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…just really, ridiculously busy. I never thought I’d be too busy to write fan fic, but there you go. Life has a way of surprising you.

I’m still writing, just writing other stuff for right now. I’m sure a plot bunny will bounce on me one of these days and something Housey will pop out, but it’s just not my priority at the moment. I do want to write something though, coz I kind of miss Greg and the gang (who in my stories are mostly imaginary – but then House is imaginary too – so I miss all my imaginary friends, including House – oh, stop me now…)

Found some great writing advice from John Scalzi. It’s modestly called John Scalzi’s Utterly Useless Writing Advice, but it’s one of the most useful useless pieces of advice I’ve read in a while.

I still have other things I want to say about fan fiction, even if I don’t write a fic myself for a while, so if anyone’s still reading, hang in there…

I’m sorry, I can’t quite leave this subject alone yet. There is so much passion about it out there and I truly believe that fan fiction is now starting to come to the attention of even more writers and readers than ever before as a result. (If you haven’t read read the originating post of all this fuss go here, because it no longer exists on the original site.)

I subscribe to a wide range of writing (esp romance writing) blogs, author websites and review sites. And the past two weeks, fan fiction and this debate has been popping up all over the place. So many people have been saying things and making me wish I’d said them first. Like this:

“Okay. I am really, really tired of professional writers – or maybe I should say published writers, since professional behavior is not these people’s long suit, generally speaking – posting rants about how they don’t like fan fiction and here are their random reasons why. (If they would just say, “It feels wrong. I don’t have a reason – it just feels wrong,” I still wouldn’t agree, but at least I wouldn’t have to question their maturity. It’s when they try to justify their feeling that they start to sound like a seven-year-old explaining why his cousin shouldn’t be allowed to come near his toys.)” From The Fourth Vine

This is a great comment from someone called “Jamie” (pun intended I’m sure) on the Chris Meadows blog post I referred to in an earlier post:

“It seems to me that there are two kinds of writers: those who believe that it’s only “real” writing if you get paid for it, and those who understand the concept of writing for love. I honestly pity the first lot, because best-sellers go out of print, and royalty checks go away, and if that’s the only sense of worth they get from their works, they’re in real trouble once their popularity wanes. More so if they help it along by spewing hatred at the very people who buy their stuff in the first place. Meanwhile, those nasty plagiarizing fanfic writers are taking their joy from the act of writing itself, from taking the what-ifs in their minds and spinning them into stories, and happily uncaring whether there’s a paycheck or even positive feedback from their peers.”

And from Aja Romano at bookshop on LiveJournal: “Dear AotW. Fanfic is not about you. I know you hate to hear it, dear AotW, but the story is not defined by the barriers you place around it. The moment you gave it to us, those walls broke. You may hate the fact people are imagining more to your story than what you put there. But if I were you, I’d be grateful that I got the chance to create a story that has a culture around it, a story that people want to keep talking about, reworking, remixing, living in, fantasizing about, thinking about, writing about. To quote Originalaudience on the post in question, “Nobody is forgetting that you created the characters. The existence of fanfiction really means that nobody is forgetting the characters you created.” ”

She also goes on to say: “We get that you think fanfic is a stepping stone to being published. You’re wrong. Fanfiction is not a set of training wheels, not some shameful awkward thing you do before you grow up and learn the ~true meaning~ of being a ~real writer.~ Fanfic is … written by some of the most incredibly talented people on the internet. Fanfic writers are bestselling and acclaimed professional authors. They are agents and editors. They are network television executive producers. They are New York Times journalists. They are Supreme Court clerks. They are PHDs and experts in their fields.”

Fan fic authors I know? Business owners. Lawyers. Pharmacists. Office managers. College students. Factory workers. PR guns. Sales managers. And so much more. From all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds all doing it for the love of the writing, of sharing their interests and passion with others, and giving freely of their time and talent.

I’m giving the last word to The Fourth Vine again – because it made me laugh and I think it’s a wonderful summary of all this:

“…fan fiction is evil, because doing it for love is wrong, but doing it for money is right. This makes me make a frowny face, because that isn’t what they said in Sex Ed.”

Amen.

In contravention to usual blogging ettiquette, Ms Gabaldon has removed all traces of her inflammatory blog post and its hundreds of comments. So the links in my article below will take you to a “page not found” page.

Having read some of the comments I can understand why she might have decided to remove it from her own site, but she should have written a post explaining her reasons for doing so. (I imagine the ‘rape’ controversy was one key one.) Still, you can find plenty of fanwank sites that have transcripts – that’s another thing about the 21st Century, Ms Gabaldon, you can never really delete anything on the internet!

One thing it has done, is bring the topic of Fan Fiction to a greater audience. I wonder if all Ms Gabaldon has done in starting this controversy, is actually give fan fiction writers in her universe even more readers??

There have been some great blog posts and articles in fan fic writers’ defense too. This article by Chris Meadows is great and includes some links to comments about fan fic from other published authors. I found this Live Journal article by Bookshop to be illuminating, even if I do think it takes the definition of fan fiction a little too far in some of its examples.

Singapore, actually, and it’s hot and sauna-humid! Do they have House here? Yep – season 6, Thursdays at 10pm. Might even get to catch it while I’m here. (Although I hasten to add that watching TV isn’t usually a priority when I’ m in another country!)

I haven’t been around for a while. I have still been writing though, just not House fiction. I’ve got two stories being considered by publishers right now – a short story and a novel. I’ve been busy doing revisions and getting them submitted. I’m also working on a new story (also not House) although it is coming slowly because work is keeping me busy.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for news on anything, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past couple of years of finding my way in the publishing world, it’s that everything happens very, very s-l-o-w-l-y.

But that wasn’t what prompted me to jump on and blog – it was reading this blog post that prompted me to write. Many of you would know of Diana Gabaldon – she wrote the series of time-travel books featuring the hot Scots warrior, Jamie. (Called “Outlander” in the US and “Cross Stitch” in other parts of the world.)

Well, it appears Ms Gabaldon really, really, really HATES fan fiction.

I had very strong reactions when I read her post. (I have not read all of the 500+ comments, but I imagine my own reactions are mirrored in there somewhere.) On the one hand, I must admit, I wondered if there was a difference between writing fan fic about a TV character as compared to a character from a novel. The character of a novel is the creation of one person only, as compared to a TV character who is an amalgam of the writing, the actor, the director, etc. Does that make novel characters somehow more ‘private’? More ‘copyrighted’?

I have never been tempted to write fan fiction for any character other than House and for reasons I can’t explain, the idea of writing fan fiction about a character in a book somehow seems ‘different’. But is it really? Once a character is out in the public domain, be it in a book, on a TV program, in a film, isn’t it ‘out there’ regardless of its original format?

On the other hand, I was really angered on behalf of myself and the many other very talented writers I know who write fan fiction. She made some broad, sweeping generalisations that people who write fan fic do so because they are unable to do ‘proper’ writing of their own. That is so absolutely not true. I know at least FOUR other fan fic writers who are actively pursuing published author status. And that’s just the four people I know.

Ms Gabaldon has obviously been a published writer for a long time, and has clearly forgotten the rocky, disheartening and downright soul-destroying journey that it takes for an unpublished author to finally see their name in print. What real harm is done if, along the way, you write some fun stories using someone else’s characters, for no financial gain, but for the encouragement and reinforcement of your writing abilities?

I can’t refute her point that some people who have very poor writing skills will find themselves an audience if they shove in enough sex scenes or if they write the romance or storyline that fans want to see. (In the House fandom, witness some of the extraordinarily bad Hameron or Huddy stories – I’m NOT saying that they are all bad, but some have huge numbers of reviews not for the quality of the writing but for the adherence to the ‘ship’.)

But fan fic exists in a world in which anyone, anywhere, can be ‘published’, in the sense that your work can be made available to a global audience. Back when unpublished Diana was trying to work on her writing, the best she could hope was that her friends and family might have a read and give her some encouragement. Maybe she could enter a competition or two, or join a writers group. Those options are all still open to  an unpublished writer today (and, indeed are all things I’ve made use of). But what that young Diana couldn’t do, that I – and many like me – have been able to do, is put my writing up on a global stage, to get the feedback and encouragement from people in the US, Poland, Brazil, India, Sweden, Chile, Russia and more (and that’s just the fan fic stats for May so far). I’ve had tens of thousands of people read my work.

Welcome to Web 2.o and the twenty-first century, Ms Gabaldon.

Exactly what harm is it doing to you that people want to write about Jamie Fraser and Sassenach Claire? It’s certainly not hurting your hip pocket.

All I can say is that if I ever get my books published, I totally give you all permission to write as much fan fiction about them as you can. Go for it. Wild, sexy, implausible, pornographic, OOC, ridiculous, comedic, slash, crossover, even badly written. In my mind all it would do is honour my work, demonstrate affection for the characters of my invention, and let others learn from my experience.

I’ve just finished posting the final chapter of my latest fic, Affair to Remember. It’s a story about House, his mother, Blythe, his mother’s neighbor, Emma, and her son, Cameron. As far as plot goes, it’s pretty simple: Blythe’s failing mental health has been having an impact on her neighbor, who’s been forced into a caretaker role. She finally calls House and asks him to come and take care of his mother himself.

From a writing perspective, in this story I was practicing something; I was playing with the idea of “themes”.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing, one of the best writing books I’ve read is Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part instructional guide, it is an amazingly easy-to-read book and would be of interest to anyone (reader or writer) who wants to know more about the craft.

One of the things he talks about is this idea of “themes”.

I’m sure just from high school English class if nothing else, you’re familiar with the idea of themes throughout a book — for example, The Great Gatsby is about a thwarted love story, but the themes in it are rich well beyond that, such as the division between old money and new money, and the destruction of the “American dream”.

Stephen King advises that once you’ve written your book, you examine it for themes and then go back and weave them into the tapestry so they permeate throughout. It’s when authors do this that you have lots to talk about when you discuss a story — there is depth beyond the plot, and meaning behind the actions of the characters. It’s what makes a book good for a book club!

Now I’m not necessarily saying I achieved book club status with this story, but I was practicing with themes and I’d be interested to know if you picked up on any of it. There were two I was deliberately playing with: the nature of an “affair”, and “memory” or “remembering” — just as in the title.

All my characters had an affair — thus the title is deliberately not “AN Affair to Remember”, like the movie . Blythe’s affair was with House’s biological father and, in my mind, was the central “affair” of the title. Emma and House end up having an affair. And Cameron is about to set off on his very first “affair” by having sex with his girlfriend for the first time. Each of these three relationships weave in and out of all their lives, with Blythe’s remembrance of her affair as what sets off House believing that there is something wrong with her mental state.

My take on affairs wasn’t just the sex or the relationship angle though, it was on the “memory” — what does an affair leave you remembering? For Blythe, she remembers a man she loved, who left her with a son and the rest of her life that (to me) never measured up to what she could have had if she’d left John and gone with Tommy. Perhaps this is what is ultimately behind her parting advice to House “not to be afraid” — does she wish she’d had the courage to live her own life differently?

Both House and Emma reflect that they will remember the weekend forever. For Emma it marks a turning point in her life — a decision that she must start to live her life for herself and not just for her son, because he will grow up and leave her soon. Being with House shows her possibilities that she’s not let herself imagine.  This is in contrast to Blythe, who gave her life to her husband and and son. Emma realizes that she needs to change the way she lives or she faces a similar destiny to her neighbor. (And, as a little additional reinforcement of the “affair” theme, in Emma’s back story, we find out that she was badly hurt when her husband cheated on her when Cameron was a baby — that affair, although not hers, left her with memories that kept her from seeking another relationship for many years.)

In contrast to the other characters, Cameron is all about making memories rather than remembering them. House’s final advice to Cameron, to take his time “because he’ll remember it forever”, is opposite to when House first protests that he can’t remember how old he was himself when he first had sex. Cameron doesn’t call him on that, and we can only imagine what the teenager does or doesn’t do with his girlfriend Tori. (Although, I rather hope they have a very special time and end up going out with each other throughout high school until they part to go to different colleges. I liked Cameron. A lot. 🙂 )

House’s journey throughout the story is the one that is most about memories. I’ve mentioned to one reader that I was very much playing with the “Broken” version of House in this story. His relationship with Lydia in that episode was very informative to some of the inner workings of his mind, and in this story, it is Lydia who House remembers, not Stacy: his affair, rather than his relationship. The affair with Emma is more “domestic” than the affair with Lydia, and it shows House how much he misses the day-to-day aspects of being with someone — something he wanted with Lydia but couldn’t have.

House also has to face memories — his mother’s life and her decisions and how they’ve affected him. He also has to face the shadow of his father at every turn — the helpful marines and his father’s reputation preceding him. Although I could have, I didn’t delve too much into this, because this story wasn’t about John House or House’s relationship with his father, it was about mothers and sons. I felt getting into that would have “muddied” my themes by adding in a new one. (Besides, I think the House/John relationship has been pretty fully explored in fan fic, and I wanted to do something different.)

For House, the mother/son relationship dynamic couldn’t happen without some kind of “coming of age” journey for him. His reflections about the parent/child relationship shifting were part of this. I think this is also why he felt drawn to Cameron and found himself liking the teenager. Both of them were going through turning points in their lives: for Cameron it was puberty and losing his virginity; for House it was accepting his role and responsibilities as an adult and becoming a care-taker. House plays this role with each person at different points in the story — he rescues his mother after the accident and applies first aid; he comforts Emma in the hospital and realizes it is a fulfilling feeling; he advises and coaches Cameron on a number of occasions. I don’t know about you, but I liked House as the responsible one rather than the victim, I think he often likes to play “helpless” — with Wilson, especially.

I really enjoyed writing this story, and I feel it is something a little different to anything I have done before. It has echoes of “Rebirth” I think, in that it takes a kind of slow and gentle approach to the story-telling. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

And as a little treat for all of us:

Movie image, An Affair to Remember

*sigh* Cary Grant. Mmm.

I’m in the middle of doing revisions on a manuscript as requested by an editor. An actual editor from a publishing house! Who’s asked to see it again when I’m done!

Yes, it is very exciting, but combined with insanely, mind-numbingly frustrating as I pull apart my ‘baby’ and rework it — a very strange mix of emotions, I’m here to tell you . . .

A lot of the advice/revisions from the editor was absolutely spot-in (thus the frustrating part) and has resulted in me losing thousands of words in the first two chapters alone. Why? Because there was too much between the start and the action.

As I was sitting here with my finger on the ‘delete’ button, I was reminded of this song about the King Kong movie from a few years ago (audio only, very funny but rude and NSFW):

The band is Tripod, and if they ever track back this link I think they will be proud to see themselves referenced in something as potentially geeky as fan fiction. (Wouldn’t put it past them to have tried a little themselves. Probably Star Wars.)

Anyway, partly as an excuse to avoid my revisions, and partly to pass on this solid advice, I decided to write this short post. The song puts it best: Get to the fucking monkey!

If you are a writer, are you a plotter or a pantser?

A plotter is someone who works out the outline of their story before they write – generally they have everything worked out, characters fleshed-out, the story and its resolution completely decided before they write. I’m currently reading “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett on the recommendation of a fellow OC Babe. I recently saw him interviewed by Oprah and, much to my amazement, he said he had taken a full year to completely plot the book before he even started writing a word of it. He had every single chapter worked out, every single plot point decided. Now, this book is over 1,000 pages with many, many characters, and I think it would be almost impossible to write without a plan to guide you.

A pantser ( from the saying ‘flying by the seat of your pants’) is someone who writes as they go, who just lets the story guide them. They might have some idea of how the story is going to progress, but they don’t have any formal plan.

A cute medical analogy from the Story Fix link below is that pantsing and plotting are different in the way that exploratory surgery is different  to an appendectomy.

I sit somewhere between both. At first I’m a pantser. And then a plotter. And then I might go back to being a pantser for the last few chapters. (Apparently it’s called being an organic writer – glad to know there’s a pigeon hole for everyone…)

I love starting a story with a fantastic opening scene in my head and then finding out, as I write, what is going to happen to my characters and their situation. Then, about two-thirds of the way through, once I’ve discovered the surprises and I’ve worked out where things are heading, I do a little plotting. I go back and see if the earlier chapters provide the right clues and hints as to where the story is heading. I go back and make sure that my characters’ motivations and behaviour are consistent and work to explain the plot and their actions as the story progresses. My final chapter/s are often a bit more ‘pantsing’ and can sometimes even surprise me as something unexpected happens. Of course that then requires another bit of ‘plotting’ and going back and reviewing the story as a whole again.

I was quite excited when I found The Pantser’s Guide to Story Planning at the Story Fix blog. It has some really useful points about what key things you really need to focus on when you are a pantser. There are some essential elements to any well-constructed and smoothly-flowing story that even pantsers can’t afford to ignore. I like this approach because while I can see the value of ensuring you cover off these key elements, I simply can’t plot in advance without it completely ruining the joy of the writing process for me.

My ‘organic’ writing approach is the main reason that I don’t post my stories until I’m either completely finished writing or very close to. I hate being trapped by an earlier story point that has been already published and so I can’t change it to make the story flow the way I want to. I usually have all but the last two or three chapters (depending on the length of the story) completely written before I will even begin posting.

(And, on a side note: I know that some fan fic readers get annoyed by writers who don’t post every day especially when they know that the story is completely written. But each time I post, I take the opportunity to do one last edit/review of the chapter and check for all those typos I missed the first three hundred times I read it. 🙂 So I don’t necessarily have time to post every day when I have to fit in editing time as well. And, I will admit, my personal experience is that by posting every day you limit the number of reviews your story receives. I’ve talked before about how important the number of reviews you receive can be.)

I would hazard a guess that most fan fic writers are pantsers. Many of them begin to post before they have finished writing the story and without any kind of outline that will guide future chapters. I think, unfortunately, that sometimes that approach can give stories an awkward feel. It can also make the writing process more difficult and frustrating because as a pantser, you’re left trying to tie up the threads of the story as it stands and, because it’s published, you can’t go back and change anything.

Now, publishing fan fic is not quite the same as writing a book that you aim to get published. For a start, most fan fic writers can’t devote the time (a whole year in Ken Follett’s case!) to perfecting their story. And as fan fic readers we are forgiving of storylines that don’t quite tie up, minor characters that get lost along the way, and uneven or illogical character motivations. But I’m sure you agree that the very best fan fic stories are like novels in their scope and structure, and we have a clear sense of:

  • a set-up
  • a response to the new journey
  • attack on the problem
  • resolution

(Taken from Part two of The Pantser’s Guide to Story Planning, “The Nine Things You Should Know Before You Begin Writing”.)

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Let me know your approach when you write and publish fan fic. There is no right or wrong answer! And if you are a reader, can you notice the difference in the stories you read?

As someone who hopes one day to get published, I probably spend as much time learning about writing as actually writing. (And actually writing probably counts as learning too!)

I have a massive list of blogs on my Google Reader, authors, agents, publishers, reviewers, readers, you name it, and if I don’t keep on top of it, the number of posts to read swells to an unmanageable number very, very quickly.

At the moment, though, I’m hanging on every word of Paula Roe, in her blog series A Novel in 3 Months. Her current post (the one I’ve linked to) is about GMC = Goal, Motivation and Conflict, the holy trinity of character development. It looks simple, but when you try to apply it to characters of your own making it’s far less easy.

I’ve struggled with it, and I’m struggling with it in the story I’m trying to write right now. So, I thought, as an exercise, to try to get this concept straight, let’s apply it to Greg House.

Goal (desire or want)

What does House want that he doesn’t have? I think the answer is “personal fulfillment” or “meaning”. He searches for answers in every medical puzzle, in every patient, wanting to understand not just what is wrong with them, but what makes them tick. (At least he used to. Back in the early days of the show). His constant, existential search for meaning came primarily through his medical pursuits and the cases that he solved.

Then things changed and he began to realise that some of this meaning could be found in the more lasting relationships he had with the people around him: Wilson, Cuddy, his team. Of course what we House/OC writers like to imagine is that this search extends to a romantic relationship (something the show has toyed with but never really provided). We like to imagine him finding fulfillment by connecting with a woman (usually) and finding happiness in a relationship.

Another goal he has is to be “left alone”. We see him push people away, over and over (especially prior to his Mayfield visit). He projects through his words and actions an independence that he treasures.

Motivation (what makes him tick)

After five and a half years of getting to know this character we still don’t fully understand what makes him tick. But we certainly do have some idea.

Intelligent, perhaps too intelligent, he has never fitted in — he has often used his smarts to manipulate other people and situations to his own advantage. His family upbringing was harsh, an only child and the product of an extra-marital affair — abuse has been mentioned, but we don’t know exactly what form it took (despite the wild imaginings of many fan fic writers!). We get the impression that he broke away from his parents at an early age, his relationship from them as distant as he could make it.

Why did he go into medicine? Because he saw the respect given to a Japanese man, a doctor of low class, who no one thought counted, until they needed him. At a young age, House saw that the fact that this man had knowledge bridged every other disadvantage he faced. Suddenly we see it: this boy, painfully bright, wants only to find a way to use his knowledge to gain the esteem and respect of others. With fragile self-confidence and low self-esteem (caused by many factors including the abuse and a constantly shifting home as a military brat) House strives to be noticed and to matter at the very same time as he appears to disdain the very notion of such things.  Contradictory? Absolutely! I’m not sure if Paula would agree with me, but I’m figuring that’s what makes him such an appealing character.

His need to be “left alone” is perhaps linked to a deep-seated fear that he isn’t actually worthy of being loved. The breakdown of his only significant relationship (that we know of), left him shattered both physically and emotionally. He doesn’t appear to ever want to risk that pain again, seeking companionship from ‘paid help’ and brief affairs. (Although we’ve never really been privy to an affair other than Lydia, but we can guess there have been others: the nutritionist for example.)

Conflict (tension, roadblocks)

I think conflict in a five-year long TV series is a different beast to conflict in a novel. However this is where internal and external conflict become important. Internal conflict is the emotions, tensions, struggles and hangups that prevent the character from achieving their goals. External conflict is the ‘plot’, the events and the changes that happen that cause the story to develop. In most cases, the patient-of-the-week storyline in House is external conflict — something that stirs emotion or gets in the way.

From a romance writers angle, I’ve heard it described as ‘internal conflict pulls them apart, external conflict pushes them together’. It’s the old ‘cabin fever’ plot device: put two opposing characters into a situation they can’t escape from and see what happens…

The more conflict there is, the more compelling the story becomes (although within reason — you don’t want to test your readers’ patience with unending and unbearable angst). I’m sure you’ve all read a romance or a love story where you absolutely couldn’t possibly imagine how the two protagonists were ever going to end up together and were desperate to keep reading to find out what happened. That’s conflict.

(And, as a side note, perhaps that’s where David Shore is shooting himself in the food with the whole House/Cuddy storyline — the more things get in the way of them coming together, the more those rabid fans weld themselves to that outcome!)

Conflict is the hardest thing to write successfully, in my opinion. ESPECIALLY in fan fiction, where you are restricted in many ways to the character traits, goals and motivations that someone else has set.

A common problem I’ve found in my own writing is that I end up with both the internal and the external conflict pushing the characters away from each other and thinking that sexual tension is enough to pull them back together again. Sometimes it works, but it can make a story feel flimsy. (And editors and publishers don’t like it — trust me on that one!)

Another trap that’s easy to fall into, is making the internal conflict so complicated and complex, that you lose yourself in explaining what makes the character tick without actually showing what influence it has — i.e. why it is important. A great author I listened to speak said that character motivations should be ‘simple and deep, not complex and shallow’. I guess if you have five years to tell a character’s story you have the luxury of making it both ‘deep and complex’.

And perhaps that’s why we love writing fan fic — how else can we get to play with a character that has had five years to tell us his story??

Okay, so GMC in a nutshell: Character wants something. Character has flaws that get in the way of them achieving that. Things happen that help and hinder them along the way. Then, in the case of romance (and stories I like to read) somehow character emerges triumphant.

Hmm. Still sounds simple. Still is really, really, not. Back to reading and writing and learning, for me…

I think this is the most self-indulgent element of this blog: my desire to share with the world not just my stories, but the process that goes on behind the scenes when I’m writing them. Clearly I have some insane belief that people will be interested, but even if they’re not, I want to write this. (Which is perhaps the philosophy behind the whole of fan fic, really, but I’ll leave that to explore another time…)

NB: *Here be spoilers* if you haven’t read the story yet, you might not want to read this, because it gives away the really cool twist.

“If you really loved me you’d let me kill you” was mostly a very fun story to write. It flowed fast, especially the first part, and the title came to me about half-way through the first chapter. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant at the time, but I thought it was cool, so I typed it at the top. Later, it came to really define the emotional journey for the two characters.

My heroine, Alex — or, more precisely, Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra Maria Feliciana Di Giorgio — is a princess, mowed down by House on his motorbike after she accidentally stepped out into traffic. At first, I was totally enamoured by the princess idea. My brain was rushing through all the wonderful fun I could have with such an impolite and unconventional character as House entering the stiff, ordered world of royalty.

But.

Then it didn’t feel right. About chapter 3 or 4, I started to feel like the princess thing was too twee, too silly. And that was when Alex whispered her little secret in my ear: “I’m not really a princess, I only think I am”. Wow! THAT made sense! Then came a heap of research into delusions and dissociative mental disorders to find out if such a thing was possible. Not only was it possible, but it bought in a whole heap of wonderful plot possibilities, like paranoia, and the extrapolation of external events into the delusion.

(For example: When Alex and House go for a walk and House goes into the OTB, Alex sees a TV program about herself and believes it is a story about her family trying to track her down. In fact — and House sees the same program on YouTube later – it was a news item about the real-life tragedy that happened to her family. The whole scene came about because of the research I did that told me that while someone like Alex would not suffer from hallucinations, she would interpret real events to suit her delusion.)

Once I realised that Alex was NOT a princess, I went back over the first few chapters I’d written and made sure the story made sense. Surprisingly there wasn’t a lot that had to change — funny how that happens. Alex clearly knew that about herself from the start! This brings up another good fan fic question, which is: when is the right time to post? Clearly if I’d posted the story after I’d written chapter one, I would have been trapped and not able to start laying in the clues that Alex might not be all that she seemed to be. Again, another topic for another time.

Interestingly although this was a romance there wasn’t much in the way of sex scenes. For some reason, these two, while passionate, weren’t quite as hyped up for bedroom action as previous stories I’ve written. I did include one scene towards the end (under the Christmas tree, for extra romance factor), but that was actually a plot point – it was part of Alex learning that she could trust herself to ‘let go’ and really feel her emotions without worrying she might break down again.

House’s journey was my real challenge. In this story his journey wasn’t as extreme as Alex’s — in contrast to his character on the show, here he was the stable influence, the rock, while Alex veered from one reality to the other. In the end, I decided for him it was simply about exploring this very aspect: he took care of his daughter and continued to care for Alex even though she rejected him and refused to speak to him. He ended up at Mayfield, but as a support person, not a patient. House found his salvation through saving someone else, rather than descending into the pit of despair he ended up at by the end of season five. Plus he had to become a father — and a single father at that — which was another opportunity for his emotional growth.

I like writing Daddy House, but I hate the cliches — tears at the ultrasound? Puh-lease. I tried to keep his relationship with Matilda real without being ridiculous – the tiredness, the occasional disgusting-ness, the overwhelming infatuation. I hope I managed that ok.

Which brings me to my favourite part of the whole story — and it’s Wilson. Sometimes my writing moves me — tears, pain, hunger, schmexy stuff, and laughter. Hopefully that’s a good sign. This time it was laughter. Here’s the moment I’m talking about, just after Matilda has thrown up all over Wilson:

“Argh!” Wilson barely stifled a gag, holding the baby out to her father as he struggled to overcome the revulsion of being showered with baby barf.

House couldn’t help the laugh that shook him. He reached over and took Tilly from Wilson, laughing even harder as he watched his friend frantically try to wipe the baby vomit before it reached his eyes and then look around in horror, trying to find something to clean the rest away.

House couldn’t even manage to point to the bathroom, his laughter was so encompassing. “Oh. My. God,” he managed to gasp. House looked down at Tilly who was frowning at Wilson in an entirely displeased manner. Through his laughter, House held Tilly up to face Wilson like a puppet. “We are not amused,” House mugged, still laughing as Wilson disappeared down the corridor.

“It’s in my hair!” came the distressed call from the bathroom.

I laughed. And I laughed some more. I could just picture Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson, eyes wide, horrified, as he looked in the mirror, a trail of baby barf running down his temple, ruining his perfect quaff. I laughed again.

I have to admit, most of my favourite scenes in this story revolved around Matilda. I love it when House takes her from Wilson (because she’s spit up yet again), props her up on the sofa and she falls over — because she’s basically a newborn. He says:

“It’s not my fault,” he protested to Matilda as he picked up the unhappy little girl and hoisted her to his shoulder. “If you can’t hold your drink and then you go playing around with strange men, you’re going to end up face down one way or the other.”

Actually that might actually tie for my favourite moment. I love the idea of saying something so awful and rude to a baby. Does that make me weird?

All my stories have songs that go with them (some of them even have soundtracks). I don’t usually tell people that when I post, because I do think that this information is not all that interesting. Especially if you’ve never heard of the band or the song. Then you’re like, ‘so what?’. Anyway, for those of you who know it, this story’s song was ‘China’ by Tori Amos — mostly because I went to see her in concert and while I was there I wrote (in my head) through a block I was up against. That song seemed to help in some way. After that, every time the story stopped flowing, I would listen to that song and see what happened. Sometimes it worked. The lyrics aren’t especially relevant, although they are about distance and closeness and I think that resonates.

Anyway, for those of you that liked the story, I hope that that was vaguely interesting. If not, then it doesn’t really matter I guess — you’re probably not reading anyway! Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed, giving the story more than 300 reviews in total — I’m really thrilled with that. It means such a lot to have lovely readers who ‘pay’ for their reading by leaving a review. It’s a fantastic reward. (Although, be prepared, if/when I do eventually land a publishing deal, I will be looking for actual DOLLARS not just praise…:-))

I wanted to write a little more constructively about the process of writing “If you really loved me”, the House fan fic story that I’ve just recently published the last chapter of, but I’m finding that I can’t. (But I will, in a future post.)

I’ve talked to other writers about the strange emotions that happen when you write and publish fan fic and I think that many of us go through the same kind of process.

At first, when I’m writing a story, I’m filled with enthusiasm and excitement for it. I can’t wait to find out what happens and I’m practically obsessed by writing – I simply don’t want to do anything else (eat, sleep, work, go outside . . .). It’s like an addiction, and occasionally just as unhealthy!

Usually, I start to post (publish) a story when I’m about two-thirds of the way through writing it. It’s when I’m still quite excited by the story and I’m bursting to get some feedback from someone and share my words with the world.

Then, a strange thing happens. I work out what’s going to happen in the story. I know how it’s going to end – all that has to happen is for me to sit down and type it out. And that’s usually right when I fall out of love with my story. Sitting down to do that typing feels more like a chore than a labour of love. I also no longer think it’s very good, despite any lovely reviews I might be getting (thank you) and I have a massive crisis of confidence, wondering what the hell I was thinking putting it out there anyway. I no longer have the drive to write that I did at the start.

Generally speaking it takes me two- to three-times longer to write the final two chapters as it did to write the whole rest of the story. Silly, hey?

So they’re the first two “emotional” phases of the process of fan fic writing – well for me, anyway. But there’s a third.

Once I’ve finished writing, I’ve typed the words “The End”, and then I’ve posted my final chapter, a weird kind of melancholy descends. It’s like Christmas Day when you’re a kid and all the presents have been opened and you didn’t get exactly what you’d hoped for. That sad, kind of restless sense of anti-climax. I think it’s because I used to have this ongoing sense of purpose, I’d wake up and know I needed to post. People were out there waiting for it! Not only that, I would get regular emails (review alerts) filled with praise from people – often complete strangers! – about how well I was doing with something. And then, all of a sudden, it stops.

I guess it’s a little like being an addict and having your “culottes” taken away. (That’s a House reference 🙂 ) The “high” that you once had is over. No more nagging to post from keen readers, no lovely reviews – no personal satisfaction simply from seeing thousands of words from your own imagination right there on the screen.

I don’t want to overstate this. It’s not like I’m sitting curled up in a ball in the corner of the room, rocking back and forward. I still have a life to lead, bills to pay, work to do, family and friends to annoy. But there’s this little weird, nagging sense of loss, of something missing, of a gap where something used to be.

That is, of course, until the next story begins . . .

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The great and wise Gertrude Stein