The Art of Writing Fanfics (Or whatever happened to Home/Heart, LaShawn?)

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from someone who liked to know if I finished a story I started years ago. She had all eleven chapters of it and wanted to know if I wrote any more.

The premise of that story? A girl named Lita accidentally gets zapped into another world, where she is mistaken for Ranma’s fiancée, Kane. Meanwhile, Kane, having been pulled into Lita’s universe, has to adjust to working with Serena and the other Scouts to find her way back home.

To a normal reader, the above will make little sense. To anime fans, however, not only does that make perfect sense, those fans will know exactly which version of Sailor Moon I’m talking about just by the names alone.

Fanfiction–fanfics for short–has always been around, but through the internet, fanfics have exploded into widespread community. You can type in any TV show or fictional character and find a fanfic based on it. You want to continue the story of “Lost” after the finale in a few weeks? Chances are, there are hundreds of stories out there presenting what happens after the story, alternate storylines, fanfics where the men shun the women and have orgies among themselves (Not that I ever read one–I missed the boat on becoming a Lost fan–but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a fanfic like that out there). Any scenario you can think of, a fanfic writer probably has already thought of it and written it.

Fanfic writers are unique creatures in that they don’t do it for money. They do it for the love of the character and worlds they’re based on. So in that regard, basically anyone can become a fanfic writer. And yes, there are thousands, nay, millions of badly written, misspelled, crude stories, mostly where the writer himself becomes the main character of the story and saves the day. (Those are called self-insert fics; stay away from those if you don’t want your brain to melt into gooey cheese.) But for all of those horribly written fanfics, there are many gems that are so compelling, so wonderful to read, that you have to wonder why the writer didn’t get paid for it. Then you remember the copyright rule and go, Oh yeah…right…

All this leads up to me admitting that, yes, I too was a fanfic writer. I started watching Sailor Moon on Channel 26 at 6:30am. That opened the door for other anime like Ranma 1/2, Gunsmith Cats and Slayers. Because video stores were limited in their selection of anime, I turned online to get my anime fix and stumbled upon the FFML, the Fan Fiction Mailing List. With all the stories written about anime, it wasn’t long before I was spinning out several stories of my own. This was during my college years, when I wasn’t so sure of my own writing, or what it meant to be a writer. I took a writing class, yes, but the stories I wrote were crappy, and I didn’t know what to do with them after I wrote them. On the FFML, I can write something up, post it to the list, and I got feedback, from grammar/spelling corrections, to if a character was OOC–acting Out Of Character.

Looking back on it, the FFML can be considered a predecessor to the online critique groups of today. It was an unofficial classroom where I could focus on technique without having to come up with made-up world. In a fanfic universe, all the characters were right there, with their own rules I had to abide to. I don’t think I stood out among the top fanfic writers–there were people who wrote far more epics than I did. But I did learn how to hold my own, and even got a small fanbase of sorts. And I got a chance to do things that I didn’t have the courage to in my own work. For instance, I wrote a fanfic based around the entire album of XTC’s “Skylarking”. Now that was fun!

So the question is, what happened? Why did I stopped writing fanfics?

Well, there’s the obvious reason. The more I grew into writing, the more I wanted to start working on stories of my own creation. Fanfic writing is beneficial, but there comes a point in time when you have to break out of the box of someone else’s world and start learning how to create your own. I had grown confident enough in my own writing skills to tackle that.

The changing of anime universe had a hand in it too. With anime more easily accessible, people no longer having to rely on fanfics to get their anime fix. They could just go online for fansubs. And even the fanfic content grew a little stale. The old standards of Ranma 1/2 and Sailor Moon got replaced by newer anime of Blood +, Full Metal Alchemist (which itself has grown old), and Bleach. Fanfics of all genres exploded everywhere, to the point where it got hard to keep up on new stories. Nowadays, people go to Fanfiction.net if they want to read fanfics. The FFML still exists, but it’s not the same list it was ten years ago. I have thought about putting my fanfics up at the Cafe where all can read. But why would I want to do that? Most of the writing in those fanfics was horrible…and unless you know the anime, they wouldn’t make much sense. I’m content in letting them remain out there in the Net. If you’re truly curious, just google my name–a couple of my fanfics that are decent enough to remain out there will pop up.

But let’s face it. I’m just not into fanfiction anymore. I just don’t have time. There are a few running stories that I still read when new chapters come out (Sailor Moon 4200 and On a Clear Day, plus anything released by Megane 6.7 or Zoogz. Their Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatments of bad fanfics are a treat in itself). I still watch anime, too. Currently, I’m watching Dennou Coil and Sister of Wellebar, as well as the live action of Honey and Clover. But I think my time of writing fanfics is over.

Which is a shame, because I always wanted to finish “A Humble Home for a Strong Heart”, my crossover Sailor Moon/Ranma 1/2 story. But even if I did, that story used such obscure information that only fans back in the day would know (the reason I wrote it was to spoof the English version of Sailor Moon against the Japanese version of Ranma 1/2). Sadly, the story is just not relevant anymore. The only reason I would complete it is for the sake of finishing it.

Of course…if enough people bug me about it, then, who knows? Maybe I will.

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3 Responses

  1. Oh, the FFML…. many were the memories of that place. I’m one of those fanfiction authors too, and certainly miss the good old days of the list.

    Sadly, the environment at fanfiction.net doesn’t tend to harbor much community beyond making side-comments on stories you enjoyed. It certainly was a joy having people who actually cared deeply about particular series, as well as helping beginner authors to improve their art through in depth comments and criticisms.

    An artform entirely lacking with the current offerings for fanfiction authors.

  2. Bug, bug, bug. I agree with you about the fact that the FFML just isn’t the same as it used to be. I remember a time when my inbox would be half filled after a couple days of negligence. And almost all with just Ranma fics and comments about them.

    Yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing you finish your fic. Once I got past the English versions of the various names (i.e. scouts instead of senshi), it was a pretty good little read. But the choice, of course, is yours. No matter what, thanks for posting what you wrote of the fic.

  3. […] Before forums, before Facebook, there was the Fanfic Mailing List. It was a community of people who loved to make up stories based on their favorite anime. And they didn’t put up with junk stories either. There were whole threads dedicated to grammar, punctuation, developing characters, making sure they remained in character, even how not to descend into Japanese stereotypes. It was our own writers group, and it was there I leaned the basics of writing story. You could even say that being on that list changed my life, because it was there that I got the courage to start writing stories. But that’s another blog post, which you can read some other time. […]

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