Fanfic is good. 

Every community has its politics. My experience of a writer community has been mostly positive, mostly supportive.I maybe miss a lot of the politics because I’m trying to do this whole writer thing while also trying to do another seriously time consuming career. But I hear grumblings. And these grumblings stick with me, because they seem to be about something that I don’t understand the point of grumbling about: fanfic.

Some people are really negative about fanfic and the role it plays in the writing world. So I’m going to come out today. I am unapologetically pro-fanfic. In fact, in my personal, non-monetary scheme of measuring success, having a fandom and having people write fanfic of something I have created is the pinnacle. To have inspired people so much or to have created characters that people love so much that they cannot help but create more art around them? I lack words to say how important that is to me.

I think people assume that fanfic is written primarily by teenage girls. I hope so. Teenage girls should be writing and should be creating the kind of media they want to see. So much of mainstream media content boxes in teenage girls into archetypes, and if all fanfic was written by teenage girls, then I would celebrating it as much if not more than I do now because it allows them to tell their own stories and become their own writers. Today’s teenage fanfic writers can become the novelists and poets and screenwriters of tomorrow. And that is good.

But this post isn’t (only) about fanfic on its own as something of value. It’s also about how writing fanfic can benefit us as writers. Fanfic, friends, is an incredible training ground.

I am trying to work on my writing craft while I work a job and work through my WIP. I’m working cubed. Working on craft is difficult, because you need to spend time strengthening and experimenting with the various aspects of it until it becomes natural. I don’t really want to do that with my WIP. As an actor, I would work on my craft through scene study, focusing on what particular aspect or aspects I needed to strengthen or add to my toolbox. While obviously a writer can do that by writing their own scenes, fanfic provides characters and worlds that can be used or discarded as needed.

Let’s say that you want to work on creating settings. You can take the characters from your favorite show, drop them into some new world (an alternate universe,  or “AU” for the uninitiated) and practice the craft of staging your scenes. You have ready-made characters that you are familiar with, so you know what they look like and how they react to certain situations. Part of the creating and writing is largely taken care of, so you can experiment and explore and train some aspect of your craft. Fanfic can make your training more efficient.

You can also get feedback by posting your works on fanfic sites and getting comments back from the fandom. They already know the characters well, and you are all starting from – more or less – the same place. You have a built in audience with whom you can test your new crafty skills.

Or maybe you don’t post it. Cool. You write it, you develop your craft, and you move those lessons to your WIP. You do you.

Fanfic is excellent training ground. But even if you think all of the above is bullshit and you have your own way of doing things, cool. But I encourage you not to shit on fanfic. Every iteration of Sherlock, every movie based on the works of Shakespeare, hell, every movie based on a book, all of it is just fanfic. And fanfic is good.

 

Bodies in Space

Some of you may know – and probably I put it on my About page (*makes note to go check and update the About page*) – that I am a recovering actor. My undergrad was in theatre. Here. Have a picture of my teenage self as a Vietnam era nurse.

piece of my heart

I’m the one between one girl’s butt and one girl’s crotch looking contemplative (appropriate).

Aaaaaaaaaanyway. My time as an actor gave me a lot of experience about holding your body in space. Building on my theme of taking obvious ideas and trying to explore the nuances, today we’re going to look at how your character holds themselves and how that affects them. And if you take away some lessons to apply to your own life, awesome.

Most of us probably know that when you feel a certain way, your body will shape itself to match that feeling. Like puffing up like an alpha male when you need to be aggressive. Shrinking into yourself when you want to disappear. These things can happen automatically. You can use them, however, to get yourself to feel those things. So whether you have a character that feels sometime and the body follows or needs to feel something and therefore puts their body in that feeling’s shape, it’s a good idea to have sense of how bodies do that. I’m going to talk about two things today: 1. extroversion v. introversion of the body; and 2. grammar of the feet.

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Lessons of Time and Place

Happy New Year everyone! I know, I know. Where the hell have I been these past months? Well, ‘where’ is a very good way to ask that. I’ve been in DC finishing law school; in San Diego taking the bar; traveling through New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Amsterdam; back in DC working; and in and out of Switzerland for work. My cat is none too happy about all of this, but really she should be used to it by now. (I am thinking about getting her a kitten though. #levelupcatlady)

But I’m back (for) now! I’m setting my intention for this blog now, and it is to monthly and hopefully more than that. This month: Lessons from Traveling. Continue reading

Karaoke Creativity

I hear there are these people that need no accolades for their work. They are able to do their thing no matter the response or whether there is a response at all. I am not one of these people. Not to say that I need gushing positivity over every piece I crap out. But I need kudos to help fill those spaces where I doubt everything I’m doing and wondering why I’m even pretending to be a writer. 

I’ve been exploring how to meet this need without it affecting my WIP (premature accolation can totally ruin a process). Borrowing from advice I got as a baby actor, my solution is this: karaoke creativity.  Continue reading

The Importance of Being Ambiguous (On Purpose)

Dear Readers, in case you were unaware, I am in the Supernatural fandom; a Supernaturalyte, if you will.* This week’s episode, aside from destroying my feelings and burying one of my favorite characters, had a small, key moment of ambiguity that complicated an important moment in Dean Winchester’s character arc. So, let’s take this moment to explore this moment and how deliberate ambiguity can enhance a reader’s experience and complicate how they feel about their hero’s actions. Beware the spoilers, sweetie, below.

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How to Suck at Being an Adult (& Why It’s Important – Not Necessarily in that Order)

I will start out with the following statement in order to put my parents at ease: I don’t totally suck at being an adult. I pay my rent and bills (on time even), I have a post-law school job lined up, I do things like cook and exercise and vote. I can adult all over that.

But I am talking about that outer kind of adulting. The kind that tells you that you have to adult the way your parents (or some previous generation) adult. And holy chuck does that look clausterphobic. [insert assurance that this is not judge people that choose to adult this way] I remember looking my thirties down the line and just waiting for the sensible clothing and predicatable days to decend upon me. Terrifying.

My life until then had been something of an adventure. Tragic often, but the kind where you are sucking the marrow of life until you choke on the bone. I had moved far away from my family, which kept their unconscious demands for perfection away from my daily life, which freed me to be ridiculous. Freed me to try on different kinds of me.

But adulthood was coming. Right? I mean, it didn’t really seem like you could avoid it. Better to get all that partying and bad life choices in before it happened. A collection of stories to remind yourself that your life wasn’t always this boring.

For me, Thirty was the marker. That was the day that adulthood would settle in and take over. But as it approached, nothing was changing that hadn’t already changed in me. (Actually my 30th birthday was spent in a vet emergency clinic asking whatever orders this universe to please keep my cat alive — but that is another blog post entirely.) My adult life was my own.

So, I’ve been enjoying it. I realized that as an adult, you can act immature with impunity. When you are silly or run off to Peru for a week, those that love you just say “Oh, that’s just CJ.” It’s not a phase anymore. I am just better at stopping before things get out of hand now. I don’t choke on the bone (most of the time).

Why is it important? Aside from being yourself and loving yourself more than the haters hate on you, as writers we need stories, we need experience. We need different perspectives on everyday life. We need the extra-ordinary. And while we are all capable of imagining and empathizing these kinds of experiences, pulling them from our core and from our own story can keep you connected to that place of heightened reality.

So, the how-to part. Practice being silly. Silliness implies a kind of joy and fun that will help to breakdown the serious barriers a lot of us put up so that other people will believe in or be impressed by us. One simple step is saying the silly thing that comes into your head before you censor yourself. But, I know that can be terrifying, so if you are person that likes or has children, they are the best source of silliness. Kids, especially like 3-8 year olds, are basically pure imagination. Go play with them. When they create things, say yes and play, don’t just play along. Laugh while you do it.

Once you’ve mastered silliness, bring it into places where it would not be inappropriate and discover which of your friends and family want to join you in changing adulthood. Let them say “Oh that’s just <you>.”

Or we all have those things that we do that are not so adult. My dad on car trips would pretend to be all kinds of characters (my fav being the old man driving). Find yours and let that be more than simply a quirk.

What are your favorite not adult things to do? What do you wish you could do? How do you use your quirks in your writing?

The Writing and the Process: A Review of 2K to 10K

While I was on break, I wanted to spend some of the time that I got back reading a book about writing. I had seen a review of 2K to 10K (probably on Twitter, but honestly, if I haven’t made a note about it somewhere, I cannot be held accountable for remembering. #lawschoolbrain). I thought maybe I should dive into a style or craft book, but I really wanted to get the draft of my book done before the break was over (I did it!), and everything seemed to be moving much slower than I needed it to in order to get it done while also actually participating in the holidays. Even with just one tweak from the book (which I won’t spoil, since it is not mine to spoil), I doubled to triple my per hour word count and was able write even when I wasn’t really feeling it. Not feeling it is sort of death for me, because I have so much to do that excuses are easily found. But before I ramble into some other blog topic about that, join me for a brief argument about why you might want to pick up this book. Continue reading