Writerly Notions: Fanfiction & Me

In the last year or so, I’ve reread some old fanfics. One was a relatively long LotR one; the other was a Wolf’s Rain one. And one thing I realized, looking back on both, was how, compared to some of my more (recent) original writing, these have better constructed (or more constructed) narratives. (Or there seems to be more of an inherent structure in how events proceed and even, dare I say, thematic content?!)

This leads me (for reasons) to observe that my interactions with fandoms and creating content in relation to it derives not so much from a desire to capture the authentic tone, characterization, or worldbuilding of said fandom, whether literary, visual, etc., but to express whatever I want with already established names (of people and places) that I already like. But this may be part of what fandom is about.

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The Lord of the Rings • The Fellowship of the Ring | Book Two

I kept putting this off and it probably won’t be as interesting or insightful as my last post. But I want to get it done, so I can keep up my reading (and remain loosely in-sync with the in-story timeframe.)

There were two overarching subjects I want to discuss:

  • plot
  • writing inspiration

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Writing Week • this and that [1/1/18-1/8/18]

Well. It was harder than previous weeks to write this post. Not because there was a lot to write about — far from it! — or because there was nothing to write about — though that may have aided the cause — but because I was so frustrated with having to write the post at all. Not about the content or purpose of the post, no, but that I didn’t really want to write it when I initially sat down because I had something else I wanted to do.

Aside from that personal revelation, if I had to describe this week (and the new year) thus far, it would be: mountains of questions and a particular peak with murky holes and crags, which ultimately turned out to be mostly imaginary.

To wit: I, once again, struggled to make sense of all the tales, contradictory, repetitive, or otherwise, that compose my NaNo 2017 story and the backstory behind it. In particular, the chronology of all the tales, etc. This struggle was re-ignited by my desire to write the tale that caused me the most trouble during November last year, and the one which I ultimately cut because it didn’t fit what the story become.

But as I struggled to make sense of the chronology, I started to suspect that this particular tale might not be ready to be written. Though seeing The Greatest Showman on Saturday may have helped in a very, very, very roundabout way. If asked to explain how…the best I could say is positivity over despair. And stars.

That said, I’m tentatively thinking of using this cut tale for NaNo this year. I shall see.

A few other writing things of interest:

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Writing Week • reminiscing [12/25/17 – 1/1/18]

I recently starting following a tumblr blog that’s goal is to share writers, and I assume, promote the writers’ writing. I browsed the first couple posts and a lot of those posts reminded me of me right before I was in high school, wanting to share my writing with a teacher. And thus began my odd trouble of never finding anyone to read or share my writing with.

I should clarify: people have read my writing, my mom, I think, being the one who read most of it (that was because she had a good eye for editing). But what I’ve never been able to maintain is a consistent reader and I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a beta reader, someone who reads me work and offers solutions or critiques on the content, plot, characters, etc.

I’ve been to workshops and classes that had an aspect of that, but when I did try to get in contact with the only person’s who contact information I had, I never heard back. This wasn’t more than a week after I got back from the workshop/trip where I met these people. Perhaps it was too long. (My advice book on networking says to contact sooner than later.) Perhaps I wasn’t involved enough for this person to remember me. I am pretty forgettable.

So finding beta readers would be a big boon. I think it would make my writing not only be better, but might help me write faster. Since I do everything on my own, it helps to take breaks between stories, to give myself time to note problems or inconsistencies. It’s a very slow progress, and I’ve suspected was part of why revision takes me so long. Oddly, writing the first draft is usually not hard. It’s revising that can take years. (Although some of that may also be or have been my lack of comprehension of how stories function.)

Which leads me to my next point: It’s strange, when I looked through various school projects from when I was in elementary school, I was surprised how many focused on stories and plot. I did fine on the assignments, but I don’t think I fully absorbed what the lessons were saying. But then, school was more about “doing the thing” than “knowing the thing,” since it was just filler time until I got home and could focus on what I wanted. Some of which included my oldest story ideas and characters.

But school and my writing or stories always had a strange tension.

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Writing Week • maps (12/3/17-12/11/17)

So, I should probably have more to say. Or I feel that I should have more to say. But the main thing I can think of is a revelation I had regarding mapping the world where my stories take place.

I’ve done various maps over the years. There’s a certain continent that’s pretty solid, in terms of its geography and coastline. But the rest…it’s been a migrating, inconclusive tableau for a few years. Just when I think “I’ve got it!”, I’ll make another one that, yep, “That’s right,” and so on.

The thing that I finally realized was that all this time I’ve been trying to draw a world map. Or half a world map. Like one half of my writing world’s globe. And…that’s way more than what my stories encompasses. So figuring out that my map only needs to cover a quarter of the globe helped a lot.

Of course, I know of other countries and islands and kingdoms and what have you that don’t feature on the main map. But those places are elsewhere on the globe and I don’t feel a need to place them in relation to the rest because 1. they’re far away and I don’t know everything that exists in-between, and 2. they’re not as involved in the network of history and culture that exists among the main places.

(There are exceptions to this, but the handful of places off the map that I know of, while important for different plots and characters and locational history, are only integrated in very specific instants, rather than spread out through 20K+ years my story world has been around.)

As always to anyone reading this: Best wishes and writing!

Writing Week • NaNoWriMo retrospective (11/25/17-12/2/17)

Well.

I wrote A LOT last month. I nearly filled an entire, fat notebook.

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Not all it is part of my NaNo story; some of it (a small part) is notes and some of it is rewritten scenes and some of it is plot progression I cut and did over. So, I’m pretty sure I didn’t write 50k words for my story, although I might have gotten close to writing 50k words.

This NaNo has shown me that having a strong sense of what the story is about and the order it’s going to happen in and the aim of each section (and even some backstory) is a good thing. What I’d like to do for some other NaNo is do that — but for a full story. This one that I did was really three connected stories forming a larger story. Or at least that was the idea.

And that’s another thing last month taught me: that no matter how much I might plan and (think) I know what’s happening, that won’t stop the story from shifting as I write it. The order of events, how details are revealed, or where plot points are placed.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think of my NaNo end results, mostly because I wasn’t sure I had achieved my aim. Had I written all of what it was that had been gnawing at me for years? Well, maybe. Trying to figure it out led me to, once again, categorizing and calibrating all the tales upon tales that make up all the ~stuff~ I aimed to fill my NaNo story with.

And that’s when I realized why I started having trouble during the last two weeks: the content I was trying to write, while yes involved in the lineage of the Moon, really only connected tangentially to what my broader NaNo story was about.

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The Lord of the Rings • The Fellowship of the Ring | Book One

Nothing elaborate or fancy, just some storytelling thoughts on my re-read:

The plot proper — explicit conflict and character makes a choice that changes their situation — doesn’t begin until “Three Is Company” when Frodo, knowing about the Ring (“The Shadow of the Past”), chooses to travel to Rivendell. This is when the Black Riders first appear. 

On that note, the Black Riders serve as the connecting conflict or anatagonism of this part. They exist as a constant source of fear and anxiety which builds into Frodo’s wounding near Weathertop and eventual onslaught at the Ford of Bruinen.

I found it interesting how much set up there was: Bilbo leaving, Frodo inheriting Bag End, even the time between Frodo officially setting out and his decision to leave with Sam. There’s a seventeen years between “A Long-Expected Party” and “The Shadow of the Past” and that fascinates me. It fits the reader into the doings of Hobbiton and, to a lesser extent the Shire, through their gossip and interactions through the lens of Bilbo and his party. 

Additionally, there’s throughline of the Ring, which Bilbo had and passed to Frodo and which serves as the cause of the plot: Frodo’s leaving the Shire seventeen years later. Even more fascinating, is how the rumors about Bilbo are linked to the Ring — he gained both after he returned from his adventures (There and Back Again, if you will.)

While I can still see how Tom Bombadil is something of a detour, I like what his presence (and later mention) show. Namely, that the hobbits are NOT capable of dealing with malevolent forces which bear no influence of Sauron. If not for Tom, the hobbits would not have escaped the Old Forest or the Barrowdowns. It shows how safe(ly guarded) the Shire is. This is emphasized in Bree; the hobbits seem to attract trouble. 

Additionally, at the very end of this part, Frodo tells the Black Riders to go back to Mordor and leave him alone. But “Frodo had not the power of Bombadil” (209). What strikes me here is the contrast. Tom has the ability to command with his words; Frodo does not, but the parallel to Tom reminds of just that, the ability to use words to dismantle and dispel danger. Even though he’s wounded, Frodo resists in a way that he’s seen used before. It isn’t enough. But I thought it was an interesting detail that wouldn’t have been so striking if Tom had been cut from the story. Heck, even Strider and Glorfindel use words to ease Frodo’s wound. (Well, Strider uses words and athelas, but the point still stands, I think.) 

There was a diversity of poem formats, lots of songs and such. A few have struck with me, but it was enlightening to pay attention to them stylistically.

There were a lot of good quotes. I’d also like to (maybe) type up out when each character is introduced and the first time they speak. Just because I found the order and who and when interesting.

On that note, I’m struck with how direct and precise Tolkien’s language is. I like it. 

More to the point, the way that, while characters have reactions to situations and each other, there’s not a lot of character immersion. I know Sam doesn’t trust Strider because of how Sam talks and what the text tells me: “Sam frowned” (162) and “Sam was not daunted, and he still eyed Strider dubiously” (168). What I mean is, the reader doesn’t experience the story from any particular POV (though the feelings of the hobbits are definitely the viewpoint) and especially not from an immersed-in-said-characters’ experience of the story. That’s not to say the text doesn’t give the reader a sense of what the hobbits feel, because it does. Only it’s not, as I learned on a writing cruise, written in a way for the character to serve as an avatar for the reader in the world. But what’s really fascinating to me about this, is how it reminds me of fairy tales and epics and the Arabian Nights — characters are afraid, delighted, terrified, sorrowful, but it’s conveyed strongest in speech and action. 

On the note of speech, that ties back into Tom Bombadil—words and language are powerful business in Tolkien’s writing. Which, with him being a linguist, makes sense.