Self-Indulgent Fantasies: Funny, but Not Appropriate

2 Mar

by Susan Dennard

~~

Once upon a time, there was a really beautiful girl with LOTS of money. Her name was Susan, and she was super popular.  Everyone wanted to be her, but she was nice, so everyone liked her too.  She fell in love with a handsome Frenchman.

Oh, and she could fly and turn invisible.

Oh! And Sam Worthington wanted to go out with her, but since she was already married to the wonderful Frenchman, she had to turn him down.  He still sends her flowers and chocolates, regularly…and they like to hang out.

Okay, okay, enough.  If you don’t want to gag yet, you should.  Just writing that triggered severe gag-reflex in me.  Sure, that may be My Ultimate Fantasy, but it’s not a story.  It’s really not something I should share with people either, methinks.

The point is this: YOUR FANTASIES ARE PRIVATE AND SHOULD NOT BE THE CORE OF YOUR STORIES.

Fan fiction is one thing, as Savannah explains very well here, but original fiction is quite another.  You need to distance yourself from self-indulgent drivel.

And here’s why:

When we write our fantasies out, there’s never enough conflict.  Perhaps there’s no character conflict (notice that Susan above is an obnoxious Mary Sue), or maybe there is no plot conflict (um, there is no resistance to Susan’s love story with the Frenchie) or maybe it’s just all-around cheesy (yes, my fantasy definitely has a lot of CHEESE).  No matter what, the problem is private fantasies have no conflict, and without conflict, the story is of no interest to the reader.

Now, of course, you can use parts of your daydreams in your novel.  Or you can draw inspiration from your fantasies.  Gosh, the kiss scene in THE SPIRIT-HUNTERS is definitely something plucked from my Most-Perfect-Kisses-Imaginable-Bank.  And, of course, the rogue-ish Daniel is built from my dreams of swoon-worthy boys.

But those personal favorites are layered underneath not-so-happy conflict, rough decisions, crappy circumstances, and lots of failure — all stuff that doesn’t happen in my fantasies. 😉

Of course, fantasies can sometimes be hilarious for anecdotal tales…  Case in point:

If you ever have fantasies like Katie’s, I ask that you please share.  Or if you ever walk backwards into bushes while sighing deeply.  (Like, seriously, email me or something.)

But if you have fantasies like this, please don’t share! (Go to ~1:00 to hear the about the self-indulgent screen play.)

But if your fantasy is PG rated, just go ahead and share in the comments what your personal DREAM starring YOU would be!

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

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19 Responses to “Self-Indulgent Fantasies: Funny, but Not Appropriate”

  1. Sarah J. Maas March 2, 2011 at 2:14 AM #

    OMG THAT PICTURE OF YOU AND SAM!!!!!!!!! HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!?! (and can you make me one?)

    …I seriously need to take pics of all the photos of Sam I have on my desk so you can fully understand the depths of my obsession with him. It’s just as creepy as it sounds, lol.

    …Ahem.

    This was a really fantastic post, Sooz! Great advice!!!

    • sdennard March 2, 2011 at 5:06 AM #

      Hahahaha, Sarah! I know you ❤ Sam, and that's kinda partly why I chose him!!!

      I just used the GIMP (it's like Photoshop) to put my picture over whatever girl Sam is really with. Pshaw — I look better! 😉

  2. sparklinga March 2, 2011 at 2:35 AM #

    You know… Sam almost looks like Chris O’Donnell (Robin, anyone?) in that picture! 😀

    Anyway.

    Awesome post, Sooz 🙂 I’ve stumbled upon so many books that seemingly have a good premise, but as soon as I open them and read about the *totally perfect* heroine who has the new/bad/rich/arrogant/sensitive/handsome boy after her *for NO reason at all* in the first paragraph, my heart hurts a little :C More often than not, these books ditch their original premise and go into a roller-coaster of nonsense (NOT the Lewis Carroll type) with no purpose, no conflict, and no substance.

    It’s really quite sad.

    Loves,
    A

    • sdennard March 2, 2011 at 5:08 AM #

      Me too! I’ve even read a few really popular novels (and more often then not, of the fantasy genre — I think there was more space for self-indulgence back in the day) where I felt like I was just reading the dude’s private daydreams. NOT COOL. And not entertaining.

  3. Nhi Le March 2, 2011 at 3:14 AM #

    You guys actually love Sam Worthington? Nothing against the man, mind you – but that immature part of me can’t see his name without going: “I SEE YOU JAKE SULLY!!!!!!!!!!”

    As you can tell, I totally don’t have maturity issues here. 😉

    • sdennard March 2, 2011 at 5:09 AM #

      Ahhh, yes…I guess I could see why you might not like him. I just think he’s pretty smoking. His acting? Meh. The movies I’ve seen him in? Meh (well, I did love AVATAR).

      But that face! That Australian accent!

      At least you didn’t comment on my choice of the X-man Rogue. As long as I have your permission to be her, we’re okay. 😉

  4. savannahjfoley March 2, 2011 at 9:05 AM #

    Hahaha I’ve seen that PStew clip before; it’s super hilarious. He’s obsessed with already seeing it all, lol.

    Anyway, fantASTIC post, Susan. ❤

    • sdennard March 2, 2011 at 9:47 AM #

      HAHA, isn’t it so AWKWARDLY FUNNY? I love that show…::sigh::

  5. Rowenna March 2, 2011 at 9:42 AM #

    Great point–OMG I had forgotten how hilarious Katie was. You’re so right that some elements of good fiction can definitely come from daydreams and “wouldn’t it be cool if’s” (after all, how else do you get passionate enough about something to spend hours and hours writing it unless you mull it over and get really attached?) but those can’t comprise the whole story. Because they aren’t a story.

    Plus…does anyone else find it sort of…embarassing to put your fantasies down on paper? Not even romantic fantasies, per se, but sharing anything that verges on personal…not that you can tell which is which in well-done fiction…and I’m probably waaay too self-consious lol.

    • sdennard March 2, 2011 at 9:48 AM #

      Definitely embarrassed. And kinda nervous because what if the few private daydreams that do sneak into my writing are LOATHED by my readers??

      And yes, Katie is GREAT. I love that movie just because of her.

  6. Meredith March 2, 2011 at 10:12 AM #

    The Patrick Stewart thing never fails to crack me up! Have you seen the Daniel Radcliffe one too? Genius.

    The earliest stuff I wrote (like eons ago!) was all Mary Sue has awesome adventures and does awesome things and everything loves her because she’s awesome and nothing bad ever happens because her life is made of awesome sauce … and yeah. Luckily I never subjected anyone to any of those. 🙂

    • Susan March 2, 2011 at 1:31 PM #

      OMGosh, yes! Daniel Radcliffe with the rubber! AAAHHHHHAAHAHAAHA.

      Oh gosh…that show… “Is ‘e havin’ a laugh?”

  7. Olga March 2, 2011 at 11:18 AM #

    I’ve never sighed deeply while walking backwards into bushes, but I’ve been known to sigh dramatically while IN bushes.

    That needs context, methinks.

    I live on 12 acres. There’s a pond. There’s an island in that pond. On that island there’s a HUGE oak tree. Around that oak tree are honeysuckle, wild blackberries, one wild rose, and a bunch of other goodies.

    There’s a little spot right next to the tree, though, where there’s no thorns and just a lot of decaying leaves….that’s where I like to settle down with a notebook or just daydream with no props.

    Of course, I always leave with a brownish wet spot on my booty, but it’s totally worth it. So nice…can’t wait for spring…then I can look out at the world through a frame of leaves and flowers…and in late summer, I can pluck sour little berries without ever leaving my little hideout….

    I LOVE MY ISLAND. ^_^

    • Susan March 2, 2011 at 1:32 PM #

      Oh, wow! That sounds LOVELY! I’m totally jealous of your island (though not of the brown spot on your bum!).

  8. Tracey Neithercott March 2, 2011 at 11:38 AM #

    Great advice. Good thing I read this today. I was five seconds from querying my novel about a girl who writes this awesome novel and it’s even bigger than Harry Potter. And then people start saying, “JK Who? No, I love that book by Lacey Keithercott. And then they make it into a movie. And they want me to play the main character opposite Ryan Reynolds. And he has to go shirtless a lot.

    Whew, you save me. 🙂

    Oh, and I’ve never seen Horton Hears a Who, but now I will. That snippet was hilarious!

    • Susan March 2, 2011 at 1:32 PM #

      HAHAHAHAHAAHA. Best. Fantasy. Ever.

      When I’m director of this famous movie, I’ll definitely cast Ryan Reynolds across from Lacey. 😉

  9. Cat March 2, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

    Great article Susan! That Patrick Stewart video had me in tears 😀

  10. Madeleine March 6, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

    My personal fantasy involves an agent, a publisher, and a book with my name on it. I don’t care if there’s some conflict and stress thrown in as long as it ends in the right place! ;D

    I think the most valuable things to take from our lives are our nightmares – both the ones we’ve actually gone through and the ones we dread. It’s more likely that people will be able to relate to our troubles then our victory.

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    […] (whose main character in SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY displays some contrarianism herself) did an article about self-indulgent fantasy, and Biljana did one about how Mary Sues are good (in the […]

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