Doing this whole daily writing thing has helped me out a lot. I’ve decided to get back into finishing up some things I had started.
A few years ago, I was in the middle of a project called See You Next Mission. It was a long, episodic collaboration between a friend and myself to definitively explore the past of Samus Aran. I had stopped contributing to it several years ago because of a variety of issues. Last night, my old partner contacted me and we had a chat about what and why we didn’t finish.
One, I had just lost my job at the time, and I didn’t have creativity in me to spare. Now that I’ve settled in and my friend and I have reconnected, it feels like I should at least finish what I started.
Two, I felt that I was personally done with fan works. I felt like I had really wanted to write something that was totally, one hundred percent my own. I was done with the silliness of communities and with what I perceived as a lack of respect others had for the craft of writing. In the intervening time, I’ve come to terms with what it is. So long as I put out quality work that can stand on its own, I can feel comfortable with finishing it up and closing the book on fan works.
I’ve been meaning to write a post about the problems and pitfalls of fanfiction and why it is the red-headed stepchild of derivative works. Both fan writing and artwork have their own pitfalls of the lesser skilled. You could also fairly say that the effort spent on both is probably better spent on non-derivative works. Still, there is nothing saying that a derivative work is automatically a lesser work. Once again, shades of gray work into things.
I think it ultimately goes into effort and respect that one puts into the craft. There’s terrible works and good works in all lines of human creation, ignoring their status as derivatives. If someone using the work as a vehicle to tell a truly good story, then you’re already ahead of people who write their own terrible ideas. Still, the character is not yours. I think this is what hangs people up. The key to success is not making something to do with Optimus Prime, but to make the NEXT Optimus Prime.
Then you get the strange perversions (figuratively and literally) of works, and this is where the line between true fiction and “fanfiction” comes into play. Just because you’re making a derivative work does not mean you can leave out important characterization and setting details. It doesn’t mean you have a license to write crap because preconceived notions fill it in. You need to look at things like Batman: The Animated Series. When you think about it, the thing’s “fanfiction/fanart” through and through. Aside from being officially licensed and produced with the blessing of the original owner, it completely shook up what the established universe’s conception of Batman. It reinvented many staid old characters and brought new, interesting angles that had not yet been explored.
So what stops people from doing this with their own derivative works? They are probably not interested in creating a world, and it’s no coincidence that many indulgences of derivative work are done by adolescents. These same people also do the work for the approval of others or for external validation. It’s an easy way out for them to take their favorite characters, turn them into cookie cutters, and place them into contrived situations for their own self-pleasure. The Mary Sue and other tropes are classic examples, not to mention terrible plots and stilted characters.
But this doesn’t invalidate it as a whole. Since I have come to terms with my opinions about derivative works, I think I can finally learn from mistakes I was too stubborn to recognize in the past and finally turn the page on this. Like with many things, a hiatus might just have been the ticket. Returning with a clear head, I’m ready to work together with Dave and finally finish this thing up.