Of Timing Caps and FanFic @ 09:23 am
For those of you following along on the car saga, I am happy to report that things seem to be finally all fixed. It turned out that the problem was NOT a blown head gasket as I'd feared, but something somewhat cheaper called a "timing cap." That little operation, however, was a six hour job, so I actually picked the car back up on Tuesday afternoon and took it back in for a full Wednesday treatment. The only hassle with that was that I had to beg my dear friend naomikritzer to help me pick up Mason from school and poor Shawn had to (cue music: duh-duh-DUN!) take THE PUBLIC BUS home.
The car seems to be in full working order now. There was still a bit of a smell of antifreeze this morning, but I'm going to chalk that off to "stuff burning off" from the repair process until proved otherwise.
OH, and it looks like I just got plowed in. M*therf*cking St. Paul.
You know, we DID get the email they sent about their crazy north-south/east-west business, but wouldn't you know it? I JUST got back. And NOW they flipping come. So, yeah, they had to plow around my car... and ALL the cars parked on our street because WHO THE F*CK GETS THE EMAILS? And it's not like they made a robo-call like they did last time (which still only hits people with landlines.)
Okay, enough of all that. I've been talking to a friend of mine, empty_mirrors, about a fic that someone recommended to me. I ended up sort of unintentionally reccomending it to her because I really wanted to talk to someone about how reading it had put me into a strangely bad mood. It wasn't that the story was sad or that terrible things happened to the characters, but more that just reading one chapter had hit all the things that I dislike about my favorite character. Renji has a bit of self-loathing in canon. Or, at least, there's a moment that could be read that way. He says the words: "I hate myself" (and then goes off and kicks BUTT.) I actually never read this as actual self-loathing. I read this as a moment of kicking one's self before deciding on a radical departure from status quo--if Renji were in need of recovery, this would be his "bottom." A LOT of fanfic writers really want to write about the "I'm not worthy" Renji, however. It's an angst-rich place, and angst is one of those favorite things for fic writers. I don't fault anyone for enjoying that, but it's not my thing.
And, I, perhaps obviously, have a lot of FEELINGS tied up with this character.
But, our discussion about the particulars of this fic and what bothered us about it led to a discussion of story and fanfiction in general.
One of the reasons fanfic is, for me, so addictive is precisely one of the reasons this fic failed for us. There's really NO NEED for story in fanfic. You could (as I nearly have) write an epic, sweeping soap opera that's about nothing more than a favorite character wandering through the landscape. No PLOT REQUIRED. Why? Because fanfiction isn't like real fiction. You don't need to go anywhere UNLESS YOU WANT TO. Kubo-sensei (or fill in canon-writer of your choice) already wrote the plot. S/he did it better than I ever could, so I have no real desire to rewrite it for him/her.
And, for myself, when I'm writing fanfic, I don't really want to bother with the kind of conflict that makes for really GOOD original fiction. Plot is hard, Barbie. And, I write fanfiction to play. I write it precisely because I want to spend some time inside the head of my favorite character wandering through his day and admiring the set peices in his world that are particularly shiny to me. I write fanfiction because I want to do ALL THE THINGS. I could, as a fanfic writer, spend an entire chapter just brushing Renji's teeth, combing his hair and getting dressed. In fact, as a fanfic reader sometimes that's exactly what I want to _read_ too, because those are all the parts tht the canon-writer left out. I just want to hang out. Relax. BE the character for all the boring in-between the action days.
Sometimes I get "thinky-thoughts" about set peices or world-building aspects of the world and I write something to explore those things. Those are the fics that actually tend to get fewer hits, in my experience, because they're actually ABOUT SOMETHING (or, to be fair, also often gen fic, which just isn't as hot/fun for a lot of readers). I still tend not to go full-on plot-y in those "exploratory" fics when I write them because I still don't want to work that hard for my playtime.
This is why, however, I think that I'm so very picky with the fanfic I like to read. I go to play with a character. So if any of the character notes are off in any way (for me), I'm done. I often don't judge as critically the story elements as long as the characters behave in a way I enjoy/expect. I'll read the craziest plot (or pairing) if the characters are good and hit the things that intregue/interest me. They don't even have to be similar to "my" versions of the characters, so long as canon could imply wherever the writer goes and she pulls it off well, you know?
I'm not saying all fanfic is like this. In fact, a lot of people put in a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort to write a really EPIC STORY. But, sometimes, I bounce off those as well, because I find that to do that well a lot of times the writer has to take the characters completely out of canon--into an alternate universe or a canon divergence. Those can work for me, but the writer usually has to be *very good* (nearly or completely professionally so) to pull off all the things required to make an AU work, and world-building is often the very LAST skill that a fic writer has honed (for the obvious reason that we are playing in someone else's universe from the get-go).
I think, too, this is why it's sometimes hard to just scrape off the serial numbers on a fic and sell it as professional work. Obviously, people have or we wouldn't have FIFTY SHADES of Anything. But sometimes in fic we don't feel as compelled to put our chracters through an emotional ringer (which good conflict will do to them), because that's not what we came to fic to do.
Damn plows just came through AGAIN.
It's no fun to torture beloved characters, but that's what original fiction demands of us. You have to murder your darlings not only in terms of lazy writing habits, but also you can't just flirt around the edges of a thing--you have to put your character THROUGH HELL. Because we read original fiction to go to hell and back again, to come out the other side changed for the better, so that we can have hope that life is like that--meaningful and important.
Fanfic doesn't have to be any of those things. It can be silly and fun and full of day to day life in Edo period Japan.
Ooooh, I should go research Edo period toothbrushes! SHINY!