A Little Dust on the Blog

16 10 2012

It’s been a few weeks shy of a year since I last updated this thing. It’s been a crazy year, I can tell you that much. I haven’t had much time for hobbies because of it, either. But this isn’t my personal diary, so let’s talk about the reason why I’ve blown the dust off this thing.

When I last updated, I’d been working on an original fiction that’s been in the making for 11+ years. I have since divorced said story and put it back into storage until further notice. Working on it, though, was good exercise for my brain. It gave me a little something to do to get ready for my current interest… fanfiction.

Last year, I started another blog dedicated to a TV show I’m obsessed with called “The Walking Dead,” particularly a couple I “ship” in said show. It’s a fairly popular blog at the moment. It doesn’t have thousands of followers (yet), but it does have a decent following with more people than I dared to dream in the beginning. Because of this blog, I’ve been privileged enough to meet some really gifted writers who write fanfiction based on our ship. I’ve read and reviewed countless stories over the last year, and I was inspired to hop aboard the bandwagon and give fanfic writing a try.

As it would turn out, fanfiction is far more challenging than most people realize. When writing original fiction, the author can create the characters as s/he sees fit. If they decide to make so-and-so do something, it is well within their right to do so. If someone questions this, the writer can simply say, “I’m the writer and what I say goes.”

This is not an option in fanfiction. When you write fanfiction, you have to keep in touch with an already established world and its characters. The people who read your story have high expectations when it comes to how the characters behave, speak, and go about their life. The readers range from casual fans to die-hard fanatics who will rip you a new one if you allow even the slightest toe out of their expectations. In a way, writing fanfiction is harder than original fiction simply because your critics will be judging you with higher standards than they would original fiction. Not only do you have to write well, you also must write within their character expectations.

With such high expectations, I’ve been forced to reevaluate everything I’ve written with the help of my beta/editor, Cate. I’ve been rather pleased with some of the things I’ve written, particularly parts that have given me the most trouble. For example, in one story, I summarize the events in an episode of the TV show. There is a transition moment that lasts mere seconds, yet it is critical to the story. Simply saying something along the lines of, “Daryl rode his motorcycle to the gate so Carol could hop on” just wouldn’t have done the moment justice… and yet the moment was so brief, a paragraph would have been overkill.

After a day and a half of writing, I came up with this line:

The light at the end of the tunnel took the form of a Triumph Bonneville, and the Angel of the Lord wore his wings on the back of a leather vest. “C’mon, I ain’t got all day!”

(From Between Two Brothers)

I was very pleased with this line, to say the least. It shows the reader Carol’s relief without being too wordy. It also reveals that Carol regards Daryl’s arrival as an answer to her prayers.

I’ve also dabbled a bit into foreshadowing. One thing that bothers me, though, is that most foreshadowing is so blatantly obvious, they may as well write out what is going to happen. Then again, I have always had this nasty habit of figuring things out well before the ending. My better half is still shocked that I figured out the surprise ending to “The Usual Suspects.”

All that aside, I wanted to put some foreshadowing into the first chapter of one of my fanfics. I have a scene in mind for this particular one that will happen later on, but it also goes hand-in-hand with my second story:

He stole a glance at Carol, who was fidgeting in place as she looked around at the others. She reminded him of a doe caught in the headlights of an oncoming car… scared, confused, unsure of where to turn for safety. The corner of his mouth twitched as he began loading an bolt into his crossbow. It wasn’t like him to let his mind wander, and yet in the last twenty four hours, it had strayed in the same direction more than he’d care to admit.

(From Between Two Brothers)

It’s not the greatest paragraph ever written, but it gets the job done. It sets up not just the scene I will later write for this story, but also foreshadows a scene from the unofficial sequel I’ve already completed.

Another difficulty in writing this particular fanfiction is conveying Southern accents. The characters currently reside in Georgia, meeting just outside of Atlanta and then moving in an undetermined direction at the end of Season One. Each character is from an undetermined location, though all of them are presumably from Georgia. For the most part, each character speaks with what I call a “basic Southern accent,” meaning they tend to shorten some of their words, but for the most part speak “normal English.” Carol is a good example:

“I’m not complainin’,” she said softly. “I thought it was really sweet, but… I just wonder what brought it on.”

(From The Doe and the Corn)

Daryl, on the other hand, has been an absolute nightmare to write dialogue for. His character is from a very rural area, presumably from the Appalachian region of Georgia. His dialect is very similar to the one from my own region of Appalachia, yet somewhat different in a way I have yet to pinpoint. His speech also relies heavily on his emotions. When he’s angry, he talks very fast as his accent becomes three time thicker than normal. When he’s talking quietly, his accent is still noticeable, yet becomes closer to “basic Southern.”

Here is an example of angry Daryl dialogue:

“The monkey suits went out when the dead started walkin’,” Daryl snapped. “An’ what goes on ‘tween me an’ Carol ain’t none’a your damn business… An’ I ain’t traipsin’ ’bout in no suit jus’ so the rest’a y’all can feel better about it!”

Now compare that to quiet Daryl:

“Last night, I had this dream… I was leavin’ the house to go huntin’, and when I got to the porch, I saw somethin’ in the garden. I thought it mighta been a geek, so I got ready to shoot it. But it wa’n’t no walker. It was this doe standing in the corn.”

(Both from The Doe and the Corn)

It took a lot of studying to get the dialogue perfected. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched “Cherokee Rose,” “Triggerfinger,” and “Beside the Dying Fire” more than anyone else just so I could study Daryl’s accent. If I had been writing an original character, I could have simply used the accent from my area. Because fanfiction uses borrowed characters, I have to try to stay as close to the character as possible.

Writing fanfiction is such an underrated challenge. So many “real” writers look down upon it as though it were an unworthy pastime. Considering some of the fanfiction I’ve read, I’m inclined to agree to a certain extent, but there are just as many bad fanfiction writers as there are writers of original fiction. What I have written will never bring me a paycheck, either, but I don’t see this as a bad thing. What I lack in revenue, I have made up for in experience and enjoyment. I’m having fun writing with these borrowed characters, and the joy it brings to others is greater than the joy of the positive reviews they leave behind.

The fact my stories have been read by about 400 people in 22 countries doesn’t hurt, either. ^_~