Doing the Beta Bop (Beta Reader Interviews): TruantPony, part 2 (The Art and Science of the Beta)

The Beta Bop is a social dance, and in this week’s three-part series of interviews, I’ll be talking with one of my favorite dance partners, TruantPony. Part 1, How You Do What You Do (including brief bio) is here.

Truant has beta-read The Shape-shifter’s Tale Erika and the VampireMax and the Ghost, Annie Brown and the Superhero Blues, and most recently, The Necromancer and the Barbarian: A Love Story, to which she contributed key insights on the immunology of resurrection.

***

E. P. Beaumont:  Your academic training is in the sciences. How does this affect the way that you read, both as a beta-reader and for pleasure?

TruantPony: Yes, it does. I pay attention to details, and read critically, because part of my training includes being able to decipher papers and journals from a variety of fields, not to mention, my academic training included a lot of problem solving. It’s hard for me to let go and just read without getting really engaged with the material. When something is written well, I feel like I’m just flying though the reading.

E. P. Beaumont:  And that ease of reading is information, too.

TruantPony: Yes. I can definitely tell what parts the writer was uncomfortable writing. It’s really kind of a weird feeling.

E. P. Beaumont:  What are the surface clues?

TruantPony: The tone and pace suddenly changes, it becomes stilted, feels stagnant, there’s no momentum, no forward movement. I have a feel for it about oh, 90% of the time, and when I ask, the writer will generally be surprised. I think astute readers can pick up things like this pretty easily.

E. P. Beaumont:  There’s a lot of information conveyed in the rhythm, just as in spoken language.

TruantPony: Yes, absolutely. Writing is very much like language or song in that everyone has a specific pace.

E. P. Beaumont:  In your experience, how long does it take to develop a beta-reading relationship? You mentioned starting out with reviewing, and then correspondence…

TruantPony: Well, generally I follow with reviews, and since they’re pretty long and detailed, the writer usually likes to talk about it- what worked, what didn’t work, and regular correspondence, maybe talk about plot points. I don’t really know, I just kind of fell into it, and there are several writers I follow regularly, and beta reading just came naturally from that.

E. P. Beaumont:  What’s the difference between the way you beta-read fan fiction and original fiction?

TruantPony: There’s not much of a difference. Fanfiction is more of a review ‘after the fact’, so I don’t really point out things they could have done in the chapter, rather what worked and what didn’t work for me as a reader. I think that’s the only difference.

E. P. Beaumont:  I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews on ffnet. You have a keen eye for gender and culture issues. What’s your take on how these issues play out in fanfic, where writers are playing in somebody else’s world?

TruantPony: This…is a touchy topic for me. First of all, I think some fanfic writers really do a disrespect to the source material by taking the original characters and making them (aside from looks) unrecognizable from their true canon characterization. To me, these characters have a life and voice of their own, and to subtend that to your own agenda is not being respectful or true to the original work.

Secondly, since romance is a popular topic, or I should say, THE most popular topic to write, instead of exploring culture or gender boundaries, which is interesting to me, most people just want to shove characters into the role of ‘romantic hero/heroine’. There’s also a variety of self-insert, wish fulfillment fics too, that really make me cringe to read.

Thirdly, a lot of fanfic writers dabble in dangerous territory, for example, depicting rape as a vehicle for romance, fics about abuse, etc. I think what they forget is writing is kind of like public exposure! What they write, is a mirror for what they think, and sometimes I get the uncomfortable feeling that they’re revealing more to me than they (and I) ever wanted to know.

E. P. Beaumont:  All of those are sins that can be (and are) committed by original fiction. Case in point: Twilight.

TruantPony: Yes. I didn’t like how the pro-life agenda, romantic hero tropes, allusions to creationism were shoved at me through that book.

***

Yes, we’re going there. Tomorrow, we take on romance tropes and critical thinking, with Part 3, Sex and the Single Story, along with a Previous of Coming Attractions.

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