Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Don't Give it ALL Away

Fan-generated fiction -- fanfic -- has existed for as long as there has been theater, myths, stories around the campfire. Each person in the audience interprets the stories -- filters the stories -- through their own experiences and the story is a little different for each person. And if the story doesn't turn out how the listener - viewer - reader wants it to, they invent alternate endings.

I didn't like how George Lucas ended the original -- now the middle -- three stories of the Star Wars series. After the promise of The Empire Strikes Back of something that probed deeper into myth, there was to me a silly fairy tale ending. I wrote my own ending centered on the relationship between Luke and Anakin, how they resolve their relationship.Han Solo dies. Luke and Leia are left to sort out how to rebuild. In my mind, the next episodes of the series would deal with the rebuilding of the Jedi, with a notion that things go awry because there are always those who will abuse power. I think I had Chewbacaa moving into a sort of leadership position.

Which is to say, I'm not immune to writing my own fanfic. And now anyone with moderate skills and a laptop can also hack and paste video together from various sources; some video fanfic is quite good. There is, of course, a lot of fanfic porn, because it seems that everything on the 'net ends up porn.

Aside from porn, there are a few basic themes in fanfic, readers and views seem to want: love, redemption, happy endings, answers, and most of all, if the character's motives are obscure, they want to "normalize" their behavior. That is, normalize their behaviors to match theirs, which is more revealing about the people posting than they might realize.

The seeming zillions of words posted about "how did he do it"  re: Sherlock's fall from St. Barts (BBC Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall)  astounded me. There were more theories than I could track. But as a writer, I noticed that most people posting kept coming back to the **obvious** clues and seldom mentioning the other little tidbits the writers had dropped in.

As per the best "how he did it" theory, a professional stuntman gave the best answer for me. He said that the producers -- as the producers said themselves --there are only so many safe ways to stage a realistic fall. The crew would use whatever equipment they used to stage the real fall, film it from a revealing angle and cut the footage to suit the storyline.

Simple enough, yes? And yet most of the people posting did not pick up this thread, preferring to spin tales of body doubles and latex masks.

The theories raged on for two years. And when the "solution" aired two years later (BBC Sherlock: The Empty Hearse), the comments continued. People were very angry that they still didn't find out the "how". One person kept posting over and over that their solution was the real and actual one and why didn't other readers acknowledge this?

The writers (Steven Moffat and Mark Gatniss) admitted they knew exactly the "how" but the hype was so intense that they -- and as a writer, I LOVE this -- they presented all the clues and  let the viewer figure it out. The writers even have Sherlock deliver Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's line, "You know my methods."  That is: ‘"All the facts are there, work out the answer yourself."

Because the point of the story was **not** how he did it.

A big lesson to all writers -- we do not have to tell every little bit of the story. I've reviewed far too many manuscripts that start out with long, elaborate descriptions of the really cool world we're entering -- chapter after chapter of backstory before the real story begins.

Sure, we often create backstories so we know why our characters are doing what they're doing. But our readers and viewers should be able to figure it out without us offering elaborate explanations.

For a recap of the episode, photos, and list of just about every "how did he do it" theory".

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