon, and if you throw D in, could you age him up? Also...")
0(0.0%)
Story ideas. "What happened after A left B? Did they ever meet again?"
6(4.3%)
An assortment of story ideas. "A gen piece about A's time in the Solar Defense Militia. Or anything A/C, post-canon. Or maybe you could bring D back from the dead."
7(5.0%)
Story summaries. "After A leaves B at the end of the canon, he goes on a journey to Tibet to find himself, and meets C along the way. Red-hot A/C lovin' follows, and then they meet the Old Man of the Mountain. It all ends well, although B is dead!"
0(0.0%)
Warnings about what not to include. "Please no B-bashing or anything about D's addiction issues."
1(0.7%)
Something else, which I will explain in the comments.
2(1.4%)

How many story exchanges have you participated in? (If more than 20, just choose 20; that's as high as it will let me go.)

Mean: 6.43 Median: 4 Std. Dev 5.63
0(0.0%)
1
20(14.9%)
2
15(11.2%)
3
19(14.2%)
4
14(10.4%)
5
12(9.0%)
6
9(6.7%)
7
5(3.7%)
8
6(4.5%)
9
1(0.7%)
10
12(9.0%)
11
0(0.0%)
12
3(2.2%)
13
0(0.0%)
14
0(0.0%)
15
3(2.2%)
16
1(0.7%)
17
1(0.7%)
18
1(0.7%)
19
0(0.0%)
20
12(9.0%)

What's the strangest prompt you've ever gotten?

What's the hardest prompt you've ever gottten?

What's your most favorite prompt ever?

Finally, please choose a randomly-selected chunk of text:

I'm very partial to giant mutant lizards
33(23.1%)
26(18.2%)
Pinch
5(3.5%)
I know it was a long time ago.
11(7.7%)
Also, I had NO IDEA there was a penguin!
68(47.6%)
 
 
 
Red for Pleasure Live: moonflowershusu on December 22nd, 2006 01:18 am (UTC)
I give two prompts. The long crazy one. And the one-word prompt.

This doesn't seem to help me write better prompts. *g* Prompts and summaries! My banes!
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 02:01 am (UTC)
*bonds*

I likewise suck at both prompts and summaries. (Also titles, for the record.) I wonder if there's a connection - like, Prompt Dysfunction is just a piece of a larger dysfunctional puzzle?

Next year, I am going to try for a not-crazy not-as-long one plus a really short one. We will see what horrible mess my Prompt Dysfunction makes of that.
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)
See, I have never done a single-fandom fest exchange, mostly because I don't think I'm writer enough. So I wasn't sure how those types of exchanges did it.

And, hmmm. I'm wondering what it would be like to write to a prompt like that; the thing is, there's no way to know until you've actually got the assignment, and then it's much too late if it turns out you can't do that kind of prompt at all. (And by "you," I mean "me," of course.)
(Deleted comment)
.hackthis on December 22nd, 2006 01:31 am (UTC)
I saw my pinch hit too, but it was one of the later ones and after having seen everyone else's rather detailed prompts I said to myself, "Self, um, should we have like given SOME direction?" To which I replied, "Nah, man, we don't do it for what we get, fuck it, let somebody else go crazy. You want to write that one story about the time Ari Gold became a reaper on Dead Like Me and met Fraser's father, have at it!" Actually, last year I did get a crazy awesome x-over with like Nip/Tuck and dS, so you know, hell, maybe the on prompt thing is working. As for being on the receiving end of prompts there was more than one hit that I intitally came across was all, all, "Hells, yeah, I can write that... um, no, not with that prompt I can't. You hate X, Y, and Z, but otherwise that's okay? Um, how about you give me X and Z and I'll cut out Y?"
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 02:12 am (UTC)
*eyes you*

Well. I love you dearly, so I will accept this as just one of your delightful idiosyncrasies. But I still think it's better to leave some kind of prompt. Otherwise, you risk having your writer lock up in mortal terror - especially in Yuletide. ("OMG she put down a WHOLE SERIES OF BOOKS and didn't specify anything! What if I make a mistake and RUIN YULETIDE?" Ruining Yuletide is, obviously, a major phobia of mine.)

But if you're truly happy with anything you get - and knowing you, probably are, because you are JUST THAT AWESOME (and weird! But mostly it's the awesome!) - you could put, "I'm truly happy with anything you feel like writing. Go crazy on this fandom, my fine friend." Then at least people would know they weren't in the dreaded She Has a Single Story She Wants, but She Won't Tell Me What It IS situation.
(no subject) - hackthis on December 22nd, 2006 04:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 02:18 am (UTC)
Well, I like getting lots of those things, too, so I sympathize. But the Secret Evil Motivation of this poll was to help me figure out what my writer next year is most likely to want, so I went to the forced choice place. (It is not my fault. I was raised by an experimental psychologist; forced choices are my natural millieu, and ticky boxes still somehow seem less than rigorous. Obviously, I blame my mother.)

But, um, sorry for the radio buttons of oppression. I will continue to work on my issues. *vows*

the mods i have worked with seem to prefer very detailed guidelines.

Especially in single-fandom exchanges, this makes a lot of sense. One of the poll-takers up there observed that if you're in a single PAIRING exchange, an empty prompt is almost impossible to write. So I can see why mods want detail.
I saw you eating ice cream, pal!: Bart stares at Timglossing on December 22nd, 2006 01:37 am (UTC)
Next year, I am seriously considering enlisting a Request Beta to determine if I am writing the kinds of prompts that make writers cry or not.
I can't believe there's someone else out there who's as neurotic as I am about prompts. Should I rejoice or console?

I've gotten terrible prompts and decent ones, but you're absolutely right about pinch-hits and the increased importance of a good prompt -- on Another Exchange this week, I passed on a pinch-hit because the prompts were just too annoying for me to bear. They read like story summaries from ff.net, filled with leading questions and far too much detail. (Also, the characters requested were...odd.)
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 02:32 am (UTC)
I can't believe there's someone else out there who's as neurotic as I am about prompts. Should I rejoice or console?

Well, I am choosing to rejoice. I mean, a neurosis shared is a neurosis on its way to being not that weird anymore!

And, really, it's not a bad neurosis. We just want not Ruin Yuletide (or other exchange fest).

*attempts to summon up Prompt Dysfunction Pride*

pinch-hits and the increased importance of a good prompt

Especially since, with a pinch hit, the writer doesn't usually have time to immerse herself in the source and let ideas percolate for a few weeks. She's pretty much got to write RIGHT NOW, and without that percolation leeway - well, it's just easier for me to commit to a pinch hit if the prompt gets me partway to the story, so that I know I can start writing right away.
(no subject) - milkshake_b on December 24th, 2006 09:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
miriam heddymiriam_heddy on December 22nd, 2006 01:49 am (UTC)
Oddly enough, about five seconds after I filled in the Yuletide, I entirely forgot what I said I wanted. By the time I got my 3 writing prompts and sat down to choose one to write, I had forgotten anyone was writing me a story.

I didn't even really remember someone was writing for me until well after I uploaded my own story, at which point I was thinking, at first, "I can't wait till people can read this and I hope the recipient likes it!" and then I was like, "Wait... I'm going to get to read a story for me!"

So I would categorize myself as selfishly selfless, or something. It's all about me the writer, not me the reader.

As a writer, I think what I like is some idea of what to avoid, because I worry most about offending or writing something that completely doesn't suit. What I like/need least is detailed requests, because then I panic at everything I have to do and all the things I might screw up. So basically, the prompt I received this year was really good for me, though in the end, I might not have fulfilled it because she gave me a "preferably" instead of a "no," which I took to be more leeway than she might have wanted, and I do hope that if she hated the mere idea, she would have been more firm in dissuading me.

Anyway, yes, neurotic. Yes. Gah. This is the first I've ever done, and I enjoyed it immensely, so I'll do it next year. I think that, unlike challenges, I was able to complete this well ahead of schedule because it was for someone specific.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)
It's all about me the writer, not me the reader.

Oh, yes. I thought it would be about the reader part of me the first year I did it, so I was stunned at how, four seconds after I got my assignment, it became totally about what I was writing, not what I was getting. (But the prompts are still key. I do not want to Ruin Yuletide by making someone else's life difficult! So I do worry about my prompts - I figure, I trust my writer to write me a great story much more than I trust myself to write her a decent prompt.) That is, up to a certain point it's all about the writing.

I have actually charted out my Yuletide experience:
  1. Jan 1 - Oct 1. Spend the whole year making mental notes of excellent Yuletide fandoms for me to volunteer to write (because generally what I will request is already known to me). Forget half of them. Write down the other half.

  2. Oct. 1. Begin watching the Yuletide comm with an intensity bordering on insanity.

  3. Whenever suggestions open. OMG SUGGESTIONS YAY! I list everything that I think would be cool EVER. This year, this was followed by an agonizing triage process, in which I selected the four fandoms I wanted to request, then the two fandoms I most wanted to write. Next year, I will do what everyone else did this year and ask my friends list what they're suggesting. (As it was, I got the benefit of that; a kind soul gave me two of her slots because everything went so well for her in terms of nominations sharing.)

  4. Whenever signups open. Okay, now is the time for intense cogitation. But my requests actually get, relatively speaking, short shrift - yes, I have my bouts of insanity in the prompt field, but the REAL insanity is reserved for making the spreadsheet of everything I'm volunteering, and whittling it down. (No. I don't think this is normal. But I don't think it's all that weird, either.)

  5. Assignment comes. Become utterly fixated on writing (or thinking about) request, recruiting betas, and stalking recipient. (This is when I go through the Five Phases of Yuletide.)

  6. Assignment turned in. OMG YAY! I am done, and oh, please let the recipient be happy, and...hey! There will be a story for me, too!

  7. Two days before archive goes live. The need to read the story written for me has become so intense it is overtaking my brain function.

  8. Archive goes live. (And, yes, I am often one of those people refreshing the site with shaky hands, going, "Please oh please oh please oh please...") I read my story, followed by a prolonged gorge.

  9. Jan. 1. Author reveal, followed by chortling, more glee, and reading more stories. Plus, starting the whole cycle again.
I think that, unlike challenges, I was able to complete this well ahead of schedule because it was for someone specific.

Are we related? Because, yes. I only sign up for exchange challenges these days. (Or try only to sign up for exchange challenges, anyway.) I know the odds are incredibly good that I'll default on another kind of challenge. But if there is a specific someone I'm writing for, it turns out I am intensely motivated not to disappoint her. She's a real person! Genuinely waiting for my story! I cannot let her down, and I will use every trick I know (thank you, college, for giving me so many of them) to make myself write if I'm stuck.
(no subject) - miriam_heddy on December 22nd, 2006 04:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
Zigismunda formosa: foodzmelannen on December 22nd, 2006 01:51 am (UTC)
Okay. Warnings. For the first time ever this year, I got a prompt that said, *Several times* in every choice: "the only thing I really care about is that I really, really, seriously don't want any slash/BL/Yaoi. At all. None. Never."

Which .. on the one hand, I understand (intellectually, anyway :P) having things that squick you and you don't want to see in your gift fic. On the other hand, as a writer, opening up a prompt that basically said, over and over again, "all the fic you like is icky! Eeeew!" did not give me a very good first impression of my recipient. Y'know?

It's not like I would have even written that for those characters. And like I said, I do respect squicks. But. A simple "rather not have that this time, sorry" would have been enough for me, y'know? Especially if you're requesting in a fest that you *know* has a lot of people who are fans of whatever it is; they're respecting that you don't like this stuff, so maybe you respect that they probably *do* like it?

I know, I know, I'm just venting, and honestly other than that they were very good prompts (of the "more detailed guidelines" variety.) It was just one sour note in an otherwise awesome Yuletide year.

(And I noticed a lot of prompts coming through the pinch-hit list that were no details except "no slash plz". Because obviously these people would be fine if you wrote them deathfic or everybody turning into yaks, right, so long as there's not slash? Strangely, the 'no incest, plz' and the 'no death, plz' and even the 'all gen, plz' people usually had *something* else in there... maybe I'm just finally turning into a bitter old slasher. But yeah, if you're going to warn your writer against something...try showing at least as much enthusiasm about the stuff you *do* want. Pretty please?)
abbyleeabbylee on December 22nd, 2006 02:45 am (UTC)
A simple "rather not have that this time, sorry" would have been enough for me, y'know?


But it's not for everyone. miriam_heddy says right above your post that

she gave me a "preferably" instead of a "no,"... if she hated the mere idea, she would have been more firm in dissuading me.


I think sometimes it's just lose/lose.
(no subject) - melannen on December 22nd, 2006 03:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - miriam_heddy on December 22nd, 2006 04:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shetiger on December 22nd, 2006 03:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 04:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - liviapenn on December 22nd, 2006 06:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 06:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
PROBE UNIVERSEliviapenn on December 22nd, 2006 01:59 am (UTC)

When it comes to Yuletide: LEAVE A PROMPT. I can't believe how many pinch-hits came across with absolutely no prompt, or just a pairing. That's really not good enough. Letters to Santa are to *expand* on your prompts, not to replace them entirely, for just the reason you mentioned-- sometimes prompts end up with pinch-hitters, and they can't see your Letter to Santa right away (and they might not end up reading it at all, if you don't tag/memory it in a really obvious way.)

In a smaller challenge, like JBBS or DWNOGA or 3Ships, it's likely that your author will probably at least know who you are, or maybe know some of your friends, and it's easier for them to figure out what you're into. They may even have read fic you've written in the fandom, so again, they can figure out what you like about the characters and what you like to see in fic. In Yuletide, it's likely that your prompts are going to go to a complete stranger, and they may not know anything about you, your tastes in fic, or why you like that particular fandom. You really have to give them something to work with.

When it comes to Yuletide, I like to hear more about what my recipient likes about her requested fandoms, as opposed to more about what specific kind of story she'd like to recieve. Even if they all ask for the same pairing, someone who tells me "I like Harry Potter because of those edgy, dark, awesome Slytherins" is going to get a totally different story than someone who says "I like Harry Potter because it's so melancholy, and good people make mistakes with terrible consequences," and *that* person is going to get a totally different story from someone who says "I like English boarding school hijinks and silly wizard puns and funny magical creatures and loyal BFFs." None of those prompts ask for a specific plotline, but they do give a very clear idea of what *kind* of story the person would prefer. And then if they wanted to throw in, in *addition* to that, a few "Maybe such-and-such could happen to Ron" ideas, that's great too.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 04:46 am (UTC)
and they might not end up reading it at all, if you don't tag/memory it in a really obvious way

Something I should obviously have done, but did not realize until I saw virtualinsomnia doing it (at which point my pinch hitter had already had my assignment for more than a week), was write a new Santa letter, with a helpful link to my old one. Next year, if I get pinch hit, that's what I'll do.

Assuming I can remember this resolution that long, of course.

In Yuletide, it's likely that your prompts are going to go to a complete stranger, and they may not know anything about you, your tastes in fic, or why you like that particular fandom.

Yup. Even after they find your LJ and your website, they still may not learn much. One of my authors pointed out to me that my interests are too vague to be useful, my recommendations and rants don't contain a lot of "I loved this because I love orgasm denial SO MUCH" or "I hated this because IT ENDS UNHAPPILY and THAT'S NOT RIGHT." I mean, that's more useful for the average recommendation reader, I think, but it doesn't leave a lot of ways for my Yuletide writer to learn about me.

And you're absolutely right: in Yuletide, as in almost no other exchange, you have to assume your writer knows nothing about you, because the fandom you have in common only exists in the minds of the two of you (plus maybe a few dozen other people). So it's not like you're spending all your time hanging out in the same communities and reading each other's stories, and that means your writer is starting from the big ol' blank slate. Hence the Dear Santa letter, which I think I will use in the future as a means of providing helpful resources (hey, she may love Age of Sail, too, but that doesn't mean she frequents the same places I do - and if I already have the link to the online text of the source, why not share?), explaining my love for the fandoms and the things I love best in general, and explaining my love for HER. And maybe I will also point to someone who knows a lot about me and can keep secrets. (From me, I mean. In case of further questions.)

When it comes to Yuletide, I like to hear more about what my recipient likes about her requested fandoms, as opposed to more about what specific kind of story she'd like to recieve.

This is an excellent idea. I managed that in my Santa letter last year (but, alas, not this one, I don't think) - in the future, as I said above, it is so going into my Santa letters.

*makes mental note*
(no subject) - milkshake_b on December 24th, 2006 10:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
Lady Moira: manx boy pornrosaleendhu on December 22nd, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)
For getting prompts, I put other. I like something between a few details and a decent amount of details, and I definitly like being told what they don't like.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 05:37 am (UTC)
What they don't like is most definitely key, and it's a key that a lot of people leave out, I think mostly because it's so obvious to them - I mean, doesn't everyone hate X? And then you end up writing X, and eep.
I made this beat with my panflute and my keyboard: narniajanet_carter on December 22nd, 2006 02:08 am (UTC)
The two exchanges I have participated in are the current Yuletide, and the dS Flashfiction Badfic Challenge, dude. Which may be a special kind of crazy.

Therefore, for strangest and also most favorite prompt: "Fraser and Dief switch bodies. What whacky hijinks ensue when wolf-Fraser makes moon eyes at Kowalski and Frannie needs a sitter for Ante? Set to a Nine Inch Nails "Closer" if it were covered by Weird Al."

And I felt a little guilty about the prompts I gave for Yuletide - two were pretty much "I want more of this canon! Possibly with more sexing!"* with no plot ideas, and one was that, but with the addition of a fairly random supporting-character pairing. For the latter, I could probably have come up with more details, but I had a vague feeling of not wanting to push my luck - odds are no one offered it with this pairing in mind.

*One of the canons has very little sexing, and the other has quite a bit.
tried to eat the safe banana: Dinosaurs and sodomythefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 05:50 am (UTC)
That badfic challenge one is an awesome prompt. And I mean that in the sense of inducing awe. Wow. I - I am experiencing both shock and awe here, and possibly also outright terror. (I managed to miss the dS badfic challenge, actually; I should go back and check it out.)

"I want more of this canon! Possibly with more sexing!"

I've had prompts like that - the one I wrote last year was pretty much that. And it's a good prompt, actually, because it tells exactly what the recipient wants: something just like the canon - a missing scene, a further adventure, whatever - except with the rating cranked up.

It's a bit tougher to write that in some canons than in others, though. When I wrote that, it was for a movie, and let's just say it was crystal clear to me what more of the canon would be like, but I imagine it would be slightly more challenging for, say, a 20-volume series spanning 400 years with three official AUs and eight generations of characters. My suggestion is - if you feel like adding to your prompts next year (and, seriously, that as a prompt works well, and I have reason to know it, so that is entirely an if), you could try liviapenn's concept: say why you like the canon. So, you know, "I love this canon SO MUCH because it is awesome and magical and has FLYING TIBETAN MONKS - how cool are flying Tibetan monks? - and also A rocks my socks right off." Then, when you say you want more, the writer knows which part of the canon to write more of.
(no subject) - janet_carter on December 22nd, 2006 02:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Sage: xmas joesageness on December 22nd, 2006 02:16 am (UTC)
Okay, first, YAY YOU for posting this! I learned a lot about the ways that people do give prompts that I'd never really thought about.

I also realized I'm incredibly inconsistent. :P

As a writer, I'm totally open to a fandom and a pairing (which is all I got on the Yuletide prompt I ended up doing). But I'm also totally open to really specific prompts that force me to write to spec.

Actually, my Due South Seekrit Santa prompt was very much in the second category, where the recipient had some very specific desires for what she wanted to receive. She may yet hate what I wrote, but I did technically follow the guidelines I was given.

In this situation, I'm actually less worried about my Yuletide recipient's reaction, because writing anything with a requested pairing is much, much easier than figuring out a scenario where the requested story reads as feasible.

Meanwhile, when I'm giving prompts...I like giving dialogue prompts because it's very easy to direct the sort of story I'd like to see. But sometimes I just don't care -- any fic in that fandom would be awesome. And that's when I post in my journal about the sorts of fic I particularly enjoy. But I'd much rather the writer go with an idea she feels very invested in and would enjoy writing than shoehorn her into writing a story she isn't completely happy with. I mean, honestly I'm thrilled to get a story at all -- and I want it to have been a good experience for my writer, not something that drove her bugfuck in the bad way. :P

(I've no idea who wrote for me, and now I'm wondering if she found my prompts and Dear Santa post too specific or too general. /neurotic)

That said, I really like the idea of offering different prompts with varying levels of craziness/specificity. Some people just can't write to spec while other people thrive on it, and that offers a nice solution.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 06:50 am (UTC)
I also realized I'm incredibly inconsistent.

*bonds*

I've never given prompts the same way twice. I choose to consider it a sign that I am still learning and adapting.

I like giving dialogue prompts because it's very easy to direct the sort of story I'd like to see.

Oooo, interesting. Do you have an example of what your prompts look like? (There was one really cool prompt on the pinch-hit list that quoted some lines of the book in question and asked that they be expanded upon. I thought that was a fascinating and creative way to prompt, and dialog prompting sounds like it could be just as interesting.)

(I've no idea who wrote for me, and now I'm wondering if she found my prompts and Dear Santa post too specific or too general.

Well, 'tis the season. I mean, it's why I'm obsessing about this topic now - because I'm done obsessing about the stories I wrote, basically, and am moving into the "Someone wrote for MEEEEEEEEEE" phase of story-anticipation. Which is fun, but since I am a worrier at heart, it also comes with a bunch of attendant neuroses, including of course "OMG did I Ruin Yuletide with my Prompt Dysfunction?" (I could! Very easily! I am just that bad at prompts!)

That said, I really like the idea of offering different prompts with varying levels of craziness/specificity.

Yup. In the future, I will definitely do a "choose one of" kind of deal. To me, it sounds like the best of both worlds.
(no subject) - sageness on December 22nd, 2006 07:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - milkshake_b on December 24th, 2006 10:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
Zoë Rayne: zenz_rayne on December 22nd, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
I skipped the "answer-box" questions, not thinking I remembered any prompts to list, but then I realized I was a moron. A moron who is too lazy to fill in the rest of the poll again, so I'm just going to say here:

The hardest prompt I ever got was for my Charity Ho story. The person who bought me had been writing a series of stories that spun off an eight-hundred-word ficlet I wrote, and had left a huge gap between his (chronologically) penultimate and final stories. A gap requiring a tremendous amount of emotional growth on the part of the characters. A gap he wanted me to fill. While remaining within the canon of the rest of his stories, including the fact that the characters had never talked about their relationship up until his final story. And it couldn't be from the POV of one of the two main characters, nor could the pivotal relationship moment be predicated upon first-time penetrative sex.

O.o

I have to say, though, that while it was incredibly hard and I was constantly beset by fears of inadequacy, I'm proud of the story and glad to have had guidelines that made me stretch as a writer.

I don't think I've ever been given a prompt that actively made me unhappy; I hope I've never made anyone actively unhappy with one of my prompts, either.
tried to eat the safe banana: SGA smart/prettythefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 06:53 am (UTC)
The hardest prompt I ever got was for my Charity Ho story.

OMG. I am so impressed you managed to write that, because - well, just, OMG. Hard. *awestruck*

I don't think I've ever been given a prompt that actively made me unhappy; I hope I've never made anyone actively unhappy with one of my prompts, either.

I've never been given a bad prompt, but boy howdy have I given some to others. (It is not my fault! I have Prompt Dysfunction! And, anyway, I am sincerely trying to improve. *whimpering excuses*)
shake.: spartanicalcallmesandy on December 22nd, 2006 02:35 am (UTC)
I don't at this point recall what I said in the prompt section though I'm fairly sure I repeated "no Christmas theme" or something along those lines every time. And no death, no non/con. I suppose I tend to think in terms of "pls don't write something I will hate" when it comes to yuletide. I think because I assume whomever gets assigned me will drop out and not write for me, as has happened in 50% of the ficathon exchanges I've done over the last 4 years and yes, I've counted, and yes, it actually is 50% and I swear, it's not my fault, but anyway, they drop out and then the pinch hitter will like the fandom enough to enjoy it. Cause I request things where I love the fandom and just want more.

In general, outside yuletide, I tend to go with prompts with two basic things I like (banter! sexing!) and something specific but not canon bound, like "plz mention canned peas." The specific thing being, like, an anchor for the person to write whatever they want.

I find story details or summaries or specific situations really binding and not conducive to my writing.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 09:18 am (UTC)
I don't at this point recall what I said in the prompt section though I'm fairly sure I repeated "no Christmas theme" or something along those lines every time.

Do people write a lot of Christmas-themed Yuletide stories? I did, my first year, because it was what my recipient wanted, but I don't remember reading a lot of Christmas-themed stories. (But, see, there are whole swathes of Yuletide I cannot read at all because I fail at popular culture - any TV show that doesn't already have a major fandom will be cookie time for me, for example - so I could easily have missed it.) I actual felt like I was committing a minor Yuletide sin by writing a Christmas-themed story the first time around, and I wanted to defend myself in the summary: "She wanted it this way! Really, I didn't force a holiday story on my poor recipient - she asked me for it!"

Of course, the next year I couldn't have written a Christmas story for the fandom I was assigned.

Or I guess I could have, but only if it somehow involved assassination by exploding Christmas ornaments or something.

I think because I assume whomever gets assigned me will drop out and not write for me, as has happened in 50% of the ficathon exchanges I've done over the last 4 years and yes, I've counted, and yes, it actually is 50% and I swear, it's not my fault, but anyway, they drop out and then the pinch hitter will like the fandom enough to enjoy it.

*winces*

I think this is the first time I've ever been a pinch hit, and on the one hand - yay! I mean, someone picked up my request, despite the steaming aura of crazy, and I've done a pinch hit; I know how much I had to want to write the source to pick up that story. So I don't have to drown in guilt or anything; my writer knew exactly what she was getting into, and presumably wanted to go there. (Which, god, I love her so much for that, you know? I'm basically ready to propose to her, and I don't even know her name.)

But. I feel like I broke my first writer. I want to go and throw my arms around her legs and say, "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to be crazy! It just happened! Please, give me a second chance to prove I'm sane." Which, given that we're talking about prompts, could only end badly and with more craziness, so it's best that I can't.

So, you know, on the one hand - I think being a pinch hit (except maybe if you're one of the drop-dead December 24th pinch hits) is a good thing for the recipient. But it's hard to revel in that when you know it means a bad thing for the original writer (something bad must've happened, or she wouldn't have dropped out!) and much more work for some kind, selfless, and probably incredibly busy soul. (And it's especially hard to revel in it when you suspect you broke your assigned writer OMG! Which I think I did. Oops?)

I find story details or summaries or specific situations really binding and not conducive to my writing.

Story summaries are extreme for most kinds of challenges (with some exceptions, like the badfic summary challenges, where the summaries are the whole point), totally. For me, though, details - hints of what the person would like, some kind of prompt - are helpful. Otherwise I get all tharn and waste valuable writing time playing Spider. But, at least with Yuletide, I always figure - if the writer does find my details restricting, she can ditch them; nothing is mandatory but fandom and characters. And if she's like me, she'll want the help. (Except not the sad, crazy "help" I provided this year. Next year, I will do better. *swears*)
(no subject) - callmesandy on December 23rd, 2006 05:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
leadensky on December 22nd, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
If I'm doing an exchange, I would *really* like to know what the recipient *hates*. I think of myself getting an NC-17 non-con incest (or RPS) pwp in an exchange, and I cringe. (I'll take any one of those elements - okay, less happy with RPS than any of the others - but all together? Please no.) So I'd *really* like to know, while I'm still in the planning stage, that my recipient finds gen extremely boring, and honestly couldn't care about any character other than X, and hates the *concept* of original characters. Because I'm happy to write to prefs, *if* I know the prefs.

If people are just saying 'dude, write something, anything, go wild' - then it is helpful to have a *starting place* - like, say, "lee-ward, frost, shards" - which could kick off an idea or an image, but still gives me loads of room to stretch. Those are the most fun for me. I also like handing those out, because I know what I think of, and it's delightful to see how other people's brains work.

I have...serious issues with story summary requests. I've seen several that have prompted a reaction akin to "write the damn thing yourself, if you're *that* sure exactly what you want." I'm more pleased, but still disquieted, by things like "A & B meet, joyful happiness follows." (Or, even, "angst and tortue follows".) "A meets B" is cool, "A lighter fic, please" or "Darkfic would be cool" are all right, but not so much with the restrictions.

If I was running the universe, prompts would be Fandom, Character of choice, Anti-kinks, Preferred pairing (optional), Two-three word prompt for plot/theme/mood (optional). Alas, my most recent application to be Supreme Lord of All was returned due to out of date examination scores.

- hossgal
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 09:37 am (UTC)
If I'm doing an exchange, I would *really* like to know what the recipient *hates*.

*nods*

I live in fear of doing that, of accidentally writing the one thing my recipient can't bear to read. I know people who have had squicks written for them because the writer didn't know - it's totally no one's fault, but it sucks.

So I'd *really* like to know, while I'm still in the planning stage, that my recipient finds gen extremely boring, and honestly couldn't care about any character other than X, and hates the *concept* of original characters.

*nods some more*

And the thing is - it isn't always obvious just from inspecting someone's LJ (or even reading her FF, if she has stuff for you to read) what she doesn't like. I mean, just because it isn't there doesn't mean she doesn't like it, and even if it is there - well, I've rec'd incest, but I'm squicked by it. About a third of my reading is gen, but I bet a lot less of my recommending is. I've got a tag for death stories and usually can't stand to see characters killed. And so on, and so on.

And I think, after having read these comments and checked out the results of this poll, that we're really dealing with two separate categories, here - preferences and prompts. The former is, "I can't take animal harm or embarrassment, and I really prefer happy endings." The latter is, "A, B, and a magical tiger. Magical tigers are made of awesome!"

And then there's the different types of prompts - like, the above is a story prompt. But there's also the kind you mentioned - trigger-type prompts, which I didn't even put in the poll (for reasons of excessive focus on Yuletide) but lots of people seem to prefer (three words, a picture, two lines of poetry), where you throw something at the writer, let it work around in her brain, and see what comes out. (Slot machine prompts!)

As usual, I am learning a ton about the topic of my poll. This is why the damn things are so addictive: people come and teach me stuff, and it is excellent beyond the telling of it.

If I was running the universe, prompts would be Fandom, Character of choice, Anti-kinks, Preferred pairing (optional), Two-three word prompt for plot/theme/mood (optional).

*ponders*

If I was running the universe, I think prompts would be fandom, character(s) of choice, bulletproof kinks and anti-kinks, genre (gen/het/slash), story suggestions (optional), and what you love most about the fandom, character(s), or pairing you requested. In other words, not so much prompts as a data sheet; the actual prompt is important to me, but if I know the rest, I can live without it.

Alas, my most recent application to be Supreme Lord of All was returned due to out of date examination scores.

They keep saying my application is missing form 27-B. And yet there doesn't seem to be a 27-B. Curse the Great Bureaucracy!
(no subject) - leadensky on December 24th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on December 25th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - leadensky on December 28th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on December 22nd, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)
I am in mortal fear of the "no prompt whatsoever"--yet this year that's exactly what I got for the pinch hit I picked up. The recipient's letter basically said "go crazy". So I did. And I love, love, love the story I wrote. No clue whether the recipient will love it or hate it, but I'm so glad I got the chance to write it.
tried to eat the safe banana: Yuletidethefourthvine on December 22nd, 2006 09:39 am (UTC)
If you love the story, I'm betting the recipient will love it, too, just because that kind of writing high causes a contact reading high. Plus, if she's the kind of person who says, "Go crazy," she probably means it. I predict joy for your recipient on Yuletide morning!

Or whenever she gets to her computer. (There is this totally inconvenient holiday that falls on the same day as Yuletide, can you believe it? And a lot of people end up missing Yuletide opening because of that holiday. Insanity, I tell you.)