Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Culinary Fan Fiction...

Now this is just FUNNY!

I no longer participate in the spats on the Goldbergs' blog (my job alone is enough to give me an ulcer), but I still read what's going on.

The other day, Lee posted yet another announcement from a novelist "saying no to fanfiction." This time it was Megan Lindholm (who she is and what she writes, I haven't a clue.)

But this line in particular caught my eye...

On the notion that fanfiction is good "practice" for becoming a writer, she says, in part:

No. It isn’t. If this is true, then karaoke is the path to become a singer, coloring books produce great artists, and all great chefs have a shelf of cake mixes.

So last night I went out "happy-houring" at a lovely (and expensive) little bistro in the Orlando area, and decided I wanted some obnoxious dessert. There was hardly anyone there but the manager, on a rainy Tuesday evening, and I settled on a flourless chocolate torte.

Now, the thing was the richest, most obscene chocolate I've had in quite awhile, and anyone in my family will tell you I have the sweetest tooth on the East coast. The manager--a French gentleman who also happened to be the chef on duty that night--and I got to talking when he came by to see how I liked it.

(NOTE: I've transcribed and paraphrased the conversation as best I can remember it, and I think I got it mostly right.)

___

"How do you make a 'flourless torte'?" I asked him.

He explained, then said, "Does it taste like a brownie?"

I was a little afraid I'd insult him, but I said, "It does a little," and he laughed.

"Good, it is supposed to. Have you ever had a brownie that did not rise properly?"

A bit bewildered, I said yes, and then I realized--it DID kind of taste that way! The chef (name withheld) told me he always used to eat the undercooked parts of brownies from mixes because he liked it that way.

"When I learned to make gourmet desserts, I tried to make a chocolate taste that way. It is more dense, more rich, but it has a familiar taste. People like sophisticated and new things in a good meal, but they also like familiar tastes. Americans call it 'comfort food,' I think."

"Chocolate is comfort food," I said, (trying not to laugh, because by then I was remembering Lindholm's comment.) "So you based your recipe on a brownie mix?"

"Yes!" he teased me. "You are eating a very expensive, undercooked brownie!" (Definite implication that I was a sucker, but hey, I have a weakness for all things chocolate.)

He laughed, so I was able to at last, but he thought I was laughing at his joke--well, I was, but I was also laughing at the "brownie mix" comment.

___

There you have it, ladies and germs! Even a French chef whose menu has roasted duck and escargot and a whole bunch of things I can't even identify (let alone afford), based a recipe for a DAMN good dessert on good ol' brownie mix.

Why? Because people like "familiar tastes."

If that doesn't explain the motivation behind fanfic, I don't know what does.

The writer's imagination can enjoy both sophisticated new creations, and familiar, comfortable things. I love the new, uniqueness of a story that forms for the first time in my own mind, watching it come to life, watching the world build up into existence, watching the characters develop their personalities.

But I also love the familiarity of the worlds in my favorite books and movies, and letting my imagination take a little romp in them, and sharing those "familiar tastes" with other fans of those stories.

I hope one day that people will be interested in reading about the adventures of my Paulina, a teenager in circa 750 B.C. Italy. But until I've got her "just right," I know that my fandom readers enjoy reading my ideas for adventures for Harry Potter, that modern magical teen we all know and love.

There's no shame in enjoying "comfort food."

8 Comments:

Blogger The Boys in the Band said...

She writes fantasy.

3:34 PM  
Blogger dilly said...

Excellent point.

Something that bothers me about the "Fan fiction doesn't make you a better writer!" group... If you're going to write pro fiction, I don't think that you're GOING to only write fan fiction by default.

Aside from that, though, I don't know why these people who haven't had the experience are telling us what fan fiction can do for you. The main way it's helped me as a writer is that I've gotten more feedback on fan fiction more quickly than I could possibly get for original fiction. I have a MUCH better idea of what works in fiction and what doesn't because of the quick return I get on fan fiction.

Anyway, any one thing doesn't make you a better writer on its own, in my opinion. Writing in a void can help youw ith one part, reading other people's novels can help you with one part, reading books about writing can help you with one part... Why is it so unbelievable that fan fiction can help you in its own way?

Sorry for preaching to the choir here. I don't want to post to one of those argument threads just to be insulted and treated as a moron.

5:07 PM  
Blogger The Boys in the Band said...

take LG's blog with a grain of salt. The reactions to the attitudes that it doesn't matter what the original author or copyright wants are warranted. Makes 'em spit. So there are some overreactions.

Keep in mind. The feedback you get on fanfiction is from other fanwriters, or fanreaders. Not quite what you get in real world situations.

7:07 PM  
Blogger dilly said...

Keep in mind. The feedback you get on fanfiction is from other fanwriters, or fanreaders. Not quite what you get in real world situations.

Yes, I use the feedback for what it is. I don't take exactly what they say seriously, but I can analyze reactions well enough. Just about the same situation as a writer's group, and I like that some of the feedback is from non-writers.

However, "fanreaders"? Is there another type of reader? I wouldn't imagine that most readers of fan fiction only read fan fiction.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

However, "fanreaders"? Is there another type of reader?

Snerk. I think it is. Reading fanfiction is time-consuming. Only fans read it. Super-duper fans. Because somebody who is not a fan won't understand it, they won't have all the background material provided by the original author.

8:35 PM  
Blogger The Boys in the Band said...

somebody who is not a fan won't understand it, they won't have all the background material provided by the original author.

True. Not a matter of genre preference. Without knowledge of X-files, the fanfiction for it makes no sense whatsoever. Might be occasional fanfictions for which previous knowledge isn't required, but they are few and far between.

So, only somebody who knows the original work, universe, whatever would read it...hence fanreader.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

Dilly: no worries about preaching to the choir. I enjoy hearing from people who disagree from me (obviously) and discussing our disagreements, but it's nice to know I'm not completely alone in my opinions!

The reactions to the attitudes that it doesn't matter what the original author or copyright wants are warranted. Makes 'em spit. So there are some overreactions.

True, very true. Sometimes I forget that. And I've certainly had a few overreactions to statements made on LG's blog, so I can't claim innocent victimhood by any means.

Keep in mind. The feedback you get on fanfiction is from other fanwriters, or fanreaders. Not quite what you get in real world situations.

Absolutely. I'd be a fool to ever forget that. That's why I value substantive reviews, even critical or highly critical ones, more than brief "This story is GREAT, OMG!!" (Not that I don't appreciate a reviewer's kindness in taking the time to write the above too.)

But especially on occasions when I don't feel I got a chapter quite "right," I always go looking for substantive comments from readers and beta-readers.

However, "fanreaders"? Is there another type of reader? I wouldn't imagine that most readers of fan fiction only read fan fiction.

Fanreaders is just short for "fanfiction readers," just like fanwriter is short for "fanfiction writer." It doesn't mean a person only reads or writes fanfic. Just a quicker term to write.

8:41 AM  
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10:27 AM  

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