191: Penning the Perfect Fanfiction

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i love doing that!!!

Simriel:

Clashero:
Excellent article!
Seriously, a site like http://www.fanfiction.net/ can be, at best, be called a "collection of rather derivative works, of rather dubious quality". The term I like to use is "A raging madhouse. A certified nexus of idiocy"

Agreed good sir! Shall you join me in my quest against fanfiction?

It's not that I hate fanfiction. It's just than 99% of it causes me to experience physical pain while reading it. I sincerely dislike taking a character and giving them a new story, but creating a new storyline, with new characters in the same universe as the source material, without any pieces stepping on each other's toes, then that's fine.
I'll point my budding novel as an example. You could argue that it's set in the world of Assassin's Creed. In fact, playing the game made me remember "wait... I have a book about these assassin guys" and decided to write something in that vein. Shameless self-promotion follows: http://clashero.deviantart.com/art/Alamut-revised-94362690

Clashero:

Simriel:

Clashero:
Excellent article!
Seriously, a site like http://www.fanfiction.net/ can be, at best, be called a "collection of rather derivative works, of rather dubious quality". The term I like to use is "A raging madhouse. A certified nexus of idiocy"

Agreed good sir! Shall you join me in my quest against fanfiction?

It's not that I hate fanfiction. It's just than 99% of it causes me to experience physical pain while reading it. I sincerely dislike taking a character and giving them a new story, but creating a new storyline, with new characters in the same universe as the source material, without any pieces stepping on each other's toes, then that's fine.
I'll point my budding novel as an example. You could argue that it's set in the world of Assassin's Creed. In fact, playing the game made me remember "wait... I have a book about these assassin guys" and decided to write something in that vein. Shameless self-promotion follows: http://clashero.deviantart.com/art/Alamut-revised-94362690

I say that allowing the 98 % of bad fanfiction to exist because 2% is decent, the same respect i would allow someone who suggested we should NOT kill the aliens who where attacking earth because 2 of the entire race where nice.
Also., if you have talent, like i do, Create an original IP, and use the things you like as inspiration.

Simriel:

I say that allowing the 98 % of bad fanfiction to exist because 2% is decent, the same respect i would allow someone who suggested we should NOT kill the aliens who where attacking earth because 2 of the entire race where nice.
Also., if you have talent, like i do, Create an original IP, and use the things you like as inspiration.

Yes., oozing with talent.

Your analogy is flawed, though. Aliens implies they are kicking down your door and shoving bad fanfic into your mouth, when if you stopped looking you wouldn't have to endure it. A better example is 'I want to kill this race of alien cannibals, despite the fact that two percent are perfectly acceptable. Now, to march into their domain with sword and bolter blazing!'

Ultrajoe:

Simriel:

I say that allowing the 98 % of bad fanfiction to exist because 2% is decent, the same respect i would allow someone who suggested we should NOT kill the aliens who where attacking earth because 2 of the entire race where nice.
Also., if you have talent, like i do, Create an original IP, and use the things you like as inspiration.

Yes., oozing with talent.

Your analogy is flawed, though. Aliens implies they are kicking down your door and shoving bad fanfic into your mouth, when if you stopped looking you wouldn't have to endure it. A better example is 'I want to kill this race of alien cannibals, despite the fact that two percent are perfectly acceptable. Now, to march into their domain with sword and bolter blazing!'

I prefer the good old Plasma gun myself. Yeah it overheats, but its got that 'dark age of technology' feel to it.

Edit: Also i see Fanfic as an affront to writers with talent and creativity. I Basically see it as an assault on my mindset.

Being that I actually do fanfiction, I hate to see it done wrong.

>LRN2GRAMMAR. The most important thing about ff is that regardless of how horrible the story is and how ungodly cliche it is, the writer knows his wordz. ff, much like the internet itself, is not an excuse not to use the school you've been to to exercise your writing and grammar skills.

>CANON is very important in some cases, but sometimes you just have to go with fanon because you get more ambiguity with it. Don't follow the canon religiously, but at the same time, don't go too far out the deep end. Don't be afraid to write really macabre stuff about Luxray, it's completely fine, just make sure you're committed to it.

>EXTREME CLIF-HANGERS ARE CLICHE. Don't end fics with OMGWTFBBQ material to hook your readers. They get tired of that really quickly. If you want to get readers interested, write an excellent story, and worry about the next fic when if comes, don't try to rush into it without gracing the current fic. Every fic should be treated as equally important as the previous one or the next one, fillers included. Don't cut corners when writing fillers just because they're fillers. Give them some life beside their uselessness.

>DON'T SPAM CHARACTERS because they're currently or were always popular. Not to say you want to get soooooo obscure that few know that character. Franchises make lots of characters, so use whichever one to interact with others of the same series, or of different series. If you really experiment with the chemistry of these characters, you can find connections.

>DON'T SACRIFICE QUALITY FOR LENGTH, AND VISE VERSA. The best example of this is just your typical poem. Some poems are short, but contain thought for the reader, while others are long for the sake of description, and albeit description is key, you're going to end up wasting time. Same goes for ff: I'd say, make your first few ffs moderately lengthy, and then you can make them longer or shorter as you progress. If you much rather not write an abundant amount of ff, you can make longer fics, but make sure they're relevant throughout.

>DON'T GET POPULAR. Or do, but don't let the badgering of your fans get to your head. You should always be open to suggestions, maybe even requests, but don't let them control you. YOU still decide when to put out fics. YOU don't change your fic just because your fans want it that way. This is your fic, so you're in the driver seat of awesome.

>TL;DR. Rawr. You obviously don't want my help! D=

I'm being VERY, VERY prideful when I say I feel like I'm one of the only ff writers doing it right.

DoctorNick:
Ya' know, as tempted as I am to point and laugh at fanfic writers, I have to stop and remeber that I'm the guy who writes the stories with furries in them and thus have no ground to stand on here.

Yeah... <_<

Doood, linkz.

Clashero:
I sincerely dislike taking a character and giving them a new story, but creating a new storyline, with new characters in the same universe as the source material, without any pieces stepping on each other's toes, then that's fine.

So you would approve of KOTOR but not of the Obi-Wan-as-a-child YA novels? Yes both of them had been approved by George Lucas, but the Star Wars universe is not their IP.

Really though, I read this as Peter Parrish's Guide to Terrible Crackfic rather than an attack upon fandom. If fanfic doesn't float your boat, fine, but to say there is no talent or creativity in fandom is so obviously wrong it makes me laugh.

Simriel:
Edit: Also i see Fanfic as an affront to writers with talent and creativity. I Basically see it as an assault on my mindset.

I can honestly say I cannot find a single scrap of your logic that stands out from the rest as flawed.

An excellent, and very funny, article - many thanks for a few good laughs.

I write Harry Potter fanfic; indeed, I'm an archivist on a Potter fanfic site. In my defence, I don't particularly like the books, and the stuff I write tends to make Harry less of a whiny little bugger, and gets rid of much of the silly wand-waggling, spell-shouting, ILM-hiring CAPS-USING, OMG-a-nipple-think-of-the-kiddies-but-a-spot-of-evisceration-before-breakfast-never-harmed-anyone lightshow that is Canon!Harry...

(If anyone's interested, and I realise this may be unwise, my infinitely sarcastic and vaguely Milliganesque stuff can be found at http://www.siye.co.uk/siye/viewuser.php?uid=2967 Be nice...)

Anyway, yes, a very enjoyable article. It always amazes me to see what people think they can get away with under the guise of AU...

Oh, and Simriel, there are many who, like me, do write original stuff and just write fanfic for fun. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it, just that the vast majority of it is awful...

Ultrajoe:

Think of it like lawn bowls, amateur pottery or pigeon breeding. From the outside, very unfulfilling. But people involved in such communities only ever do what they do for the opinion of others in that community. The nuances of it may put off outsiders, but they don't mind because they are only competing against other bowlers, other potters or breeders.

Ok. But the basis of lawn bowls is lawn bowls, the basis of amateur pottery is pottery and the basis of pigeon breeding is pigeon breeding. The basis of fanfiction is writing. Without writing, there is no fanfiction.

This is a minor distinction, but I think an important one - as it opens the field of criticism. If people within the amateur pottery community are using incorrect clay, or have poor technique, I would expect the others in the community to pick up on this. If a segment of the lawn bowls group start turning up dressed as Sonic and their giant paws prevent them from bowling all that well, then they are now figures of fun within that community. When you choose a medium as broad as writing in which to express yourself, you are now part of a wider community than just 'people who wanna read about Darth Vader's dark secret turning out to be that he's a lovely chap who likes kittens.' You are using the same tools and techniques as any writer or author you care to name. To follow your analogy a little more, fanfiction writers are still 'competing' against other writers outside their world, because whether they like it or not they're using universal techniques.

This is a wonderfully meritocratic system which I have nothing but support for, but it comes with the responsibility of KNOWING YOUR SHIT.

A few people have made the point that not all fanfiction is poorly written and that, hey, there are bad writers in other areas too. This is correct, of course! However, fanfiction seems particularly vulnerable to poor writing. I don't know if this is due to the age-groups it attracts (and this article certainly isn't directed at the first creative efforts of children - they have time to improve, or, in the case of "Half-Life: Full Life Consequences," the time to hone their incredible comedic talent) or the source material it relies upon, but there it is. Similar examples of poor writing can be found in Dan Brown novels or whatever, but as this is a site hosting an issue about somewhat manic fans of gaming then that is the particular area of bad writing being addressed.

The idea that this is ok because they're works that are only supposed to be read by a small community I find quite baffling. 'Oh but not many people are gonna read it and they're all my friends anyway' is a weak excuse for bad writing. It's a weak excuse for bad art in ANY sphere - and actually shouldn't you be trying much HARDER for a small, select group of specialists?

But all of this is beyond the scope of the piece.

Ultrajoe:

Finally, i'd argue that writing well within the constraints of another persons vision is a hell of a lot harder than with your own setting.

This I just can't accept at all. Character, setting and plot have already been laid out on a plate. To use the 'what if the Empire ruled the Star Wars galaxy?' idea as an example (which, I'm sorry, is pretty damn clichéd) - surely it is far, far easier to co-opt a pre-existing 'universe' than it is to start from scratch on an 'evil space empire vs plucky rebels' tale all of your own? I agree it would take some degree of skill to get the original tone correct (Lucas seems to have had this problem himself of late, ho ho!), but that seems a much smaller hurdle to jump than, well, actually creating a new tone to stay consistent with (and everything else) from the weird and wonderful powers of the imagination.

Anyway man, thanks for luring me into typing about 300 words repeating 'yeah but 99% of fanfiction writing is still pretty bad, soooooo ...' in a really po-faced way. REALLY, THANKS.

Writing original fiction is both harder and easier than writing fanfic; they both have their challenges. With original fic you have to create everything from scratch, and yes, you have everything "laid out on a plate" with fanfic. But the thing to remember is that writing well within the confines of an existing property can be even harder than writing from scratch. You have to adjust your mindset to fit into the established universe, and characterisation in particular becomes very difficult - not least because there are hundreds of readers who will be intimately familiar with the canonical portrayals of the character, and will spot the slightest thing that sounds wrong.

So yes, the prep work is done. But challenges remain.

awmperry:
You have to adjust your mindset to fit into the established universe, and characterisation in particular becomes very difficult

I know what you're saying and if we were talking about various translators/authors trying to complete some of Kafka's unfinished works or something, then yeah ... but as we're in the realm of things like Sonic the Hedgehog it's kinda hard to take this at all seriously.

That's because Sonic the Hedgehog is a two-dimensional blue hedgehog. What characterisation is there, apart from "Runs Very Fast"?

But not all fanfic writers write about Sonic; I write about Harry Potter (okay, so my argument flounders a bit there) and many people write about things like The West Wing, where the characters certainly have realistic and clearly established personalities.

Making another writer's characters and universe feel real is immensely difficult, and pretty creative in its own way. And speaking as someone who does both, I've learned not to denigrate either. :-)

pparrish:
This is a wonderfully meritocratic system which I have nothing but support for, but it comes with the responsibility of KNOWING YOUR SHIT.

The idea that this is ok because they're works that are only supposed to be read by a small community I find quite baffling. 'Oh but not many people are gonna read it and they're all my friends anyway' is a weak excuse for bad writing. It's a weak excuse for bad art in ANY sphere - and actually shouldn't you be trying much HARDER for a small, select group of specialists?

My only question is: Why do you think they have to justify themselves to you? The excuse is one they use to justify their hobby to themselves, the reason you find it weak is the same reason you dont write fanfiction. Ask a pidgeon fancier why he willingly cleans airborne-rat crap out of a cage every day, his excuse will be a fairly weak 'i like it', but that's all he needs... now why were you in his house in the first place?

Your problem is that you are using the similarity of skills to classify fanfiction and 'original' fiction as the same passtime. The reason you then get such a jarring clash is because you are, with all politeness, dead wrong. Fnfiction writers have different aims, methods and motivations; just because they use a ball doesn't mean they are shooting hoops. Fanfic writers aren't 'competing' with real writers any more than Tony Hawk is with Ian Thorpe, they're both playing sport, sure, but with an entirely different set of rules.

Most, if not all, of your objections to fanfiction come from inccorectly applying the standards of original narrative to that community. If you want to compare your writing to Fanfiction, then by all means go ironically ahead, but they aren't reciprocating the feeling, and that very fact means that there isn't a shared bond between the two disiplines. If you really want to convince me that you are in the same boat as Fanfic'ers, then i think you may have lost your train of thought somewhere along the way.

pparrish:
but as we're in the realm of things like Sonic the Hedgehog it's kinda hard to take this at all seriously.

And as Sonic the Hedgehog is the epitome of fanfiction, children everywhere learn english from the masterpiece 'Seven Ancient Wonder: Attack of the Italicized action sequences'. In the words of the song i am currently listening to: Don't go looking for snakes, you might find them.

I was inspired by this article to pen my own fanfiction. Please enjoy . . .

Title: High Pressure Valve
Author: The Animancer
Genre: Humor/Gaming/Real People/Suspense
Content: Age 14+ (subversive themes)

High Pressure Valve

An original fanwork by The Animancer

Chapter 1
Prelude to the dawn

Q: What do you call a cat who runs Valve software?

A: Gabe Mewell...

The End...?

Postive comments and constructive criticism welcome! Please, NO FLAMES! If you think you can do better then just show me your stuff! ;)

Why must I suffer the misfortune of having the greatest ever fanfiction penned beneath the very article with which I seek to denigrate the form?

Oh fie, fie! ... cruel injustice of an even crueler world!

pparrish:
A few people have made the point that not all fanfiction is poorly written and that, hey, there are bad writers in other areas too. This is correct, of course! However, fanfiction seems particularly vulnerable to poor writing.

I think you're running into sampling errors, and that's distorting your perception of the issue.

What I think you're missing is that the vast majority of original fiction available to the general public is edited. Not just spell-checked and grammar-tweaked, but had a third party go over it and point out flaws and make suggestions. And, most importantly, it's had someone reject the Sturgeon's Fraction of unutterable drek present in all fields.

Fanfiction doesn't have that. Fanfiction is often first-draft material, written by amateurs and self-edited. It doesn't even have a gatekeeper to maintain a floor on quality; the vast majority of fanfiction sites allow self-submission, and reject only on the basis of offensive content (with wildly varying concepts of what constitutes offensive, yikes) or outright plagiarism. It's what editors often jokingly refer to as "It Came From the Slushpile" material, equivalent to the enormous quantity of unsolicited submissions many publishers receive.

Anyone countering with examples from the self-publishing industry needs to take into account the vastly smaller audience for self-published original fiction. Fanfic gets to borrow the brand name, and thus draws more eyeballs and more submissions; any trend is going to be overrepresented simply by the larger volume. Besides, what little original self-published fiction I've encountered seems to have the roughly same gem/tailings ratio as fanfic.

I think the main reason that fanfic appears as dreadful as it does is that, too often, it hasn't undergone the same winnowing that separates the bad stuff from the good stuff that the other stuff has.

-- Steve

PS: I suspect that fanfic of the most egregious type existed long ago... it's just that it's hard to find examples from before the advent of the mimeograph because in earlier times the slashfic/Mary-Sue stuff didn't circulate.

Hmph. True artisty often goes unrecognized in its own time. Our meager tongue is ill-suited to capture such truths. I believe the great Heian period general Taira no Masakado expressed it best: "Watashi wa kuru oiteimasu. Watashi wa ooki na oppai ga daisuki desu."

I bear these words stoically...

It's not strictly true to say that fanfic is unedited and unscrutinised. Granted, many fanfic sites have no quality control, but others either require a beta reader to sign off on it or, as on SIYE, have a validation stack where people with some degree of qualification (not always as much as I'd like...) check the stories for quality.

In fact, I've given some thought to starting a fanfic site of my own - Fanfic Elite or something - run much like a conventional publisher. A site where the assumption is that fics will be rejected unless they particularly impress the archivists. A site where the archivists are particularly well qualified and not easily impressed...

Who's with me? :-D

Anton P. Nym:
I think the main reason that fanfic appears as dreadful as it does is that, too often, it hasn't undergone the same winnowing that separates the bad stuff from the good stuff that the other stuff has.

There is a big difference in the quality of fiction not only by archive, but by fandom. It's pretty clear that what you get from a cross section of Harry Potter fic is going to be very different from fiction based on, say, the Silmarillion. The Tolkien movie-verse sort of exploded when the movies came out, but the Silmarillion fandom remains a pretty tight demographic of adult women of high education. Compare that to the 12-18 year olds in the sword-and-sorcery genre (I'm looking at you Tamora Pierce) or any other self-insertion genre (pretty much every game ever) and you'll see a huge gap even in the entirely self published stuff (livejournal, ffn, other open archives).

If a person is just going to look at fandoms like Sonic the Hedgehog, it's no surprise that they're going to come up with complete crackfic rather than serious stories. It's easier to build good characterisation when you actually have something to work with.

PS. You know perfectly well people were shipping Jesus/Mary Magdalene (David/Merab, adultry; Samson/Delilah, dark) way before the mimeograph. Just because it didn't have the dissemination does mean it wasn't written or thought of.

Mr. Parrish, I award you a big fat WIN.

I'm afraid that yes, 90% of all fanfiction is terrible. But then you get the brilliant series like Two Men and a Motorbike which makes it so much better (that was a Star Trek 2009 series written on livejournal). I would take the view that some slash is inherently bad (aka, all the Supernatural stuff), but the test of a truly great slash fanfiction author is to make the completely inexplicable and intangible be completely believeable. From what I've seen in some communities, this is entirely accomplishable.

I choose to write fanfiction not because I'm a bad author, but because I like the "what happened next" mentality. Where did those characters go? What did they do? Why did they do it? Really exploring an established character allows a writer to fully understand how to create a character that has emotional depth and flaws that people can understand or relate to. Not only that, you pick up the ability to understand THAT character to an extent that you can really write them the way the original author/creator intended them to come across.

I've recently picked up a writer's award for a fanfiction piece based on the reboot Star Trek - entitled In Limbo - and have a really popular piece called The Hyde Complex. I was at Supanova this past weekend and actually bumped into a couple of people who had read my work (and it's always nice to meet fans).

The moral of this story is that if your work is good, it doesn't matter whether it is fanfiction or not. People will judge your writing on it's own merits.

I simply simply refused to have anything invovled with the fanfiction community mostly cause I really don't like the stories they make.

But all that changed after I saw Ranma 1/2. After watching that show I made the craven mistake of saying that I could turn Ranma 1/2 into a modest story rather than the obnoxious mess that it generally is. I have a Ranma fan on hand consulting me and everything and oddly enough she actually likes my re visioning of how I would have the entire show to play out from season to season.

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