The quote above was originally submitted for a #1LineWed offering on June 13, 2018. It comes from my original character Darya in “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind” and it gave me trouble in every single edit of the story. Every character needs their own conflict, and I wanted to give her one that was separate – and more personal – from what we witness through Number Seven’s eyes.
The backstory tidbit quoted here popped into my head in the first draft and went through surprisingly few changes before the final version. What bothers me to this day isn’t that I wrote it or that I kept it in the published novella, but whether readers understand what I was going for.
Darya Vikhrova is the only daughter of Ana Vikhrova, a cosmetics industry star and nouveau riche socialite. Darya’s father is unknown to her. Darya grew up amid material wealth but emotional poverty; Ana consistently told her she wasn’t worth a damn and no one would ever want her outside of her inheritance. As a little girl, Darya was withdrawn, fearful, and prone to private outbursts of anger. During a trip to Italy when she was 9 years old, Darya performed a near-perfect dive from a cliff. It changed her life. Ana’s boyfriend at the time, recognizing the feat, suggested Ana send her daughter to a professional coach. Ana and Darya were both only too happy to agree. Soon after, Darya earned a place on the national junior division team and started winning. Most importantly, she left her mother behind. Eventually, Darya would meet Kirill Morozov and his bodyguard Number Seven, and her life would change again.
In the Novella
I still don’t know if Darya’s story progression comes completely clear in the final version of “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind.” I left out a lot of the details listed above, leaving only a few lines devoted to her history, with most of them expressed by other characters, but I just didn’t want to delve too far into her backstory. She’s a secondary character at best and describing her motivations would have slowed down the main story. Still, I liked what she brought to the final product, and she was certainly fun to write! If I ever return to the world of Number Seven and his friends, I know exactly where Darya’s life will take her next.
The Eve and Alan characters are new to me. I’m still feeling my way around them and their post-WWII world. I already like them, though, and they’re already forming a story for themselves. Love (and sex) play a part because that’s how they first came to my mind. A few kind readers took a chance on my initial foray into their world, in the vignette “Apples and Eve”, available by request if you so comment.
I’ve never written this genre before. These characters are speaking to me, though. Who knows? Maybe, if the feedback is good, I’ll try my hand at more of this particular story. At any rate, if you decide to read this little scene, I’d be grateful if you share your thoughts. Click the link below to read the PDF; it runs ~1700 words, or 6 pages double-spaced.
Warning: This story contains description of mature interactions between adults.
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.
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.
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!
A little over one year ago, I started the story of Number Seven when a friend of mine sent me a writing prompt for a contest. That prompt was “Awakenings”, and that’s what I called this story through its entire first draft. What I didn’t quite realize was that Seven’s awakening would lead to an awakening for me, as well.
It took me about six months to write the first draft, then another five or so months to take reader feedback and get it edited. At just about 33,000 words, it’s far short of the 80,000-word average for a novel, meaning that no traditional editor, agent, or publisher would give it the time of day. But I didn’t want to double the length of the story with extraneous subplots or details; I always liked that it read relatively quickly. So when Amorphous Publishing Guild (APG) came to me with an opportunity to self-publish, I took it. With APG, I got to publish my story on my terms. No doubt there are folks out there who think the way I published this story is wrong, hurting my brand, not exposing it to enough readers…but we each have to follow our own paths.
I respect and admire my writer friends who are dedicated to their goals of a book deal and big-time representation. That is impressive! It’s not for me, though. I write stories that speak to and through me, and the strictly business side of publishing doesn’t much interest me. Sure, I’d like to make back in sales what I spent on production and editing costs, but I really like my day job, too. For me, writing stories is about personal joy. By sharing the story, I hope to entertain others and bring them a little bit of joy, too.
Reading the Story
To pick up your own copy of my thriller short story “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind”, choose from the following versions:
For countries not the US or the UK, you can search for “Mayumi Hirtzel”. If the book is not available in your country but you’d still like a copy, let me know in the comments, and I’ll make sure we work something out!
If you decide to give it a read, thank you! I hope you enjoy the story of Seven and his friends. And look for more stories from me in the future!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Suefor giving me the impetus to write this story.
Thank you to Chasefor joining me for the ride.
Your thoughtfulness and support means a lot to this lonely writer. 🙂