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.

 

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Billy Budd (Or How I Learned That I Do Not Actually Hate Melville)

I get that it is a good idea to have kids read books they would otherwise not have read. I get that the classics are important to a well-rounded, quality education, even accounting for the narrow and kyriarchal way “classic” is defined. But man, can you turn off a kid from reading an author when they are set loose with an obscure text and no guide to at least rise to the level of appreciation. That is exactly how I came to loathe Melville. But I have been redeemed! Continue reading

Old Friends: Day 6 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today’s prompt from Elizabeth S. Craig was to write a story about an old friend needing to stay and what talking about old memories would affect main character. And all of this to written in an hour!


Jackie swiped the fob over the sensor and heard the door unlock. She checked her mail: junk, junk, junk, magazine she needed to cancel, and knitting catalogue to remind her of all those unfinished projects sucking up dust next to the television. She tossed it all in the trash, and then reached back in to grab the magazine. Might as well add it to the stack of the unread.

Up the front steps and around the corner, she flipped her key set and grabbed her apartment key with her teeth. She adjusted everything in her arms so she could actually get into her place.

“Hey, Jax.”

“Shit!” Of course, everything fell and scattered across the hall; her life was a slapstick comedy.

“Sorry, sorry. Let me help.” The woman started to pick up the papers closest to her. Making as neat a pile in her hands as she could.

“Prissy?”

“I go by Cilla now. But yeah. How are you?”

“What, what are you doing here?”

“I’m not gonna bullshit you. I need a place to crash. My whole … situation fell apart (I don’t want to talk about it), and I just need a couch for a couple of days to figure something out.”

“But how…”

“I called your mom. Well, actually, my mom called your mom. So I’m here. I won’t be in your way, just need a roof over my head.” Cilla – the name did not yet go with the face – had finished picking up her mess and was looking expectantly at Jackie.

“Yeah, yeah.” She fumbled with the lock but eventually got the door open. “Come in. You hungry? I was just going to order a pizza. There is a great little place that delivers a few blocks away.”

“Sounds good, except I don’t have any money at the moment, so I’ll need to throw it on my credit card.”

“No, no. My treat. Don’t worry.”

“I don’t feel good about that.”

“I was going to order it anyway, so just … it’s fine. Let me buy you dinner.”

“Okay.” Cilla paused. “You got a nice place here.”

“Thanks. I’ve been here for seven years I think, so collected some stuff and slowly, you know, put it together. Sit.” Jackie gestured to the couch. They sat there. Jackie looking at Cilla. Cilla looking everywhere but Jackie. Jackie turning to look out the window onto the fire escape. “Can I ask what happened?”

“Um, we aren’t really friends like that anymore, so I’d rather not talk about it.” Jackie was hurt. They’d been inseparable in high school, and now she was good enough to ask for a place to crash but not good enough to lend an ear. Prissy always told her everything. “Let’s talk about happier times, when I wasn’t begging for places to stay and waiting for my mom to wire me cash.”

“Okay. What’s a happier time?”

“Well, since it’s us here, how about that time we snuck out and destroyed Jason’s yard for him calling you a bitch.” Jackie laughed.

“I was a bitch though!”

“Yeah, but he said it like it was a bad thing!” They both giggled. “I think his parents are still find plastic forks in their yard.” The giggles had become cackles. “He deserved every single one.”

“Definitely.” She remembered that feeling of being two against the world. Prissy couldn’t stand that Jason made Jax cry.

“Remember how everyone always thought we were together; that we were hiding it? They thought they had discovered some big” she opened her eyes wide on the word “secret and kept trying to get us to admit it.”

“Did you keep count of the number of times they dared us to kiss?”

“I didn’t have to! That was your job.” She laughed again. “How many was it?”

“I have no idea anymore. A lot, definitely.”

“It would have been more if someone in this room hadn’t started asking for truth.” Jackie’s jaw tightened just a little bit.

“Yeah, well, the kissing got to be … uncomfortable for me.” Her heartrate stepped it up; she had just opened a door to questions she never thought she would have to answer.

“Uncomfortable how? I thought it got way easier every time someone said it. It was so expected.” Cilla knew. There was no way she didn’t know.

“I noticed you got more flippant about it.”

“And you got more … Oh. … Well, this is uncomfortable.”

“Luckily I haven’t yet ordered the pizza, so I am going to do that and when I get back, we can talk about something completely different please.” Cilla sat there, thinking, while Jackie ordered a pie. “They say they’ll be here in 45, but it’s probably going to be like an hour, hour 15. I hope that’s okay.”

“Jax -”

“Actually, it’s Jackie, now.” She nervously laughed. She didn’t know what was on the other end of her name.

“Jackie,” Cilla was nearly whispering and staring at her hands, “is that why you left?” She met Jackie’s gaze, and she was suddenly 16 again and they were Prissy and Jax, having one of their deep conversations about life and everything good and bad and complicated and wonderful and terrifying.

“I left for a lot of reasons. That just made it clear that I had to leave. It flipped a switch in my brain and it wasn’t a game anymore. You don’t just tell your best friend who clearly isn’t into it that you are in love with or whatever it was. you hardly admit to yourself that is what it was.”

“Because of me.”

“No, because I was suffocating there. I was … I couldn’t be me there. You were like the only person I felt like … You didn’t have expectations of me, but that … that was just a toxic subject. It wasn’t you. I … You were great. I just had to get out.”

“I wish you would have told me. It would have been fine. I wouldn’t have let anyone do anything to you. You could have stayed. I wish you would have stayed. I think my life would have been better if you had stayed. You made me … I don’t know … stable.”

“I was only stable because I so conscious of being stable, of being. I was just trying to survive long enough to get out. Leaving wasn’t easy, and it didn’t solve anything. Leaving wasn’t the answer I was looking for”

“Why not?”

Jackie laughed. “I don’t think we are those friends anymore, Cilla.”

“Maybe someday we’ll get back there. And I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

“You’d have to stick around more than a couple of days.”

“Girl, as it stands right now, I’ve got nothing to give but time.”