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Tone of the Story [message #5552] Tue, 04 December 2007 05:51 Go to next message
Eric  is currently offline Eric
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On further thought, I've put the Tuck Season portion of this in its allotted category, and restated the main Tuck comment to incorporate what it looks like Ellen has been doing about it for the last half-dozen chapters or thereabouts. So feel free to ignore the rest of this, if you haven't read it already.

In a new post in the Tuck Season subject here, Sephrena has observed that the original Tuck Season was a much lighter story than the main Tuck storyline is. (And that the five current Seasons chapters, their greater consistency with Aunt Jane's universe notwithstanding, aren't lighthearted by any stretch.)

What should be remembered is that the Tuck Saga itself was a much lighter story when the previous Tuck Seasons version was posted.

While it's self-evident (I think) that Tuck's story has necessarily gotten darker in tone since the physical attack on Tuck, I'd argue that it's been headed in that direction ever since the breakup with Debbie.

In some cases, the parallels between old and recent events are close enough to be illustrative. Da Boyz' revenge on the cars of two of their adversaries last school year was offered to us in exuberant, triumphant fashion, in sharp contrast to their underplayed, almost offhand, reflexively malevolent icing of a car this fall. Similarly, Ellen plays both Val's spring-break babysitting day with Debbie and the pair's recent trick-or-treat time at the Parkers', essentially, for comedy. But the tone is (and HAS to be) a lot more serious this time around, given the events that have transpired between the two of them over the past month.

It's hard, admittedly, to imagine a way that Tuck's story might NOT have gotten darker with time, especially since it's Tuck who handles most of the narration. There's no story here unless Tuck is given serious problems to solve, and the personal problems that we've seen were bound to complicate Tuck's perspective to the point where "Jester's" pranks for their own sake -- or judged primarily on cleverness -- fall far down Tuck's priority list.

But the contrast in Tuck Season between the lighter, more satirical touch of the original and the Mission Impossible procedural-type start to the newer version -- written while the Tuck of the main sequence was heading for disaster -- may have more to do with the evolution of Ellen's writing, or of her view of Tuck as a character, than they do with Ellen's need to fit Darryl, Art and a better household surveillance system into the Seasons mix.

(Granted, the beginning of original Tuck Season isn't upbeat either. When I've re-read that story, I've generally started with Val's escape at the mall -- the point where she starts to take control of the situation -- or at a point about halfway through, when she flirts with a male houseguest. But it's taking a lot longer to approach those points in the later version, assuming we're headed there at all.)

This note is, unfortunately, far more diffuse than I'd hoped. I'm less interested in the Seasons evolution than I am about people's opinions as to whether the darker tone I've perceived in the "real" Tuck tale (assuming others agree it exists) is affecting the way we look at the story, or even our enjoyment of it.


[Updated on: Tue, 04 December 2007 22:50]

Lightening the Mood [message #5553] Wed, 05 December 2007 00:36 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Eric  is currently offline Eric
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I don't think there's any question that the tone of Tuck's tale has gotten darker of late than it was at the start. Obviously that's especially true since the assault on Tuck, but I'd say the move in that direction goes back as far as the breakup with Debbie.

(In the previous note I suggested that certain early and late events were parallel enough to show the difference. Up there I mentioned the damaging of the cars of Da Boyz' adversaries -- exuberant and triumphant last school year; underplayed and almost offhand this fall -- and the comedic teaming of Val and Debbie, babysitting last Easter break versus the trick-or-treating at the Parkers' more recently. On a more serious note, there's the encounter between Val (with Stella) and Travis at the mall in #50 focused against their discovery by Sarah Tucker in #100: both were suspenseful, but the earlier one was calmer.)

It seems to me that Ellen's trying to lighten it up again.

--Four consecutive days passed routinely enough to fit into one chapter.

--Sarah Tucker, whatever the pharmacological reason, isn't a threat to Tuck at present, but a support.

--Ellen has provided Tuck with a new, unthreatening pair of girls to interact with at the Saturday makeup sessions. She has also matched him up once with Anne-Marie (successfully, if a bit less plausibly) for a situation where he's in (social) control: Anne discovers, without Tuck quite telling, that Tuck does enjoy hetero sex, and his Valerie side, when it comes out, is dismissed as a "superpower", and as something that worked to his advantage at Debbie's house last year. (All this, of course, while Tuck's acting about as feminine, in his own role, as we've ever seen, from the in-depth discussion of dolls to his collegial tap on Anne's shoulder.)

--Ellen's focusing a little on the progress of the lunchtime RPG, a potential source for humor and a strong sign of normality (from Tuck and Mike's standpoint at least) that the story hasn't been able to default to for weeks of Tuck time.

--Story situations that seemed to be set up by Ellen as potential for new adversity for Tuck -- notably Halloween, Debbie's dance and the bowling date with Ricky -- have proved to be harmless and unimportant (at least, they were while they were taking place; there may still be ramifications that we haven't seen yet, at least with the last of those).

What Ellen CAN'T bring back (besides a fully healthy Tuck; it's a distracting reminder of Tuck's current physical limitations when Tuck has to resort to an inhaler in situations as innocuous as the one at Anne-Marie's house, though I found Jill's reaction one of the best laugh-aloud moments in some time) is Tuck's Jester role. The situation at school will take a long time to cool to the point where one of their (or Debbie and Lisa's) pranks can function as a tension-reliever, and (as Paul Dobson made clear in the lesbian-cooties incident) any threat to civility, humorous or otherwise, has to be taken seriously under present conditions. Another consequence there is that cleverness isn't the redeeming or mitigating factor that an effective prankster counts on to avoid excessive punishment.

I certainly don't want to say that Ellen can't succeed in lightening up her story again, though I think it's safe to assert that it won't ever reach the point we were at when the story was taking place in 1996. But I'll bet it'll be a lot harder for her than plotting the story.

Lightening The Mood [message #5555] Fri, 07 December 2007 13:52 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Anonymous Tuckerspawn
is certainly part of the problem that I, as a reader, have had recently with the story. The original Tuck Seasons and the beginning of Tuck up to around chapter 60ish or so was very lighthearted and fun to read. It was enjoyable. The dark tone the story has taken has rubbed against me so hard, I have not read it recently.

Trying to read the dark toned chapters was like acid reflux + heartburn + ripping fingernails by the root raw. It was definately not fun to read and was difficult to want to read as well. I await the return of Tuck to more of the character he was like way back yonder. Until then, I will keep waiting. Miracles can happen.

Sephrena Miller
BigCloset TopShelf
Re: Tone of the Story [message #5777] Fri, 23 May 2008 22:39 Go to previous messageGo to next message
stanman  is currently offline stanman
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I admit that the tone has gotten darker in time, but I can think of very few high quality stories That do not have some darker tone in them. Is not Tuck basically a dark comedy?
Re: Tone of the Story [message #6392] Sun, 06 June 2010 14:40 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Trisha  is currently offline Trisha
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While The Saga of Tuck eventually went to an increadibly dark dark place I honestly was not suprised in the least as I read through it the first time. It felt, to me atleast, that this was where the story was headed right from the begining. No, that is not quite right either. It was where the story NEEDED to head.

Lets face some facts about life as a freak in high school. Unless you grow up in an extreamely liberal social area you are going to get abuse from your peers. I know this from personal experience growing up. I am a gamer, a geek, bisexual (openly, tho not intentionally so in HS), and a Juggalette (Look it up). I went to school each day expecting to be picked upon, ridiculed, and beaten up. And most days, it happened. The only reason I didn't end up dead is because of my extended family. One thing about being in the Hatchet Fam is if you screw with one of us, you screw with all of us. And we where not nearly as subtle about pay backs as Tuck and crew are. We made sure everyone knew who it was that was delevering the vengence, and why.

So looking at my own life and reading what Tuck has been going through, it was a conclusion of mine within the first few chapters that eventually something bad was going to happen and the entire story would drop into a very very dark tone. It was inevitable, because that is where natural progression would take it if it where real life.

However there is hope for the future. The school has changed, it's safer now than it had been in years. People are more conciencious about what is going on around them. They have managed, to the observer so far atleast, to fix the problem from the inside. This sets a stage for Tuck to grow and change. He is now safer in school and does not have to worry about it. That does not mean he won't. However he now can begin to grow out of the fear of others harming him. Or atleast of strangers harming him. Now the stage is set for internal growth of Tuck.

With out the external fears, that will fade to some degree in time I am sure, he has to face his internal fears. Will Mike abandon him if he becomes Val full time? What about his family? Da Boyz? He knows the Pack won't, or atleast I would imagine that would be his least fear since they spend so much time with him as Valerie already. However Mike constantly appears to be against him being Val as the story progresses. What about his own sexuality? That, at the very least, has been tossed in the air since he stopped dating Travis, has slept with Jill, and is now dating Pam. Now he isn't even sure himself if he likes guys, or if it was just Travis.

Also the testosterone shots and the choice about them is coming up. In Tuck Squared we saw a glimpse of someones thoughts on what would happen if Tuck did go on the shots. He became violent, moody, and no one wanted to be around him. In the end he even lost his best friend and brother when he attacked him with a knife in a fit of hormone induced rage. If Tuck does go on the shots in the cannon story what will occur? Personally, I think he will refuse the shots in the end and choose nature over science. As much of a geek as he is, he hates medical science. That however will require an explination from him to his parents. And as we have seen, they are not ready to deal with Valerie. His father was absolutely amazed and I think he would in the end be supportive of what ever choice his child chose, however Sarah Tucker ran out crying and when Tuck came home dressed on accident Bill told him to hurry up before his mother saw him.

This also comes to what would be another dark part of the story tho I imagine Ellen is trying to stretch it a bit to make the lighter tone last a little longer before plunging us head first into another dark segement. If Tuck refuses to shots and chooses to be Val he is going to have to face his own inner demons and face his mothers wrath. I keep coming back to his Godfather/Uncle Lanier when I think of this and the promise Tuck made that if he had to get away he'd go down there.

Imagine if you will telling your parents, at the age of 16, that you decided to live as a girl instead of a boy. Then your mother FREAKS. Your going to want to get away for as long as it takes for either her to calm down and accept it, or till you hit 18 and can move out legally. I know I did and it was only my step-mother. Tuck has a safe place to go, and I honestly believe that Uncle Lanier would accept Tuck as Valerie. He is one of the biggest teddy bears in the story, tho we don't see much of it. He has several adopted children and loves them all to death. I don't see him turning away from Tuck if he decided to be Val full time and would honor his promise to take Tuck in. This would be a good follow up to the darker coming out for real portion. It would allow Tuck/Val to grow as a person in relitive safty of his extended family and adjust before returning for the senior year of high school.

In the end, no matter what, any story you read to be truly dramatic and engaging needs both light and dark parts. Yin and Yang. A prime example of this is an anime that so many people bash but I personally enjoy a great deal. One Piece. Look at the story of Luffy and the Straw Hats (Japanese with english subs only please). The story was very light for a very long time, then grew dark and serious, then lightened up, then went dark, then light, and back to dark. It is just how good story telling works. If you over do the light it feels fake and artificial because real life is not all sunshine and lolly pops. If you go to dark all the time then it feels equally wrong, just oppressive and despressing. Because no matter how dark life can get it can get better, even if it takes a long time.
Re: Tone of the Story [message #6961] Tue, 23 August 2011 03:18 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Questionably Sane  is currently offline Questionably Sane
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Following up on what Eric said (uh... 4 years ago!?), I don't think the story can or should ever get as light-hearted as it was when it started, at least until Tuck successfully navigates through the issue that is truly central to the story -- his identity. Even without all of the dark events that take place in the story, there is no way that the subject of Tuck's self-identification could be handled tastefully as light-hearted comedy without killing the drama. In fact, I think that the dark tones that the story has taken help drive Tuck towards confronting that issue, as that issue has become all the more more prominent and unavoidable as a result.

More importantly, I feel as though the shifting tone of the story, and it does shift in both directions, works perfectly, and certainly shows Ellen's writing talent at being able to dial up or down as appropriate for the reader to remain emotionally in the moment with Tuck, leading to, as Eric noted, similar events with completely different emotional coloring. It even works with what Eric has observed as hinted new adversity proving to be harmless, because we are with Tuck expecting Bad Things, ad so we're given an unexpected moment of relief mixed with a glimmer of hope that things are getting less bad (I'm intentionally avoiding saying that things are getting better, because well... this is Tuck we're talking about).

Even Tuck coming home as Valerie and being found by Bill has that moment where the reader holds their breathe, and then releases it when Bill non-reacts to the sight of Valerie. Hell, the non-reaction says speaks volumes on its own. You couldn't have that without the ominous, dark tones of Tuck's discovery, interrogation, grounding, etc. This scene would mean so much less if it weren't for all of that.

Thinking about this has sort of made my brain go on a bit of a tangent, if you'll let me.

The story seems to have reached its point of blackest black, which, in a way, has done a lot to clear the deck for the story to begin making its way towards a resolution of the primary arc. I would have to say that, if you had to divide that arc into Three Acts (note: you do not have to divide the story into Three Acts), it seems to break down as follows:
  • Act One ends in Chapter 96, when the nature of Tuck's biology is revealed and he can no longer pretend there isn't an issue. The tone of this act is variable, but it's more light and grey with moments of deep darkness.
  • Act Two is where everything goes to hell, and from 96 onward, well, everything has gone to hell. It seems to end when Jill breaks up with Tuck. I'm probably very insistent on this watershed because of just how absolutely enraged it made me when it happened. This act is effective in its bleakness.
  • Act Three begins right afterwards, because the pain of the breakup becomes background to the fact that Jill and Tuck can, in fact, still be friends. Now Pam is there and seems to accept Tuck as he is rather than what she wants him to be (in stark contrast to everyone else), and everyone that Tuck cares about is aware of the Eugene/Valerie dual nature (except Ricky -- DON'T TELL RICKY). Tuck now has the flexibility necessary to start trying to understand himself and deciding on what kind of path he wants to take. So far, the tone has become grey again, with moments of hesitant lightness, as Eric had noted above.

Of course, this is just describing what appears to be the pattern of the primary arc. Resolution of that arc will lead to new problems to resolve, which means new opportunities to torture Tuck's character -- the pastime of all writers. As Trisha suggests, the way that Tuck's family and friends react has potential for trouble like we haven't yet seen, depending on how it goes. Considering how every group pulls in a different direction, I can imagine that this process is not going to be bubble gum joy.

[Updated on: Tue, 23 August 2011 14:03]

Re: Tone of the Story [message #6963] Wed, 24 August 2011 11:50 Go to previous message
iWindoze  is currently offline iWindoze
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Questionably Sane wrote on Tue, 23 August 2011 02:18

Now Pam is there and seems to accept Tuck as he is rather than what she wants him to be (in stark contrast to everyone else), and everyone that Tuck cares about is aware of the Eugene/Valerie dual nature (except Ricky -- DON'T TELL RICKY).

Considering how she allowed\"forced" Ricky to dress up earlier in the series telling him would not only confuse the hell out of him to no good end, it would also be the equivalent of a tactical nuke being lobbed to no possible good end. If Ellen ever wants to just end the story with the most depressing possible scenario she'd start with the telling of Ricky (or other type of discovery for him) and end with Tuck on the Sex Offender's registry as a dangerous pervert dressing up good Christian boys and trying to turn them into homo-sex-uals. ::shudders:: Thankfully Ellen isn't that cruel. Right...? Riii....ah who am I fooling?

Maybe as an April fool's joke... ;P

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