5 Types of Fanfic I Can’t Stand
Hey guys, Nano is still chugging along, though I’m 2,000 words behind thanks to getting an epically bad night’s sleep on Day 1 and a headache Day 2.
Every year, NaNoWriMo is a special challenge for me because I already turn out ~8-10k words weekly for the site. This year I no different, plus I’m grinding it hard to get Rune Breaker: Evil Unto Evil out there and to get stuff done for the next round of releases for the Descendants books.
Therefore, in order to cut down on some things that take up a lot of my time, I’m doing quick and dirty blog posts this month, if not just excerpt posts. I’m still trying to deliver decent Friday content to you guys, but for the next few weeks, there aren’t going to be any videos, links or images attached, just my general thoughts on some things standing on their own.
Not to be a money-grubbing asshole, but a small but meaningful amount of revenue to this site comes from people using my Amazon links, which won’t be showing up here (because they’re actually the most time consuming thing about blog posts thanks to Amazon’s Associates site disrespecting dial-up internet). So If you could go back to some other articles and click those links, especially if you plan on buying some stuff there (I get a tiny commission for anything you buy after following my links), that would be keen.
Anyway, feel free to suggest other quick-and-dirty blog post ideas you’d like to see down in the comments as well as things like questions about my work, etc. Unless someone gives me a better idea, next week will be about how the (incorrect) assumption that everyone has high-speed internet is making life a lot more annoying for a lot of folks.
This week however, I’m going to talk again about fan-fiction
Most of the time, when I talk about fan-fiction, it’s to sing its praises, or at least to explain away some of the more annoying aspects of it. This is because I genuinely like and respect the practice and find that it is unfairly maligned in internet culture (like… well everything, because internet culture is hate shaped like a computer).
Buuut, while I am largely immune to the fact that fan-fiction, due to its open natural puts Poe’s Law (90% of everything is crap) on full display, I can’t help but notice how specific obnoxious tropes keep turning up over and over again, like a zombie made of bad writing.
Before I dive in here, first some caveats. As always, I’m not trying to say that this stuff should never be written. I’m just saying that people should put an ounce of goddamn thought into using these tropes instead of shoveling them out like they were bailing out a boat sinking in a sea of cliché. Second, as a few people have contacted me asking about my thoughts on fan-fiction about my stuff (and yes, I’m okay with it. There’s even a fanfic policy in the nav bar up there), I’m not going to come down on you if you write a fic like this with my stuff. Fan fiction is, after all, about the fan and while I might not like what you do while playing with my toys, I’m not going to storm off with them in a huff. But if you actually do do one of these things, please don’t come tell me; I want to hear about awesome fanfics, I don’t need to hear about…
Let’s start mild.
I’m a romantic kind of guy. I love love stories. In fact, I’ve written multiple articles here about romance and love stories. And I absolutely cannot stand confession fics.
A confession fic is a fan fiction that exists solely to have Character A confess their love for Character B. They are also a fanficcer’s way of wasting twenty minutes of your time just to tell you their OTP.
Love confessions (as my extensive research into songs from anime series tells me is the scientific term) are actually pretty fun, be they in the form of an anguished declaration of love, a slip of the tongue while drunk, or an idiot friend blurting it out without thinking. The thing is, in a work, they come after we the audience have had time to get to know how these characters feel and are rooting for it to come out. They aren’t the whole story, they are the climax of a story.
In a confession fic, the confession is the entire story and we’re lucky if we’re bluntly told that Character A has loved B for a long time at the outset. This can be justified if the confession fic exists to ‘fix’ the fact that the confession never came in the parent work, but very often, confession fics are between characters who don’t really have pre-existing chemistry, whom should have ha that chemistry developed in the fic.
I hate them because they’re not only just a fragment of a larger story, but they’re the fragment that’s only really satisfying if you build up to it. Otherwise, it’s just hollow instant ratification of something I wasn’t exactly jonesing for in the first place.
Everyone has characters they hate and they have many reasons to hate them. Sometimes, that’s the point and you were supposed to hate them as with many villains. Sometimes they’re just annoying and you wish they were never created (like, say Scrappy Doo – more on him later), and sometimes there’s really no good justification, they just rub you the wrong way or replaced a character you liked better (I foam at the mouth in impotent rage whenever anyone who was not one of the original group from Sliders shows up). That’s all well and good.
When this spills over into fan fiction, however, and the writer uses their work as a vehicle to pursue a vendetta against the fictional character, I have a problem.
To give you an example, in the Teen Titans fandom, a good number of people cannot stand the character of Terra. There are many reasons, not the least of which being that in the original comics, she was bug-nuts evil. For me, I try to cut the character some slack because, you know, it’s an adaptation, but she almost instantly committed the First Sin of Romantic Comedies (ie: ‘I refuse to let you explain what I perceived as a minor slight and now I hate you forever!’) and lost most of my sympathies (and yes, I lose sympathy for people who do this in real life too, internet.).
Some folks aren’t content to just play up her comic counterpart or just not use her though. Oh no: if you got to Fanfiction.net right now, and filter the Teen Titans section for Terra, I promise you there will be at least one work on the front page that not only makes her evil but also a literal prostitute just so the writer feels justified in calling her a ‘whore’.
Sometimes this even moves out of the realm of fanwork and into actual adaptations. Now, I firmly believe that most right thinking people who know about the Scooby-Doo franchise hate Scrappy (cue me discovering that my fandom has a massive overlap with Scrappy’s)–hell, TVTropes, which loves to suck the joy and fun out of trope names still keeps ‘The Scrappy’ as the name for the character everyone hates. He is that awful.
Yet, I can’t say I take any joy in how the first live-action Scooby movie decided to twist Scrappy into the main villain who transforms into a hideous monster at the end.
If I were a mean girl in a teen drama, I would call it tacky. As it stands, I think I’ll just call it really freaking weird and mean spirited. Here we have a writer beating up on a wholly fictional person and displaying real, vitriolic hatred for them. What if even the hell? You might remember this kind of thing making my original Moments of Comic Book Shame article when Sean McKeever (or an editor forcing McKeever to write it) had Wonder Dog maul Marvin and Wendy.
I don’t need that. Even if I hate a character, I find this kind of thing terribly immature.
Happy, Fun Character is Covering for Having Been Abused
Someone somewhere has lunged at their keyboard, ready to excoriate me because I had my ‘fun’ character, Cyn come from an abusive background, so where the hell do I get off complaining about this trope?
First, Cyn isn’t ‘covering’. There are a number of responses to abuse and yes, it does color a person’s perceptions and have an effect on their personality—HOWEVER–that doesn’t mean that every moment of joy and every joke a person who was abused is ‘covering’ for the eternal inner torment going on inside.
Believe it or not, victims of abuse still live rich varied lives and are rich, varied people who do have experiences before and after said abuse that also colors who they are. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere before, I have worked with abused kids and when they laugh and play, it isn’t some mask they’re putting on, thank you very much.
If anything, Cyn’s… less admirable qualities are more likely the product of her family life: her desire to manipulate her friends and problems with new people, for example, are classic examples of a kid trying to exert more control on their environment to prevent more abuse.
But that’s not what these fics are really about. Like many horrible things in fiction, this is about making things darker and edgier. See, this kind of fic is usually based solely on the idea that the ‘reality’ of the happy character is that they’re faking it and are hiding something terrible that happened to them—which the writer is just itching to describe in detail. They are ‘fixing’ the idea that someone can actually be as happy and carefree as that character by twisting it into something grim and cynical.
We all know how I feel about that brand of bullshit and I’m going to spare you the rant, but it suffers from the same problem as people just tossing in a rape as a character’s motivational backstory—it takes a real, serious issue and uses it to create cheap drama, often executed by someone who has no idea how these things affect a person. All to drive home this juvenile idea that life is pain and no one is ever truly a jovial and carefree person.
And you know the worst part? They often cast canon characters who are benevolent or at least benign as the abusers. There’s OOC and then there’s turning a dude into an incestuous child molester to justify your love of Linkin Park (ironically, I DO love Linkin Park).
Poorly Disguised Original Fiction
Original fiction on the web is great. Hell, I know a guy who’s been writing a superhero webserial for six years. You should totally check his stuff out.
What’s not so great is when I’m looking for fan-fiction and instead find original fiction with superficial trappings that resemble the fandom I wanted to read about.
I’m not going to lie: the best fan-fiction that isn’t original flavor is all about masterfully changing up the show’s basic building blocks: the genres, the characters’ relationships, the setting, etc. At a certain point though, you’ve taken away the Starship Enterprise, made Kirk and Spock a Vegas lounge act, made Spock a smooth ladies’ man and Kirk a shy nerd… and all you’ve got that makes this Star Trek is the names and more people might actually like your musical buddy comedy if you moved it on over to FictionPress.
Unlike the other entries here, it isn’t eve as if I dislike the story (I read a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation fic where Grissom, Warrick and Greg are intergalactic bounty hunters and friendly rivals to another crew captained by Lady Heather and Catherine. Yes, it was awesome. No it didn’t have even the basic elements of a connection to CSI except Grissom’s ship was a huge space bug.) It’s just that is I fire up the ol’ internet trolling for fic about, say…Toaru Majutsu no Index, I kind of want stories at least somehow pertaining to that world and characters. And by that token, I will be less receptive of your tale in which Taoma and Misaka are DEA agents in Detroit while not being anything like Toama and Misaka.
Give me a story like that where Taoma can cancel out the effects of drugs and guns with his right hand, however, and I will read and review for quite some time.
Character A is dead, Character B is Sad
This isn’t about character death. In fact, I hesitate to even describe this kind of fic as featuring character death because the dead guys in the are barely characters. They usually die on the first page, often from suicide for unspecified reasons (see also: serious issue for cheap drama) or a random happenstance that they survive all the time in canon. The story isn’t really about them. It’s about this other character being sad—in the same way every other character in ever fic like this EVER is sad.
Don’t expect to see the states of grief here. If someone if angry over the death, they will stay angry until they stumble into acceptance at the end. Most of the time though, they will lollygag around in depression or bargaining and remain that way throughout, never coming to acceptance because seriously a LOT of people believe that not only is sadness the default emotion but it is eternal and incurable. You should not be surprised to see people grieving single-mindedly for decades in these things.
Oh, and don’t expect them to comfort the friends and family of the dearly departed. Nope, the fic is all about them, always and forever. It’s as if the people who write these things have never encountered human emotion from anything but the absolute worst films aimed at teen girls (not saying the entire demographic is shot, but you have to admit that Hollywood doesn’t consider ’emotional depth’ when putting out stuff for young women).
These don’t usually make me mad so much as disappointed. They’re often written with a certain mastery of words that unfortunately far outstrips the mastery of concepts the writer displays. Descriptions and narrative are often very crisp… and yet they are used to convey a shallow, uncreative story. Over and over.
But of course, I then come upon a fic that’s about the adventures of Shep and the rest of Mass Effect’s cast as air pirates and all is right with the world again.
And speaking of all things that are awesome, I will give you one link. My internet pal Jim Zub is the writer for IDW’s Samurai Jack comic and Issue #1 is out right now on Amazon and Comixology. If you like fun stories with lots of action and heart plus amazing, stylized art, you can’t got wrong. I would be nerding out over the return of Samurai Jack even if Zubby wasn’t involved, and with him in the mix, I can’t recommend it more highly.
Questions, comments, verbal abuse? Please post them below in the comments, or the forum.
You can check in on what Vaal’s working on or just what’s on his mind by following @ParadoxOmni on Twitter, checking out his new (incomplete) Facebook Page or using the hashtags #TheDescendants or #RuneBreaker. Sign up to learn about new book releases by Vaal by clicking here.
Vaal now has many of his books available in multiple platforms in his bookstore.
Bookmark the permalink.