Fan-fiction, as a concept, shouldn’t be seen as a detriment to literature. As much as writers may deride fan-fiction authors, we should appreciate that there’s something good in inspiring someone’s personal creativity with our own. If the literary bug is infectious, then infection would probably look like someone writing a story with our characters before going on to create their own. But sometimes they do start to create their own characters and, before long, they’ve stumbled into a bad place.
What many don’t realize, because we’re taught to scorn it, is that fan-fiction is the place where you can go when you’re not confident in your own work. When you create a world all to your own, you’re opening yourself to being judged on every single detail. It’s terrifying to consider being that exposed to people. So when you enter into the world of fan-fiction, you’re already a little insecure. This doesn’t apply to everyone but, to those it does, there’s always that nagging itch that needs to be scratched.
Before long, you feel like if you don’t add something you’re going to be considered a simple thief. You need to put your mark on it to make people recognize you put effort into it. But, as you put it in, you find yourself insecure about the character you’re creating. This character needs to be loved by everyone because if they aren’t then the only thing you really added to the material is being disliked. They have to be interesting, different, special – they have to be worth being there. Unfortunately, that’s how Mary and Gary get written into your story.
And then they wreck the place…
The problem is, while the community is eager to tell you not to do something, they rarely take the time to explain why. Quite a few people don’t even understand why we should stop to explain it to the “offenders”. But the fact of the matter is, we keep writing articles like “how to know you wrote a Mary Sue” and “steps to avoiding a Gary Stu”, while these characters continue to be made regardless.
Of course, the assumption is that these people are just full of themselves or too immature to listen to our advice. But maybe the problem isn’t with the newbies. Maybe the problem is in how we explain it. Maybe they don’t understand…
Continue reading Good Fan-Fiction 102: Why Mary Sue Is Bad For You