Well, maybe not “real” in the usual sense. Re-reading one of my fanfics it is a heady brew of reverent but extreme use of Joss Whedon’s wall-to-wall fan catnip, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the unravelling playfulness and unrivalled banter of the Big Purple Forehead’s scripts lifting it (just) above oestrogen-fuelled passion and plot arcs on a permanently disintegrating orbit around Spike’s fallen angel.
I’m a Spuffy. Bangel shippers, I respect your tenacity but have you noticed Bangel shares the same initial letter with “Beer Bad”? The cookie dough speech is, of course, open to interpretation, and I’m not speaking out-of-canon by suggesting the space bonking in the comics was possibly heavily influenced by the freedom of the format. Or something. But if we’re reading the subtext, that coupling of initial letters is …
Yes, OK. Moving on.
My first real writing was fanfic. I still think it is real writing, and I have six reasons for thinking it was the best place to start:
Fans Go Too Far
In fandom there is no such thing as going too far. In my slathering adoration I wrote violence, scenes of a sexual nature (see below), shedloads of extreme threat, for the first time. The posting algorithms on my fanfic site were touchy about certain words which I’ve used with a sense of gleeful freedom every since. But otherwise, I had powered through a personal reticence, in and out of writing before I realised I’d done it.
Never mind baring your soul, fanfic is about writing while stripped down to your knickers. We’ve all done it, written our favourite characters into hot and heavy scenes. I bottled out at the last minute and didn’t post, most fanfickers do post. Whether the result is eeewwww, genuinely erotic or ingenious and insightful slash fiction (the best place for written gender bending), fanfic is where you learn to write from below the waist.
Real for Me as Well as You
I never wrote from a distance, a perspective, coolly (or indeed calmly). Writing for people as passionate about the Jossverse as myself, taught me to write from the gut, and believe me, it had to be bloody good.
Ah, yes, best of times, the real-time convos like stepping onto a moving carousel, scrumptious dialogue spooling into pages, the fastest, most exhilarating writing experience ever.
‘… beat me with a scapula’ …’Was that when you came out?’ … ‘No, I hadn’t tidied’ … OK? … SORRY JUST TAKING WASHING OUT … ‘my room for six weeks’ … Who says that? … Patrick … THAT’S SCRUMPTIOUS.
Also, as the old saying goes, when you aren’t loving the people who love what you love, you hate them. Wolfie, that time I spent three days on the scene between Patrick and Andrew, while you had Willow and Kennedy, but I gave it wall-to-wall character development and that, and you wrote one line …
“That far into the closet you should have discovered Narnia.”
and the whole forum was squeeing over that line (twenty-four people quoted it in Comments)?
Well I forgive you. Ten years’ later.
Joss is my Master
I was trying to write like Joss Whedon. This was impossible, but the sheer audacity of it got me a long way, like somebody running over a cliff and doing that mid-air cycling when you look down and realise.
Into the Ferdy-verse
Eventually I got comments like, “It’s really good, but it’s not Jossverse, it’s Ferdy-verse.” And that was good, because I started writing in my own way. But without fanfic, I wouldn’t have reached Ferdy-verse, it was as far away as Narnia.
Here’s a sample of what I wrote as Ferdy-m. I still think it’s bloody good. Manga Spike, I salute your scrumptious cheekbones.