One of the things I want most is to write fiction for a living. Whether or not it’ll ever happen, I have no idea, but as long as I have stories and the will to tell them, I’m going to keep writing them down.
Except for my earliest attempts, I’ve always written male main characters. I never thought much about the reasons; it just sort of happened. But recently, I did.
One, more male characters = more HoYay and more slash. Which I’ve kinda been into since before I even knew what it was.
Two, writing male characters lets me put more distance between myself and them. I always play the spectator/director and don’t get too enmeshed or identify too closely. That way, I can avoid putting too much of myself in the story.
That leads to reason Number Three, the dreaded Mary Sue. Writing her is apparently a capital offense. Writing as an outsider let me feel protected, gave me some assurance I was (like any “good” writer should) just analyzing and presenting a character instead of putting out some ideal version of myself or simply indulging my fantasies. Because, as I’d internalized without even knowing, writing to indulge your fantasies or merely acknowledging certain ones is the worst thing you can do, and even just being accused of it is The Crime That Shall Not Be Named.
Then, on a whim, I looked up an old fan fiction site. Not mine; someone else’s I first found ages ago. It’s here:
This site has a changed a lot since the last time I visited. Different location, different focus, different lots of stuff. But the old fan fics that I remembered were still there, and I started reading them for old times’ sake. What were they about? Well, mostly the writer’s fictional alter-ego (who was, of course, the center of all beauty, love and attention) having all sorts of romance and adventures with the fictional man of her choice, who’d largely been reshaped to suit her needs. In other words, THE definition of a Mary Sue fic. And the funny thing is… I enjoyed it. No, the stories weren’t perfect; the writer, to judge from her homepage text, has pretty much disowned them. But the basic writing was competent and there was something in them I liked and wanted to revisit.
I think it might be the raw honesty of those fantasies she shared. It’s the kind of writing you get when you don’t feel self-conscious and you either don’t know or just don’t care how personal it is. I think that’s part of what made the Twilight books so popular. When someone is that honest (for better or worse), it can make a story more real, like pages from a diary instead of from a novel. Like something that, if it’s your fantasy, can happen in “your” life. And even if it’s not, voyeurism can be fun.
Over time, I’ve become more closed off, in fiction and in life, always afraid of revealing too much that might be used against me. Too afraid someone might make fun of me or judge me for whatever. And fantasies (sexual or otherwise) are incredibly personal things. I don’t exactly relish the thought of being ridiculed or psychoanalyzed for those or because people have the idea some fictional thing I’ve written reveals All There Is to Know.
But as I looked at those fan fics, I just had to wonder: Is that fear of sharing too much–of being too closely associated with the stories that I write–causing my writing to suffer? My own fiction is much better technically than it was when I first started, but it’s lost a lot of its soul. “I’m” not really in there as much. I’m outside looking in.
This brings me back to Mary Sue and how I fled from her. People describe her in so many ways, but often, her prime offense seems to be fitting the author’s wish fulfillment. Which (again, looking at Twilight and many, many others) can make a book very popular if enough people share the same wish.
I shouldn’t have been so afraid of her. Or so afraid of myself.
[Link: Making Peace with Mary Sue]