In November 2012 I'd just finished my second playthrough of Dragon Age II. I can't remember how I found it, but I stumbled upon ~strangegibbon's Fenris triptych "Marked", "Touched", "Haunted". Thus began my foray into FFNet, most especially the Fenris fics, and I couldn't help but wonder, would I be any good at this?

I wrote a lot in grade school and high school, and a little in college, but nothing too serious. It wasn't until I sat and thought about it that I realized my grade school writing was actually my first fan fiction; I hesitate to give you the details, not because I don't remember them but because they were that horrible. That being said, my next thought was, It would be pretty cool to see a foil to Fenris come into existence. A friend of mine and I geeked out about it for a while, and she essentially egged me into taking that task on for myself.

I thought of a few things, even wrote a 2500-word treatment, but it didn't seem quite right. The concept of Althaea as a character evolved, a few times; I'm not ashamed to say that she was a definite Mary Sue at the very start. Then, an idea came to me: What if Althaea was a person valued not for her ability to fight, but for the strength of her character? What kind of person might she be? And then, if that's the case, how the hell would I get these two together?

I sat on that for a little while, and then it came to me: make her a courier, make him a sellsword. Genius! I wrote about 8000 words and showed it to my friend, whose response was, "Good, but it could use some expansion."

It got expanded, all right. And to think I'd dismissed some of my first character concepts because they might have been "too epic, and therefore too hard to write". Oops.

The story changed because I let it breathe, though the basic narrative stayed the same: boy meets girl, boy kisses girl, boy and girl make love, boy and girl break up, tragic happenings occur, happily ever after. The details, though, definitely changed. Some of it was my fault, some of it was hers; anyone who's written any sort of fiction can tell you that, sometimes, a character will have a mind of their own. They'll start shit and you won't even realize it until you're halfway through a scene and wonder, "how the hell did that happen?" Althaea's first meeting with Anders is a prime example of this: she was always meant to have a very good relationship with the man, even so far as my friend referring to him as her "gay BFF". Another moment in which this happened was with Sebastian after the Chantry was destroyed; I originally meant to have him rescue her from the rubble and drag her to Tantervale.

In the original piece, Althaea sung with the Antivan sailors on the ill-fated Lifestyle (which never mutinied) and the 14,000 words of their trip to Val Royeaux were condensed to one paragraph. The Divine never made a threat and Fenris made his profession of love at a Wintersend party. Phoebus hunted Althaea down and had a "you're not good enough for my sister" talk with Fenris; she was the one who was poisoned by lyrium. The trip on the Quicksilver was meant for her and not Fenris; I even wrote a short piece on that from Althaea's POV.

And Fenbabies? Never part of the equation. They just kind of...appeared.

My favorite author, Stephen King, once wrote that he doesn't plot, not really. He just sticks a few people in a situation and watches to see how they get out of it. While I didn't exactly do that, I tried to apply some of that sensibility to my writing; in other words, don't try and force things, just let them happen. I think the results are satisfactory, or as satisfactory as it gets for a published first draft. I learned a lot from writing Kindred: what I'd do again, what I'll never do again, how best to approach dialogue, etc. And while this story could definitely use some polish, I think it's halfway decent.

What happens next? I take a break! Doing this was as exhausting as it was rewarding, especially with awesome reviewers taking the time to speak up and give me feedback. While I was writing, I came up with an idea for a piece of original fiction. I'd never actually considered writing professionally, but writing this piece showed me that not only is it possible, but that I'd be an idiot if I didn't try and at least write one novel that I could sell.

So, that's where we're at. I have two pieces of gift fiction to write for two of my lovely reviewers, and then I close the proverbial book on Kindred (but probably not all fanfiction writing, let's be honest). Then I do some research on folklore and culture relations for my new story, lose the book weight (I gained ten pounds while writing this!) and start all over again.

So, it's with my most sincere thanks that I end this, before I sound like a real egomaniac. I want to take a moment and thank everyone that's taken the time and energy to read and review. Thanks to everyone who let me fangirl with them, whether it was for a few moments or a few days. Most special thanks go to my brainstorm buddies ~GirlyGeek, ~Rhax, ~Kukapetal, and ~UlurNaga. What a long, strange trip it's been!


25 June 2013

Minneapolis, MN