Ermahgerd TEH BIZZYS! I have been BIZZY. No surprise there, right?
So today I thought I’d chat a bit about fanfic. NOTE: I am not TEH EXPERT in such matters. In fact, I am not even AN expert. I am somewhat of a newb in this realm. But I’d like to chat about fanfic and what I’m discovering as a writer and reader.
So join me in my traipsing!
Okay, yes, I do read fanfic. I don’t have fanfic writers that I follow regularly; I’m more one of those people who treats it kind of like a buffet and I go in and try all kinds of new things and if I like it, I might go back for seconds or I might just wait ’til I go to that restaurant again.
I’ve read Star Trek fanfic, Xena fanfic (full disclosure — I did not really follow Xena when it was a TV show, but I liked the idea of the X-G ship) some Pern fanfic (that’s based on the dragonriders books that now-deceased author Anne McCaffrey wrote), and some superhero fanfic.
And yes, I do write fanfic. I use it as a writing exercise — that is, I use a ready-made world created by others (THANK YOU CREATORS) to explore characterization and dialogue and storyline development in my own writing. I also create my own characters to populate these worlds and give them their own plots in addition to using those created by others. One of the fanfic pieces/novels I’ve been writing includes main characters that are all mine with their own stories while those in the original fic play peripheral roles.
I have not posted any of my fanfic. Some of it I never will, but recently, I started really delving into fanfic and I’ll admit right now that it was because of what happened on the CW show The 100 (T100).
The relationship between main character Clarke and strong secondary character Lexa went canon, so we don’t have to ship it, but with Lexa’s death (and the death of Clexa, in a larger sense), I think many people took to the fanfic boards to continue Clexa in alternate storylines that don’t involve Lexa’s death as it was written in the infamous episode 3.07.
So bunches of us are creating different stories for Clexa in which the lesbian doesn’t freaking die in the damn “bury your gays” trope, and where a TV show doesn’t queerbait LGBTQ viewers, and encourage them to watch the development of a relationship only to destroy that relationship barely a minute after it’s physically consummated
The fallout from that continues, as many of you no doubt know.
All that said, I am a relative newcomer to the fanfic world, and I’m still learning the lingo and how it works. And because I am perpetually fascinated with how things develop, this recent article at i09 provided a lot of thought for me. The comments will demonstrate that not everyone agrees with the writer’s take, which is fine, but I do think the piece raises interesting points.
The article, titled “The History of Femslash, the Tiny Fandom That’s Taking Over the Universe” by Alex Cranz, provides what I found to be an intriguing overview of femslash — that is, F/F fanfic, in which women characters from various TV shows, usually, are written to engage in consensual relationships with each other, though the canon of the show may not engage in such. (and big props to fellow author KD Williamson, who posted the link on Facebook and I saw it and was all, NEATO!)
Cranz notes that
Femslash was, for the longest time, one of the most isolated corners of fandom. If you were looking for two attractive guys finding solace in one another, there was a wealth of male/male “slash” content. And if you were looking for a man and a woman solving crimes and pursuing love, then hetero fanfic was there for you.
If you wanted to see two women in a romantic, consensual relationship, Cranz writes,
There was just a handful of sites available, and just a handful of content creators penning the “fic,” writing the “meta,” and drawing the art. And that handful of people moved from fandom to fandom, often moving on to a new series wherever one woman looked at another woman for longer than 5 seconds.
One fan would discover a new show and evangelize, and the others would follow. And also because, unlike m/m slash fiction, which is written by (primarily straight) women for (primarily straight) women, femslash is written by queer women and for queer women. The group isn’t just interested in one particular character or set of characters, either. It’s the commonalities these women experience — an immediate bond that transcends the particulars of Greek mythology or doctor drama.
In addition, Cranz notes, femslashers don’t need to build an official canon. They just need that “one brief moment between two women that isn’t about a dude.” With that, they create and share huge narratives with detailed and compelling characters that are rarely found in popular media and if they are, they usually wind up dead (see “bury your gays” trope, above).
So, Cranz argues, one of the reasons T100 faced such a huge backlash was (and still is) because of the femslash community, and its organized, politically and socially aware participants, who have been writing and reading against the tropes for years.
If you read Cranz’s whole piece, she also notes the importance of Xena: Warrior Princess and the rise of the Internet in the development and further organization of a femslash community and its role in fandom of particular shows.
That piece gave me some context for femslash, which I’ve kind of been doing my whole life, though I didn’t know there was a name for it or even a community for it. I’d read books back in the day and then imagine them with F/F storylines, and it wasn’t until later that I realized the role of femslash in the development of lesfic (which I write) and its accompanying publishing industry. I know several lesfic writers who got their starts in femslash, and there continues to be a lot of cross-pollination between the fanfic universe and the lesfic community. Which I think is rather cool.
So here I am, participating a bit more in fanfic. And these are 5 things that I have discovered/learned that I think can carry over into writing outside fanfic, too.
1. The fanfic community can be really supportive. Basically, everybody is a beta, and many are quite good at helping you develop storylines and characters because they are as familiar (and maybe moreso) with the shows from which the fanfic is derived.
That’s basically how it works in the community. You post your stuff and then you get feedback via comments. Readers are extremely passionate about storylines and representation, and some don’t mince words, even if the critique is coming from a kind and knowledgeable place.
In this milieu, you will learn a few things about what types of storylines work and what don’t, and whether you’re being consistent in characterization with regard to writing characters that exist in the show. That will translate into characters you write in general.
2. There seem to be some logistics involved in posting. I’m fortunate in that I found a beta on Twitter who has been helpful in guiding me, the rookie, through the sometimes rocky shoals of hows and wheres and WTFs that come up in terms of fanfic. So, beta on Twitter (and you totes know who you are!), so many thank yous to you and I will definitely be shouting out to you when I post, so be ready!
Anyway, these logistics involve schedule — it appears that fanfic authors who do this regularly and do it well have a set posting schedule. My fanfic guru from Twitter tells me that it’s up to the author, how it works. Some write the entire piece ahead of time and then post in increments while others write something, then post it. Then write something else, and post it.
The important point to be made here with this is that fanfic encourages writers to create a schedule and to stick to it. Even though there is no monetary payment in fanfic, you may end up with some regular readers, and because of the community nature of the project, you may end up not wanting to let them down. So you develop a schedule and try to stick with it. And that, my friends, is a really good habit to have for writing in general.
Another logistical point to be made is in terms of length of piece that you post. My fanfic guru says that some writers post short chapters and others post longer, and that this is basically a decision on the part of the author, but it seems to me that consistency in that regard is a good idea, too. So I’m currently working on creating chapters that are roughly the same length (some a little shorter; some longer), which is, again, a good habit to develop in your non-fanfic writing.
3. Fanfic helps you get used to working with critique. Now, I haven’t yet experienced this, since I have yet to post any, but from what I’ve seen reading other people’s work, many readers put a lot of thought into their assessments of a piece of fanfic, and many offer helpful comments as well as accolades — which are also useful, because then you know what’s good about what you’re doing.
The downside, of course, is that some people can be really harsh. The upside to that is that if you take your writing outside the fanfic world, you will need to deal with criticism like that all the time, too, so fanfic helps you prepare, if you do attract that kind of response in the fanfic universe.
4. Fanfic helps prepare you for participating in other writing communities. If you decide to write outside fanfic, you will no doubt be participating in other writing and reading communities. You will already have experienced interacting with readers and other writers in the discussion of craft and storylines, so you’ll have a basis for that.
However, keep in mind that fanfic and outside fanfic can be different worlds in terms of writing and editing/working with editors. That’s a post for another time. Regardless, if you are a fanfic writer with a following in that universe, they may follow you outside it to see what you’ll do, and you’ll thus continue to interact with them and they will hopefully continue to interact with you in the development of your stories. Fanfic readers can be excellent betas, and some, at least, can continue to be resources for you.
Treat them well.
Which leads me to…
5. Don’t be a douchecanoe. I know. I’ve said this elsewhere for writing in general, but in terms of fanfic, if you post your work and get feedback and you don’t agree with it, don’t be an asshat and get into flamewars with the people who took the freaking time to read your work and then offered you some thoughts on it. That’s built into fanfic, this feedback thing. It’s a public beta forum, and when you post, you are tacitly agreeing that people are going to read your stuff and offer some thoughts on it, whether good or bad.
Be gracious about critique. Even the harshest may offer you insight into what you need to do to create a stronger story or characters. Yeah, it stings to see stuff like that. Get a beer or a beverage of choice. Go for a walk. Do a workout. And then thank everybody for reading your stuff. That’s all you have to say. If you engage further — say you want to understand someone’s comment a little better — ask respectfully.
Manners, people. They seem to be at a very low ebb on the intertoobz. Bring ’em back and use them because as a writer, you are creating a public persona, which means you are automatically held to a higher standard than others in interactions. So if you get a rep for flamewars in the fanfic universe, guess what that means if you want to write outside that arena? Yep. People talk and the rep follows you.
The fanfic universe is a great place, thus, to learn how to engage with critique in respectful, effective ways. And that is something that will serve you very well if you opt to write outside fanfic as well.
There are other things I’ve learned, and I’ll probably post those at a later time. For now, as I slowly wade deeper into the fanfic universe, these are the things that have come up most readily.
And as always, please offer your own thoughts, ideas, and links to fanfic that you’d like to share in the comments below.
Thanks, all, and happy reading, happy writing.
Oh, and happy fanfic’ing!