I've never written fan-fic if we exclude when I was 8 and wrote about Tigger and Friends, but I've read a good number of good fan-fics. I've also read a bunch of absolutely horrible stories written in worlds that I love.
I think the problem is that while music and all that you mention is something you share with the world, books and their worlds become a very personal thing to most writers. You take a book, plop yourself into it for however long it takes to read, and you become a part of it.
Then someone writes a story about how character X loves character Y, but thats NOT HOW YOU SAW IT, so IT MUST NOT BE.
It's just an intensely personal relationship people have with "their" stories that gets them upset when someone else starts messing around with it, I think.
But I still believe people should write more fan-fic. About Sliders, the old TV show. *nods* Definitely.
True, but as catvalente
said, none of that fan fiction is in bookstores and on acid-free archival paper. The original version of the story is still canon.
And it's not so much the writers of the fan-fictionalized works themselves that I see sneering, but writers in general.
Hear, hear! You've outlined exactly what I love about fanfic, and why I keep writing and reading it. Yeah, there's a lot - a LOT - of tripe out there, but when you come across that story that just knocks you back ... what a great feeling.
Glad to know I got it right! Thanks!
I've actually had a couple of fan-fic projects floating around in the back of my mind, but never committed to them. Partially because of that same feeling of it not being REAL writing, and partially because I feel a bit squicky about getting involved with another writer's characters. Exploiting that writer's WORLD? No problem-o! Happily done! But their characters? Eww! It's like using someone else's toothbrush. Or playing their RPG character. MAJOR uncomfortable.
Speaking of, though, how does the fan fic community react to familiar worlds but with new charactes? Cuz I've got this one project in mind, see...
I am not a big expert on it, but I imagine that it takes a little more to pull them in unless you use at least one character to attract them - see Mike Stackpole's X-Wing series of Star Wars books: the main characters played only peripheral parts in the books, but Wedge Antilles, who was a minor character in the Holy Trilogy, is one of the major characters in the series. He draws people into it, but Stackpole (and Aaron Allston after him) actually got to flesh out his character.
And it is among the very best of the Star Wars book series.
2007-12-28 03:16 pm (UTC)
The very best fanfic satisfies a craving in both writer and reader
It's the hunger for "More stories, please"! I've been blessed enough to be directed to some really outstanding examples of fanfic based on some of my favorite novels and series. Many of the authors are writing in less-trodden ways, avoiding the Tolkien and Rowling rut to come up with well-written (and generally canonical) work to amuse and delight the multitude of other readers in the world.
For instance, I read a couple of really well-done stories about Elizabeth Peters' character Vicky Bliss yesterday at yuletide
, and it was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. We've been promised a new novel in that series for several years now, but the author's 81 now and the series was a secondary one, so good fanfic is probably all I'm going to see, alas. I'm going to look for more of the fan author's work. She's really skillful.
2007-12-28 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: The very best fanfic satisfies a craving in both writer and reader
She sounds like the kind of person who should contact the writer and seek permission to continue the series!
Like I said, I don't read that much fan fiction (much of that is time crunch issues) but I do see the appeal.
I really don't think your analogies are apt. It's not about being able to make money or even have something "usable"; it's about not using other people's developed story lines and characters in ways that they (usually) wouldn't appreciate. On top of it, a lot of the fanficcers I know just totally immerse themselves in their fic worlds because their own lives are so awful, which I find pathetic.
This is not to say I've never committed fanfic; I certainly have. But it ain't my whole world, like it is for some people...and that's why I have issues with it.
Witness the irony of my icon (so obviously you shouldn't take me too seriously).
On top of it, a lot of the fanficcers I know just totally immerse themselves in their fic worlds because their own lives are so awful, which I find pathetic.
'I immersed myself in music because it was an escape from my parents constant fighting.'
If they find themselves in a bad situation and they're not as strong as you, or have the same choices as you, it's not pathetic that they've found some kind of release.
2007-12-28 03:37 pm (UTC)
Wow, lotsa thoughts...
It's funny you mention Conan Doyle...I've been reading "A Life in Letters," compiled from all his letters home to his mother. He wrote more Holmes stories not only because people wanted them, but because he needed some quick cash while he worked on his lofty historical novels....
For me, in general, my beef with fanfiction relates to that whole "99.9% crap" statistic. You're right, too, about most new novels being crap too...interning in publishing taught me that like whoa.
What makes fanfic different from amateur piano playing, sewing, etc.... is that visually and aurally, you can tell when a piano player or a quilter is just doing something for fun. They rarely try to pass it off as Some of My Best Work, please comment and tell me how great.
In my experience (which is probably smaller than yours), I see a lot of fan fic posted on serious looking websites, so maybe I get all excited about "Living in Pemberly" (except it was usually Sunnydale), and eagerly click in...only to find poor grammar, lackluster plot ideas, nothing that sounds like anything I was hoping to find.
So that's the thing. I guess for me it's mostly selfish disappointment.
Plus, I'm a perfectionist. And a writer. And an editor. If something I write isn't good...I don't splash it around communities to get feedback. Because I can look at it and go "ugh, nobody needs to see this," even if I had fun writing it. I don't think it bothers me that others are less result-oriented....but that could be there under the surface I guess.
But mostly, I don't read it because it's not good. I might listen to a friend tell a "what if" story they imagined (my brother and I have concocted more than one Wonderfalls sequel that way), and I would sit and listen to a friend noodling on the piano, or pick up a needle and thread myself -- but I wouldn't buy a recording of some guy in his basement, and I wouldn't frame and try to sell my misshapen flower cross stitch.
Writing is something that almost always has to have a consumer in mind -- at least in the context of published (self or otherwise) online writing. Maybe that's why people react so strongly. It's ok if you play a crap tune at the piano because it's gone as soon as the reverberations stop. But bad fan fic is forever.
(But there's nothing wrong with that, you're right there too. My best friend writes Giles/Buffy slash, and the idea makes me go ick, but she likes it, so what the hey.)
2007-12-28 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow, lotsa thoughts...
Well, you are wrong about quilting - there are many sites and blogs where people put up pictures of really poorly made pieces looking for feedback.
And you are different from what I'm writing about: you are complaining about the quality of the fan fiction being written, not that people are writing it at all.
Also as a consumer of it, you are more aware of it than most people of its existence and tend to look at it as having more impact than it really does; most of the world is more likely to have experience with gramma's lumpy sweaters or off-key singing than with fanfic!
Oh, and also, a lot of internetcrazies congregate in communities (period), particularly devout/zealot fandom ones... and I'm not really all about dealing with internetcrazies.
Well, I agree with your premise, in a general sense. The problem I have with fanfic isn't that it isn't "real writing" (I used to write fanfic and think it helped my development as a writer a LOT), or that people aren't being original, I guess my issue is that I really don't like fanfic that just tries to be non-canon. Such as pretty much all yaoi fanfic in existence. Now, a fanfic that is well-written, imaginitive and expands on the characters in new and exciting ways is tons of fun, and if it happens to slip into a non-canon zone, then that's totally forgivable. Fanfics that instead start on a premise that not only brings the characters almost completely out of character but also changes their world in insanely improbable ways (mpreg, anyone?) is what I abhor, because I feel that the fanfic writers really just want to play out their fantasies with pre-made characters, and it doesn't really matter that much which fandom said characters are from, just that the writer has an affinity for them. I feel that it would be much easier, in such cases, for the writer to just knock out some cheap, shallow characters of their own invention for said story, since it doesn't really matter for you to know much about the characters' backgrounds anyway.
I respect fanfic writers who write fanfics of the first variety I mentioned, because I feel that it takes a lot more work to expand on a character that you already know so much about, and so many others know so much about, without going too out of character or wrecking some important aspect of their world accidentally. The main reason I stopped writing fanfic was because I never felt comfortable using someone else's characters. As well as I knew the character, I still had that niggling feeling that I was writing them wrong, and that some other fan would come along and read my fic and sneer at it because the character was so badly written. They wouldn't criticize my horrible writing or stilted plots, of course, just my mishandling of the character. XD
I've also noticed, in a general sense, that most people grow out of writing fanfic as they get older. I did, my best friend did, some other people I know did as well. Some of them still read fanfic (I don't, simply because I don't like wasting time slogging through the 99.9%), but the writing is mostly left behind. Because of this and my own experience, I tend to think of fanfics as a sort of mix between pure entertainment and a writing development exercise. It's nice to work on your writing with pre-made characters when you begin, because that way you don't have to focus on characterization, just the other aspects of writing. Eventually, after your writing skills have developed a bit, you may occasionally dabble in fanfic for fun, but it's not an essential part of your life anymore.
I have a pretty strong opinion about fanfic, in case that wasn't obvious by the length of this comment. XD
But you are not the person I'm writing about. I'm writing about people who disdain fanfic no matter what the quality. That I don't get.
You're always going to have a variety, from utter crap to fantastic, just as original fic has the same variety.
It just shouldn't be sneered at for even existing at all.
2007-12-28 03:49 pm (UTC)
Am I shallow in that the thought in my mind when I finished reading your post was "Mmm, hot threesome"?
I agree with everything you've said here, and if you do resume writing on your Star Wars fanfic I would love to read it, hot threesomes or no. :)
The first Star Wars novel (this is a sequel) I wrote had lots of hot sex.
I have periodically contemplated writing a post about fanfic, and never have because I didn't want to piss off half my F.L. So I won't piss off half of yours here. And considering that I'll probably never actually publish anything with characters that people fall in love with enough to want to write their own stories, then my opinion matters not.
But if I ever did...
The ironic thing to me is when people who write crap for other people's characters complain of other people's fanfic that X character would never have done this thing with that person. That just makes me shake my head.
Yeah, there's always that factor!
Thank you! You expressed so well why people read/write fanfiction -- and the frustration we feel that our hobby is not deemed (by 'mundanes') as acceptable as any other hobby.
I would like to modify this statement, though. ...the majority of people I see sneering at fan fiction seem to be writers... I suspect that's only because you're not involved in fan-writing circles.
It's true, many people who sneer at fanfiction are writers, but the majority of those who sneer at us are our friends, family, and/or casual passersby on the Internet. We fan-writers tend to make quite a few posts like these, and save others we come across (as I'll save this), because we often feel so battered by the antipathy that is flung our way. I had an argument with a casual acquaintance, having to defend my decision not to write for publishing -- even though she admitted that getting original fiction published would not be an easy task or a foregone conclusion. My own sister openly, vocally, and repeatedly sneers at my propensity to read fanfiction -- she's certain that the good taste I demonstrate in choosing published reading material completely deserts me when I choose which fan-stories to read. I could fill this whole comment box with other examples, but why inflict that on you?
The Jiminy Cricket in me said, "Pooh! What's the point of that? It's not real writing!" -- Which, even as I was thinking it, another part of me was looking at and thinking, "What a strange attitude. I wonder where that comes from?"
This may be why many fan-writers get so defensive outside their own circles. That attitude is so pervasive, coming from all sides, that we can't help little tendrils of it seeping into our own subconscious. Brainwashing sometimes works, after all, and it's difficult to resist. And so we gather in our own figurative enclaves, boosting each others' egos, assuring ourselves that our hobby is just as valid as quilting or cross-stitchery, trying to drown out our own little Jiminy Cricket voices. Thanks for helping with that.
I hadn't really thought about it, probably because I don't write that much of it, but yeah, I can see that as a problem. Don't you let them beat you down!!!
I've been in a fanfiction club for 11 years (scary!). I still have some of my stories from when I was 15/16 years old, and they SUCK. But I had so much fun writing them- and, because I wrote every single day, by the time I was in high school I was winning contests for original fiction/short stories. In college I took part in literary magazines and was told by the grumpiest, most curmudgeonly professor that of all his 'creative writing' students, I was the only one who could write.
Would I have reached that level without the daily practice of fanfiction? Probably not. But that's what I think of fanfiction as- practice to perfect the craft of getting words to flow, characters to move. How much dialogue works, and how much exposition in each scene is absolutely necessary?
Fanfiction can be a very, very good thing. I'm fortunate enough to 'play' in a universe whose creator embraces fanfiction as exactly what it is- a fun & diverting creative outlet.
Like anything else, it can be a healthy and fun outlet. It shouldn't be reviled as a hobby!
Kewl. Thanks for the link!
Thank you so very much for expressing in writing what I feel as well. I really find it distressing that so many published writers sneer at folks who write fanfic. I haven't written anything worth reading in years, but I have lots of friends who write amazing fanfic and I respect them a great deal.
And fanfic doesn't have to be a frivilous hobby either. Several of the writers that work for the game company that my husband designs for started out writing fanfic. Now they get PAID to establish continuity and write RPG supplements for the very game that they used to fic. That's right, they get money to play in their favorite fantasy world. And they got the gig by writing fanfic.
Yes, fanfic is like every other hobby, it can eat your life without you even noticing. Yes, there is some truly awful fanfic out there. But there are also a lot of really good writers who enjoy writing and playing in someone else's playground and don't want the hastle of deadlines and agents and book contracts. And I'm happy to enjoy what they choose to put forth, whether its on the internet or as a print zine.
Yeah, there is definitely a pecking order. It's a shame.
The magic word, which you haven't negelected to include, is passionate.
The element of writing fanfiction that is least understood by the Why don't you just create your own characters? school of detractors is that it's the loved characters which provide the inspiration. Melville was inspired by whaling. Graves was inspired by history. White was inspired by Le Morte d'Arthur. I am inspired by the Doctor, Captain Kirk, and Buffy Summers.
When I started my webcomic Arthur, King of Time and Space (which may or may not constitute creating my own characters when Arthur commands a starship and Merlin has a time machine), I had already been uploading daily Doctor Who crossover cartoons to the web for five years. And I haven't stopped them since AKOTAS - for daily updates from me you have to go to AKOTAS, but much of my most (and least) inspired humor and pathos can't be migrated there because it's just too character-specific.
To writer critics of fanfiction I say: What do you write about? You couldn't, and wouldn't, stop - or switch to a different subject or genre - just because your family and friends didn't understand, could you? Perhaps you've even tried, and found it wouldn't work? That's because this is something you're passionate about, isn't it?
This comment is cut-and-pasted with minimal editing from an entry in my own LJ, to which it was copied from a comment at Websnark.
Good points, all around.
Why is it that people are free - nay encouraged - to play the guitar or the piano for fun, or dabble in oil painting, or knit and no one thinks they should eschew such amateur activities because they aren't creating marketable products from scratch, yet the act of exercising one's imagination within a pre-created storyline is to be excoriated? Even among people who claim not to hate fan fiction, there tends to be an attitude of, "But why is she wasting her time writing about Harry Potter instead of writing something original?"
Ramsey Campbell wrote an interesting introduction for his short story collection "Alone with the horrors" in which he talked about how it was okay for painters and musicians to imitate other musicians as they learned their craft. He was using this example from other areas to explain how he developed his own style from originally writing Lovecraftian stories in the Cthulthu universe.
On a related note, Lawrence Block once wrote an article about writers who do it just as a hobby, much like amateur musicians or painters who don't feel like failures they don't do it professionally but for some reason even amateur writers feel pressure to try to get published.
I wrote a story that started out as just an attempt to make fun of mysteries in general, especially the part where they explain how they figured out who the murderer was. Then it dawned on me that this story would be a lot more effective if I utilized the pre-existing universe of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I didn't have to spend a lot of time in character development since everybody already knew these characters. Using Sherlock also allowed me to make fun of him and Watson specifically, and also mysteries in general, hopefully getting more laughs in the process. This story ended up being the first story of mine that was accepted for publication.
Coolness - it helps to use characters in the public domain, definitely!
Why is it that people are free - nay encouraged - to play the guitar or the piano for fun, or dabble in oil painting, or knit and no one thinks they should eschew such amateur activities because they aren't creating marketable products from scratch, yet the act of exercising one's imagination within a pre-created storyline is to be excoriated?
Some of the disdain might be that if you are given a pre-constructed world, characters, and backstory, all you need to do is the "simple" part: come up with an interesting plot. But that's like looking in disdain at people who use patterns when sewing.. or all those classical composers who did "Variations on a Theme by X".
I still feel it is okay to hold miserable spelling and grammatical skills in some contempt, but just as there fiction can be good or bad, so can fanfic.
Oh, yes, poor construction and bad writing is worthy of contempt, just not the whole field.
For me, I write fanfic, and I also write original stuff I hope to one day get published. Since I'm doing the latter, a lot of people would wonder why it is I waste my time with the former, but for me, it's all the same thing. Something about a world or a character draws me in and makes me feel for them. And it doesn't much matter if the world or character in question is mine or someone else's, there's still a story there that hasn't been told yet. Sometimes it's expanding on canon, sometimes it's just a game of what-if. What if the Ninth Doctor had been the one to meet the reborn Master? What if some poor bastard started a zombie epidemic just because he couldn't let go of the woman he loved? What if the son of Wayland the Smith from Anglo-Saxon mythology had gone on to have children of his own, and they had children, and generations later, they're still playing the same role, living the pattern set by their ancestor? What happened to Ethan Rayne after the Initiative took him?
My brain will grab just about anything and try and build a story around it. That's just how it works for me. And if the story seems like it's got any potential, I feel compelled to tell it. And if it's something that I can sell as my own, wonderful! And if it's not... it's still a story.
And when reading fanfic... Quite a lot of it's crap, yes. But that's why I delight in finding the good stuff. One of the highest compliments I've paid to a fic writer was, after reading a Doctor Who fic she wrote, "That's not my Doctor. Not my Doctor at all. But he is, beyond all doubt, the Doctor. And I kind of love you for that." Infinite possibilities, and infinite variations on a theme, and all of them can be true to the world and the characters in their own way. (Which ties in to my idea that there are very few bad stories, just stories that are badly told, that don't properly bridge the gap between points A and B, but that's another rant entirely.)
I'm wowed by your what-ifs. What a cool and wide-reaching group it is!
Writing your Son of Wayland story would be considered original. Writing your Ethan Rayne story would not. It's all just weird.
Whatever you write is right. It's all in how well you do whatever you do--that's my judgment on it all.
I'm working on my "real" novel quite intently, but I do fanfic on the side, because it's fun, relaxing in a way that the "real" work isn't, and y'know, sometimes you just have to write for FUN.
Work is one thing. But it doesn't clear out the cobwebs the way the fun does.
(And yeah. The fanfic I write is CSI: Miami fanfic. *unrepentant grin*)
I've known that feeling more than a few times.
It's a little how you can see 80 covers of a song, but no one goes off on the singer for plagarism. But anyway.
I used to get into this with Yuki all the time, admittedly. Because I wrote/write fanfiction, have a couple sites dedicated to it, a fanfiction.net account... the works. And well, maybe there's something to her position on it, because we are very similar writers, and she is multi-published and I still have not finished a single original piece. But that probably has more to do with a general lack of discipline than that I wasted my time writing fanfic.
I think a big part of it is the instant gratification. Post a fic on a site-- feel the instalove. Write an original piece, schlep it around a zillion places and watch people stab knives into this thing that you poured Yourself into until you happen to stumble across that One Happy Chance.
And even if someone hates your fic-- well, you were working with manufactured clay, within guidelines and a familiar world. Don't Blame Me, Blame The Source Material. Or something like that. It's less risky, and thus, more immediately satisfying. To a degree.
Not that the risk isn't important, part of growing up, yadda yadda. But I think it's equally important building up to the jumping off place, if that makes sense. Or something.
But again, why isn't it just okay for you to write what you enjoy writing? Why is it that writing is one of those places where hobbyists aren't allowed? It's like saying that every kid who straps on ice skates better be aiming for the Olympics, every front porch, sing-along guitar player should get into the studio and cut a record. Why is it that just playing around with those things for fun is okay, but writing for fun is "waste"?
If a kid has a lot of talent but just isn't driven to compete, no one tells her that she isn't allowed to figure skate or ski just for fun anymore.
What a fascinating post.
I never thought of fanfic like that - why DO we treat writing so differently as other hobbies? Hear, hear!
For me, fanfic is unappealing, not because it's not "real" writing but because it feels invasive of worlds that are to me the private domain of the creator. As a reader of the kind of fiction that inspires the same passion in me that various works seem to inspire in their fanfic-writing fans, I feel privileged to be admitted to that vision. To lay claim to it and pretend to tell those stories myself feels inappropriate and offensive, and largely pointless.
Part of the magic of Narnia (to take the example you gave about which I feel most strongly) is in its established boundaries, what it is is defined in large part by what C.S. Lewis said that it is not.
Much of the value of a story or a world for me lies in its specificity, and reading fanfic inherently destroys that. I've never understood the desire to "expand" those worlds mentally in every direction any random fanfic-writer has ever fantasized.
Obviously not all authors or readers feel that way, and hey, I suppose it's fair game to have at their work. But I personally still would never want to write in someone else's world, or read someone else's non-canon writing for a fictional world about which I was really passionate.
And, I do write original fiction for pleasure, and while I have no desire to see it published, and will therefore never face the issue myself, I find the idea of someone else claiming to speak for my original world spine-crawlingly creepy.
I don't think most fan fiction writers would think of what they do in that way. I think they would see it as a great compliment - people love a world so much that they want to continue being involved with it. And it does no actual damage to the original writing; the nice thing about writing is that it's pretty much impossible to deface because it is preserved in its original form in so many books. A fan writer may write an alternate ending to a book that completely changes the outcome, but the original authorial intent is not impacted in any way.
Of course, much of it is so badly written and so horribly mischaracterized that it is disrespectful to the original, but even that can't really impact the original.