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Discussion in 'The Story Board' started by Jono11, Aug 19, 2009.
What about the desire to improve? That's something.
What about Geoff Johns? Marv Wolfman? Paul Dini? Alan Moore? They all used established characters and have made a living. They took those characters and put them in new situation, making some of the best writing I've seen.
It really isn't. Every writer, I'm sure, desires to improve. But nobody can make you improve like a harsh, unforgiving editor, and they're all harsh and unforgiving. I'm working on some pieces for Dave Eggers right now, and the guy's impossible. But he's making me a better writer. Much better than I would be without his guidance.
Buddy, if Geoff Johns and Marv Wolfman rank up there with the best writing you've seen, you need to get out more. May I recommend William Faulkner, TS Eliot, Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, and Grant Morrison, just for starters off the top of my head?
As for your post: yes, they used established characters, but they were published. That means they had editors. That means they were subjected to an established critical community with credible rubrics for judging a work. You don't honestly mean to compare "Sinestro Corps War," or "Arkham Asylum: Serious House on Serious Earth" with fanfiction, do you?
First off, I meant the best writing in comics. Key words there are in comics. Secondly, how do you think people like Johns, Moore, Wolfman, and Morrison started out before they wrote comics? Obviously, they wrote stories down or made them up in their heads that used Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, etc. These weren't published. No editors. In fact, Wolfman writes in the forward to COIE that it was based on an idea he had as a kid. I'd call that fanfiction. No editor there, either.
It could be argued that character archetypes in general serve as touchstones of familiarity, since we all encounter them in the stories we see. Stoppard and Rhys explicitly chose to use existing characters. If you're coming into R&G from Hamlet, or reading Wide Sargasso Sea after Jane Eyre, there's no denying the intent to associate; these are the same characters occupying the same universes.
I bring up this point only to demonstrate that Good Writing can still be Good Writing even if it isn't self-contained, and I realize you never contested that - but in a debate about fanfiction's legitimacy, I feel it's a relevant point to stress, especially given the amount of fanfiction that gets written with satire, parody, or (more often) absurd shenanigans in mind. There's something there that can't be totally replicated with original characters.
Now, I don't think a fanfic about Alucard and D sitting in a bar complaining about getting the shaft from Edward Cullen is on the same level as Wide Sargasso Sea, but I do think they could be born from the same creative desire.
That's great to hear. It's generally a good sign if an editor is invested in your work enough that they demand continued improvement.
If, however, this is all about whether or not fanfiction shares the same general caliber of quality as professional writing, then the answer is of course not. But the question assumes that writing only has one real application in order to be worthwhile: rigorous, continued exercise under the scrutinous eye of a professional editor, with the end result being an original work for enjoyment on the national (or global) stage.
That has its own appeal, but maybe fanfiction has a different one.
If a group of people are playing baseball in the park, maybe even wearing jerseys from their favorite teams, and their collective interest in baseball only extends to "it's fun to play", should they be criticized for a lack of ambition to go the distance, subject themselves to real improvement under an iron-fisted coach who'll accept nothing but their best, compete in the big leagues, and aim for the World Series?
Of course not, because ambition isn't necessary a reason why they're doing it. They aren't demanding the same professional legitimacy as the Red Sox. They're just playing baseball in the park.
Is a team that does want to do that someday at a disadvantage if they just keep playing in their backyards? Yes, absolutely; being talented is not the same thing as being skilled with that talent, and skill needs instruction. Are they necessarily at a complete disadvantage, though? Maybe not. There are some lessons about competitive baseball that you can only learn on a professional stage, but there are also lessons that you can learn just by playing at it, or watching other people play.
I do believe fanfiction can serve the same ends. I think it's something you can do just for kicks. I also think it's something that can get people interested in writing, to the point where they decide they're interested enough to get better at it.
What it is, like so much else, depends on who you are and what you want to do.
I believe there is actually pretty strong evidence that Moore and Morrison didn't start out that way at all. And unsurprisingly, they're the guys whose writing transcends the confines of mere genre fiction and becomes actual art and literature, whereas Johns and Wolfman just contribute to the soap opera.
That's because there is no archetype to use instead of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. You can't communicate the idea of a bit player in a larger drama unless there's already an established larger drama.
Satire, parody, and absurd shenanigans are all used quite a bit too much by amateur writers. They are ideas founded upon breaking rules, and you have to be good at following the rules before you can be good at breaking them.
I see your point here, but I still maintain that art is too important to be so trivialized.