Thursday, June 06, 2013

Fan Cooled

I create worlds and characters to amuse myself first. If others like what I write then that's a measure of success but it's not what I depend on in order to be a writer.

I write, as I noted here, to get the voices out of my head. It's not as insane as it sounds but it's certainly the most apt metaphor. There's a lot of clamor in my imagination, a lot of things that compete for attention. Some of the stories raise their hands and give me a kind of Alcoholics Anonymous summary ("Hi, I'm about a guy who hits a patch of black ice and wakes up in a different world...") and some of them are like a conversation over coffee. You get what I'm saying.

So it goes for most writers, I suspect. Of course there are a few writers who write strictly for commercial purposes. A few who write fiction, too, as far as I can see. And that's not a criticism, merely an observation.

As a writer, I'm a fan of certain other writers. Lev Grossman, Robert Heinlein, Richard Kadrey, Stephen King, lots and lots of others. Never once in my life have I felt like the writer of any given story betrayed me with how they told a story. I have felt like there were bad endings or stupid choices that diminished a story, but I accept that they weren't my endings or my choices. I have tried to understand why the author thought that was the best way to go and set the book aside.

Thanks to Holly Messinger, I learned that there are quite a few people who are REALLY upset with how the Sookie Stackhouse series ended. That reminded me that there are fans (remember that comes from the word 'fanatic'?) who are deeply, deeply - perhaps irrationally - invested in someone else's creation. That's given rise to fan fiction of all sorts. (Fanfic has been around as long as there've been stories, it's nothing new. Felt like I had to say that. Moving on.)

I don't write fan fiction. I have too many original stories to tell. But I understand the need of some to pursue this. Fan Fiction writers are so invested in the characters and worlds they have to tell the story they way they see it in their heads. Some of them even see it as 'fixing' the original work. That's investment, but that's kind of crazy. Taking characters and putting them in situations that never happened in continuity or 'canon', changing them to suit personal tastes and mores, is viable I suppose. And it's certainly easier to take a world already created and work with that.

That's why Hollywood has so many damned sequels.

All right. What I'm getting at here is that fan investment is very, very important. That's how a creator knows that a piece of writing is good. Right? If all I do is print off a piece and stick it in a drawer then I've got all the control but no one else even knows it exists.

The act of my sending a piece of work out into the world opens it up to interpretation and that's part of what makes being a writer exciting. I love learning what other people got out of what I wrote. The coolest part is knowing that the story connected with a reader on a level I hadn't really considered. You've probably had conversations about books or movies and had that same kind of thing happen. Interpretation is deeply personal, based on our experiences and knowledge.

Debate is good. And the internet has encouraged a great deal of debate about even the most trivial of things. Did you read the comments on the Charlaine Harris book? Wow. That's some serious investment. There is always a great deal of criticism of anyone who's popular. Now there's some critique of Stephen King publishing a book only in paper form.

Good lord, really?

Sigh. This is getting way out of hand. Writers, creators of any sort, have the right to create what they want in the way they want. If readers, viewers, invest enough it shouldn't matter what they create. If they don't like something, they don't have to buy it. However, it's not up to the creator to meet or even consider fans' expectations. Not at all.

So, really, let creators do what they do best: tell stories and create worlds and characters that engage us, the readers. Stop making it personal when the writer does something you don't agree with. You know who did that?

Annie Wilkes.