I hosted a panel at MobiCon 2011 on Fanfiction. Fanfiction, in case you don’t know, consists of stories written by fans based on plot lines and/or characters from another source like Stargate SG-1, Farscape, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Anime, Twilight, Castle, games, movies, etc, etc, etc.
While many fanfiction writers fancy themselves as experts, I’m not one of those! I have been writing fiction for many years – probably forty. I’ve been to several writers workshops, was a member of Romance Writer’s of America for about five years – still, not an expert. I love the craft! There are plenty of ‘guides’ out there and opinions for fanfiction writers to use.
The panel was a question and answer scenario and I wanted to share some things I’ve learned. Surprisingly, there were twenty-five or so in the audience, one third of which were young Anime enthusiasts.
A few of the young people were eager to let everyone know they wrote anime fanfiction. There’s nothing wrong with that and I love the fact that they are learning their craft as they go, but only one in that group actually wanted to be a writer or seemed to truly want to learn more about writing.
As I answered general questions the subject found its way to erotica in fanfiction…I have no problem with good erotica or adult situations in a story. Some, but not all, fanfiction is about ‘Shipping” as in relationships between two characters – romance and erotica, simple and graphic sexual situations, and adult themes included! Due to the younger audience I simply pointed out there’s a vast difference in writing erotica versus the prevalence of the over use of silly words for body parts and the not so interesting graphic, play by play, ‘ho hum’ sex in many fanfiction stories.
Funny thing, when I tried to steer the discussion to other topics a young woman (maybe 15 years old) raised her hand excitedly and announced quite proudly that she wrote erotica. My first thought? How much experience could she have had to base it on… and was she sure she wrote erotica and not graphic/play by play sex learned from some manual or book? And did she write from experience at such a young age, or had she read a ton of it on other fanfiction? I refrained from asking those questions.
I moved on to the use of words and the joy of a Thesaurus. One of the younger crowd raised her hand, and like her compatriot, shook it wildly. I acknowledged her and she asked: “What’s a Thesaurus?” After drawing a deep breath, I sighed, but before I could answer another of her group had pulled it up on her iPhone and read the definition for all of us. So with that settled we were able to move forward.
Pointing out the frequent use of an actual Thesaurus or online database and not just a word document ‘pick and choose’ was paramount to me in speaking about any kind of writing. I made a point to get my two cents in about how repetitive words give a monotonous cadence to any story and I for one, no matter how much I’m interested in the plot will stop reading. I reiterated often: writing is hard work.
I myself can be guilty of getting lazy when writing fanfiction so I have one or more people who edit my work so as to hopefully catch the glaringly obvious overuse of a particular word, any slip out of character, way off canon, and general clerical errors. In some fanfiction circles the word for the person who is editing, checking up on your facts – or lack there of – is called a Beta.
Fanfiction IS for fans who want to write stories for their genre. And whoever doesn’t like the genre, or possibly doesn’t appreciate the young peoples’ or a new writer’s budding craft should not be reading it. I must confess, I tried Anime, but found I was unable to slog my way through what I found. Though, I am positive there are some awesome stories written by these young men and women, I’ve given up on finding them.
Often during the panel I found I had to draw people into asking questions. In particular, several twenty-something men. I just pointed to one of them at at time and asked, “What do you write?” I found myself genuinely surprised by there fanfiction set in the gaming world. Admittedly, it sounds incredible. I had never delved deep into other fandoms for fanfiction. Although I had looked around, I wasn’t aware of this genre in my fanfiction world. Gaming is so popular, I’m not sure why I didn’t figure that one out myself.
Some of these gaming writers post on a game forum, another posts on a friend’s blog site. I encouraged them to seek out a larger audiences including fanfiction.net or Live Journal where they can search their favorite fandom/Game/TV Show/Movie, Book, etc.
One member of the audience had never read, written, or even heard of fanfiction. He said he was curious. When he left he came by to say he enjoyed the panel and would be checking out some fanfiction!
Personally, I write fanfiction because I want to share it with those who, like me, enjoy a particular fandom, pairing or genre and I don’t worry about those who don’t because they are (or should be) reading from writers who write what they want to read.
Mobicon was delightful and I thoroughly enjoyed hosting a panel.
“…Nothing is best, nothing is worst. Each thing, seen in its own light, stands out in its own way…” Thomas Merton