Clarimonde: swimming in the deep end of fanfiction, autumn 2008.

By the middle of 2008, I was writing again in a big way.   I had just completed “Fall of the Old Guard”, which soothed any worries that I had after the death of Ardath’s story.  Yes, I could still finish them.   That had just been an aberration, a hiccup.   I was becoming more and more of a regular on the game website that I had posted “Stand of the Exiles” on, giving and getting input from other writers, when the moderators of that website hinted broadly that they would like something, anything, from me based on the newly announced upcoming World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King.

For those unaware of how this works, big MMOs like Wow get new content about once every year, like a sequel to an ongoing story line released.  November 2008 would bring Wow a new chapter, one dripping in story lore, and this website was looking for fanfiction to keep the hype fresh until the launch.   I was hesitant, still licking my wounds from my last attempt at fanfiction.  Also, fanfiction felt like a dead end to me, no chance at a sale, but it was unusual to have someone asking me to write anything that I sat down and plunked out a very short scene with the absolutely brilliant title of “Character creation concept: WotLK”.  Catchy, huh?

It was one of my biggest mistakes and greatest gifts ever.  Not that page and a half of barely paying attention that I whipped out and placed up for them…but that it truly was a character creation concept, the barest outline for something that I was going to prize greatly.

I wasn’t looking to write fanfiction.  I was looking to be a serious author, and fanfiction wasn’t the way to go.   Blizzard (the company that owns World of Warcraft) already had a stable of authors writing for their world, they weren’t looking for me.  But Clair didn’t listen. If the other books had started with a meeting in the hallways in my mind, Clair was more like a timid knock (the original concept piece) at a door, but when that door was cracked open, it revealed a 300lb mugger armed with a .50 cal rifle.   She was going to be there, and if I wanted to hear anything else ever again, I was going to have to hear her out.

She also came at me as a first person point of view, and her story told itself.   It flowed, picking up speed, bound and determined to head in its own direction.   It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever written, and it appeared on the fanfiction sites under the much more palatable title “The Last Days of Grace”.    I loved the story so much that I was willing to accept the vitriol that came with publishing it on the usual sites.   “The Last Days of Grace” came in at approximately 43k words, which was long for a fanfic, but I was willing to attempt to end it there… I had reached the end of where game lore supported, to go on would be stepping away from that, and that would be opening myself up to a whole lot of hate.    I had mucked with a beloved canon character, but I had committed no grave sins…yet.

But Clair wasn’t impressed with her own ending.   She was still the 300 lb mugger in the hallway, unwilling to let go.   And, while yes, I was taking flak from the requisite number of haters out there, I was hearing much more positive than I was getting negative.   Again, I was getting support, feedback, comments.  People were reading this, and they wanted to discuss it.   I had fans, and they wanted more.

Emboldened with that, I sat down and let Clair surge to the front again, beginning the second part “Criminals and Sinners.”   It came in at 45k words, wrote itself as easily as its predecessor, Clair’s voice as clear as a bell.   I mucked with beloved Wow canon even more, but I had come to a conclusion… If you don’t like it, don’t read it.   I was involved in a relationship with a character I’d never had before, I was going with it until she didn’t talk to me anymore, and I had enough people wanting more to drown out the negative reviews.   I was writing like I never had before, just for the joy of it.

Again, I paused, posted it, and waited for the dust to settle.  And again, it didn’t.  Clair was less of a mugger, and more of a beloved task not quite completed.   The third part settled in and headed firmly away from the canon story line, but that was where they meant to go. I finished “Forget to Remember” just right before the expansion launch, 32k words.

120k words in right around three months.  I had outdone myself, and it had been easy.  And I was done with fanfiction.  I swore to myself that Clair’s trilogy would be my World of Warcraft fiction swansong.   I didn’t think I could do better, I felt purged, cleansed and free.   Except, like after every large endeavor, I also felt empty.  The hallways were silent, and I was alone.  That was fine, though, I had an expansion to play…

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