Posted in personal, writing
January 16, 2012

Thank you, teenage fanfic writers. I learned a lot from you.

On Saturday, I admitted that I used to write fanfiction, and there were other things I’d wanted to include in the post but didn’t have the space. This is one of them.

Writing is writing, no matter where you start.

Things posted by a teenager just embarking on their writing career will usually be riddled with spelling errors, unrealistic characters, and have no understanding about what an adult life actually is. If the teenage author happens to write RPF (real-person fiction, a subset of fan fiction involving the actors themselves), somehow there will be many pregnancies that occur. You get a baby! You get a baby! Everyone gets a baby!

I left an online forum when it seemed as though one actor was single handledly fathering the next generation of children with under-aged mothers. While I get the appeal of the particular actor, but it was a more than a little disturbing. And no matter what the older forum members said, these young teens all insisted that sex + love = baby. (I really hope these girls changed their minds by the time they actually started having sex)

The teenage writer’s stories usually feature Mary Sues. My definition:

A Mary Sue is a female character (though male versions do exist) added to a fanfic that is of the author’s creation. Not all original characters are Mary Sues. A Mary Sue is unique in that she usually has a name worthy of a Harlequin novel, eyes of an unusual hue (violet, white, or any color described as “unlike anything ever seen before”). She manages to become central to the plot, and possesses skills that would rival everyone from the original movie/book.

In a Harry Potter story, she is smarter than Hermoine, and also possibly be the Chosen One. Or if this is a Slytherin centric story, some family with closer ties to Voldemort than Draco’s family. Also, she’s likely an American girl. Just to make her stand out more at Hogwarts.

In Pirates, she would be more of a budding feminist than Elizabeth (who let’s admit, is a bit of a canon* Sue), better at swordfighting than Will and better in bed than Jack Sparrow, even though she’s just young and was probably a virgin when the story began.

No matter what the fandom, everyone can’t help but fall in love with her.

Lest anyone think I’m being unfair, I wrote a horrible novel with an “original plot” when I was 12 or 13. I lifted ideas from just about everything I’d read up until that point, so it’s hard for me to actually use the term original. It was set in some vague point in history that wasn’t Medieval, but wasn’t Renaissance either. Oh, I don’t know… the Disney Days of Yore, where it’s sort of Dark Ages, but nobody is dying of the plague. It was set in France, but I knew nothing about France, so it was more like what I knew from German Fairy Tales. I believe there were twins girls separated at birth- one who was rich and one who was poor. The poor girl was even the rich girl’s handmaiden and nobody noticed that they were identical. Worse yet, I gave everyone ridiculous names that I thought were clever. There was a Frenchman named Monsieur Anly. So when you wrote it out, it was M. Anly. No, no copies of this exist.

At 16, I wrote a spy short story that was not as bad, but certainly was cringe-worthy now. Being a spy story, the plot was fairly cookie cutter, but most in the genre are. Mostly it suffered from a lot of “telling” and not much “showing.” However, a teacher of mind raid the spy story and told me that I would never be a writer. Which actually led to me not wanting to pick up a pen and write for years. I told myself that I didn’t have it in me and focused on other things. (That would be when I started playing role-playing games, yes the kind with dice, and ran a game with a colossal world. I was writing, but I didn’t realize it at the time)

I’m sharing all of this, including my own horrible stories because part of writing is being able to draw from your own observations about human nature. The more you experience and the older you get, the more you have to draw from. And no, you don’t have to experience it all personally.

I knew a girl from the fanfic community who had a novel published by a real publisher by the age of 18. I was 24 and as jealous as I could possibly be about this girl’s talent. Looking back on it now, I realize that she’d spent the two years I’d known her devouring other people’s fiction- the writing of older women who understood real heartbreak. She had to have spent at least an hour a day reading other people’s work and personal journals and learning from those who were older than her. I know she spent at least five or six hours a day writing her own work. She always asked for critiques (most people posting didn’t want criticism at all) and found “beta” readers (aka editors) whose work she admired, and who she thought had points of view that could help her learn more. She wound up where she was because she worked to get there, and worked hard. She had to have spent at least 4,000 years in the time that I knew her writing- and she’d already been writing regularly for years before. I remember all of us being surprised that she was only 16 when she joined the group.

So, write and read. As much as you possibly can. The more you write, the better you’ll get. I only wish that I hadn’t listened to that horrible teacher of mine and lost years to my own insecurity.

If you want your own community to join in, there are lots of writer’s communities springing up on the internet. You can find self published writers on Twitter and Google+, and I’ve seen a lot of the same love that I found back in my fandom days. It’s all there. But most importantly, write!

*Canon – Canon refers to the original material in a book, comic, television show or movie. It’s what is explicitly said. In Star Wars, it’s canon that Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star.

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