Welcome to the Library of the Damned. On this blog, a team of snarky literates will take you on a journey through some of the worst fanfiction ever created. Perhaps the best way to introduce this blog is by a series of questions.
What is fanfiction?
Fanfiction (or fanfic) is a story written by a person in response to a published piece of work that they adore. It can be based on a movie, a book, a comic… just about anything. There are websites that are devoted to allowing aspiring writers to put up their fanfiction for others to read. These websites are non-discriminatory, which can be good and can also be bad. These sites do not scan for literary ability and thus, the internet is filled with self-inserted, MarySue drivel written by people who have no business putting a pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard as this day and age allows.
Basically, fanfiction allows someone to expand on a story they liked, using their own flair, and sometimes their own characters. They could merely borrow the characters of the original story, or just borrow the setting. Or it could be a ‘re-write’ on an original work with all the original characters, altering scenes to fit the taste of the writer.
Some fanfiction is actually very well written. The plots are complex, the characters are multi-dimensional, and the writing is to the point where you have to ask yourself: Why hasn’t this person written an original work as they could very well get published?
Then there are the fanfics that make us cringe, make us laugh, and make us hit our heads on the desk with how utterly bizarre, nauseating, and horrible they are. The stories that fall under this category at the ones you’ll find us critiquing here.
MarySue? Who is that?
Oh, you noticed that term, did you? MarySue is a very important bit of terminology when looking at fanfics. A MarySue is a character that is overall better than anyone or anything ever could be. They are beautiful, talented, flawless (or flawed in ways that are not actually flawed at all), and perfection on paper. They’re usually extraordinary in some way, shape, or form. Although they’re typically female, there are MarySue male characters, too.
What about self-insertion? That sounds kinky. It’s something to do with sex, right?
Self-insertion is when an author creates a character that, in their mind, is either a symbol of themselves or what they wish they could be. Sometimes it’s as simple as naming the character after themselves and giving him/her/it similar physical characteristics and personality traits. Other times, it’s less direct. The character is unbelievably awesome and loved by everyone (ie: MarySue). Many authors, especially adolescent ones, use this latter form of character as a way of inserting into the story someone they wish they could be. It’s not actually them, but they imagine it is.
Ok, that makes sense. So, why are you doing this?
It sounded like fun.
Making fun of people?
Making fun of inability to write.
What gives you the right to do this? Seems mean to me.
For three simple reasons. One, I wrote horrible, drivel-y fanfiction when I was young. Two, I actually listened to the constructive comments and criticisms given to me for it. Using the things people pointed out to me, I improved my writing. I started actually paying attention to mechanics and learned how to round out characters so they would be believable. I learned how to write like a story-teller and not like a teenager talking to a friend. And lastly, being mean can be pretty fun. Especially when hiding behind the veil of anonymity the intertubes provide.
Many of the fics we will be critiquing have been given a chance to improve and the authors have basically turned their noses up at the attempts, defended their MarySues, and gone on sucking it up. No spell-check, no concept of grammar, and no willingness to learn how to actually make it better. Most of the authors of these fics have decided against using a beta reader to proof their work and rely instead on reader-submitted reviews that are usually of the “plez rite mor” variety. People who won’t listen to those trying to help them have bypassed their chance… they’re fair game now.
Some of you seem pretty violent. What’s with all the author abuse?!
Our fictional abuse of authors, be it Taco’s gong, Lyle’s book, Ghostcat’s crowbar, etc, are all meant as comedic devices and are not an expression of a desire to see actual violence befall the authors of the fics we riff. Specifically our author abuse is a form of Slapstick Comedy which is really an extension of the Schadenfreude response in humans. Our “attacks” here are merely an over-the-top expression meant to entertain rather than threaten or cause harm; in fact, many are aimed at the characters themselves and not the authors. We need to stress here that we are not actually violent people. Indeed, many of us are pacifists in the real world; however, that does not preclude our using the long standing comic device of slapstick in order to both punch up the humor of our riffs (pun may or may not be intended…), and add emphasis to points we feel are particularly important. We do not condone assaulting anyone, let alone based on the sole merit (or lack thereof) of their writing.
So… how can I get in on this?
You’d like to help? That’s great! There’s two ways you can help with this project.
1) Submit a story for critique. If you’ve run across a tragic example of fanfic gone terribly, terribly wrong, you can send me the URL for the fic via email. LiteraryTravesty@gmail.com. I’ll look it over and pass it along to my crack team of literary snarkers. If we agree that it’s horrible enough to spend our time on, we’ll add it to our queue.
2) Apply to be a guest snarker. Are you snarky? Great! Do you know how to write? Perfect! Send me a one-chapter critique of a suck-tastic fanfic (include the fic URL, please, so I can read the entire chapter myself). I’ll pass it along to my team, as well. If we like what we see, we’ll put you on our list of guest critics and add your chapter to the queue.
I don’t write much, but I do blog… can I add you to my blogroll?
Do fourteen-year-old girls write terrible Twilight fanfiction? Yes, they do. And yes, you may.