Ship & Let Ship

This post is actually linked to my last writing post.  The villainization of characters is a common trait among ship wars, and that is a part of today’s post.

Fandom in general is a fun, happy place for people to join together and enjoy something.  Be it a sport, a book, a movie or a TV show. If it’s a collection of fans of something, its a fandom.

However, particularly in the fictional work driven fandoms (Tv, books, movies etc) there is a dark element that pops up from time to time.  It’s called a Ship War. A ship, for those who are wondering, is a term for a pairing you prefer to see in a relationship. Most people have ships and have no problems letting others have their own ships.  Some, however, do seem to have a problem and make fandom less friendly, less happy and less enjoyable.

My first experience with a ship war was in the Doctor Who fandom.  I was late to the game, having watched but not been sucked in till I rewatched season 1 of the second series (or Nine’s tenure if you prefer) after catching an episode of Torchwood and Season 2 of Doctor Who.  I found myself really enjoying it, and immediately started shipping Rose/Doctor. I found that the Doctor Who fandom is thriving and has many little niches and sub fandoms. There was a lot out there, from fanfic, to fan made videos, and academic meta.  You can find a lot.

But one day, while surfing through various social media and fanfic sites, I started noticing something.  A strange undercurrent in the fandom. It turned out there was a division in shippers who prefered Rose and those who prefered Martha, his next companion, as a romantic interest.  I personally love Martha, though I found her season a little hard to watch. I found fanfics where either Martha was downgraded to a women who clung and became obsessed with the Doctor, totally ignoring the kickass character you saw on-screen or Rose likewise turned into a caricature of her characterization.  It just depended on what the author/video editor decided was the ship of choice. People took it further than that, and it made me back off for a while and want to rant about the fandom.

Sherlock, a television series based on Sherlock Holmes, was another fandom I saw this in.  However this fandom war made me completely drop the fandom. It made me uncomfortable enough that I have yet to go back and watch the show after season 2.  In particular one following of a ship decided to not only be horrible to other fans, they were horrible to actors whose character had, in their point of view, got in the way of their ship.

More recently I have come across a shipper war in The 100 fandom.  I came into the show, enjoying it. I liked the show, liked the books.  I was (and still am) a Bellarke (Bellamy & Clarke) shipper. I could argue why I felt they were the endgame couple.  On the screen, Clarke and Bellamy both had various other love interests. In particular, Clarke fell in love with Lexa, a character I didn’t care  for that much due to some writing issues. However I saw shippers on both side go to extremes to fight each other on it. Bellarke fans would exaggerate Lexa’s bad qualities, and Clexa shippers would state that Bellarke shippers were homophobic (whether they are or not as individuals can be debated.  It’s a poor generalization of a ship following however). They threw petty insults towards each other, but not in a fun “we all love each other anyway” sort of way. To the point I avoid the main 100 threads and tags because I’m always finding something happening.  And I’m not alone. I have heard stories from various fandoms where someone choose to leave or just stick to very specific tags because of overall tension due to a ship war.

There is a difference between good-hearted debate between shippers and shipper wars.  I have had conversations with my friends who have had different ships. For example, one of my best friends and I often disagree on shipping Jack & Gwen in Torchwood.  It’s good-natured debate. I have several friends who ultimately hate Trip/T’Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise. Yet when I write it/talk about it, they shrug and it’s the same when they talk about their prefered ship (Trip & Hoshi is a popular one).  The point is – we ship and let ship. We have our ships, our OTPS, our crackships and our “they are cute, so maybe” ships. They aren’t always the same. But we enjoy the same fandom, enjoy our friendships and our mutual love for whatever it is we are fanning.   We don’t go warring against each other over a disagreement with a ship. We don’t attack the actors who are just doing their job for getting in the way. We don’t let our shipping take over our lives, and our fandom enjoyment.

If you do not like a ship, do not read it.  Don’t write it. Treat your fellow fandomers with respect, and let others ship what they want to ship.  Yelling at them won’t change their mind, abusing them certainly won’t, and abusing characters in your writing will just make people avoid it.  It can also make people just peeking into the fandom run away from it.

If you don’t like a type of ship (be it slash, femslash, or het) don’t click on fics that use it.  Don’t target authors who write a ship you hate and give them bad reviews. I actually had this happen to me as a writer.  I saw a review, and got excited that someone had taken the time to leave one. When I opened the review up, I found a rant on how my couple was disgusting and how I should be ashamed to ship them. I was bewildered, and I know of others who have gotten similar reviews.  Once a friend and I decided to do a fic exchange. I wrote (well, am writing as I never finished it….meep!) a Jack/Ianto fic while she wrote a Jack/Gwen fic. She got a review that called her a homophobe for writing a bisexual character with a woman. Beyond the fact that it wasn’t even changing the sexuality of the character, it was confusing as to why this person took the time to seek out a Jack/Gwen fic and berate someone.  

So in the end, enjoy your ships and let other people enjoy their own.  Fandom is supposed to be fun, not somewhere someone is made to feel uncomfortable, or berated.

 

Fandom Writing: Writing the Opposition Badly

One of my pet peeves when reading fan fiction is when a character, usually someone who is the other possible love interest, is villanized to make another character look good or to make a ship seem more plausible.  Not only does it often come with out of character writing for said character, it makes me feel like the person who is writing is not all that sure in the ship they are writing.

You do not have to villainize a character to make your main character, or main ship, look better.  If the character is a villain already, then at least there is canon backing to your character being a villain.

My most recent example of this was in the Arrow fandom.  I am a big fan of Felicity and Laurel, and of Olicity.  However I found way too many fics that villainize Laurel.  Laurel has her own character set-backs, but she is no way a good choice for a villian in an Olicity fic.  And I’ve seen it likewise when people decide that Laurel/Oliver should happen, and make Felicity into a villain or an unhealthily clinging person.  None of it makes sense with the characters we see on-screen, who are in fact friends and strong women.

Another example is found in Doctor Who.  Martha and Rose are alternative villainized depending on the ship choice of the writer.  Honestly if you don’t like a ship, don’t write it.  I’ve found most of the time the ships resolve themselves around each other and you can avoid the other alternative fairly easy without villainizing a character. If you must deal with a ship that you dislike, resolve it between the characters and move on. Most of those reading are most likely already fans of your ship, and you don’t have to prove to them why your choice is better than the alternative.  That is best left to fandom meta essays.

I’ve also seen this with just characters.  Most often female characters, but occasionally male characters.  They will exaggerate bad qualities to the point of OOCness or completely villainize a character to make their favorite look better.  Your favorite character can be awesome all on their own.  That is why they are your favorite.  You don’t have to miswrite a character to make your fave look better. Again, most of your readership most likely already thinks your main character is awesome.

For a good example of how to deal with a love triangle, there is The Hunger Games.  The love triangle in that series is between Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  Peeta and Gale don’t fight each other over her, and both characters are allowed to have flaws and good things about them without comparing to each other.  In the end there is a little comparing when she finally makes a decision, but for the most part all three characters are allowed to exist on the same side.  Neither is completely villainized either.

My suggestion is if you really don’t like a character, have them take a trip, or be otherwise out of the picture of the story you are writing.  If you feel you can write the character well, and not villainize for the sake of making them look bad, go ahead and write them.  Take a look at canon.  Be honest with yourself as to why you are writing the character the way you are.

If you are just writing angry fic about a character you hate, label it as such so fans of the character know to avoid it.  And people who may hate the character but prefer to stick to canon can know that going in. For example, bringing back the Arrow fandom, I have seen people post “Anti-Felicity” or “Anti-Laurel” as a tag, letting me know that their story is not favorable to that character.  So I can avoid those stories.

Even in original writing, take a moment and think about the different features of the character.  Are you writing a well-rounded character or are you just focusing on bad parts so its clear they are the wrong choice?  Are you trying to make a compelling villain or just make your other characters look better?

Consider your characters and your readers before writing a character simply to be the anti-choice.

NanoWrimo: Week One Update

Its that time of year again when I join in with a community of writers for National Novel Writing Month or NanoWrimo or as we usually just shorten it to: Nano.

Nano is a month long event where writers from around the country partispate in an personal effort to write a 50,000 word novella in a month.  I’ve partispated for the most part for the last decade or so.  I don’t always manage to write 50,000 words – life does dedicate some of that – but its fine enough to try.

Not everyone writes the same thing, or gets involved in the same way.  Some people write original fiction, some write fanfic.  Some write a series of short stories, while others write actual novel-length stories. The only goal is to get 50k worth of words, and to get people writing.  Nano also has forums to get involved with, and often local team leaders who develop events where you can go and meet local Nano-ers.

They also have a donation run to create libraries and provide books for those who don’t have access to them.

This year I am working on several stories, trying to get some of my work in progress list done.  I’ve got about 18 there now, and I’m sure that isn’t a complete list.  (I need to review that one of these days).

Alright its been one week (completely, its now 12Am, so HAPPY ELECTION DAY PLEASE VOTE *AHEM*)  My personal results are as follows:

Continue reading “NanoWrimo: Week One Update”

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Reviews, Flames, and Kudos

Like with most of the topics we have gone over, the post-publishing part of fanfic mirrors the professional writing world, but has its unique terms and looks on things.  In this post, I will discuss the different kinds of responses that readers can make to your fic, as well as things you can do when you get a responce.

Kudos/Likes

Most archive systems, particular those made especially for fanfiction (like Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own) have a system where the reader can show how they like what you are writing by leaving a Like or a Kudo.  This usually only involves a series of clicks, and is what you will get the most often.  These allow the reader to tell you they like it without making an actual review.

Some sites have pages where you can track the statistics of kudos/likes and see what stories got the most likes and the like.  I like this because it sometimes is nice to see a story that might not get a lot of comments, yet many left kudos.

The Comment/Review

Depending on the site, you may see reviews called, well, reviews or comments.  Sometimes replies.  This is what we all wish for.  That occasion when a reviewer has decided that they were interested enough in our story to let us know in a way that takes more then a simple click.  These range the gamut from the simple “This is awesome/This Sucks!” type of comments to long paragraphs.  One of my happiest moments in writing was when someone wrote a long long email with comments and suggestions on how to improve my writing.  I was 15 at the time, and it was the first time I had gotten any input other then “This is great!”

Comments and reviews that are lengthy usually come in three forms:

  1. The Critique
    The critique is where a reader has criticism and writes you to help you improve your writing and your story.  These are one of the best reviews a writer can receive because we can always improve.  It also means this person took the time to really take in your story. Respect this reviewer.
  2. The Discussion
    These are fun.  I had a review on a story that started a back-and-forth discussion on a canon plot arc in Doctor who.  By the time we were finished (actually probably by the second or third reply) it no longer had anything to do with the story.
  3. The Flame
    Ah, the flame.  This is a negative review that has no constructive criticism.  Most of the time if someone doesn’t like your story, they just won’t review and move on.  But occasionally you get that one person who just wants to tell you how much you suck.  Half the time nothing they say will make sense, and you’ll wonder what they were reading.  The other half of the time its just disheartening.  Often times flames can be really short (the “You suck!” type) but they can be longer, depending on much effort the troll is trying to make.

    Usually the longer ones come from people who hate the character/pairing you write and make you wonder why they clicked on it to begin with.  The Answer:  So they can write bad reviews and make you feel bad.

Responding to Reviews.

To the short reviews, just a quick thank you is usually good.  The longer the review the more there is probably to respond to.  Just remember to be polite.  Being rude to a reviewer usually does no one good.

If its a Flame, feel free to ignore them.  They aren’t worth your time.  Just recognize that a negative review is not automatically a flame.   NOt everyone is going to like your story.  If they write a review and say they don’t like it,  its not a flame.  If they write a review saying “You suck!”  it is.  Constructive crit is always a good thing, so if they say they don’t like it, and explain why, that’s not a flame, its a critique and you might find yourself finding tidbits of things to improve upon even when people hate your story.

Occasionally you’ll get reviews that make you just shake your head.  I once got a review for a fic I called “Photographs” because it had the main character looking at a series of pictures.  Someone reviewed and asked me where they pictures were.  I still don’t know how to respond to that, but that is probably one of my favorite reviews simply because off its oddity.

Keep in mind this is all for fun

Don’t take negative reviews completely to heart.  Or the fact that you never get reviews.  It might seem like no one is reading, and that might be disheartening.  I know that since I have fics in small fandoms where no one is writing anymore and no one thinks to go reading it either.  Its a little depressing, but I keep in mind that I wrote the story because I felt inspired by the original story, or felt that something was needed.

Fanfiction should be primarily for yourself.  You are its primary reader.  You are the audience you are writing for.  Now, taking into consideration your audience is always  a good thing in writing, but with fanfiction you can afford to be a little more self-centered about your writing. And like an original writer you don’t have to take every suggestion your readers/betas give you.

Enjoy yourself.

One | Two |Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Pre-Production

The work that goes into writing fanfiction is not often different from the work that goes into making original short stories and longer novels.  The main difference is that fanfiction has material and a world it is already based on.  Professional fanfiction is an actual thing.  The hundreds of Jane Austen continuations and adaptations alone could prove that.  As mentioned in an earlier section, the Aeneid is basically fanfiction of Homer.  But I don’t anyone would tell Virgil that he hadn’t put his share of work into that story.

There are different things people do before writing a story.  Some people have a scene or story so clear in their minds that they sit down and write the whole thing in one go.  Others need planning, and some need research to develop its unique elements.  The ‘pre-production’ stage of writing may include some of the following:

The Plot Bunny

The Plot bunny is not exclusive to fanfiction, though that is where I hear it most.  Its that spark of a story that is stuck in your head that you want to develop or get written down.  The what if voice.

I was once part of a college writing club and one of the members decided to draw a plot bunny once.  It was a drunk plot bunny because sometimes it seems like that idea is a little drunk at first, especially when its only pieces and you aren’t sure how to figure it out quite yet.

I actually have a file on my computer just for the random ideas, both fanfiction and original fiction, that pass through my brain.  Some will never be written.  Others will be picked up down the road.  Its sometimes useful just to get the general idea written out to clear out your mind and let you focus on the stories you are actively working on.

Sometimes carrying a notebook with you to jot inspiration or notes down helps too.

The Outline

Sometimes an outline is useful.  There are many different kinds of outlines out there, and maybe one day I’ll write a whole post just on the different kinds.  Some just do bullet points, others do outlines in such detail they could hand those notes over to someone else and let them do the actual writing.

For me it depends on the story.  Some stories, particularly short one-shots and 500 words or less drabbles (we will get into that next post) don’t really need an outline.  It is helpful if you have a long fic planned and need to meet certain elements along the way to the conclusion.

Outlines can also be helpful if you need to do research

Find out what is best for you.

Finding a writing nook

Well, that is a little misleading.  What I mean by this is finding a spot (or spots) where you can write comfortably.  Everyone needs different things.  I like to write with music, so I go find places to settle down where I can play my music.

Some people need fresh pencils, others need their laptop.  Find out what works for you.  If you are uncomfortable its not going to be a good writing session.

Once you find a spot, and know what you are writing, then its time to get writing.

Part:

One | Two | Three

Four | Five

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: The Disclaimer

You may have noticed amongyour travels of the fanfiction archives out there that many stories had disclaimers.  Sites that fanfiction only tend not to have them as its generally known that the site is a collection of trans-formative works.  But its important to know what a disclaimer is and why you should use one, especially if you are posting a site that is not purposely for Fanfic

A disclaimer is a message where the writer reminds whoever is reading of several things.  One is that it is done for enjoyment, not profit (fanfiction is primarily a volunteer/non-paid hobby).  Two that the writer is giving credit when credit is due.  Three, That the writer respects other writers enough to know how to source material.

So in more depth: Continue reading “Fandom Writing Starter Kit: The Disclaimer”

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Lets Talk Canon

As I mentioned in my previous article, each fandom has a canon.  It depends on the fandom itself what is considered canon. In sports, their canon might be the rules and regulations that the sport runs by.  In a fandom such as Star Wars some fans may consider only the films canon, others might include the extensive extended universe tie in novels.   Game of Thrones fans might consider their canon either the show or the books, or attempt to meld the two.

There are other choices other then strict canon, such as fanon, semi-canon, Alternate Universe, and of course non-canon.

Continue reading “Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Lets Talk Canon”

Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Terminology

Whenever you first start reading fanfiction, you’ll see various terms used to describe what you are about to read.  Its important to understand some of these terms, especially when you are posting your own stories.  People look for certain things when they are reading, and its always good to describe your story in a way that will make them understand what they are looking at.  Here are some multi-fandom general terms.

Gen
Continue reading “Fandom Writing Starter Kit: Terminology”