FanFic Fears & Other Bits of Potluck Clean-up

CM_JUL15_FEATURES_AnnaLouise6-e1435680443162Another lovely element of the writer’s psyche: we know how to clean up.

Oh, we may hate it. Put it off. Try to pawn the duties off on someone else to clean our messes for us. But we who are serious about craft and creation know the story will always need a good cleaning-up. How else will others see the language and imagery when there’s used napkins and half-eaten coconut oatmeal raisin cookies all over? And who brought those, anyway? Those raisins are disgustingly deceptive…


I imagine that, in moments like this, we’re all rather like my grandmother.


Yes, the one with the cheesy grin is me.

She took her place as Church Basement Lady very seriously. If there was to be a funeral or some sort of fellowship hour, count on her to bring a pan of date bars and some hot ham for sandwiches. Where are the cups? She knows. Out of sugar? She’ll get some. Zounds, but the tables are a mess. Don’t worry: my grandma and her crew will handle the clean-up.

And handle they did…in their own way.

Church Basement Ladies loved that time: the congregation gone, pastors elsewhere, they could smoke and cackle over gossip while hobbling among the tables gathering half-empty plates and forgotten snack cups. They’d use washcloths they had crocheted themselves to wipe down the tables and chairs. They’d drink that God-awful coffee, each leaving their own distinct shade of magenta lipstick on the styrofoam cups.

So let’s sit around the last table, you and I, and fill this air with old perfume and nicotine. Drink the dregs and share our thoughts about all things past, present, and future in this meager life of hope and faith.


Last week I mentioned writing some thoughts on children’s literature for writer and illustrator A.J. Cosmo. Yesterday he posted some of these thoughts. Please click on over to read, “How Dark is Too Dark in Kid’s Lit?”

Poet Mike Steeden also sent me his review of my e-book collection of Lessons Learned. Not gonna lie–I teared up. I’ve only been in the blogosphere for a little over a year, but the friendships and partnerships formed are stronger than many I have in the physical world around me. Mike and I only started speaking–what, a month ago? And to receive such reactions from him spurred me to interrupt Bo on the toilet just to show him.


‘Lessons Learned’, is a title that at first glance implies big picture aspirations gathered from history that make for a better future. In essence, albeit by way of cameo this book, should one be either a writer or an avid reader (or both) is just that…a backward glimpse at excellence; a message understood affording a more accomplished appreciation and/or production of what possibilities lie ahead.

An ever so silky smooth muse upon the works and thinking process of the prolific fantasy novelist Diana Wynne Jones, this book intelligently and painlessly dissects her extensive portfolio in a manner that new, indeed seasoned writers of the ‘now’, should they take heed of Jean Lee’s words, will be ‘better than before’.

For those, like this reader, unfamiliar with the works of Ms Jones, ‘Lessons Learned’ commences with a most agreeable account and crucial ‘hook’ as to how Ms Lee discovered the author, as well as providing a pertinent point glimpse as to, in colloquial terms, ‘what she was all about’.

As such, the book lives up to its title as it captures those lessons learned by the author herself in compiling the same and those, like me, grateful that such lessons are being passed on here.

Ms Lee debates a host of Ms Jones attributes, from genre and fictional character evolvement concepts that fascinate beyond measure. Also, as one who has had stabs at writing verse for children yet finding – in my case at least – the fun of silliness lost on more adult forms of poetic art the chapter ‘Don’t Sacrifice the Fun for Grown-Ups’ was particularly pertinent and educational.  Later in the book the ‘what is normal’ for a child as opposed to an adult – may be obvious in hindsight, yet not always in the forefront of the mind-set of those who ‘aspire’ – was another ‘lesson learned’.  Additionally, the importance, yet oft times overlooked first line attraction drawing the reader in is reinforced through specific example from Ms Jones’s portfolio.

‘Lessons Learned’ is an insightful analysis of a clutch of plainly super novels and furthermore, of the birth of a book and the specifics of its conception, thus making this well aimed tome a thing to serve as a vital aid for the writers far and wide.  Far, far better than an account of mere chronological subject matter vis-à-vis Diana Wynne Jones.  Moreover, the notes on ‘brevity’ caused this overly wordy reader to hang his head in shame (in a good way I stress)! The concluding chapter, ‘Yesterday Needn’t Stay in Yesterday’ conveys much about Jean Lee’s compelling way of thinking, an insight into both her own and Ms Jones mind in much the same way as a lyric might to an undisguised songwriter.  

Most important of all though is that there is a certain magic in Ms Lee’s didactic words that will remain intact, not stored away in some dark recess of my head for some time to come. 

Well done indeed Ms Lee!

How could I NOT interrupt Bo on the toilet with a review like that?

(Oh, and if you have no clue what I’m talking about with this e-book collection thingey, email me at and I’ll send you one. Yes, free. Friends share. 🙂

Yesterday I enjoyed reading smexy historical romance writer Shehanne Moore‘s interview (well, her power-hungry hamsters’ interview) of adventure fantasy writer Michael Dellert. They discussed the influence of place, as well as time, upon a writer, and how important it is to know how the when and where will impact the characters. Click here for the interview.

At one point Dellert states the following: “I think some writers sometimes make the mistake of plopping very contemporary attitudes down in a location that can’t support them. For example, in my medieval setting, literacy isn’t common.”

I know why he said that.

Me. 🙂 Well I’m sure I’m not the ONLY reason, but this specific example comes from the freewrites I’ve been working on for a Young Adult story to take place in his created universe. The protagonist is a sixteen-year-old named Meredydd (Mer for short) and her quest to become a true Shield Maiden. The freewrite prompts currently have me picking apart her psyche. Here’s an example:

Middler's PridePrompt: “I struggle with…”

What do you need to know THAT for? My struggles are my affairs, not yours.

Don’t stare.

FINE. Fine fine fine.

It’ll come out worse around others, but don’t you DARE speak of this without permission.

I don’t read really well. Actually, remove the “well.” I don’t read, really. Being the middler of the Not-Loved Woman meant I didn’t get the attention Dud and Ratty receive. They, THEY received educations. What makes them so special? One’s a boy, and one’s pretty. So what is it, their mothers? Must be. I hear of Dud’s mom spoken of, and pretty often too, by Father and some of the staff. She sounds like she was a sweet one. Maybe if she had lived a bit longer, that sweetness could have been gifted to Dud and he wouldn’t be the twit he is today.

Ratty’s mom is…around. Father’s a bit touchy about her. She goes off to meditate, see, a lot, and he’s wondering if she’s meditating with a little help, if you catch the nudge nudge there.

Sorry. I’m a *laaaady.* I shouldn’t speak of such things.

Hmm. Well actually, as a Shield Maiden, I *should* be more respectful of my elders.

When they earn it.

And right now our stableman gets more respect from me than THAT woman.

But I have to be GOOD about it, see? That’s a struggle, too. Put on the Good Girl mask when others are around. Prim. Polite.

Even when Ratty asks me to read through a message, like the one that came from the king’s seat. THE message, from the king, that said he agreed to letting me become a Shield Maiden.

I held that message IN MY HAND, and had no idea what it said. Ratty and Dud laughed. Father politely told me what was going on.

Never have I wanted to read so badly in all my life.

Maybe another Shield Maiden could teach me….but that means talking about this to ANOTHER person besides you.

Damnation, but people are irritating.

I sent this to Michael, and that’s when he most graciously reminded me that illiteracy would be the norm of the period.

In my head I said:


In the message I typed:

No, I didn’t know that. I presumed their class would know at least a little. Ok. That alters things.

Which has led me to wonder about the very concept of fan fiction, and what really defines it. I suppose such a talk could go on for ages, but as this post has already gone on for ages, I’m going to set out two of these styrofoam cups and tip my ashes into the one with fewer dregs.

That’s the setting cup.

And this one with the lipstick will be the character cup.

It seems to me, being a noob in the online writing universe, that fanfic either fixates on a particular person (or two, like *cough* 50 Shades *cough cough*), or on a universe. I’ve got piles of Sherlock Holmes stories not written by Doyle that my dad enjoyed: Holmes in the Midwest, Holmes vs. The Phantom of the Opera, and so on. People took the character, and gave him more adventures. Hell, my very, VERY first picture book I can remember making had to do with a monster kidnapping a little boy and Superman flying in to save him.

Damn. My first story’s a fanfic.

Maybe for some writers, fanfic with characters is a bit like training wheels on a bike. Uncertain how to create originals, they move around with others until they’re confident enough to balance without help. That seems to be the case for me, anyway.

And if that’s the case, writing in another’s setting should be like training wheels again, right?

Only it’s not. As I told Michael some time ago, I felt like I was writing blindfolded. I couldn’t SEE where these characters stood because I don’t know Michael’s fantasy universe. He’s spent years building this world, and now I’m just in there, picking up and dropping and throwing stuff around like my sons. Blondie will tell you: those two are destroyers.

And I felt no better.

Michael, bless him, kept it simple: yeah there’s a map, but that part of his land isn’t defined.

I thought about Jason Voorhees. He’s been on my thoughts a lot since the start of motherhood. He. Is. A Character. People just looove toying around with his past, uncovering what makes him immortal, that real relationship with his mom, all that garbage. Bo, being a fan of slasher films, will even get into comic books based on the characters from time to time. One particular volume by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti stuck out, in part because of this image:


Just…look at that. (If you have the stomach, sorry–I know slashers are NOT for everyone.)

This image of ghosts rising up from the lake’s floor is the foreshadowing of what’s to come: Jason lets one character hold his machete, and in that instance, we see the true past of Camp Crystal Lake: of settlers who butchered entire tribes of natives, of a shaman’s curse, of the countless drownings, fires…

Gray and Palmiotti don’t do anything fancy with Jason. Jason’s Jason. Instead, they define the place.

The characters are now my own. I don’t know them all just yet, but little by little they’re coming into focus; you can read my sketches here before you visit the novel here. It’s so cool to see what begins as a bit of fan-fiction has grown into a world all its own, with its own characters and conflicts.

I feel like I’m no longer confined by another’s universe. Yes, I do need to abide by some laws of history and progress. (What do you mean, they didn’t have the number zero? GAH! Next you’ll be telling me they don’t have alloys or mustard gas.) These laws, though, are rather like the foot-high picket fence people put around flowers because it looks cute. Yeah, it sucks to trip on, but otherwise, you can step over and around it without hurting yourself.

I need to stop hurting myself.

I need to stop treating that little fence like some sort of electrified contraption.

I need to let Gwen show me around. Introduce me to people. Take me to where she saw the the Cat-Eyed Man.

I need to grip the grass in my fingers. Balance on large rocks that look like a giant’s toes. Smell the river air mix with hidden herbs. Listen to the bees work through the glens.

Time to wrap this up, my friends. I’ll get the lights if you can grab that garbage bag. May the coming week find you in strange places with stranger company.

That’s how the best stories–and gossip–are born.





36 thoughts on “FanFic Fears & Other Bits of Potluck Clean-up

  1. Rather enjoyed this read…bit like walking about a department store selling ‘questions’ for deep thinkers to debate. ‘Strange places with strange people’ is my forte…just this very morn I found myself chatting to a lady from South Africa jogging ‘backwards’ (true). She spoke of English weather.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Aw Jean great great post in every way. And that Mike Steeden is an absolute gem. Just like you introduced me to Michael D I am glad to have put you the way of Mike S. Loved your story re the fanfic and the reading. Now if only they’d said, they knew most people couldn’t rad but that was why they wanted to do it…. now then, different scenario. Thank you for the reblog. So thrilled

    Liked by 3 people

    • I loved the interview–I just had to share it! Yes, fanfic is a slippery slope. I read this article…shoot, what was it called…something like “Confessions of a Former FanFic Writer.” Something like that. ANYway, he explained that fanfic writers love that realm because a) you don’t have to worry about character development, b) fans are already established, and often respond the moment you post a new story, and c) since you’re not earning anything from it, you can do whatever you want with these characters. It’s a comfy place to situate oneself, if you just want to write adventures without, well, the work of world-building or character development. I suppose that sounds grossly unfair; I know a writer who’s been writing short stories based on the works of Shakespeare, and they’re f’ing brilliant. They’re also fanfiction. So…ugh. The problem is, I think, when one doesn’t bother to try to be original with characters and/or setting. Even the tastiest of treats will come to taste stale when one eats it over, and over, and over again. Wouldn’t fanfic writing feel the same?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me, too! If I had to go through my last WIPs, it was either the character or the situation that came to mind first. The setting always comes later. It’s still vital and of equal status and whatnot, but when it comes to stories, the setting never comes to me first. Huh. I never noticed that before…once again, you teach me something about myself, Lovely Lady Shey. 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. All my favorite bloggers in one place 🙂 Great review, well deserved. Lessons Learned opened my eyes to the world of ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the writing process. I admire your gift, Jean. I am only a reader, and what I love in books, or in any other writings, is their author, his or her taste and intellect ( in this exact order).

    Liked by 4 people

  4. My darling, it is all there with you, you just don’t see it cos you have bambinos round your feet is all!! I always start my stories with a flash. You know I see one wee scene and then I’m thinking what kind of person is this. So I see we are the same there in a way cos then I am thinking of the situ. x

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m sooo sorry to be late here, of all places! I LOATHE not being able to read, like, & comment at your posts ASAP!
    I know you understand…

    And alas, my 8-year-old bambino is calling out urgently for me now.
    Darn it!
    Gottta jet, but I will be back! 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Here I am trying yet again! Everyone is sleeping at 6:30 a.m. this Sunday, my first cup of precious coffee is by my side, and I’m in bed using my Kindle and index finger to hunt and peck!. Before I forget, I want to mention the WordPress tag rule I read about last year. If we use more than 15 tags WordPress claims it won’t circulate our posts in the Reader under the various categories. Does that make sense? I need to sip more Peer’s…back in a flash!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Okay, first off, I LOVED the opening description of your Grandmother and how we’re all a bit like her!!!! Just loved the whole scene of her and the others….

    Congrats on A.J. sharing more of your writing. I popped over there to “like” it, but alas, there wasn’t that option.

    Fabulous, fabulous review by Mike of “Lessons Learned”! I’m glad I have it waiting fir me to enjoy in my in-box! Thank you for sharing, my friend!

    Finally, I’m proud of you for screenwriting. You’re an incredible writer and doing such an exercise makes you even more Diana Wynne Jones-ish in terms of elevating and refining your writing talent. (I’m awful, I know!)

    Craig just got up and he is being rather noisy. How dare he? The girls are stirring! I must put him in the dungeon for this! 😉


    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL! Yes, that’s how I am when I have my early morning time. I have friends who are shocked that I get up before dawn, but that’s when the house is QUIET. Nothing grates on me like the sound of children stirring thirty minutes before I’m prepared to get them out of bed. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the bit I wrote for Cosmo–I was surprised how much I enjoyed making this sort of commentary. I’ll never forget the day a woman came up to me as I worked in a Christian bookstore. “I’m looking for appropriate stories for an eight-year-old child.” Of course, I bring up CS Lewis’ chronicles of narnia. “No, those have talking animals.”

      Um, he’s one of THE most prolific writers ever, let alone of Christian literature, but…you don’t let your kid read about talking animals?
      Why did I think of that now? Um…I dunno, but I guess my longwinded point is that I want to push my imagination a little. Yeah, I’m still feeling real insecure with writing in another’s universe, but I feel good about what I want this plot to be, and where I want my character to go. I just need to suck up the insecurity and go forward, right? We both need to do it with our writing, and we WILL do it, friend! xxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. 🙂 She was a sweet woman. I’ll never forget one sleepover where I engorged myself on so much junk food I threw up three times in the night. She never complained, not once, when she had to find clean bedding and pajamas AGAIN at,you know, 2am. 🙂 When it’s time for me to be a grandma, I pray I’ve got that wherewithal to spoil my grandchildren and suffer the consequences. 😛 xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: FanFic Fears & Other Bits of Potluck Clean-up | Heiditassone's Blog

  9. Pingback: The Wattpad Dare (or, why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year) – Jean Lee's World

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