Why Fanfiction?

It has been quite some time since I first started this blog. It has lain fallow and ignored for several months now. For whatever reason, I finally feel compelled to correct that. And for whatever reason, I deem the first real entry here to be an explanation of why I have written and still write fanfiction. Perhaps this may be a little self-indulgent, but I figure my friends, at least, might appreciate the insight into my motivations and thought processes. And this entry may be interesting even to those who don’t know me and/or dislike me. I have, after all, written the (presently) longest English-language Fire Emblem story on Fanfiction.net. Some explanation of why I have spent so much time and effort on fanfiction might be fascinating from an outsider’s perspective. Don’t people always ask, “Why write fanfiction?” Some simply can’t understand it. For those, I hope this blog post provides some answers. Others find the writing of fanfiction to be a complete waste of time, and in some cases even immoral. I will provide a moral defense of fanfiction in a future post, but for now, perhaps the haters can find some morbid amusement from a glimpse into the mind of a “pathetic” fanfic author. In any case, be you sympathetic friend or scornful foe, I will be happy if you derive education, entertainment, or both from this post.

The only media series I have ever written much fanfic for (at least so far) is Fire Emblem, which is ironic, since I’m no longer as much of a fan of the games. The reasons for this will be elucidated in a later post (again), but for now, it is enough to note that I used to like FE quite a bit. I also used to be heavily involved in the fandom, or community of enthusiasts, concerning that game. That is also a story for another time. I bring those issues up because they are part of the main reason I began writing fanfiction:

Passion for the games and a desire to interact with those who shared that passion.

It is obvious to hopefully everyone reading this that many people have asked “why write fanfiction.” I won’t retread all that ground, but a more specific question, “why not just write your own stuff?” is more germane to this discussion. In my case, at least, I didn’t “construct my own world” because I wanted to impact people who were already living in someone else’s. Fan fiction set in the world(s) of Fire Emblem would have been more immediately interesting and accessible to my FE-loving friends. They may not have necessarily been willing to read a story I came up with entirely on my own, but they would read something involving a setting and characters they already liked. For those who oppose fanfiction, I suppose this will still make me seem ‘lazy’ and ‘uncreative,’ but at the very least, my desire to connect with my friends surely cannot be quite as contemptible.

And, of course, we can’t forget passion for the games themselves. Oftentimes, when playing a game (or watching a movie, or reading a book) aspects of the plot or setting really grab the reader, sometimes affecting them greatly emotionally or raising questions they desperately want to be answered. That last part, after all, is a hallmark of some of the greatest stories. Leaving that doubt in a participant’s mind, the bit of mystery, the tantalizing hint of something just beyond their reach, is one of the appeals of consuming many types of creative media. It ought not to come as much of a surprise that many consumers will act on this desire for more. If you really connected emotionally with a character, you’ll want to see more of him or her, even if there’s no sequel or next episode to their story. You will, therefore, write your own. Perhaps a character or country or organization’s fate was left up in the air at the conclusion of a story, and you really want to know what happened to them. You will, therefore, provide your own answers. There are hundreds upon hundreds more of these little inspirations, these little engines of fan creativity, and fanfiction provides a satisfying outlet for all of them.

Needless to say, this reason applies every bit as well for many fanfic authors in other fandoms—books, anime, whatever. It is, of course, not the only reason, and I’m sure many of my fellows will be able to provide their own—more thoughtful and convincing than the explanation I’ve given, likely. I would recommend discussions such as these, which encapsulate many of the points I’ve made here while adding a few more (and which provide helpful elaborations on the positive aspects of fanfiction, which are more lucid and thoughtful than the ones I’ll likely provide in the future). In the interest of not being totally unoriginal, however, allow me to provide one more, personal reason.

Due to a combination of my own life experiences and the content of the games themselves, the stories of Fire Emblem resonate with me in such a way that writing fanfiction for them is more appealing than anything else. Constructing my own worlds, characters, and stories would simply not satisfy me as much as fanfic.

It would be fair to say I would not be the man I am today were it not for Fire Emblem, and the community surrounding that game. As silly as it sounds, several of the plot points contained within those games, particularly the story of Renault’s path to religion in FE7, have affected me emotionally as much as Ender’s Game or Tolstoy’s Father Sergius did. Perhaps I have very strange tastes, but that’s just who I am. Additionally, Fire Emblem fans themselves have had a tremendous impact on my life and thinking. For many years, people from the FE communities I frequented were my closest friends, and some still are to this day. Those people taught me lessons and shaped my thinking on a wide variety of subjects. I would be completely different as a writer and thinker (and, I would argue, worse in both) were it not for my fellow FE fans.

Therefore—and I speak entirely for myself, not at all for anyone else—I simply could not write anything but fanfiction for Fire Emblem. Most authors, great and small, write about what’s important to them, or about formative events in their lives. Fire Emblem was important to me, and the time I spent on the games formed my life in many important ways.

It is for this reason I started many of the stories I have written on FFn. Some are simply funny little things I wrote as contest entries or favors to friends, such as Valega and Reasons to Fight. Other stories, however, most notably Wayward Son, are expressions of what is most important to me. Renault’s story—even the barebones glimpses of it we received in the game itself—resonated with me tremendously. It became, therefore, a drive, almost a vocation, to tell that story in my own words and on my own terms, as a reflection of how it affected me and why I found it so affecting. I could have written an original story containing many of the important themes and ideas I hoped to get across in Wayward Son; perhaps someday I will. But at the time I started that “epic”—and even now, as I continue—it seemed silly to create an entirely new world and cast of characters when Renault and the land of Elibe were what was affecting me. It may sound odd, but why would I allow my own ideas and characters to “take the credit” for a good story when Renault and the world of Fire Emblem 7 were what had inspired me? Original fiction would seem like more of a theft than fanfiction, ironically enough. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Now, at this point, some of my readers may be growing a bit suspicious. I have spoken at length and (hopefully) eloquently on how much Fire Emblem means to me, and how it led me to fanfiction. Yet, as you may recall, I mentioned earlier that I’m “no longer much of a fan of the games” and no longer very active in the community. Was I lying? Nope, not at all. I will be honest: I am no longer particularly passionate about the Fire Emblem series; in fact, I’m not even very interested in it. My former love for it has mostly evaporated. I haven’t played a Fire Emblem game in some time.

This would make everything I’ve written above of purely historical interest—a snapshot of a time which has now long passed, an example of someone speaking of how he used to feel, with the knowledge of why he no longer does. Well, it would…if I had stopped writing fanfiction entirely. As my friends will be able to tell you, that is not the case. It may be in a year or two, but for now, I’m still active in the fanfiction community for Fire Emblem, both as a reviewer and a writer. Perhaps I’ll leave fanfiction entirely when Wayward Son is finished, but until then, I shall continue.

The inevitable question arises: “Why?” Why in the world would I write fiction for Fire Emblem—in my case, hundreds of thousands of words worth of fanfiction—if I’m no longer interested in it? It is an estimably worthy question, and undoubtedly deserves an answer. That answer, however, is quite a long one. Long enough to deserve its own post, in fact. This post is already getting long enough as it is–I have found it prudent not to make entries far above 1,000 words, in order to maintain reader interest. Thus, I’ll put my longer explanation of why I still write fanfic in another entry! To find it, please come back next Friday, when I’ll have “Why Fanfiction, Part II” up for your perusal. ‘Till then, please feel free to send your own thoughts on what I’ve written here in the comments!

P.S: About that, if you don’t have a wordpress/blogspot account, please put a name in the name field. It gets confusing for me if there are a bunch of comments from “anonymous” where the only thing distinguishing them is their gravatars. You don’t have to provide any other identity or anything else, of course, just something to distinguish your posts from everyone else’s. 🙂

P.P.S: Added a few more links and small edits.

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4 comments

  1. Bartholomew Kamiro · · Reply

    I remember hearing similar questions when I told people I started writing on FFn. My feelings with the site have kind of been up and down since I joined but I’d definitely say the reason I’m still around is because of the friends I’ve made like you and Matty.

    I’m kind of surprised to hear that you’ve lost the passion for Fire Emblem. Given how active and supportive you are around the site it never occurred to me. I won’t press much since you said you’ll talk about it in your next post, but I am curious if you are going to try your hand at original fiction once you’re done on FFn.

  2. Hey man! Glad to see you here. Original fiction…*maybe.* I doubt it. More likely I’ll go to Castlevania or some mecha anime or something, hehe.

  3. Here and following!

  4. Awesome, nice to see you here 😀

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