The Fanfic Urge

Published June 24, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

If pressed for details about my writing, I’ll usually admit pretty early on that I consider myself to be a reformed fan-fiction writer.  Not that there’s anything wrong with writing fanfic, per se, just that it’s not something one can make a career of, and goodness knows I need to do anything I can to somehow start earning a living.  (Though I am finally gainfully employed.  But it’s only part-time at the moment, so my income is still considerably less than my outcome, as it were.)  I’ve been fanfic-free since…hmm…well, since I started graduate school, actually.

It wasn’t actually graduate school that made me give up fanfic, though.  I started writing a series of semi-YA books (I’ve talked about them before) and I was so sure that they were the ones, they were the ones I was finally going to be able to publish.  Thus I didn’t want to waste time on anything else:  I wanted to focus on finishing those, and then polishing them up for publication.  (LOL!)

Even after I realized that there was no conceivable way that they were going to get published — not even self-published — I still felt like I would be “back-sliding” somehow if I ever returned to fanfic.

More importantly, I didn’t really feel the need.

I had spent years with Final Fantasy characters in my head, fighting for dominance with characters from other properties, or with characters from my own original stories, but since writing my semi-YA series, they just weren’t there anymore:  they had vacated the premises, and frankly I felt no urge to go looking for them.  (Kind of a ludicrous statement, considering I have two wall scrolls of one of those characters in my bedroom, and multiple statuettes and figurines of both of them.  But looking at them and having them occupy my skull are very different things.)

What disturbs me now is that I’m starting to feel the need again.

The way I write — the way I’ve written for more than twenty years, if not my whole life — is that I have an ongoing story in my head at all times.  Sometimes I’m narrating it as I do other things, sometimes it’s just a running dialog between two (or more) characters, and sometimes its a bit more…um…lascivious.

If I’m working on a big project — whether an original novel or a large fanfic — that’s the story I’m usually working on, going over the next scene (or a big later scene that I’m looking forward to) while I’m making lunch or driving my car, or whatever.  The dialogs (and/or sex scenes) are either part of the story or involve the primary romantic pairing of the work.  (Which made lewd fantasies more difficult while I was working on the semi-YA series, because there is no romantic pairing there; the two female leads have no interest in romance, and the male lead is in a pre-existing relationship with a girl we only meet once across seven books.)

At some point in my fanfic career (lol, as if I was even releasing the majority of it!) I moved from a simple progression of post-game content to being more interested in how my favored pairing would get together than in what would happen after they hooked up.  This led me to a number of alternate post-game stories, which then led into a very strong interest in alternate universe stories, where the familiar story of the game was prevented from taking place by a change or two to events years or even decades before the game started.

When I left fanfic behind, that AU urge remained with me, and has led to a lot of odd story fantasies in which I’ve been re-working my own unfinished stories into something utterly different.  (I’ve talked about this before, with the two characters who escaped their fate as dead backstory characters and are now the leads of my current WIP.  I really need to give those guys their own tag…)  More importantly, the fanfic and AU urges have let my brain seize on (read:  obsessively fantasize about) characters who aren’t necessarily the leads of whatever I’m working on.

So long as they were my own characters, that didn’t bother me.  (Also it didn’t bother me in that brief window when it was Patroclos and Achilles.  My own personal re-interpretation of mythological figures is close enough to being original.)

The problem is that lately — going on a month now, in fact — I’ve had a different pairing in my head, dominating my consciousness with their sexiness.

And these two have the faces of real people.  That’s the part that bothers me.  (Admittedly, the faces they had almost twenty years ago, but…)

Now, to explain:

About a month ago, I watched a movie called Velvet Goldmine on Netflix.  I was so immediately taken by it that I wrote up a review for the blog so I could share it with others, and a few days later I picked up a DVD copy.  (Telling myself — for good or ill — that most of the time I was probably only going to re-watch the scene where Ewan McGregor got naked, and the sex scene towards the end.)

At first, I was content just to remember the choice bits, mentally drooling like the pathetic fangirl I am.

That didn’t last long.  I found myself wondering about after the movie ended.  Were they going to get together?  How?  Would it last?  Et cetera.  Only soon I wasn’t just wondering, but imagining how it would go.  I went to Fanfiction.net to see if anyone else had already written any fanfic, and was pleasantly surprised to see more than 300 listed fanfics, though many (perhaps most) of them weren’t the pairing I wanted.

Worse, none of the ones I read the descriptions of sounded like they had what I really wanted.  (I only read the descriptions of the first two pages of listings, though.  There were at least three or four more pages.)

To explain what those fanfics all sounded like they were lacking, I’ll have to explain a bit about the movie’s plot.  (Trying to keep relatively spoiler-free, but it’s not so much a movie driven by its story as by its characters and the experience of watching them, so spoilers aren’t as big a problem as they might be in some other movies.)

The movie is structured like Citizen Kane, with a reporter in the “present” investigating the past of a famous figure.  In this case, the “present” is actually the past, as it’s set in 1984.  Anyway, reporter Arthur Stuart (pre-Batman Christian Bale), is assigned to look into the fake murder of glam rock star Brian Slade (Jonathon Rhys Myers, who I’d never heard of before, but apparently he played Henry VIII in The Tudors, despite that it would take at least three of him to make up Henry VIII’s body mass) ten years earlier, with the goal of finding out what had become of him since he left the public eye.  Naturally, everyone Arthur talks to is more interested in talking about what happened leading up to the on-stage fake death than they are in talking about what’s happened since.  (Well, there’d be no movie otherwise!)  But Arthur didn’t even want to take the assignment — in fact, he accused his boss of giving it to him since he’s the only “Brit” at the paper (the movie is set in New York, though the past events take place almost exclusively in England) — because it all stirred up a lot of painful memories for him, since he has his own personal ties to the glam rock movement.  In fact, he was in the audience when Brian was “shot” and had seen the “gunman” shortly before the “shooting”…which brings up the (unaddressed) question of why he had never told anyone that.  (Though the shooting was announced as a hoax within 24 hours, so that was probably a large part of it.)

Luckily for Arthur’s assignment, three very important figures from Brian’s past had moved to New York.  Not surprising in the case of his ex-wife Mandy (Toni Colette, post-Muriel’s Wedding) and his ex-friend/partner/lover Curt Wild (McGregor, immediately pre-young Obi-wan), since they were both established right away as being Americans (despite being played by an Australian and a Scot).  Why his first manager/agent/whatever had moved to New York is not addressed.  Actually, why the movie’s even set in New York isn’t addressed, for that matter.  (I suspect it’s for the reasons I’m ultimately building to, though.)  But no one will tell him anything about where Brian is now or what he’s up to.

By the time Arthur figures out the answer, it’s become obvious that someone is actively trying to keep the truth from becoming known.  There’s a conspiracy of silence regarding the current whereabouts of Brian Slade, and all indications are that the American government is involved, though the indications are appropriately cloudy.  (However, unlike Citizen Kane, which ends with the reveal, Velvet Goldmine keeps going a bit longer, because just as important as finding out the answer to the riddle is giving Arthur a bit more closure, or whatever the point of that final scene with Curt is.  Um, apart from being absolutely necessary in every way.  I mean, there’s a lot of other threads of story that all get tied up together with that scene.  It’s hard to explain without spoiling everything.)

And now I’ve gotten to my point.  None of the fanfic descriptions I saw (admittedly only about a sentence long) had any mention of the conspiracy.  Who was trying to stop Arthur from exposing the truth of Brian’s current whereabouts, and why?  It seems to be tied to their fictional president, but the question of why is still a very open one with only the most shadowy of answers.  Well, okay, technically I think it’s mostly just part of their point.  I mean, it’s set in 1984 for a reason, right?  Ultimately, it’s “Big Brother” trying to keep the truth hidden…but that’s an explanation outside the movie’s world, not inside it.  (Though there was actually a direct reference to Big Brother in one of Arthur’s flashbacks.)

So I keep narrating these stories inside my head of why the truth was being suppressed, and how the conspiracy could be fought, and (of course) how love can blossom around/before/after/during that fight.

Part of me wants to try reading the fanfics others have written and hoping they help, and part of me wants to write my own, knowing that none of the others will address everything I want addressed and have the pairing I want handled the way I want.

But I’m afraid that if I start writing fanfic again, I won’t go back to my original works.

I know I’ll never publish anything, but I still…it’s hard to explain exactly how this feels.  It’s like if I’m writing my own original materials, then I’m a hobbyist with the (laughable) option of someday publishing, whereas if I’m writing fanfic again then I’m just….I don’t know.  I don’t like to call it “wasting my time,” considering how much of it I’ve written in the past, but somehow it feels like it’s less worthy if it’s fanfic.  Maybe that’s just me internalizing the criticisms of others.  I don’t know.

I do know that I’m afraid if I give in to this urge, I’ll never finish my current WIP.  Maybe never finish anything original again.

I’m scared to give in, but I can’t stop turning the story ideas over and over in my head.

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