Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fanfiction and Me

1. How long have you been writing fanfic?
I think it might be easier to describe my entire journey with fanfic. I read my first Harry Potter book in 2001. In 2003 I started going online to search Harry Potter and stumbled on a fanfic, a H/G oneshot which will become the foundation for my love of H/G later on. Still as I read the story I still had no idea what fanfic was, and thought it was something really written by JKR and after some time of wandering around the host site, Sugarquill.net, did I finally understand what fanfic was. 

It took me till about 2004/5 (memory is a bit fuzzy) to start writing my own fic, though now looking back, they were pretty horrific and I don't want to ever be associated with that Fanfiction.net account again (it still exists as I have forgotten the password so can't delete the stories). I had a brief spell for a few months writing those horrible Harry Potter fanfic but then more or less fell out of it because school took over. It wasn't until summer 2006, after I graduated high school and had 6 months before I begin university that I started to get back to fanfic, but this time to write in the fandom of Huan Zhu Ge Ge. I think it was because I was rereading the novels or rewatching the series, I can't remember. But since then I've been writing HZGG fanfic pretty much none-stop until now.

2. And what got you into fanfiction to begin with?
I think I just answered that up there :P I guess I might explain what exactly HZGG is. Huan Zhu Ge Ge or Princess Returning Pearl (yes, it sounds funny in Engish) is a Chinese/Taiwanese TV drama set in China in the Qing dynasty under the reign of Emperor Qian Long (around 1760s). It's about an illegitimate daughter of the Emperor (Zi Wei) who comes to Beijing after her mother dies to find her father, meets an orphan (Xiao Yan Zi) and the two girls become sworn sisters. Through a series of unfortunate events, Xiao Yan Zi is mistaken as the princess instead (thus her being named the "returned pearl") and the rest of the series deal with how they have to get back to the proper place. Meanwhile, Xiao Yan Zi sells bean buns to the Empress, climbs palace walls, writes poems about giving the Imperial Tutor a black-eye and falls in love with a prince who is supposed to be her brother.

Fan-made trailer courtesy of AncientChinese.Net
The original series consist of three "seasons" or three parts, simply HZGGI, HZGGII, HZGGIII, and currently they're doing a remake. The original series, aired between 1997 and 2002 were widely popular not only in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong but all over South East Asia, including, of course, Vietnam. People in Vietnam are still obsessed enough with this series so that every couple of years it would be reaired on some provincial TV channel and everyone would despair that they can't get that channel and why won't the central channels like VTV air it again?

This demand makes way for various Vietnamese fansubtitle projects for the series, though as far as I know, people still refuse to sub HZGGIII or acknowledge it as a part of the series, as aside from the change in cast, the character and plot made drastic changes in direction that were not for the better. I was heart broken for the character assassination of my favourite character, Yong Qi, in HZGGIII and that's pretty much what made me write HZGG fanfic in the first place, to attempt to salvage his character.

3. What kind of fanfiction do you like to write?
Considering the fandom and the pairing, my fics inevitably fall under the romance genre. Currently I'm writing to a set of 100 fic prompts, so basically I'm attempting to write 100 different one-shots according to 100 prompts, so the pairings and characters involved vary a bit, not all of it would be romance but probably a majority will be. But considering some characters I write about are historical figures and did exist, I spent too much time researching them as well as other aspects of Qian Long's court, with the ahd of Google translate, because I am trying to weave the history and cultural aspects into my fics.

4. Do you tend to write the same pairings/characters? Or are you a fandom whore?
The reason I can only write Yong Qi/Xiao Yan Zi is that this pairing is the one that speak to me the most. While on odd days I can probably slide in and write other characters like Zi Wei, Qing Er or Qian Long, I probably can't write romance for them.

5. What is your most popular fanfic and why do you think people like it so?
Right now, looking at the number of favourites, story alerts and review:chapter ratio, I would have to say The Prince and Me, though it's not meant to be taken seriously. I will admit to everyone that this fic is full of fluff, cliches, cultural rip-offs, self-insert and Mary Sue and it's deliberately written so. It's probably popular because it's a very different take on HZGG. Heck, it takes HZGG - a period drama - to the modern world and trivialises it, but that makes the story all the more fun to write and I guess to read. This one is an escapist piece for me as sometimes it does get rather tiring writing in ancient setting.

6. Forget other people...what is the fanfic you've written that you're most proud of?
I really would have to say The Unforeseen Complications of Leaving, as it's not only one of my longest works but also the plot that I like the most. It was also an attempt to write something that wasn't pure romance and I think I succeeded a bit. Also this was therapy for me after watching the third part of HZGG, the ending of which I deeply disapproved of, so by writing this I was giving myself a sense of catharsis.

7. Do you find writing easy? Hard? What are the most difficult aspects of writing?
Since I have too many plot bunnies floating around in my head for HZGG, most of time it comes easily. Sometimes I do just sit and stare at the computer, wanting to write but it won't come, but those are time when I know it's because I'm not in the mood. The problem with my writing is that my ideas usually consist of the climax of the story and I would get the urge to write that first. After that is written, I then feel drained and no longer want to go back and fill in the exposition or the resolution. But if it's a compelling enough idea then  I can make myself do it. If not it just sits on my computer. There are lot of random bits on my computer now that sounds really dramatic but has no build-up and no resolution.

8. Write a few sentences or so about your favorite pairing or character.
Yong Qi...what can I say? I think when writing HZGGI, the author Qiong Yao didn't anticipate how popular this character would be. He certainly wasn't her usual model of a male lead and would probably be counted as a co-star rather than the star or main character. He was given more screen time and development in HZGGII but from the look of HZGIII and the remake, Yong Qi in Qiong Yao's eyes isn't quite as perfect as I have made him to be. I think in my mind, I've made Yong Qi into a Qing-dysnasty form of Gilbert Blythe with some of Mr Darcy thrown in :D.

9. Are there any fanfiction trends/cliches that you're sick of?
Not so much cliches as...inaccuracies.

I wince every time HZGG fanfic writers have Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi leave the palace and live as commoners but still name their son Mian Yi. You can't name your son Mian Yi if you're no longer a prince, sweetie!!

Emperor Kang Xi decided from his son's generation, all male of the Aisin Gioro clan of the same generation would have the same first character of their name, so for Qian Long's generation, their generation name was Huang, for Yong Qi, the generation name was Yong (duh!) and for his son, the generation name was Mian. Therefore, only males of the Aisin Gioro clan would be allowed to name Mian Something! Naming taboo is a huge no-no of Chinese culture, don't do it! For Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi who have given up their royal titles and left the palace to name their son Mian Yi is like saying either 1) hey we're from the royal family, or more likely, 2) we're blatantly committing treason, come and arrest us!

Also, on the same subject, if you're going to leave the palace to live as commoners, stop having your children call you Ah Ma and Er Niang! You don't have to advertise the fact that you're Manchurian!

"Mian Yi" does amuse in me in other ways though. Mian Yi was indeed the only surviving son of real, historical Yong Qi, and since fanfic writers have the name of this one son of Yong Qi but no further information on him, in fanficdom, there's a dozen versions of Mian Yi floating around. I think that's probably why I have tried so far to avoid writing a Mian Yi, or at least one that was older than a baby and thereby would have to have character development.

10. Are you guilty of any of these? Or have you committed other crimes?
I have a problem with striking the right balance between narration and conversations. Due to the way my ideas come to me, as an image or as a part of a conversation, sometimes my (usually oneshots) would consist entirely of one or the other. Also I'm struggling with balancing dialogue tags.

11. What was the first fandom you wrote for? Do ou continue to like/participate in it?
Harry Potter and yes, I still do read fanfic, watch the movies (7.2 is NOT showing in Vietnam!! WHAT??) and other random news! I don't think my HP love will ever die.

12. Name your OTPs or most frequently written pairings/characters and explain what it is about them that you love to write.

 Yong Qi/Xiao Yan Zi.

They're cute, the original actors who played them had the best chemistry in the history of onscreen chemistry, it's the Cinderella story turned on its head and tossed into chaos. What's not to love? The thing about them is that they come from two different worlds: he's a prince and she's an orphan who doesn't have a sense of propriety so there's always something to write about, the clashes in class and problems ensuing is endless.

13. What would you call your writing "style"?
How would you definte style? A style to me is the impression the writing gives to you as you read, it's not something that can be described. Though I suppose I could say that there's heavy influence from Austen fanfiction in my fic in terms of use of vocab and structure.

14. Do you read other people's fanfics? If so, what do you find yourself reading the most?
Harry Potter, Narnia, King's Speech (just because I'm in love with that movie right now but the amount of slash in that fandom stagger me), HZGG (obviously), Pride and Prejudice.

15. Name one thing you'd LOVE to write but haven't yet.
I would love to be able to write Anne of Green Gables fanfic, but all my ideas have been done and done better than I could. Sigh.

16. Do you have trouble taking criticism? Or worse yet, do you have a really bloated ego?
I write in a very small fandom where we're basically too happy to get new fics so it's hard to come by criticism. I'm actually still waiting...

 Seriously, I don't pretend that my writing is perfect, but I would like to think that I can take constructive criticism in stride.

17. When you write is there anything that helps? Music? Quiet room?
Tea. Hot tea. Comfortable place to write. An idea. Music, sometimes, depends on the piece. Sometimes music can be distracting.

18. What inspires you?
What ifs. Little details on rewatch that I missed before. Forum discussions on the series. Alternative universes.

19. Lastly, how would you sum up your fanfiction experiences and yourself as a writer?
I don't think I would have the ability to plot and develop a completely original work so fanfic had been my release and saviour, giving me an outlet for the plot bunnies that float around in my head. When I get plot bunnies, I talk to myself. A lot. Then I have to write them down if I don't want to go around always talking to myself. So fanfic keeps me sane.