This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Mel and her love of writing fan fiction.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Mel. I’m 32 years old, originally from the Midwest, but I now live in the deserts of Southern California. During the day, I hide from the sun as much as possible, and work as a librarian at a public library, and by night I spend my time reading, scolding my cats, chasing after my husband, dabbling in mixed media and scrapbooking, and writing fanfic. A completely random and irrelevant fact: I have almost no sense of smell.
For those of us who don’t know, what’s fanfic?
The simplest definition that I can give you of fanfiction (“fanfic”) is that it’s stories about other creations in media and pop culture. Like, you dig Harry Potter so much that you write your own story about Harry and Ron and Hermione. Or Snape, or heck, Filch’s cat, Mrs. Norris. In other words, the root of fanfic is derivative and dependent on someone else’s creation. But it gives you a chance to explore facets of the characters or events that the original medium (the book, the movie, the television show) didn’t necessarily delve into.
What are the biggest misconceptions about fanfic/the people who write it?
I’m not sure if these are the misconceptions that everyone has, or just me; but I used to be so embarrassed about reading fanfic; forget writing it. In reading it, I thought that I was a dork with no life and unhealthy interests and fixations on whatever subject (“fandom”) it was that I was reading about. I think some people may assume that fanfic writers are simply copycats or thieves of other peoples’ creations, and that their fanfic productions are simply unoriginal works of subpar writing intended as projections or wish-fulfillment.
It wasn’t until I had some ideas pressing on my spirit and mind that I felt I just had to get out there and “publish” (post online), that I managed to get past my own apprehensions and misconceptions.
Tell us about your topics of choice.
My first fanfic was a “Nolan-verse” Batman story that my husband dubbed “The Never-Ending Story” due to its ridiculous length. The main characters are Batman and an OC (Other, or original, character), but there’s a Dickensian cast of secondary characters as well, some of them original, all of whom are mainly focused on a crusade of social justice. The fanfic I’m currently working on is an X-men fanfic, but I’m also kicking around ideas for Buffy, The Avengers, Harry Potter…I suspect that anything I write about will have core themes of social justice, which was what compelled me to “publish” in the first place.
Why do those particular characters/situations appeal to you?
I suppose I simply enjoy the way the characters and plots in those fandoms have been portrayed, thus far, by their creators and interpreters, and I find that the characters, and their circumstances, offer an intriguing platform and mouthpiece for my own spin on them, and what “agenda” I want them to serve. But that’s not to say I’m going to write ridiculous stuff that’s non-canonical, like a humorous fic about Wolverine planning a Princess Party for six-year-old mutant girls, or a slashfic (don’t ask!) about Ron and Snape. I write stuff that could be conceivable and in-character, and therefore, hopefully, compelling to the reader.
Do you write stories and characters of your own creation as well? How does that writing differ from your fanfic?
Some characters within the fanfics are of my own creation, but I’ve yet to write a complete story/novel that isn’t fanfic. I have plenty of novel ideas, though, and will one day focus my energies on those. But since I’m fairly successful in my professional life (modest but stable income, lots of interesting work that keeps me busy), this is simply a pleasing, fun, no-pressure hobby for me to do in my off-hours, and I feel that a “completely original” story, at least at this point, might give me less pleasure than writing my fanfic. Plus, it’s far more likely that more people would read (and enjoy) my fanfic than an unpublished original manuscript!
Do you have a particular goal for your fanfic?
For me, my ultimate goal was, at first, to get my ideas out of my head and onto the “page”–just getting it out there. And that’s still the main goal, but now I have the added pleasure of connecting with other fans and writers. Beyond that, a time or two, I thought about printing up my Batman fanfic and sending it to DC Comics and saying, “Here, it’s yours. Play with it and have your way with it and have fun.”But I have to be clear on this point: As far as I know, getting a book deal for my fanfic, or selling it, is not an option, legally, ethically, or morally. Fanfic is deeply problematic, because there are copyright issues at play. Some creators, such as J.K. Rowling, are pretty cool and sometimes even flattered by the concept of fanfic, but other creators, like Anne Rice and George R.R. Martin, are very adamant in their opposition to and sometimes even disgust of fanfic and fanfic writers. Anyway, getting a book deal would be profiting off of some other person’s creation. (50 Shades of Grey being a somewhat problematic exception, for any number of reasons.)
What are the best things that have come out of your fanfic adventures?
It was so unexpected…the morning after I posted my first chapter, I got a few really kind and encouraging reviews. And that gets addictive! But more to the point, it’s helped my self-confidence in ways I never would have imagined. I realize now that I am a cogent and entertaining writer, and I’ve connected with a huge community of supportive, intelligent, and talented people! Most of all, it was like opening a Pandora’s Box…I got my “creative sea-legs”, if you will, and was and still am assaulted with all sorts of ideas – not just for fanfic, not just for original novels, but all sorts of different mediums and arts. When I published that first chapter, I discovered the art of the possible.
What advice would you give to other fanfic writers?
As Hagrid would say, “Better out than in.” If you have an idea, write it–get it out of your head and onto the page! Find a supportive “Beta reader”–someone who will read and proof your chapters before you post them, and give you all sorts of feedback and encouragement and helpful, constructive criticism. Remember that there’s the fanfic world, and the real world, and keep a healthy barrier between the two. Accept the fact that you enjoy reading and/or writing fanfic, and don’t judge yourself harshly. You’re not a dork or a loser for enjoying it. There are millions of people out there who are fanfic readers, and if you become a fanfic writer, you’ll be giving them a lot of entertainment and pleasure! And you’ll learn more about yourself and your own creative journey.Thanks so much for sharing, Mel! Do any of you guys write fanfic? Or read it?
original print (without text on top) by cut it out art, for sale here