My first blog probably isn’t going to make me many friends in the literary community, but I feel this has to be said:
Fan fiction. Two words that instantly bring out the egotist in every writer and judgement in everyone else. And I’ll admit, fan fiction is, for the most part, unintelligible tripe that makes me sad for the future of the English language. Much along the same lines as poorly edited books, and self-published eBooks; but I digress.
For the most part, fan fiction is rubbish. Usually, the ‘writers’ have a crush on one of the characters in their favourite book, movie, or TV series, and writes themselves into the plot, forcing that poor character to act in a way that they would never usually act. Or, the ‘writers’ have a problem with the way in which something happened, or ended, in their favourite book/movie/series and they decide to rewrite the ending. Also, by bending those poor characters to their authorial might.
Despite all of this, I personally believe that one is not a true fan of something unless they have breached that barrier into fan fiction. A true fan does not settle for the materials they have been given. They want to get inside their favourite characters heads and try and understand their motivations, or to understand why that certain person had to die over that other guy that they just can’t stand. They want to understand the twists and turns of their favourite story lines. (Seriously, if you have ever seen the sheer amount of Doctor Who conspiracy theories on Tumblr then you know exactly what I am talking about.) And not even that; sometimes these people just can’t stand to be left out in the cold once their book/movie/series deserts them.
I am one of these people. I have just finished watching Ugly Betty (yes I know…I’m so with current trends), a show with some of the most loveable characters that have ever existed on television. Whenever Henry (Christopher Gorham) adjusts his glasses, or Daniel (Eric Mabius) screws up and needs Betty (America Ferrera) to jump in and save him, I make the most atrocious, almost adolescent, teenage girl squeal. Seriously. I’m glad that I usually watch TV alone.
But the ending was just so unsatisfying. Don’t get me wrong, the producers, writers, and everyone involved did the best they could with the amount of time they had left to tie up loose ends. But when [SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO IS AS BEHIND THE TIMES AS ME AND HASN’T YET SEEN THE SERIES FINALE OF UGLY BETTY] Daniel leaves Mode to follow Betty to London because he has finally realised that he loves that loveable, loyal woman, it ends with a vague dinner invitation that Betty accepts. We don’t know if Betty feels the same way, or if Daniel’s eventual declaration of love is so shocking, and leaves things so awkward, that the Mode Dream Team is separated forever, and Daniel goes back to his womanising ways. And that just doesn’t fly with me. So instead of dealing with the harsh reality, I did three things:
1. I restarted the series. This is a bad habit of mine. At the end of the series, I like to go back and see where all of the characters started with their future selves still fresh in my mind. Going from sleek, London Betty back to adorably fashion oblivious Betty is actually a lot more satisfying than you might think.
2. I delved into the poor grammar and contrived storylines of fan fiction. Mostly because of a desperate need to cling to the characters to which I had formed an unhealthy emotional attachment. But reading these poor characters forced into situations that they would never actually find themselves was almost emotionally scarring. Amanda and Mark helping Betty out of the goodness of their hearts? A shoddy scheme to take over Meade Publications that Wilhelmina would never be caught dead anywhere near? Daniel calling Betty ‘sweetie’? Not to mention the horribly contrived info-dumping meant to show the audience just how well the ‘writers’ knew the characters they were writing.
(Side note: Mentioning Daniel’s long list of girlfriends as he gazes dreamily at Betty – which, by the way, he wouldn’t actually do – doesn’t show a writer’s skill: it shows a lack of anything else to say.)
And all of these hateful things running through my head made me move on to number three:
3. I wrote my own. Yes, dear reader, I sullied my MacBook Air’s memory space with an almost 3000 word fan fiction of how I wanted that episode to end. None of this wishy-washy vagueness that allows the viewers to make up their own minds. I want to be told, damn it. So I created it myself.
There you have it: I’m a fan fiction writer. It’s my guilty pleasure. But I agonised over that story, more than I would have for a piece that I was writing from scratch. When you’re writing from scratch, you know those characters intimately. You know their worst fears and hideous secrets and know how they would make your characters behave. But with fan fiction – proper fan fiction, like the ones associated with the Doctor Who franchise – the characters are set. And you have to get to know them. So, as I was writing, I was constantly fearful that I would force Daniel and Betty into scenarios in which they would never find themselves. I wrote, read back, rewrote, left the story for a bit, and then restarted the whole process again.
But the ending still got me. When the time came for Daniel to explain to Betty why he was in London, Betty couldn’t leave him hanging. That was not an option. They can’t be split up! If the show had continued for another season, viewers could watch Daniel and Betty be awkward with each other at Lindsay Dunn’s offices – at which Daniel magically got a job – while Wilhelmina and Claire were still going at it in Manhattan. And all of the exes could come back to prove as obstacles for the dynamic duo in every other episode. But in that series finale, Daniel and Betty would end up together, have that Hollywood kiss, and the credits would roll down to some aptly chosen romantic ballad. But we, as fans, were denied that opportunity. So after agonising over every exchange and thought that was supposed to run through Daniel’s head, I had to make Betty say, “I love you”. It was the only way I could put the whole thing to rest.
So to sum up:
Fan fiction. If you can’t admit you’ve peaked behind that poorly-sewn curtain, then it’s time to come out of the closet.