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Received an interesting email question today from a young writer who's a listsib (a person who is also subscribed to a mailing list I am subscribed to, for those not fluent in listspeak). She wanted to know when "too much explicit detail is too explicit". I advised her that I wasn't the person to ask since I've been criticized from both sides of the spectrum. What follows, however, is the rest of my letter to her. I'm sharing it here with permission...

I've written before about a Wiseguy fan novels writer whose hackles arose visibly when I approached her to introduce myself. You could literally see the chip forming on her shoulder. Her partner fell in line soon after (she had once written me a very nice LOC) and started describing my novels as "good, entry-level Wiseguy slash" as opposed to her lady's more sophisticated novels filled with buzzing buttplugs, I suppose. lol I'd always liked her novels (the first one anyway since I didn't read the others) and respected her right to write them however she pleased without me knocking her but she certainly didn't seem compelled to return the favor.

My Wiseguy slash was a lot of things ... weirdly-worded, long-winded, grammatically hazardous, occasionally purplish (though not nearly as bad as my Blake's 7 "made beauty a poor cousin to the truth" stuff) ... but "entry level", I don't think so. Still, everyone has a right to an opinion ... even me.

I also received an email from someone saying my slash was "too explicit" ... that I wrote "porn" (as if that wuz a bad thing) and not "erotica". When I dialed down the heat for my Northern Exposure erotica (because that fandom doesn't tolerate adult fic well), I was told by my slash readers that the novel was "very tame" and "too mild".

Ah, well, you can't please everyone so you got to please yourself ... as somebody at a Garden Party once said. This illustrates that there's always somebody with an idea about what you should be writing. There is no one right answer, however, except for the one you give yourself. I take the input into consideration if it comes from someone whose writing I admire but if you listen to all the input too much, you stop writing your own stories and start writing someone else's.

I do strongly recommend you get a good beta and editor, though. (All hail, Annie the Booker and Lyn of Townsend, my betas and birthday trips) They can really help you not look like an ass at times.

One last thing, the emailer also wanted to know "when it was okay to call herself a writer". It seems some of the fannish hierarchy (primates are so cute) have been perplexed over the issue in recent days. So here goes --- Amy, you're a writer. Someone who writes is a writer. It's that simple. And it ain't like canonization, folks. We're not doing brain surgery.

Speaking of which, poor Natasha Richardson underscores all that is really important ... the moments we have now with our friends and family. The rest is just set decoration. It all goes by too fast to worry about stuff like this. Write your own stories. Nothing else matters.


Mar. 19th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
I used to write original fiction, along with fan fiction. This was many, many years ago, back when I was in grade school. I don't remember ever finishing the original stories I started. I didn't finish a lot of the fan fiction I started either, but some of those I did finish. It's one thing I like about writing fan fiction: there are lines, and I can see them.

I'm a Method writer. When I'm writing from a character's POV, I'm in that character's head, I'm feeling their feelings, and it's a soaring experience. I don't get that from writing original fiction because in that, I have to put the feelings in. There's nothing for me to take out.

I'm curious if you'd ask the question of creating something unique to yourself of TV script writers, who also write in other people's universes. Or Tom Stoppard, who didn't create any of the characters in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead."
Mar. 19th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
All creative fields eat themselves and recycle. Some of the best works of art/music/poetry are created when 'artists' interact and bounce off each others ideas. This is why I used the phrase 'all writing is theft' in my original comment, but there is a profound difference between creating a story that has a 'boy wizard' in it and taking HP + characters in their entirety.

TV is particularly bad at stealing ideas verbatim and not even giving the slightest credit (Though, Star Trek producers did consult with Bob Heinlein before filming The Trouble With Tribbles and he gave them his permission)

Film, at the moment, spends its time stealing from itself and comic books, which is amusing because comic books are extremely derivitive (Taken as a whole, there's obviously great originality in small patches).

I think that once an author is dead and out of copyright, direct theft of worlds and characters is fair game. After all, they are no longer in the market themselves. And writer's estates grant permission all the time for good sequels.
Mar. 19th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
You're talking about two separate things: the legality/morality of stealing from other writers, and the unoriginality of writing in someone else's universe. I'm not getting into the first one at all.

When I asked about TV writers, I wasn't talking about recycling plots, I was talking about having a job where a writer writes about characters he didn't create, in a universe he didn't create. How is this any more or less original than what fan fiction writers do? How is Tom Stoppard writing about the characters in "Hamlet" in any way original?
Mar. 19th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
Ah, sorry, I misunderstood.

I believe there is great scope for originality in writing screenplays for TV shows just as there is also similar scope in fanfic writing. I wasn't saying that stealing characters and worlds robs the writer of the ability to be original. (Though obviously it can restrict it.) On the other hand, couldn't the author say it even better in an environment they invented? Tom Stoppard controlled his environment perfectly within the literary in-joke he was playing.

My point was almost all about the ethics of doing it without permission and also about perverting the original characters outrageously (Though I only said that about the slash genre.) I also have concerns about the level of obsession in some fan stuff, it doesn't seem entirely healthy to me, whether it be about a book, TV show or a real person.

I've reread my comments and I can't find anywhere where I said you couldn't be original in fanfic or slash. Some of the most original work is written in the most constrained worlds and situations.

Sorry if I gave that impression.
Mar. 19th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
What I was responding to was "If you are a good writer (or even a bad writer with pretensions) don't you want to create something unique to yourself?"

The answer for me is, no, I don't. I know my limitations, and I write fan fiction because it's what I enjoy. (And I write slash.) *g*
Mar. 19th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
Every lady should have a hobby :-)
Mar. 19th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
She's also a very good writer. And she writes fan fic by gum!

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