-submitted by lovefredweasleyalways
This post should be titled “Top Reason I Love Annie Proulx”. Aside from being a great writer, she speaks the truth. In an interview for the Wall Street Journal, Proulx let the world know exactly what she thinks of the fanfiction written about her short story Brokeback Mountain.
Brokeback Mountain has had little effect on my writing life, but is the source of constant irritation in my private life. There are countless people out there who think the story is open range to explore their fantasies and to correct what they see as an unbearably disappointing story. They constantly send ghastly manuscripts and pornish rewrites of the story to me, expecting me to reply with praise and applause for “fixing” the story. They certainly don’t get the message that if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it. Most of these “fix-it” tales have the character Ennis finding a husky boyfriend and living happily ever after, or discovering the character Jack is not really dead after all, or having the two men’s children meet and marry, etc., etc. Nearly all of these remedial writers are men, and most of them begin, “I’m not gay but….” They do not understand the original story, they know nothing of copyright infringement—i.e., that the characters Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar are my intellectual property—and, beneath every mangled rewrite is the unspoken assumption that because they are men they can write this story better than a woman can. They have not a clue that the original Brokeback Mountain was part of a collection of stories about Wyoming exploring mores and myths. The general impression I get is that they are bouncing off the film, not the story. There’s more, but that is enough, ok?
There are many lessons that can be learned from this quote.
1. Write fanfiction within the boundaries. While I do occasionally write fanfiction for my own fun or as a freewrite kickstart, I try to enforce some boundaries. I don’t post it or send it to the author. For the love of all that is good in the world, do NOT send it to the author. Ever.
Imagine this: “Hey, author. I think this part of your story is too sad. So I’m changing it.”
Great. And I’m adding another name to a list of people I’d like to beat with a tire iron.
2. Know the original work. This one should be a no-brainer. Not only will it save you face in front of both fanfiction readers and the author, it will help you write the fanfiction. Oh, and the original work might actually be interesting on its own.
3. Do not invade the author’s personal bubble. No author can deny the existence of fanfiction. If they try to, they inevitably fail. But no author should have to deal with being hounded and haunted by bad writers. No author deserves to be told incessantly that someone hates their story and wants to change it. It is perfectly fine for a fan of a writer’s work to write fanfiction, but do so tactfully. Write it for yourself or post it online. Do not try to make money off of it. And don’t send it to the author unless they ask you to. Which they never will.
The Oxford Comma
If you actually find yourself telling some toast with orange juice on it that you had eggs, you seriously need to reevaluate your social life.
Screw stereotypes. Fairytales can be rewritten. You don’t have to accept a message you don’t like. Rewrite the story, add uniqueness, and it becomes your own.
Text speak is all right. I’m fine with text speak occasionally. Heck, I say LOL, both in person and in text. I type JK, GTG, BRB, and BFF. But leave these abbreviations out of formal or official writing. Thank you.
Back when you were in elementary school, the worst thing you’d get for copying was a stern look from the teacher and maybe a note home. Now, if an artist thinks you’re copying them, the best thing you might get is sued. Yikes!
Want another yikes?
Imagine that you’re minding your own business, writing away. You have a brilliant idea, and you’re happy with your work. You decide to take a break. For whatever reason, you decide to get out of your desk chair, shut down your computer, and walk to the library. The wind whistles around you, running through your hair as it always does in horror stories when something bad is about to happen, and something bad IS about to happen.
You get to the library and pick up a book in the same genre as your current work in progress. It could be a novel, short story book, poem book, nonfiction, song lyrics, whatever. You crack open the book, skim the inside of the dust jacket (or CD insert for those songwriters out there) and your heart sinks. On the pages is something so like your own writing that it sounds like you’ve copied the writer whose work you hold in your hands.
You feel sad, angry, jealous that someone already published your idea, but more likely you’re wondering “How in all heck did we have the same idea?”
This happens way more than you’d think. In a world where almost everything is inspired by something else, I’d be truly amazed if someone actually managed to write something truly original. That would be like them walking on water. Think about a recent movie you saw. Now think about what other movies were similar to it. You’ll come up with at least one. Yup, Hollywood borrows ideas all the time.
You can, too! But there’s an art to it. You have to borrow only the things that you need to jumpstart your own creativity. Don’t use someone else’s character. Just use an aspect or two that you like. Don’t steal an entire verse. Just use one line, or even better, a couple of words.
If you come up with a brilliant idea, then realize that someone already had that exact same idea, that’s frustrating. But not all hope is lost. Reconsider your work. You can probably get away with using that idea by changing just a couple of minor details. There’s no set formula for how much is too much in the similarities department, but trust me, you’ll know when you’ve crossed the line.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and actually encourage people to steal ideas from other authors. That’s fine. You can come up with some of your best work from that, but make sure you change enough in your writing that the source of the inspiration doesn’t sue your pants off.