5 Surprising Things I Learned Writing Awful Fan Fiction
"To know the essence of a man, you must first learn what kind of fan fiction he writes." -Voltaire
Whenever I see harsh criticism of bad fan fiction, I kind of feel like I'm the teen in the coming-of-age movie who's befriended the weird kid but is now laughing at him with his original friends because poor Farts Hasagoodheart has embarrassed himself somehow. "Haha! That Breaking Bad/Bates Motel crossover sure is stupid, huh? There is NO WAY that I'D EVER involve MYSELF with something LIKE THAT." But I did involve myself with something like that. I devoted my early teenage years to it.
I wrote copious amounts of fan fiction about franchises like Star Wars, Halloween, Lord Of The Rings, Jaws, Batman, and many more. They all could be classified under varying degrees of ineptitude, ranging from "barely sentences" to "almost sentences," and while 18-year-old Daniel is currently screaming, "Keep it to yourself, bro! You gotta think of the potential lady sweat!" at me, I must admit that I learned a few things about writing from my days in the "completely unnecessary sequel" trenches. Things like ...
How To Work Through Sexual Inexperience
By the time I started writing fan fiction, I'd already experienced the fifth-grade class where a stranger came into the room to show us pictures of what genitals look like when a person is vertically sliced down the middle while telling us that sex is something that happens. There was no explanation of why or of the appropriate time for it. It was, "Sex is there, and you might get diseases too! Later!" This left me with a very ambiguous idea of what sex was. It's kind of like how I view going back to grad school now. I know that I will probably have to face it in my future, but the particulars are a clouded mess of desire and anxiousness. And looking at it solely through the Internet will do me little good.
"Oh, sex is something Gimli and Frasier Crane do with Princess Zelda after they
rescue Mega Man from Lord Zedd and his own inner turmoil. That makes sense."
When reading fan fiction, insane, awkward sex is seen as something that is inevitable, so much so that it's disappointing when the pages don't erupt in a flurry of passion and Sonic The Hedgehog. Optimus Prime never laid the girl who's described in Train's "Meet Virginia"? What kind of Puritan scroll is this garbage? If you were looking for descriptions of sex that defy universes in my "Golden Age" work, you'd be underwhelmed. There are a few, but they read like I put my fingers on the keyboard and turned my face from the computer, typing with my eyes closed just so I could get it out of the way. In their stead, I included many scenes of an act that I had some sort of reference for. I didn't know the full A to Z of sex, but I did know H. Handjobs were the No. 1 business on my side of town, and buddy, business was a-jerkin'.
Let's say that you and the special woman in your life finally got some alone time. You've piloted the Millennium Falcon to a frequently misspelled planet and things are getting pretty hot. You've said one cliche line of dialogue, so the mood's been set. The droids are beep-boopin' in the other room, and you know that tonight is the night where you finally seal the deal. And how do you seal it? By receiving a handjob that will blow your damn mind. Every male character reacted to a handjob in my stories like he was the recipient of a lottery-winning handjob, and they reacted constantly. The fan-fiction forecast says that if there's no stroking dick by Chapter 2, we're experiencing a drought. A handjob was the ultimate sign of love and trust, and to leave the room without getting one was a sign of doom, like an old cop telling Steven Seagal that he's going to retire in a few days.
"It's nothing but fishing and handjobs for me from now on, Steven Seagal's Character's Name."
For a lot of my friends, puberty had descended like a flash mob at that point. For me, it was like a party that a ton of people were invited to but only three arrived. As we changed into gym attire in the locker room, my sixth-grade class mainly chatted about sperm jokes, girls, and how willing they'd be to kick the ass of anyone who questioned their ultimate non-gayness. In the meantime, I ashamedly stood beside my corner locker with my back to the room, hoping that no one would notice my underdeveloped chest. Not growing at the same rate as the other guys my age made me nervous, and writing handjob scenes sort of helped me cope with it.
Awww. Redemptive handjobs.
Like the one Bill Murray's FDR got while coming to terms with his illness, except
in my version he got it from Captain Janeway.
It was my way of saying, "Hey. I'm here. I'm moving toward being an adult too." It probably wasn't the best way to handle the anxiety, but it did make me comfortable as someone who at least thought that he had a handle on what was going on.
How To Improperly Resurrect A Cast Of Characters
There's a lot of backlash against resurrecting characters, and I understand it most of the time. I'm always down for a good "Holy shit! This is so great!" moment, and a resurrection can really provide that. However, there is something called the American Horror Story/'90s Comics Point Of Reason where characters are resurrected in a way that seems spiteful to the writers that originally killed them off, and resurrection doesn't mean much anymore, since they're sprouting back up like weeds (or rosebuds).
"I'm back to do some sledding, motherfuckers!"
The death of Quint in Jaws is super important, because it makes Chief Brody's scenario look hopeless. The guy who had ways to kill the shark has been devoured, and the only person left is someone whose plan is "carry a pistol and argue with the mayor." It would be pretty stupid if someone just decided to, for instance, bring Quint back in Jaws V. It would be even stupider if he came back totally unharmed and still capable at about 90 years of age. But where else would Jaws V go except straight to the exploits of a man who was nearly bitten in half in 1975? Seventh-grade me certainly didn't know.
Similar things happened in my work with characters from Jurassic Park. Again, an awesome way to increase the stakes and tension of a plot is to slowly eliminate the motherfuckers that know what they're doing. Robert Muldoon (not killed in the book, but totally killed in the movie) and John "Now He Has A Robot Arm" Arnold (killed in both the book and the movie) were brought back in my Jurassic Park IV. And what had they been doing during their secret escape from the light at the end of the tunnel? Welcome to the next three pages of this novel that no one will read. Exposition was to my stories as a big spider web is to an uneven hiking path. The conditions have already made you miserable, but now you have to bat your hands around in a long fit of stalled frustration.
"But it turned out I was more clever in the end. And then I spent a year in Paris, and ..."
Every bit of motivation that I wrote negated the motivation that had been established in the original source. If Muldoon had been alive, I'm sure that he would've at least tried to help during the climax of the first movie. I don't know the man, but he seemed responsible enough. If I had been a better writer at the time, the first question off of everyone's lips when Muldoon victoriously showed up again would've been, "Where were you when those kids were being chased around the kitchen? Do your job, prick."
How To Improperly Pick Villains
Before J.J. Abrams got a hold of it, the story for Star Wars: Episode VII wasn't about a new evil Jedi or the rise of a new Empire. It was about the wrath of the Hutts, which I spelled out pretty adequately with the title Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Wrath Of The Hutts. It's a name that carries all the gravitas of a giant, slow-talking space slug, and I'm sure that it could've had the chance for a future adaptation if George Lucas had decided to release the next installment of the biggest series that the world has ever known straight to DVD.
Followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII -- Max Rebo Wants Some Measure Of Revenge Too.
The best part of the entire Star Wars mythology is the first 40 minutes of Return Of The Jedi. If you believe otherwise, honestly, you're probably right. I was/am enamored with the chunk of the movie that ends with the explosion of Jabba's sail barge, so much so that I decided to set the movie novelization of a movie that didn't exist in the dank corridors of Jabba's former palace. Under the pen of a more talented person, I'm sure that this could've been worked into something appealing, but with me at the helm, it was everything that had happened in those first 40 minutes, but exploding-er. The previously dead rancor that Jabba fed his slaves to? He got a robot arm. To save you an exhausting list of examples, but still make my point, everything was "(insert new quirk here) and a robot arm." The Elements Of Style should have a whole section devoted to the "robot arm" rule of fiction. It would prevent a lot of needless pain and gratuitous cyborgs.
The sequels that I wrote to Halloween were probably the most competent things that I ever made during this era of my life, but only in the same way that, while "farb mar flarb" means nothing on this planet, it may mean something on another. For these, I decided that the villain shouldn't be the unkillable man who annually slaughters his way through a Midwestern town. It should be the unlikable Australian dude who wants to stop that man, because I had just learned what an antihero was, and it drove me into a frenzy.
In my defense, it worked for Rob Zombie.
The biggest problem with having your "main" villain be a "professional Michael Myers hunter" is a logical one, though. There have been bigfoot hunters, but they mostly lived under the assumption that there are more than one bigfoot. If you're a current Michael Myers hunter, you're literally the worst anyone has ever been at any job, and you'll stay that way until you lose it. The only way to move up in your career is to become a former Michael Myers hunter after putting every other Michael Myers hunter out of a job.
How To Ruin Great Characters
I don't need to know anything else about Boba Fett. What makes him cool is that you literally know nothing about him, other than that he's Vader's bro and that he has a wilderness survival kit hidden in his wrist gauntlets. He's not one of those guys whose evolution makes him more interesting. Learning that he was once a dad-less clone kid was information that I could file away for never, because I understand what brings me joy and what doesn't. He's just a badass mercenary who got killed by the antics of a flailing blind man, and he's perfect that way.
I didn't always have that opinion. When you love something, let it go. Unless you're writing fan fiction. In that case, shove it into every narrative crevasse that you can find until your story collapses from all of the fucking Boba Fett.
"Your resume is most impressive, Boba Fett. I had no idea you captained your college's
space rowing team. Tell me about it in ludicrous detail."
I did this with everyone and everything that I wrote about. While Freddy Krueger was already pretty grating as a character by the time he was starring in films with Roseanne, I managed to multiply his personality by 90. Nightmare On Elm Street VII: Dreams End (named because of what happens when you finally wake up, Daniel, you moron) read like a guy simultaneously shredded his failed late-night talk show joke packet and his VHS copy of Nightmare, realized his mistake, and hastily tried to tape them back together.
But Fett was the most grievous casualty. He wasn't a stand-in for myself, but he was a veritable pantry for every personality trait that I thought a great character should have. While everyone else was getting a handjob or being forgotten, Fett was uttering quips and dealing with an internal monologue that constantly threatened to swallow everything else in the book. Keep in mind that this is all from a guy whose most famous line is, "As you wish." Suddenly turning him into a helmeted version of Holden Caulfield is a jarring leap, and it's fitting that the last Star Wars chapter I ever wrote involved Boba Fett hiding under a bed while the people on top of the bed got to second base and stayed there. It sums up my entire fan-fiction career so nicely.
Why, yes, the people on top were Lando and Lobot. How kind of you to ask.
How To Stop Writing Fan Fiction
My fan-fiction stint started in fifth grade with Godzilla 2525, and it ended in 10th grade with my attempts to write about Batman. I wrote three stories, with the first two being based on The Batman, a cartoon that a lot of people lambasted because it wasn't a different Batman cartoon. My third was a taller order. It was the tallest order that I could give to myself, actually, as it set out to create an entirely new Batman universe.
I wanted to make Calendar Man credible again, goddammit.
In order to differentiate it from other efforts, I made Batman's first villain someone that few people would know or care about. I also turned that villain into a sniper, because when you misinterpret the reason why some creators make characters more realistic, you often just decide that everyone should be a bland serial killer. And to top off my grand experiment in getting in over my head, I decided that this would be the first time that I would post a piece of my fan fiction on the Internet.
I got four chapters in before people told me that I was doing Batman the wrong way. I then made a forum post about a weird thing to look forward to in the next chapter, and the immediate reply was someone telling me that I shouldn't make my Batman weird. His Batman universe was the weird one and mine was the realistic one, and that was how it should stay. I never wrote anything notable or batshit crazy enough to be noticed by people outside of the fan-fiction realm, but the people inside of it were not pleased that I had contributed. Half of why I stopped writing fan fiction was because of comments from people in the same boat as me. I'll never understand how someone can write fan fiction about Batman and then yell that the person writing fan fiction next to them is messing up the character, but, then again, many denizens of the Internet tend to just metaphorically Pizza The Hutt their way through existence.
There was a lot of debate over whether this scene was the right time for a handjob.
The other half was me being unprepared to deal with 70-plus years of Batman history in any sort of organized manner when I was 15. I am not under the impression that this endeavor was going to go prodigiously. There is no "And I would've gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those nasty forum members!"
Fan fiction is totally something that can be laughed at because, come on, Sherlock Holmes is never going to single-handedly massage and team up with all of the residents of Gilligan's Island. But it isn't something that can be clearly defined as "writers that are too busy trying to make copyrighted characters bone to do anything else," either. Often, it's just people in the formative stages of their creative development, desperately trying to find some way to express themselves. And what would be early crap that every young writer puts out before they settle into years of being subpar becomes early crap that involves popular characters and subjects that everyone has a preconceived notion of and can easily find on Google. I don't regret a majority of the hundreds of pages that I wrote of it.
I do regret making Boba Fett and Princess Leia hook up, though. I think the world could've done without that scenario being hideously birthed into it.
Daniel has a blog.
Sure you'd expect a Cracked writer to dabble in fan fiction, but did you know that FDR wrote fan fiction? We'd like to imagine that he wrote sex scenes along the lines of these: 5 Fan Fiction Sex Scenes You Won't Believe Exist. Also check out, 5 Reasons Pop Culture Is Run By Fan Fiction.
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