Category Archives: On Writing

First Draft Depression

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month–National November Writing Months–that thing where you try to write a 50 000-word novel in a month. It’s good to write a full novel again. But it also reminds me how excruciating the process of creation actually is.

 

The minute you try put that thing in your head down on paper, it just sits there dry and lifeless and so, so far from what it was meant to be. The idea you had was good. That’s why you started writing it. But the reality of your ability to communicate this idea with others destroys all your joy in the idea.

 

The excellent thing about NaNoWriMo, and things like it, is that it forces you to keep writing despite your despair over your writing. If you’re going to churn out fifty thousand words, you can’t stop and mope. I think more than once in my past I’ve given up because my new project’s writing was objectively horrible, without continuing to work through to the reality that this horribleness only lessens if you keep creating. You can’t always think rationally about what will make your idea come to life. You’ve got to live with your idea and work it out, and somehow that breathes life into it.

 

As creators and artists, we’ve got to live with the reality there will always be a gap between the ideal in our heads and what we produce. This is usually good–it’s this awareness of that gap that drives us to keep improving our skill. To keep getting better. Until maybe one day we do produce something good.

 

In the meantime we do have to face the dragons of depression that come with creation. And it often is real, dark depression-y feelings, not a mild approximation of depression. A few thousand words in to this novel this month and I was absolutely miserable. I was only destroying what I had in my head, poisoning even the original idea I’d loved so much.

 

Then I wrote a few words that were maybe a little bit good.

 

And so I know it’s worth it to keep fighting to get that idea out. Failing at getting what’s in your head out in the world feels worse than never trying, but it’s only though grappling with your own thoughts, painfully facing your own limitations, that your idea develops. After all, not working with your ideas leads to depression too.

 

I’m getting close to the end of NaNoWriMo now, and close to the end of the fifty thousand word goal I’d set for myself. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near the actual end of my story. So it looks like I’ll have to force myself to stay in my writing habit after all!

 

Have a great November, guys! If you’re doing NaNoWriMo too–may you have the strength to finish! Comment below on whether you’ve enjoyed creation–or just comment on what you think about the process of creation in general.

 

 

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Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life

Writing the Tragedy – As Hard as Living It

The place my writing comes from inside me is dead right now. Probably not permanently, but dead for now.

I’ve always thought of writing – and reading – as a kind of escape from reality. I’ve blogged about this more than once. There’s a contrary theory of literature that says the good stuff comes from the bad experiences – the emotional turmoil – the realization that reality actually is incredibly ugly.

This theory may be right, but I don’t have enough distance from the ugliness to put it in words yet. Maybe I never will. And I know the joy in the escape from reality will come again – I still feel it pulse inside me – but I can’t create any escapes on my own at the moment.

Time will show how life experiences has changed me, and, in turn, how it has changed my writing. But for now – this is the reason my blog is neglected. This is the reason I haven’t posted for months.

I look forward to the day I rejoin the writing world.

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Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life

When a Hurricane of Clichés Equals a Great Movie

Today, I’m going to talk about Casablanca. If you want to know more about why I care about Casablanca, check out my previous post, ‘Writing Reality – Or Escaping It‘.

quotables button“Thus Casablanca is not just one film. It is many films, an anthology… And this is the reason it works, in spite of aesthetic theories and theories of film making…Two clichés make us laugh. A hundred clichés move us. For we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion.”

Umberto Eco (Travels in Hyperreality, and “Casablanca, or, The Clichés are Having a Ball”)

For years, filmmakers hungered to know what made Casablanca a classic. If they could just crack the formula – figure out what made people instantly love it so much – they could crank out sure-fire hits over and over. After all, on the surface, there’s not much to recommend Casablanca above your average movie. It’s a very clichéd plot – a love triangle, a sacrifice, a clear antagonist, a damsel in distress. The characters are walking stereotypes. The character arcs have all been done a thousand times before (even in 1942, when this movie was made).

If there was a key to filmmaking—or writing in general, which is what I care about most of all—wouldn’t that be nice? A magic key unlocking the secrets of what makes stories work? But there isn’t. There’s no magic key – only magic. The magic that happens when, in this case, the right combination of actors, characterization, plot and tired clichés combine.

I shouldn’t have enjoyed Casablanca. You’d think by now, seventy or so years after its release, the plot would’ve been spoiled for me. It should be like those people who watched the Lord of the Rings movies and wondered why it used every fantasy stereotype in the book, when it reality it’s merely because Lord of the Rings INVENTED those stereotypes (except in this case it’s romance stereotypes, and Casablanca didn’t invent them but merely inspired the continual recycling of these old tropes). I saw the end coming from a mile away. Also, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve picked up something everyone told me was a classic, and hated it (see Romeo and Juliet, and Wuthering Heights).

However, I did love it. Like I said, there was magic.

And I love the quote I pasted above, because it shows how conventional wisdom about stories falls short – how in this particular case not an avoidance of clichés but a hurricane of clichés is what makes the movie. Casablanca breaks an accepted, basic rule of stories. But then again, every piece of true art is flawed.

Will lightning strike again if you use a hurricane of clichés? Or is Casablanca merely lightning in a bottle? There’s no way to say, except that creating art involves risk-taking and bravery. Sometimes that means breaking new ground. And sometimes that means risking doing what everyone else tells you is overdone.

The genius comes in telling what situation calls for which.

And if your striving eventually comes up with a story that works – a story that speaks to something inside humanity, and satisfies something in our cores – well, then your work has been touched by that magic.

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Filed under Misc. Books, On Writing, Quotables

In Jane Austen, Nice Guys Finish First

Girls go for the bad guys, they say, and nice guys finish last. If so, then Jane Austen has achieved an amazing feat of literature by creating nice guys you want to cheer for. Nice guys many females claim they’d like to date. Nice guys who aren’t boring, but actually readable.

I realized this while reading several people online insist Frank Churchill and Henry Crawford are far more interesting than their romantic rivals (the nice guys who actually get the girl, in other words) – George Knightley and Edmund Bertram.

This is craziness, of course. You’d have to be pretty committed to living a lifetime of misery to choose Frank Churchill or Henry Crawford over George Knightley or Edmund Bertram. Let’s see why:

George Knightley:

Okay, let’s look at George Knightley first. He’s too demanding, his detractors claim. He tells Emma what to do, and yells at her when she doesn’t do something right. He’s stuck to some kind of outdated set of morals, and wants Emma to follow them too.

In contrast, Frank Churchill – well, he’s fun. (According to the anti-Knightley people, anyway). He and Emma joke around, enjoy themselves, don’t take things too seriously. Wouldn’t a marriage between them just be great fun?

Sure… until you remember Frank and Emma’s ‘fun’ is at other people’s expense, and this is exactly what Knightley was being a ‘stick-in-the-mud’ about. Emma could’ve hitched herself to a guy who was rather callous about other people’s feelings – teasing people who maybe can’t take it at the moment, flirting to make his fiancée jealous, using his charm to get away with things. At heart he’s not a villain, but his charm doesn’t make up for all his faults.

And when it comes to Knightley – you know, it’s totally okay for a guy to call a girl out on something if she’s actually wrong about it – it’s not a symbol of patriarchy or an outdated moral code. It’s merely reasonable, and I hope whoever I’d get engaged to would do the same to me. Emma was a rather frightening person for anyone in the novel to call out on her behaviour anyway, and Mr. Knightley is the only one who does it – you could say he was of equal or superior social standing so that helped make him brave enough, but then you’d be forgetting one thing. You’d be forgetting he was in love with her – who wants to risk criticizing the person you’re crazy about? He doesn’t want to lecture her. He’d rather not open her eyes to how thoughtless and cruel she’s being to others around her (at Frank’s instigation). It’s a sign of the strength of Mr. Knightley’s moral fibre that he does anyway.

And as for fun – he and Emma have lovely debates that do not descend into bickering. Being able to disagree well, and able to debate well, is one thing I think of as fun. Maybe I’m alone here…

Anyway, he’s a ‘nice guy.’ And he gets the girl. Austen writes Emma as a girl who realizes exactly what the worth of Mr. Knightley is, and doesn’t despise him for being less charming than Frank Churchill.

Edmund Bertram:

Okay, now Edmund Bertram. I have to admit, Edmund Bertram is dreadfully boring – the worst of Jane Austen’s heroes. (Jane Austen fans – if Edmund Bertram is your favourite, stick up your hand now – I’ve never met one of you yet.) He hurts Fanny over and over – completely clueless because he doesn’t know she’s desperately in love with him, but still, he hurts her. And he dithers the whole novel over this other girl who’s just charm and a pretty face (according to Austen, at least).

And Henry Crawford – he comes closest of any of Austen’s villains to being reformed.

But really, Edmund Bertram is a nice guy. He loves Fanny as a sister, not a potential wife, and that’s not really his fault since they grew up together. He doesn’t even know how much it hurts Fanny to see him with this other girl, since he actually thinks Fanny likes this girl.

Whereas Henry Crawford just starts flirting with Fanny to see if he can get her to fall for him. Sure, he claims his feelings grow deeper as time goes on, but it says something about him when you know where it started. Would he really have ‘reformed’ for her? How often do people change themselves for the better for another, and how long does that kind of change stick? He doesn’t start as a nice guy, and after all the events of the novel, he doesn’t end as one either (leaving Fanny’s cousin Maria with her reputation in tatters, and abandoning her to her fate.)

Reformed bad boys may be exciting, but in Jane Austen the nice guys finish first. (Edmund wises up to Fanny’s charms in the end…)

I’ve ranted about Mansfield Park before, if you want to read it it’s here.

Austen’s other novels:

I don’t think I have to do too much convincing to argue Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon are far nicer guys than Willoughby, or that Henry Tilney (how I love this character’s snark!) is nicer than John Thorpe – and especially the General and Frederick Tilney.

And now we come to Mr. Darcy…

Mr. Darcy:

Aha, someone is arguing now. What about the most famous of them all – Mr. Darcy? Isn’t he emphatically a stuck-up prig in Pride and Prejudice, and doesn’t that show girls only want arrogant dudes who look down on them?

No, think of Mr. Darcy as that awkward dude at the party, who doesn’t quite know how to talk to anyone. When he does talk, he just makes people look at him strange. Completely socially awkward, especially in comparison with smooth talkers like Wickham. Haven’t you met people like that? Maybe ignored people like that?

You’d be right if you insisted Darcy is a bit too condescending and superior at first (awkwardly superior), but he does learn, and more importantly, Elizabeth doesn’t fall for him until AFTER he learns. (Contrary to how she is often portrayed by people, she DOESN’T feel any hidden, burning attraction to him at the beginning of the novel at all. No slap-slap/kiss-kiss, in other words.) He has to be a nice guy first.

Compare this to several Bronte heroes. Now, I’ve never been able to get into their books, and I really should give them another chance because I have reread books before and liked them so much more the second time. BUT I confess to a complete inability to see how Heathcliff, or even Rochester, is romantic at all. If you want to be treated horribly, sure, by all means fall in love with them. Let one lie to you, and the other be all moody and violent. Ugh, so romantic.

In Conclusion:

Authors can write their ‘nice guys’ as Mary Sues (or Gary Stus or whatever you want to call the male version) – far too easily. I’ve read many novels where the romantic hero is very, very boring. He’s supposed to be the epitome of good, and he is, to the point of dullness. The solution to this, it is said, is to add faults.

But add too many faults, and you just end up reinforcing the trope, “All Girls Want Bad Boys.”

It takes a genius like Jane Austen to make the nice-guy heroes be exactly the kind of person real-life women would fall in love with.

What do you think? Girls, who’s your favourite Austen character? Guys, are you ever offended by which Austen men get the girl in the end?

Also – I just released my sixth short ebook this weekend – it’s a romantic short story about one girl’s confidence or lack thereof towards one guy, and it’s called Lookin’ Good. Check it out and drop me a line or review telling me what you think!

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Writing Reality – Or Escaping It

A quick thought for today:

Writers write what’s real. They try to connect with some reality in the readers’ experience, and inspire emotions that complement the work they write. They try to represent the world as it truly is. That is one theory of writing’s purpose, anyway.

The problem is, reality really bites.

I wanted to improve as a writer this year. I gritted my teeth and tried to dredge up something of reality – bad experiences as well as good (though I’d be the first to admit my own real problems may barely phase anyone else.) I wrote down some stuff that for me was ‘dark.’

Then a lot of awful stuff happened in the world (some of which is obviously in the news, and some of which is just learning things about people you never wanted to know.) Then my ability to capture the true darkness in words falls so far short.

Because it’s so hard for me to face the depths of darkness. And I don’t want to do it.

Some writers can – dive into the depths of evil and show it for what it is to the world. And this is important. But is it what I – who shrinks from true evil and know its true strength is far beyond my own- am meant to do?

Then I escaped into the movie Casablanca – a fictional world which pretends to represent reality but in actuality stereotypes and simplifies it – and was drawn in. The story took me away. It ended on hope.

And now I believe there can be two types of creators/writers – those who don’t flinch from portraying problems and showing the ugliness of reality. And those writers who help escape from reality, and use fiction to remind us what it’s like to hope.

In real life, Harry Potter may’ve never escaped his cupboard. He may’ve been abused his whole young life, or been so psychologically scarred he could never function in any world. Frodo might’ve never gotten out of Mordor. Elizabeth Bennet would’ve end up penniless and husbandless, dependent on the mercy of Mr. Collins in her old age.

But, instead, these stories provide hope and escape, and show me a way to touch on reality without giving into the full terribleness of it.

 

What do you think?

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Independent Bookstores Have NOT Disappeared – They’re Doing Fine, Actually

National Bookstore, by Ramon FVelasquez. Licensed under Creative Commons.

National Bookstore, by Ramon FVelasquez. Licensed under Creative Commons.

So it was bad news for a while for independent bookstores – you know, those tiny neighbourhood shops crowded with books and run by a dedicated owner or two. Chain bookstores were swallowing up their business left and right. Thousands closed as big-box retailers like Barnes & Noble and Borders took over (or Chapters and Indigo bookstores, if you’re from Canada, like me). But, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s these very chains that are now in danger from online retailers like Amazon. While your local independent bookstore (the ones that survived, at least) has managed to hang onto loyal customers and stay afloat.

In fact, Slate magazine recently reported sales at independent bookstores have grown 8 percent a year over the past three years.* Indie bookstores have done particularly well in categories that Amazon has not managed to take over with ebooks, such as hardcover nonfiction. Also, they’re under less pressure to have a high turnover of merchandise, so they have can a bigger selection of old, well-loved classics.

As for me, I publish ebooks on Amazon (and other platforms), but I would never want Amazon to rule the whole book market. I am a reader as well as a writer. I applaud indie bookstores’ tenacity at staying in the game, and catering to specific customers’ needs. Is there anything more comforting than browse rows of dusty classics, after all? And perhaps picking up a book to read you never knew you wanted to read?

In addition, it just makes sense these bookstores would thrive on hardcover books, nonfiction especially. As I’ve argued before, ebooks will never completely replace print. There will always be some works you want to have a hard copy of, and likely a good quality hardcover copy of, as the work has value to you. And illustrated books such as children’s books and cookbooks do not translate as nicely to an ebook format, at least at the moment.

Lastly, I also have this ingrained impression that big-box bookstores are evil – my youth was filled with frantic media stories about how chain bookstores would take over the world. (The movie You’ve Got Mail can’t have helped – the plot concerns a small bookstore owner put out of business by a dastardly big-box store owner… whom she falls in love with, of course). So my inner instinct is to cheer when I hear they’re in trouble. Size is great – until it makes you so inflexible that more nimble competitors can take you down before you realize it! However, to gloat over the currently downtrodden seems a little mean.

What do you think? Do you think indie bookstores are doing better than ever? Where do you shop?

As a final note in support of certain printed books, here is a humorous take by IKEA on the superiority of their print catalogue to the electronic version:

* The stats from the Slate article refer to American bookstore – I’m not sure what the comparable stats for Canada, or elsewhere in the world, would be. Let’s hope they’re

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Do You Use ‘Alot’ A Lot?

Hopefully you realized there were two spelling of ‘a lot’ up there in my title, and hopefully you also realized one of them was not grammatically correct. Why not grammatically correct, you ask? I don’t know – the spaces lobby argued we should all use the space bar on our keyboards more often?

That is why I was SO HAPPY to see someone finally speak up in defense of ‘alot’. James Harbeck argued today in Slate that just like ‘ahold’ and ‘awhile’ were finally somewhat accepted in English, ‘alot’ is likely here to stay. Whether it’s official or not, whether grammarians screech or not, likely enough people will keep using it until it’s finally accepted.

Wait, I’m not saying I use it – not in my public writing at least. I know pulling it out would brand me as a know-nothing hack. People on the internet would pretend I was talking about a furry animal, rather than an understandable word ( The link in the last sentence goes to a rather amusing piece by Hyperbole and a Half which rails against ‘alot’ – the Slate piece linked to it too, but I remember reading it back when it was first published and wishing I could come up with a good enough retort. But really, it’s cute enough that I can let it slide…)…

But oh, wouldn’t it be nice to skip typing that space. Why, oh why, should ‘a lot’ be two words? Using ‘alot’ doesn’t wreck anything about the English language. It’s simple and understandable, and the only thing holding it back is that it’s nonstandard.

 

So here’s to hoping in fifty years or so my arthritic hands will be typing ‘alot’, a lot.

 

See also: Rant on “Ruining the English Language” and What, the English Language Changes? Literally?

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In Defense of Typing

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Whoa, whoa, whoa! Was not my last post about handwriting? How handwriting stimulates creativity and word productivity? Very true, but since then I’ve run across the article, ‘The Joy of Typing,’ which strikes back at the idea that typing reduces the quality of your thought.

Typing, the author Clive Thompson argues, does not make us stupider. Handwriting is great for note-taking, he goes on to say, because it prevents us from robotically recording every word we hear, and instead makes us think about how to shorten what we’re hearing into something we can write down. But typing is better for creating original works, because the speed of typing enables us to get all of our ideas down.

This is due, he argues, to something called ‘transcription fluency’ – getting down on paper the ideas you have in your head. Transcription fluency is improved in handwriting by teaching kids to practice making their letters until they don’t have to think heavily about each word they want to express, they can just write it. When it comes to typing, this involves teaching kids to type properly instead of with that two-fingered typing method. The more fluid you get, the more likely you are to get your ideas down before they slip away – and obviously the speed of typing makes it superior to writing in this respect.

Kids, Thompson argues, often DON’T learn proper typing, while most schools still do focus on printing with a pencil and paper. And you know what? I am utterly grateful my dad sat me down one summer and forced me to learn to type – This is will help you in highschool and university, he said, and he was absolutely right. I never typed notes in class, but I did type out dozens and dozens of essays, book reviews and assignments. And if I’d continued to hunt-and-peck at the keyboard like I remember doing in elementary school, I probably still wouldn’t be graduated now.

Did knowing how to type help me with my ‘transcription fluency’? After thinking about it, I think it probably did. I remember working in group projects where I’d try writing up the project with a several other people, and these people would just struggle with their section of the report while I pounded out my ideas in no time at all. I always figured it was their problem of overthinking every little word that they typed – that it would be better for them to just type something, and go back and fix it later. However, maybe it was directly related to their typing ability. Maybe they overthought every single word of their sentence because their typing ability was so slow that the sentence had to be good enough to actually be worth the effort of typing.

Where my experience doesn’t line up with Thompson’s arguments is where he states the ‘transcription fluency’ that comes with typing leads to higher quality writing – that once people could express their ideas at a pace of at least 32.4 words a minute they produced more coherent and readable writing. Like I said, my quality of fiction decreases drastically when I type (though I suppose the possibility is that I haven’t reached a high enough word count to get into a proper writing ‘trance’?) I feel like I miss my brain’s filter when I stare at a computer screen with the ability to pound out words as fast as I think them. I miss my ability to compose and recompose while my hand struggles to put those sentences on paper. But that is possibly just my own idiosyncrasy. After all, I don’t notice this when typing nonfiction.

In the end, I’d argue that knowing BOTH how to write and how to type are important. I never thought about how much I relied on typing until I read Thompson’s article, but I really, really do. Not for creating fiction – I seem to have some sort of technology block in my head when it comes to that – but certainly with creating nonfiction (like this very blog). With nonfiction, you need to be able to constantly rearrange sentences, and create and delete them. But handwriting stimulates different sections of your brain, and sometimes you need that too. This is pretty much the conclusion Thompson comes to too. Ideally, teach yourself to be fluid at both. Your writing might thank you for it.

Any further comments in defense of typing?

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I Handwrite My Fiction, But I’m Not Stuck in the Dark Ages – I’ll Prove It

writingRemember back in November I said I managed to spew out 50,000 words in a month in order to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? Well, I may not have mentioned those were handwritten words, so really my total of 50,000 was a guesstimate. I have recently been occupied in typing these words up. And the result… well, do you think I over- or under-estimated?

Over. Definitely over. I’ve hit 46,000 words and I still have a third of the manuscript to go. Which leads to the question – why on earth would I use such an inefficient method of writing? I mean, handwriting? Hasn’t that gone out with the dark ages? They don’t even teach that to some school kids anymore!

Well, let’s bring in the authority of the New York Times on this issue, through their article “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” I’ve written before about how I feel less creative typing, and how handwriting helps me to actually connect to my subject. Turns out there’s actually some scientific indications that this is not just a weird anomaly that occurs only in me.

According to the study quoted in the article, children who wrote text by hand not only produced more words (hello to me overachieving on my NaNoWriMo word count!), but also expressed more ideas (hello to the fact I feel more creative handwriting!). The article ends by quoting psychologist Paul Bloom as saying, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important. Maybe it helps you think better.”

As I said in my previous post, “My theory is that typing and handwriting use different parts of the brain, and in me only one of them is linked to creativity.” Wouldn’t it be neat if I wasn’t completely off-base? But then – what does this mean for technology? Are our computers soul-sucking beasts that are slowly draining away all of our society’s creativity?

I think not – to some extent the dulling effects of technology can be overcome. I can write far better by typing than I used to, though my fiction still comes out sounding wooden. More practiced authors, especially those raised on computers, will strengthen the brain’s creativity-into-typed-words pathway even more than I have. But hey, maybe someday someone will do a survey of all this century’s ‘greatest’ literature and find none of them have been typed – who knows? Get a scientist to research that.

So if you ever find yourself faced with a blinking screen and a bad case of writer’s block, why not try writing something the old-fashioned way? You might surprise yourself.

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Why ‘Write What You Love’ Means All Fiction is Fanfiction

Fanfiction gets a bad rap. Some of it is deserved, of course, but what else do you expect from amateur writers scribbling basically for their own amusement?

Of course you’re going to get purple prose, authors inserting themselves into stories as Mary Sues, and unrealistic and uncomfortable situations. But maybe the difference between ‘original fiction’ and ‘fanfiction’ is not that one is sadly ripping off other people’s characters, while the other is actually coming up with new stuff.

Maybe the difference is – ‘original fiction’ is just much, much better at hiding what it’s inspired by.

I started thinking about this issue lately because I’m currently working on two very non-serious bits of writing: one about the characters from The Iliad making havoc in the modern world, and the other re-imagining what Mansfield Park would look like if it was set today. (I have many more ‘serious’ projects that I’m procrastinating on, of course – don’t we all?)

Anyway, I started wondering – am I writing fanfiction? Or are they different enough from the original to be ‘original fiction’? After all, several authors have published books reimagining both The Iliad and Mansfield Park. Both The Iliad and Mansfield Park are in the public domain, of course, so that makes it easier for authors. No one’s going to sue them if their work is ‘not original’ enough. But don’t tell me that’s seriously the only difference between fanfiction and original fiction – that fanfiction is fiction about characters that are not in the public domain.

The next thought is obviously – everything is ‘inspired by’ something else. Authors love to talk about their influences on their writing. If you, as an author, want to see more of one type of story, you start writing them yourself. If you do this, you are a fan of something, and you are writing about it because you are a fan. Stretched to its broadest definition, this is what fanfiction is.

So at what point are these inspirations and influences far enough in the background that the world can acknowledge these authors as ‘real writers’? You can even tell, in some works, when an author models their character on another well-known character. And published authors are definitely guilty of inserting themselves into their own stories – both Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer have been accused of inserting themselves as Mary Sues into their plots. And in terms of plot – Shakespeare basically just re-wrote famous stories in his plays, and he is considered a master of literature. And many authors have made a career re-writing fairytales. Is this ‘original fiction or ‘fanfiction’?

Basically, I think my conclusion is, that like with anything else, the line between the two are not black and white. Fanfiction tends to be found on internet websites, tends to be of amateur quality, and deals with copyrighted characters. But that’s not always true – many fanfictions contain very high quality writing, and there are definitely writers who work with public domain characters. Also, ‘original fiction’ tends to be published by publishing houses, and contain original characters. But sometimes these original characters are clearly influenced by other characters. And sometimes published books could easily be described as fanfiction if they’d happened to be published online on a website instead.

Which brings us to that age-old question – what is originality? Does it even exist, or is everything just a recombination of old things that always existed?

In other words, it is possible that there really is “nothing new under the sun.” And if everything is just a recombination, maybe some writing is just a better and more interesting recombination than others. Which could lead to my radical title up there at the top – we could legitimately call all fiction writing fanfiction.

Provocative thought, no? Agree or disagree?

Note: check out my previous posts on The Iliad and Mansfield Park, if you’d like to know why I’d be enough of a fan of these works to write about them 🙂

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