Thursday, March 3, 2011

FanFiction FanDom

Yes, those are both non-words, but I like non-words. The english language is made up of hundreds, if not thousands of non-words like texted, television, and all those other words that weren't around when English was created... made... invented... um... I'm not going to try to figure this out since it has absolutely nothing to do with my post.

Back to the point (technically, 'to the point' since you can't go back to something you never got around to in the first place, and... I'm really distracted tonight).

Have you ever watched a movie, followed a show, or read a book, and thought to yourself "well, that was a terrible ending"? Maybe you're absolutely certain there should be another character in there (preferably one with your age/height/hair color)? Or wondered what happened in a characters life to make them that way? Trust me, you're not the only one! Cue huge sigh of relief: "I'm not weird." Well, actually, you are weird, sorry. You're just not weird because of this, just for many other reasons, like reading my blog: if you can read an entire post without a headache, you're weird.

Many, many, many people have thought those same exact things. How do I know that? has over two million users. True, many aren't active or are just readers (or are like me and only keep their account active for some beta-reading/editing practice), but the very fact that they have registered with this site tells us that they are thing it. The thing is FanFiction writers (and readers too) get a lot of criticism, and not the good kind.

What is the point of writing something that can't be published? Why waste your time on something that can't go anywhere? What, are you too lazy to come up with your own characters/story?

Well: "It's fun and great practice", "entertainment and mental exercise isn't really a waste of time", and "yes, sometimes I am too lazy." True, FanFiction can never be published. At the same time, no one expects it to be. It's a great way to flex our writing muscles, while not wasting time laying the ground work for stories we aren't actually using. It's a great cure for writers block, and let you feel good about your writing. When you post FanFiction you don't have to worry so much about people 'stealing' your ideas while getting feedbackon your writing style. It's also a wonderful way of learning how to stay in character. I am a huge fan of FanFiction if: the Characters are accurate and the plot isn't completely off. Now there are some FanFiction thatis Alternate Universe, which means the characters are in a completely different story. Those I somewhat enjoy because you're exercising the "What if" muscle. The What If muscle is when you take a character and say "what if they were actually in space," or "What if he was a girl?". Sometimes it takes wondering how that character would fit somewhere else or as someone else to see that they should be there. Example: Chicken Little was originally a girl, until they said "What If she was a boy?". Even just taking a character out of a given story can show you their true personality aside from circumstances that necessitate certain actions. FanFiction allows us to exercise The What Ifs.

By being able to take a character and write a whole new story, while staying completely within the confines of that characters personality and skill set, is a great ability to have. It is especially helpful to plot-novelists who have trouble with characters. Once you can do it with a character you know and love, you can do it with your own character with already built-in habits of checking for character consistency. (Side Note: No cheating-Having Han Solo say "I have a bad feeling about this" does not mean you have established character consistency and now have free reign)

Also, FanFiction is a good cure for a creative rut. When you can't think of a plot, or you just need to do something besides your WIP, you can write a FanFiction. Youhave ready made characters and setting. You don't have the temptation of abandoning your WIP for a new one, since a FanFictioin can never replace your own story that you've eat, slept and breathed for so long.

I am a fan of FanFiction. It's a great tool. Eventually everyone 'graduates from FanFiction and starts an original story, usually leaving a half finished story behind, but it's something you can come back to if you need some practice.

Pete the Lion is planning his next Masterpiece entitled "Masterpiece"
He's pretty confident it will be a fitting title.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What's Your Problem?

We all have "something wrong" with us. He's too full of himself, she is too judgmental. He's too lazy, she can't stop working long enough to make friends. He's too trusting, she can't trust anyone.

These issues, I like to call them 'shoes,' effect our everyday life. He's overly reckless and it's evident in his many traffic tickets. She's overly cautious, and it drives others crazy that she drives below or just at the speed limit.

A lot of this is attributed to our personality, upbringing, and experiences. Look at yourself, there has to be something you know you "need to work on." or you're at least aware of how it shapes your perceptions. This is true of everyone, including your characters.

Something I always ask my characters while getting to know them is "what's wrong with you?" inevitably something will be. And if there's nothing wrong with them, something is going to go wrong in your story. If your character only makes good decisions, is great with people, and has the uncanny ability to do any task set before him... Well... What are we reading his story for? People like to identify with character, recognize their flaws and how they impact their life (or how they rise above their flaws). Flawless characters are boring. When flawless characters get into trouble, they get right out. There are no detours, no suspense, no character growth.

Pick a character, any character. Now think what's wrong with them. Me first! Aidin (probably going to change his name, but I haven't gotten that far) has given up on his career, and is doing the minimum to get by. His relationship with his girlfriend is falling apart and he's doing nothing to stop it. Okay so that's a current condition. This is what you can easily see. Do you have one it mind?

Now we get to play four year old... Why? What has caused this problem in your character's life. Well, Aidin has given up because he was an over achiever, yet (despite graduating top of his class from Stanford) he still cannot seem to gain the approval of his parents. So he gave up.

Again, why? There is always a why, and until you get to a point where you're at the very root of the problem and there's nowhere else to go from there, then you've found your problem.

Now take that root problem that you've broken down to and build back up. What other "side effects" would someone with that root issue have. Say you took a character with a lack of trust and broke it down to her mother abandoned the family and her father treated her poorly because of it. Okay, how might a lack of trust manifest itself? Does she hate to be touched? Is she guarded? If yes, does she hide behind a fake identity or does she just hide in the background? How have her relationships suffered? Is she constantly seeking approval, or does she just think everyone is out to get her? Does she self-sabotage romantic relationships or does she just keep away from any potential love interests? Does she want to find her mother? Does she speak to her father? These are just some of the questions one might ask of this character. Whether these answers shape what personality you give them, or the other way around is up to you. I kind of went backwards, then forwards again just because it's easiest for me.

With all this background information, now you can put your poor distressed character (whether said character knows they are distressed is another question entirely) into a story. Throw them into a situation (good or bad), based on their background, how will they respond? Take their personality into account as well. A low self-esteemed extrovert responds very differently than an introvert with the same root issue.

Maybe your character has more than one root issue. Maybe they are angry at their parents, and have a low self-esteem. How do these work together to create other, surface issues? Forming characters is all about asking questions. Just like people aren't angry at the world for no reason, your characters can't be either. Unless of course you want shallow characters... ;-)

Whenever you discover something about a character (good or bad) always, always, ALWAYS ask why!

Do not be deceived by impostors, this is NOT Pete the Lion

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Whatcha Readin?

So I have this friend... Yes, I know, it even surprised Pete... You know, Pete the Lion...

Anyways, I have this friend, I've known her for years. I'm not going to tell you how many years, because we can't agree, and I'm to lazy to do the math. Throughout the years, even when we were not all that close, two things always stayed the same:

1. We would be there in a heart beat, with just a phone call (and possibly some parent aimed begging when we were too young to drive)

2. We read at the same speed

Don't we look cute? But seriously, same speed. Which was really convenient when we only had one book. This picture isn't quite accurate since usually she holds the book (that whole Laziness thing again).

We've heard it's rather amusing to watch since we laugh at the same time, talk about it while reading, and, if one of us looses our place, the other knows exactly where we are.

However, there are downsides to this arrangement:
1. Only one of us actually gets to finish the book
2. We don't actually like the same kinds of books.

Now there are the occasional books we both love, but generally we don't really read the same genres. She reads contemporary, I read Fantasy. She reads Historical Fiction, I read Science Fiction. Though we can both agree what good (and bad, Twilight anyone?) writing looks like, agreeing on what a good story looks like, well that's a different story (oh, I see what I did there).

Having this joint affair with reading has, however, led to one very important fact. Because of reading together, I've developed a very eclectic taste in reading. Though an Historical Fiction is the last book I'll pick up, I still enjoy reading it.

All this to say. There are different genres for a reason. We all enjoy different books. My brother, for example, will never read my writing, and I know that, he hates fiction (especially fantasy). He would much rather read informational books (I will refrain from calling him Eustace Scrubb).

However, every once in awhile, pick up a book you normally wouldn't read. You may want to borrow it from a friend, but read it. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Pete the Lion needs glasses to read his mysteries

Quiet Time Gone Wrong

I had a plan. A fairly simple plan. Actually, as far as plans go, it was pretty elementary.

1. Go up to Tahoe with Friend
2. Hang out in Lodge while Psychotic Friend snowboards
3. Write

What could go wrong?

Well, after being called Lodgie for the first half of the day... I was joined by both Snowboarder and two Skiers who decided hanging out in the lodge wasn't so bad.

No big deal, they were all going to Ski in two days. THEN I'll get my quiet time... right?
Wrong... They didn't ski...

Well, that didn't exactly turn out the way I wanted. Oh well, I still had a great time. Best Vacation I've had in five years... or is it the only vacation I've had? Yeah, that's it!

What does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing, though I did get 500 words down before my inner introvert's quiet time was invaded.

See: Pete the Lion feels my pain.
(Apparently there are no real lions with dreadlocks... lame...)
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