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09 August 2006 @ 10:19 pm
Discussing Beautiful Broken  
This begins our discussion of lit_gal's Beautiful Broken.

Let's make this a good one, comm!
Lorrainelunabee34 on August 10th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)
Some things to think about as we're reading.

1. How does this fic fit within the genre of slave fic? Where does it uphold and where does it defy the conventions of that genre?

2. How do both Spike and Xander's canonical characterization evolve in this fic?

3. Often, many of us find situations and experiences in fic very erotic in ways that we would never find them in RL. Discuss that issue in terms of this fic.
zgirl714 on August 10th, 2006 04:59 am (UTC)
The first thing that I will say is this: I find slave fics to be on the whole distasteful. I have read them before and I have enjoyed some such as Seget. While I dislike slavery, the real reason that I dislike slave fics so much is that characterizations and common sense tend to be thrown to the wind for the sake of the plot. I am glad to say that while the Xander characterization isn't the best (but in this case it doesn't have to be), the common sense is still there. Xander isn't orgasming from joy because he is slave. He is written in such a way that allows me to connect him with the Xander from the show. Kudos. Most AUs of this type don't.

The written is awkward though. Thoughout, it seems as if tighter editing is needed. Descriptions of the surroundings need to be fleshed out more.

I only read the first chapter of your stories because the genre doesn't really interest me. It wasn't bad but I've seen this type of Spander too many times to count. It had everything: Riley bashing (him and Xander were friends), secret black market dealing in humans as sex slaves (which is strange because why would demons besides vampires find humans all that appealing?), and impossible physical feats (the cane would have fallen out of his ass). Even with these grips, your fic would still be very appealing with those who enjoy this genre.
imaginaryimagesimaginaryimages on August 10th, 2006 01:29 pm (UTC)
Interesting. While I don't normally go for slave fics either, I do highly recommend you give this one a chance. I was just thinking about posting before I popped in here and my thoughts were specifically about Xander's characterization. As the story evolves you'll see why Xander is the way he is and you also see bits and pieces of the old Xander come out, with Spike's help. In fact, some of these glimpses into old-Xander are part of the story and how conflicted Xander becomes abotu his role and himself.

I found this story to actually be different from most of the slave fics I've read, (not that I've ready many) and while we're here I'm assuming most people have read it so won't worry too much about spoilers. When I first started reading it, I was afraid it would be like some, where Spike's loyalties are in question. I was dead wrong on that.

As far was whether certain things were physcially possible, I guess when I read a fic I go for the whole suspension of disbelief, we are after all, reading about vampires, so those things never occurred to me.
zgirl714 on August 10th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
I understand all that and except for the technical bits (such as grammar and awkward sentences), all of what I was saying is all my opinion. Its a matter of taste and my taste just isn't with this piece. I used to read slave fics more but the repetition in them (along with other things like character bashing, etc) made me stop. If you like slave fics then I have no doubt that you'll like Beautiful Broken but if you don't then the first chapter won't suck you in. With a more genre fic like this you have to suck readers in fast and hard (Hee!) but this one didn't really do that for me. Maybe other people who don't like slave-fics might agree. All in all, she wrote well for her audience.
imaginaryimagesimaginaryimages on August 10th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
"With a more genre fic like this you have to suck readers in fast and hard (Hee!) but this one didn't really do that for me."

Very true, if you can't hook 'em early, you're not likely to later. Good point!

I was actually surprised that my taste did like this fic, at first I had the very same reservations. I guess there's something about her style that appealed to me. I thoroughly enjoyed her Musical Wars/Second Verse fics and I generally am not a fan of totally AU fics, either!
zgirl714 on August 10th, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC)
I've never actually read any of her fics so there was no leeway that I would have given an author that I was familiar with. If the author is going to write another genre fic like this then the best thing to do is try to get a beta who isn't familiar with her work or the genre so she can develope a good hook in the first chapter.
Lit Gallit_gal on August 10th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
The LJ stuff is never closely edited because the final draft work is done on my website where I take time to fiddle. So, if the mistakes in there bother you, you'll find a cleaner version at...


I really did try to do something different, but I don't think that will be clear if you don't get past the first chapter. This Xander only looks different, but the more he's around his old friends, the more the old Xander will make a reappearance.
zgirl714 on August 10th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the link.
zgirl714 on August 11th, 2006 03:34 am (UTC)
http://minisinoo.livejournal.com/340525.html?style=mine - There is an essay on developing a good hook. I figure if I'm going to bitch about it then I might as well try to be helpful as well. ;)
Lit Gallit_gal on August 11th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)
I appreciate that you don't care for the hook... and since you don't like slavefic, I can imagine this hook totally doesn't connect with you. However, I'm standing by it as it is written. In the first two sentences of the story, you immediately know that Xander is in danger and is acting the part of a helpless prisoner, but with his internal dialogue, you also know that something of his irreverent humor still exists in his head. I wouldn't change the hook on this story (even if I have other stories that I might go back and play with).

I appreciate the link, though.
zgirl714 on August 11th, 2006 03:43 am (UTC)
No problem!
imaginaryimagesimaginaryimages on August 10th, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC)
When I first read this fic, I had the pleasure of having a few offline conversations with Lit_Gal about it so perhaps I have a bit different view of the fic than some might. Then again, lit_gal was terrific about putting some reasoning in her responses to comments so one usually had a sense of what she was thinking, especially if you read through all the comments.

What I enjoyed most about the fic is how the backstory came out slowly, so it takes you awhile to realize just why everyone is acting the way they did. I think the characterizations are actually done very well. It's just that it takes most of the story for you to understand their actions/reactions/emotions. You just need to have faith. They've all been affected by life, and a helluva one at that.

like zgirl714, I'm not a fan of slavefics (generally), but I stuck with the story and was glad I did. One thing that can turn me off more than slaves or bashing, or anything, is too much angst. For some reason, as I read this fic, I kept seeing glimmers of hope, despite the harsh circumstances, so I think the angst was done perfectly.

3. Often, many of us find situations and experiences in fic very erotic in ways that we would never find them in RL. Discuss that issue in terms of this fic.
Hmm. I think for some, the slave fic itself can be erotic, obviously not for zgirl and myself! However, perhaps the eroticism comes when dealing with issues of power. As this wasn't a true slave fic (at least in my mind's definition) in that Spike didn't break Xander, their interaction together quickly becomes VERY erotic. (Velvet_Virago's lovely illustrations certainly helped that!). They don't have the same issues as a 'traditional' slave/master, if there is such a thing as traditional.

Lit Gallit_gal on August 10th, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
I agree that a slave fic is not erotic for me, which is why the first sex scene with Xander and Spike is NOT sexy for either the reader or Xander. But the more Spike let Xander have some of the power back, the better it got. I do think consentual power exchange is a sexy, sexy game, so when they finally reached that point in Broken Revenge, that's when I thought had the most sex appeal. Of course, plenty of slavefic fans wish I had stopped with Beautiful Broken.
sammywolsammywol on August 10th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
This is a fic that really deserves some deep consideration. I met it through somebody's rec' and it was about halfway through. On reflection I think that this was a fortunate thing. Like zgirl714 I am not a fan of slave fics per se and I did not find the first chapter, or even the first few chapters drew me in. Luckily for me I started around Part 8, when the Xander/Spike dynamic was much more evolved.

What hooked me in, and what remains for me one of the strongest pieces of this story, was Spike's story about what happened to Buffy and himself in the Initiative. It is told so plainly and yet it seethes with emotion.

That and Joyce's role in the story were the best aspects for me. I am a fan of strong female roles and that is something that I have not found much in slave fic or in most BD/SM fic at all really. Joyce gets to be a wonderful bridging character. She begins by being as shocked and repelled as zgirl714 could wish but gradually starts to see what Spike is doing for Xander and to get a glimpse of why too. She also gets to do her daring rescue bit and give Giles several things to think about (about time!) before, sadly, vanishing from the face of the story. That line she slings at him about knowing exactly how her daughter died is simply masterly! It was a shame to lose her from the story but I can totally understand why lit_gal made the decision. It was time for the focus to shift to Spike/Xander.

RE. point 2: i think that both Spike and Xander, everyone really, is pretty far from canon in their characterization. However, the way that they got there from their canon selves is something that I find totally believeable. it is a classic 'what if?' story. Each character really only has one point of departure from canon (although in Xander's case it is a huge one) but the roots to their canon selves are still visible. That makes this story much more appealing to me than so many Spander stories where large chunks of canon have to be mentally filed and forgotten.

With regard to point 3 on the list above: I do not find slave fic particularly erotic. It creeps me out rather than anything else. However, I do have a soft spot for hurt/comfort fic. I am not turned on by pain but I am turned on by courage, endurance and caring. For me the power of the story is not Xander as a slave - although the reasons why he is the way he is are superbly drawn I think - but the fact that is gradually climbing away from that characterization. I hate slave stories that stall (or, as often happens, enter the perpetual WIP state) at the hurt stage. For a h/c fan like me that is cruel.
imaginaryimagesimaginaryimages on August 10th, 2006 06:49 pm (UTC)
"...I started around Part 8, when the Xander/Spike dynamic was much more evolved"
Good point, many a fic I read, I find that sometimes I can enjoy them better when I can read it in it's entirety or at least in big chunks. It's easier to catch the flow sometimes.

"...Spike's story about what happened to Buffy and himself in the Initiative."
Very true. I think it's a wonderfully told bit of backstory. Especially with Spike trying to keep the entire truth from Joyce, but she knew anyway.

"it is a classic 'what if?' story. Each character really only has one point of departure from canon (although in Xander's case it is a huge one) but the roots to their canon selves are still visible."
Very well said. While it does take a large dose of suspension of disbelief to buy into the whole underworld/slave trader scenario (again going back to this being a vampire-verse - if one is in for a penny, shouldn't they be in for a pound?) and our Xander falling victim to that, I think it was masterfully told. I loved following Xander's thought processes as the old Xander and the new Xander practically warred inside his head. To have that taste of the canon character we know, I think in a big part, is what keeps this fic from going astray.

"I do have a soft spot for hurt/comfort fic."
Me too! Actually, as this fic progressed, that's exactly what I saw it as, hurt/comfort instead of a slave-fic.
Lit Gallit_gal on August 10th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you see this as hurt/comfort because in the end, that is what I wanted it to be. Spike never treated Xander like a slave (except as part of their cover), so I don't see this as a true slavefic. And yes, the underworld is a bit of a stretch, but I think I can be forgiven that considering the iffy canon backstory in Hush and half a dozen other eps.
imaginaryimagesimaginaryimages on August 11th, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)
"I think I can be forgiven that considering the iffy canon backstory in Hush and half a dozen other eps."

All's forgiven! In fact, I think your was far more believable than many bits of canon backstory! :)
Lit Gallit_gal on August 10th, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked Joyce, and I did bring her back in for the epilogues because I can see her being a huge part of their daily lives even though she really wasn't part of their big plots and dramas. And I'm thrilled the roots of canon are still visible. I don't want to bend the characters so far that you can't see those (although Xander's a pretty big bend here)
jans_intentions on August 10th, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)
This was an extremely hard story for me to read. I think because it's unflinching in a way. I yelled at LG in my head often (seems better than flaming her *laughs*) I think it's because as readers, we have a certain helplessness which Xander also embodies. LG is the all powerful mistress of this story, which is addictive and enthralling.

I read it as a WIP and broke off sometimes, so I'd read 8 chapters in a row and leave it...and then come back to it because once it's in your blood, it's in your blood.

She has a great sense of characterization logic. By that I mean, she doesn't cheat the recovery process or that if a character is a dick, they suddenly are all smilies. If people feel bad, they feel bad a while. No magic wands, it's a slow process.

I found that for me it was horrific to see the familiar Xander locked into this automotive slave body, so that's what got me. He's trapped in there, screaming in his head.

The first sex with he and Spike are hard to read because of this, and yet also oddly rough and erotic (I don't think LG meant for it to be erotic, but well, I'm kinky, sue me.)

Of course, the sex gets better as Xander makes choices and becomes aware that he is submissive and can enjoy it. Can have power over Spike. So that becomes very hot as it evolved and it's Spike who helps him to rebuild himself. So in a sense it's a slave fic to begin with but largely it's a rescue and h/C story which evolved from slave fic into consensual D/s by the end of the current? series (since we never know if she'll do more.)

I see Xander as a shattered cup, and he's patched together, he finds bits of himself that work, and discards others and it's very painful, which, yes, it's h/C and recovery fic, so that is logical.
Lit Gallit_gal on August 12th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
This is a hard story, both in terms of reading and writing, but I saw so many slave fics that glossed over the terror and fear that is inherent with this sort of actual slavery (as opposed to fun role-play), that I wanted to do something with a sharper edge. And while I didn't intend the first sex to be erotic, you are welcome to enjoy it. I actually meant to show how out-of-sync they truly were, and how Spike doesn't enjoy being the sort of Master Xander had before. He may like being the boss, but he wants someone who will fight back. And I'm thrilled that in the end, this come across as h/c. That truly is where I wanted it to end up.
Connieriani1 on August 14th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)
I just decided to re-read this, and I didn't even know it was being discussed. I don't like fics that feature a lot of humiliation of characters, but here, it's integral to the plot, it's what the characters are fighting against. Plus we have Xander trying to fight his way to a balance between what he thinks he should be and what he has to admit is where he is at currently. Spike and Xander are both slaves, in their own way, and both are broken.

Reading Spike's description of Buffy's death always makes me cry.

I find the idea of surrender very appealing, but it's more from an emotional release than erotic. Xander's acknowledgement of the cage's usefulness--even as he hates it--is very apt.

This was the first slave fic I was willing to take a chance on, so I don't know where it fits in the chronology of slave fics being available. All the ones I've read since I judge by this one. By the end of this fic, you understand where Xander is and how important to each other Spike and Xander are.

I'm going to have to give the sequel another chance--I think I missed a chapter somewhere--because the bit on the farm seemed a little repetitious of Lirowaus--damn, I hate Lirowaus.

As for the belivablity of a slave underworld, why do people train and race horses? Demons have been around for millenia, and their curious about the dominant species, what it can do, what it can be made to do. Worlds that exist in the cracks between and behind our own fascinate me.
Lit Gallit_gal on August 23rd, 2006 04:11 am (UTC)
I'm glad you saw how they the humiliation was not erotic but actually horrifying. I wanted the story to be about recovery, so these comments to make my heart happy. In the sequel, I did want the farm to echo Lirowaus, but on the farm, I focused more on the girls... on how slavery became "normal" to them because they had given up fighting. They gave up fighting before they ever became slaves. I wanted to show just how close Xander came to being one of those broken souls since he would have adapted to slavery if Dareh had purchased him from Leshar. Spike saved Xander from that true dispair... the kind that looks so easy that you stop fighting it. Thanks for the comments.
Lorrainelunabee34 on August 18th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
I regret that I haven't been able to be as involved with this discussion as I'd like since I've had grading and other school considerations.

I don't normally read slave fic; in fact, I can't think of another I've read outside of this one, which I read as it was being posted.

The most striking thing about this fic to me is the author's grasp of the psychological implications of the kind of treatment that Xander undergoes. It really takes finesse and a fairly thorough understanding of the human psyche to write a psychological response to torture, etc. that reads true. Many times in fics I read where the characters undergo trauma that is outside of the realm of normal human experience (not saying that torture isn't real, just that most of us have never experienced it), their psychological responses don't resonate. But lit_gal's writing is so authentic. In fact, I think because it's so difficult to separate author from product on lj, I was worried that she had actually undergone some traumatic experience.

Another thing that really stands out in this fic for me is the fetishization of jewelry. I think that's a really interesting and brilliant move. It calls attention to the body and both its capabilities and limitations. It's also one of the most undeniably erotic aspects of this fic.
Lit Gallit_gal on August 23rd, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)
I understand grading, so no apologies needed. I will assure you though that I haven't had more than the trauma's we all suffer through life. I just took that pain, amplified it, and did quite a bit of research on Stockholm and torture. I worked really hard to make that piece as painfully real as I could so that his recovery would feel more genuine. And I love that you mention the jewelry. I wanted to show something positive that came out of this, and I thought the jewelry was one way of focusing on that. Xander may not have realized it at the time, but that experience made him a calmer, more graceful, stronger person than he became in canon. Leshar was the crucible that showed him what he could be, and the jewelry was the first visual clue that goodness lurked below all the broken bits.
Lorrainelunabee34 on August 24th, 2006 01:54 am (UTC)
The jewelry was just so novel for me as a reader. And velvet_virago's amazing drawings certainly helped solidify their erotic potential for me. What I loved most about the way you used the jewelry in the story is that it doesn't feminize Xander at all. It's not Xan in a string of pearls parading around. It's really sexy jewelry with a specific purpose that really illuminates character.

I haven't read any other slave fic. Is that a common feature in slave fic or something you added to the genre? In fact, how would you say your fic fits in with the general conventions of the slave fic?
Lit Gallit_gal on August 24th, 2006 02:13 am (UTC)
I can't even tell you where the jewelry came from, besides, prehaps, the beautiful jewelry work done on some collars and Dom/sub stuff. I think it's well known I adore Dom/sub, but more slave stuff sends me to the corners of the room hiding. I really am not into helpless slavery. I love Dom/sub games, but my true kink is a strong, powerful sub choosing to turn power over to someone he sees as valuing him and making better choices for him. So, I really wanted to bring Xander to a place where he was strong and deadly and competent and then have him choose to sit at Spike's feet. I only ended BB where I did because I needed a rest. FOr that reason, I don't think BB does fit particularly well with most slave fic.
Lorrainelunabee34 on August 29th, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
And of course velvet_virago's beautiful artwork was an excellent accompaniment.

Thanks so much for letting us read your work.