One of the things I miss most about fanfic [sidebar: I wrote fanfic for ten years, most actively between 2006-2011, racking up 40 short stories and over 130 thousand words] is the ability to pick up characters, plunk down an idea and get to the meat of a story without much fanfare.
I love lingering in small intimate moments, examining the mundane and vulnerable parts of everyday life. I used to do it all the time in fanfic – the moment a marriage broke, the memory of a divorced father caring for his chicken-pox infected daughter, the knowledge that you can love someone to the core of your being even though you know you’re better off apart – more than anything, I miss getting to explore those moments of humanity with my characters.
Since officially closing up shop on writing fanfic – April 2016 will be two years – I’ve felt starved of the ability to write pieces like that. I have characters bouncing about my cranium encased in scenes yearning to be told, but I feel like I can’t because most of them start directly in the middle with very little backstory. I worry that becauseI know so much about the characters, I’ll forget to bring the reader along for the ride.
This was the main problem, I believe, with Pick Up Lines and Peanut Butter. I’d had the characters in my head for so long, that I didn’t think about what it would be like for the reader to approach them. Which meant both Ian and Nora sort of came off as one note, because it was supposed to be the beginning chapter of a novel. Only much later, after that draft has been dismantled and rolled into what is now Open Season did I go back and retrofit it as a short story stand-alone. Hopefully it’s still enjoyable, but I can see where this technique could cause gaps in the narrative.
Which leaves me feeling somewhat stuck. Do I write a bunch of stories that other people might have absolutely no interest in, just because that’s firing me up at the moment? Or do I spend time crafting a more approachable narrative, which would be more comfortable for readers, but less interesting for me as a writer?
Any thoughts or words of wisdom? I’d appreciate some advice one way or the other.