Sunday, July 18, 2010
And so the Lion fell in love with the Badger…
Finding Himself has to be one of the best-written, most thought-provoking, intriguing and emotionally sensual stories I’ve ever read.
I don’t mean to limit that statement to fanfiction; I mean it is one of the best stories I’ve ever read.
I don’t believe one would need to be a Harry Potter fan to appreciate this story. Heck, hit Ctrl alt F and change the names to Edward & Bella if you must – just read it. I read all the Harry Potter books in the spring of last year as part of project and I found this story between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I mention this only because I was so incredibly impressed with the way in which Minisnoo integrated canon plot points and remained utterly faithful to the characters Rowling created in this Alternate Universe tale.
It’s an alternate universe triggered by a single event: Cedric is hit with a curse other than the Killing Curse. This is a Cedric-centric story. The-Boy-Who-Lived makes only a few appearances; this story belongs to the The-Boy-Who-Almost-Died. I never gave two figs for Cedric Diggory as a character before reading this story and I plead the fifth on my original
reaction to Robert Pattinson in the film. Rowling set Cedric up as a golden boy but never hammered home how incredibly gifted he had to have been to be selected as the Hogwarts Champion even though he was not in his final year. Minisnoo notices this detail however and uses it to show how things might’ve played out if Cedric was still in the picture.
I cannot stress enough though that what is so compelling about this story is the character growth of Cedric as he truly is “finding himself” while he deals with the aftermath of the curse and a falls in love for the first time. Oh, the love story, folks. So amazing.
She makes Cedric a full-fledged three-dimensional character and I cannot think of another love
story in which I was ever more invested than this one.
1) What inspired you to pursue a major storyline revolving around one of the more minor Potter characters?
It actually goes back to the first HP story I wrote at all, called “The Best Thing I Ever Did,” which involved Amos Diggory’s story (in first person) after Cedric’s death. While the elder Diggory wasn’t terribly sympathetic in the books, in the films, he was far more so, in part due to things left out (no time to go into detail), and also due to the acting job of Jeff Rawle, who played him. As the mother of an only child (also a son) I was struck by the scene in which Harry returns with Cedric’s body. There is no worse blow the heart can suffer than to lose a child. I know that as a former bereavement counselor (lists of the top stresses on people’s lives have been made and remade, and the death of a child and death of a spouse always occupy the top two positions) – but I also know it as a mother who (like most parents) fears ever having to face that. When it’s the only child you have … So I wrote “The Best Thing I Ever Did.” In the writing of the short story, I had to do some thinking about Cedric, not just Amos, and decided he must be a more interesting character than Jo Rowling ever had time to show us – or than needed/should be shown for the role he played in the books. So gradually, an idea of who he might have been emerged, explored in “The Way I See It,” another short story, which in turn became a sort of background for the Cedric of Finding Himself.
There are always multiple sides to a story, so taking Harry’s story in Book 5, then looking at it from the point of view of other characters involved made it new.
2) It might be said that Rowling intentionally left Cedric as a symbolic character for her purposes. Did you always find Cedric intriguing, or, at least, see the character’s potential for more?
See above. J And yes, I agree that Rowling did intend him to be symbolic – a foil for Harry. Had she developed him beyond a 2D character, he wouldn’t have worked for her purposes. I had other purposes.
3) You have written several stories across several different fandoms. I read a piece you’d written a few years ago in which you said you were once confronted with the possibility that you are not actually writing about canon characters, since the original characters are “boring.” This seems like a backhanded compliment of sorts. The characters are not boring in your hands. Do you feel that the complexity of the characters was more of your making or that you expounded upon what the original author(s) had established? Essentially, do you see what you put on the page as the natural progression of what Rowling might’ve done if Cedric had lived and been the central character or more of an original piece inspired by her work?
First, thank you. Second, as a character writer, one of the challenges is to thoroughly understand a character, although some seem clearer to us than others. I find Cedric, Hermione, Dumbledore, even Harry all much easier to write than Ron, for instance … which is one reason I tend to skirt around Ron in stories. I’ve been accused before of “hating” Ron because he takes a backseat. In fact, I like Ron, and it’s because I like him that I let him take a backseat, so I don’t inadvertently do him an injustice. (For a short take on Ron, see my “Little Things,” which has nothing at all to do with FH, and is actually about his love for Hermione. But it’s short because I find Ron’s voice tough to hear.)
In any case, a character writer attempts to get through to the core of a character and what makes him or her tick. This is more than a mere collection of facts. I’ve written various version of Cedric in which some of the facts are altered, but I think he’s still (at the core) the same character – and that character is very much based on Rowling’s books.
For more on that, go here: http://minisinoo.livejournal.com/402771.html
For my take on CANON (e.g., Rowling’s) Cedric, I wrote a (rather long, I fear) character exploration that was posted not to my live journal, but to another. It can be found here:
“Symbol, Cypher and Foil: Will the real Cedric Diggory please stand up?”
In that article, I explain the character as I understand Rowling to have written him, using all the little clues given us in the books. THAT is what I then started with, in order to develop the character in Finding Himself. So yes, I do see him as, essentially, Rowling’s character and I would hope that, were she ever to read the novel she would not find him to be someone utterly different from what she had in mind … even if he may be fleshed out, with details of a past (not to mention a future) that she never specifically imagined for him. I don’t think the character in FH does violence to or is radically different from her original.
4) Do you have a background that lends itself to writing?
I have a BA in creative writing, and I’m a published author in RL.
5) Are your professional colleagues aware of your fanfiction work? What do they say about it, or, what would they say if they knew?
No, they are not. There’s a reason I use a pseudonym. ;> Fanfiction is regarded with varying degrees of ridicule and disdain by both professional writers and the publishing industry, as well as by others. Even if people find a story they like, or a well-written story is pointed out, for many, it becomes “the exception.” But fanfiction is much like a publishing house slushpile. (A “slushpile” are all the unsolicited manuscripts or manuscript partials that publishers, and agents, receive in the mail as submissions. E.g., it’s everything BEFORE anyone goes through it to begin sorting into really good, pretty good, has-potential-but-not-there-yet, and never-in-this-lifetime.) Less than 10% of that is publishable quality, although a larger percentage may be a lot of fun to read, nonetheless, or at least is readable. The fact fanfiction has no “filter” must be kept in mind -- fanfiction is folk art -- with all the charm, unexpected beauty, and also some mind-numbingly bad examples that one finds in ANY type of folk art from crocheting to hand-made furniture to amateur photography ... many of which hobbies are dissed rather less.
I’ve written some journal entries on why write fanfiction, and how (and why) it’s a valid pursuit. But given the world’s penchant for answers in 30-second soundbytes, not to mention a love of gossip, no, I have no intention of telling my colleagues that I write fanfiction as I doubt most of them would trouble to ask why. They’d simply react (mostly negatively) in a way they wouldn’t if I told them I knitted in my spare time.
6) According to fanhistory.com, you partially retired from fanfiction this year. Is this the case? If so, do you hope to return? What lead to this decision?
Yes, I have. And no, at present, I don’t plan to return, but I’ve learned never to say “never,” so we’ll leave it at that. And what led to it … mostly that I ran out of stories I felt inspired to tell. I’ve been writing fanfiction as a hobby for 10 years. I never expected to write more than the very first story! So it’s probably more of a surprise that I stayed than that I’ve finally run out of inspiration/juice. It’s time to move on and do other things, I think. But who knows? I may be back someday.
7) What inspired you to make Hermione the love interest in the story?
She and Cedric made sense to me, as a couple – more than Hermione and Ron. As noted above, I actually like Ron. And I also like Hermione. But I’ve never quite bought them as a couple, I confess. While they work for me fine as a teen romance, most people don’t marry their childhood sweethearts. Instead, the dating process in our teens (and even 20s and above) is designed to help us figure out WHO suits us. We’re not finished growing yet. While I enjoyed Rowling’s books, I had issues with almost all of her final (major) pairings, with the possible exception of Harry and Ginny, who I can see working mostly because Harry himself is in a VERY peculiar place and, unlike most of us, has a small pool of potential mates who can/will see him past his fame. Harry suffers from the same problems that many celebrities do. In any case, Hermione and Ron struck me as working for their youth, but unlikely to last unless one or both changed significantly. It’s a divorce waiting to happen, I fear -- which may sound terribly cynical, but I’ve earned my cynicism via experience and watching life. What we think is right for us at 21 may not be at 41, or even 31. I see too many potential long-term stressors between Hermione and Ron.
In any case, that’s mostly about why I don’t see Hermione and Ron as working. Why Hermione and Cedric, given my cautions above about youthful romance? Their personalities are more complementary while their interests/mission are shared. Cedric gives Hermione’s pragmatism heart, and she grounds his occasional flights of fancy. He needs someone to challenge him intellectually and she needs someone who isn’t threatened by her because he has ambitions/is successful enough himself. I hate to say it, but IME, “smart girls” have a hard time finding partners than do “smart boys.” There’s a reason a large number of women with Ph.Ds are either not married or divorced and never remarried. We don’t see the same numbers among men with Ph.Ds. It’s not fair, but it is reality, at least at this point in our cultural “growth.” Perhaps in 50 years, that won’t be the case and “smart girls” won’t have to deal with men who can’t deal with them (at least long-term), but for now, it’s a problem. Like Harry, Hermione’s pool of potential partners is smaller, if not for the same reasons. She has to marry someone not afraid of becoming “Mr. Hermione Granger.” Cedric suits. (Ironically, I see a lot of similarity between Hermione and Hillary Clinton – another really smart ambitious woman. Bill Clinton is a “large” enough figure in both charisma and ability to be pared with Hillary, and similarly, Cedric is too … although one could hope he’d be more faithful in the bedchamber.)
8) The intimate scenes in this story are unique in comparison to many fanfiction pieces in that they are both awkward and erotic. I ask if you’d mind sharing your method or approach to this coming-of-age intimate moments.
A lot has to do with my approach to writing period. Flannery O’Conner once said, “Fiction is after truth.” I write with that in mind. I don’t think that sex has to go swimmingly for it to be “hot,” but also, sometimes the point of a scene isn’t the titillation factor. In fact, I’d suggest that (unless one is writing erotica) if the main/only point of the scene IS titillation, it doesn’t belong there at all. ALL scenes in a story should contribute to the furthering of the plot/story/characterization as a whole. A scene that doesn’t needs to be cut. That goes for any scene, including sex scenes. Sex may “sell,” but that’s not good enough for putting it in a story, imo. That may make me a writing elitist, but it comes back around to why I write in the first place. “Fiction is after truth.” Finding Himself is a coming-of-age story, and learning about sex, and about our own ways of being with another intimately are part of the growing-up process. So that had a lot to do with what I wrote and how sex is depicted.
9) The tale is incredibly parallel to cannon but with a meld of a few of the film elements. Was this a conscious decision on your part to incorporate the two or was it a natural progression? How important to you was to you to stay on the parallel course after the significant alteration of keeping Cedric alive?
The meld of film elements (largely at the beginning from the 4th film, “Goblet of Fire”) was very intentional. I liked the way they handled the maze there, among other things. At the time I wrote the novel, the 5th film hadn’t been released, so there was no question of using it. While I don’t think all film adaptations are necessarily good, I also don’t find it necessary to slavishly follow a book on film. In fact, doing so will sometimes WRECK the film, as not all books transfer well. A book is a written medium, not a visual one. Each allows things the other can’t mimic.
In any case, I should also add that my original fandom was X-Men, in which there are often multiple storylines and several “books” (a comicbook series is called a “book” as it IS a graphic novel in serial format). These several books and storylines sometimes conflict or are mutually contradictory. There were also film versions of comics, and I wrote in both X-Men “movieverse” and “comicverse,” and melded those, so I was used to that way of working. It was more accepted there. When I first moved into HP, in fact, some fanfic readers were thrown by my ease of taking from various mediums. They got over it (or they quit reading me altogether). *grin* So it was a very deliberate decision to utilize some elements from the films at the beginning of Finding Himself.
As for the Parallel canon – that was mostly a challenge to myself. How closely COULD I keep Cedric’s story to Harry’s … yet tell a completely unique tale that wasn’t simply a rehash? I’ve seen (usually inexperienced) writers try to retell events before from the POV of another character and to be frank, it’s often boring because there’s nothing that different about it. The dialogue is repeated verbatim, and if the observations might be a little different, not much original is invented. In fact, in writing FH, I actively tried to avoid too much repetition of conversations lifted from the books (or film). First, I assumed anybody reading the novel would have read the novels, so it was unnecessary. I assumed readers would know the basic course of events. In fact, since, I’ve had people tell me they’ve read FH without being actual fans of the HP novels, and read it because A) they followed me from other fandoms, B) a friend strong-armed them into reading it, or C) [more recently] they’re fans of Twilight, which stars the same actor (Robert Pattinson) in a leading role who played Cedric. So now, I do occasionally stumble over offers from one reader to another of, “I’ll summarize what happened in the book if you didn’t read it,” in order to understand Finding Himself. But while that’s terribly flattering (that people would read my novel without having read the Potter novels first), it certainly wasn’t anything I ever imagined would happen, so the novel was never written for readers unfamiliar with Potter! I have written novels before that could be read by anyone regardless of their familiarity with the source material. I have two such “prequel” novels in X-men – An Accidental Interception of Fate and Special: the genesis of Cyclops – and both were deliberately written in a way that assumed nothing and included everything one would need to know. Finding Himself was not written like that. When novelists (or short story writers) approach a story, they (should be)/are writing FOR a particular audience. FH was written for fans of Potter. That it’s gone on since to be read by non-Potter fans surprises me as much as anyone!
Reviewed/Recommended by QuantumFizzx
Fanfiction link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4594634/1/FINDING_HIMSELF
A PDF version of the story 'Finding Himself' developed like a novel, with front cover art by Puguita is available. If you're interested in receiving this PDF document please email Quantum FizzX via Facebook.