A Moment of Appreciation

This will be a short post, but I wanted to acknowledge a moment I appreciated enough to write about. This wasn’t a huge gesture, definitely meaningless to the other person, but I walked away from it with the widest grin.

As a previous post declared, I’ve written a few pieces of fan fiction recently. They also happen to be some of my best stuff, material I’m proud came from my hand. And the logic goes that sooner or later I’ll have to market my writing, so I decided to take a soft approach with this fan fiction and printed ten business cards at home. Nothing special, a name, some addresses and one small sentence of a pitch.

Weary from a long day at Wondercon pushing through crowds, ready to go home, an announcement said the floor would close in half an hour. I had held onto my cards all day, but I needed to pass them out. After all, I didn’t make them to keep. And I’d never find a larger gathering of potential fans. Though I’ve never solicited my writing before, either.

But I had to do this. Time was running out and I’d regret it if I didn’t.

Lo and behold, a man wearing a symbol of my fandom on his shirt appeared. I asked and he accepted a card. Then I spotted another shirt with another symbol from the fandom and he begrudgingly took a card. Two iSnake Eyes Tat 2n a row. Easy. I’d seen people with both symbols actually tattooed on their forearms. The fans were out there.

Bolstered by two quick finds, I go hunting, but I’m not finding anyone else and time was running out.

Until….

A cosplayer dressed as one of the most iconic characters was leaning against a table, bored as his girlfriend played a video game demo.

Really? Can I pass this guy a card? Obviously he’s a fan. Does he have pockets? Of course. What self-respecting ninja commando in combat fatigues with web gear doesn’t have an extra pocket or pouch?

I approached, but somebody else tapped him. The cosplayer drew a sword and pistol, posed for a few pics then slouched against the table again.

Okay. My turn.

I call out, complimented the costume. He goes to draw his sword and pistol, but I beat him to it with a card. I asked if I could leave one with him. He took the card a little standoffishly, held it in two hands and angled his head for a view through his mask. After a moment reading the pitch, he stood straight and bobbed his head several times without speaking in a motion I took as genuinely positive. I thanked him and went about my hunt grinning, thinking, Yeah! I just gave my business card to Snake Eyes.

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I’m a Fan.

I’m a fan first and foremost. A consumer of art for the sake of entertainment. Movies, television, video games, novels, comic books, music, along with classical forms. Not only do I consume, but I also like to create—strum a guitar, sketch a portrait, write a book.

I’ve always carried subtle threads of inspiration. Mostly I wanted to recreate the greatest stories ever told. You know, share my absolutist opinion on entertainment with the entire world. But I didn’t have the nerve.

And then it happened. Sequels and prequels to a couple of my favorite stories came out at roughly the same time. One was easy to see, the other I trekked a ludicrous adventure to attend. But both disappointed. Last time I ever exclaim, “This is going to be great!” again.

The writers of these movies hurt me personally. What were they thinking? Why the hell did they do this or that?

In my bitter despond, I protested the only way I could. I bought one copy of the DVDs. Yes, I still bought them, after all, like the first sentence says, I’m a fan.

During the weeks that followed, grumbling, proclaiming with utmost authority what should or should not have been done, a tiny thought grew. Like a golden dandelion in a perfectly watered lawn, this thought sprouted, bloomed among millions of blades of wild declarations, always growing, never to be mowed away because this tiny thought was truth.

One day in the midst of a well practiced rant, I picked the dandelion. I spoke the truth, “How can I complain about someone else’s work if I’ve never made anything myself?”

The next day I began writing my first ever piece of fiction. Which, upon critical review, read like microwave instructions translated from the blender instructions. But it was mine.

I’ve always said that I was driven to writing out of revenge. It earns a chuckle. Now I’m a dedicated writer with a couple published short stories and goals far and away grander than revenge.

But I’m still a fan.

Enter fandom disappointment round two.

Big budget, decent actors, but the constraints of a motion picture forced a convoluted plot to move too fast. Granted the movie wasn’t made for me as much as a modern version of the original demographic I once belonged to. But still… disappointed.

Revenge’s gelid tendrils clutched my writer’s heart once more. Pencil to paper, fingers to keys. Spread the time, develop motivations, hew breathing characters from the primordial canon. Give justice to my love.

Fanfic is born.

Writer friends scoff, ask why I’d write something I cannot be paid for.

Prominent authors say don’t write fanfic, that it’s a waste of time.

But I’m filling a hole other writers have left. I’m expressing an ultimate display of fandom.

I’ll post my work so like-minded people might enjoy. And I’ll do this for free… unless the legal copy write owners would like to speak with me about future writing projects. Contact me. I’m open to conversation. Or if The Powers That Be intend to sue me we can talk about that too without litigation.

Besides, how many writing instructors ape the claim that you must write a million words before you get good? If that’s the case why not make glorious pieces of fanfic part of that million? Why stop there? Why not improve on something you love?

I have now written four stories in this particular universe. I stayed quiet for a long time, embarrassed of the connotations. Then I read this article on fan fiction. So many positive examples of the transformative qualities to this spontaneous wave. Sure, there’s bad writing, and lots of it, but it’s free expression, a gathering place for abstract ideas and concerns too often overlooked in the profit-driven narratives of life.

Fans of the television show Once Upon A Time are wholeheartedly enjoying a phenomenal piece of fanfic.

The director J. J. Abrams re-imagined Star Trek TOS, then gets Star Wars!!!! Ultimate fanfic dream come true.

I doubt I’ll ever have a hand in my favorite movies. Or play lead guitar for my favorite bands. But the one thing within my control is to write beloved characters into a story of my own precious creation.

The story that got away from me—word count and expectations.

            Is it supposed to be a short story? Around five to ten thousand words qualifies and I don’t mind a little embellishment so, yes, 10,000 sounds like a reasonable limit, right?

            Right, well, short story number one of my forced novel writing-editing sabbatical came in at 4,000 words. It simmered for a while so the outline came easily and the note cards worked great. Still needs work, but not too shabby. Expand some details, clarify some tricky spots, I don’t expect more than 5000 words tops. A true short story, but this one is not at the heart of the problem.

            Story number two of the tedious hiatus is composed of 6,700 words. A tale that spans the entire solar system wrapped up in a tidy package and after a little love, I’ll send it to appropriate short story outlets. Because, while long by some standards, it falls within the general word count category of a short story.

            At this point I’m feeling good about the quality and quantity of material being produced on this tiresome holiday. Time to indulge the nerd and jump on a project I’ve been thinking about for years. It’s silly and spends my limited writing time in a direction that doesn’t foster a career, but like I said, I’ve decided to indulge during this summer’s doldrums.

            Character lists, bios, maps of story arc, points of conflict, and a love interest all set in a tumultuous near history with a fully developed protagonist and a cliffhanger at the end. Maybe not the best style for an ending, but this is number two of a four part short story collection I intend to publish on a fan fiction website.

            Told you it was nerdy.

            The story is moving along nicely. Actually, too nicely. It clocked in at 6000 words by the end of the first act.

            Hmmm. Troubling.

            I could end it there. Kind of a happy ending, hints at the overall arc, but it doesn’t properly describe what I want to say.

            Okay, time for damage control. I can salvage it. There are 4000 words left to work with. I’ll wrap up the other two acts and get to chopping in the first rounds of edits.

            Damn!!

            The second act came out larger than the first and the denouement promises to be longer still. This is truly a story that got away from me. At this rate I’ll have a 20,000 word novella that I’m trying to fit into a short story collection. It won’t work. Twenty thousand words is what I wanted all four stories to total. But this story deserves justice, it needs to be expressed and the inner nerd says more.

            So what can I do? What choice do I have? No short story anthology will take something this long. It would be difficult to publish because novella markets are scarce, besides, it’s a work of fan fiction. I could be sued if I tried to make money on it.

            That’s right! Its fan fic! On a free website without constraints or word counts.

            While not an acute concern, word count has always gnawed at the back of my mind, yet when it came to a boundless format, I decided on a short story and truly believed all would be lost if I missed the target. Strange how after a while even the blinders become invisible.

            I fretted a full day over what it was supposed to be and forgot to ask if the story that got away ever needed to be a short story to begin with.

            And to the answer. It’s not supposed to be short or long, it’s only supposed to be a story.