If I make a Lionel Richie joke here, I’ll date myself, but I guess it’s too late now, huh? (And I even heard it before it was an Internet meme. Whippersnappers.)
I hope everyone is having a great summer! When did it get to be summer?! Someone? Anyone?
I’m not going to try to fill you in on all the stuff that’s been going on since last time. There’s too much of it — and I’m focusing my (in)famous word count in another direction right now, which I’ll get to in a moment.
To sum things up…
I still have social anxiety. It’s still frustrating. But I am making headway.
I’m trying to get back in the saddle after several months of… nothing in regard to the gym. Or dancing. I admit it. I finally learned how to relax, stop fearing every little dietary excursion or missed workout, and live my life again, but I gave up a lot of my previous ambition along the way. I’ve also been facing a lot of additional challenges in my life (addressing the social anxiety more directly, helping John with the stuff he’s been going through, and continuing to adjust to life without my family) and that has made it harder for me to focus without burning out. I’m no longer in the best shape of my life, and I’ll have to put in some hard time and effort to get back to where I was. I know how to do it now, and I can do it. But it’ll be rough for the first few weeks.
John had minor surgery to remove a sebaceous cyst on the side of his neck. While the process was very fast and went as well as it could have, it surprised us all by getting infected a week before it was scheduled to be removed, causing some extra drama. This, plus the intensive aftercare, has taken up the majority of our last few weeks. I have learned about Penrose drains. (Don’t worry, the link here is not graphic.) I have also learned how to pack and clean a surgical site. I hope it will never again be necessary, but at least John’s surgeon had nice things to say about my work, and things are healing up great! He has a second cyst elsewhere that will be removed later this year, after this one has healed and he can devote six weeks to rest and recovery.
I’m working on a writing project! I remain excited about game development, and I still plan to continue working in that vein. However, writing in most games tends to rely more on dialogue, script-writing, and scene direction, not the kind of consistent prose you see in books. They aren’t as interchangeable as they might seem. I’ve put a lot of effort into improving those skills over the years, but it’s been ages since I tackled writing the way most people understand it. It’s also my first foray into fan-fiction in something like fifteen years; Gundam Wing, the anime that brought John and I together, was still airing for the first time in America the last time I put serious keys to screen for someone else’s intellectual property. Get off my lawn.
My writing project is what I’d like to talk most about. There are a number of reasons I’ve avoided getting back into fan-fiction over the years, but chief among them has been the voice of my mom echoing in the back of my brain, telling me that I “should” be writing something “of my own.” After all, most fan-fiction cannot be sold for money, due to its use of characters, settings, and plot details from other sources. That means that anything I produce is for my own enjoyment, and that of others who share my love for the source material. You may have heard of an (in)famous exception to this rule, and it is possible for some fan-fiction to grow beyond its original scope – but it’s very uncommon. And “changing the names and shipping it out the door” isn’t a recipe for good fiction, regardless of audience reception or legality.
These days, fan-fiction on the Internet is a booming hotbed of activity. People write stories featuring their favorite characters from their favorite intellectual properties all the time, to greater (and sometimes lesser) effect. Fans of those properties flock to find additional content featuring their favorite characters, especially if the property in question is no longer producing new content of its own. Most writers don’t make a red cent off the stories they create this way, and I think that is both fair and legal, though I’d love to see more legal allowance for it someday. That said, thousands of people read their work anyway, assuming they’ve told a good story and used the characters well; those are the requirements of any novel, anywhere. Telling a good story isn’t easy, regardless of the elements you use in the attempt.
For me, writing isn’t about the money. I do this because I love to tell stories. And in order to successfully tell stories, you have to have readers to read the stories you tell. I believe my mom knew this. But because her only understanding of the path toward that goal lay in the realm of publishers, book tours, and signings, I don’t think she viewed “playing” with other people’s creations as a valuable use of my time. It was never going to bring me money – and until I had that book contract, I’d never have the readers, either. The publishing industry has changed so much since my childhood, and finding a reader base can be something that happens on a forum, or in a chat channel, or on the street. Anyone who loves the same things you do is a potential reader. Nothing is formulaic. It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
I’m far more afraid of remaining without a base of readers that enjoy the kind of work I produce, than I am of remaining unpaid. And fan-fiction seems like a way to step forward on that path.
The story I’m working on now stems from my ongoing enjoyment of Final Fantasy XIV. I could spend three blog posts on what makes this game so great for me, but this is long enough! Suffice it to say that I have loved every minute of the ongoing story that the game itself is telling, and the character I’ve created to live within it has become a facet of my own self, though he still has aspects that are all his own. Those of you who have known me long enough to recognize the names Elaia, Annex, or Maleva will understand what I mean by this.
In my mind, his choices, actions, and attitude are a combination of things I’d like to be someday, plus a host of things that I already am, for better or worse. I’ve role-played male characters before, but never in an MMORPG, so that has been a new experience; the repeated need to chase off ladies with a stick confirms that I’m hitting the “handsome playboy scholar slash goof with a heart of gold” notes correctly! It does mean that I’m now spending a lot of my off-hours in the rather male adolescent role of figuring out how to respond to pretty ladies’ interest because I haven’t had to before. Life is weird sometimes.
The game itself asks a lot of very difficult questions of the player and their character over the course of the story it tells; questions about the nature of good and evil, blind faith, what makes a hero and the price of being one, and the complications of trying to solve many of the world’s ills without doing unnecessary harm to people in need, to name a few. This isn’t a game for folks that refuse to think — though plenty of people can and do skip over the reading because they can’t be bothered to engage with it.
Watching my character’s struggles and experiences as he learns to answer these questions for himself is a bit like what I imagine watching a child grow up to be; there have been as many tears as there have been moments of triumph. Early in his journey, I found myself eager to fill in the events of his life before he woke up one day and set his feet on the path to being a hero in classic RPG fashion. Being the writer that I am, this couldn’t end with “he was just an ordinary guy until this point, nothing to see here!” And so I’ve carefully come up with the “rest” of the story on my own, bit by bit. Now, I just have to tell it to someone.
This isn’t something the game asked of me. None of it matters or shows, beyond informing the choices I make while I am inhabiting his mind. It’s strictly fun for my own purposes. But I’m willing to bet that other fans of the game, and other fantasy readers in general, might enjoy reading it, too. I’ve seen countless people writing stories about their own beloved heroes for much the same reason, and I intend to step into the ring with them. I can only hope that I use the world, characters, and settings provided to me in a way that’s worthy of the source.
At worst, I’ll make something that I enjoy. At best, I’ll find some other folks that also enjoy my work. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. And as much as I’ve valued my mom’s faith in me… it’s time to do this my way.
If you have any interest in following or reading along, I’d love to have you!
I will note: the introductory chapter may be a difficult starting place for folks that aren’t familiar with the game. FFXIV has its own terms for things such as distance and time measurements, which may confuse you when I use them without explanation. The viewpoint character for this chapter also speaks in near-constant alliteration; this is one of many permutations of the way her race speaks in-game, and it’s as difficult to write as it is to read! There’s a reason that future chapters will swap the viewpoint to my character instead of her. If you’d like to read it, but you’re feeling a bit lost, please do let me know and I’ll be happy to provide a quick translation for anything that baffles you. Otherwise, you may have more luck jumping in when I release the next chapter.
And with that… hopefully I’ll post again sometime before December. Love and best wishes to all of you!