Monday, April 12, 2010

Fandom Fluff: Drawing the Line

Drawing the Line

Hoosier Mama

I need help.

My brain is a mushy pile of goo, incapable of entertaining a single sustained thought. I’m confused and disoriented; my mind is constantly in motion, spinning. I also firmly believe that I’m not the only one in this insanity-producing predicament.

And what, you may ask, is at the root of this evil?

Twilight fanfiction works-in-progress.

And story recommendations.

Yes, both equally share the blame for my brain-addled condition as well as the conditions of my fellow Twific fanatics. Now, far be it from me to point fingers, since after all, I am guilty myself of asking people for good story recommendations. No one is twisting my arm to make me read fanfics. I don’t have to listen to the “OMG!-you’ve-gotta-read-this-story” advice of people I’ve never met. I could choose to ignore writers who recommend stories in their author’s notes. I don’t have to heed the recommendations of a certain blog that shall remain nameless (*coughDiscerningFicstercough*)… but I do heed the recommendations… always…compulsively.

While it is admirable that the Discerning Ficster blog promotes excellent fanfics that are underappreciated by the masses of fans, have you ever stopped to consider that the blog is also guilty of contributing to the lunacy of the obsessed? Like Superman fighting an inescapable lump of kryptonite, I try to fight all the story recommendations, honestly I do, but I know deep down that I can’t. I…must…read…all of them. I…must…favorite all story recommendations. I must…not…forget a recommended story.

So…how exactly is this a problem?

I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always made it a point to never read more than one book at a time. I dive into a story; I savor every minute spent reading it, finish it, re-read it if need be, then go on to the next book. My concentration is never carelessly divided by different tales. They are read as nature intended: cover to cover.

Suddenly I find myself in the middle of fifty-five stories. (Fifty-five! Yikes! I’m honestly not bragging here, because I know there are other ficfans that are in the middle of even more stories than that.) So, there are 55 stories on my favorites list that I can’t finish reading simply because…the end hasn’t been written yet.

What’s worse is: all the characters have the same names. It’s exceedingly difficult to keep everything straight when you’re juggling so many fanfics in your head. Is this the one with crazy Bella, slutty Bella, singing Bella, or born-again Bella? Is Edward a vampire, a human, or a figment of the imagination? Is he a hit man, a doctor, a middle school student, or a guy in a suit working for the family firm?

Is Alice a colleague, a cousin, or a college roommate? If the story doesn’t update often, then I have to try to recall where we were in the story. Have they met yet? Kissed? Bumped uglies? You see what I mean; it’s disconcerting.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in a good story, I don’t want to leave it, even to read a long-awaited chapter update from another beloved fic. I want to relish it, dwell on it during the many boring moments of my life, and fully inhabit the world a fanfic writer creates. But inevitably, the world must be left behind, because the rest of the story doesn’t exist yet, and a new piece of another puzzle begs to be read.

Occasionally several chapter updates of different stories will get posted at the same time. Generally, I’ll read the more light-hearted or funny fics first; short, sweet and smutty stuff gets read second with the major unresolved sexual tension stories going last. If I know for a fact that there’s going to be some seriously tormenting, heart-failing, kill-me-now angst in a chapter update, I will put it off until I find the courage to jump back in. It’s also good to be alone for several hours to spare the family my despondent blubbering and/or screaming.

Juggling 55 different plot lines, when you’re used to following just one at a time, would make anyone’s head spin like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. I often wonder, what is the number of ongoing fanfics the human brain can contain before total madness sets in? Is the limit 56? Or is it actually 54?

I’ll be brutally honest; this is my third rewrite of this article. (What? Like you authors never rewrite your chapter updates? Puh-lease!) The first draft from six months ago had me bitchin’ and moanin’ about 20 measly stories. (Ahh! Six months ago. Life was so much simpler then…) The second draft from two months ago, the number had jumped to 34. The number of incomplete stories I’m reading keeps getting exponentially higher. This does not bode well for my future sanity. I’ve already mentioned that I can’t refuse a story recommendation, so please authors…finish your stories. The ultimate mental health of the entire planet rests in your fingertip-calloused hands.

I’m curious…how do you keep your brain from becoming a mushy pile of goo? Do you limit your fics? Wait until they are complete to read them? Re-read previous chapters? Any advice would be appreciated.


  1. Try writing fic in the middle of all that! I have a terrible problem seperating my versions of the characters from the versions in whatever fics I'm reading - the only solution I've found is just to not mix the two. At all. Right now I'm in the middle of writing a long fic and haven't read anything for month, I'm saving up recs to binge on when I've finished. Even fics which are completely different to mine with AUs or different characters or whatever - I can't read without muddling up my style or feeling crap about my inferior fic. It's a pain but I like writing too much to stop, and I've yet to come up with a better way to deal with it.

  2. And there we have it folks, the #1 reason I almost exclusively read completed fics. I have to reread, or at least skim, all the previous chapters every bloody update. That takes way too much time when I consider I could wait a few months or whatever and then read the whole thing from start to finish and not have to repeat any material. There are so very many completed fics to read in the meantime that I forget all about having to wait. (I just have to ignore the related discussion.) And really, for me it's so much better to read an entire story at once because then I can be properly swept up in it. I could easily write an article on how reading one story alone from beginning to end makes the experience so much more fulfilling than taking it piecemeal.

    Now, here and there I do come across WIP recs that I can't stay away from. These are the ones that the synopsis really, really interests me. If it's been updated regularly so far, I will begin reading. If I like it, I'll give it a special tag in my "WIP Twific" bookmarks folder and will probably read it when it's completed. If I LOVE it, I will Favorite it, follow it and discuss it. But I still have to reread the previous chapters every time it updates.

  3. Yeah, I have hundreds of stories on my alert list, and have had days where 25 - 30 of them have all posted updates. I read at least 5 updates a day, most days it's closer to 10. In some cases I have to re-read the previous chapter, in other cases I know exactly what's going on and which Bella or Jasper or Carlisle is in that particular fic.
    I have an addiction, I know this. I just need you all to stop posting such good freaking stories! lol
    I have recently purged my alert list of 30 stories. Not because they were bad, but because I wasn't able to devote the time to read them. Instead they are now on a list of stories to read when I have time. I've yet to figure out when that will be.....

  4. I don't write fanfic but I am completely obsessed with it. I don't know how many stories I am reading at once but it is a lot. I haven't counted them up, I think I feel that if I actually add them up the ridiculousness of the situation will stare at me in the eyes. Like you've stated I find myself trying to remember which type of character I am reading or what variation of plot is involved. I have EXTRA love for authors that add a “in the last chapter....” This has only happened on a couple of stories out of hundreds

    I do find myself re-reading chapters, looking up summaries and reading reviews to get caught up.

    Just yesterday I was thinking about all these stories I am reading and how at times it's hard for me to remember what is going on and wanting to put a system into place to help me out. My current system has me favorite-ing within, sending links to my email, and having story alerts set up.

    So my plan is to make an excel file of all the stories I am reading and adding a short summary for each chapter I've read so that I don't have to spend as much time trying to figure out which story I am reading.

    However, being the person that I am, I know I won't actually do it. Case in point, as I was concocting this master plan I was already thinking it was too much work.

    I do remember a brief time (6 hours) where I said that I would not/could not read any more stories that were not complete.

    So I find myself back at square one, reading all kinds of FanFic and mush for brains that can't keep the storylines straight.

    Happy reading!

  5. I can definitely relate to this article - I also am always starting new stories (both completed and WIPs).

    Like someone else said, I also tend to read the chapter or two prior to the new chapter to refresh my memory on which storyline it is. But I love the idea of a "story so far" type of summary at the top of each chapter.

    I also prefer stories to have an actual summary instead of the more abstract ones (for lack of a better term). It makes it much easier for me to remember which story it is when the alerts come in later.

  6. you have just express the exact feelings I have everyday in ff story land. Its nice to know I am not alone!! Please please finish your stories!!! i feel like an addict looking for my next story fix. always searching, always look for the next great story. constantly checking email for story alerts. I think i need a support group. "hello, my name is kathleen and im a Fanfiction addict"

  7. I have the same problem with remembering what's happening if there has been a long time between updates. If the updates happen regularly I'm usually okay, unless two stories have similar plots. I've run across some authors who put the last paragraph from the previous chapter at the top of the new one, and that helps a lot.

  8. I am struggling with this now. I think I have about 25 WIP stories going. Other than the rare exception, I am trying not to add on new stories. And I am having to go back and catch up on chapters constantly. It is maddening.

    If I get a new rec and it looks good, it goes on the list. I check the list periodically to see if the story is complete. That is how I am dealing with the new ones.

    That being said, I also like to download stories onto my Kindle to is just so much more convenient. I am constantly in fear that some of these stories I am waiting for will get nailed for violations and move over to Twilighted, which means I can't download for easy I have to weigh the pros and more WIP stories, or if I wait too long they end up non downloadable. Oh the humanity. Why must we suffer so?? ;)

  9. I feel like an amateur here, I only have a few in progress. By that I mean under 10 or 15. While I keep a list of the fics I'm reading (I've upgraded to excel spread sheet, which I forgot about until recently) I don't have descriptions so I'm always at a loss. I was just thinking I almost like to just piece together the best parts of all the stories I have going on- maybe someone should do a fic like this?

  10. I started out in fanfic reading only completed stories but after a while I ran out of them and it probably took me a week or so without my fix of fic to start a WIP. I still try to read completed fics whenever possible but sometimes I see a review of a story that's quite a few chapters in already and I just can't stay away. Or, I run out of things to read again. I'd like to get a look at 004mog's list of recommended completed fics.

    This strategy of trying to stick with completeds works ok most of the time but it has burned me on a few occasions. Most recently, I was waiting to read Poughkeepsie and now I can't because of some unfortunate issues.

    Like many, I now have lots of WIP on alert. Don't know how many but it's a fair number. I also re-read previous chapters if there's been a long wait between updates. I love it when author's give a recap.

    To manage recs, I keep a list that I gather via various means (authors, tyldf, other rec/rev blogs, contest entries) and try to mark completed ones when I am aware. I'm not very adept at searching or twilighted - I think I'm kinda afraid - so I rely mainly on the kindness of others.

  11. OMG!! your article explain my adiction, yes I said it like that because if a dont read a fic in all day I get like a thing that bogger in my chest telling me, check your mail for updates!
    the other thing that I dont know if happen to you is that you get tired of reading angst, I'm in that time all I want is happiness, love and babys! so I looking for those kinds of fic so list is growing.
    And other thing is that the fics that are in hiatus or that you dont recieve an update in like seven months, and sudenly an update! is a nono for me I just say to them byebye (minus IVO and BitterSweet Symphony!)
    An amazing article.

  12. Kathleen I think I will Have to join the support group along with you... Hi my name is Theresa and I am addicted to

    I mostly read completed fics like 004mog. I have very few and I mean I think the number is under 5 WIP that I currently read and they all have vastly different story lines so I can keep them apart. I am a going into the medical field and my brain can only store so much different stuff at one time. Also these very limited fics all update regular basis so I am not forgetting whats going on in the story. Don't get me wrong I have a huge amount of WIP in my story alerts and I regularly check up on them to watch out for when they are completed so I can enjoy them in their entirety.


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