Reading fan fiction is dangerous. It gets me in a certain mindset that’s not great for my own writing. As much as I love it, it tends to be lazy: it relies on its audience’s existing understanding of characters and settings and therefore puts little effort into descriptions; it tends to be repetitive, exploring the same themes as the source material and/or of other fics; it tends to be focused on minutiae (which is part of its appeal, really) instead of narrative purpose; and it’s rarely well edited or… really, proofread at all. There are exceptions, of course, but when you’ve been ravenously consuming, you encounter a lot of crap.
But in newborn hell, I NEED TO CONSUME TO STAY ALIVE because what the hell else is there for me to do? I can’t go to work, I can’t go to places with lots of people, I can’t spend ALL day doing household chores nor playing freaking Paw Patrol with my toddler. There are only so many shows on OnDemand and fewer on TV. And my desk chair isn’t comfortable enough for endless Netflix binges.
Reading fanfic on my phone while I nurse my newborn on the couch? OK! It’s free, it’s never ending, it’s portable, and it lets me stay in a world that interests me. I win.
Except… when I try to write my own thoughts and start seeing some of the bad fanfic habits popping up on the page. With NaNoWriMo now just about a week away, I need to get out of the habit.
In a lame attempt to change this habit, I proposed (to myself) that I would only read fanfic at night and try to read real books by day.
So yesterday, I read The Stranger.
Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”
Then last night, I started a new fanfic. Then this morning, I … kept reading the same fanfic. Because, let’s be honest, I’d rather spend my mind time in a land of poor grammar while beautiful people I sometimes see on my TV make out with each other than in a land of hot hopeless existentialism.
Clearly, I chose the wrong real book.