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30 January 2008 @ 02:39 pm
Ramblings on Fic and Characterization  
I went on a J-squared reading binge late last week, and found myself running up against two issues that seem to hit me again and again in fanfic in general.

The first is British bleed into American settings, that just throws me right out of the story. One minute it's all good, and then a snigger or have a go or for f**k's sake or wonky or the like pops up, and then more start piling in and that's it— the story's ruined for me. *cries* I know not everyone is bothered by this, but to me it's like someone singing off-key (which is intolerable when you're pitch-sensitive, believe me). I've thought many times about creating a 'helper' page for equivalent British=>American phrasing or "things to avoid", because I see this in both of my main fandoms, but I haven't found the time yet.

That said, I have similar thoughts about a quick-and-dirty summary for writers of all origins regarding how to format dialogue, or the whole lay/lie distinction and how to tell what tense you're in and the red flag words that belong with one tense but not the other (can/could, may/might, will/would— you get the idea). Potentially helpful! But where is the time?

The second area, which is probably an even more personal issue than the first, is AUs and ensuing characterization. I'm not all that big on AUs in general, though an author with the right touch can persuade me very easily— this has proved especially true for J2 RPS, which is the only RPS I read. It's got its own set of rules for me, apparently! But when an AU tends to work for me in general, in ALL fandoms and settings, is when I can still very clearly see the original characters despite the AU circumstances and setting. So I ran into a surprise last week in reading a J2 story that most people absolutely love. One of the characters was a stereotypical shopoholic fashion-and-grooming-obsessed semi-prissy gay man. And while the story was incredibly well-written, I just couldn't get past that. It didn't feel like I was reading J-squared, it felt like I was reading a story about some totally different people wearing Jensen's and Jared's skin suits. And that really has no appeal to me— I quit half way through, because I just couldn't maintain any interest in the story. I've run into some exceptions, where the character leans in that direction but still has enough Jensen or Jared characteristics to hold my attention. And there's one in particular that was a retelling of "Clueless" where it was totally not a problem for me (Hi, Sonia!). But in general... the appeal of J-squared for me is Jensen and Jared, together, and when one or both of them is 'off,' then it's no longer my idea of J-squared. *is picky* *envies readers who aren't bothered by that*

Actual dreck: Sure, there's badfic out there, but fanfic has some incredible writers in every fandom. And there are times when what people write for free on the Interwebs SO easily exceeds some of the things I find in published books that it boggles my mind. Cases in point:
* The mystery that began with two cats discussing their owner (Uh-oh). When they progressed to something they'd read in the newspaper, I bailed. *shudders*
* The mystery where the hairdresser (?) kept having her "feelings," and went to a family reunion where it turned out that every member of the family had some kind of ESP-capability. Ack! *done by page 3*
* Today's disaster: a mystery with supernatural elements (according to bookcover) where some demons convene to discuss a problem, and a werejaguar is displeased (Uh-oh). The next chapter begins with a heroine who curses— oh wait, doesn't, because Good Catholic Girls don't curse and— *thud* *tosses book back in return pile*


Wow, look— I totally avoided slamming Jonathan Kellerman and his "Mary Sue" mysteries involving Alex Delaware! Oh, wait. Um...


 
 
 
daybright: my catdaybright on January 30th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
he he you've been reading Joe Grey haven't you?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
he he you've been reading Joe Grey haven't you?

Actually no-- there are more sources of BAD out there than you can believe. The 'werejaguar' *chokes on own tongue* is courtesy of a Christine Warren.

And while I don't remember the details of the other dreadful books, the writers were all female, so still not him.

For men, there's sometimes also the "telegraph-style" of writing. In. Really short sentences. Sometimes choppy.

;)
(no subject) - daybright on January 30th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - daybright on January 30th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
michelle: Jensen and Danneelcertainthings on January 30th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
Wait. "for fuck's sake" and "wonky" are British?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, hell yes.

And Canadian authors are another source of this kind of thing, because they get both American and British influence, and are even less aware I think of which falls on which side of the "fence."
(no subject) - certainthings on January 30th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - 1001cranes on January 30th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - 1001cranes on January 30th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 12:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
Pheebs1pheebs1 on January 30th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
One of the absolutely hardest things I find, is not avoiding american words, but phrasing. For Fuck's Sake, for eg. And... I feel myself doing it, but it's hard. It's hard to go, so how DO americans say it? I guess this is why, I think, as a British writer in an American fandom, I think everyone should get an American to check fic over before they post (unless they're like, really really confident). I would expect the same for a Doctor Who fic! (Which I'd be happy to Brit up! LOL!)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
I would expect the same for a Doctor Who fic! (Which I'd be happy to Brit up! LOL!)

I actually think that if someone had a "how to Brit up your story" listing, it could be helpful in the reverse, too. For flagging down, among other things, words that don't quite have equivalent connotations over here. There are some that have their own unique flavor as slang that are 'missing' on the other side of the pond.
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on January 30th, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC)
I hear ya about the AUs. There are some I can appreciate kind of on their own as well written original fic. But in those cases it's almost distracting sometimes if the characters wear those popular names. Like that in turn takes away from the potential original story. Basically, there are times where I feel that it would almost feel more honest to just stand up for it and put it out there as an original fic.

Except "honest" is probably the wrong word here, because I'm sure these characters or actors were after all at some point the inspiration of the fic, but, well. Complicated.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)
Basically, there are times where I feel that it would almost feel more honest to just stand up for it and put it out there as an original fic.

In some cases, they'd make for really good stories, too. I mean, these are often fantastic authors who can really tell a story. It's just that the choice to write a character who is really NOT the person they're supposed to be modelled on often doesn't work for someone like me.

Because I'm sure these characters or actors were after all at some point the inspiration of the fic, but, well. Complicated.
Someone back in college, a composition major who wrote a lot of atonal music, was given an assignment to write something "in the style of Mozart." The result was in no way like Mozart at all, BUT... it was the most listenable thing he'd ever written.
poisontaster on January 30th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
You know, in the main I WHOLLY agree with you about Britishisms and their ability to ruin a story for me, but I also see a lot of British drift in the spoken language (in fact, pretty much all the examples you named) that, while I recognize them as Britishisms, don't bug me because they've been...IDK, acceptably Americanized? I mean, I've known people all my life that use "for fuck's sake!" but give me boot, torch, lift, flat, etc. and I'm out.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
that, while I recognize them as Britishisms, don't bug me because they've been...IDK, acceptably Americanized?

I guess that's the thing, because for me they really haven't. Even if the occasional person says them once in awhile, they're not part of the common vernacular, and they stick out to me as sounding 'wrong.'

But, and I can only speak for myself here, characterization and writing is a very "voice-dependent" thing for me, and I mean that literally. If I can't hear the character's voice saying those lines in my head (including the narrative being of similar flavor), then I won't write it and I'll tend not to 'believe' it.

I also know people who say "anyways," which has definitely crept into the vernacular, but I sure don't want to read it in a fic as part of the narrative, since it's not a real word. *is double picky*
(no subject) - poisontaster on January 30th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - halfshellvenus on February 1st, 2008 07:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
Jas Massonjasmasson on January 30th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
for fuck's sake, see I didn't know that! Thanks. A cheat sheet would certainly be useful for me!

I come across this dissonance all the time, of course, so I can't let it bother me; I just assume it's someone with a different turn of phrase if it's a phrase I don't immediately relate to. I occasionally have to look things up, like, today, for example, I looked up flapjacks as I read something with J&J having them for breakfast. To me, a flapjack is a sort of cereal bar or biscuit(cookie *g*) i.e. baked, so I was wondering how that worked as a fried breakfast dish (still not 100% clear). And yesterday Dean was eating hush puppies (he's eating his shoes?! I know he's got an oral fixation, but jeez *g*).

In regard to J2 AUs, I'm changeable, really. I can except some variations of character in AUs when I consider that my version of J or J may have developed that way in a different setting (if they'd been orphaned, or grew up in 1408 in Italy, or fought in a war etc etc). Sometimes, I just accept it as though it's the boys in another acting role. Sometimes I remember that 'my' version of J2 (although held true in my heart) is a fictional construct anyway. And sometimes I just think NONONONO and close the tab*g*.

I guess the J2 AUs don't bother me so much as completely OO(my)C in standard J2. Jared abusing Jensen? Really?! Really??!I think not.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: JSquaredLovehalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
To me, a flapjack is a sort of cereal bar or biscuit(cookie *g*) i.e. baked

What?!? They're just pancakes to us, though flapjacks is another name people use (less often). Makes me wonder what exactly that is in other countries. I mean, if you don't know what a scone is, it's hard to explain. It's not exactly a bisuit (in the American sense), but kind of close. But not entirely.

And yesterday Dean was eating hush puppies (he's eating his shoes?!
That's a food they have in the South, and I'm not entirely sure what it is either! Fried corn-meal blobs, I think, which really doesn't sound appetizing to me at all. But then, I hate polenta and scrapple, so there you go.

And sometimes I just think NONONONO and close the tab*g*.
I think MOST people are more accepting of AUs than I am, though if the character has a really similar "personality" to the "real" version of them, it tends not to bother me. Some AUs are genius! But if it totally feels like someone else (i.e., Jensen or Jared is a big femmy gay-boy), then I'm just not interested in reading it.
(no subject) - jasmasson on January 30th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 02:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
jeyhawkjeyhawk on January 30th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Oh please make the helper page. I use an American beta but I was taught British English in school and half my online friends are Brits. I slip up, because I just don't know the difference. *sighs*

It didn't matter much in the VO fandom because half British/half American, I got to chose, but SPN is an American fandom and they're American boys. I wanna do better. :0P

Sometimes, I think I lean towards the skin suit type of writing. Not always, I try to keep something of what's them to me in there, but yeah... I dunno. I think I just get carried away by the opportunities and then you just go to far. :0P

Yes, published drivel... Why don't we talk about the horrendous Nevermore or by all means the book series I started reading where the POV suddenly changed from third person to badly written first person in the third book. Needless to say, I never finished it. *g*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
but I was taught British English in school and half my online friends are Brits. I slip up, because I just don't know the difference. *sighs*

That's the hardest thing-- it's completely off your radar, if it's already in your background. And the reverse is true-- I grew up being taught that "dove" was a bird and not a verb, only to discover that on the East Coast of the U.S. it's the common past tense of "dive." It still sounds wrong to me, and makes me cringe!

I think I just get carried away by the opportunities and then you just go to far. :0P
That's the thing, for some people it's fun and for others it doesn't feel like the characters anymore. It's all a matter of personal taste, and I kind of have issues with AUs sometimes to begin with! *is saddened*

Why don't we talk about the horrendous Nevermore
I am SO afraid to read that. I've heard things about the wrong eye colors for the characters, or the fact that the person didn't watch the show AT ALL before writing it. In which case... what exactly is that book supposed to be? You need to watch the show to get a feel for the characters. Unless you don't care... :(

or by all means the book series I started reading where the POV suddenly changed from third person to badly written first person in the third book.
*groans* I admit to having struggled with POV in my earliest fanfic writing, as in, being unaware that I wasn't doing 3rd-person POV, I was really writing from only one of the two characters' POVs! In which case, no switching allowed!

However... I did eventually learn. Plus, aren't editors supposed to catch that sort of thing? If not, what the heck are they paid for?
brigid_tanner: Bobby-???brigid_tanner on January 30th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Don't knock hush puppies till you've tried them! They're much better than they sound ;) Just make sure the ones you try are made in the South, or by a Southerner. They're usually served with fried fish, and Dean would LOVE them.

The discussion on "for fuck's sake" is interesting. I've never thought of it as a British term, either. Heard it and used it, but not sure when I started hearing it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 30th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
Don't knock hush puppies till you've tried them! They're much better than they sound ;)
Don't they involve fried cornmeal? Because I really hate cornmeal, except in corn bread.

Also not that big on fried things, or dough blobs. I hate dumplings. There, I said it!

Heard it and used it, but not sure when I started hearing it.
Are you younger than me, or living on the other coast maybe? I still don't hear it even now.
(no subject) - brigid_tanner on January 31st, 2008 12:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 12:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - brigid_tanner on January 31st, 2008 01:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
sassy, classy, and a bit smart-assy: Allgoodbadboy_fangirl on January 30th, 2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
I'd just like to weigh in and say that 'for fuck's sake' may be a Britishism, but it is in the American vocab for sure. It makes no sense, but I've heard it spoken and read it many different places. (I couldn't site those now or anything, but I wasn't expecting you wanting that!) ;-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
but I've heard it spoken and read it many different places.
Do you think it's mostly younger people?

I mean, I lived in Illinois for three years and never heard it there. And of course I'm not hearing it on television, because... no cable. But even on the cable shows I DVD I'm still not hearing it.

In the main, I like to avoid "challenging" the reader with something that potentially sounds wrong. I.e., although Dean said "Driver shuts his cakehole" in the pilot, I personally wouldn't tempt fate by giving him other Briticisms in a story.

On the flip side, there's Gregory House who occasionally says stuff like "Bros before hos!" which is funny IN PART because it's so unexpected. But would I write that myself? Heck no-- especially not without Hugh Laurie to sell the line for me.
Ah yes, quite a bunch of us, isn't it?unhobbityhobbit on January 31st, 2008 01:00 am (UTC)
snigger or have a go or for f**k's sake or wonky

...Bugger. To quote a phrase. I have no idea if I've used any of them. Probably have. Ah well.

How do you live without wonky? It's such a useful word!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
Bugger needs to go on my list!

We use "wobbly" or "lopsided" or "off-kilter" or just "off" instead of wonky-- depending on what connotation we're looking for.

Now, one of the things I love is when someone invents a slang and it just sounds like what it is. For instance, skank. :0
alazysod on January 31st, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)
for fuck's sake is British? I say that all the time. (Also, that helper page you mentioned would be totally awesome. I hate reading SPN stories that have Canadian or UK words, because the show is like the great American adventure or whatever, and Americans don't use the word boot for trunk.)

Wow, look— I totally avoided slamming Jonathan Kellerman and his "Mary Sue" mysteries involving Alex Delaware! Oh, wait. Um...
Haha! I used to read his books all the time, but Alex bothered me so much. Milo was way better.

Speaking of bad books, I remember reading this book about a sixteen-year-old girl who was dating some older guy – like, thirties older – and she was totally in love with him and he was using her, and her parents really didn't like the relationship…and then somehow he was living with her? In her parents' house. And she carved his name into her arm to prove her love. And I was like, what. This is retarded.

Turned out the author had dropped out of high school to write the book, or something. It really showed.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 02:49 am (UTC)
Let's put it this way-- it doesn't seem to be of my generation at all, and the people who seem to use it tend more to be East Coast. Which has different words, etc. in use than other parts of the country (much like the South does). So for me, it definitely sounds off.

but Alex bothered me so much. Milo was way better.
Oh, that's the thing-- I'd happily read about Milo forever! But Alex... I just want to smack him. And dump him in his ultra-perfect koi pond. Bleh.

Turned out the author had dropped out of high school to write the book, or something. It really showed.
Hahahaha! What's worse is, somebody published it. Hey, anyone can write a bad book! But that's no reason for someone else to try to sell it. :0
girlguidejonesgirlguidejones on January 31st, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
Personally, I think you see "wonky" not just as a Briticism as much because a good portion of the SPN fandom are from BtVS fandom back in the day, and Spike brought it with him and it was used in several eps by the scoobies.

When it comes to Sam and Dean and Bobby's vernacular, I find it just as annoying to see them speaking like californians or new yorkers or Georgia boys as I do if they were Brits. They're midwestern, and Kripke and team actually do a pretty good job of ensuring they sound like it from week to week. There's a particular laconic idiom native to the midwest, and while I'd be hard pressed to define it, despite living here all my life, like pornography, I'd know it when I see it (or when it was lacking).

;)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 05:06 am (UTC)
They're midwestern, and Kripke and team actually do a pretty good job of ensuring they sound like it from week to week.
Do you have a feel for whether Kansas sounds more Midwestern than, say, like Texas? Oklahomans I've heard sound more like Texans to me.

Though they all speak slower than those of us on the West Coast, and parts of the East Coast? Whoo-- get out the radar gun!

But I know what you mean. when I lived in Illinois for three years, I didn't notice a vernacular of things added so much-- more of things taken away. Though the one phrase that stuck out was, "That's just talkin' ignorant." And the flattened vowels.

New Yorkers have a wealth of extra words/phrases from multiple cultures (including a lot of Yiddishisms you don't regularly hear in other places). California is probably known more for stupid slang and "dude" than anything else-- though the boys DO say that an awful lot.
(no subject) - girlguidejones on January 31st, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean slashhalfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 08:11 am (UTC)
Yeah, I HATE when the boys are made out to be prissy, nelly-assed, semi-men. Good on you!
Some people really don't mind that-- it's as if those are slightly different flavors of possibility or something that they still find appealing. It just really doesn't work for me-- in fact, I don't like it in slash in general. That kind of man holds no sexual appeal for me at all, and that actually removes the thrill of the whole slash thing entirely!

That is one really nice manip icon you have there. *stares at it for a really long time*
Genevievemsgenevieve on January 31st, 2008 11:01 am (UTC)
* Today's disaster: a mystery with supernatural elements (according to bookcover) where some demons convene to discuss a problem, and a werejaguar is displeased (Uh-oh). The next chapter begins with a heroine who curses— oh wait, doesn't, because Good Catholic Girls don't curse and— *thud* *tosses book back in return pile*

Oooh. Not Laurell K Hamilton, by any chance!?
Genevieve: good grammar by jackshoegazermsgenevieve on January 31st, 2008 11:02 am (UTC)
Ooops. I do try not to shove my lovely Michael/Sara icons in your face on your own LJ. Here, have a snarky grammar one instead. *g*
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - msgenevieve on February 1st, 2008 11:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 31st, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - msgenevieve on February 1st, 2008 11:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2008 01:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
Antyantychan on February 3rd, 2008 04:40 am (UTC)
And there are times when what people write for free on the Interwebs SO easily exceeds some of the things I find in published books that it boggles my mind.

Which gives me hopes for my novel in the works! XD Um, I meant to say: Gawd, YES!!

Also, reading my way through your LJ, it's so great to see someone else who is really critical of things and merciless about it!! I know what that feels like.

"For fuck's sake" is a British expression? ... Someday, when I'll have written my original novel, will you do a read-through? XD

*envies readers who aren't bothered by that*

The sad truth is, most people don't know what good writing/acting/film-making actually is.
Antyantychan on February 3rd, 2008 05:14 am (UTC)
Oh, also, I'm still waiting for someone to write the definite Sara/Michael/Lincoln OT3 AU... the one that uses my season 1 subtext (Michael choosing Sara to counter his brother fixation) and your happily-in-Panama situation (I think Lincoln wouldn't mind a female after all)... the one where Sara eventually has their spawn and they happily live in sin! XD
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on February 5th, 2008 06:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
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