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.