Why I Stopped Writing Fanfiction (for the most part)

Let me start by saying this post is not to pooh-pooh fanfiction or the many writers and readers who enjoy it. I believe fanfiction is a valid and important writing form that produces many wonderful stories that bridge borders and offer opportunities for readers of all types.

That’s not what I’m going to talk about, though.

 

My Fanfiction Writing Life

I think the very first story I ever wrote was a fanfic. For those unfamiliar, fanfiction is stories about characters and worlds already established through media like television, movies, comic books, and videogames. From the rebel hideouts of Star Wars to the high school hallways of Persona 4, I loved wandering through them all. Moreover, I loved the people in them. Their stories sparked a light in me that would often keep me up long into the night, when I would scribble out side stories of my own leading them into new adventures and romances.

Over time, I took an interest in creating my own characters in those worlds: people who could support, antagonize, romance, and challenge the pre-existing characters I already adored. In the fanfiction realm, we call those homemade creations “Original Characters”, or OCs for short.

In the beginning, my OCs were supporting characters only. I felt like readers wouldn’t want to read about my original characters butting into the lives of their well-known favorites. For the most part, that held true. Feedback from readers showed that they didn’t care about the side characters I was creating. Some readers got so offended by my OCs that they wrote me hate mail! I decided the hassle simply wasn’t worth it.

But there was more to my leaving fanfiction than just some petty reader backlash.

 

What Changed

The more I wrote my OCs, the more attached I became to them. I realized I loved many of them more than I liked the pre-existing folks. My OCs started to take on lives, loves, and destinies of their own, sometimes completely separate from their source material. After not very long, the fanfiction roots for many of my OCs started to lose their luster. I wanted my characters to be my characters alone, with no ties to someone else’s (read: some company’s) world or story.

In 2017, I began the process of taking down most of my fanfiction. Two years later, only a handful remain on public sites like Fanfiction.Net and AO3. With only 1 or 2 exceptions, nobody seemed to miss them.

Now, it’s not like I don’t care about those stories. I’d spent time and effort – weeks, months, sometimes even years of my life – writing, crafting, drafting, and editing. Still, it felt good to reclaim them from the cavernous depths of the Internet*. Now, they’re just mine. Their being mine allows me to go back and rewrite, repurpose, or just reread at my leisure without the pressure to make them match my current level of skill. That means a lot of them stay ugly and amateurish, but I’m fine with that.

 

What’s Next

I haven’t completely given up on fanfiction. At the same time that I was taking down other fanfiction stories, I wrote a completely new one based on the Metro:2033 series. I recently revisited my “Doctor Who” Songbirds stories for sharing here. I’m sure my joy will be sparked by some pre-made world or character again in the future. I look forward to it! Until then, I will enjoy and take pride in the worlds and people of my own creating.

To those still writing fanfiction: Keep writing it! There’s a lot of joy and support to be found in the fanfiction writing community. I found and made good friends through sharing those stories.

And for those looking to move from fanfiction to original fiction: You can do it! Your fanfiction writing roots will serve you well in creating your own worlds and characters.

* Nothing is ever completely gone from the Internet, but the stories aren’t easily accessible anymore. That said, there are some stories I’ll never share again, for varying reasons of time, file size, and text.

 

What about you?

Have you ever read fanfiction? Written it? What are your favorite fanfiction genres, series, or characters? Let me know in the comments below!

My book – My sister – My tears

My book

In case you missed it, I published my thriller novella “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind” in early January 2019. The story follows bodyguard Number Seven and his charge Kirill, a young athlete training for Olympic gold, as they weave in and out of high-stakes conspiracies and low-key romantic encounters. It’s a story I never thought I could write – thriller has never been my preferred genre for reading or writing – but once the first inklings of the original plot settled into my brain, I had no choice but to run with it.

This post isn’t about Number Seven’s story, though. Not directly, anyway.

My sister

My sister is three years older than me. I spent a lot of my childhood wanting to be like her. She was certainly my best friend growing up. In a lot of ways, she still is.

She taught me how to tie my shoes, and how to write my name. She taught me to read, through Little Golden Books and comics she let me look at from over her shoulder. She always read harder stuff than me, stuff with words and concepts I didn’t yet understand. When I’d ask her about them, she wouldn’t roll her eyes or push me away, though; she’d patiently explain them until I did understand. And, of course, we’d play: make-believe school, make-believe knights, make-believe fairies, and make-believe starfighters. She was my first and best example of someone who loved stories. Simply put, I’m a writer because of her.

I’ve talked before about the tradition my sister and I had of trading stories on Christmas morning. But it wasn’t just Christmas stories. There was a time when we traded stories just because we wanted to share our ideas with each other. I remember marking in the margins of my written pages where she’d left off the last time she’d read, and how many lines I’d written since then. She was my first reader, my first critic, the first person whose opinion of my writing mattered so much to me that I felt giddy when she liked it and crushed when she didn’t.

We don’t share stories like that anymore. Her storytelling journey took her on a different path from me. Now, she creates interactive stories, told live with plenty of improvisation from the friends who join her at her gaming table. It makes her happy, and that makes me happy, too.

My tears

When I shared the news that I’d published my novella, I was surprised by the encouraging words and actions from family, friends, and colleagues. Many of these were people who had, until this point, never read any stories of mine or even knew I wrote stories at all. I finally felt like the world was seeing the Me that had been here all along. My heart swelled seeing the Congratulations! messages pop up. Then I saw a message from my sister. “I’m so proud of you!” it said, and I burst into tears. This woman who’d taught me so many things, including how to make stories, was proud of me for the story I’d written.

It was satisfying to finish Seven’s story. Publishing it made me anxious but also excited. Hearing from friends that they enjoyed the story has made me happy. Making my sister proud, though, has been one of the greatest joys I’ve ever felt on this journey of becoming a writer. Who knows? Maybe I can even do it again.

Little Miss Gogo and the Gang

Just Jho

 

 

Back in the spring, this mister started to appear on our front porch. Being the tenderhearted folks we are, we began putting out regular bowls of food and water. Since he would eat pretty much anything we put out, we named him after the monster-eater in the Monster Hunter games, Deviljho, or Jho, for short. Jho came around pretty much every day. He actually got to the point of knowing us that we could pet him – gently – as he ate or lounged on the concrete. Then, one day in the summer, this entourage showed up:

From left to right, that’s Cal, Gogo, Mama, Stripey, and Bro (in the bushes). Mama and the babies took Jho’s place for a while as the primary users of our front porch…and eaters of the food we put out. Needless to say, we quickly went through a couple of bags of kibble with so many mouths to feed! We thought that maybe Jho had been displaced by this sometimes-rowdy crew of kittens, when we looked outside one early evening and saw this:

If Jho wasn’t part of the family (either the papa or a big brother), the entourage definitely welcomed him.

We’ve never been sure to where these cats go when they leave our porch. Sometimes, they just run to the neighbor’s yard, lounging on their porch or under the wheel wells of their truck. Other times, they race across both our yards into some other place, too fast for us to follow. We just knew that they’d come back as long as we put out food for them.

One day when the gang came by, they were short by one. Stripey never showed up again. Maybe s/he was picked up by someone; maybe s/he got hurt or sick. Oh, well, we thought. That’s life in the outdoors.

Gogo

Fast forward several weeks. The gang was still coming around regularly…but we noticed something amiss. One of the white twins, the girl, who we’d called Gogo, was limping very badly. She’d lie on her side in the grass to poop, her little sides heaving. This broke our hearts, and while we’d known before that we should try and trap these cats for neutering, that little girl’s trauma made us quadruple our efforts.

We purchased a couple of humane traps, covered them with towels as camouflage and to keep the cat calm while it was inside, put in some food as bait, and set them out early one morning. Even in the dark before sunup, we saw Jho walk out from the bushes and straight into one of the traps. (We’d picked up Jho previously, in an effort to take him to a shelter. The shelter was full, though, so we ended up bringing him back to our neighborhood and letting him go.) The white brother, who we started calling Bro, followed soon after into the second trap. We were disappointed we didn’t catch Gogo, but two of the boys were better than nothing. Leaving the traps draped, we put them in the back of the car and took them to the clinic for fixing. While I was filling out the necessary paperwork, my husband peered under the towels, to make sure the boys were all right. Jho was fine if somewhat sullen, but he was surprised to see this in the second trap:

Gogo had gotten into the trap, too! She must have limped in first, and then Bro followed her in, springing the trap with his heavier weight. We were so relieved to have Gogo in custody, since now a vet could take a look at her legs in addition to getting her fixed.

When we picked them up the next day, Bro was antsy and Jho was still grumpy.

Little Miss Gogo’s diagnosis was not good, though. She had severely limited mobility in her left leg, and almost no mobility at all in her right. We brought them back home, where we set the boys free. We brought Gogo into the house, putting her in our back room where she’d be safe, with food and water and a tiny litter box. We called our local vet, who offered to see her the next afternoon after we gave them the explanation of her condition.

Here’s Gogo at the vet:

She was very small – only 3 1/2 pounds – and had tapeworm and a heart murmur in addition to the issue with her hips. The vet recommended X-rays to see the true extent of the damage, and we agreed. For the next few hours, we walked around town and worried and discussed what we’d do if the vet came back with a too-serious diagnosis. When the X-rays were finally done, they brought us into the exam room and gave us the facts: Gogo’s pelvis wasn’t shattered, but it had been broken, likely because of a car injury. Her hips were severely out of joint, preventing range of movement. That is not good for a cat who lives outdoors.

There was a small chance that kenneled recuperation would help little Gogo. But there was no guarantee. She was also very afraid of us and did not enjoy being inside, even for the single night that we’d kept her. It might seem cruel, but we decided to do what we thought was best for her, and so asked the vet to put her to sleep. It’s very hard even now for me not to cry when I think about Gogo. She was so small and so sweet when she’d romp around our yard with her brother and sister and Jho. But she was a feral, not an indoor cat, and we didn’t want to prolong her pain.

The staff at the vet office was very compassionate. I often think that vets are kinder and more empathetic than human doctors because their patients have no articulate voice to tell them what’s wrong; vets have to feel their way. Gogo was already sedated for the X-rays, but they held her and stroked her and said soft things to her when they gave her the injection. And off she went over the rainbow bridge.

I like to think that Gogo is in a place open and free, with no roads or scary predators, where she can run and jump and play like she could when she was a kitten.

About a week later, we received a sympathy card from the vet, and this:

It’s a little watercolor painting made with Gogo’s paw prints. It’s going to go into a frame as soon as we find the right one, and stay with us forever, just like Gogo will stay in my heart.

 

If you were moved by Gogo’s story, please consider donating to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Veterinary Care Charitable Fund, which provides veterinarians with a simple and effective way to offer charitable veterinary services to clients facing personal hardships as well as a means to support animals who are injured or rescued from abuse and neglect, or to your local no-kill shelter or veterinary clinic. We were able to fund Gogo’s medical needs, but not everyone is so lucky.

That Chocolate Kiss

On October 1, 2013, the online writers group LimeBird Writers UK posted a fun little writing contest for their second anniversary:

[C]omplete this sentence: “Chocolate is…”. Write your sentence in the comments section below. We will allow up to 3 entries per person. After the deadline, the Limebirds will decide on which sentence is the most creative, and that person will win a yummy box of Celebrations chocolates!

I submitted the entry below….

…and, I won! It was just a box of Celebrations chocolates, but it felt great to try my hand at something and get chosen as a winner. Winning doesn’t happen that often, for me. Plus, those UK chocolates were darn tasty!

I miss the days of fun challenges like this one. My weeks used to be full of exercising my writing skills between WIPs. Back in those days, I got so much joy out of writing stories, sharing them, hearing what others thought and reading theirs, too. Nowadays, I write and I share, but I don’t get a lot of feedback. I don’t read a lot of other people’s blogs, either. I’m not sure if that’s because my life has gotten busier, the temperature of the writing groups online have changed, or I’m simply not as interested any longer.

I miss my friends the LimeBird Writers, too. I do stay in touch with many of them, and I’m always happy to hear how they’re doing, what successes they’re having, and how they are meeting the challenges in their lives. It’s become more personal, where we know each other as more than just writers. (“Just writers.” Like that’s a thing.) There was a tender simplicity to that old way, though. Maybe what I miss is that feeling of not being as much of a grown-up concerned with politics and global issues. It was fun to be “just a writer” for that little while of my life.

It’s also funny to me, though, to think that the outwardly innocuous act of reading and becoming engaged by an informal online writers group could bring me into touch with so many talented, wonderful people. These are folks for whom I feel no envy, only gratefulness for being allowed to get to know them. They were like family, for a time. They came to know me, too, I think.

Maybe that’s what I really miss, what I really long for. The connection that existed once between me and these would-have-been strangers who found a common thread in our lives as writers poking and pulling at our art and craft.

Happy anniversary, LimeBirds, wherever you are. Your time may have been brief, but I, for one, enjoyed it.

What Number Seven Taught Me

In the last days of December 2017, a friend pointed me toward a writing competition. The theme for the competition was “Awakenings”. The group that posted the competition welcomed all genres, with a great desire for romance and speculative fiction, among others. I’ve written romance in many forms over the years, from the simple to the unapologetically raunchy. I had only a few days before the deadline, but I’d come up with – what I thought at the time – a straightforward love story set in a pseudo-familiar setting, and one I could finish pretty quickly.

Then I actually started to write it.

What poured from my brain was a twisty-turny, upside-down-reality tale of love, duty, patriotism, relationships, even politics(!) that took nearly a full five months to finish. It wasn’t what I had first planned, and it veered a lot from my original plot. But one lesson I’ve learned through writing fiction is that, when I allow the characters to speak freely, they will forge their own path. More often than not, that path is more satisfying than any I may have planned at the start.

Number Seven

Seven, like so many of my original characters, embraced his being-ness with so much quiet strength and determination, it overwhelmed me. I could think of no other story or character for those five months I wrote. In fact, writing became almost like transcribing. Many times, it felt like he was standing at my shoulder, telling me who should do what and what should happen next. That letting-go is one of the most joyful feelings I’ve experienced as a writer.

Number Seven doodle

Dour Number Seven, a doodle by me.

I said I wouldn’t apologize for Seven’s story, and I won’t. He took me on a new journey into personhood, one I hadn’t considered before. I grew with him, and because of him. He made me open my eyes a little bit wider to the world around me. He’s a bit suspicious, as I am, and he’s quite the serious individual, as I can be. But he also has to trust himself, a lesson I took to heart along the way, too.

If any of this has piqued your interest, you can read “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind”, part 1, here.

What’s Next

I’ve posted this story for free because it’s a project I want to share with people. I am working on a hardcopy version, and when that’s available, I’ll be sure to share that news. In the meantime, if my story moved you at all, I’d encourage you to take a moment to consider where you are in the world today, and what struggles you see, nearby or faraway, hidden or in plain sight. Everywhere, there are people fighting the good fights: for freedom, equality, and love. This story is for them. And for me, and for you, because we’re all in this together.

Now,Thanks

A writer rarely creates a story in a vacuum. People influence us in their own ways. Sometimes, that influence makes it onto the page. Sometimes, it helps us just get to the page in the first place.
Thank you to Sue for giving me the impetus to write this story.
Thank you to Chase for joining me for the ride.
Your thoughtfulness and support means a lot to this lonely writer. 🙂

 

“Like” It or Not

Recently, I took part in a flash fiction writing challenge, the #WriteFightGIFClub’s #PhotoStoryPrompt, from writer and Twitter user Radina Valova. Challengers are encouraged to use the photo to inspire a flash fiction piece while adhering to some very basic criteria. Here was this particular prompt:

When I see a flash fiction/writing prompt challenge, I give myself five minutes to find my idea. If I don’t hit on an idea within five minutes, I move on. I think prompts like this one can be great for kick-starting the story-writing process, but I’ve already got a few works-in-progress I’m working on! For this prompt, an idea did come immediately to mind:

Longtime followers should recognize Maggie and Rob from my “Finding Mister Wright” series of slice-of-life stories. If you enjoyed the story, maybe you’ll click “Like” at the end of this post. When you “like” something on a blog like this one, everyone else who comes to this page sees that you did. If you’re on Twitter, if you click “like” on (or “heart”) a Tweet, all of your followers see that you liked it in their own timeline. That’s kind of obnoxious, but I’ll show you a way to stop those “likes” from potentially cluttering up your timeline.

Let’s say you follow a lot of people on Twitter, and those people love to click “like”. What happens is that your own timeline starts to fill up with all of those different “likes”. That can be overwhelming, but here are some steps to keep it under control. Keep in mind that these steps will unilaterally disable likes from a person, so be careful for whom you use them.

Step 1: Click on the down-arrow to the far-right of the Twitter user’s handle/name. You’ll open a drop-down box that looks like this:

Select “I don’t like this Tweet”, to go to the next step.

Step 2: Click on the option that best fits your desire: either Show fewer likes from a user, or Show fewer Tweets from the person they “liked” or retweeted. I’ve blanked out the usernames from this example so I don’t make anybody feel bad. 🙂

Step 3: Once you decide on your choice, you should get the following notification in your timeline:

Remember, this basically turns off ALL likes from that particular user. So, if you want to keep abreast of some of their likes, you’re stuck with all of them. At least until I figure out the next step to share with you!

Did you like my post on Liking in Twitter? How about my flash fiction story? If you’d “like” to participate in the #PhotoStoryPrompt short fiction exercise, head over to Twitter and check it out. There’s a new one every Thursday!

Log in here!