Hello, everyone. You may have noticed I didn’t post last week. Sorry! Life caught up to me. Anyway, I won’t bore you with the basics of why or what I write (I’m sure you’re not here to read that). Instead, I have an idea for a way to practice your writing, a task that every writer shares.
You all know what fanfiction is, I’m assuming; if you don’t, a quick search on Google will enlighten you. And if you’ve ever read (or written) fanfiction, then I’m equally sure you know bad fanfiction when you see it. These are the stories that take a particular canon (the world, characters, and plot of a particular book or series) and gleefully throw it into a garbage disposal until it is mangled past recognition. It doesn’t matter what fandom you belong to or read, you know you’ve seen those stories. They make you want to take a nice metal spork to your eyes. These are the stories that I want you to find.
No, no! I’m not crazy! Just trust me. See, it’s easy to look at a piece of badfic (bad fanfiction) and say “this is terrible,” but that’s easy to do with a collective view. What is even more important is to know and recognize what makes it terrible. Is it the characters acting completely out of character? Was it the use of an automatic rifle in a medieval society? Was it making Dumbledore curse like a sailor and claiming it was due to a headache that is incurable by magic? Er…you get my point (I think). Sometimes, when you’re reading badfic, it’s easy to to just take it all in without really identifying the problem in specifics, which is exactly what I’m going to ask you to do.
A couple of days ago, I got together with some friends of mine (some of whom are on this blog) to do a group “sporking” of the infamous Harry Potter badfic “My Immortal.” It has to be the most hilariously awful, disgusting, pathetic piece of drivel I’ve ever come across in my life (it is also NSFW — not safe for work/school/immature dolts — so don’t go looking for it unless you’re prepared to be disgusted in more ways than one). We all wrote our little comments in: what we thought; our reactions, which tended to be violent and condescending; our own little additions. All of this was, firstly, to make it more bearable. Second, it was to take away the hurt from having our beloved Harry Potter and ever dear English language torn to shreds before our eyes. Third, it showed us exactly what not to do when writing.
Purple prose. Describing mundane, boring, daily tasks more than once and in excruciating detail. Abusing color and leather (*shudder*). Misspelling the characters’ names and messing up their personalities. Misspelling your own character’s name. Anachronistic items and knowledge (which is to say: there are things in the story which are not appropriate for the time). And more.
All these things are what not to do. Now we know. Oh God, do we know. We can take this knowledge away from the badfic (now thoroughly destroyed, though certainly not forgotten) and apply it to our own work. Look at your own writing just as you would look at a badfic. Okay, so not exactly; hopefully, your own writing will be a little harder to differentiate from a fanfiction as Godawful as “My Immortal.” But you can recognize those things that make you want to spork your eyes out. You can identify the purple prose, misspellings, OOC-ness, and Mary Sue traits. You can look for them in your own writing. It may take a while (and it will for sure hurt after looking at so much bad writing), but you’ll start to learn to naturally (or maybe not so naturally; it may take a lot of work for some of you) shy away from doing those things that you’ve discovered in a badfic. And that, my dear readers, is all we can ask. That you learn what not to do.
Also, it just gives you a great sense of satisfaction to completely destroy something that awful. I mean, seriously! We’re only a few chapters in and it’s still that bad! I don’t even..mmffdfmmm…mjfmfff…..*trails off incoherently*