On to Part 6 of my story. Only just joining me now? Here’s what you’ve been missing. I’m in the process of telling the story behind a “novel” I recently published online: a fanfiction titled Chaos and Control. Part 1 is about the idea for the story, Part 2 is about the planning stage, Part 3 is about the writing stage, Part 4 is about the editing stage, and Part 5 is about the publishing stage. Have fun reading the next part of the story!
Yes, the story behind my fanfiction is almost over. Today’s topic covers the final stage of the process: the feedback I received on the novel. This was the point where I would finally find out if all my hard work was worth the effort, at least in the eyes of my readers. Enjoy!
Part VI: The Feedback
The site on which I published Chaos and Control, FanFiction.Net, has a system that allows readers to post one (and only one) review on each chapter of a story. This meant that my readers would each be able to leave a maximum of 14 reviews on my novel, not including additional comments they might leave under a guest name. I was eager to learn their thoughts on every one of my chapters, as well as their opinions of the story as a whole.
In truth, only one person left a review on every single chapter, and that was the same person who had been supporting my work from the beginning. He’d already made his opinions clear to me directly, yet he was kind enough to also make them public. A few other readers left several reviews throughout the fanfiction, and though their comments differed slightly, there was one thing they all had in common: they loved Chaos and Control. And with a 100% approval rating from my audience, how could I not be proud of my work?
Glowing Reviews and Hidden Fears
I mentioned in the previous post that my story didn’t receive as much attention as I’d hoped, at least in the beginning. However, the attention it did receive was entirely positive, so for that I was grateful. Of course, I can’t say with any certainty how much of the Sonic fanbase is truly critical, but just the fact that readers were willing to take the time to comment at all was a good sign. At least one of my fears had been quelled: that no one would read my story.
The main reason I was afraid of not being able to gain an audience was the fact that I hadn’t been active on the site for a long time. I don’t just mean publishing my own stories, but also reading and reviewing those of other fanfiction writers. Because of this, I was sure almost no one on the archive would remember me, despite the popularity of Generation Beta and the 30+ members who had added my profile to their alert lists. In the end, I had to trust that my story could attract readers entirely on its own, and taking that into consideration, I suppose it was relatively successful. What I had to worry about next was exactly how successful my writing would be.
The Invisible Details
As a writer who puts a ton of thought into every detail of her stories, another of my biggest fears regarding Chaos and Control was that my readers would miss the subtle hints scattered throughout the plot. Would anyone recognize the constant references to the stars as a play on Shakespeare’s notes on fate? Would they notice the color symbolism in scenes like when the lead couple meet, where Miles (Control) is wearing mostly black with some white and Maria (Chaos) is wearing mostly white with some black (black being one of the colors of Chaos and white being one of the colors of Control)? Would they catch the foreshadowing clues that are briefly mentioned: Sonia’s secret fear of losing her Gift, the Chemistry test that Eugene aced, the knife Miles and Maria borrow from a building site they pass on their last day together, etc.? Would they realize that the moment Maria stops calling her father “Daddy” and starts calling him “Dad” is the defining moment when she finally becomes a woman? Some details function as plot devices, others are simply there to illustrate the characters’ development, but all of them are important to me, and I hoped they wouldn’t go completely unnoticed.
The most significant plot device appears in the middle of the story: a novel the students read for Literature class. This novel is important for two reasons: (1) it sets off the downward spiral in the second half of the plot; and (2) it hints at the course of events the main characters will possibly face for the rest of the story. The book is a parallel to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, telling the tragic story of teenage star-crossed lovers Ronan and Julia, whose forbidden affair in Renaissance-period circumstances ends in both their deaths. My hope was that readers would recognize this as an analogy to Miles and Maria’s story, though whether it was foreshadowing or simply a red herring (or both) would be revealed in time.
In fact, no one mentioned this novel in their reviews, which was disappointing to say the least, but they did seem to notice some of the other details I had planted. One reader took notice of the changes in Maria’s behavior in a later chapter, and another pointed out the synchrony between the lovers when they yell the same words at the exact same time, despite being on opposite sides of town. Although not every detail seemed to be noteworthy, I was happy that my audience was able to appreciate the story beyond the superficial theme of forbidden love.
Mary Sue, is that you?
If there’s one mistake on every good fiction writer’s list of worst nightmares, it’s the dreaded Mary Sue. No writer should ever aim to make their characters perfect, because with perfection comes boredom. Around the end of the writing process, I had become terrified that my Romeo might be perceived as a little too “good” in some aspects: too sweet, too selfless, too brave, etc. Yes, he’s supposed to be a hero, but his flaws also need to be apparent so he’ll be relatable. I had the same fears to a lesser extent with my Juliet, whose strong character development at least kept me confident that she would be likable; and I hoped my supporting characters would be appreciated for both their positive and negative traits, especially my Mercutio and Tybalt. I also wanted to avoid making my Paris “pure evil”; although he is an extremely unlikable character, I tried to make it clear that his personality is a product of his circumstances and not really his own fault. So the question arose: would all my characters come across as multidimensional as I’d planned, or would some of them fall flat?
Fortunately, my concerns seemed to be mostly unfounded. Both my lead characters were quite popular among my readers, and nobody expressed any dislike for the supporting cast. One person even claimed to be undecided on whether Miles or Sonia was their favorite character. Although my best friend thinks he should have been killed off, someone else expressed pity for Eugene, despite the awful things he does throughout the story (mostly in the last few chapters, *hint hint*). There was one review that stated the reader’s favorite part of the fanfiction was the characterization, and she liked how much thought I had clearly put into it. I even had readers tell me they thought my story was better than the original Romeo & Juliet! I’m not saying I would agree, but it was very flattering nonetheless.
Overall, I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished with Chaos and Control. Sure, it’s still not as popular as Generation Beta, and I highly doubt it ever will be. Maybe the chapters are too long (Chaos and Control averages over 10,000 words per chapter while Generation Beta never passes 5,000), or maybe Sonic fans in general prefer action/adventure to romance, or maybe the fact that the story takes place in an alternate universe just doesn’t make up for writing canon characters OOC and toward the background. Regardless, I managed to tell a story that I love and that my readers enjoy. For everything I’ve put into it and learned from it as a dedicated writer, Chaos and Control is a story that I’m pleased to consider my first serious novel.
This concludes the sixth and penultimate part of the story behind my fanfiction. The final post will be a brief review of everything I learned throughout this amazing experience. Thanks for reading!
Note: If you’re interested, you’re more than welcome to read my story and even leave some reviews. I promise you don’t need to know too much about the Sonic universe to appreciate it. Reviews are positive, but contain spoilers! Thank you!