Charybdis and Motive

Lori is still quoting Minisoo, and I now see that according to Minisoo’s definition,
I would be a cathartic writer, because I don’t care about my audience in her sense
of caring. But I am not actually cathartic, according to
the dictionary definition Lori provided. Although I wouldn’t choose to write without
the muse, the muse is by no means forcing me to write; it is not the monkey on
my back Lori portrays her muse as being.

I usually am quite literal about the muse, but when I say the muse made
me write my first fic, that’s not quite true. The muse came up with the story and
pestered me with thoughts of Ymn for a few nights before I took out the laptop
and typed it up for her, but that was not true catharsis. I didn’t feel relieved.
I just started more stories and the muse snowballed. If I wanted to get the
muse off my back, I would never have let her near a keyboard. I would have
gone cold-turkey. I’ve written
enough in my life to know that writing is not something you can do just
this once
, as an experiment. Writing is like thinking - once you start,
you can’t stop. One doesn’t normally try to exorcise thoughts.

Tracing it back to the source blog, there isn’t much left to the distinction
between the alleged storyteller and cathartic writer.
Either one can write well, either one can write badly, either one can write
because of the muse, either one can feel catharsis. The only distinction that
Minisoo holds up the whole way is that she, in the guise of
storytellers, has a dynamic going with the audience that the
other camp does not. First off, this isn’t true - the main dynamic for most
writers is not with
the audience but with the fanon and possibly a beta reader or two.
Minisoo makes clear that she has some sort of cultural ideal of storytelling
behind her statements, but she doesn’t make a good case for a real
feedback loop in writing.
Fanon, as in the general written body of fanfic,
tells you much more about what is and isn’t an appropriate story than the
audience does directly. Secondly, the storytelling/catharsis split cuts straight
across Sarah T.’s distinction between aesthetic (good) and
social (bad) writers.

Yes, good and bad again. Whether it started out this way, this discussion
has turned into a game of peg the badfic writers. In Minisoo’s
scheme (as filtered through Lori), the badfic writers are a subset of the
cathartic (antisocial) writers. On Sarah’s continuum, the badfic writers are at
the social end.

Just that part alone tells me that this is a personality debate, not a real
discussion of fanfic. It is, therefore, not going to end, as someone else
mentioned. But at least it’s made me think once again about motive in fanfiction.
(I have had the feeling since the whole muse blog blowout that the
misinterpretation of my statements about the muse had a lot to do with
statements I made in Zendom a while back about ulterior motives in

The current debate is about fanfic writers’ motives for writing. I believe
that if someone can tell your motive for writing your story, then it’s a bad
story. If someone can tell your motive for writing fanfic in general, then
you’re a bad writer. In a way, this is what people are saying. When Sarah T.
can tell you’re writing in order to socialize, she calls that bad fic. When
Lori can psychoanalyze you based on your writing, she calls that bad fic.
If I even suspect certain ulterior motives, I’m outta there.

I’ve never said that my reason for writing is the real reason,
because as far as I’m concerned, the writer’s motive is irrelevant unless it
happens to reach out and hit the reader on the head with an anvil (bad!).
From the reader’s end (and in judging fic, we do it as the reader), there is
only one good reason for writing a story: the story itself.
Not the audience, not catharsis, not your social set, not aesthetics, not
dysfunction, just the story.

If you have another motive, keep it to yourself. I get enough anvils
on the head from Joss.

4 Responses to “Charybdis and Motive”

  1. FrenchProf Says:

    As the consumate lurker, I usually don’t comment, participate or let my presence be known, but it occurs to me that this particular blogversation is missing one key element. Might it be that there is a difference between _writing_ fic and _posting_ fic. There are thousands of us that write fic, a lot of fic if I’m any indication, and _never_ post. Ever.

  2. Jemima Says:

    I had a logic lesson a while back about posting fic ( If P Then Q Revisited) - all you can say about someone who doesn’t post is that they’re clearly not in it for the feedback. That doesn’t, however, tell you anything about the people who do post, and presumably the discussion is about posted fic. It would be just as presumptuous to talk about fic we’ve never seen as about mental states (motives) to which we have no access - but for some reason that escapes me, too, the discussion has been all about the latter.

  3. Lori Says:

    What is writing fiction, if not speculation about mental states of others?

  4. Jemima Says:

    Creating the mental states of others.