I love this. I hide my fanfiction wrting from basically everyone for the same reason of feeling "ashamed" and "geeky". But the latter is something I have been called all my life, something I am very proud of. While the rest of the world may be content in drinking in what others say, I like to think, to explore, to create. Thank you for this.
Author's Response: Hi EldarinPrincess - you are very welcome, and thank you for reviewing! I wrote this when I was less proud of my geeky nature; for a long time it was something I felt I needed to hide. I still keep my fanfic quiet, but that's because I'm a chartered accountant now, and it doesn't really go with the professional image ;) but my family and friends know about it and react pretty positively. I posted it here in (I think?) 2012, but originally wrote it in 08 or 09; I leave it up so that anybody who feels the same way I did as a teenager knows they aren't on their own. Maybe I'll add a follow up one day!
Thank you for writing this. I am one of those authors who have felt shame at writing/reading fan fiction. There is such a stigma against it, just as you say, and the minute you share this part of yourself you’re labeled.
I liked you’re points about Mary Sue’s and agree with you –writing practice is all good :D I was reading some of the other comments, and I’d agree with the belief that OFC can at times threaten the reader; or maybe it’s more accurate to say that strong female characters in general (cannon and original) fall under harsher criticisms then male characters, at least this is what I’ve found. I’ve done this myself in the past, and have to take a step back and ask myself what’s so wrong with the character (who happens to be a female) doing blank or saying blank when a male could have done the exact same thing without comment or condemnation.
Thank you for sharing this, I enjoyed reading it and found it encouraging :D
In Tolkien's world the fanfic writer does not get everything handed to them on a plate, a lot of the writing involves building a character out of the little we are given, getting inside their heads.
Excellent point; one of the reasons I love this fandom. The scope is HUGE!
I don't need to defend writing or reading it; I love it, and it needs no defence.
I agree 100%. I did actually consider changing the title of this essay to something a little less...well...defensive, but I originally wrote it while on the defensive, and when I wasn't as confident and proud of my life choices as I am now!
Thank you for adding your thoughts :)
I agree with you of course, both about the writing and Mary Sue's, which I feel is a bit of a derogatory term, so I will stick to OFC's. When I came into fanfic I had had been writing since 2002 on some role play sites, and had fallen into playing the 'Straight Male Lead' for the girls to hook up with. No slash or femmeslash on those old sites. Perish the thought. I was bored, cynical and at the end of my rope. My tolerance for OFC's who end up with Legolas or Haldir or any other character was non-existent, because I'd been rp-ing those kind of men for so long. I knew what it was like to be on the end of it! Whether I read OFC's nowadays depends entirely on the writing. (That applies to any story). But there's nothing wrong or risible about OFC's, and I think the contempt heaped on them needs exploring. There seems an element of self-hatred in it.
I am sure there are and will be girls/women who see Tauriel in DoS and loathe her. Why? Because she's more beautiful, a skilled warrior, slim, because Legolas is fond of her? Now here is the thing I have always found odd. Take Kev. Kev is a huge Superman fan, has been since he was a kid. He fanboys Superman. It does not matter to him that Superman has amazing powers that Kev cannot match. When he plays computer games like Metal Gear Solid, or Halo, he loves the main characters, Snake and the Master Chief, fanboys them too. The same goes for anything where there are heroes/superheroes, film, series, computer games, books. Kev admires them. I am not sure why some women seem to feel that a beautiful, skilled woman is a rival, therefore to be derided and hated. I don't see that with male fans. They want to be like the character, or friends with them. It may seem amusing, but there is sad and serious underlying issue that needs to be looked at honestly. I have come to the conclusion that I was jealous, because the women I read of were so gorgeous it seemed to be saying that no-one save the extraordinarily unique and beautiful woman could hope to end up with the handsome hero. Now I am older, I look back on those bodice-ripper novels with a grimace, but I can still remember my despair!
As for fanfiction not being proper writing. I roll my eyes at that. I am a 'proper' reader, and I read fanfiction in preference to published novels because it gives me what I want. The best fanfic writers are a match for any of the most talented published ones. They simply choose to write within Middle-earth because they love it.
Author's Response: I think there's a huge difference between OFCs who are Mary-Sues, and OFCs who are strong women. I see Mary-Sues as being unrealistic characters who are impossibly attractive (e.g. a human woman who makes Arwen look like an Orc), have unrealistic abilities for their age and/or the effort they've put into learning (e.g. fifteen years old, quicker with a bow than Legolas, more skilled with a horse than Eomer and stronger with a sword than Aragorn or Boromir), behave like smart-mouthed teenagers because the author thinks this demonstrates their "rebellious spirit", and have other characters falling madly in love with them in spite of all their irritating behaviour. This kind of character is simply wish fulfilment, and the author either grows out of it or does not - but this doesn't apply to the majority of OFCs in fandom. It doesn't even apply to the majority of OFCs in fandom who have romances with canon characters, but unfortunately the term is now grossly misused. In reviews of conventionally published novels and newly released films/TV series, I see "Sue" being thrown at any strong female character. "OMFG, Arya is such a Sue." "Tauriel is such a Mary-Sue, Elves didn't even have female warriors, duh." It's become shorthand for "I feel threatened by this resourceful, bow-wielding, intelligent female, so put her back in the kitchen where she belongs" - and I think you're right, that sentiment does need exploring. Maybe men are more comfortable with other men being super-awesome because that's what popular culture has exposed them to over the years, whereas female characters with similar powers are a relatively new phenomenon?
This is actually a pretty great essay, and I agree with most of it. I don't hide my "geeky afflcitions" but it's true that some people react pretty badly to them, for no good reason. Your comment on Mary-Sue's is nice too; I never thought about it like that but in fact it is true... It might not be great literature but it's valuable creative expression nonetheless.
Thanks for sharing!
Author's Response: And thank you for reviewing :) I'm glad you enjoyed reading it as it is pretty old. I used to hide my geeky tendencies, but mostly because I disliked the implication that it went hand in hand with social ineptitude; now I'm less bothered and let people take me as they find me. People do still react quite oddly to my interests at times, but they aren't the people that matter to me! And ah yes, Mary-Sues...I know I've been guilty of a few in my time, although they didn't see the light of day. I firmly believe that all writing practice is good; those who are serious about their craft will eventually learn better characterisation, and for those who aren't it's all harmless fun in any case.