Surviving Social Media Series Part 1: Boundaries and Anonymity

social-1206612_960_720.pngSocial media. We all use it, and chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, you found it on some form of social media. But everyone finds little things about social media annoying. And if other people find it annoying, chances are you’re doing something that sticks in someone’s craw. In an attempt to make all parties a little more comfortable with their time on the good ole’ world wide web, I decided it was time for a survival series about social media.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a call on social media (ironic, I know), to find out the most annoying things about social media! And boy did I get a lot of answers. So I’m going to start here.


Topic 1: Boundaries and Anonymity

A lot of people had big problems with the lack of boundaries on the internet, and some for different reasons.

One complaint came from a fellow fangirl. People don’t seem to respect the boundaries of celebrities they have contact with on the internet. I have seen this phenomenon happen myself. Now that celebrities and content creators have twitter accounts and have become increasingly available to fans, fans have started going crazy. There was even just an article about the increasing entitlement of fandom as well as this spot on rebuttal

Most fans are able to contain themselves and show the general level of excitement and fun that is reasonable when you are able to chat up an actor or musician that you respect. And then there are the bad eggs. The ones that demand contact. We’ve all seen them. “Blanky McAuthor never wrote me back. He’s such an asshole.” No. NOPE. You are not any more deserving of anyone’s time than the ridiculous number of other people talking to them. When you tweet at an author, you have to keep in mind that there is a large chance you are talking to yourself.

But it’s not just that. People do that all the time. It’s the new era of everyone being available to you. At the risk of sounding like the old lady shouting at the kids to get off her lawn, I still remember the days when you had to leave a message on my answering machine and I’d get back to you when I got home. Now, we can be reached EVERYWHERE. And that means people believe we should be.

Take that feeling and multiply it by a thousand for celebrities. Once a fangirl/boy goes off the rails, demanding attention, it has the potential to go to the other creepy place. You have fangirls talking about how much they’d love to have a guy like that actor at home…to the actor. Or worse, his wife! You have this douchenugget who scared the hell out of Amy Schumer by coming up to her in the street, demanding she take a photo with him because “it’s America and we paid for you”. 

This is a symptom of a larger problem. ANONYMITY. Online, we get to hide behind a persona. Even if we are relatively close facsimiles of ourselves, we’re not bound to talk about that one time we hormonally freaked out because the pizza store was out of our favorite rolls, or the time you screeched like a banshee because someone spoiled the season finale of a television show. We’re all cooler versions of ourselves on the web. Because we have that internet device between us, keeping us safe from having to face many of the people we’re talking to.

This leads to internet bullying. Being safe behind a computer gives people the boldness to call someone a bad mother, gives them the ability to tell someone to f**k off and die, kill themselves, or more of the terrible things I’ve seen in comment sections on articles. It also gives people with social anxiety the ability to reach out to people they never could have reached out to in person. See? There’s a good side to everything.

So the moral of this story? If you’re using social media for making friends, if you’re using it for promotion, if you’re using it to gain insight into celebrity lives, or if you’re just using it because you’re bored out of your mind, please remember that the people on the other side of the mobile device are people too. They have their own lives, their own schedules, their own insecurities. They aren’t cool computer game characters you can mess with. They are people, and they are affected by what you do.

Always remember that we don’t know what is going through another person’s mind at any given time, and we don’t know what anybody is dealing with. Always give people the space to handle things in a way they can live with, and always be kind.

If you’re confronted by an internet bully impressed by their own anonymity (and probably pretty uncool in the real world), apply the block button liberally. And if someone thinks they’re entitled to an inordinate amount of your time? Dump them. Your life will run smoother that way.

I’ll leave you with that. Stay tuned for next week when I dive into what people think your social media types say about you, and why we share SO. DAMN. MUCH. See you then.

 

Thanksgiving

Note to my readers: This blog is a little late.  That would be because I was suffering my last month with a computer that quit on me.  But I’m back now, with a working model, and a blog that was more timely two weeks ago.  Ah well…consider it the obligatory holiday post.

It’s that time of year!  The time where families try to put aside petty grievances to eat dinner together (and usually fail), the time where we forget our diets, forget how long that drive to _________’s house is and do it anyway, the time where we kiss the behinds of everyone who’s behinds we should have been kissing all year, but forgot to in the shuffle of things (and the above-mentioned petty grievances, which usually are far outweighed by the good things).

So here I go, telling you the things I give thanks for.  Be prepared.  One day there will be an acknowledgements page in the back of a novel that looks something like this, but as that hasn’t happened yet, I figured I’d give it a whirl now.

There are plenty of people to thank, after all. So, to the following, I would like to say thank you:

– My husband, Ismael – I’m pretty regularly vocal about how awesome my husband is and that’s a pretty good place to start.  Ismael deserves a pat on the back simply for putting up with me at my worst, which he does with grace and strength, but also for being my co-writer.  I almost feel guilty signing off on anything as purely my work when every single idea goes through an Ismael screener session.  If life was a romantic comedy with me as the lead, you would be my perfectly imperfect love interest and hero.

– My son, Logan – I couldn’t have created a more perfect comedic foil if I had tried.  Though you are only four years old, you already have the makings of an amazingly frustrating teenager and an amazingly lovely human being.  My little smart alec – I’m gonna enjoy every minute of raising you.  Love you!

– My parents, in good times and in bad times, thank you for teaching me to laugh at life and for making me exactly who I am today.  I like me, so that is very important.

– Mel and Jon aka big sis and bro – I could not have asked for a better pair of partners-in-crazy  than you two.  Thank you for taking me to a movie and to get ice cream on the days I decided I was running away from home.  Thank you Mel for planning fight scenes with me in all their ridiculousness and Jon for being my first critic – important lessons were learned.

– D and Kristy for not only being great significant others for my siblings, but for being great friends to me.

– Manny and Helen, Miriam and Luis – Ismael’s screwball family.  I was blessed with you guys.  Every one of you provide your own particular brand of inspiration.  You have no idea.

– Jeannie and Genaro (my sister-in-law and my nephew) – Your strength, determination and your ability to reinvent yourselves at a moments notice makes me realize what people can truly be capable of.  Genaro, even at 14, your physical tenacity is a sight to behold.  You keep chasing your dream like that, I’ll keep learning from you.

– My protege (and Ismael’s), Megan (aka little sis) – That’s right.  I’m going to call you my protege.  Feel free to argue against that, but I like to be dramatic, so that’s what I’m going to call you.  And despite the fact that you can probably kick my ass, I’m gonna keep it up.  (Yes, that IS a challenge.)

– My best friends, Joy and Allegra, who, each in their own way, provide me with support for all of my ills, a shoulder to cry on, someone to celebrate with, and generally act as my saviors in my daily life.  Without you and the boys I would be more of a mess than you think.  Really.

– My online crew.  Though you may rotate in and out of my life, and some of you were once real time friends, but we don’t get much time together anymore (Sean, I’m talkin’ to you!) but one thing remains consistent.  If you are someone who I share more than idle conversation with online, if we have discussed deeper topics, shared more about our families, about our lives, than you have impacted me and my writing world in ways you can not even begin to imagine.  I wish I could teleport to each of your houses and smish you all.  You know who you are.

– My actual work crew.  To Ulana and Karen, Lee and Heather, Carol and Gina, Kathleen, Nicole, and Stephen, to all of my bosses, and all of the people around the office who share with me and provide me with support each and every day.  I know it’s not perfect, but I have been blessed with a workplace where people care, really genuinely care, and that’s tough to come by.

– The rest of the Minners and Manzano families.  Though you are more distant, you guys are always providing me and my husband with love, support, and the occasional character studies. 😉

– Annamarie and Rino, who provide us with the house we live in.  Thanks for seriously being the best homeowners ever.  We owe a lot to you and we know it, and you provide us with a roof over our heads so we can continue doing all of the other stuff we love doing. Plus, your kids are adorable and awesome and you make pretty great friends too!

– Dawn, for taking flawless care of my pride and joy when we can’t be home with him.  You spend so much time with him and play such an important role in raising our son.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you so much, again, for everything you do, especially as we get him ready for school (GASP!) next year!

– Harvey for giving me my first chance, my first ever fiction publication.  Thank you for seeing the strengths in my story.

– Hannah and the Sucker team, for coaching me as a writer and for welcoming me to join the staff of Sucker Literary.  I love working for the magazine and look forward to next year’s promotion of Issue 3 (and the search for more stories for Issue 4, if you’ll have me).

– And finally, my readers, be it here, the people who retweet and favorite my Work In Progress Quotes on Twitter, the people who follow me on Facebook, the people who post feedback on my fanfiction, or anybody who has looked at my writing online.  You guys keep me doing what I love doing.

It’s been a tremendous year, with lots to appreciate and more than enough joys to be had.

Please pop by again next week for my mid-month post, where I discuss Bad Guys…and how to make them as important to your story as your Hero.

Until then, Happy Holidays!!!

Internet with Friends! And Other Relevant Links…

Welcome to the summer of Pieces of the Puzzle!  This is a little update on what I’ve been up to and what I’ve been reading all summer long.

– I joined the July edition of CampNanoWriMo and managed to write twice my projected word count!  If you are looking to sign up for the next National Novel Writing Month, check it out, here.

– I have spoken my Urban Fantasy, Order of the Key, and my Romantic Comedy, Legally Insane, on this blog before.  The first drafts of both of these novels are now complete.  It’s time to start throwing myself into edits and start outlining my next novels!

– It’s been awhile, but I’ve written a review!  Check out my review of Man of Steel here.

– If you’re interested in following my life in picture format, follow me on Instagram. My username is @justine_manzano.

– My little sister, another writer, has started a blog.  Check it out here!

– Zoraida Cordova is a talented Young Adult writer who writes about merpeople.  She also just happens to be my friend and was once my college classmate in two writing classes.  I just finished the second book in her Vicious Deep trilogy, The Savage Blue, and it left me scrambling for more!  Check out my review for the first book of the series here.  And, seriously, READ THIS SERIES.  If you like fantasy and adventure, you’ll like this.

– Working on edits to your stories like I am?  Check out these great tips to get rid of repetitive statements.

– Here’s another great article about editing.  Check out novelist Patricia Gussin’s list of things to look for in each reread of your novel.

– One of my favorite fandom influences, Joss Whedon, discussed his top ten writing tips here.  They are mostly geared towards screenplay writing, but there is much information to be gleaned from the article.

– Getting together your fiction query letter?  I will be, very soon.  So here is a link to one that works, with a very nice analysis of why.

Okay, that’s all for this month.  Check out my next post in two weeks, where I discuss the debate of writing vs. income.  Take care all!

Come What May…

Hello all!  Welcome to my collection of news, musing and links for the month of May.

I’d like to start by leading you guys to an article that gave me a mention.  The article is about a new frontier in publishing & fandom. You can read the article here.  The SpaceGypsies site is filled with interesting fandom information, so if you have never visited it, take a tour.

Just a random thought: If every character I create is like a child to me, and having children drains you and makes you forget things, then is it any wonder that between Logan and my fiction-kids, I have very little brain power left?

Ever get your Lays and Lies mixed up?  This is a big issue of mine.  This blog post by C.S. Lakin should help.

Want to see the things you should absolutely never write in a query letter to a literary agent?  Visit SlushPile Hell and laugh with them.

Do you believe that the rules of writing and publishing others discuss don’t apply to you?  You might want to check out this Writer’s Digest article.

Joss Whedon, otherwise known as the Master of the Fandom Universe, gave a very profound commencement speech at Wesleyan University, and i09 covered it here.  Give it a read.  It’s pretty inspirational, no matter what path you’re on.

Another interesting Writer’s Digest Article discusses 15 Things a Writer Should Never Do.   Here’s a hint: One of these 15 things is actually the topic of my next blog post!  See if you can guess.

That’s all for now.  I’ll see you with a new blog post in two weeks!

Write Like a Fangirl

I was a fangirl before I knew anything about fandom. As early as I can remember, I would take an aspect of entertainment and fixate on it, imagining opportunities for stories that had yet to be told. If my favorite couple didn’t exchange a loving glance, my little girl heart would ache for them. I think that thirst for more than the story proper was what honed my writer’s curiosity.

I’ve discussed my fangirl status before here, but that topic was mainly about what fandom was able to teach me about how to view writing, how it gave me a better understanding of storytelling in general and how it helped me to comprehend myself as a “writer”. But another aspect of how fandom affects my writing is that I’m beginning to see my stories the way potential fans may – and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Ships ahoy!: I am a Daniel/Vala shipper. Oh, and John/Aeryn. And Angel/Fred, Katniss/Peeta, Jamie/Jeremy, Derek/Chloe, Magnus/Alec, and Tris/Four. What the hell does this mean? It means that I am a fan of that particular relationship. Being a shipper means writing 100 pages of fanfiction about how Daniel and Vala should have gotten together. It means throwing things at my TV when the series ends with John and Aeryn being blown to bits (THANK THE HEAVENS FOR FARSCAPE: PEACEKEEPER WARS!). It means you quote the things they say to each other, scramble to find more about their relationship, squee when they get together and die when they break apart. When you’ve got a more unconventional ship, you eat up all interactions they share like they are tiny bits of candy from the heavens. When Fred kissed Angel to hide him from Jasmine’s followers, the squeak that came out of my mouth could’ve broken glass.

This love for relationships and enough time in fandom has taught me to spot even the most odd (or crackiest, as we fandom people say) potential for ships. If I can spot them in my own story, that means that I can try to give something to each of those potential sections of the fandom for my stories – something that will hook them in. I don’t rewrite stories for that purpose or anything, but if I see the opportunity to have two characters interact, I work it into the tale. And I’m hoping this helps add a richness I wouldn’t have otherwise achieved.

Canon vs Fanon: My sister, Megan, is also a fangirl. Allow me to give you a peek into a recent conversation between us.

Me: Rereading Order and I mentioned this part that took place way before the actual story. I wished I could have told it. So I wrote it as a side short story.

Megan: Awesome. Isn’t that, like, the third time you’ve done that?

Me: Fourth.

Megan: LOL – You write your own fanfiction.

Me: LMAO – I would not have thought of it that way. What if I write all of the fanfiction and there’s no more fanfiction left to write? Don’t you love how I assume I’m going to have this crazy fandom?

Megan: LOL – You will! But seriously – you think fandom will run out of stories to write about anything? Trust me, you have not thought about all possible stories. Someone’s gonna come out of nowhere and write the crackiest of all AU [alternate universe] fics out there. Just wait.

Fandom is an interesting place. As a writer, you create a world, and you think you know the ins and outs of it. That is the Canon story. But Fandom digs out some obscure quote that you made in the beginning of Chapter 3 of your 1st book and creates something that gives it so much more meaning. This is Fanon. And suddenly, you want to see what was going on during that one line throwaway where two of your characters were off doing something other than the main plot.

Being a fangirl has helped me to see little instances where I can write outside of the box, little moments that I may not be able to flesh out through the course of the main story, but should I ever have a use for them, my little side shorts are there, waiting to see publication, who knows where. Even if they never see the light of day, that story I wrote about the moment Kyp is abandoned by his father figure, the tale of how good friends Austin and Zane met, that story of why a character betrayed their best friend – they inform the main story. I’ve found myself making edits in the main tale because of things I revealed to myself about my characters in these little backstory exercises.

In that way, writing your own fanfiction can help. Maybe one day, if the series gets successful, I’ll publish an anthology of these. Or, maybe, one day, I’ll pretend I’m more successful than I am by sadly publishing these as fanfiction, pretending I’m somebody else. Can you see it now? “Look! I have a fandom! That Jennine Mantaro keeps writing fanfiction of my work!”

Enthusiasm: The key aspect of being a fangirl is enthusiasm about the work. The best thing you can use when writing like a fan, would be to approach all of your work with a deliberate enthusiasm. Be excited! Know what your characters would think in any situation. Picture them in your head. Build stories of adventures they go on even when they aren’t worth writing about. Create fanmixes, then decide why each song reminds you of your characters or your world. Immerse yourself in your story, the way a true fan immerses themselves in what they love.

I pray my enthusiasm for my stories will be contagious. Will yours?

How Fandom Made Me A Better Writer

A fangirl or fanboy is somebody who has an intense love for a book/movie/tv show/actor and shows it by congregating with others and discussing it, researching every single thing related to it (watching all of an actor’s movies no matter how bad, finding all behind the scenes info available about a movie), and creating ‘fanworks’ (fanfiction, fanvids, photoshop edits).  I am guilty of doing every one of these things.  First it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer or anything Joss Whedon related.  Then, it was Stargate SG-1 or anything Michael Shanks related (i.e. his latest series, Saving Hope).  Author Kelley Armstrong is my main book obsession.  The Hunger Games is another one.  When a fan finds a group of like-minded individuals either at a Convention or on the web, they have become part of a fandom.

So, how did a time-consuming activity like fandom help me as a writer?

1) Characters – Being part of a fandom exposes you to new people.  Meeting people with similar interests does not mean meeting people who are similar to you.  Among my closest online friends, you’ll find: an archaeology major from Florida, a brilliant woman who goes under the name of an infectious bacterium, and a librarian with Asperger’s.  I’ve learned so much about differences in people from them, and so many others.  Conversations with them have spawned fresh story ideas and that archaeology major inspired one of the characters in an upcoming story.

2) Learning social networking – I used to be a lurker.  I would go on sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Fanfiction.net and sift through them without ever bothering to participate in them.  Then one day, my little sister made me sign up for a Tumblr, proclaiming me a secret fangirl who needed a “place to flail.”  She wasn’t wrong.  Not long after joining Tumblr, I became a full-fledged fangirl, writing fanfiction and posting thoughtful analyses of my favorite television shows.  This, eventually, led to the building of a Twitter writing network and to this very blog.

3) Deep Discussions – The perception of a fangirl is mostly the picture of a girl who shrieks like a banshee when her favorite singer blows a kiss into a crowd of thousands and proclaims proudly, “That was for me!”  Most of us are a tad more mature than that.  I’ve had significant discussions on the full character arc of Stargate’s Daniel Jackson, read essay length writing pieces on why Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments Series is a Mary Sue (aka, a perfect character with no flaws and special characteristics that nobody else has – a literary no-no), poked holes in the entire plot of Buffy Season 7, expounded at length on how you can tell something’s a Joss Whedon piece without reading the credits, and played strange games like “Place the characters from The Hunger Games into Hogwarts houses” (thanks for the that one, Pip).  That’s character development, how to create strong characters, spot and correct plot holes, tie loose ends, and have a distinct and strong voice – all essential writing skills.

4) A book idea – I was goofing off with my favorite online crew of friends, discussing Stargate character, Daniel Jackson.  Somebody said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you had a Daniel on your shoulder, telling you what to do?”  And someone else said, “Wouldn’t it be more fun if it was Jack O’Neill?”  (Daniel is brilliant, but calm and peaceful.  Jack is a tough as nails bad ass.)  And I thought, how would one truly react if they had their favorite character from their favorite television show trying to direct their lives?  Last post I referred to the story of the divorcee with the imaginary friend, remember?  And thus, a story was born…

5) Fanfiction – Fanfiction is when you take characters you love from a piece that you love and write a story about a previously unrecorded adventure.  This is strictly for fun, not profit, and can be a powerful exercise.  For somebody who is serious and respectful of the original work, it can be a bit like writing for television if you were sitting in the writer’s room with the series creator.

Shortly after joining Tumblr, I got my first fanfic idea.  This was after six months of a stress-induced writing drought.  With some trepidation, I pursued it – a short story length tale.  I posted it and spent the next couple of hours obsessively waiting to see what people thought about it.  It got good reviews.  Reviews that asked me to keep writing for the characters.  My peers, people who loved the same television show I did, thought I did a good job with their world.  So I tried another one, a longer one: about 100 pages broken into 10 chapters.  I posted chapters once a week and was prodded constantly by people that now considered themselves my fans to post more.  I’d received useful constructive criticism and compliments.  Eventually, I won fan-voted awards for both stories.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The entire time I’d been working on these pieces, I had been cringing, thinking I should be hard at work at the original thing that I couldn’t write.  It didn’t occur to me until I was posting thank yous for my fan awards that this was just as important a step as if I had taken a writing class.  Writing fanfiction returned my confidence to me.  It reminded me that I was a good writer and asked me for more and it gave me the kick in the pants I needed to start writing my own work.  People genuinely liked my ideas.  They liked the way I handled characters.  And maybe, they would like my plots and my voice in a brand new world of my own creating.

I started writing in earnest once again less than a month after I published that first fic.  By the time the fan awards came in, I had begun seriously considering myself a writer.