I saw the City of Bones film last night. I think that if I had not seen Kick-Ass 2 right before it and been more than a little disappointed I would not have enjoyed CoB as much as I did, but I really did enjoy it. Most of it was ironic enjoyment, but there was a sense of commitment in the film that I immediately reacted to – it didn’t try to be anything that it wasn’t, and while that meant that it was ridiculously cliche and had all sorts of the worst stereotypes of YA paranormal fiction with teenage girls as main characters, it did it with a sense of fun and, again, commitment, and that’s what sold it for me.
I do seem to be in a minority if Rotten Tomatoes is anything to go by … wait a minute …
And that, I feel, is a testament to what this film represents – it’s not a clever film, and it’s not original. It’s committed, and that is enough.
It’s got the whole wish-fulfillment thing going on, the ‘world of our own’ escapist appeal, the special powers, the Chosen One vibe (even though it’s never explicitly stated), and it’s actually pretty funny, which threw me for a loop.
And it reminded me of how I used to approach stories, inventing worlds and characters and the things that happened with them. When I was like 13. It was all driven by a sense of ‘hey, I can do that, too!’, and it was about fun first and foremost; pure, self-indulgent fun.
Also Lena Headey is in it for like five minutes and is the best character.
The issue of plagiarism with Cassandra Clare is a big one, though. Apparently it all happened during her fanfiction-writing days (and there are none-too-subtle hints of Harry Potter and Buffy in this film) and she didn’t make any money off of it, but I could be wrong about that. If I am, then on an ethical level I deeply regret going to see this movie. But the movie, taken on its own, is just some dumb fun that takes itself just seriously enough for the cliches and the predictable-by-now YA paranormal tropes to feel fresh.
And it was that idea of idea-appropriation that drove a lot of my early work, and is obviously what drives fan-fiction, though I never went so far as to actually think of writing a story – to be published or shown to anybody else – set in somebody else’s fictional world. I invented my own to play with the ideas I found appealing, and let myself indulge in it – in fact there was no ‘letting’, because the idea of preventing myself from doing so never even crossed my mind. And I miss that. I’m all about the social commentary now; and don’t get me wrong, I love me some social commentary, and I love coming up with my own ideas (insofar as anybody can come up with ideas that are truly all their own), but I do miss that spirit of just reveling in the fun you can find in other people’s work, and taking it and doing your own thing with it. Which is the key thing, the essential division between ‘taking inspiration from’ and ‘plagiarising’ somebody else’s work: making it your own. Copy-pasting entire sentences or even just lines from somebody else’s work (which Clare did do, in her HP fanfic at least) is plagiarism, unless you cite them or get their permission (which she did not do until notified about it, and even then incorrectly), even if you don’t expressly claim that ‘this is all my original work and nobody else’s for reals’. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to pretend that I invented the game; I just want to feel like I’m able to join in, and not feel guilty about being ‘unliterary’ or whatever. Because seriously, does the world need more elitism?
What I’m doing right now is still ‘joining in’, just in a different way and driven by different concerns. Those first stories were all for me and an imagined audience; this current WIP is for me and really that’s about it. I guess people who want to see teenage female protagonists portrayed slightly differently to what is currently seen as the norm. Particularly when written by male authors. Also, selkies.
I mean is that a … thing? Is that a market? What genre goes with it if so? The only thing I know about the genre of Tallulah is that is has supernatural themes and is about adolescent experience with a (hopefully) realistic style, so … magic realism? Low Fantasy? Modern fairytale? Just make something up?
Neil Gaiman has a lot to answer for when it comes to how I approach genre writing now – I don’t. I just think of stories and then try and tell them. And that’s how I want to do it. But I don’t know if that’s a good marketing strategy, and unless I can go self-published and actually make a living out of it – which obviously I can, in the same sense that I can become an Olympic weightlifting champion – I have to consider that angle.
However, I also have to consider something else, and that is what I’ve been calling Interim Projects, the things that I write while I’m not writing Tallulah.
I don’t think it can work like that anymore.
I think I actually just have to write this stuff while I’m writing Tallulah.
I had this revelation not too long ago, when I wrote that script to send in for that short play festival thingy. It was something I’m very glad that I did, even though it ultimately didn’t get selected, because now I’ve at least poked my head around the corner and had a tiny glimpse of what’s out there to investigate. And there’s no sense in tying myself down to one project if I’ve got energy for more than that.
And the other thing is that, since I’m so nervous about Tallulah right now, particularly the fact that I’m looking at re-writing a lot of it to make it all feel more coherent and in-line with my vision for it – which is one that feels truer to Tallulah as a character and making this feel more like her story, rather than my story about her – I kinda need something to take the edge off, and study is only so good of a distraction. It can’t do everything for me. I need to delegate.
So I’ll be writing some other stuff …
And I kinda want to post it up here. Some of it, anyway. For one, I do want to give you guys a sample of what I’m able to do. And for another …
I just like the idea of sharing stories. It’s the one thing I’ve gotten used to not doing, ever since I decided somewhere in my mid-teens that I was going to be a Serious Writer and spend all of my time shacked up inside my head and forget that there are two sides to every story – the storyteller and the audience. They both make the story what it is. And I think I need to get used to that dynamic again.
We’ll see how I feel. I’ll have to do some research about copyright and stuff – if I post things up here obviously they belong to me (or so I assume), but then what if I want to use them in other things in the future? I know that some people have gotten into trouble for copying themselves because their past work was published online, though I can’t remember the exact circumstances, so I may just be freaking out over nothing.
The bottom line is that I now see that I actually have to treat this second draft, this revision, as its own process in a way – it needs to get started before it builds up momentum. I can’t expect to just rush through it. And I want something to do at the same time so it doesn’t feel like I’m stuck between either writing or waiting until I feel ready to write again. I really don’t want to force this. I want it to work.
And if I have some fun at the same time, well, I’ll call that a success.