Thursday, 13 January 2011

On Writing, As Fueled by Gingerbread Lattes

Well apparently I suck so far this year. I promised myself that I was going to keep regular bi-weekly updates on this thing and now look at me. However, it looks as though holiday updates will be limited to one post per week since inspiration appears to be sorely lacking. Monday and Tuesday of this week in particular were a lather-rinse-repeat of 'go to work, wait patiently for customers, get no customers, wait less patiently for customers, get no pay, go home, sit on couch playing video games and feel as though brain is dribbling out of ears.'

However, today I have had a lie-in, made myself a gingerbread latte and now I am going to attempt to write a blog post.

So far in my previous blog entries, I have mentioned my love for cartoons. This is one of my three main passions in life, the other two being video games (mostly of the Square Enix and Atlus variety) and creative writing, and as I sat there at work doodling Sickness from Jhonen Vasquez's I Feel Sick yesterday, I suddenly thought 'hey, there's two more blog posts right there!' We're starting with the latter today, as my video games post is probably going to contain a very long ramble on various different Final Fantasy games, possibly with some Persona thrown in, and also because maybe if I write about writing, my erstwhile muse will get her sorry arse back to work.

Anyway, I'm going to hold my hands up and admit it right now; yes, I write fanfiction. I have an account on and one of my pet projects is my ongoing 28-chapter epic written for the Powerpuff Girls (yes, you did just read that right). I do write my own fiction too, of course, but fanfiction is where I really started developing my own style.

A lot of people dismiss fanfiction as stupid, and I will be the first to say that there is a lot of utterly terrible stuff out there, as well as downright terrifyingly awful stuff, which I'll discuss in a later post, because quite frankly, you can get some good laughs out of it and there is a lot of it, but right now, I'll cover some of the good points of it all.

The Security Blanket Effect
Fanfiction, as implied by the name, is all about writing for something you're a fan of. As well as being a way of expressing this, it's also a fantastic way to develop your own skills in characterisation. I was always worried that I created weak characters in my own fiction, but in writing fanfiction, you have the security of the fact that the people reading it already know the characters from the original work. However, this doesn't mean you can be lazy about writing them. As well as having that comfort, you also have the added challenge of keeping the characters recognisable.

There are lots of different genres within fanficton, including Alternate Universe (AU), which is very prevalent in such fandoms as Kingdom Hearts, normally involving the notorious High School AU. However, even if you do put the characters into another world, they are still the same characters, and you still have to put the work in to keep them believable. In this way, fanfiction can act as a good springboard to writing stronger characters of your own. You have the base character in fanfiction, and it's then up to you to develop them in your own way in your story, while still maintaining the feel of the character.

I started off writing for Danny Phantom and Final Fantasy VII, which were easy enough since I felt I knew the characters pretty well. For these stories, it was more about building on my ability to come up with good storylines and working on how exactly I wanted the characters to develop. Later, I started on the Powerpuff Girls, and as stupid as it sounds, this fandom has done wonders for my characterisation skills.

The Powerpuff Girls cartoon featured the three girls as five year olds, but for my stories, I aged them up until they were around sixteen. The challenge here was making sure that I kept their stock traits, while adding in the little changes and quirks that we all develop as we grow up. All in all, it's a lot of fun to give yourself a little lee-way with the characters like that, while at the same time challenging to make the characters the same as the ones everyone knows and loves.

The Feedback
I've made some of my best friends through writing fanfiction, due to the fact that it, as neurotic and sometimes war-mongering as its inhabitants are, is still a network of different communities. For me, it was The Genesis Awards that really made me appreciate both good fanfiction and the friends you can make online.

The Genesis Awards is all about finding and sharing good fanfiction, mostly from Final Fantasy (VII and X, with some Kingdom Hearts thrown in too), and as implied by the name, there is an awards scheme, although the prize is really just bragging rights for you and your winning story. In any case, being part of the forum showed me the importance of both giving and receiving good solid critiques on writing. Through getting reviews on my stories online, I've been able to hone my skills little-by-little, and by giving it, I'm both developing my own analytical skills as well as helping someone else to develop their writing.

So yeah, there are some really great upsides to being part of a writing community. Even if fanfiction isn't your cup of tea, there is, which is the original fiction community in the same vein.

No, I'm not talking about Pokemon again, don't worry. When I first started out writing fanfiction, I'm almost ashamed to say that much of it consisted of mushy romantic fluff, because anyone who knows me pretty well will probably know that underneath my cynical, sarcastic shell, I'm one of the biggest goopy romantics ever, and it showed. However, as I got more comfortable in my ability to write, my stories started evolving into much darker, more mature romances. To the point that one of my English teachers in school made the mistake of asking to read some of it, and the next day, she gave me a very odd look and a strained 'you write some very... dark things, don't you?'

Later, my reportoire expanded again, growing to include some more neutral writing that focused more on character conflict and development, and a few misguided attempts at humour which may or may not have been a complete disaster (my friend from the GA said it was funny, but she may have just been being nice).

Basically, it's got to the point now where I look back at my oldest pieces of writing, and promptly feel like I want to delete them from my account (I have done this in a lot of cases), simply because the change in my writing has been so massive that my older stuff seems barely recognisable as being mine. This change, in my opinion, is a fantastic thing. It shows me that however much my crippling self-esteem issues want to moan about it, my writing is always getting better. Every new story or chapter is another chance to get good reviews, so I keep trying harder each time.

Coming up with new scenarios and new styles is all part of the fun, and you can get the inspiration from anywhere. Sometimes one storyline won't suit certain characters, so you match it to different ones, or maybe even come up with characters of your own. Your writing style changes naturally as you keep writing, and looking back on the evolution's always good to see how you're advancing.

So yeah, that's my own dorky take on why it's okay to write fanfiction. Usually. There are a few people who really probably shouldn't, but, as I said earlier, we'll save that for another post.

This has been Mint, being her usual dorky self.

1 comment:

  1. Yey, blog entry to wake up to! Also, Danny Phantom? Awesome.