Monday, April 13, 2009

Reader'sSeries: TJM

I had read Harry Potter fan fiction for a couple of years, and I kind of knew fan fiction for other books existed. After I read the Twilight series (and got hooked), I was wanting a fix while waiting for Breaking Dawn. I had my doubts about finding good Twilight fanfic, but I found three sites in particular that had what became my very favorites fan fictions. I already knew about FFn, though I never used it much for Harry Potter fic because while there was good stuff there, there are no consistently enforced rules. Once I started looking for Twilight stories there, I realized that nothing had changed for them. I had to wade through tons of crap to find the gems. I liked the open content—AU, Human, whatever the authors could dream up, BUT they didn’t have standards of quality—they don’t even require the ability to use the language tools on a word processor. They do have appropriate content rules, but they only enforce them if someone complains about a specific fic or author, so the rules are frequently blatantly ignored. In short, they don’t filter at all. So anything goes. Then I discovered that there were some sites that are better at filtering out the blatantly poor fics. Twilighted is one. I really appreciated the quality requirements and lack of restrictions. Over time though, a HUGE amount of smut has been posted there, which I don’t do, though the even the smut has to at least have a plot. I really liked Ramblings and Thoughts too, because they have some excellent stories and I don’t have to filter out the smut, but it’s a much smaller site and extremely restrictive as far as what’s permitted along AU lines At first, I was really only interested in canon stuff, or very plausible AU stories, like Seducing Miss Swan, Innocent, Vigilant, and Ordinary, and Love is Watching Someone Die. I found a couple of absolutely hilarious canon fics in Family Therapy-Cullen Style and Edward in PE. A more recent AU that I’ve been enjoying is For Eternity.

Then I got hooked on AU-Human with Coming to Terms and Dangerous Affections. More recently, I’ve found Gravity and One Day Out West (that’s a Twilight Western—yeah, I thought it would be cheesy at first too, but Edward taking the strong, silent type to an extreme is great. So is Sheriff Swan’s attempts at mediating water rights disputes between the Blacks and the Cullens while Jacob and Emmett keep trying to pound each other to pulp. And why is James, one of the original settlers who has been kind to Bella always lurking in the background with a smirk on his face whenever anything breaks out between the Blacks and the Cullens?)

Getting hooked is fun, but stressful. As most of the fics I read after the first few months were not completed, I was starting to get antsy between updates. Then my favorite authors seemed to fall in love with cliffhanger endings to their chapters. I decided to investigate the forums at that point—I found out after lurking for a bit that authors frequently answer questions and post teasers. They also seem to enjoy it when people discuss their stories—though I get the impression that they do a lot of laughing up their sleeves at some of the speculation that goes on. And I think they have extra sinister laughing sessions when readers on the forum squawk for updates after particularly suspenseful cliffies. The two fics that got me involved in the forums are Coming to Terms and Innocent, Vigilant, and Ordinary. I remember particularly involved discussions of Edward’s asinine behavior on both forums—specifically, debate over whether Bella should ever forgive him, and if she did, would it make her a total doormat (yeah, I know, sounds familiar).

What I look for in a new fan fiction story to read are great characterizations, good plot, and/or humor. I love Alternate Universe or realistic all human fics. The stuff I try to avoid (keep in mind, these are my own pet peeves and have nothing to do with anyone else’s opinions) are as follows.

1. Most clichés (A common one: Playerward has his way with Bella after she puts up minor resistance, does a 180 because he falls in love her, becomes monogamous, and they live happily ever after.)
2. Smut fics (plot, if there is one, exists only to provide an excuse for lots of steamy sex)
3. High school fantasy fics (Edward is the school heart throb, whole chapters devoted to Alice and Bella shopping, Bella always gets revenge on the “bad girls”)
4. Poorly written stories. That means problems with spelling, grammar, word choice, and/or a plot that reads like a “to do” list. I’m guessing most of these are written by 14 year olds (not that I have anything against teens; some are excellent writers—at least two of my favorites mentioned above are by teen authors). In my opinion, if you don’t know how to use Spell Check and Grammar Check you shouldn’t post a story anywhere public. I stopped trolling because there were so many of those. Now I only go over there to read recs.
5. I REALLY dislike stories that don’t update. They start, do 2 or 3 really good chapters, and then either abandon the fic or wait weeks and months between updates. Obviously, real life comes first. If it doesn’t, you might consider seeking out the nearest 12 step program—you may have to quit cold turkey. But I’d recommend having a thorough outline and having much, if not all, of the fic written before starting to post. I do have a disclaimer here: I’ve also known some really good authors who are normally regular updaters to have things come up that delay posting for a while. I have to say, it’s worth the wait. See above note about real life.

Having said all that, I’ve probably broken every one of my own rules at least once. There are actually one or two clichéd plots that I’ve really enjoyed. There are a couple fics that contain smut that have sucked me in, though I try to skip the smut. I have a few favorite fics on my list that haven’t updated in months in the slim hope that the author might someday finish them, because they’re so good I just can’t bear the thought of not finishing them. The only rule that I have to go by is the poor writing one. I just can’t handle wading through illiterate crap hoping that there might be a story hidden in there somewhere.

I’ve really enjoyed my stay in fandom. I’ve never been one for creative writing (I’d much rather read or debate), but I’ve actually started a couple of my own. I may even finish and post them someday. I get a kick out of the familiar names on the forums. I’m thrilled when an author responds to my comments. Where else are you going to be able to communicate directly with an author whose writing you really enjoy? And I have several children who keep me grounded in reality whenever I’ve been sitting too long at my computer.

Author's Blurb by GinnyW

Sure, many writers will say that they write for themselves. At least that’s what I say. I write the story when it’s been running around through my mind for days or weeks on end and I would do anything to simply get it out of my head. However, writing is very much an exercise for me. I want to write something that people will understand and relate to. I want my twists and turns to take people by surprise, and I want to drag reviewers from laughter to tears in just a few short pages. So, just because I set out to write the stories for me doesn’t mean that I don’t cherish my reviewers. Without readers, my stories would simply be languishing on my hard drive, and quite frankly, the quality would be severely lacking. It’s the readers and reviewers who can push a writer to improve their story. They can bring new insight and new interpretations of things that the writer may simply be too close to see.

One such insightful reader is Tjm.

It was very shortly after joining the boards that I saw her coming to my thread, as well as Oxymoronic’s, to discuss her views on our Edwards. She jumped right in and gave her opinions and thoughts. Since that time, she has been consistent in her analysis. Tjm is one of those readers who I think about when I’m writing. Her words remind me that people truly care about the characters and their somewhat realistic evolution through the story. It’s obvious that she puts time, energy, and thought into her comments, and not only that, but she is able to back up her views. On more than one occasion, I have found myself going in and bookmarking specific remarks and comments that she’s made because either she’s so completely dead on that it’s frightening, or because they are things that I hadn’t fully considered before. It’s another viewpoint that forces me to think about all aspects and angles of character flow and plot development.

And I trust her opinions. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that she says. But when a reader puts that much time, thought, and effort into analyzing my characters, then I will definitely put the same amount of thought into considering their opinions. It’s one of those things that pushes me to try to make my characters more believable.

Since reading Tjm’s article a couple of days ago, I have gone on to read one of the newer stories that she mentioned, and I am already hooked. As always, she’s proven to me that she knows her stuff, and she is just the type of supportive, yet discerning reader that I rely on.


  1. I love hearing from folks who are just readers, like myself, in addition to authors!

  2. yay for reccing some non smut stories!


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