Remember that post where I ranted about how boring I’m finding my story? Well… I’m just here to say that the feeling hasn’t improved that much. But at least it’s gotten to a tolerable point where I can write down words for the sake of writing down words. I’ve impulsively signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo — possibly, in a manner just as impulsive as I did when signing up for the real deal back in November. So I’m employing every ounce of motivation, organization, self-discipline, and self-tricking into keeping up with the daily word counts.
That said, it still feels like a chore.
Two nights ago, I stumbled across one of my old fanfictions, a draft that I never finished. And it shocked me. Because the writing was so rich and so exciting and so full of voice and character, that I wondered how I could possibly have written it.
Looking back at my fanfictions, I realized that my writing style — no matter what genre my fanfiction happened to fall into — was so much richer than the way I’m writing now. And it’s an incredible shame that I’m able to write so well for other people’s creation, and yet my skills balk when I try to write my own original content.
Then this morning, I think I finally realized what was causing the difference: When I was writing fanfiction, I knew — and cared about — the characters.
I tried to remember all the time in the past when I had a burning desire to write a fanfic. It was because I had a very clear idea of a situation, or a very clear feeling about a character, and I wanted to express it. I have liked many books and shows in the past, but why is it that I write only for a select few fandoms? I think it’s because in order for me to write, I need to first develop a clear characterization of the characters. I have to know what it feels like to be in their shoes. I need to see them existing in a particular situation.
And there definitely have been times when I wanted to write a funny skit, but it wouldn’t work out, because I just couldn’t see the characters in it. Not with the way I envisioned their personality.
I keep talking about past fanfictions, but keep failing to point out to any examples. So here are a few.
BEWARE: The following might contain excessive teen angst or weirdness, poor grammar and spelling, and cheesy lines.
This is the opening paragraph to one of my Dragonball fanfictions that is a spin-off of Shakespear’s ‘What You Will.’ It centers around Videl trying to go under-cover as a boy in an all-boys school.
Her name was Del Natas. ‘Late-bloomer Del,’ they joked. That’s why ‘his’ voice was still high. Officer Miso gave her three-inch platforms to insert into her shoes. He even gave her two pairs. One for the sneakers and the other for the dress shoes, he said, giving her a wink. Yet as she stared at her reflection in the mirror, trying to familiarize herself with her male alter-ego, she knew that even the freshmen boys of West City Academy would tower over her.
I mean, okay, it’s not perfect. But if I were to write something like that today, I would inevitably succumb to the typical high-school student mornings, with the alarm clocks going off, the grogginess, the late school bus, whatever. Isn’t this a much more interesting way to pose the premise? How did I even think of this?
In the same story, some chapters later, I had Bulma talk about a device she invented.
“Hack? That would take you hours,” Bulma answered. “Now if you turn around, walk three steps to the right, you’d find a gadget I invented some months back that could dismantle any of the latest model of Whirligig 4.0 security systems, which is what WCA is using for their datacentre, so I have heard through the grapevine. I call it the Doorminator.” She spoke in a careless manner, though pride was brimming in her tone.
Okay, let’s ignore that weird run-on sentence. But the Doorminator? That had me cracking up when I saw it. How did I come up with that before?
Semaphore is still one of my favourite fanfictions that I had written. It’s one of those stories I constantly go back to and wish I could write like that again. Here’s the opening line.
When she found the fourth dragon ball, she was overcome by a sudden wave of fear and loss, and she almost threw the ball away, almost went back home. Gohan would be wondering why she had been gone so long. All she had said to her son was that she needed some groceries, and no, he didn’t have to help her, but that she would borrow Nimbus for a while. She hid the dragonball radar in her pocket. She didn’t think her son knew she was in possession of it in the first place. She had asked Bulma a while back. Her friend did not ask what she wanted it for, but with a five-month old baby at her hip, Chichi looked like could use the wish for anything. Anything.
I used to be so good at openings. I mean, clearly other people would disagree that this is great writing at all, but for me, I think this was me at my best. Which is so sad. You probably can imagine the level I’m on right now.
The Legend of Eli Monpress is one of those really awesome series that strangely does not have a very big fandom. I don’t know why. I spent two years of my life trying to sail the JoNico ship with like… 3 other people. Here’s a snippet from the ending of an AU fic I don’t remember ever posting.
“Maybe it’s better if you forget,” she said softly after a while. He just snorted again, but he didn’t deny what they both knew. That she was poison. That really, no matter how many things Eli stole, he would never be the thief that demons were, would never steal life and past and future, the very essence of all things.
“I will never forget,” he said. And he reached out to touch her cheek, and immediately the cuff at his wrist decomposed into grimy threads that fell about their feet. She looked away.
When he left, she memorized the way his shoulders were outlined by the graying light outside the cavern, the way the Heart was slung across his back, the stubborn set of his shoulders. She ingrained it in her mind. Then she waited.
Looking at these examples, and all those times I was writing fanfiction with a zeal that I would beg for now, I can see that my best writing was when I allowed the internal voice of the characters to come out. When I wrote with what I perceived was their voice.
And I really think that’s what’s missing in my original story. Despite the fact that I’ve been outlining and planning and letting these characters use my brain as their playground, I still don’t know them. Not to the same extent as I know my headcanons of the characters I love in other books or shows.
And that’s why it’s so hard to write my own characters.
My characters get lost in the forest. What do they do? Well, I don’t know! Is it even in character for them to allow themselves to get lost in the woods? No? Yes? I don’t know even know that.
My characters have to talk about this big, important thing that my outlines says they need to address. What do they say? Well, I don’t know! Conversations highly rely on people’s attitudes and personalities. Something my characters apparently lack.
My characters are sailing a boat. What do I write about this boat trip? Well, that depends on what my characters pay attention to. Are they present in the boat trip? Are their minds wandering? If so, what do they think about? Or maybe they’ve never been on a boat before, and are extremely interested in its mechanics.
I. Don’t. Know.
Ugh, it’s incredibly frustrating. Why do I not know?