Sunday, May 6, 2012
Just as Long as the Last Step Isn't "Profit!"
Considering I have two lengthy posts revealing my rampant fangirlism, it should come as no great shock that I write fanfiction. Yes, that's "write", as in, present tense. Sure, I don't write as much of it as I used to, now that I have more of my own independent projects to occupy my time, but I still enjoy it.
If you're reading this writing blog, chances are good you've already at least heard of the authors who have publicly denounced fanfic on their own sites/blogs. (And if you haven't, just google "fanfiction arguments", and you should come up with the most notable ones, plus the rebuttals.) Their statements have both rallied support for their views, and lost them fans who didn't agree with their beliefs. It's obvious which side I fall on, and I'm going to do my best to not make this post just a rehash of other people's arguments (which are far more eloquent than mine would be anyway).
I can understand some of the points that the anti-fanfiction group makes. First off, any brief perusal of any fanfiction site is likely to turn up a lot of crap. A lot of crap. I don't blame anyone who doesn't want to sift through the crap in search of the gems, but I assure you, they are in there. Though I'm not enough of a big deal (yet!) to have experienced this personally, I think I can understand how frustrating it must be to see characters you've lovingly created thrown into a poorly-crafted "lol rapefic!" by someone who seems to have a third grader's grasp of the written language, or something along those lines. It's definitely eyeroll-worthy.
That said, as much as we think we've completely defined our characters and plot points, given everyone detailed, vivid histories, filled in every blank we can think of...we probably haven't. Unless we started at birth with every single character we named and followed every day of their lives up until the point where the story begins and beyond, we left some things open to interpretation. Also, the story has to end at some point, and as much as we like to think that we wrapped up all the loose ends in a pretty little bow and gave our characters the send-off they deserved, unless they all got killed off on the last page, it's implied that they'll keep living and that STUFF will keep happening to them.
If someone has read my work and enjoyed my characters/events so much that they feel inspired to take the time to write about one of the many things I didn't or couldn't cover, who am I to criticize them for that joy? Sure, they most likely won't share my original vision 100%, and I may even downright disagree with some of the things they have my characters do, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that their intentions are good and they're doing it due to their own enjoyment of what I've created.
I truly believe that fanfiction can only strengthen a writer's (or film maker's, or game designer's, etc.) audience. It's another way for fans to unite and to mutually develop their appreciation of whatever stimulated their minds and touched their hearts. Ideas can be shared, communities can dorm, and creativity will blossom. You will have a hard time convincing me that anything that gets people reading and writing is a bad thing.
I also believe fanfiction is a perfectly valid form of "training wheels", in my opinion. Characters are already outlined, settings have already been described, and the basic framework that can be so challenging to build when starting from scratch is already in place. With so many of the initial details already taken care of, a new writer can focus more on structure, style, and simply the art of writing.
I started writing fanfiction about a video game series when I was about 13 or 14 years old. Some of it is terrible, and I curse the fact that nothing truly disappears off the internet. Some of it isn't half bad, though. Looking back, I think I followed a pretty logical progression: I started off writing solely about major characters and in-game events. Then I gradually branched out into creating events that happened before or after the games and introducing my own original minor characters to the mix. After that, I felt confident to focus on the lives of my original characters in the setting of this world that had already been created.
With all of that done, it wasn't a giant leap to eventually progress towards writing something completely original. However, I can see how I could have easily gotten frustrated if I started writing from nothing, assuming I had gotten the inspiration to write an original piece in the first place. If my fanfic roots make me "less" of a "real" writer to some people, so be it. I'm satisfied with my journey so far, and I apologize for nothing. If you want to shake your finger at me and accuse me of ripping off someone else's work for my own personal gain, well, I probably won't lose sleep over that.
(Final Disclaimer: I do not think that anyone should be able to make a financial profit off of someone else's world/characters without permission of the creator. We'll save the "50 Shades of Grey" debate for another day. ;) )