Why we write

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Title: Why we write
Creator: The Brat Queen
Date(s): March 26, 2004
Medium: Livejournal post
Topic: fanfiction, motives and quality of
External Links: page 1; archive page 1 page 2; archive link page 2
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Why we write is a 2004 essay by The Brat Queen.

The Post

rubywisp did a post in her LJ about fanfic and not letting people ruining your enjoyment of it. I did a response but it got long, so I'm putting it over here.

Back when I first started getting involved in fanfic I remember one of the first things that annoyed me about it were the people who took it too seriously. Not that I have anything against trying to write well, but IMO there's a difference between "I'm going to give this my best effort" and "There is a standard of quality that all writers must do."

Fanfic is like anything else. There are those who are interested in it because of technical aspects, those who are interested in creating pieces of artwork, those who are interested in simply having fun, and more besides. It's like food. Not everything has to be a gourmet meal. Sometimes you just want an Oscar Meyer cut up into some Mac and Cheese. It's all good. We've got both gourmet food and day-glo orange pasta for a reason. One isn't "better" than the other. They fulfill different needs.

The beautiful thing about fanfic is that there's tons of it and it's an opt-in media. I'm not forced to read people's stories, I can read what I like. I'm not forced to write a certain kind of story, I can write what I like. Combine this with the beauty of the internet and we have a wonderful place where nobody has to be like anyone else. They can be themselves and like what they like and somehow, somewhere, they'll find someone else who likes what they like to. I mean only on the internet could I say something like "So I have this crack-addled idea of an Angel/West Wing Xover with Angel as president" and have somebody else respond with "Dude, you have to write that."

I think for me one of the key things people should remember is why are they writing this in the first place. Because for me, honestly, I think it's fine for someone to say "Hey, I just wanted to write a story where ____ and ____ had sex." or "Where ____ had a baby." or "Where ____ happened differently." or what have you. Fanfic at its core is written because we want to see things that didn't happen in canon. If you've done that in some fashion then you've achieved your fanfic goal.

Beyond that goal can be other goals. People can want to be better writers, for instance. In which case I think they need to realize that the feedback they get for fanfic may not be the touchstone by which to do that. Saying to yourself "Oh, so-and-so got recommended all over the place and tons of feedback and I don't, therefore I must be a bad author." isn't the right kind of thinking. Feedback in fanfic world is a strange and unpredictable thing. It's wonderful, don't get me wrong, but feedback does not necessarily equal quality. It might equal the author having a lot of friends. It might equal the author being a BNF for other reasons. It might equal the story hitting people's kinks. It might equal the moon being in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars. You just don't know.

Take a poll of anyone considered by many to be a good author in any fandom and I'd be willing to bet that more than a few of them will tell you that they have no clue why they get feedback, and moreover that they've got at least one story which they thought was good but which got few letters, and one story which they thought was pretty bruce but still gets feedback to this day demanding to know when they're going to write a sequel. "@#$%^ knows" is pretty much how this kind of thing goes.

Moreover, while you're polling those authors I'd also be willing to bet that many of them either don't realize they're considered good in their fandom, or if they are considered good by others they may not feel the same way about themselves. There's few people, I think, who come into this going "And now I shall produce my next Masterpiece for that is what I do." I think most of us go "Huh, this might be a good story. Hope I can pull it off." If we do, great. If not, well no worries. Not like we've got a limited number of letters to use up. We can pick ourselves up and try it again.

Which isn't to say that I'm belitting those who worry about it, and have panic attacks about doing as good a job as they did last time, or did their inspiration dry up and will they never get it back again, and so on and so forth. Far from it. After all, we also do this because we like it and care about it. If we didn't I think we could cut out this typing middleman and go right to the masturbating, since there at least we've got a fairly good guarantee of an outcome we'll approve of. So I'm not saying don't care, or don't try. I'm just saying that I agree with rubywisp. Do what you do. Worry about you if you want, but don't worry about anyone else. We've already got everybody else. We want what you can bring to the party. Whatever that happens to be - fic, vid, feedback, or just a friendly face that we see in fandom - we'll be happy for it.

Man, now y'all know I'm such a softie. I'm never going to get my street cred back. ;)

Excerpts from the Comments

[Versailles rose]:

Exactly! Fics should be written for the joy of it, for the fun of it. It can help develop your skills and give you an outlet for creativity. You should take it seriously enought to produce something readable, but WTF, there are very few fic writers (myself included) who will ever produce something memorable. We shouldn't go crazy in search of perfection or lose sleep when the muse goes dry.


As someone who enjoys writing fanfic, but has very little self-confidence and is easily intimated by others 'superior' efforts, reading this essay has made me feel less of an impostor for posting my own fics. Thanks.

[ros fod]:

feedback does not necessarily equal quality

This is not a revolutionary concept, yeah? I'm surprised that we all tend to forget it so often.

I would also say, though, that popularity doesn't necessarily equal diminished intellectual worth. That is, just because something gets a *ton* of feedback, or because a pairing is going through a prolific cycle at the moment, that by nature of its popularity, it must be...what? beneath me? I don't know. But this is the dirtier other side of the feedback coin that I see peeking out every once in a while during these discussions. My ability to discern quality is not hampered in the least by the fact that I not only go all melty at teh purty, but I'm not afraid to admit it.


 ::stares hard:: No, can't see anything I don't agree with.

::snuggles you::

I want to get better. I want to improve. I want to be on that poll of good writers someday...and there's a few things I could do with the first two goals if I wasn't fundamentally a 'put it off 'til tomorrow' person.

But mostly I just want to write. And I can. (Children, husband and rl permitting.) Sometimes the world's a nice place.


I, on the other hand, believe in Standards that All Fic Should Adhere To:

1) If you can't spell the characters' names properly, you have no business writing in the fandom. I don't want to read of Zander and Angle or Hans and Three Ceepeeoh.

2) If you insist in writing in net-speak, I will insist on hurling copies of The Transitive Vampire at your head until you recant.

3) For Webster's sake, learn the difference between affect and effect, there/their/they're and doing good and doing well.

4) Spell check, dammit!


Back when I first started getting involved in fanfic I remember one of the first things that annoyed me about it were the people who took it too seriously. People who take fanfic seriously don't annoy me - probably because I'm one of them. :) People who insist that everyone else must take it seriously in just the same way they do, or for that matter less seriously because they do - now that is annoying. Nobody else gets to decide for me.