Two Central Questions (P2P)

December 5th, 2012 § 8 comments § permalink

One reason I remain staunchly opposed to the practice of publishing one’s fanfic without credit to the original author (which, by the way, happens automatically in the case of publishing a fanwork of an out-of-copyright source–by keeping Mr. Darcy as Mr. Darcy, you implicitly acknowledge your debt to Austen in the creation of the character) is because I still have never seen an answer to this central paradox that doesn’t rely on “Well, I just didn’t know any better” as the crux of the defense.

And as we are largely a community of adults, and since I don’t know of a soul under the age of 18 who has P2Ped, I find “I didn’t know any better” to be a lame excuse.

So here is the paradox.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Edwardville Blog

June 23rd, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Note: This is the author blog that was posted on Edwardville on 6/22/10.

Inspiration, Transformation, & Ownership:
Fic for the Sake of Fic

I wasn’t sure if my face betrayed my shock, but I returned to gazing at the simple, ancient cross, just in case. I quickly did the mental math; the cross was over three hundred and seventy years old. The silence stretched on as I struggled to wrap my mind around the concept of so many years. “Are you all right?” He sounded worried.

“How old is Carlisle?” I asked quietly, ignoring his question, still standing up.

“He just celebrated his three hundred and sixty-second birthday,” Edward said.

Twilight, pp. 330-331

And that was it for me. That moment, when you see someone and you know at once they’re going to change your life. When your stomach drops, and your heart starts pounding and you suddenly feel antsy.

There was the rush of love at first sight for me the first time I read Twilight. But it wasn’t me inserting myself for Bella and falling for Edward. Oh, no. It was me, a writer since she could make letters, falling for the character of Carlisle Cullen. Three hundred and sixty-two, my mind said. All the things he’s seen! And he’s a doctor? As a vampire?

Now, I’ve written my whole life. There weren’t kids my age in my neighborhood, and as the little sister to two snarky teenaged brothers, I learned really fast that if I put my imaginary friends on paper, I could play with them all I wanted without being made fun of. Two decades’ worth of short stories, novels, and random scenes later, I have created dozens of characters of my own, and I’ve read enough books to have seen thousands more.

But no character has ever captured my imagination quite like Carlisle. In Carlisle I saw a magnificent, tortured soul, fighting to redeem himself for sins he’s never committed, and struggling to forgive himself for those he has. I saw endless possibility for this man and the family of broken people that he’s assembled around him. I loved Carlisle from the very beginning—I tore through four thick books just to get the occasional glimpse of him, and then, when it was all over, I began to write.

I posted my first story, “The Talk,” on Twilighted in mid-January 2009, about a week after I finished Breaking Dawn. And I started reading at once—looking for more of the characters I’d loved. I hate it when books end. If a story ends well, I get the sense that the characters are living on without me, and, well, I’m nosy. After I’ve been let so intimately into someone’s life, I don’t like having my access cut off. In fic I found the opportunity to keep prying into the lives of these fascinating immortal humans, to borrow Stephenie Meyer’s term, and their continued trials as a family.

And something bizarre happened. I went back to look at my story…and found that people had written back. They wanted to talk about what parts they’d enjoyed; what had made them laugh—and they wanted to talk about Carlisle. So I kept writing, kept reading, and began turning back layers of fandom, becoming more and more deeply involved.

As I did so, Carlisle moved himself off the page and into my world—a living, breathing person whose dreams and ambitions I carry just as surely as I do for any character of my own creation. I read works of others who included Carlisle, and each time my own perception of him was altered ever so slightly. I read reviews, both mine, and other authors’. I’ve often likened the process to turning a cube into a sphere: each new piece of information pulled from another or forged from my own understanding chops off one “edge” as it were, and as the edges are slowly chopped away, the character emerges rounder and rounder. By the process of reading and writing fic, we transform the characters and their world, and make them our own.

The brilliance, however, is that in this process of making Carlisle my own creation, Carlisle becomes less mine. I make no bones about the fact that I dislike the term “your Carlisle” (or “your” any other character). I welcome those who like the way I write Carlisle to say so (who doesn’t love compliments?), but he is certainly not mine, nor do I want him to be. My disclaimer says he belongs to Stephenie Meyer, but it is so much bigger than that.

When we write and read fic, we put ourselves in the midst of a giant conversation. When we re-imagine the characters to whom we were introduced originally, when we put them in new situations to see how they react, when we depict them as humans, when we transform them so that they feel as though they are coming more from us than from Stephenie, their value is increased exponentially beyond what they were in the original. Fic allows us to collectively reach into the cores of these characters we loved in the books and pull out those essences that we found so attractive so that we might grow to love and understand them even more, or to love and understand characters we never thought we would.

I love Carlisle. No question. But to pretend he is mine actually diminishes his worth. He is valuable to me only in as much as he is a manifestation of who you believe he is. Each time I explore him in writing, read your feedback about whether my portrayal meshes with what you think about him, each time I read someone else’s portrayal and leave a review about what I think of that portrayal, his value is strengthened.

Fic, for this reason, is of tremendous worth. More so, I would argue, than much of standard publishing. But it isn’t the writing, or the story, or anything that an individual writer does that gives it that worth. It is the ways which it re-imagines, transforms, and gives back to the community and the source which created it that make it what it is. You don’t need to pull it, change the names, and sell it; you don’t need to auction it off; you don’t even need to write it yourself, frankly. The mere act of participating in this conversation makes every work more valuable, without a cent exchanging hands.

People have been writing and reading works which derive from and transform other works for millennia. The Hours, Wide Saragasso Sea, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Grendel, The Canturbury Tales—I could go on and on. All these are nothing if not re-imagined versions of prior work. And like the ones we share, the values of these works are strengthened by the ways in which they respond to the original. In sharing the works we create, even in response to work of commercial fiction, we become part of this ancient folk art.

In our fandom, I often hear sentiments like, “It’s just fanfiction” or “Fic shouldn’t deal with that” or “I’m just here for fun.” It’s great to be here for fun, and I will be the first to tell you that the antics of fandom are generally not worth getting upset over. Our source material does, after all, contain benevolent, animal-drinking vampires who sparkle in the sun. But a dangerous side effect of this thinking is that we wind up undermining the inherent worth of what we do, and so authors run themselves ragged trying to publish, get the most reviews, or bring in the most money, all in an effort to gain value their fics already had simply by being fics.

Writing fanfiction can be good practice for writing original fiction. It can bolster an author’s confidence in her own work. It can be a way of bringing in tens of thousands of dollars for charity. And while each of these is terrific (and I use fic for all these things), fic need not do any of these things to be intrinsically worth doing.  That you read fic does not mean you are vapid or wasting time. That you write fic does not mean you’re incapable of producing something on your own (in fact, there’s a good argument that rendering a recognizable version of an existing character is by far the more difficult task). Throughout history, people of all ages, of all educational levels, and all levels of experience with writing have written and read transformative work. That you do it too makes you part of an incredibly rich literary tradition, one not based on an economy of ownership but rather on an economy where the more freely the goods are shared, the more valuable they become.

I write because for me, it’s like breathing. I can’t not do it for any great length of time. But I choose to write fanfiction because the process of sharing it is invaluable. It brings me closer to Carlisle, the character I loved originally, it immerses me in his world, and it puts me in conversation with others who feel the same way. The act of sharing it is itself is fulfilling, and no publishing contract, amount of money, or review count can make it more worthwhile than it already is.

So I’m issuing a challenge. Give yourself permission to take this seriously. Let yourself acknowledge that simplydoing those things gives them value. After all, none of us have more than twenty-four hours in our days. If you’re anything like me, you give up hours and hours that really aren’t “free” in order to do this.

Don’t you owe it to yourself to consider it worth your time?

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with writing at Writings.