The Facts (?) About Fiction

The very first thing that popped into my mind when considering the MIW capstone project is something I have never really attempted before: fiction.

I know, probably not the smartest idea. Fiction/creative writing is not something you’re magically good at without practice, and the thought of attempting it in this context is mildly terrifying, but the idea just won’t leave me alone. Despite my lack of experience, the fiction writing process is something I’d love to explore. It’s always something that I’ve wanted to try or to learn, but in a few months I will graduate with a degree in English and not a single piece of creative writing to show for it. Not that creative writing is required or necessary, but something feels off about the fact that I’ve spent years loving, analyzing, and defending the value of fiction but haven’t tried writing it myself— unless the highly questionable fanfiction that I wrote as an experimental part of my gateway project counts.

The relevance and experience of fiction is something I have always been really interested in. So, I thought it might be interesting to do something regarding the experience of reading fiction versus the experience of writing fiction, and the value—perhaps intertwined or similar, perhaps rather different—of these experiences.

What is the value of reading fiction? What is the value of writing fiction? Are they the same? What is the value of these experiences in formal education? These, of course, could be personal questions, varying from individual to individual. I’d like to think that this could involve research/reading books/talking to people about the creative process and the process of fiction writing.

The idea for the project itself is all very muddled right now, but I like the thought of the whole project being immersive, and the overall result being analytical of the experience of fiction vs. nonfiction, so maybe it could be a collection of short fiction stories and nonfiction creative essays (…or one of each) discussing the experience of learning and the value of fiction, maybe making it a bit more coherent by choosing a specific genre or idea to explore in fiction.

I’m having trouble transforming what I would like to explore in an actual project—any and all advice is insanely appreciated!

Stay Sassy, My Friends

Looking back over the almost-completed semester, I realized that out of all of my classes I had the most fun in Writing 220.

So my one bit of almost-wisdom is this, future Minor in Writing cohort: don’t take yourself too seriously.

Take yourself reasonably seriously, it is class after all, but the gateway class is ultimately a place for you to explore your writing style and try writing things and sharing things you never, and I mean never, thought you would write or share before. Honestly, I never would have predicted myself dedicating my entire semester to the Harry Potter fandom, writing a magazine article, and filming a video diary. You just don’t do these things in academia, really, and despite it being work, it can be fun if you let it be.

Unlike in a lot of other classes, the assignments in this course are designed to let each individual actually be an individual. The possibilities for the projects are practically limitless, and it’s the perfect chance to work on something for school that you just might enjoy. So make your writing choices for yourself. Don’t be afraid to try something new—this is a chance for creativity, for you to not be stuffy and academic for once. Pick something that you’re passionate about and engage with it, and engage with your classmates, and you’ll find that this class will be a very enjoyable experience.

So don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re not analyzing Joyce, statistics, or rainfall patterns here (well, actually you never know). You’re studying yourself.

There really are very few guidelines for you to conform to– embrace it.

So go on, be a little sassy if you want to be. You’re allowed.

Stay Sassy

(punctuation is fun)

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I adore complex sentences. Long ones. Really, really long ones. I love when I’m reading a novel and suddenly I realize that the past paragraph has been one, giant sentence. And since I love long sentences, I am sort required to love punctuation by association.

I write some weird sentences, anyone who edits one of my papers can attest to that. I love sentences that are long with a lot of punctuation—dashes, semicolons, colons, commas (I’m a hyperactive comma user, I’m sorry)—you name it, I’ll use it, and probably use it way more than you want me to. I think that interesting punctuation creates an interesting sentence, and unfortunately that usually leads me down the road of extremely overzealous and overwrought writing. Actually, usually it leads me down the road of completely confusing my readers with strangely placed commas, but I just can’t reign myself in. Like a lot of you, I have a pretty strong opinion on the Oxford comma, which is the only grammar rule I could think of that even remotely bothers me. I try to always use the Oxford comma but I’m not a stickler, because I think my usage comes more from my comma love than any real grammatical or clarity reason (any excuse to use an extra comma, right?).

I’m the first to admit that I don’t always use punctuation correctly. In fact, I kind of enjoy using it incorrectly (*and the English major gods strike me with lightning*). It’s fun—who wants to follow rules? I mean, as long as the reader gets the idea, who cares? I stick dashes everywhere even though I have no idea how they are actually supposed to be used and I have never tried to learn. My sister once told me after reading a paper of mine that was a little punctuation heavy, “You have to know the rules before you can break them,” and those words pop into my head almost every single time I use a dash or a semicolon just because I think it looks right or sounds right. Despite this litany in my head, every time I use a semicolon with uncertainty, I still don’t want to look up the correct usage of a semicolon.

My punctuation rant at last leads me to possibly my favorite piece of punctuation: parentheses. I have to physically and mentally restrain myself from using them in every single sentence. They’re just like a little aside, a whisper from the author, an afterthought that doesn’t quite fit any other way. They’re a magical tone changer, information provider, and just plain fun to use. And pretty. Parentheses are very pretty.

I guess I find parentheses charming. (Is that weird?)

How about the fact that I’ve used parentheses 4 times in this post—5 if you include the title?

Overkill?

Nah.

The Magic of Internet Fandom

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For this project, I decided that my source piece would be a creative non-fiction personal essay about the material culture of the Harry Potter fandom I wrote for English 325. It’s called “Collecting Magic,” in which I examined through personal experience the meaning and purpose of the non-magical magical items collected by Harry Potter fans (Seriously. Why buy a wand. WHY I ASK YOU). For the repurposing project, I wanted to keep the spotlight on the Harry Potter fandom but shift the focus from the material to the virtual.

In “Collecting Magic,” I discussed how wands, robes, buttons, chocolate frogs, and other similar Hogwartsy items were sort of signs of participation in a community; but for the repurpose, I thought I would talk about how fan culture (“fandom”) lives and thrives on the internet by using the Harry Potter fandom as a lens.

While looking into more about material culture, I came across a book about participatory culture, something I had never heard of before. Turns out, it was just the sort of thing I was looking for to transition into cyberland! Some basic features of participatory culture are low barriers, easy engagement, strong support/encouragement for sharing and creating, and some level of social connection– all characteristics typical of an online community. But the more I read, the more fandom seems to take this type of culture to an entirely new, and pretty insane, level.

According to popular Youtube vlogger danisnotonfire, fandom is “the idea that you can like something so much that it actually destroys your life.” For an idea of of what internet fandom culture is like for its participants, check on Dan’s video below:

While still in the very fairly early days of research and development as far as new information is concerned, participatory culture is something I would like to consider. More specifically, what is it about the internet that seems to magnify this type of culture, and how does this allow a fandom past its prime to maintain an enthusiastic fan base?  So I considered this cultural concept when I was doing some anonymous reading on random Harry Potter fan forums, trying to gauge what HP fans felt about their online community.

I was searching for fan thoughts on whether or not the fandom had “died” since the end of the franchise, but I came across something mildly related and heftily intriguing: fans tended to agree that no, the fandom hadn’t died (and were adamant that it never would), but curiously, instead, some argued that the fandom had gotten dumber. Is this type of comment just typical of a snarky-faceless-internet-user, or could there be some merit to it? Does mass fandom culture, positively overflowing the enthusiasm and emotional attachment, make fans engage without thinking?

Does the simple, easy-contribution mentality of participatory culture make for less intelligent or meaningful contribution? Is there even such a thing as a non-meaningful contribution? What do you think?

Places I’ve Never Been and People I Hardly Know

I will never, ever, tire of going new places. Or at least, I sure hope I don’t.

This fact led me to my Spring Break choice for this year: Big Bend National Park, Texas.

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I mean, it’s a little fun and a little ridiculous to strap a week’s worth of stuff to your back and go sleep in the desert with three friends and five total strangers. I’ve got a backpack, I’ve got shoes, I’ve got a tent, I like camping—might as well, right? The car ride is nothing, only 30 hours, and its not like my hips were a pack-induced-blue-bruised mess the last time I did this, and my feet didn’t bleed or anything, and I can totally keep up with all of the really experienced hikers in my group. All of that is totally true.

Totally. Um. Yeah.

All of these things—overlong car rides, bruises, bleeding blisters, falling behind— I tire of rather quickly, but they are necessary evils, born from better things. Overlong and over-cramped car rides take me far, far away to shiny new places, and generate spontaneous sing-alongs, late night diner stops, and backseat card games. Not to mention the first sight of mountains after a thirty-hour car ride is boundlessly more satisfying than after a few hour drive.

Bruises, blisters, and falling behind just generally suck. Badly. They suck badly. But bruises and blisters and sore limbs only set in after a long day of hiking. Sure, the pain is rough for poor little out-of-shape me, but there’s no feeling like finally being able to shrug the pack off my shoulders and take a seat on the top of a peak, unburdened at last and stunningly rewarded.

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Once in the park—no phone, no computer, no contact with the outside world. Just us the nine of us, in the desert.

Naturally, this is a trip very encouraging to writing— lots of people, lots of discomfort and beautiful views and getting lost and camp stories. And also quite naturally, if our last backpacking trip is anything to go by, there is very little opportunity for writing. There is a pretty steady routine: wake up, make breakfast, pack up, hike until the sun starts to go down, set up, make dinner, sit around the fire, sleep. There may be some time between set up and dinner to scribble a page into my baby-sized notebook, if I want to deal with everyone’s “what are you writing?” and attempts to snatch it away.

Can I spare the pittance of weight that a notebook would cost me? Am I even going to want to write at all over spring break, when the week leading up to it is demanding me complete three major, long-term writing assignments?

Gut reaction: NOOOO!

But this backpacking trip means a myriad of things I’ll never tire of, things that deserve at least a short jot in my baby 4×3 inch notebook, just so they don’t get lost in the draining slow running desert hours, foot pain, and freeze-dried food:

The sunset over the mountains. Group pictures. The sound of a crackling campfire. Clear, starry skies. Rapid bonding and meaningful conversations with near strangers. Hikes. Going new places.

 

On Not Having an Answer

Why do you write? (That is, why not do something useful instead?)”—Margaret Atwood, “Nine Beginnings.”


I had a professor once who began his lecture with a simple question: Why are you here?
Out of the whole world, every conceivable option available to you, you woke up this morning and made the choice to come here. Why?

(I don’t remember what the rest of that lecture was about, but I remember its beginning. Was it a waste? Why didn’t I do something “useful” instead?)

Then just last week, I was sitting in lecture, half paying attention to something about disguise and social boundaries in Shakespeare, when the guy in front of me lifted up his hand to twirl his pen, revealing his palm. Written there in thick sharpie letters across his skin were the words: Why are you here?

I wished the universe would stop asking me this question, because I don’t know the answer. Then the universe just had to make it even more confusing, and start asking  an entirely different yet somehow entirely similar question: Why do you write? Out of the whole world, every conceivable option available to you, you woke up this morning and began to write. Why?

Thank you, Margaret Atwood, for not having an answer. Or rather, for having many. In Lit studies, I’m often advised that a topic is not worth exploring if it only has one answer. If you can only think of one explanation, don’t even bother. If this is indeed the case, then writing must be a topic that deserves absolutely immense exploration. The only problem is, no answer seems good enough, or adequately supported enough, or just right enough.

I can think of a thousand answers to why I write, but none of them sound like an answer. They sound constructed, fake and cliché, even— a bunch of nonsense about feelings and humanity and the story of time and who even knows what else. So, when Atwood said that her beginnings felt “too falsely wise,” I heard a chorus of angels sing in appreciation. All of my discomfort with the big questions made a little more sense. Why do you write and why are you here—these questions are just positively begging for some kind of imparted wisdom, of which I certainly have none. Words don’t have to be wise, writing about writing doesn’t have to be wise; it can be very, very confused. I liked that when I finished reading “Nine Beginnings,” I didn’t know why Margaret Atwood wrote. I didn’t feel any closure, and I didn’t feel any wiser, really. I think that big questions don’t have one answer, or nine answers. But I suppose it is still useful to think about such things.


“Why do you write? (That is, why not do something useful instead?)”

Why do I write? You might as well ask me why I’m here; you’ll get the same answer.

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WRITE TO THE WORLD

Why Write?

Write because YOU’RE BRAVE.

Write to BRAVE the WORLD around you.

Write to shrink the WORLD when you FEEL too much.

Write to mold what you FEEL into the perfect WORDS.

Write because putting WORDS together makes STORIES.

Write because STORIES may be more BEAUTIFUL than words.

Write because all BEAUTIFUL things deserved to be PRESERVED.

Write to reveal yourself, to PRESERVE yourself— every single version of you.

Write to fall in love, to fall asleep, to climb the tallest trees, and to climb MOUNTAINS.

Write to retell, to relive, to remember, to craft and to create an ADVENTURE .

Write because you might forget the ADVENTURE that YESTERDAY was.

Write because YESTERDAY might not make any SENSE if you don’t.

Write because SENSE is overrated, because you THINK too much.

Write to THINK about the WORLD around you,

Write to EXPERIENCE the WORLD around you,

Write to LOVE the WORLD around you,

Write because YOU LOVE.

Write just because. 

Bio For Now

Giana Georgi is a third-year student at the University of Michigan, where she studies other people’s books instead of writing her own. She is a non-award winning author of a whole slew of uninterestingly-titled literary essays, several of which revieced the honor of high praise such as, “Good job!” and “Interesting!” She is a devoted peanut butter consumer, adventure journaler, chimpanzee lover, and amateur backpacker. Giana lives mostly inside her head, but sometimes she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

(She also causes all technology in the vicinity to malfunction. Her computer is currently dead, and along with it, all of her pictures. Please use your imagination.)