On “Fic”

This post brought to you by the fact that I recently pulled an all-nighter pulling Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

I don’t write fanfiction. You’d think I would, given the markers: I read popular books, I’m a writer, I’m a total nerd, and I can’t come up with worlds or characters on my own.

It’s not as if I don’t play with the stories I’ve read in my head; I do. Characters who belong together, the way things should have ended… I just don’t write about it. It was a conscious decision, and I remember the exact moment it was made.

I was a junior in high school. My color guard was competing at a high school about an hour from home. (This, for those of you who were there, was the same competition where some of our drummers broke a clock.) I was, admittedly, a bit manic at that moment. Pre-competition nerves combined with the hormone-inducing presence of a boy I’d liked for years resulted in the wound-up tension of a Leah who needed to write.

And I had left my notebook and journal at home (a wise decision, really; imagine the back-of-the-bus entertainment it would have been in the others’ hands–it might even rival Cosmo!).

So I was left to beg for paper–desperately, rudely, loudly–from anyone who had brought their homework. Finally, the torture was ended. I settled into a corner populated by upturned desks and gave vent to my tumbling thoughts.

“Whatchya doin’?” One of the instructors, Ethan, was leaning over me.

“Writing,” I grunted.

“Is it homework?”

“No.”

“Is it a fanfic?”

There was something about the way he said it. Not condescending. It was actually pleasant, borderline encouraging. Almost like he’d do it himself. I don’t know why–but the way he said it solidified that I would never successfully write fanfiction.

Not that I wanted to. My journals were like fanfiction of my life–and pretty good, too, from what my friends told me. Apparently I have the ability to steal people from real life and turn them into characters on a page. I could hijack their voices and body language, and even my best friend wondered whether the things I’d written were fact or fiction. (I should note that this is an actual genre called creative nonfiction.)

But fanfiction… fanfiction was different. Everybody writes from life, but stealing someone else’s characters? That was presumptuous at best, outright plagiarism at worst. And the things “those people” wrote about! Here I was, waiting on a first kiss that I was convinced would never happen, while fic writers were forcing fictional characters into unspeakable sexual scenarios! (Little did I know that, weeks later, that would change.)

That said, I’ve grown to respect fanfiction authors. Many of them have more completed work to boast than I ever will. The good ones write believable fictional people and events. And, really–fiction is hard, even with already present characters and worlds. So, really: Respect. Good on you people for having the guts to even try. I never will.

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