Booktubing: Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer

Some of you may know that I have a YouTube channel that I run with my family, called Geektastic. Well, sometimes I do book related things, and occasionally, I’ll cross-post them here, because I think my target audience may find them interesting.

So, below, please enjoy my booktubing premiere, and if you enjoy, please like it and subscribe to our channel. We’d love to have you!

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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?

Introduction AKA My Life as a Character

Me and my trusty computer
Me in my natural habitat – behind my laptop

There is alot about writing to be learned in everyday life.  My life teaches me quite a lot, but it is divided into several pieces and I’m never quite sure how those pieces are supposed to come together.  As an introduction, I’m going to rattle off a little summary of these pieces to you. I believe they will help you get to know me better.

1) Mother – I have a wonderful two-year-old son named Logan. Everything that involves him is sunshine and rainbows except when it’s not and then it’s stress and ‘oh my God, don’t do that!”  He brings out many qualities in me, but one of them is not the ability to be an adult.  While I can tell him not to climb something because he will hurt himself, I can’t seem to keep myself from laughing at his antics. Can you blame me for laughing when he calls “Look mommy!” and I find him with his fingers stuck up his nose? (Yes, you can.  And you probably should.)

2) Wife – I’m married to an incredible fellow writer, Ismael.  From him I’ve learned that love can transcend all sorts of difficulties, things can be seen from multiple sides, and patience and understanding can go along way.  I’ve also learned that I’m very funny, especially when I’m angry and that no matter what kind of fancy cup I buy to store the toothbrushes, they will always, ALWAYS be on the bathroom counter when I wake up in the morning.  (You didn’t expect it all to be nice, did you?  We’ve been married for ELEVEN YEARS!)  I also learned what true love is, so there’s that.

3) Friend/daughter/sister, etc. – From those around me I have learned that there are those that will do anything to help you and those that you will do anything for.  And there are the opposite. There are arguments that end in “Chat with you next week!” and those that end in slammed phones and facebook defriending. There are things a person can say that will stick with you forever, and there are times when you have no idea how much you’ve effected somebody else’s life with your own words or actions.  Also, there is clutziness, sarcasm, stupidity, shared interests, snorty laughs, spit takes, intellectual conversations, horrendous nicknames, stories that nobody will ever let you forget, and lots of love.

4) Writer – A hat I wear with trepidation. Is that what I am?  A writer?  I’ve never been published.  And yet, I eat, sleep and breathe fiction.  If you see me walking through the streets and my lips are moving, I’m working my way through some dialog I will write later. And if you stare at me, I will look at you like you’re the crazy one, just like a real New Yorker. I carry around a journal in my purse and my pen drive in case I happen upon a computer.  My outlines are saved on my phone in case I need to look something up quickly.  Yeah, I’m definitely a writer.

5) Editor – My husband and I serve this function for each other. We may never technically write a collaborative project, but every project we work on is somewhat collaborative.

6) Fangirl – This is an important part of my life!  This is where my interests lie, because for me, writing isn’t a hobby, it’s life’s blood.  So when I watch TV and squeal because I love an actor, or tweet endlessly about my favorite couple in a novel, quote things nobody should remember or laugh at jokes others would never get…fandom made me do it.  People I have met through fandom have made me cringe and others have become some of my closer friends without ever standing in the same room as me.  Fangirling with others involves important writerly discussions about character development, plot, themes and settings.

7) Worker – I have learned many useless things from jobs, like how to make a tub of ice cream and how to fix a VHS tape (likely the most useless thing I know). I’ve also learned many useful things like how to work tenaciously until a job is done and how to stay strong under pressure (sometimes I’m admittedly a little wobbly on that one, but I’m getting better).

These are pieces of me. Of course, I’m simplifying things.  There is plenty of other stuff.  I love Broadway musicals, I sing in the shower, I’ve lived through traumatic experiences, I’ve been in a couple of student films (if we’re lucky, nobody will ever find them).  I am a whole, complex person with many different facets.

If I can be so many different things that impact the core of who I am, than the characters we write need things like this to become three dimensional. They can’t exist in a plot-induced vacuum where all they do on a daily basis are the things the plot requires. They should have outside interests, other people they interact with, a past that takes place before the story starts, and all of these things should inform who they are and what they do.

Allow these things to make a character react more believably in a situation.  Let the impeccably calm romantic ingénue get angry for a questionable reason.  Let the soldier fall apart when he’s supposed to be a hero and hold it together when there’s nobody to save.  And give them a reason why.  Some snippet from their past.  Some association made.  Some facet of their personality that makes them a whole person.  Just be consistent, so the behavior doesn’t feel as though it is blindsiding the reader.

It will make your plotlines less obvious and your characters more interesting.  Sometimes less likable, but definitely more interesting.  And that’s a good part of what makes a story readable.

Wondering, “What does she know?”  Check out my bio page.  You may still feel that way, but at least you’ll know who you’re saying it about.

‘Till next time!