This morning's unread-by-anyone lecture is on the topic of guilty pleasures in fanfiction. Specifically mine, which really ought to reduce the infinitesimal audience down to an actual zero. But I feel the need to get it out anyway. The trigger for this pointless outburst is Poof, by Manic. Which I do so love, because it makes me laugh and laugh. And it's hot.
So there are two very important guilty pleasures right away.
It's not great fiction, though. Not in the technical sense that I usually demand. Have you read it? C'mon, go off and have some fun. Then open it in another browser tab and have it handy. Consider this sentence from the fourth graf:
They'd, well she had, tried for a week to kill the demon and the only thing she'd really gotten for her troubles was one pair of ruined leather pants, dunked in the sewer, and chipped her nails.
This sentence is painful to read. You just can't leave a sentence like this lying around where your readers are going to bark their shins. Especially not so early in the story, when you're working hard to gain your reader's confidence and pull him into your little world. So, like, rewrite it:
They-- well, she-- had tried for a week to kill the demon and all she'd gotten for her trouble was a ruined pair of leather pants. And she'd been dunked in the sewer. And she'd chipped her nails.
That wasn't hard, and it stays close to the story's tone. Though no doubt Manic, who was in good control of comic tone throughout, could do better.
Why I am being such a pain about sentences like that? I tried to make my husband read that story. "It's funny," I said. "You'll enjoy it." He got as far as that sentence and asked me what I was doing reading such crap. Then to torture him I read some funnier bits of dialog out loud, and found myself rewriting on the fly just to smooth things out. I realized that all this story needs is one good workshopping with a bunch of sympathetic people who can write at the sentence level. Then it's heaven on earth. And the writer learns a few new tricks and gets a new set of things right without needing prompting ever after.
I feel like such a dork to be complaining this way about the story, which I do genuinely love. (Part-tank Riley and goat-sputtering Willow make me laugh and laugh. And then there's the quiet way Buffy gets the demon's name wrong differently every time.) But I also feel you have to have standards. If you're going to write the thing, it's worth writing the thing well. All the way up and down, from spelling the words right to getting the structure right.
I know that pro, makes-oodles-of-money fiction is not necessarily better. See the Language Log's inspired dissection of the first sentence of The Da Vinci Code for a spectacular example of how utter junk can make a hack wealthy. But I have less than zero patience for crappy writing in edited, published fiction. The first page of Dan Brown would move me to throw the book across the room.
Really I should just be happy that fanfiction gives me way more than I pay for. I have no excuse. And my topic seems not to have been "guilty pleasures" after all, but rather the important of sentences.