liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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I may be a cynic on the surface, but I'm an optimist at heart. Here's why.

All issues with forceoftheblow have been settled amicably. I want to thank notamistake aka wickedslayer for immediately responding to my email and being willing to work our differences out.

The long and short of it:

forceoftheblow is still up and running and will remain so as long as the RPers wish to continue it.

Revelations has been credited as being the source story for the RP and I've received credit on the RP's info page and LJ page with links back here and to the story itself.

I really want to thank notamistake aka wickedslayer for being responsive to my concerns and for being a real stand-up all-around LJ-er for immediately rectifying the situation with zero argument.

As it turns out, yes, forceoftheblow is based on Revelations. It was a simple case that the RPers really liked the story and wanted to do something based on it. They were using Revelations as a starting point and were going to spin it off into something completely different.

They honestly didn't realize that what they were doing might look really bad to me and others who read the RP and honestly didn't think to contact me. Partially because they meant it as a compliment, and partially because the fiction and RP formats are very, very different.

When I contacted the RPers, notamistake immediately offered to stop the RP and pull it down if I really didn't want it to continue.

Given her response, and given other factors I'll get into in a minute, I honestly wasn't interested in stopping the RP. All I wanted was credit for being the source author/story and would be perfectly satisfied with that.

notamistake immediately agreed to give credit where credit was due and did as I asked. I can't ask for more than that.

So, happy endings all around since we all get what we really wanted out of the deal.

I look forward to seeing where forceoftheblow goes from here, since I suspect their storytelling path will look very different from where I had planned to go with it.

I have always said that dealing with plagiarism issues in the realm of fan activities is a tricky situation. We don't own the characters or the universes and people who do fan-based art (whether it's writing, RPs, or graphics) have limited protection on the plagiarism front — although I'm given to understand that we're actually not without legal recourse when it comes to original themes, characters, or other original elements.

If someone wants to do something based on one my stories or soundtracks for whatever reason (be it another story, a soundtrack, fanart, RP, or archiving), contact me. I'm easily accessible via LJ or LJ email. I can suck at responding to email, but I will get back to you ASAP for something like this. I can't always promise that I'll say "yes" (a lot of factors come into play and have to be considered), but I'll at least think about it before I give you an answer yes or no and I'll always be honest about my reasons for either.

However, if I say no and you go ahead and do it anyway, I will scream bloody murder and go after you. And you can count on the fact that I've kept your original email asking permission in the first place, so the evidence will be on my side.

And, if I ever find out that a story of mine has been plagiarized (and I'm talking about a no-bones-about-it situation where things are stolen wholesale or if there's a cut-and-paste), I will immediately begin the steps to get satisfaction.

I'm a writer in RL and have dealt with plagiarism on a professional level, so I know all the steps to take to build my case and document everything. I've also helped other fanfic writers look into plagiarism cases, so I know how to get the word out that you've stolen from me.

Also, my desire 99% of the time is going to be that I want you to stop and for your story to disappear from the Internet.

This particular case with forceoftheblow falls into the 1%, primarily because of the unique circumstances around the follow-up stories for Revelations and partially because the people involved with forceoftheblow were willing to work with me to iron out my issues.

Which kind of leads me to the second part of this post. *wince*

Unless you're interested in this information, you can skip this part. I'm only putting it here because people have asked when/if the Where Fools Go series is ever going to be picked up again.

Revelations was meant to be a one-shot story. It was based on very early S7 spoilers that seemed to indicate that Xander's role in the comming season was going to be pretty big and on a challenge from a BtVS community I was a member of at the time.

[A.N.: As it turns out, those early spoilers were correct. JW said in post-S7 interviews that the original plan was for Xander to get killed and then serve as the face of the First. ME backed off on the idea when they decided that killing Xander would've been a bad idea and would've detracted from any possible happy ending for the series. On the one hand, I'm sorry they didn't do it because it would've given the actor one hell of a role to go out on. On the other, I'm so very glad that Xander still survives in the BtVS/AtS-verse. My big Xander-related complaint is that once they tanked his storyline, they didn't have an alternative to work with.]

Another reason behind Revelations was because I had read far too many Xander-is-really-a-demon stories where Xander is not only okay with it, but gets these super-cool powers to go with. Interesting idea the first time you read it, but annoying when you reach iteration 2,435 on the same theme and there's very little distinguishing one story from another.

By the way, I'm not claiming that Revelations took a unique approach to that particular plot. I'm just saying that almost all of the stories I had read up to that point had taken that tack.

Anyway, most of the Xander-is-a-powerful-demon scenarios struck me as...ummmmm...a little out of character considering canon. Then there was the whole uber-Xander superpower thing, which tends to annoy me more often than not. I'm not saying that there aren't some stories out there that don't do a good job with it, but Sturgeon's Law seriously comes into play on this front.

So, I just decided to do a twist on the typical Xander-is-a-demon story. What if Xander was turned into a demon, and he was really upset about it? What if the power he got out of the deal wasn't a physical power, but one that fell on the "soft skills" side of the equation and was difficult to define? What if those powers actually caused him more problems than they solved?

[As a side note: In re-reading Revelations it struck me that I've essentially recycled this theme for Xander's abilities. In the Whisper-verse, Xander is 100% human, but because of his unique life circumstances, he's sensitive to the presence of magic. Or, to put it another way, Xander's allergic to magic. It actually doesn't help him in a fight, unless you count him yelling, "Oh, shit! Someone's casting a spell! Duck!" about 10 seconds before the spell hits as something useful. Plus, it just as often hinders him as much as it helps. But his strengths as a character in my little fanon version still remains firmly in the realm of soft skills. Heh.]

Revelations is also my first BtVS fanfic and I think it shows. I don't quite have the character voices down, the style is a little stilted, and the writing is cold-blooded. Technically and structurally it's pretty good and the story line (I'd like to think) is interesting. But, I can see why someone reading this story might be hesitant to try my longer stuff. I can also see why someone who's only read this story might not be willing to try my other stories, too.

Although I find it highly ironic that I have a "Xander-crutch" and usually tell stories from his point of view, or at least partially from his point of view. Yet, in Revelations, I don't get inside his head at all. The whole story is told from the point of view of other characters. It's one of the few that actually fall into this category.

Right. Enough blather about Revelations. The reason why I felt I had to explain the story's background was so I could explain how I ended up with the bizarre situation I got into with the Where Fools Go series.

It's something of a cautionary tale. I made some seriously newbie fanfic writer mistakes right from the start that are pretty stereotypical and ended up hamstringing myself in some pretty serious ways.

Again, if you're intersted or you think it might help you in seeing the mistakes I made, just click on the cut. It's definitely not a must-read for anyone.

There are only three stories in the Where Fools Go cycle. The first is Revelations, which was meant to be a stand-alone story. The other two are:

Where Fools Go, Chapter 1: After Happily Ever After
Summary: Immediately after 'Chosen,' everyone is wrestling with the next step. Xander feels like he's spinning out of control between his demon heritage, nightmares hinting that the victory isn't as complete as the Scoobs thought, and the complete destruction of his life. Faith struggles with the fact that she doesn't seem to belong anywhere, but before she can settle on a course of action, she's forced to take on a responsibility she doesn't want: helping Xander run and hide from the Scoobs.

Where Fools Go Chapter 2: Steady Red, Storms Ahead
Summary: Although they are still on the run, car trouble strands Xander and Faith in a small farming community. Tension between the traveling pair reaches a boiling point and the combatants come out swinging. A zombie gang intent on eating human flesh interrupts this "restful" interlude and they're forced to work together to solve the mystery and get rid of the zombies. Meanwhile, Buffy sounds the alarm that Xander is gone, but Willow suspects that there's more than meets the eye to Buffy's concerns.

Now, time to list where it went wrong.

I decided to work with a co-writer, before getting to know the co-writer.
In a fandom a long, long time ago, I had worked with a co-writer on a Battlestar Galactica (original series)/Red Dwarf crossover called Battlestar Red with Michele Martin. The story worked out very well (all things considering) and can still be found with a minimum of Google-fu skills. In addition, I ended up with a friend that I talk to every other week.

[A.N.: Beware clicking the link to read the story. It's in ASCII text and the formatting is not great, to put it kindly. In addition, the writing is solid enough, by the style is straight-up AP Stylebook, which at times does not resemble Earth English or English grammar. It is, for lack of a better term, workman-like. Both of us have vastly improved our skills, although Michele no longer writes fanfiction in any fandom. Although, I still think our decision to make Talkie Toaster the Cylon Imperious Leader and to reprogram the Cylons to bring baked bread products to a hungry universe is inspired lunacy.]

[Additional A.N.: YES! I did write a crossover once upon a time! I wrote more than one! Stop laughing at me already!]

At any rate, I was looking for a new story ideas since Whisper was coming to an end. In addition, I was less-than-happy with the way S7 turned out, for multiple reasons that weren't just Xander-related. However, I was coming up blank.

Enter another Buffy fan called Divagirl, who was credited as co-writer on the first Where Fools Go installment as Sydney Taggert. Somehow, we ended up in an online discussion about what I would do for a sequel for Revelations if I was inclined to go in that direction and we brainstormed a few ideas. Next thing I knew, I had agreed to writing a virtual S8 that was heavily AU to canon and gained a co-writer in the bargain.

To say it didn't work out would be an understatement.

Our writing styles didn't mesh at all and we really weren't all that happy with each other's contributions. Once I realized we were heading for a crash, I put forward a proposal: I'd write it alone. I'd credit her as co-writer on the first story since I was using some of her scenes and dialogue. However, any other story I'd be sole writer and I'd give her credit for helping me set up the premise and as beta reader.

She wasn't happy about it (to say the least), but I honestly didn't think co-writing the stories would work. In addition, I said I wasn't going to do one stitch more writing on it and would drop it completely if she wasn't okay with the deal I proposed.


Yes, this makes me look really bad. I essentially said, "My way or nothing."

She eventually agreed.

As a result, Where Fools Go, stories one and two, really is pretty much all mine in terms of writing, plotting, and characterization, but there were key series plot points that came out of the initial brainstorming sessions that were not all mine. Ethically speaking, I can never claim 100% credit for any Where Fools Go story, including any story written in that series in the future, even if I did 99% of the work.

It also means that, ethically speaking, I can't give permission to anyone else who might want to take it over. They's also have to ask Divagirl, who, as far as I know, is no longer even involved in BtVS fandom. Anyone who wanted to do it would also have to contact her and get her permission. Even if I wanted to continue it, I'd have to get her permission.

Whenever a third party is involved, things get exponentially more complicated.

I tried to turn a stand-alone into a series.
The temptation to do this is very high, especially if you're new in fandom. Revelations got a ton of really good feedback. Even though it was my only BtVS story and the first fanfiction I had written in almost 8 years, it was getting recommended everywhere. My inner Sally Fields was singing. People loved me!


Heh. Yeah. I was an idiot.

Revelations was designed to be a stand-alone and should have remained that way. While it works as a one-shot AU to mid-S7, it really can't work as the basis for a virtual S8. It's too far off canon and requires people to actually read it before they can read anything in Where Fools Go. If people didn't rad Revelations, reading the first story in Where Fools Go is something like walking into the middle of an hour-long drama and you can get lost pretty quickly.

Complicating the issue was that there was no external hint in Revelations itself (in either the title or summary) showing that this story was connected to the Where Fools Go series, so readers couldn't automatically know that they missed a pretty important step if they skipped Revelations.

Even before I agreed to the write sequels, I knew it was a stand-alone. I should have stuck to my guns on that and didn't.

While it was one of the (many) catastrophic mistakes I made with Where Fools Go, the lesson stuck.

Whisper was designed to be and remained a stand-alone story for a very, very long time. Furthermore, it was also designed to slide seemlessly into canon so that people could read it as a "missing episode." It's something that might've happened (aside from the fact that the Magic Box was rebuilt in Whisper; my excuse was that I started writing before S7 started and made an assumption that turned out wrong), but we just didn't see it on screen.

Somewhere in the middle of Living History, people started asking me if it was a sequel to Whisper. I could see why they asked. My fanon characterization of everyone in Living History was pretty consistent with Whisper, there were similar themes in the two stories, and, this was the big part, Living History seemed to deliver on the promise Dolly made to Xander in Whisper.

I insisted for the longest time that there was no connection between the two stories. They were both stand-alones and one had nothing to do with the other.

I might as well have been talking to myself on that. A small, but significant portion of people made the assumption and seemed pretty happy with the idea. What I said on the matter just didn't seem to convince anyone.

When Living History came to an end and I had time to breathe (for all of two weeks), I took a somewhat fresh look at Whisper and Living History and realized something:

The readers had a damn good point.

The two stories felt like they belonged together and snuggled easily next to each other. Best of all, you didn't have to read one story to get the other one. They could be read as complete stand alones with no reference to each other, but if you read both, it felt like they were taking place in the same universe.

And so the Whisperverse was born.

I learned from Where Fools Go that the character of fanfiction really doesn't lend itself well to serial stories. That's not to say some people don't pull it off with aplomb, because they do and I have multiple examples of this on my FList. But, in my mind, the fluid nature of the writing and readership lends itself better to writing a series of stand-alone stories that just happen to take place in the same universe. Readers are a lot smarter than writers sometimes give them credit for. Keep the themes and characters consistent, and people instantly catch on without you saying a word.

Best off all, a series of stand-alones gives readers multiple points of entry into your little fanon world without burdening them too much. They don't have to go looking for a backstory and they don't have to carry around that backstory in their heads while reading. Any references to past stories in the series can be easily dispatched in-story via a conversation or a paragraph of exposition. If you keep your references limited, it's not even that difficult to pull off.

So, doing away with the need for a complicated backstory was key.

When I sat down to write Water Hold Me Down, I very deliberately took that approach. So far, it's worked out very well. It's satisfied people who've asked if I've written a sequel to Living History (several at this point) and has not alienated people who are reading my stuff for the first time (or at least, it hasn't alienated them because it's a sequel because I'm not going to suggest that some people haven't given up on reading Water for other reasons).

However, I'm egotistical enough to admit that I'd like to think if readers do have the whole backstory, that helps increase their enjoyment of the individual stories themselves.

I bit off more than I could chew.
Classic newbie mistake right here.

Picture this: Newbie fanfic writer decides to write a virtual S8 consisting of a minimum of 22 stories. Newbie fanfic writer actually puts together summaries for a roughly 18 of them all by her lonsesome. Newbie fanfic writer thinks this will be a cakewalk. Newbie fanfic writer thinks she can do it all alone.

Sheee-yah. Right.

Some people can do it. I'm not nearly obsessive enough.

Maybe if I started smaller or with fewer planned stories, I might've given it more of a shot. Or maybe my brain wouldn't have frozen so thoroughly at the thought of writing a third Where Fools Go.

Much better to back into a series like I did with the Whisperverse and keep your goals relatively modest. If you happen to write some short stories that happen to slot into it? So much the better. And you looking like a freakin' genius and a dedicated writer. Wheeeeee!


If you're a newbie fanfic writer with a minimal reputation, pulling off a character twist is probably not a good idea.
I also call this "the Buffy problem."

Some people who read the Where Fools Go stories when they first came out assumed they were in for a long Buffy-bash and bailed.

Some people who read the Where Fools Go stories for the first time in 2005 cannot believe I'd characterize Buffy the way I did. It doesn't even sound like something I'd do.

While I'm not going to say that I've got this fabulously wonderful and shiny reputation, people who are familiar with my stories know I don't bash characters and they know I hate it with a passion.

Beacuse I've got a "no bash" rep, at least people now realize that Buffy's characterization in Where Fools Go has something more behind it than just negativity. I've even had people email me and ask: "So Marcs, what's the twist with Buffy?"

Heh. I've got a twisty reputation. Heh.

As it so happens, there was a twist, a sort of fanwank to explain how Buffy could be stabbed during the final battle with the First and manage to be fit and trim without a hint of injury in the closing scene.

See? My evil plan? Buffy and the First switched places. The First took over Buffy's body so it could interfere with the new Slayers and their special powers.

Buffy was stuck as the incorpreal ghost watching events unfold with horror. She was responsible for driving Xander away using horrific nightmares because she was terrified for his safety. However, Xander was the only character she could reach because of his demon heritage. All her attempts to warn everyone else fell on deaf ears. She isn't able to escape her ties to her body until the First-as-Buffy manages to track Faith and Xander down. However, she quickly discovers that Xander's abilities have progressed to the to the point of seeing her and she can latch on to him and escape the First-as-Buffy.

Of course, he's the only one who can see her. Of course, Faith and Willow (who by this time has joined up with Faith and Xander) are a leeeetle worried about his sanity.

Enter hilarious hijinks where Real Buffy chirpily proceeds to drive Xander nuts and fails to remember human niceties like "personal space" while the demon takes a shower. She serves as Al-like holographic helper! She dispenses relationship advice to Xander! She's so happy to have someone to talk to, see? And...

Shutting up now.

The thing is, Where Fools Go written very early on in my portfolio. Readers had no reason to trust me, and some of them decided it wasn't worth the risk of braving a potential Buffy-bash. I can't blame them.

Never, ever throw the electronic files away.
This is actually a positive lesson.

I still have all those plot summaries. I still have a ton of snippets that were written for various stories slated for Where Fools Go.

And whatever plot points I can difinitively point to as "mine" with a clear conscience has been re-purposed or will be re-purposed.

For example, Ghost Buffy may never see the light of day, but beause of her, I got Ghost Wes in Ishmael Sings of the White Whale.

Maybe Demon Xander doesn't go on that catastrophic date with a normal human because Faith insists, no matter, what, he's still basically human and needs to do human things to remember that. Maybe she doesn't interrupt his nice, normal date because she was chasing a demon while on a solo patrol and manages to put a very chaotic end to it. However, Faith does eventually force a very human Xander to go on a date with a very dicey, potentially demonic woman while under the influence of demon venom in No Myth (Still a WiP! And it needs to be slightly re-written to match the end of Water Hold Me Down. I haven't forgotten.)

That's just two examples. There are certainly a few more that, with a little tweaking and a little work, could be altered and shaped into full-blown stories or scenes in full-blown stories.

And maybe that's the best thing I got out of the whole Where Fools Go experience when all is said and done.

Anyway, that's why Where Fools Go has been abandoned. And that's why I can't let anyone else have it (lord knows, I've been asked).

And if you read this whole tl;dr screed of mine, you can also see why Revelations is a unique situation and why I readily reached an agreement with forceoftheblow.

It is an old story. I can't do anything more with it.

But I like the idea even more that someone is still fond of the story and remembered that it exists.

Since everything turned out very well in this case, and since myself and forceoftheblow came to an equitable and satisfactory agreement, I can say that, when all is said and done, it really is quite a compliment.

So thank you for that.

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