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[WIP] "Gilding the Son of Lily" by Publicola - T

Discussion in 'Almost Recommended' started by Publius, Aug 20, 2012.

  1. Publius

    Publius First Year

    Aug 20, 2012
    Title: Gilding the Son of Lily
    Author: Publicola
    Rating: T for language (listed as 'M' as a precaution)
    Genre: Humor/Adventure/Fantasy
    Library Category: The Alternatives
    Status: Work In Progress (about 50,000 words)
    Pairings: N/A
    Summary: Most self-inserts are exercises in vanity, and nothing says 'vanity' quite like Gilderoy Lockhart. But with a new personality, knowledge of the future, and an unwavering resolve to help Harry Potter survive, who knows? Maybe Lockhart will turn out to be a useful DADA teacher after all.
    Link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8324961/1/Gilding_the_Son_of_Lily

    This story was inspired by "My Gilded Life," by Skysaber. I know Mr. Ornstead doesn't get much love here, but this fic goes in an entirely different direction. Less god-like powers, for one. Doesn't look like the main character will be gathering a harem, for another.

    The SI character retains some of Lockhart's mannerisms, as well as his mastery of memory charms, but is on the whole much more ethical and rational than any wizard has a right to be. So far 'he' is taking things slow, gathering information about the Wizarding World and gathering allies for the coming fight with Dumbledore and the Death Eaters. This also allows the fic to flesh out the back-story of Rowling's universe.

    The fic engages in some fanon cliches (for instance, 'Dumbledore knew Sirius Black wasn't the Secret Keeper') but shies away from others (goblins are decidedly not friendly creatures). On the whole it maintains a much more subtle touch than most, and has kept away from overt caricatures.

    Edit: This fic actually belongs to me. I understand there's a bit of a stigma, but it's my first major work and I posted it mainly for the feedback. I also cross-posted the first chapter under "Works by Author." I understand that DLP forums tend to specialize in (hopefully constructive?) criticism, so anything that can help me improve my writing is welcome.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
  2. Absolutista

    Absolutista Fourth Year

    Jan 30, 2011
    I get the feeling that the author of the story is the OP :sherlock:
  3. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

    Jan 6, 2009
    I haven't read this yet, but...

    If the premise here is more or less "Lockhart isn't a completely useless fraud" then that's actually kinda cool, but why does it have to be a self-insert? What does that add to it, or what's the point?

    I'm now envisioning a story where Lockhart wasn't useless. Maybe he was actually a BAMF to some extent and only started the memory charming bits later for some other purpose (or hell, have him actually have accomplished part of what he wrote about saying he did). He's still a vanity obsessed glory hound, but make it somewhat justified.

    Then maybe Harry actually gains a useful ally in him in book2. Maybe when he offers to help Harry manage his fame Harry is willing to accept, because this new Lockhart isn't a useless fraud. Maybe he mentors Harry a bit, for both their benefits.

    And so forth, and so on.

    I'd actually be interested to see what a good author could do with a plot like that. It could be political, it could be action oriented to a point, it could be a lot of things.

    But why the hell would it be a self-insert? What does that bring to the story that couldn't be accomplished by simply changing a bit of Lockhart's backstory to make him not suck?

    I'll have a read of at least the first two chapters later.

    Welcome to DLP.

    Edit: I am finding myself actually half-wanting to try my own hand at writing something like what I just described... odd, I've never had any interest in writing fanfic before. Weird.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
  4. Tinn Tam

    Tinn Tam Review Goddess Retired Staff

    Aug 11, 2006
    Paris, France.
    This post has been deleted for sheer uselessness. However, for the sake of reminding everyone of the rules, please note that it is a perfect example of what not to do in this subforum:

    - Posting just to say "ugh, I hate that genre, not gonna bother": check

    - Giving a rating purely motivated by dislike of the genre, and not backed up by an actual review: check

    - ... actually doing both? I don't think I'd ever seen that. In fact there's a kind of naïveté in that post that's almost touching.

    In truth, I'm not sure whether he/she tried to read the story, or not. No matter. Just remember to post when you actually have something to say, and preferably after reading the story...
  5. Publius

    Publius First Year

    Aug 20, 2012
    I made it a self-insert for a very simple reason: most self-insert fics are crap, and they shouldn't be. If you think about it, Mark Twain wrote one of the first SI fics -- he called it "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court."

    Writing a SI character (instead of merely changing one of the regular characters into "form of... awesome!") allows me to portray the reactions of a 'normal person' to the life-endangering craziness that is the HP canon. As Twain did in "Yankee," I intend to use this story element for social satire, of both a humorous and serious nature.

    I also wanted to introduce the element of future knowledge. There are a number of time-travel fics (e.g. Viridian's "Dreams") that show how such knowledge would affect characters' choices and behavior. In lieu of time travel, SI works just as effectively.

    Finally, I wanted to keep Lockhart's field of expertise (memory charms), but I didn't want to write someone who in canon is so thoroughly despicable. Replacing him with a SI allowed me to justify such a drastic personality shift.

    Hope that answers your question?

    Edit: Now that I think about it, I believe the sort of fic you're talking about may have already been done before. "When in Doubt, Obliviate" by Sarah1281 features a canon!Lockhart who becomes Harry's guardian before Harry is left at the Dursley's. I've only read the first few chapters, not enough to recommend it.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
  6. Saot

    Saot Groundskeeper

    May 9, 2011
    I read this expecting it to be hilariously terrible, and it certainly wasn't that. The concept sounds dumb on the surface, but it works much better than I expected. What I dislike about it is that so far a good chunk of the story is just standard time-travel-fix-stuff-with-future-knowledge stuff with a slight twist, and it's really hard to get excited about reading that yet again. The plot thread about trying to become at least vaguely qualified to teach Defense is much better, although the Pensieve mechanics feel overly convenient.
  7. Rhys

    Rhys High Inquisitor

    Sep 6, 2009
    The title really rubbed me the wrong way yesterday, and I wasn't sure why.

    Then I realized today it was one letter away from Gelding the Son of Lily. Just wanted to share that tidbit.
  8. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion DLP Supporter

    Jun 27, 2006
    Okay, so I've read the whole thing so far. Some aspects are good, others are not. The insertion of religion was odd, and I didn't get the point (it was a throwaway scene). There are enormous amounts of fanon inventions about Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape that aren't necessarily supported by canon (why can't Flitwick be as complicit in crimes?).

    Then Harry is apparently PHYSICALLY ABUSED because WHY NOT RIGHT? I did not like that at all. I feel like the story would be more interesting if there was a conflict between the latent memories of Lockhart and the author's SI, but instead all the negative memories are just wiped in the beginning.

    Also, another problem is that Lockhart is attracted to underage girls apparently, and yet Flitwick would've caught that in the invented test you came up with in canon, so why didn't he? Doesn't add up.

    I hate to recommend my own stories (a blatant lie), but you should read my story about Dumbledore. Anyway, much of the story is written pretty well, and some of the new inventions are interesting. But I'm afraid the problematic elements are very bad problematic elements - so this will go into "almost recommended" territory for me, for now anyway.

  9. Saot

    Saot Groundskeeper

    May 9, 2011
    It's explicitly a self-insert, and the author apparently goes to church but otherwise does not spend much time thinking about religion. It's something that the concept requires, but it was still pretty odd and felt out of place.
  10. Publius

    Publius First Year

    Aug 20, 2012
    I find it strange how many comments I got for that little section. You're right that I wrote it because I myself am Christian. However, the reason I included it in the final version was for reasons of foreshadowing. My goal with this fic is to create a realistic universe within the confines of Rowling's work. By necessity, that will include religion.

    At this point, my plan is to align the purebloods with Celtic/pagan traditions (thus my mention of the "Imbolc Revel"). Among half-bloods and muggleborn there will be more of an awareness of the Christian faith, and at least some adherents. Certainly this would apply to Ireland: am I the only one who can see St. Patrick as a Light-sided parselmouth?
  11. Menace

    Menace Minister of Magic

    Aug 7, 2010
    ... How the hell would halfblood/muggleborn witches believing in Christianity make any sense? They're witches!
  12. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

    Jan 6, 2009
    Good news: This is the best self-insert fic that I have ever read.

    Bad news: It's still not all that great.

    I read the first three chapters and, well, I didn't enjoy them. Sorry. Let's see if I can offer some commentary though...

    Your actual, technical writing is alright. You use grammar, have paragraph breaks, etc. That's more than a lot of people can manage, sadly, so points there. It's what makes the story readable if nothing else.

    My first problem is that... If we are to assume that a person from the "real world" has suddenly been transplanted into the body of Lockhart, then I cannot imagine that this is anything like how most people would react.

    At all.

    If I suddenly woke up in Lockhart's body I might have the initial ...WTF? moment that we saw here, and I could see trying Lumos/Nox as an initial spell. So far so good. But I'd be more likely to think that I was having some kind of damned cool dream than anything else.

    If by some chance I did decide to just accept that it was real, I'd be popping straight off to America to see what the hell happened to my body, if it existed, etc. Doesn't this SI person have any loved ones or anything to worry about? Maybe not.

    Likewise I can sort of see the concern about learning Occlumency. This character has knowledge from the books that should be protected, his own personality he needs to look after, etc. But he seems to have managed to get on the ball with the Occlumency thing way too damned fast.

    But what really gets me, what really bugs me, is this immediate decision/assumption that meddling with everything is obviously the best way to go.

    Within, what, 24 hours? Our SI!Lockhart has had some sort of weird bonding meeting with the Goblins, given them all sorts of information (despite the fact that they rather don't like Wizards), is interfering with Dumbledore's plans, trying to change Harry's homelife, and so on.

    Why should this SI person give a rat's ass about any of that? I mean, hell, he read the books. He knows it all works out in the end about as well as could be expected. I mean, sure, some people die, but it's not like he knows or knew them. Voldemort is vanquished in the end and Harry lives happily ever after. So why is he so determined to screw with everything?

    Unless this isn't canon at all, it's some... conglomeration of canon with all the fanfic cliches this SI guy had been reading in the real world, which is actually a somewhat interesting idea. I.e. that Harry in this story was abused because he so often is in fanfics, and so on. That'd be a neat sort of mindscrew, that all the most common/popular fanfic cliches were combined with canon to create the world we're seeing in this fic.

    But the SI guy didn't stop to think about any of that, he just runs into events and things assuming he knows best and that interfering with stuff will magically make everything better.


    I found it irksome.

    But more than that I just can't get all that interested in it. Self-inserts tend to only be really interesting for the author, who is inserting themselves, and not other people (who if they were inserted into the story would act differently).

    Personally I'd have written out all the facts I could remember about what was going to happen, made copies, and sent them off anonymously to Harry, Dumbledore, and Lupin (perhaps others). Maybe I'd leave out the "coming back to life bit" from what I told Harry. Then, having put this information into the hands of people who are actually more equipped to deal with it, I'd have kept my head down while teaching at Hogwarts and retired the second the term ended with the intention of enjoying all the money that Lockhart probably has for the rest of my extended lifetime (assuming that I couldn't sort out WTF happened to put me there in the first place or get drawn into events, but at any rate I wouldn't meddle so much).

    I guess I just can't get into this story. The writing is okay at least, so I'll give it a 2.5/5 -- but I think it belongs more in Almost Recommended than it does in the Library.

    You've got potential though. Don't give up!

    Now, some responses to other comments in this thread.
    Fair enough. I never really thought of Connecticut Yankee as a self-insert, and I'm still not sure that I like that definition for it, but I can acknowledge the comparison as valid at least.

    Most of DLP seems to be rather against religion as a general rule. I suggest you listen to comments about specifics, like how you are incorporating it into your story, and not worry about ones that seem to object to religion simply on the basis of it being there.

    Though it is true that it is not originally mentioned in canon, so that's a valid point. However in the response that I just quoted it does at least seem like you're planning to do something other than shoehorn it in to make a statement (fanfic isn't the place to preach your own views if you want to get good reader response), so yeah. Maybe you'll manage it, but it will be difficult to do.

    As a general rule though it can be best to leave religion, or at least *real* religions, out of fanfic. It's a somewhat polarizing topic that is rarely done well.

    I haven't read the section in question. I only got to Chapter 3 of your story. St. Patrick the Parselmouth is a neat idea though, I like that one.

    I don't see why not -- if I found out that I was a "witch" in the manner of Harry Potter canon tomorrow it wouldn't affect my religious beliefs at all. That's sort of the point of Faith, and folks who genuinely have it can be rather stubborn about it.
  13. Publius

    Publius First Year

    Aug 20, 2012
    CheddarTrek, that was a phenomenally helpful review. Thank you.

    You make a valid point that the very idea of a SI requires a little suspension of disbelief. Certainly a normal person would put more effort into confirming this were really a different world, and probably wouldn't interfere quite so much. But the story of 'finding my way back' wouldn't really fit the Harry Potter theme, and a passive protagonist wouldn't leave much of a story.

    As for why the protagonist would interfere with everything (distinct from my reasons as author) I'd say that I don't think it all "works out in the end." Enembee has a fantastic quote about that, re: preserving the status quote of a society that doesn't deserve salvation. Also, given the fact that the magical world is a death-trap, I think the smart move (for someone acting in rational self-interest) is to try to make the place more stable and sane, if only so something doesn't jump out and eat you.

    That's exactly what I'm intending to do with this fic: the world of the SI will be fusion of commonly accepted ideas from canon and fandom. My main character won't realize this is what has happened, though, until he meet Hermione's parents and learns that their names are "Dan" and "Emma"....

    Yeah, I'm definitely going to avoid preaching. That was one of the main things that annoyed me about Skysaber's original. My intent is to flesh out the back-story of the magical world, so that's where religious references will be going. I certainly don't plan on having character debate theological points, though.

    Thanks again for the feedback!
  14. Nauro

    Nauro Headmaster

    Oct 20, 2011
    Well, I've read Gelding the Son of Lily, and I didn't really like it, but it had at least something that kept me mildly interested to see if you're going to end up piling even more cliches on top of those already present.

    The worst fear I have is that your SI, who, (damn, I'm going to turn this into a rant about SI's in general, am I not?) doesn't read very real, will be cutting Harry's abilities and his position as a main character so much, that it's going to leave the story in some kind of eunuch state - even if you manage to make it look good, it's still going to lack one key element to it.

    And, in the end, there definitely are going to be performance issues.

    You're trying to set up your SI-ish self as a real bad-ass in some vague hope of proving other's that you're cool. I'd call that overcompensating for something you don't have, or have painfully lost.

    On the plus side, you had a few interesting ways of approaching Flitwick and... That's basically it. Kind of a let down, if you know what I mean.

    I'll give you something of a 2.5/5, even though you should lose points for SI. This will probably get rounded up, even though I'm going to be regretting that generosity for the years to come. (Or the next twenty minutes). And this is only cause it didn't make me that I have totally wasted the time reading this. And, cause I have seen a lot worse. So, bellow average is all you get today.

    The whole SI issue.
    Some time back, I believed that a self-insert is a character, who is too similar to the author, even more so than a mouthpiece of the authors views, a way for the author to play out 'what would I do in the situation' and take the full benefits from 'writing what you know'.
    If you are a writer, you're tempted to choose a character that writes, so that you could reasonably fill in the gaps of choosing another profession you know next to nothing about. But the point is that you usually write about him having different adventures, and your knowledge simply fills in the blanks for the background and makes your character more believable.
    That in itself if not bad. When you start daydreaming about bonking a vampire, you start writing Bella Swan. And that's kind of bad - trying to live through you character is only slightly better than trying to live through your children. Well, if you can't have children, maybe that's kind of a good explanation.

    But then, I found out about a different kind of self-inserts. These characters don't even pretend to have a shade of distance from the writer. They're usually have never lived in the world of their choice before and are thrown right into it. There should another term used about them - this is not self-insert, it's the unfulfilled-dreams or over-overcompensation.
    And there might be a chance someone might pull that off, but it's not in a fanfic. Maybe. A very small chance, akin to getting struck by lightning just after wining in a lottery.
    The problem is that you get thrown into a world where you want to start fixing things. Or, be awesome there. Cause you know, if you are at least a policemen, I don't see you writing a self-insert story.

    For a fanfiction-definition-of-self-insert (FDOSI) to be moderately interesting, you have to present it both in an interesting way and, keep your head down. Or maybe, twist it in a way that you always fail. Trying to change everything poses a small question - if you have that much figured out, and are such a genius, why aren't you pulling off you Machiavellian schemes here?
    I have seen one self insert done passably good, and it wasn't this one. The key points it didn't miss there the ones you passed through trampling everything that's holy in your way.

    You hit one thing - you gave us something to read that wasn't word for word from the books, but that's a general landmark, not a self-insert one.

    The story I mentioned had the protagonist gradually learn, and fail along the way, until he became useful for the main cast. He was afraid to change anything as it turned back good in the end, and was afraid when he did change something that it would turn out bad. Even after taking a few levels in badass, he does fail from time to time, proving that his judgement is wrong and misguided.
    And it still bad, cause that could have been accomplished without the FDSI, using an usual SI.

    Also, why do FDSI overvalue themselves - your Lockhart is so sure that he's doing the right thing that it hurts, as well as is competent in everything. Also, of course, the pensives work like in dragon ball, and Goku, I mean Lockhart is going to learn everything perfectly because of the speed reading.
    The speed reading is shit, unless you have a full package with eidetic memory. Occlumency is a poor excuse.

    The truth would be you stumbling to work everything out, figure out how the word works, and not being able to talk straight to the DMLE - how many policemen have you talked with in your life? You're sure that you could pull off any of the schemes?
    The truth, of what would happen with the DMLE in Harry Potter word, at best, would be Colin Creevey - the guy who's looking at everything in awe, is hoping not to change anything, and get's petrified by the basilisk first thing in the morning. Maybe, and only maybe you'd get your chance to return at the last battle and go out in a blaze of personal glory. A glory that would be grandiosely* overshadowed by the Harry's victory you had no real input into.

    And I think, if you pulled it off correctly, we would be with your character along the way, understanding his struggles with the magical world, your being afraid to say anything more, slipping some information where you shouldn't, and fearing that it would bite you in the ass. Then, after getting bitten, you would mature, try to learn and fail a hundred times, but in the end, you'd have a confrontation of sorts, and save someone unimportant, yet from the named cast, say (randomly) taking a stray spell in place of Percy. And then your self insert would die, remembered by the ones that were close to him, and the readers would remember him.
    This kind of participation would be more believable, more enjoyable (well might be enjoyable at all), and in the end you would get your chance to feel cool.
    And everybody would be fucking happy.

    Except you, cause you have no penis.**

    *I misspelled grossly and Google correct offered me this. I could not take it out.
    **You can replace this with a more subtle play on the Gelded state of your SI, but I didn't want to play any longer at the time.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  15. samkar

    samkar Temporarily Banhammered

    Jul 26, 2010
    If the SI would at least add some real new facets to the basic story but this is ultimately just another "fix the universe and the kitchen sink" story with a lot *bad* cliches. It's boring.

    Anyway, if you look at the story concept shouldn't a valid question be for the SI why he should involve himself? He has no real interest to do that nor can he guarantee a fundamental better outcome than canon. A canon character going back to the past has a personal motivation to change things.

    But in this situation I would say playing with magic, exploring the magical world and trying to survive the next 7 years or so would be a priority with perhaps a few minor controllable tweaks.

    Why try to fix that society to "help" Harry and then potentially fail and screw everything up royally? Just how he handles the Diary could end in a complete disaster but the SI doesn't even really consider the consequence of failure. Therefore I think it's also a not really well thought through story concept.

    If you want a massive dose of bland SI stories check out Prince Valium to ruin your day.
  16. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

    Jan 6, 2009
    Revising my rating to 3/5 after finishing Chapter 6. It really does start to pick up some around Chapter 4.
  17. Doctor Whooves

    Doctor Whooves High Inquisitor

    Dec 27, 2011
    The scene with the sentient Ministry lift was pretty good, I suppose... but apart from that, I'm still not convinced that you can possibly use that many clichés and stay afloat. I will keep soft my judgement for the moment.
  18. ZeroTheDestroyer

    ZeroTheDestroyer Auror

    Nov 2, 2008
    I am getting there
    I'm halfway through this fic, and find it...not bad. So far no harems, godlike powers, or any love interest at all. I'm gonna keep reading.
  19. bugler

    bugler Second Year

    Oct 7, 2010
    You should really work on that. This element of the story seems to have taken a backseat to Lockhart "fixing" things in ways not dissimilar to what we have read many times before in redo fics. In other words, going by the quote, I'd say you are losing track of what you originally intended to accomplish with the story.

    It actually seems like it would be interesting to read about the actions, reactions, and perspectives of a person from the real world thrust into the HP universe. Your story has opened my eyes to the possibility that an enjoyable self-insert could at least in principle be written.

    If, as seems likely based on your respones in this thread, you are intending to make fun of common fanfic cliches, I strongly recommend that you have a look at nonjon's Dimension Hopping for Beginners, which also has a sort of metaphysical character doing just that. If you haven't already, that is.
  20. Ilverin

    Ilverin First Year

    Apr 19, 2012
    I got about half-way through this fic before I stopped.

    It appears to satirize wizarding society, but the points made are neither funny nor original.
    The timeline of the story is hard to follow after the "adoption".
    Harry as a character is not very explored, it's all the self-insert.

    Overall, I rate this 2/5.

    P.S. The story is now flagged as complete.

    EDIT by Minion:
    Ilverin mixed this fic up with another one as he admits here.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2012