Table Talk: Fan fiction

I guess it’s time to broach another controversial topic in the land of entertainment: fan fiction. Truth be told, I’m ambivalent about fan fiction. I don’t have any loyalty to a particular fan fiction and, really, I don’t read fan fiction at all, but I used to read fan fiction back in my wonder years. And I’ve dabbled with a story or two, but that has officially been torn up and no trace of it can be found (so don’t ask). I will say that it wasn’t based on any particular fictional world either, and I’ll leave it at that.

With fan fiction, I understand the fun in writing and the reasons people do it. At least, the reasons I feel that writers of fan fiction, the serious writers of fan fiction, are because the love the world or the possibilities of it. For instance, if you don’t like how the author ended a story you can always continue the story in this fan fiction world. It takes the quote “if you want a happy ending, that depends of course, on where you stop the story (which I first heard from Mozzie in White Collar but then found out it is credited to Orson Welles)” quite literally. Another instance is if you want something to happen between “real life” people i.e. your favorite actors or a favorite band, you can make it happen in the world of fan fiction (though I find this kinda creepy since, you know, it’s real people). So I understand wanting to continue the fantasy. I tend to do that in my head. If I am disappointed with the end of a story I really love *coughs: Sookie Stackhouse*, like really disappointed, I close my eyes and rewrite the ending in my head. It doesn’t take away the sting of disappointment entirely, but it helps.

As much as I understand all that, I understand the flip side. I understand that certain fan fiction can borderline plagiarism. For those that need a refresher, plagiarism means “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing it off as one’s own.” I know this is a real gray area. At least, I see it as a massively huge gray area. The reason is, if the author of said fan fiction has mentioned that the characters belong to another author or that if their writing is based on the works of such-and-such, is that plagiarism? There is a disclaimer and they are crediting the characters and such as property of another so are they really passing off someone else’s work and/or ideas as their own when they do that? Another reason I see this as a gray area, I tend to view fan fiction as a hobby or a side gig. The fans do it because they love that world and I cannot see them, ever, as making a profit off their writing. They do it for pure enjoyment.

Which is why I find it hard, at times, to side with authors who hate fan fiction because they feel it is taking away from their livelihood. I mean, fan fiction will generally be enjoyed by other fans, right? And as long as the author of the fan fiction doesn’t make a profit off of them, is there really harm being done? Perhaps it comes in the quality and value, in which fan fiction degrades the value of an authors work. Even here, I sympathize with the argument, but can’t quite see how it does that. Again, fans know the characters belong to someone else. The cannon has already been written so I can’t see how a particular fan fiction takes away from that value.

And perhaps it’s because I’m not an author. Of course there is always that loop hole in the argument. I have never written a bestseller, nor do I think I ever will, so I cannot relate. That is a good point, however, I tend to agree with Joss Whedon on this one: “All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn’t your pet—it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.” Fan fiction, even though it’s borrowing from someone’s world, is art. Literature is art. If we held the standard that all interpretations of a said fictional world created by one author is off limits, where an author can penalize another person for using their world differently, then what can we say for works who are based on Shakespeare or Jane Austin? Not only that, most authors have borrowed an idea from someone else and/or have spawned their own idea from a story of another. I remember learning in my English class that there are typically three tensions a story can tell. The first being man versus man. The second being man versus nature. The third being man versus …, okay. I forget the third, but it was something like man versus things. If conflicts boil down to a few concepts and ideas, considering the amount of stories floating around out there, everyone has borrowed from everyone.

Which is why I’m ambivalent about fan fiction. Although, all things considered, it sounds like I’m pro-fan fiction. I would like to amend that though. I am pro-fan fiction to the point that it helps you with your own writing. If writing fan fiction helps you exercise your creativity as a writer, than do it. But let that evolve into your own voice, your own work, your own ideas. Don’t limit yourself to a particular world. As writers, we use experience to color our stories and ideas. We use life. Fan fiction is a part of that live so why not use that to create your own world and your own characters. Let fan fiction be the foundation in which you build your writing on. Let it be the first steps onto a new path, not the only steps.


Table Talk: Harry Potter World!

I know, I know. It’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but that’s a mouthful isn’t it?

So, this world. I know it’s been done in Florida and has been rather successful for the past ten, going on eleven, years. Opening its doors June 1, 2010, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando the park has seen about 13 million people. I have never been, but I have watched YouTube videos of others who did.

And now, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hollywood has finally opened. A park on the west coast and more accessible to tiny islanders in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, now being only a 5 hour flight instead of a 13 hour flight.

I am excited. Super excited. And I can’t wait until I save enough money to go.

But is it worth all the hype? The pomp?

I sure hope so. Heading over to London to visit film locations is farther away then a trip to California. More than that though is how often can a book worm experience an almost-real like atmosphere of their favorite fictional world? How about never, until now. Okay, thinking about it a little more, that’s not true. I love visiting Universal Studios (a scotch more than Disneyland) because of the movie magic you get to see. And that was close to a fictional reality as I’ve ever seen.

So, to think that Harry Potter’s world is captured into a theme park? How awesome is that?!

If you haven’t watched the documentaries on the making of the park you have to. It’s such an amazing process seeing how set directors translate the book and the movies into a theme park. The attention to detail and the scripts that were drafted for the rides, attractions, and shows must be amazing! Story board after story board. If only I could get a backstage pass to see the production of the park! That would make my day.

But, for now, I have to save up so I can just make my way there. And know that when I do get that chance, I’ll be writing about.

Until then, I’ll just watch clips like this:




Best of Orlando. “Universal Orlando Breaks Attendance Records.” 

Table Talk: Book Hangovers

So, I missed posting on Friday because I was hungover. Yep, talk about major book hangover. What book junkie hasn’t experienced this?

Last week I mentioned Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare and I’m still stuck on that one, but this past couple of weeks, for some reason, I’ve been revisiting books I haven’t read in a couple of years. I started with the Twilight Saga (Stephanie Meyers), then made my way to browsing Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell). I also browsed through Fifty Shades of Grey (EL James), The Infernal Devices Series (Cassandra Clare), The Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare), The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), I’ve Got Your Number (Sophi Kinsella), and Just One Day Duology (Gayle Forman). There have been others I’ve shifted through but the list is already long. I just don’t know why I’m revisiting these stories. I’m not reading them cover to cover, but browsing through my favorite parts and looking up quotes I loved from the book.

I suppose I’m trying to remember things or figure out things or I’m just feeling nostalgic. I have read a couple of new stories,  Just One Night, 2.5 of the Just One Day Series (I can’t believe I missed it! But I’m glad I found it, even if it’s been out for two years) and Love, Rosie (Cecelia Ahern) because it’s a library book that’s almost due. And I only found Just One Night because I was reminiscing about Willem and Allyson in Just One Day. sighs.

It never ceases to amaze me how books seem to hold you captive. Your mind feels stuck. Processing things. Turning things over and over. Reliving your favorite moments. Noting your favorite scenes and book quotes. At least, that’s what books do to me.

So, game plan for this week is to bank out reviews on those two, no three! (since Lady Midnight needs a proper introduction and review), books out this week to make up for my hangover this past weekend.

And when I do, perhaps I can finally become unstuck and read some of the four or five ebooks I have waiting for me to get through.

Wish me luck!

Table Talk: The Book Series

Hm, it’s been a while since I’ve put forth a Table Talk post.

So, to reiterate what Table Talk means to me, it’s informal conversation usually occurring around meals. Since my blog focuses on storytelling–I mean, that’s what I’ve noticed anyway considering I talk about books, television, and movies. All forms of storytelling–I take Table Talk to mean informal conversation focusing on storytelling.

And this post is going to focus on the Book Series.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with what a book series is, but to ensure there is no confusion on the matter, a book series is a sequence of books focused on a group of characters. There is usually a main story arch throughout the series and a bunch of little stories in-between. Usually these in-betweens contributes to the overall story arch. A good example of this would be The Twilight Saga. You could read each book separately and out of order, but you really wouldn’t know why Victoria is chasing Bella in Eclipse if you haven’t read Twilight. However, from what I experienced, there is also a second type of book series in which the books in the series can be read as a stand alone. An example of these would be those romance novels that focus on different members of a family. They’re fun to read because some characters reappear in the other stories, but you don’t have to read the first book to understand what’s going on in the second.

Which brings me to my most recently book hangover, The Dark Artifices: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Ugh! The reason why I really can’t stand book series and yet I can’t stay away from them! I’ll be reviewing Lady Midnight later this week, but reading it made me realize just how much book series frustrate me. And actually, to be fair, it’s not just Dark Artifices. Every single book I read that is part of a book series makes me realize just how much book series frustrates me.

They almost always have a whooper of a cliffhanger. I mean, really. I have never really thrown a book against the wall out of frustration, but the Shadowhunter world has made me come close to doing that, several times. Especially with Infernal Devices. The most frustrating series to date, however, has to be the Arcana Chronicles. I couldn’t believe the cliffhanger Kresley Cole left at the end of The Dead of Winter. I nearly screamed. I did in my mind (I mean, it was in the wee hours of the morning and I didn’t want to wake my family). And you have to wait almost a year, sometimes more, for the next installment in the series. It royally sucks sometimes, especially when the cliffhanger is a really good one.

And I really can’t think of any other reason as to why I don’t enjoy reading through a book series. It’s the wait. I’m in the middle of several book series and it’s left me on edge. There’s the Burned Series by Karen Marie Moning, the Dark Artifices Series by Cassandra Clare, the Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romance Series by Karen Cantwell, the Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole, the Nick Chronicles by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the County Cork series by Shelia Connolley, the Relatively Dead Series by Shelia Connolley, Magnum Chase Series by Rick Riordan, and others. That’s a lot of series to be stuck in the middle of *pouts*. I think there are only three series that I wasn’t stuck waiting for the next installment. The Hunger Games, The Twilight Saga, and the Sookie Stackhouse Series.

For all my grumbling about book series, the reason I can’t stay away either is the hype and buzz that surrounds a really good series. I’m not saying I need to be the first to read the book or that I even want to (although I really wish I could get on those ARC lists for my favorite authors), but I love the fandom a series produces. As much as I enjoyed reading the Hunger Games, Twilight, and Sookie Stackhouse cover to cover for each book in the series, no need to wait, I couldn’t help but felt I missed out. I missed out in the anticipation of the next book, the discussions over what would happen next, and then the camaraderie that forms among fans of a fictional world.

So, as much as those cliffhangers frustrates me, I will keep going back for more simply to be a part of a bigger world. Besides, after the Harry Potter series, this shouldn’t be too bad, right?

Table Talk: Random things I learned from books

While I was at work one day, one of my co-workers approached me and asked if I knew why the buttons on women’s button-up shirts were on the left side and on men’s button-up shirts they were on the right. It was such a random question and yet I knew the answer.

“Yes, I do,” I replied. “It’s because during the pioneer days, when a woman would drive the coach, shirts that were buttoned from right to left had the possibility of ‘peeking’ through spaces between the buttons to their breasts. In order to remedy that, they made women’s shirts button from left to right.”

My co-worker was silent for a bit, processing the information, and then said “Wow! That makes a whole lot of sense. I was wondering why that was and I didn’t think anyone knew.”

Turns out, she was going around the workplace, asking the question to anyone who would listen. I don’t know how much people she asked before she got to me, but I know she went around the room for the next five minutes reciting the information I just gave her to anyone who would listen.

I laughed a bit, then stopped and asked myself how I knew the answer to that question.

Encyclopedia Brown, that’s how.

A book. That’s what it boils down to.

For some odd reason, this experience popped into my mind and throughout the day I’ve been thinking about all the things I learned from books. We all know that reading takes you to worlds you could never discover otherwise, that reading expands your horizons, that reading gives you a wider perspective of things. But what have you truly learned from books?

Here’s a list of random things I learned all because of books and I try my best to name where I read them (and let me just say this is a list of things I learned from fictional reads. And also that this is not an all-inclusive list. There are probably tons of stuff I’ve learned that cannot traced back to a particular book):

I learned …

… that paramedics load the injured party head first because that’s where all the equipment is – Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobol

… that vision therapy exists and it’s used to re/train the muscles around the eyes to do certain things – Keep Me Ghosted by Karen Cantwell

… that Disney’s version of fairy tales aren’t always the happily ever after we thought they were – Grimm’s Fairytales

… that a person’s “imprint” is left in a room and can be read by certain types of technology. – Robert Langdon in the Dan Brown Series (And even though this may not exist yet, I have no doubt we’re close.)

… that overpopulation is something we should give serious thought to, even though we ethically can’t do anything about it. – Inferno by Dan Brown

… the basic outline of Divine Comedy, particularly Inferno. –  Inferno by Dan Brown

… that “who will guard the guards is an excellent question to ask when its meaning is applies. – Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

… the basic hierarchy of the Vatican. – Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

What can I say? I love Dan Brown’s writing. And I’m trying to keep this list more practical than abstract. 

… some aspects of time-travel. – Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone and All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

… a lot of general history – Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes, All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, Relatively Dead Series by Sheila Connolly (and I know that’s cheating a little, generalizing like this, but if I go into all the minor things about history I learned from just these few books–let’s just say this will be a really, really long post)

And of course, many more things that my brain can’t seem to conjure up this late in the night. Not to mention that as I go through some of the things I’ve learned, they seem more abstract that I thought and that is for another list.

Books teach us so many things, from random things like why button’s on a shirt is a certain way to major and complex things like what is one way to live a happy life. If you’re not a reader, you’re limiting yourself to one perspective of the world–your perspective–and you owe it to yourself to explore other possibilities.


Table Talk 411: What makes a bad story?

I’m bad at reviewing stuff. Well, I think I’m okay, but I know that to others I’m probably bad because my reviews tend to lean more towards the positive, 4-5 star spectrum. Apparently, the awesome-to-horrible ratio of my reviews may tend to discredit me as a “good/fair” reviewer. And I wouldn’t blame them. I give plenty of leeway to the material I’m reviewing.

Why? Why do you do that?

Simply put, I have never written a novel nor directed a movie or anything like that. I am merely a fan of entertainment and I can’t just harp on some author’s accomplishment simply because I don’t like it. They have an advantage over me. They wrote and published a book. In my book, that’s awesome in and of itself.

In addition to that reason, everyone has their own level of creativeness. Telling a story, whether on screen or in a book, is an art form and just because one artist is good at portraits and another is good at abstract does not make them terrible artist. I take into consideration when I go through my review.

And, regarding book reviews, I don’t shave off points because of grammatical or spelling errors unless they completely distract me from the story. Why? Because no one is perfect. And as long as I get the main idea or the general gist of the story, your good.

So, considering all this, it takes a lot for me to give three-star and below review, which is why I don’t use that system.

Which brings me to this topic: What makes my review drop to the average-to-bad scale?

The first thing that drops points in my book is if the story starts to lag. And I mean, really lag.

Example: In Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Beth Harbinson the story started to lag when four chapters in I’m still reading about Quinn’s past relationship with Burke. I get that we want to make sure we’re seeing why it was so hard for Quinn when she found out Burke cheated on her, but I felt Harbinson spent a little too much time on that. It got just a little redundant, even if the story was punctuated with the little tasks Glenn gave her to get out of her shell. I felt that she could have focused a little more on why Quinn ended up running away with Frank.

Example 2: In Lincoln Lawyer I just felt they spent way too much time to get to the point and when they got to it, it wasn’t as epic as it should have been. I remember thinking, “Okay, you’re starting to loose me.” And even now, I can’t remember what the point was.

The second thing is I can’t stand it when the story keeps hinting at you in one direction and then does a complete 180 for no reason! And I’m not talk about plot twists. Plot twists work because even though the story hinted at one direction, the story also gave just enough hints in the other direction to make you question it, especially after the big reveal. Plot twists don’t make you go “what the heck?” when they do the big reveal. I’m talking about those stories where the twists just don’t make any sense, no matter how you try to piece it together.

Example: The Sookie Stackhouse Series

Example 2: Actually, I can’t think of a movie that did this to me.

And lastly, when the story gets way too senseless. Pointless swearing, tasteless nudity and sex, heavy violence, and just stupid humor tends to shake me. And I know this borderlines personal issues, but keep in mind that I’m fan of the Boondocks Saints franchise, the Clerks franchise, and Lucky Number Slevin. To add to that, I enjoyed reading The Last Don, love Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series, and enjoy some of the romance series floating around out there. So, it takes a lot for me to reach that point. For instance, I like the story of Blood In, Blood Out, but I’ve watched it only once because I can’t stand all the violence and swearing in the movie. And that’s partially the reason I couldn’t read Shopaholic (though I’m considering a second try at it).

So, I know it’s not an extensive list, but those are key points that turn me off to a good story. At any rate, entertainment is entertainment. There’s not just one form of it, which is what makes the industry so alluring, and addictive. Everyone needs a break from reality now and then, no matter which poison you pick.