Hello class. There will be no pic spam lesson for today. Instead I’ve published in a separate post extra credit reading to celebrate the ending of my fanfic writing series. It’s password protected; you will discover why shortly. Enjoy and have a great TGIF.
BTW, in case you missed yesterday’s prompt, the password is: what the first name of JT’s love in N&S? The first letter must be capitalized. Enjoy!
I’ve been ruminating for several weeks over advice from Hedgey, Gratiana, and Prue. The commonality between all of them is to write for yourself, what you like, and write, write, write. Servetus offered a thought provoking essay on what writing fanfic could really mean and the internal cause and effect flowing from it. The question for me has become: do I want to write fanfic, or more succinctly, do I really want to write and why?
The short easy answer is yes, writing is what I used to do. The long easy answer is I’ve always been good with words. Even when math at times eluded me, words have always been my friend. When I read voraciously as a child, they were my escape into other worlds. Then, my right-brained literary creativity was unfettered by psychological baggage and dysfunctional environments. I had not been molded to become left-brained in law school, which is akin to being forced into left handedness when I’ve always been right-handed. So I wrote imaginative stories without thinking twice, drew pictures to accompany them and then wrote more to go along with those. I’m sure there are stories dammed inside bursting to get out if only I can reach them. It’s highly likely that my writer’s block has been caused by vestiges of old baggage I need to shed and my right-sided brain being rusty from disuse. Blogging and drawing is helping the creative sap to rise, albeit slowly. Patience is probably a virtue here.
The difficult answer is probably I will be revealing something of myself, more so than I do in this blog and it disturbs me a bit especially after reading Servetus’s essay. Then I have to ask: do I want to reveal things even to myself? After chewing on that question a while, I’ve decided it really doesn’t matter since I intend to continue on my journey no matter where it takes me. It may be that the line will blur between writing for enjoyment and writing for catharsis. That being said, I’m not particularly concerned whether readers will try to draw too close parallels between my stories and me. I assume mature readers understand fiction is fantasy just as shows we enjoy are all fantastic and make believe. There is nothing much I can do about those who don’t get that point. I’m not writing for them. To each her own.
Hopefully one day I’ll break through my writer’s block. Scenes come to mind but sadly not plots which is an interesting conundrum in itself. When a full realized story does emerge from the labyrinth of my mind, you will be the first ones to read it. I will welcome all love but most importantly respectful, constructive criticism. I won’t bite – unless it’s the Fan Police.
In the meantime, I have a surprise in store tomorrow. You didn’t really think I would leave you empty handed did you? Oh, the password will be: the first name of JT’s love in N&S. See you then.
This is a six part series on fanfic writing. Here are parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Joining me today is Prue Batten from the lovely and insightful writer’s blog Mesmered’s Blog. Prue is the author of several novels including The Stumpwork Robe, The Last Stitch and A Thousand Glass Flowers.
Here’s what she says about herself on her website at pruebatten.com:
Like most writers, I’ve written since I was a child, fiddling around with paper and pens, rather the way an artist does with brush and paints. The scale of the writing increased with my age, to the point where when my children left home, I thought I had the time and space to complete the novel I had always wanted to write.
I live in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, the island bunkered down to the south of the Australian continent. Having been born and educated here and despite living in other places, my husband and I moved back about 18 years ago. The island ethos appeals to my own sensibilities – the security, beauty and freedom of living removed from the rest of the world. It makes for a perfect environment in which to write.
We farm a cropping and wool-growing property just outside of Hobart and when time and seasons permit, I load the Jack Russell terriers in the car and head to a little ‘House’ on the coast and write, swim, walk and kayak. The coast is where I’m truly at home. I feel content when I am on the beach or the water – in summer or winter and a deep sense of all that’s right with the world ensues.
I’m university educated with a media and bookish background. The scholarships awarded for an Arts degree and for a postgraduate diploma in librarianship and my later occupation as a journalist were a past history that laid some hefty foundation stones for investigation, an absolute pre-requisite for the craft of writing.
J: Thanks so much for joining me, Prue. I know you’ve just launched your latest book, A Thousand Glass Flowers.
PB: It’s lovely of you to have me here. I’m honoured.
J: This series is about helping new writers like me understand the writing process. Certainly there was a time before you became a published author when you were honing your skills. How and when did you start writing? Did you do fan fiction?
PB: I’ve been writing all my life. I used to love composition at school and later, in Year’s 10, 11 and 12, I always enjoyed any creative writing in the curriculum. In the annual examinations I used to get myself into trouble with time in the English exam as there would always be a creative component and I would lose myself in whatever I was writing.
At University, I used to write prose for fun the way others might write poetry. Then I became a mum and writing disappeared out the window, but came back in when the kids reached later teen years and left me free to follow my own interests.
I never intended to write a novel. Ever. I just thought I’d try one day and ended up writing a fantasy trilogy which I have since thrown away.
Fan fiction was something I dabbled in for fun last year for just a moment but it isn’t something I would do again.
J: Was writing difficult at first?
PB: Because I was only writing for myself, it was fun. But when I started to take it seriously, doing a course in creative writing and then editing, some really large hurdles appeared. There is an awful lot to learn, a lot to remember. There are rules which can’t be broken if your novel wants to make sense. I’m still learning.
J: Were you influenced by other writers?
PB: Not so much. I read a lot and I often think I should like to write like my favourites, but then it wouldn’t be me, would it? So I look at what people do right and what they do wrong and therein lies the learning curve.
J: How did you improve as a writer?
PB: Firstly I joined an online peer review called YouWriteOn.com where you submit pieces for review and gain points by reviewing others’ works. I learned what worked and what didn’t and some of the review is seriously helpful. YWO.com also ultimately became my indie publisher.
I also send every manuscript to a literary consultancy called Cornerstones (www.cornerstones.co.uk) for assessment. It can take up to two years and quite a bit of outlay to come up with an ms that might ultimately be considered commercially viable. The company read the first 50 pages before they commit to working with you… it’s rather like submitting to a publisher/agent and you have to be convincing in that first 50 pages to be considered worthwhile.
J: Did you have previous training?
PB: No, but I’m a former librarian and also a former researcher/presenter for radio and TV, so I learned the value of a good fact. That said I honestly believe that no amount of literary qualification makes any difference. It depends on how much you want to write and how much you read. If anything matters, I think it’s whether you have a creative streak or for want of a better word, imagination. One can learn the rules but one needs to be blessed with that unique streak. People can learn the rules of art but that won’t necessarily make them a good artist.
J: What do readers look for in fantasy/fanfic?
PB: I confess I don’t know because I’ve only read one piece of fan-fict and have also only written one piece.
J: What do you feel about writing erotic scenes? How far would you go in writing such scenes and how do you prepare?
PB: For myself I don’t write erotic scenes as such. When I wrote the various love-scenes of Gisborne, I wrote what I like to read in a book or see in a movie and believe it or not I asked my husband to help me. I would write it and then read it to him and he would review it… hard!
I dislike flagrant erotica but it might suit others. I like the idea of seeds sewn but then a reader’s imagination coming into play.
How does one prepare? Goodness, the mind boggles!
J: Would you write fantasy/fanfic again?
PB: I will always write fantasy. I have at least two more titles in the Chronicles of Eirie to write, making the series a five book series.
Gisborne sits between historical fiction and historical fantasy, and there are two titles in that saga so still a way to go there.
I won’t write fan-fiction again unless it is from a ‘classic’ derivative like Austen and for a very specific purpose. (eg I was one of the 50 writers who wrote an Austenesque novel on Twitter based on Pride and Prejudice and I have been invited to be involved in an entirely new concept, but can’t say anything about it till November)
J: Would you encourage fantasy/fanfic writing as a starting point?
PB: I think we might need to define the terms fantasy and fan-fiction from my POV. Fantasy is a specific and absolutely huge genre within the commercial market and inevitably takes place in a parallel world of an author’s own and very unique creation.
I’m sure there are many writers of fan-fict who say it too is a genre with a commercial base, but for me the difference is that the themes generally spring from someone else’s original idea.
It’s always been really important for me to use the wellspring of my own ideas and that is exactly what happened with Gisborne because Gisborne the character has mega-shifted from the Robin Hood Gisborne. Maybe I should change his name…
J: Do you have any advice for novice fantasy/fanfic writers?
PB: Advice for writers is always the same: read, read, read and write, write, write.
J: Thanks so much Prue for joining me 😀
PB: It’s been an absolute pleasure, Judi, I’m not sure I will have helped anyone make a choice to write, but it would be nice to think so. Thank you so much for asking me.
NEXT: Final Reflections
Would you write fanfic again?
Since I’ve just started my first Guy Fan fiction script story, I would have to say yes. There were some undeveloped bits to his character that I wanted to explore further. And with my “Vicar of Dibley” fan fiction–I have a full season of 8 episodes outlined in detail and several sections of dialogue written. And then, there is my “Thorin’s Hope” story. But for the most part, I write original script stories set in contemporary times around themes that matter to me–true love, how we define beauty in our society and who is worthy of love, and the complexities involved in blending your life with another as you build your relationship together, etc.
J: Would you encourage fanfic writing as a starting point?
I think writing fan fiction can be a helpful way for novice and non writers to begin. But, just as contemporary writers put a new spin on Jane Austen’s Emma with the movie Clueless, novice writers can take the themes from Shakespeare and other great writers to help get them going. Those of us who continue in the fan fiction genre past our novice stage do so because we want to resolve something with the characters or the plot–as I stated previously–or explore new avenues that the original writers had not thought of nor developed.
G: a) Just start writing. It doesn’t matter what it is. It won’t be perfect the first few sentences, paragraphs, or pages that you write. You can go back later and edit and expand it. Do however pay attention to your grammar and your spelling eventually. Unless you are trying to emulate a particular dialect–as the scriptwriter did in Sparkhouse–keep your writing simple. Avoid run on sentences. And I tell you this as a very verbose girl. Just look how long my response to your interview is. Ha!
b) If you can’t figure out how to make it work plotwise for your couple or characters, then think how they must feel. Ha! Good drama and comedy are about conflict. So, you need to find that conflict in your story and in your characters and then resolve it by the time your story ends.
c) Also, be observant about your daily life and the people around you for potential story ideas. Not that you want to tell the stories of your family’s and friends’ lives–they might stop inviting you to family and neighborhood functions. Ha! But do notice that the everyday occurrence can turn into something interesting. For example, one of my stories that I refer to as “Miss Trouble Ticket”, starts with a computer calendaring system that is being changed at work and the heroine needs assistance–she gets it and much more. This calendaring system story premise came about because we were indeed changing our calendaring system at work and there were kinks with it.
d) Find inspiration in literature and song and incorporate it into your work. One of the “hooks” in my writing is that I bring my literary background into my writing. I have one male lead quoting 17th century love poetry or a Shakespearean sonnet to his lady love. And yet another story has the groom singing a love song from a popular musical to his bride at their wedding.
e) But always, always, always cite the other authors’ works properly. Even if you use only the scrap of a quote–or even just a single identifiable word, such as “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane–you must attribute it appropriately to the original author and/or the original work. And frankly, you’ll look more erudite doing so. Looking erudite isn’t my intention. I just enjoy fine literature and I like to promote it to the next generation by referencing it in my works.
f) Don’t limit yourself to a particular genre of story. My love stories encompass a wide range of genres–comedy, drama, farce, action adventure, etc.–except for horror and science fiction films, I don’t go there. Well, I haven’t yet, anyway. Ha! But I also realize that my audiences–and my stories’ maturity ratings–are different for my different stories. So, get to know your audiences and their tastes in terms of what works for a particular story destination. And though I do like happy endings, one of my stories actually has a bittersweet and slightly sad ending–since life is not always tidy.
g) Be selective about whom you let initially read your stories. Seek out good beta readers who will gently give you some guidance. Then gradually work up to those beta readers who like to give no holds barred criticisms.
h) Become a beta reader of others’ fiction yourself. Identify what they are doing well in their writing that you like and see if you can emulate it. But don’t just copy them. Be your own writer, find your own style. After we had done some story collaborations together, an online writer friend asked if I would read her latest fan fiction work as one of her beta readers. I was honored to do so and I spent five hours one Friday night reading it at one sitting. Then I emailed her some general as well as some specific suggestions–typos here and there, please describe a bit more, and I even penned a few lines of narration and dialogue here and there to illustrate what I was suggesting to her. She wrote so well to begin with that I didn’t have to suggest too many changes to her. However, I was gratified that she used every one of my editing suggestions–and she even used my narration and dialogue sections that I penned. It gave me even more confidence for my own writing to know that other writers valued my opinions about their writing.
i) Here is my story filename coding scheme. Each time I revisit a story, I create a newly renamed version of the filename–so I can always tell what is the old version versus the new version is. The first draft is zzStoryTitleMonthDayYr. Then the second draft is zyStoryTitleSep2311. This insures that my current script story version is always at the top of the window for the folder for that story–each story has its own folder. And you need at least two letter codings because with 26 letters in the alphabet, zz to aa versions get you over 625 versions possibilities. I won’t need that many versions. But I definitely needed a coding scheme that reflected more than just 26 versions of a story. I know, I’m way too organized. But with working on over 40 stories in rotation, I have to be organized.
j) With stories and characters, you need to come up with good character names and story names. Keep a chart of the names you use. And, I have had a few instances where a story started out with one title and then I felt that title fit another story idea better and I changed it. The same thing has happened a few times with character names. Oh and I visit those baby names sites to find out the meanings of names in order to give characters eponymous names–such as William means protector, and Richard means strong, etc. It’s okay to switch things around and don’t beat yourself up about it. Now that I’ve been writing for 1.5 years, I haven’t needed/wanted to make any character name or script story title changes lately. Again, that’s because I set up my stories so thoroughly in the beginning.
k) That brings up another tip–do your research. Use the web and other resources to research places and historical events that you might want to incorporate into your stories. I’ve even gone so far as to print out location maps for cities or venues. And, in the case of the John and Margaret Thornton home, I diagramed its floor plan and furniture layouts because it is integral to some of my plot conceits. Finally for my Guy fan fiction script story that I’m writing now, I researched various social customs of the crusades time period to make sure that I was being at least somewhat accurate with regard to my characters’ interactions. Ha!
l) Read your stories out loud to test the dialogue and the narration or exposition. You’ll find that you usually need to shorten your dialogue sentences to allow for breathing. Ha! There is nothing better than hearing your words out loud for giving you ideas on how to improve upon your phrasing.
m) Here is a stylistic note. I realized early on that I had a tendency to write my narration or internal monologue sentences in the past verb tense–even though I was describing action happening in the present. Ooh! That’s a no no–unless, of course, you are actually referring to something that occurred in the past. So, I make a conscious effort now to be in the present as I’m writing–both literally and figuratively. And in using the present verb tense appropriately, I feel it makes my writing feel more vibrant and immediate–as if the audience is actually seeing the action play itself out. Here is an impromptu example of what I mean with regard to past tense vs present tense in an internal monologue exposition:
1. Past Verb Tense–Terry realized that he wanted to cross the room to ask her out on a date. And he did. (stilted)
2. Present Verb Tense–Terry realizes that crossing the room to ask her out on a date is what he wants to do. So he does. (better)
The present verb tense version–though a little longer–conveys a sense of “as it is happening” action. Again, I’m thinking cinematically. But I must say that not every writer agrees with me on this point as I read some of their works that use the past verb tense liberally.
G: My script stories are my babies–and it time that some of them fly the coop. So I really want to find a venue for them. My ideal wish is for some of my script stories to be produced for film or television–or the stage as in the case of my one act bedroom farce. I have only made tentative steps in that direction by beginning to share my stories with others in the last few months. I looked at the BBC site for writers–but they only want Brits to submit ideas or sample scripts, very anglopheniacentric (a made up word of mine) of them. Ha! And, I would love to be able to contact the “Vicar of Dibley” writer Richard Curtis about my ideas for a new season of that show. Even if he didn’t like my Dibley stories, it might convince he and Dawn French and the other cast to return for a season of Dibley specials that we would all enjoy. I do have a college friend who works in Hollywood–but I was loathe to mine that friendship beyond my generally asking her if she can recommend some writers’ web site resources. And, I’ve checked out the Writer’s Guild of America web site where you can “register” your scripts before you start sending them to agents and studios. But WGA doesn’t really claim to be a copyrighting service. And apart from not wanting my stories to gather dust on the shelf, I don’t want my script story ideas stolen or plagiarized. Realistically, I hope that I might ask some of my friends in local theatre in the community and at the universities if they might do a reading of one or more of my scripts. And then, maybe I can get something produced locally. From there, who knows? So at this point, these are wishes and dreams. And these may be pipe dreams. But we have to have dreams, or we are just treading water in our lives.
J: Thanks so much Gratiana for joining me.
G: Thanks so much for asking me to share my thoughts about my writing with you. Cheers!
NEXT: An interview with Prue Batten
What’s today? Oh, you know it’s time for Fitzg’s Journeys. This installment: The Working Actor. A direct link to Google Docs is here.
My internet has actually stayed on for the past few hours. Dare I hope my ISP solved its DNS server problem? I just *knew* I couldn’t have been the only one affected. Will wait and see until Monday before cancelling the appointment.
*hugging and kissing her internet*
I’m becoming waaaaaaay to dependent on it methinks.
As I sit leeching free wi-fi at a not-late-hours cafe, my internet is down at home. It will remain that way until experts come out to service it next Friday. As soon as that happens, yours truly will return with regularly scheduled programming.
Meanwhile, I’ll weather internet withdrawal. *Sniff* *Shiver*
A few weeks ago I showcased Jason Yang performing a cover for the Game of Thrones theme. This week he does a Moonlight Sonata you’ve never heard before along with beat boxer Jake Moulton. Listen to the entire piece. It’s different if not interesting.
Sorry I’m late, class but have no fear, a beastly headache can’t keep a good objectification down. Today’s subject: lips. As you may well imagine, selecting photos was a daunting task. Since I actually couldn’t choose, I went with some of the lesser used ones to spread the love more fairly. Let’s get started.
Here we have an early publicity photo of Richard Armitage as Lee from Cold Feet. As you can see RA has thin lips, with the top more so than the bottom. Yet there is still shape to the top one. Are you looking carefully class? Class? Well, let’s move on to a better pic.
Here is RA in a publicity show as himself. Here we can see a definite bow shape to the top lip.
Here is RA in his main publicity photo with a faint quirk of a smile. We see the curve of the upper lip, which highlights the bottom lip and makes it seem fuller than it actually is. Except for the amateur photoshopping, this is a fantastic shot.
Let’s observe the lips “en smile.” Here we have a candid/publicity shot with DJ Scott Mills. The lips do stretch and thin out to reveal an awesome dental job. Marvelous work.
This final pic has so many things going for it, but let’s check out those lips. The relaxed position of the mouth really accentuates the bow of the top lip and makes the bottom slightly pouty. This proves that thin lips does not necessarily mean not shapely.
That’s it for this Friday. I’m heading back to bed. Enjoy the pics and have a great TGIF.
This is a six part series on fanfic writing. Here are parts 1 and 2. Joining me today is GratianaDS90 from the creative blog Something About Love (A). Gratiana is a newcomer to blogging and has only recently shared her stories online. Her writing skills quickly became apparent through her fanfic and considered replies on various blogs. Gratiana is having technical problems with a shadow blog under her real blog (seriously). But if you make sure to look for the (A) version of Something About Love, you’ll be in for a treat.
J: How and when did you start writing fanfic?
G: I began writing my stories April 26, 2010–two months after watching and rewatching the 2004 dvd film mini-series “North & South” with Richard Armitage portraying the lead character of John Thornton. I loved the story and characters then, and I still do now. I had so wanted to slap Margaret into some sense so that she didn’t push John away during the proposal scene. Although, John should have started off with an offer to take her to tea rather than proposing out of the blue. So, I began what I referred to as my “midquel” fan fiction–“North & South: Nurturing Love”. Though I hadn’t really found Armitage related web sites at that point so I hadn’t heard the term fan fiction. And my script stories as I refer to them are in a script format–with detailed stage directions and internal monologues. Since then, “North & South: Nurturing Love: has gone through 82 revisions and expansions up through May 30, 2011 and it has 191 pages and 142 scenes. Because it is so long–essentially, it is a four episode mini-series, I have yet to convert it to a format for online readers. But I will get there. “ North & South: Nurturing Love” is the first of over 40 script stories that I have written and work on in rotation since then. However, most of my stories are original and not fan fiction that adapts another story.
J: Was it difficult at first?
G: Not really. I was a Communication Ed Major and English Ed Minor BS for my undergrad degree. And I performed literary works (prose, poetry, duets, dramatic interps) on my university speech team for four years–as well as I wrote original speeches (informative, persuasive, rhetorical criticism, after dinner speaking, and impromptus) that I gave. We all had five to eight events that we performed every week at tournaments hosted at universities around the Midwest. In that sense, my speech team experiences were rather like repertory theater, I guess. I also wrote a lot of poetry and short essays in college. Then after I earned my MS in Communication, I had many years where I was the teacher and graded and guided others’ writing and performing at the university level. I also helped coach a few local high school speech teams–including coaching two high school students from different schools in different years who became State Champions in their respective events of Prose and Dramatic Interpretation. I should pause to say that these achievements were the students’ own and my contributions to these students was to help guide them to be the best they could be–without my getting in their way. Ha!
I work fulltime at a university as an academic advisor and department business manager–among other hats that I wear in my career. And I wanted to take my outreach programming and initial education research to the next level. So about 9 years ago, I began working on my doctorate while still working fulltime and volunteering in my community. Working on your Ph.D means lots of reading and writing–but it is of a different nature than creative writing, academic writing being quite task oriented and very dry. I am ABD–all but dissertation, done with my course work and comps. So, essentially, I started my creative writing to jumpstart my dissertation. But, the opposite happened and I have been happily writing my script stories ever since. Maybe that was the problem with my academic task writing, I needed a more creative outlet than scholarly writing afforded me. I’m wincing as I write this and hope that none of my Dissertation Committee members ever read this. Ha!
But my creative writing inspiration just flows through me–helped by my muse, the exquisitely talented British Actor Richard Crispin Armitage. I always picture Mr. Armitage in the lead male roles in my script stories. I say that my script stories tumble out of me–sometimes through a situation I observe in real life and then expand that into a story. Or maybe a bit of physical humor comes to mind and I build a story around that. Or in the case of the Old Vic 24 Hour Plays and Gala held in London in November 2010, challenging myself to write a one act play in 24 hours, etc. I did and have tweaked it a little since then. The play is a bedroom farce with lots of physical and verbal comedy in it. It is quite fun and a little saucy. Since I literally have over 40 script stories that I’m working on in rotation–some of them are done but for some tweaking–I never get bored or stuck. I just move on to the next story and expand it until an idea comes for the other story. And I can pretty much write on the fly now since I’ve gained so much experience in writing creatively over the last 1.5 years. Although, my readers will be the judge as to whether or not they like my stories. So far, people have been most favorably disposed to the stories that I have shared. I wrote a love scene extemporaneously in a chat room recently and my friends seemed to enjoy the diversion–based on their side chatter, that was priceless, I should add–especially since I ended my twenty minute storytelling just before the “good part” and they wanted me to continue. As with love and life, always leave your audience wanting more. Besides, I felt that I had taken plenty of a turn already. Ha!
I lay down the bones of my new stories carefully–outlining the chapters/scenes with descriptive titles and then build dialogue and narration/stage direction from there. Each time I revisit a script story, I expand the plot, character development, descriptions, etc., until I feel that I’m “done” with that particular story. Although I continue word smithing and tweaking the story each time that I read through it. That’s why “North & South: Nurturing Love” has so many edits. I enjoy returning to it to read it and I end up tweaking something. Ha!
J: Why do you write in script form?
G: I like to think cinematically with regard to my stories–as I believe Edith Wharton might have for her story “The Age of Innocence.” So, I write in a script story format because I want my script stories to be “filming ready”. Ha! Although any work will be tweaked when a director gets a hold of it, by my already writing in a script format I save myself the step of having to adapt it. And I provide enough exposition, stage direction, and internal monologues such that readers wanting a narrative aspect to what they read will also be satisfied.
J: Were you influenced by other writers?
G: Growing up and into my adulthood, I’ve always been a big fan of women writers–Alcott, Austen, the Bronte’s, Wharton, etc. But, I also liked Hawthorne, Twain, Poe, and others. I was especially struck with reading Edith Wharton’s book The Age of Innocence a few years ago, and then seeing the film directed by Martin Scorsese. He was able to use the book’s narration almost without editing or rephrasing it because Edith Wharton had written her story to be told cinematically. And that’s how I view my script stories–cinematically.
J: How did you improve as a writer?
G: I’ve always been a good writer–knowing how to structure essays, which helps in my blogging now. And I know proper grammar rules, spelling and such. And having had wonderful writers to read and perform helped me tremendously. Let me put it this way, my senior year in college’s prose piece was from Jane Eyre–the young Jane’s friend Helen’s death scene. And my poetry program was a collection of Alice Walker poems from her Revolutionary Petunias book. So I performed one traditional program and one contemporary program–both literary works are classics. And as a performer, I would “cut” or arrange my own material and that helps give you a sense of what works and what doesn’t work editing wise for my own writing. And as a creative writer now, trial and error is the key–and lots of editing and reediting. As I said earlier, my “North & South: Nurturing Love” script story has gone through 82 edits that each time expanded and enhanced the storytelling.
J: Did you have previous training?
G: My aforementioned college education, writing, and performing experiences helped lay the groundwork for me.
J: What do readers look for in fanfic?
G: For me as a reader (or as the author), I want to see the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of my characters resolved–the love shared, the promise kept, and the atonement for past wrongs making them whole again, etc. This is not to say that my stories are all hearts and flowers. For me, love that is hard won is more cherished and appreciated. But love should not come at too great a cost, or that cost cannot be overcome.
G: I blush to say that I do have love scenes in my stories. Love is about passion. And sometimes one needs to fully develop the intricacies of the relational dance to fully understand the loving bond between the two individuals. Now having said that, were my script stories ever to be filmed, I would hope that the love scenes would be filmed in such a way as to be discreet and respectful of the love my characters share–as I hope the writing of my love scenes conveys. It would simply be that the actors would have the “back story” with which to inform their acting. Less is more in my mind with regard to filmed love scenes. We don’t need to see nipples–his or hers. In fact, anything more than bare shoulders or a bare back is gratuitous in my mind in films. Women want to see romance–not an instructional video. Ha! For example, the most loving erotic scene I have seen to date is the train station kissing scene at the end of the original “North & South” film starring Richard Armitage. The characters are fully clothed and they tentatively but desirously have their first gloriously delicate kisses, that become more tender and more urgent when John gently takes Margaret’s face in his hands and he kisses her adoringly. Their bodies are not touching, but we know from the restrained passion of their kisses that John and Margaret are a true love match. And when they are married, their mutual passions will ignite in a heartfelt and tender joining of their two souls. You’ll have to read my “North & South: Nurturing Love” story to see how I treated their love scenes.
But, the nature of my love scenes has changed over time. They have gone from only married couples making love (not merely having sex)–such as the wedding night scene starting on page 65 of “North and South: Nurturing Love” (that was a long wait, ha!)–to allowing my committed and in love couples to share the joys of love with each other before marriage. I even have some love at first sight lovers who find themselves to be “Kindred Spirits”–which is also the title of one of my script stories–and who then develop a sustaining relationship around their initial physical attraction. And it is that learning and negotiating day by day how to live together as a couple that can be some of the most interesting plot points and character development.
And my love scene writing has evolved over time from breathless general descriptions to very sensually descriptive and tender love scenes. However, I use euphemisms with regard to describing what is happening. I leave the scientific and Latin terms to my other writer friends. My couples don’t f***, they make love. My love scenes are always tender and heartfelt–a joining of two individuals, heart and mind and body and soul. And not to put too fine a point on it, I believe in “comfortable” lovemaking. No stair risers or kitchen tables for my heroines to be rogered against as in some modern day films. In my view, there is only one thing that should be hard in a love scene–and it’s not the furniture. Ha!
Are you shocked? I am a little bit. I am a very happily and lovingly romantically married woman of almost 22 years to my wonderful husband. And wait for it–my husband is and has been my only lover. I was brought up to be a good girl. I knew what I wanted in my husband and life partner and I waited until I found him–when I was 28 years old. It was worth the wait. My husband and I are still on our honeymoon and we plan to be until we fall out of our side by side rockers 50 years from now. So, not coincidentally, several of my heroines are also late bloomers for love. It’s not that I’m bashing non virgins. I think that people need to make the responsible choice that works best for them–including my character lovers using condoms. But I like to at least suggest virginity until you find true love as still being an option, for men and women. And then let your passions erupt! Ha!
My male and female lead characters are always strong individuals with vulnerabilities that they share with each other as trust develops between them. And next to baring one’s soul, making love with your beloved is the most intimate expression of love that exists. So men and women have their strong and their soft sides. I especially make sure that my male characters are tender and considerate lovers. They might have a path to getting there–such as one of my male lead characters being quite inexperienced in love making himself and the female lead guides him into loving and pleasurable lovemaking between them. He is an eager pupil and soon becomes a wonderful lover. My male and female leads complement one another and meet as equals. Although, sometimes developing that true and equal partnership takes some time to develop.
This is a six part series on writing. You’re find part 1 here. In an effort to understand the process of writing fan fiction, I interviewed several writers for pointers. Joining me to day is Hedgeypig. She is a talented writer who has written Guy of Gisborne fanfic but now has moved into the realm of original fiction. Here’s her blurb:
Hedgeypig is a hobbit sized, middle aged curmudgeon with a penchant for the outdoors, writing, film and sleeping. She’s been knocking around the Richard Armitage fandom in various capacities since late 2006. She even met the man in 2009 and squeaked pathetically at him like a terrified dormouse. At some point she may actually submit something to a publisher but don’t hold your breath.
J: How and when did you start writing fanfic?
H: Early 2007 shortly after the first season of Robin Hood had ended. I was inspired by the character of Guy. I’d seen other fanfic after joining the Armitage Army forum and thought I’d give it a go.
J: Was it difficult at first?
H: The hardest part is making that leap of faith to publish as you’re putting yourself out there. i found a good beta and that was a massive help as they can help with spelling, grammar and any major plot clangers.
J: Were you influenced by other writers?
H: Can’t say I was, no.
J: How did you improve as a writer?
H: I feel that simply the act of writing helps improve skills. Also talking to other writers. Alicat and Twiddle and i all beta’d each others work which honed skills in spelling, grammar and plotting. Just write down ideas. they might go nowhere and sometimes they lead to something else.
I have over the past couple of years taken an Open University Course too. I did Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing which was a real eye opener. With that you obviously have to move away from writing fanfic to writing original work.
I also read an awful lot.
J: Did you have previous training?
H: I wrote for pleasure but no one ever read it so putting my work up on the internet was quite hard.
J: What do readers look for in fanfic?
H: Ooh, that’s a difficult one. I can only say what I look for. I’m not keen when people stray too far from the character as written. I think with Guy many people wanted him to be good but he was fundamentally a deeply flawed character. Sadly the actual writers themselves seemed to have rewritten his back story several times which made the character very confusing. Much as they did with Lucas.
A good story, well plotted with the characters not straying too far from their on screen personas. Mary Sues are a complete turn off for me.
J: I know you write erotic scenes. How do you go about writing such scenes?
H: Bizarrely at the time Guy was a very fantasy inspiring character and as such I liked to envisage him in erotic situations. However I tended to find those scenes quite difficult to write and if I’m honest looking back find some of them cringe worthy. I have largely moved away from graphic erotic scenes although within fanfic they can be fun.
J: Would you write fanfic again?
H: Given the right character certainly but at the moment I’m working a lot on original work. My result for my Advanced Creative Writing Course was much better than I envisaged and I hope to progress the story further at some point.
J: Would you encourage fanfic writing as a starting point?
H: Absolutely. You have the characters and a lot of situations there for you as jump off points.
J: Do you have any advice for novice fanfic writers?
H: Try and stick to the character as written within reason. If you’re not then say so.
Don’t Mary Sue the character (make them unbelievably perfect) Not everyone thinks Richard is gorgeous for example so not everyone should think, Guy, Lucas etc are perfect.
Get a good beta. There’s nothing worse than trying to read a story that’s full of errors.
Don’t lose heart. It’s rare that someone will be unkind but some people may be critical. Constructive criticism is not a bad thing.
Don’t overdo the sex scenes unless you’re very good at writing them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Don’t put yourself in the story. variations of your personality will most likely creep in but a character that’s definitely you may turn people away.
Be careful with Real person fic. ie writing about Richard for example rather than his characters. A lot of people don’t like it but I have seen it done. Gabriel Kane was undoubtedly inspired physically by Richard but don’t imagine for one minute Richard is anything like the miserable character I have created.
J: Thanks so much for allowing me to interview you.
H: My pleasure.
NEXT: An interview with GratianaDS90
Ever since I started this blog, the desire to start writing fiction again lurked in the back of my mind. Thirty years ago in college, I could conceive a plot and bang it out on my Selectric typewriter overnight in time for deadline and get top marks on the first draft. I was used to that pressure cooker mode of working which certainly wouldn’t work now in the professional world of publishing. The point is words flowed freely from my mind to the paper.
I hoped that blogging would remove that blockage. While it has helped the creative sap to rise particularly with drawing, I still have difficulty putting pen to paper, as it were. I could create another fanvid before composing a new piece of fiction. I’ve pondered long and hard about this.
One of my mental hang ups is the need to understand my style. Every time I’m complimented on it, I want to grab them and ask “what *is* my style?” Finally I asked. The answer was: “humorous.” This gave me pause, not for being funny, because that’s what I had intended, but due to wondering if this was my *style.* I imagined writing a murder mystery or historical novel which usually has more serious tones. Was I stuck being a Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck, famous humorous writers? Yes, before I’d written my first sentence, I was already fretting about being taken seriously as a writer, nevermind whether I had real talent.
Most likely the biggest hurdle is my wanting to write like other writers. I was enthralled with the lyrical styles of Colleen McCollough and Toni Morrison thinking, “I want to write like them!” But unless that’s what naturally flowed onto my paper, that would never be my style. My mind doesn’t compose in that manner; trying to copy it would look exactly what it is, second rate copying. So I’m back to square one, mulling over what is my serious style.
People in ArmitageWorld have asked when am I writing fan fiction. My first reaction was, “oh good grief no” but then that’s what I said about making fanvids. In a way fanfic provides a ready template with the characters and universe already in place. Just add a new plot and a credible bit of fanfic is born. As much as I want to write the next Great American Novel, I need to take baby steps; writing a short fanfic is an realistic goal. I need to simply write and see what it looks like.
Then people can tell me what my style is.
Over the next few days, I will interview other authors for advice and see what they have to say to a novice like me. Stay tuned.