Tag Archives: fan

Writing: Fanfiction is Awesome! (But I can’t read fics for my own stuff)

So, as a writer, I actually love fanfiction. For those ignorant about what that is, it’s when you write a story about another’s work, basically playing with their toys, sometimes with your own thrown in for funsies. And there is a rule about it. Eighty percent of it, if not more…is crap. Pure and simple. But the other ten percent is usually just as rewarding as the original medium, if not more so (spoken as someone who used to stroll through the Twilight fanfiction sites until the fourth book came out and ruined any tolerance I had for the series). Fanfic can be written about almost anything, from books to tv shows to movies to plays. The sky is the limit.

What is it about fanfiction I like so much? Well, some of it is a personal thing. I like cute fluff, and most writers don’t indulge me with enough of this. For completely understandable reasons, of course. You have to keep the plot moving, even in romances (which is usually sex, but that’s another need entirely), and in other books your romance is very much a subplot. Sometimes, writers frustrate the tar out of me and I want to read more about the characters and the world without their personal quirks or writing style frustrating me (Hello, Butcher…). In some cases, the series ends and I need more for resolution (Hello, Blood +).

But the biggest reason is because of what it does for aspiring writers or even people who just write for a hobby. I was almost completely self-taught until my junior/senior year of college, and fanfiction writing was really the best practice I could have ever asked for. I didn’t have to try and world-build, which is something that really takes practice and time that when I was first starting, I didn’t have the patience for. Learning how to write a character (even if they weren’t mine) and keep them consistent with their already determined personality, how to plot a story from beginning to end (admittedly not the best of plots at times), and even how to write believable dialogue, were all skills I developed when writing fanfiction. I also learned more about fleshing out original characters to match the ones in the fanfic (and developed my hatred of the term “Mary Sue,” but see this post for that.)

I honestly think there are some real gems out there, even for series that I might hate for some reason. For example, Naruto about drives me nuts in the series (and I hate the couples revealed at the end, or at least some of them). But House Calls is amazing and full of fluff and squee. I write fanfiction myself, at the moment mostly whenever something in the original series starts frustrating me (Dresden and Sly Cooper) rather than out of practice. I always encourage beginning writers to start with fanfiction before tackling their own stuff. It helps them get some basic tools before they tackle the huge amount of work an original novel, or even an original short story, can be.

The strangest part of the fanfiction world, at least in my opinion, is writers who take extreme steps to make sure that no one writes fanfic for their work. it blows my mind, if only because… Well, first off, it’s going to be written regardless. It’s a pointless fight to pick. And for another, it’s really a compliment, if you think about it. Someone loves your characters or world enough to write stuff about them. Take the compliment and enjoy it, really. But I can respect some writers feeling like it’s a back-handed compliment (remember why I’m writing it right now?).

That all being said, I have policies about writers and fanfiction. It’s actually one of my Cardinal Rules. (I have three of them.) It’s a big one. It’s simple really. Writers can’t read fanfic for their own stuff. Seriously. No. I have a couple of reasons behind this. For one thing, while there is no such thing as a completely original idea (and there isn’t), reading fanfic could give you ideas you wouldn’t normally have. Or even if you don’t have the same idea, just reading any fanfic gives someone who does have same idea as you the grounds to claim you read their work and stole it. It’s a giant legal nightmare. On the other side of it…remember that first paragraph? Eighty percent. It’s almost impossible not to cringe when it’s characters you love. If it’s characters you make? Oh lord, that just makes me shudder.

So I gave one of my favorite fics a shout out. Anyone have their own to call out?

As a bit of news, I will be changing my posts to Sunday, and maybe a random one in the week. I’m just stupid busy the rest of the time in the week right now with fair coming up.


Writing: The Mary Sue (and Why I Hate That Term)

When I first started writing, I did what most young girls did. I created a new character (usually female), threw her into a show or book I liked, and either rewrote what had happened in the show or set it after the show was over. And I will be the first person to admit…those stories were awful. I had no concept of how to plot, and because my brain functions so highly on visual input rather than audio, there would be far too many details. I also had no concept of what made a good or balanced character. I just made what I thought sounded cool and what I wished I could be if magic was real.

Cue the many cries of the fandoms in question declaring my character a Mary Sue.

Eventually, I learned what that term meant. I tried to do better, to not go so far in my characters. But remember, I’m a fourteen year old girl. I just want to have characters that I think are cool and happen to be my own gender in shows I like, since many of the shows/movies/books in question at that time were focused on making the boys cool and the girls…pretty twirly love interests with no real substance. None of it worked, and I even left one fandom that I loved, no longer able to tolerate their views on anything that deviated from the blessed, misogynistic canon.

Thus started my hatred for the term Mary Sue, and honestly as an adult and trained writer? I still hate it.

Once upon a time, a Mary Sue was a character who could do nothing wrong, knew things she had no right to know, and clashed with whatever fandom she was put into so bad, it was jarring. I mean throwing a magical girl into Lord of the Rings, jarring. Obvious author inserts were also lumped into this category (never mind that people like Mercedes Lackey do this in their original work). It originated from a Star Trek fanfic, and it’s just grown in infamy.

Now? Now it simply means a character has traits that people may or may not like. Is your character attractive and ends up in a romantic relationship with a male in the show? Mary Sue. Can your character sing and/or dance? Mary Sue. Has anything happened in the backstory that could be considered tragic? Mary Sue. Since the wonders of Twilight, is your character a klutz? Mary Sue. If you’re dealing with a fantasy story dealing with nobility at all, is your character nobility or royalty (and maybe doesn’t know it)? Mary Sue. And if your character is perfectly ordinary and has nothing special about her except MAYBE ending up in a relationship with a male in the series? Not only is your character a Mary Sue, it’s a BORING one. Do you see how ridiculous this is?

What makes it worse is the term has made its way to describing original fiction characters, which really blows my mind. I understand the main character maybe being poorly balanced or written, but I don’t understand how they can clash with their setting as poorly as a Mary Sue is supposed to…unless it’s because again, we are using the word to simply describe a character we don’t like, rather than what it is supposed to mean.

Let me make it even worse. There isn’t a definite name for male Mary Sues. Some call them Gary Stus, Marty Stus, or just male Mary Sues. It is nearly impossible to write one, either. Why? Because male power-fantasy characters are easily accepted in our current society. Seriously. Batman, Indiana Jones, Anakin Skywalker, even friggin’ King Arthur himself. All of them if they were female? Would be labeled as Mary Sues. But as male characters, they are accepted and are even made to be some of the greatest characters ever.

But their female counterparts are turned into one of three things or a combination of them. Helpless damsels in distress who are constantly kidnapped (because sadly, Guinevere becomes this way too often, and Indy can’t KEEP a girl). They get trapped in being the girly love interest whose supposed moments of awesome are just annoying or make no sense (Padme, I love you, but you play pretty pretty princess and awkward love interest and that’s it). Or they get hypersexualized until girls no longer want to read the comic (…the entire comic industry, really, is this. And much like Indy, Batman can’t keep a girl).

And when there is a strong, feminine, powerful character for female power fantasy? Mary Sue.

As I said earlier, I still hate the term, just in general. I wish instead, we could say, “I don’t like the character for x reasons.” Because then we could have a healthy conversation about the reasoning behind it. And honestly, that’s my response to original work too. If someone tries to say my main character is too perfect or too tragic, I want to know what specifically bothers them, so this way we can have a discussion about it. Is there a possibility my character is out of whack? Yes. But there is also a chance that this is just the patriarchal structure of our upbringing talking.

And I don’t know about other writers (except Tamora Pierce, she’s all sorts of awesome about this), but I’m pretty determined to get some female power fantasy characters out there who aren’t dependent on romantic love.