Believe me when I say I’ve a full follow-up to my last post (yep, it’s gotten weirder), but in the meantime there’s another subject looming large on the horizon – an upcoming series I’ve had in mind for a while now – that ought to be discussed. Ready? (…no?)
Remember when I first blogged about how I got started in the erotica genre? I was very young – barely legal drinking age here in Canada – and I was also very lucky, as the man I used as loose inspiration for my first writing assignment was all too happy to be a part of it. I think he understood my motives, or lack thereof: he knew it was meant to be a compliment, not a device to “land” him as a conquest or as a boyfriend or anything else of that sort. The fact that we went on to become (platonic) friends for so many years was just a lovely side effect of the whole thing, and he never stopped requesting my work for his birthdays and Christmas gifts. It was never awkward. He understood that I could think he was sexy as hell (and vice versa) without ever needing to cross any boundaries. He just inherently got the spirit of it.
Now, though, I realize just how much of a fluke that might have been.
I’ve been plotting out a series of the “rock star” ilk for some time. It’s a fun idea, and being that I’m such a huge music fan, I’ve been exposed to and met an awful lot of musicians who have undoubtedly inspired their fans to fantasize about a fling or two with them. Once again I find myself considering those upon whom I may base my characters in this prospective series, and I have a few in mind…but were I to tell them as much, would they be as flattered as my original “Hot Guy” was? Or would it strike them as a bit unnerving that a complete stranger is using them as a template for a fictional person?
It’s an interesting thought. I have friends, older than me by several years, who used to write fan fiction about The Beatles. When I was in high school I wrote an epic romance tome – about six spiral notebooks full – about my pop star crushes and all sorts of fanciful, magical ways in which fictional-me and fictional-BFF got to meet (and fall in love with, and make out with) them. I suspect there’s an awful lot of, say, Duran Duran fic out there, just as one example, though I’m a bit afraid to Google it and find out for certain.
(Edited to add: Okay. I broke and Googled. And yep, there are just this side of a bazillion links, some of the slash variety – see this Wikipedia entry if you want a definition – and others of the “this is my fantasy about how things would go if I met John Taylor” sort. Have a look at just one site, if you dare.)
But therein lies an important distinction between what I’m proposing to do and what others do for fun: I’m using real people as a basis, a general blueprint, to create fake people. I think a lot of writers in every genre do that; they take characteristics from people they’ve known and loved (or hated) and transpose them onto the characters who populate their books. It happens. In contrast, fan fiction of the above mentioned type is what’s generally known as “Real Person Fic,” and it utilizes a celebrity under their own names, featuring their publicly known characteristics, and puts them into fictional situations…some of which are, arguably, a little bit (or a lot) creepy. In fact, if you Google “Real Person Fic,” one of the first autofills you’ll get is “real person fic creepy.”
For the linkphobic, I give you a basic definition from the TVTropes site used above:
Also known as Celebrity Fic, this is basically fanfiction based on the real life of one or more celebrities (as opposed to a strictly fictional canon). Just as how people find fantasies and interpretations within their favorite fictional characters, so, too, do they find them in celebrities. Any and all fanfiction tropes can apply (for example, it could decide to base itself around the high school days of the celebrity, create a Relationship Sue to vicariously live out a relationship with the person, use them as part of a Hurt/Comfort Fic, etc.). The possibilities are endless and often just disregard the celebrity’s history, personality, etc. in order to facilitate the plot (or, often, just the particular fetishes of the author).
However, it’s just as likely that a fic will be relatively accurate, based on knowledge of the celebrity’s “real lives” gained from interviews, blogs, tweets, etc. Increased interactivity between actors/bands/whoever and their fans makes it extremely easy for ficcers to include canon details into their work. This avoids factual inaccuracy, although there’s probably a fine line between research (good) and stalking (bad).
For the record, I generally take no issue with fan fiction that isn’t used for profit. (The “pulled-to-publish” stuff – I’m looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey – is another matter entirely, but since I don’t want to get all grumpy on a Sunday afternoon I’ll save that subject for another time.) Do I write or enjoy reading it? No. Do I find some of it weird? Yes. Do I find some of it outright distasteful and disrespectful toward its targets/objects of affection? Absolutely. But do I roundly condemn it? No. People who want to write story lines they wish J.K. Rowling had included in her Harry Potter canon aren’t doing anything malicious, if they’re not trying to profit from it. They’re using already made-up characters to tell their own stories. They’re not projecting onto an actual human being.
But RPF? I have to admit, RPF kinda squicks me out. I got a taste of it once myself: a guy who was dating my best friend took it upon himself to write a story about the three of us having quite the romp together, and he gave each of us a copy, never asking us first how we’d feel about it. It weirded me out. And it definitely soured BFF’s relationship with him.
The thing is, though…what BFF’s guy did was only a couple of steps further than what I did back with Hot Guy. True, I didn’t use Hot Guy’s real name, or the name of the actual place we used to see each other, and I only turned it in to my English professor; I didn’t put it up on the internet or pass it around to my friends. But Hot Guy, who did hold a job with a very public high profile, could have been creeped out and thought, “Whoa – stalker!” because he didn’t know me from Adam by the time I told him I’d written erotica with a version of him as the star. Fortunately he gave me the benefit of the doubt and read it first, and realized I was simply using the most attractive man I knew to lay the groundwork for an assignment…but he didn’t have to do that. He could’ve blocked my email and looked over his shoulder forever.
If I were John Taylor or Simon LeBon, I’d probably do that after reading the link above just from seeing the tags and warnings on it. Yikes.
But back to my point.
I don’t want to use the real names of the rock stars in question when I begin my series using that premise. I don’t have any need to engage with them on a personal level. Sure, I’d like to have someone’s blessing to use a version of them and it would be nice to let them know that it’s a compliment – you’re gorgeous! you’re sexy! you’re talented! people are gonna want to read about a guy like you! – and not a bizarre fixation. I’ll probably look these fellows up on Twitter and throw this out there for their perusal, just to see if they have any feelings on the subject, knowing I don’t plan on infiltrating their lives or digging up weird details or writing myself into the books. That’s about as far as I’m interested in going. Indulging in fantasies about rock stars is a pastime as old as rock music itself, as is writing about them. It doesn’t have to get as weird and personal as RPF often does.
An interesting note on which to end this musing of mine:
Once I was all grown up, fate and chance saw to it that I happened to meet one of the pop stars about whom I’d written that epic tome in my spiral notebooks. We became well acquainted and, after years of me quietly idolizing him from afar, he became a Real Guy, just like any other (well, with considerably more talent than many, obviously, but you get my point). After we’d known each other for about a year, I confessed that I’d written this overwrought teenage romance about two girls meeting their musical heroes and falling in love, and I told him he was one of the characters. He thought it was great fun – I was a kid when I wrote it, after all – and was greatly flattered to know I’d had such a crush on him. I’d never let him read it, mind you (it’s pretty bad, as one might expect from a 14-year-old’s idea of highbrow Harlequin romance), but whatever part of me had felt compelled to admit that I’d written it ultimately felt at ease knowing he was cool with it. We’re still friends, and that’s all we’ll ever be, and I’m quite happy with that, because his music is still awesome.
So, tell me, dear readers: if someone told you they had been inspired by you and based a character on your charms and appeal, would you be flattered? Or would it disturb you to no end? Is the important distinction between “inspiration” and “Real Person Fic” the deciding factor for you?
P.S. A proper herald is coming, but for those who are reading this right now, you might be interested to know that HER DESIRE is now live on Amazon! Yay!