Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How tastes change - reflections of a freaked out fan

I really don’t remember how long I have been reading HP fanfiction now but I was introduced to the glory that was HP and the Philosophers Stone 9 years ago. We were on holidays and we were staying in communal accommodation, sharing with my aunt and her family as well. I was pregnant at the time and was staying there with my father and daughter. Due to the lack of anything to do and the general weariness that comes with pregnancy and a toddler combined, I was going to bed with the children. There really wasn’t anything else to do as we were all staying in one room together. Every night my aunt would read a chapter from this new book, HP - PS, that everyone was raving about, and I was hooked, the last afternoon we were there I borrowed it from my aunt just so I could finish it before we left. I had to know how the story ended.

I can’t remember the first ever fanfic that I read, I envy people who can in detail describe their first adventure into that world. The only thing that I am sure of is that it probably wasn’t slash. The earliest memory I have is that of Harry and Draco sitting together at the train station and having a smoke. And Draco being surprised that Harry smoked. It was what I now recognise as an Independent!Harry fic. I remember that Harry ‘rebelled’ and did things he wasn’t supposed to… yeah well that does feature dramatically in many fics. Was it well written, probably not, but then is that really a criteria when you are looking for something specific? Mostly yes, good grammer, spelling and punctuation are vital to help the reader relax, enjoy and understand where you are going. A good understanding of English is also vital. I could list a couple of my favourite ‘English’ mistakes easily.

For Example:

·         Shutter instead of shudder, the first is a window covering, the second is a full body shiver

·         Brake fast instead of breakfast, no further comment

·         Wither/withering instead of writhe/writhing, to wither is to shrivel from lack of water, to writhe is to wiggle or contort your body

·         Over use of the word lovely. ‘his lovely eyes were a lovely shade of green like the lovely emerald in his lovely ring.’ And yes I have read something very similar, except it was nearly a whole paragraph.

·         Onyx is not an eye colour, it seems that at one stage everyone was using onyx to describe Snapes eyes, but onyx comes in several different colours including white and green and the black is often dyed that colour… really the best gift you can give a budding writer is to give them a thesaurus, I use mine all the time and for example there is listed in mine under black the following: dark; pitch-black; jet-black; coal-black; inky; sable; and nigrescent. hmm no comment.


Perhaps I’m being too much of a literary snob, but I don’t think so, I can cope with the occasional spelling mistake, a finger burp as a friend calls it. The occasionally bad use of tense can be ignored if the story is good enough. But when the regular use of bad English, of the incorrect use of words gets to the point that it is every time they use it, then I lose patience and give up. I have seriously thought about offering my time a beta reader, only I have also seen stories where the beta readers comments are still enclosed in the text, or a paragraph is written twice with the second one having some adjustments done to it. Then of course is the authors note right in the middle of the text. Use footnotes please, if you must have a note there. There is nothing more disconcerting to come across a piece of text that has nothing to do with the story in general.


But then perhaps I am being too harsh. I’m not sure, it could have something to do with my job where I am always working/editing other peoples writing. I work with people who are more highly educated than me and others for whom the English language is a second language and not a very comfortable one at that. I am accustomed to editing text and seem to do it all the time regardless of what I am doing. So does that mean that I am the perfect writer??? Not at all. I cant write fiction and in momentary lapses of sanity, often dabble with the idea of writing my own fic, but have no illusions of the quality of the work that would be produced. So there is no threat of my having put out some dodgy work of fiction and getting upset because someone lambasted it for being of poor quality.


Anyway, until next time, when I lambast some poor soul’s lifework.


Happy writing!!!