Documentary Watching, Fanfic Writing, and Delayed Reading

There’s a YouTube list of comic documentaries, including works about Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Grant Morrison, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, and various superheroes. If you need something to watch, check it out.

Emma Alban, a talented fan writer, posts a justification for fanfiction to learn writing. Lots of good points about how it makes for useful practice in the craft.

Fanfiction gives you the flexibility to write original stories, with varied, dynamic, boring, interesting, silly, fun, romantic plot lines, without having to worry about every little detail. You don’t need to make up the rooms, or the characters. You just get to play around with telling stories. And I think that’s a creative freedom that people undervalue. …

Once you have your ‘style,’ and your habits, you step out to create an entire world, from countertops to character traits, with an arsenal of skills you’ve developed while you were busy having fun not worrying about a lot of the mess.

This piece about books about comics to me mostly serves as a sad reminder of just how long most of these books have been on my “to read” shelf.

… why are big publishers churning out serious books on comics now, when sales of the comics themselves are in long term decline? Ironically, I suspect that this Golden Age of historical surveys represents another aspect of the mainstream comics industry’s senescence. Who, after all, is the audience for gossip about comics legends such as Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin, or Jim Shooter? Why, it’s 30 and 40something males who were collecting in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. You know, people like Jonathan Lethem, and Michael Chabon, and me. That said, if you were around in those days then Howe’s book certainly is a lot of fun.

3 Responses to “Documentary Watching, Fanfic Writing, and Delayed Reading”

  1. Alexa (Ladies Making Comics) Says:

    Another thing about fanfiction is that not everyone wants to be a professional writer with their own novels and whatnot, but they still like the jolt of creative energy they get from writing.

    It’s also a social activity– I started writing fanfiction as a teenager in order to feel like I was contributing something of substance to the fandom. I made friends and got into some really cool discussions based on that. Fanfiction writers are working in much the same structure as women’s “manuscript circles” of the 17th century– groups of women who would write and get together to circulate their work that was not necessarily meant for publication and talk about their craft.

    Plus, people need to find out their passion for writing one way or another. I hated writing (stories or papers) for school assignments and couldn’t imagine ever wanting to spend hours a day writing. The minute I posted that first fanfiction (which was all of 200 words), I began to hate the days I didn’t have hours to write. I also began to focus on improving my essay-writing for school, because I hated the idea of any of my writing being received poorly.

    TL;DR: Fanfiction is writing no matter how you slice it, and I’m always pleased to see pro-writers come to its defense.

  2. hapax Says:

    “You don’t need to make up the rooms, or the characters. You just get to play around with telling stories”

    Oh, gaaah.

    And this kind of “advice” is why so many eager, talented fanfiction authors never make it into original writing, and why even so many of those who get published are still so easy to spot.

    “Characters” are more than a bundle of quirks and traits. “Rooms” (worldbuilding, I guess she means?) are more than a hodgepodge of “Wouldn’t this be cool?”

    And “stories” should grow naturally from particular characters interacting in particular rooms, not imposed upon them like children forcing their Barbies and Kens to re-enact the plot of Harry Potter (but *this* time, with their preferred pairing!)

    I don’t deny that fanfiction can be creative and fun, and sharing it is a tremendous tool in building a community. And of course fanfiction is “real writing”, just like those five-paragraph essays they forced us to write in school (remember those?) were “real writing.”

    But I could write those essays for a million years, and it still wouldn’t put me one step closer to becoming George Orwell or Katherine Boo. Sooner or later, I’ve got to do the hard, painful work of observing, thinking about, and portraying how authentic people make complex choices in believable worlds.

    But that’s “the mess” that she dismisses as no “fun”; and it’s exactly what separates art from disposable fluff.

  3. Alexa (Ladies Making Comics) Says:


    She’s not saying “you can be a great original writer without ever putting in the real effort of character/worldbuilding”. She’s saying that if you like writing, but don’t have the confidence or the life experience (because let’s face it, many fanfic writers start when they’re young) to “portray how authentic people make complex choices in believable worlds”, try writing with existing characters in existing worlds– it gives you a feel for how stories are structured, practice on how to construct strong sentences, and even, yes, some practice with characterization, in a “reverse engineering” kind of way (when you think critically about how X[existing character] would react in Y[fanmade] situation)

    She’s not saying the “mess” of characterization and worldbuilding can be dispensed with forever, just that if you find those things too intimidating or just can’t think them up when you want to write, you can still practice the incredibly important skills of crafting a sentence and plotting.

    Michael Chabon will tell anyone who listens that the first story he wrote, the story that made him want to be a writer, was a Sherlock Holmes/Jules Verne crossover piece that he wrote when he was 10. He spent another 15 years developing his own voice and approach to character and plot before his first novel was published. Another 15 years later, after he won a Pulitzer, he wrote another Sherlock Holmes story.




Most Recent Posts: