Fanfiction – Pros and Cons

Hi Blogland,

When people hear the word ‘Fanfiction’, one of two things usually happens. Either, they roll their eyes, shake their head, and suddenly get very angry on the behalf of content creators. Or, their eyes light up, they grin, and probably blush as they rush to ask what fandoms you’re a part of.

I am an avid fan of Fanfiction. I’ve been reading Fanfiction since I was a teen, in the early days of fanfiction.net (or ff.net as it was to be known). It was a wondrous time, with hours spent searching out the perfect stories that would expand upon settings, plot points, and characters I had come to love so much. Like many in my generation, my gateway fandom (per urban dictionary, the community that surrounds a particular movie/tv show/book etc.,) was Harry Potter. Specifically, stories where Hermione and Draco were romantic interests for one another.

Draco disapproves
You’re not fooling anyone, Draco, we know the truth.

Over the last 15 years or so, my interests and tastes have grown and changed, as they do. Over the years I read not only Harry Potter stories, but Pirates of the Caribbean stories, Pride and Prejudice stories, Pitch Black stories, as well as Moonlight (the ill-fated vampire crime show of 2008), Veronica Mars, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age stories.

There are so many stories that I still remember to this day. Swashbuckling tales following a young Jack Sparrow, sprawling narratives that explored Elizabeth and Darcy as husband and wife, stories that ventured to guess how Riddick would overcome the  threat of the Necromongers. Fanfiction was a place for fans to let their imaginations play with the characters and settings they already loved. And it was an outlet for budding writers to learn their craft by mimicking the style and tone of the original author, or by tweaking the established elements into their own voices.

I dabbled with writing fanfic as a teen, and though I was courageous in sharing my early work, I never really committed to it. There are a slew of unfinished stories loitering on my ff.net profile, and so they shall remain, a testament to where I started and who I was when I was 15 and finding my legs. And though my writing was riddled with false starts, I never truly stopped reading.

Now, so many years and much more writing experience later, I’m not only a reader but an author on the much more navigable Archive of Our Own (or, AO3).

This leap, from quiet fan camouflaged in the anonymity of the internet, to active participant and creator was a daring one. I was terrified to share my first completed story, but I was proud of it too. Plus, there was a serious need in the community.

andromeda

Mass Effect Andromeda had just released in March, and by mid-April most of us had finished the game and were desperate for more. There was a wealth of settings and characters that we couldn’t wait to explore further, and certain developments in the game were left dangling for future sequels.

But, fandom is rarely patient.

I scoured AO3 and ff.net for anything that would satisfy my craving for more time in the world of Andromeda. And while I found several that were to my liking, it still wasn’t enough. I found myself thinking up my own scenarios and before long I was writing them. And then I was sharing them. And then, the craziest thing happened.

People responded. Like, a lot. And the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

After years of writing fiction in a vacuum, where the only feedback was found in classroom workshops, reading comments on my fic felt like stepping out into the first rays of summer sun.

Not only did people like what I wrote, but they liked it enough to leave detailed comments and to reply when I responded to them. When I admitted short-comings, readers would offer to help me through them, and one such offer led me to Tumblr.

My whole internet life changed with the decision to create a Tumblr account. Not only did most of my readers/reviewers have Tumblrs of their own, but I was able to share links to my work that they would then share with their followers. My readers could ask me questions, tag me in games, and gift me with art and creations of their own. Suddenly, I went from the solitary writer, alone in her study, to a content creator people within the fandom recognized and enjoyed interacting with.

Now, this all happened on a relatively small scale. There are fanfic series that have thousands and thousands of hits, with hundreds of bookmarks. I am not that writer. My fandom is relatively small, but it is fierce and devoted, and frequently overlaps into other mutual fandoms.

This led me to branch out from Mass Effect Andromeda, and to experiment writing other characters in other worlds like Dragon Age and the original Mass Effect trilogy. When I reached over 5000 hits on my longest fic I hosted a giveaway, and wrote stories that really challenged me. Stories that involved other people’s original characters (OCs in fandom parlance) in situations and relationships that I wouldn’t have necessarily put them in.

Fanart 1
artist credit, top left: secondarysidecharacter, bottom left: vixilancia, middle left: chatnoir-art right side: blacksheep33512

By posting my fanfic and sharing it in an active community I was able to interact directly with my readers. I answered reader questions, took prompts for flash pieces (known as drabbles), and my personal favorite, I received fanart of my series. People who read my story liked it enough to draw scenes or moments from it and share them with me. Waking up to a notice that one of your followers has drawn something for you, completely unsolicited is probably one of the best feelings ever.

So, obviously, I tend to view fanfiction very positively. But, there are some negatives to being an active fanfic author.

For instance, it can be very time consuming. This last year I wrote 264,850 words of fanfiction. That includes every plotted installment of my large series, every random drabble that was prompted on Tumblr, and the occasional themed weeks of stories for various holidays and fandom celebrations. I still have another fic planned in my series and another Dragon Age story I want to write. The possibilities seem to be endless when it comes to fanfic, and I honestly think it’s because writing in an active community is so social.

Writing my own original content is a labor of love, devotion, and solitary obsession. It’s something I do alone, for myself alone, until such a time I think it’s good enough to share with someone else. My experience with fanfiction has been a very positive one, full of encouragement and mutual obsession. I’ve made friends online because of our shared interests. And that makes it hard to walk away and devote less time to fandom and more time to my own content.

What started out as a small, four chapter story turned into a giant series with more than five installments, including a short story collection. I was obsessed, and had the most output I’ve ever had in any writing capacity. But, I also didn’t get anything done on my own content hardly at all last year. It’s a difficult balance to maintain.

fanart 2
Artist credit, all: jozstanko-art

Another potential pitfall of fanfiction is getting pulled into fandom disputes. Fans are just that, fanatics. We feel very strongly about the various ships (short for relationships) and characters. We have opinions, lots of them, and they don’t always jive with everyone else’s. So, occasionally there’s drama within the community, and I’ve seen the fallout be quite harsh. Luckily I’ve avoided most of the conflicts, and have yet to be the source of anyone’s ire. Thank goodness.

To me, the benefits of my fanfic experience far outweigh the possible dilemmas. This past year taught me how to interact with a fanbase in a direct and genuine way, and to contribute quality content consistently. Now, as I continue my long series I’m also editing my first novel, teaching myself how to juggle the two projects and keep my output on a reliable schedule.

2017 was a very educational year, one I hope to expand on this year by continuing to interact with my fandom while pursuing my writing and editing goals. With lots of hard work, and even more luck, I hope I’ll be able to use my newfound skills interacting with readers of my own original work someday soon.

Best,

 

BZ

 

 

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Emergency

Hi Blogland.

This summer has been a very trying one. My husband lost his State job in June, I was passed over for a full-time position at the library yet again, my aunts came to stay with us, and then my best friend was hospitalized this week after a nearly fatal car crash.

She was extremely lucky and suffered no broken bones, but a concussion, seven staples on the left side of her head, a small puncture in her lung, and a large liver laceration found her in the ICU. She’s home now, and resting, but it could have gone the other way so easily. I’ve been pretty shaken up over it all, and I’m still reeling if I give myself too much down time.

But, it’s getting better. I’m just exhausted.

I made a writing friend, and we’re going to exchange chapters to workshop for one another. I’m nervous, but really excited to have someone in my town that I can share writing experiences with. Wish us both luck!

Anyway, I’m exhausted and battling some sciatic nerve pain right now. My plan is to do some laundry, play Dragon Age, and get lots of sleep.

I’ll see you soon with a book review of The Glass Magician because I am flying through it, it’s so good!

Until then Blogland,

 

BZ

Goals Summary Wk 9

Hi All,

I’m gonna keep this brief because my mind is anywhere but here. Tomorrow is the two week mark for the Mass Effect Andromeda release. I am an anxious, impatient, salivating mess. All I can seem to to do is re-watch videos I already have memorized, listen to soundtracks and songs that are reminiscent of space, and my attention span for anything else is just non-existent.

Mass_Effect_Andromeda_cover
Even the cover has me itching to play!

It’s going to be a rough month here at the blog. Probably a rough April too.

So, last week I wanted to:

  • Write chapter 13 of From the  Quorum
    • Done! Finished it up Monday night with 2,992 word sprint.
  • Read The Six-Gun Tarot
    • Not even close. Haven’t even broken 100 pages yet, which is a shame because it’s actually REALLY good so far. Again, no attention span at all.
  • Publish 2 blog posts
    • Done! Last weeks goals post, a general “How’s the Blog Doing?” post, and the book review for The Paper Magician.
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits
    • Done! I’m either on chapter 16 or 17 now, so this area of my life is going very well.

So, last week could have been much worse, and I’m proud of the work I managed to get done.

This week I’m going to be a bit more realistic, because I know myself, and I’m hyper-focusing really hard on gaming, and Mass Effect in particular.

  • Write 1,000 words of From the Quorum
  • Read 200 pages of The Six-Gun Tarot
  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Continue The Steal  Armada edits

I’m still doubtful that I’ll read that much, but I don’t want to abandon the book. It really is good. But, in my desperation for wonderful, immersive gameplay,  I’ve finished my millionth play through of the original Mass Effect Trilogy, and have picked up The Witcher III just so I can have something to do.

Because I am suffocating without Andromeda. Suffocating. Drowning in lack of gameplay. Like, yes, I love the Dragon Age series, and I’ve played the ever-loving shit out of those games. But, not like I’ve played Mass Effect. I have Mass Effect tattoos. I’ve played the original trilogy five times. I have Mass Effect jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets. Hell, I even have Mass Effect socks, and I’m wearing them right now! I have multiple figurines and comics and novels. I’m an avid reader of terrible Mass Effect fan fiction (Dragon Age fics too, for that matter).

This is my all time favorite gaming franchise, and today marks the 5 year anniversary of Mass Effect 3‘s release. I’ve been waiting five years for Andromeda, and now that it’s so close, I’m physically suffering without it.

So, just be prepared for my presence here to dwindle, if not die off completely in the coming months. I swear I will try my damnedest to hold myself accountable and post, but don’t be surprised if I vanish for awhile.

Until Thursday, Blogland.

 

BZ

Book Review- The Princess Bride by William Goldman

All right, I’ve found a couple minutes between reading and writing assignments, so here I am.

My limited free time has found me absolutely obsessed with Dragon Age: Inquisition. This is technically my third playthrough, but my second one only lasted 6 hours before I got bored and deleted it. I didn’t like the decisions or the back story. Humans are so boring, especially in a game that holds so many Elven secrets. So, now I’m over 60 hours into my Dalish Elf mage playthrough, and I’m romancing Solas, because I like sobbing in my spare time.

"Our Love Can Endure" by Mae'thnial Mahariel
“Our Love Can Endure” by Mae’thnial Mahariel

I’m not sure I’ve adequately conveyed my level of obsession. Phone background? Solas picture. Fan Fiction? Following nine different stories all about Solavellan (the name my particular brand of shippers have given the romance between Solas and the Dalish Inquisitor, Lavellan). A playlist has been made, chock-a-block full of sad/angry/confused songs that more or less scream, “WHY?” I’m even a member of a fan page on Facebook. I’ve got it bad.

And I regret nothing.

But, when I’m not gaming for hours at a time, I’m still reading, and so, let’s discuss The Princess Bride!

Princess Bride

Now, this will be an easy review because if you’ve seen the movie, you’ve read the book. I’m not kidding. Most of the dialogue from the film is verbatim from the book, which made it a fantastically fun read. Book Club, of course, loved it.

There were some added scenes, like more fleshed out backstories for Inigo and Fezzik, and though I loved them, I can understand why they were condensed in the film.The book is a little disorienting because the narrator speaks directly to the reader, telling how his father read the story to him as a child, and once he revisited it as an adult, he discovered that his father cut out all the boring bits to tell a tale of “True Love and High Adventure”.

Now, I made an attempt, back in 2011-ish, to read this book, and for whatever reason, was unable to finish it. I was worried as I reopened it that I would succumb to the same problem, and be faced with the hard truth that The Princess Bride, a most beloved film, was based on a boring book.
The Princess Bride

I’m glad to report that the book is anything but boring. I loved it, and now cherish it on my bookshelf, glad to keep it safe there and in my heart.

I know this is a short review, but really, if you’ve seen the film (and if you haven’t, I say this: Inconceivable!) then you’ve read the book. That said, if you love the movie (and if you don’t, I say this: Inconceivable!) please, please, please read the book. You won’t regret it.

Now, this was a Book Club read, which means we’re down to three books left. Next up: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. We have a short month between meetings, so we opted for the shortest book remaining on the list.
Perksofbeingwallflower1

I’m still reading a ton for school, though I’ll admit I didn’t finish Martian Time-Slip. I made it about 40 pages, but the slow story just couldn’t keep up with my Dragon Age addiction.

Moving Mars, by Greg Bear is doing much better, thanks to a shaky romance that reminds me just enough of Solavellan that I can read it with rapt attention.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in, say hello, good work today, sleep well, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

Oh, wait. I’m not the Dread Pirate Roberts…

BZ

Catching Up and Moving On

Well hi there! How have you been? It’s been such a long time it seems, but I’m glad to be back.

So, when Dragon Age: Inquisition was announced, I was still feeling pretty underwhelmed by Dragon Age 2, and was hanging my hopes on Destiny. I mean, an awesome looking sci-fi game with huge worlds and the tagline, “Become Legend”. I was stoked.

And then I played it to find that it had no story to speak of. I’m not sure how one becomes a legend when there is no narrative, and no one is, not even the development team at Bungie. I mean, your character doesn’t really matter in the slightest. And calling them a character is a stretch. They’re an avatar. They make no decisions, can have only the most base interactions with NPCs and ultimately don’t matter. You can be the same species as an antagonist character, and she talks down to you the same as she does to a human character, the dialogue is identical.

And it made me crazy. I didn’t complete the “story” missions. In fact, I haven’t touched the game since my husband admitted that the story never fully develops, and that there’s no real resolution at the end. I mean, really, what’s the point?

I know I’m walking a dangerous line here. People love this game. And the gameplay itself is fantastic. The movement the leveling, the armor, all the actual gameplay elements are great. But, without the story to carry them, I just don’t give a f***.

So, by the time November 18th came around, I was desperate for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I knew BioWare would create and tell a story that would completely enthrall me. They would create and reintroduce characters that became more than a collection of pixels. And I was right.

My Inquisitor
My Inquisitor

I finally “finished” my first playthrough, after about 90 hours of game time. I put finish in quotation marks because there’s still more for my character to do, I just finished the main story line. And, it’s left me reeling. There’s a major cliffhanger at the end, and I know there’s going to be DLC, which I am desperate to get to. Even though it hasn’t been announced, let alone released yet.

I know I’ve talked a bit about BioWare and video game writing here, and I’m not looking to rehash any sentiments I’ve made plain before. I just wanted to mention that, as the credits rolled by, I read the names on the writing team. Out of seven or eight writers, three were women.

Now, three isn’t a big number, but three out of seven? That’s practically half! That’s awesome and I am so proud to be a gamer/writer chick!

Anyway, now that I’m back from my sabbatical in Thedas (the world the Dragon Age games take place in), it’s time to update you all and talk a bit about my plans and goals,

School is over until January 15th… or the 17th. I can’t remember right this second, but over a month! A blessed month of free time! I did well in my English class, which was to be expected. I’m still waiting on the final grade for French, but I’m feeling pretty good.

The Nameless Book Club finally had its first reading meeting. We had a ton of fun! Of course, the wine had a lot to do with that, but we all enjoyed Stupid & Contagious, and I think it was the perfect book to break the ice. We selected Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café as our next book, and we’re meeting mid-January. I’ve already started it, and though it’s not my typical genre, I’m intrigued by it so far.
Book Club

So, that’s all happening. And it’s all good. I emailed my Editor at Caladria, and expressed an interest in writing consistently for them. She was thrilled, and handed my three story options to pursue. After some talking, I’ve got my next short story assigned and have started a vague outline! Also, my first story for them, Hunting Storm, is going to appear in the inaugural issue! Trust me, as soon as I have release and price details, I will be blowing it up here!

I do need to do a deep read through of Hunting Storm to check over some edits my Editor made, but so far it’s looking good. She cut 137 words, which was to be expected. I, like a noob, turned in my rough draft, so I knew there’d be some fixes. Luckily it was a very clean draft!

So, I’ve got my new story assignment, but I haven’t written anything in a while. And since I have Dragon Age on the brain, I’m going to write a one-shot series FanFiction, to sort of limber the writing back up.

I did a few edits on Vessels over the last month or so, which was nice. I’ve been wanting to take a look at Cards, but I can tell it’s still too fresh. I’m shooting for a spring read through. Hopefully the rough draft of Vessels will be completely edited by then, I can’t rightly start edits on a new story when I’m in the middle of another.

In non-writing news, my legal name change is processing with the Social Security Office. In my personal life, I am no longer a Zelkovich, but I’ll be damned if I’m giving up such a unique name in my writing life! Just have to let the banks know I’m still “doing business as” Zelkovich, just in case I actually make money at this writing thing someday.

Anyway, that’s just about everything going on. We bought and decorated our Christmas tree last night, which is one of my favorite traditions we have. I help him string the lights, and he helps me hang the baubles. We sing and dance to classic Christmas songs, and generally drink beer. We didn’t do that bit last night, but the weekend is fast approaching.

christmas tree 2014

Have a great weekend blogland! I am back!

BZ