After (One Direction story)

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Fanfiction
Title: After
Author(s): imaginator1D (Anna Todd)
Date(s): Jan 18, 2013-2014
Length: not available on Wattpad
Genre: RPF, AU
Fandom: One Direction
External Links: author's wattpad page
Wattpad book covers for the series, artist is uncredited

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

After is a three part series of RPF fanfiction. It is a college AU and was written in installments on Wattpad over a period of one year. Sections of the series contain approximately 100-200 "chapters" although each is chapter quite short. By June 2014, the series had been read over 400 million times and gathered 3.5 million comments. The author and her readers interacted on a daily basis with readers reacting to and commenting on each chapter. Several fan trailers were made. During the writing of the story, the author would often post a list of songs she had been listening to while writing each chapter. When the number of comments were low on a few chapters, she announced she would not update the story until at least 1,000 comments had been posted - that number was met within a few hours.

"Okay so I really hate to do this to you guys but from now one I won't be updating until each chapter gets 3100 votes and 1000 comments. They usually get much more than that but the last two haven't and I spend a lot of time writing this and updating every day so vote! :) I get about 25k reads each chapter so 3100 votes isn't unreasonable."[1]

The name of the primary pairing of Harry and Tessa is known as Hessa.

Summaries

  • After (part 1) summary by author: "Tessa Young is an 18 year old college student with a simple life, excellent grades, and a sweet boyfriend. She always has things planned out ahead of time, until she meets a rude boy named Harry, with too many tattoos and piercings who shatters her plans."[2]
  • After (part 2) summary by author: "This is the sequel (continuation) of After. Harry and Tessa's relationship will be tested in ways she never expected, but he knew of all along."[3]
  • After (part 3) summary by author: "The passionate story of Tessa and Harry continues as family secrets, deep betrayals, and career opportunities threaten to tear them apart."[4]

Publication Contract

The book was on the verge of being completed when the author negotiated a publication contract and sold the movie rights to Simon and Shuster, a publishing house, for a six figure sum. She also announced a line of jewelry based on the book.[5] In her next to last chapter she wrote:
"I can't believe how fast this book has gone and I am in awe of how supportive all of you are. I'm sorry for the delay for this chapter, I have started to revise the first after with the new names and it's the strangest, most emotional thing for me. I am so grateful for everything in my life and love all of It to you guys. Being a published author IS something I

dreamed of but never thought would actually happen to me I was going back and forth between majors in college, working odd jobs while my husband was deployed In Iraq on and off for the last seven years, and I had no direction (pun Intended) I loved to read and I used to joke about how I wish I could just read for a living, until I started writing After I didn't write this expecting any of the amazing opportunities that have come to me, I was just a fangirl with an obsession with reading who wanted to express her feelings and share her words with someone. I never dreamed that this would take off and that so many of you would love the story as much as I loved telling rt, and I'm just so thankful, and still in shock in a way, that this is all happening to me.

I'm not out to teach life lessons, or influence anyone, but I do hope that at the end of the day, you can at least see that you should never sell yourself short If you like to write, write. If you like to sing, sing. Do what makes you happy and literally anything is possible And please, never EVER let anyone bring you down. People can be cruel and judgmental but that's the wicked way of the world we live 10, so please just remember that they don't matter.

The only people that matter are the people you love and sit across from at the dinner table."[6]

Sample Reactions

With over 3 million comments, it is impossible to offer a representative sample. Here are a few of the Wattpad comments accessed on June 11, 2014:

"lolol first time readers get readyyyy for a journey and struggle so strong it'll kick your feels right in the heart." (After Part 1)
"WARNING: To all first time readers (if there is any lmfao) this book is so perfect it'll make you cry." (After Part 1)
"Attention Attention!

First time readers! This book is amazing!!!

It might piss you off sometimes or consume your whole social life but it's worth it!"(After Part 1)
"I can't take it any longer!! what the heck is going to happen!!! The feels oh the feels!" (After Part 2)
"this is amazingg. I've been reading non stop for a whole week and I've finally finished all three books :') can't wait for the update." (After Part 3)
"I love this book love and It has changed my life!"(After Part 3)
"I love that Anna can write such deep things and really make them feel like harry is real and this is a real problem because it is for so many of us. Thank you Anna."(After Part 3)
On Goodreads, a reader review website, the comments are often longer:
"This book pulled my heart out of my chest, stomped all over it, then picked it up and comforted it with compassion.The only time I haven't cried non stop throughout the entire series is when I have to stop to double over in laughter at its humor. Harry and Tessa's roller coaster of a love story has me pulled in so far, I feel like it's all I think about. It truly does tug on your heartstrings, and the cliffhanger at the end makes it impossible to stop without continuing on to After 2! Anna did a wonderful job with this story, and I am very impressed! Even if you aren't a fan of One Direction, this is great story to read, because it mostly only borrows the names and looks of the world famous band members. You could imagine the characters completely different if you so choose!"[7]

Controversy

Like other RPF fan stories that have been turned into published books, concerns were raised about the use of celebrities in fan fiction and the commercialization of fanfiction. (See also: Filing off the serial numbers)

[Discussing the fact that the characters are all modeled after and named after One Direction band members]: ".....but unless she has they're permission to use they're likeness and names... she could get into HUGE trouble... like lawsuit trouble. I seriously hope she changed his and the other boys names... like even just change the last names and she'd be fine."[8]

and:

"This is a story based on Harry styles, who is not a character, he is an actual human being and on top of that, one who is extremely kind and good-hearted and who I believe would be uncomfortable being portrayed this way. .... I would like to know what some of you idolizing the story would do if Harry Styles was in front of your face, asking you what the story you love so much is about. Would you tell him the truth? Or would you leave things out? Would you tell him you’re reading a story about how he has sex with a girl who was a virgin for a bet only to prove said bet by showing everyone the sheets they fucked on, then manipulating the girl into buying a flat with him so she couldn’t leave him and how the story then goes on about how he can’t stand her being around any of her friends let alone other guys, how he repeatedly beats up others because he can’t handle his own temper, how he has alcohol problems and lies to the girl he supposedly loves 729102 more times, how he admits he once taped a girl while having sex only to publish the video, ruin her life and escape to America? ....Would you tell him that to his face? If your answer is no, you need to re-evaluate the way you’re excusing this fanfic to spread the message it’s spreading and how it’s going to get out there, off the internet and into the real world, because newsflash: that’s what’s going to happen. Harry styles is going to be told about this shit to his face and he will be embarrassed. This is why fanfic needs to be kept on the internet."[9]

Like with Fifty Shades of Grey, there were worries that the story promoted emotional abuse:

...."Not to mention; it kind of glamorizes emotional abuse in a relationship... (the whole bet part and the fighting between them is what i mean)..."[10]

and:

"[The story is] "Just about abuse, and teaching young girls that it’s right to love their abuser."[11]

and:

"I’m actually starting to think this makes 50 shades look feminist. The Harry character is incredibly abusive, and the lesson that it’s teaching is it’s okay for a guy to treat you like crap if he’s “troubled”.[12]
Others disagree, pointing out that the main character, Harry, does learn to modify some of his behavior towards the end:
"I think it’s more than just a abusive relationship. It’s also showing how ‘Harry’ has come to learn how to control his temper and actually tries to change for Tessa’s sake. That love takes effort and not just yelling. He grew up in a shitty life style in the book, he’s only acting the way he knows. Treat people like crap and no one will hurt you. I don’t believe that it’s right but I also think that throughout the books you see his progress and see that he loves her enough to change for the better."[13]

and:

"...so many people are judging it without even reading it. they keep saying that harry physically “abuses” tessa, when no NO he NEVER does.....and if you read THE ENTIRE THING, you’ll realize that harry is really fucked up mentally and he takes his anger out physically on other people that piss him off, getting drunk, and breaking things. which slowly, SLOWLY, gets fucking resolved. you know, fucking character development right? yeah, do yourself a favour, a huge one, do NOT compare this to fifty shades of grey, or twilight. (i like twilight but whatever)."[14]

and:

"If you are complaining about “After” being a movie, just stop! Nobody is forcing you to watch it. A lot of people are happy and excited to see it; you don’t have to. Just because you say it is about an abusive relationship means nothing! it is fictional and worst things happen in real life! You see more devastation on the news."[15]

and:

"If you have read it you’ll know that the character Harry Styles never physically abused the main character Tessa. Yes he was controlling but only because of his past. And the whole point to the story is that no matter how crappy your life is or no matter if you feel worthless there is always someone who can change that. That’s what Tessa did for Harry, she changed him for the better."[16]

Another point of contention is some readers believe the sex scenes minimize female pleasure during the act of intercourse:

"....the lesson of the (completely unsexy) sex scenes (at least the intercourse ones) seems to be that it’s enjoyable for women only if the guy is having a good time because it always is going to hurt."[17]

However, the published version of the story has received criticism for its writing on Goodreads:

"Fuck the industry, fuck the media, fuck everything that promotes abusive behaviour as something romantic and appealing. As something women have to put up with in the name of love. As something women deserve. As something women must strive for.

As a woman, as a person, this makes me sick in so many levels. Especially due the fact that nowadays, most teens believe such behaviour is okay after reading so many books that romanticize manipulative, abusing bastards. This definitely needs to stop, for once.

And what about the mediocre writing? The fact that there's no plot whatsoever apart from an abusive relationship and make up sex? Is this the literature we want? Is this the literature that will survive, the legacy we'll leave to future generations? As a future editor, this disgusts me. It annoys me and it also saddens me, because I can't understand why things like this are being published. You can still make money by selling quality books, but apparently quality doesn't matter anymore. And some readers do not care about it either, as it seems by now, which saddens me even more."[18]

and:

"My main issue with this book . . . I mean the amount of slut-shaming, romanticizing alcohol abuse, and poorly written sex scenes are pretty atrocious, but that isn't what set me off. My main issue is how the story literally promotes an emotionally abusive relationship. If you deny this look up what emotional and psychological abuse is. Look it up. I've listed some signs of emotional abuse in that image above and this isn't just for the first book, but all three books (I don't know why I bother reading the other two, again, my fault). Every once in a while, Harry or Hardin would say something completely rude and inexcusable and that would hurt Tessa (emotionally). Alcohol plays a role in abusive relationship, so keep that in mind. This Harry is controlling, cruel, and a bully. It makes me sick.

I'd laugh at you if you told me this is romance. What romance? All I see is this: fight, have sex, fight, have sex, fight, and sex, sex, sex. And Anna Todd has the audacity to call this love "real." I don't know what real love is, but I know that this isn't love, that's lust and infatuation. That's how she promote this abusive relationship. She's basically saying it's okay to hurt each other over and over again, love isn't what it's made to be in the movies (no kidding). Again, that's promoting it, because love has everything to do with respect. And intentionally pissing your girlfriend off, calling her names, and making her cry, isn't respect.

I would post some examples of Harry-- Hardin-- being completely hurtful to Tessa because she wants to help H̶a̶r̶r̶y̶ Hardin and the issues with his family, but I don't want to go back on Wattpad and give this woman anymore reads."[19]

and:

"Number one, this story does not have a plot. It's just a bunch of fragments of an angry, emotionally abusive boyfriend and an annoying, delusional girlfriend sown together. The only reason either of them "falls in love" is sexual desire, and that is hardly sufficient. There is no climax or anything along that line, so this is really just a narration of a pathetic "romance," if you can even call it that.

Number two, the story is repetitive. Tessa and Harry get in a fight over nothing, they breakup and move away from each other, Harry confesses he is wrong and displays his emotional side, causing Tessa and Harry to have sex and live happily ever after, until the next few pages where the cycle starts again.

Number three, the book gives off a terrible message. It is saying that a nice, college girl will not be complete until she lives with her bad boy boyfriend, and that is why I hate this story. There is no substance whatsoever. "Imaginator1d" tries to make the story sufficient with some nice poetic detailing, but the story is still terrible. Don't waste your time on this drawn out piece of crap."[20]

and:

"...This, however, was so poorly written that I'm having a hard time grasping how the editor is going to make it better. Not only that, but the plot itself lacks any depth whatsoever: at least some of the similar stories I've read actually carried a message.

This story does not.

It is not based on love, it is based on lust. It does not portray an honest and evolving relationship. Instead, it's centered around a boy with serious anger management issues and a lovestruck girl who barely knows him but will put up with anything. The majority of the chapters consist of him abusing her emotionally and then making it all better through make up sex. It does not even follow a story line: it's chapter after chapter of the same thing.

No. Just no. Absolutely no meaning. Absolutely no depth. Absolutely no character development. Absolutely no plot development. Absolutely nothing."[21]
At least one reader began to spork the series, while also noting how its popularity is derided because it appeals to young female readers:
"Still, I am intrigued to the point of recap by the author of After openly admitting that she doesn’t edit her work because it might ruin it (clearly laboring under the delusion that all first drafts are pure gold and the touch of an editor’s hand is like some reverse philosopher’s stone), as well as the abusive boyfriend content that we’ve all come to crave now that our wet, wanton holes have been filled to maximum capacity by the 50 Shades of Grey media glut. Oh. We are so ready.

It will also give us a chance to discuss how our media culture exploits the sexuality of teen girls while simultaneously dismissing the same sexuality. Even the Jezebel article linked above makes a snarky jab at the fact that After has a large audience of female teens. Material marketed toward teen girls– packaged supergroup One Direction among those materials– rake in tons of cash, but are mocked as lacking value. I’m not going to argue that all of those things have some underrated artistic value, just that the near universal hatred of these franchises is disproportionate to the derision our culture holds for fads traditionally marketed toward teen boys.

Marvel movies, for example."[22]

A month after beginning, the reviewer stopped recapping the book because:

"....my personal feelings about this particular author make it impossible for me to separate her from her work, and therefore it would be pointless for me to continue my recaps, because I will always be holding back. That doesn’t mean I think all reviewers should hold back. That doesn’t mean I’ll never snark anything again. And it doesn’t mean I support problematic themes in books, or that I think After in its current form is an unimpeachable work of literary perfection. It just means that I, personally, am having a difficult time tearing apart something I can’t separate from the person who wrote it."[23]

Despite these criticisms, millions of fans love and adore the relationship as depicted in the story. They celebrate how each reader has helped contribute to the commercial success of the series:

"I will never be the same after reading that. That chapter literally had be sobbing. I’ve never loved a couple so much before. They literally make me so happy. I’m so proud of who they’ve become because of eachother. They found theirselves in each other. That chapter gave me 700 million more feels. I’m sad to see after end after the next chapter. But the fandom must be freaking the fudge out because of all the exciting things to come in the next few months. Anna is getting published. There’s a jewelry line and a movie deal in the works. She has gotten so successful and she is still so down to earth and has never missed a moment to tell her fans how thankful she is for all the love and support we give her. After is so well done and perfect in every way and I’m so happy I was introduced to it. It’s not a traditional love story and for that I love it so much. You are literally in hessa’s relationship. You go through the best and worst times with them and that’s what makes it so amazing. Like Hessa’s relationship, After in itself is chaotic perfection."[24]

Another reader, however, began to spork the series, noting that it shares the same flaws as Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey and is similar in its romanticization of abuse:

"There was a time when I was young and innocent and I wanted to recap Twilight or 50 Shades. I even put down some notes, but I gave up pretty quickly. I figured no one was going to see it and a lot of people were doing that better than I ever could ever achieve (case in point: this comm).

Well, now I kind of I got my wish, because After seems to have a lot more in common with those books - from the misogyny, incorporated rape-culture and romanticised abuse to the author's disdain for editing - than with anything One Direction related (up to and including their personalities and inner relationships).

Meet Tessa Young, the most awful, repressed, judgmental bitch after Annabella Sweele. She goes to college; leaving her cartoonish mother and her nice, dependable boyfriend back home. There, she meets her future "best friend" Steph, who Tessa will mentally judge and slut-shame almost every time the poor girl is on the page. Take this incredible journey with our designated protagonist as she is introduced to the awful clones of the members of One Direction: Henry Bile, a punk ripoff of Chedward Grullen; Zane Malice, the designated anagonist despite actually being way nicer than the romatic lead; Lyle Pain, an idiot who babbles off personal details of peoples' lives to virtual strangers; as well as Nay Doorman and Lewis Thomson, who are just sort of there. (These are not to be confused with the actual members of One Direction: Harry Styles, Zayn Mailk, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson.)

Power through Todd’s complete misunderstanding of how most things work, up to and including: punctuation, time, college, college kids, college classes, college dorms, relationships, dialogue, sex, orgasms, the law, trauma, alcohol, livers, drinking games, sleep and pretty much anything else she includes in the story; just so you can read an entire book of our main characters being awful! With its nearly 200 pages (on Wattpad) of hand-holding, dead herrings and punctuation that will make you want to scratch your eyes out; this fic clearly deserves the PTP treatment and a movie deal! [/sarcasm]

As for what happens in the story? Well, halfway through all the misery, terrible writing, badfanfic cliches and ham-fisted symbology, Tessa leaves her nice boyfriend for the jerk that makes her sticky between the thighs, which only results in more needless drama. And if you are at least expecting to see some hilarious sex scenes, well, tough luck! You have to wait a long, long time to get some action going, and all the lemons are either mind-numbingly dull, uttterly disgusting, or so cheesy they make you want to gag. For me, they were somehow all three at once!"[25]

Hashtag Campaign

Some fans on Twitter were so offended by Harry's characterization that they started a hashtag campaign (#suspendAnnaTodd) sometime on or before August 8, 2014[26] to prevent the book from getting published. The tweets included threats of arson, gendered insults against the author, arguments that fanfic should never be published, and fears that Harry Styles would cry on camera again, interspersed with comments about the nature of the Harry/Tess relationship in the fic. The hashtag was immediately reported in the British tabloid The Daily Mirror.[27]

In 2015 Billboard reported:

"The overlap of fandoms -- die-hard Directioners, traditionally concerned with the authenticity of their own love, battling with Afternators, each group claiming the primacy and legitimacy of its camp -- is dizzying. A down-with-After petition has collected 26,000 signatures, and the hashtag #SuspendAnnaTodd percolateswhenever After news makes the press (like when Todd announced in June aGrey-like sequel, Before, written from Harry/Hardin’s point of view). After bashers hate Todd’s self-promotional streak and accuse her of simply exploiting the band for her own financial gain. They yearn to protect Styles from being painted, even fictionally, as a hotheaded, borderline-abusive jerk. They view the prospect of a movie as a looming disaster all Directioners should fear. (“I think it’s very funny that they’re acting like this is really Harry Styles,” Gibgot, the film’s co-producer, told Billboard. “We’re not making the Harry Styles story.”)"[28]

Fan Communities

Fanworks Inspired by the Series

Several fan vids have been created for the books using footage from One Direction's music videos, concerts and interviews and unrelated movies and TV shows. These fan vids are called "trailers" and often lack vidder credits. The author showcased a few of the trailers on Wattpad.

A few fans have written alternate endings or edited chapters to focus on a single character's point of view.

Combining favorite quotes from the books with images is popular among tumblr readers, particularly quotes with emotionally dramatic or romantic themes:

others reblog their thoughts with their own words:
"Fuck normal relationship I want an After relationship."[33]
Hessa tumblr post by no-kool-kids.
"This is the type of love story that deals with real fucking problems. It's a story about forgiveness and unconditional love and it shows how much a person can change, really change, if they try hard enough. It's the type of story that proves that anything is fucking possible when it comes to self recovery. It shows that if you have someone to lean on, someone who loves you and doesn't give up on you, you can find your way out the darkness. It shows that no mailer matter type of parents you had, or addictions you were faced with, you can overcome anything that stands in your way and become a better person. That's the type of story After is."[34]

Additional Reading

[Note: additional fandom meta posts and in depth discussions welcomed to help balance this section]

Fandom Meta:

External Meta:

References

  1. Authors notes in After Part 2 - Chapter 131 and Authors notes in After Part 2 - Chapter 132 (accessed June 12, 2014.
  2. Wattpad stats: 201,208,503 reads; 2,027,073 votes; 507,217 comments (accessed June 11, 2014).
  3. Wattpad stats: 193,075,902 reads; 3,045,365 votes; 1,044,713 comments (accessed June 11, 2014).
  4. Wattpad stats: 460,130,738 reads; 4,089,383 votes; 2,046,756 comments (accessed June 11, 2014).
  5. Jewelry line is located here: http://www.jewlr.com/after.
  6. Author's end note to Chapter 294 accessed June 11, 2014.
  7. After review on Goodreads dated March 27, 2014.
  8. comment in "S&S Acquires Anna Todd’s 'After' Series from Wattpad" by Publisher's Weekly dated May 27, 2014.
  9. I wrote down my opinion on why I think After should not be published tumblr post dated June 4, 2014; WayBack machine link.
  10. comment in "S&S Acquires Anna Todd’s 'After' Series from Wattpad" by Publisher's Weekly dated May 27, 2014.
  11. comment in UTA Signs WattPad’s Breakout Novel ‘After’ dated April 17, 2014.
  12. comment in Jenny Reads After dated May 6, 2014.
  13. comment in UTA Signs WattPad’s Breakout Novel ‘After’ dated April 17, 2014.
  14. the thing i hate about after being published post on tumblr dated June 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  15. undated tumblr post; WayBack Machine link.
  16. The Fanfic After tumblr post dated June 4, 2014; WayBack machine link.
  17. comment in Jenny Reads After dated May 6, 2014.
  18. Evey's Review of "After" (After, #1) dated December 1, 2014.
  19. Neesa's Review of "After" (After, #1) dated December 25, 2014.
  20. Flannery's Review of "After" (After, #1) dated November 29, 2013
  21. Mila Temnyalova's Review of "After" (After, #1) dated January 2, 2015
  22. Jenny Reads After dated April 21, 2014.
  23. After recaps announcement and explanation dated June 7, 2014.
  24. After rant / 294 no spoilers dated June 11, 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  25. After sporking by charlie2cute dated May 30, 2014
  26. The earliest tweet user:aethel could find was at 10:06PM 7 Aug 2014 (EDT) by AnnaTBeLike.(Accessed 19 August 2014.)
  27. Katy Forrester. One Direction fans campaign to stop writer Anna Todd from publishing fan fiction after signing six figure deal. Daily Mirror online, posted Aug 08, 2014 13:05.
  28. How One Direction Superfan Anna Todd Went From Waffle House Waitress to Next-Big-Author With Erotic Fan-Fic Series, Archived version
  29. Wayback machine link."
  30. tumblr post dated June 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  31. tumbr post dated June 2014; WayBack Machine link.
  32. tumblr post dated June 1, 2014; WayBack machine link.
  33. After tumblr post undated; WayBack Machine link.
  34. tunblr post about After Part 3 dated Jun. 12 2014.
  35. WayBack Machine link.