Today we have the second installation of our transformative writers series, featuring friend of the blog, Zatnikatel. Although she mentions below she does dabble in other topics, this writer has 28 pieces up on AO3, all in the Supernatural fandom where she ships Destiel oh-so-good. You might recognize her name from our very popular “9 Smutty Supernatural/Destiel Fanfics” post–she holds the #6 position with one of THE HOTTEST Destiel fics I have ever read (and reread). Another favorite is her story True North, which would have made it on my End!Verse genre fic list, but I had to spread the love around to other authors. The wonderful thing about fanfiction is that, if they chose, writers remain anonymous and therefore can really explore topics in a way we might not be able to if our moms/bosses/IRL friends were looking over our shoulders. Zatnikatel currently works as a professional journalist and editor, contributing to magazines and newspapers in the US and UK. Please read on to find out about her journey into the world of fanfiction and the no nonsense advice she has for aspiring writers. Enjoy!
The Collectiva Diva
1) What/who inspired you to begin writing fanfiction?
I started out in genfic, writing a story inspired by one of my favorite early episodes: The Benders. I loved the episode for its delicious Dean whump, for the parallels between the Winchesters and the Benders (who seemed like the flipside of John, Dean and Sam), and for the really lovely performance by Jessica Steen as Sheriff Kathleen Hudak.
I always love those “what if?” moments in TV shows and movies – those forks in the road where everything might have gone in a completely different direction. Where that episode was concerned it was, “what if Missy had gotten out of the closet?” And that first genfic grew into a three-story verse adding up to about 300,000 words altogether. And I had all sorts of high-falutin’ ideas about framing it as a Hell allegory, because I had hoped for more from Dean’s post-Hell PTSD story, and felt shortchanged by what I got onscreen.
I guess not a lot of the people who are familiar with my D/C fic will have read that genfic ’verse! So I’ll mention my first D/C fic, Chrysler Almighty and just say that it was written because some dared me to. I had very pompously declared that the profound bond was enough for me and that I’d never write “proper” D/C. Said friend dared me, and so I wrote that fic as a joke, and threw everything I could think of at it. It was intended as crack, and I thought it would get 10 comments, if that. I still don’t know whether to be proud of it or embarrassed by it. Architecture!porn, what the hell was I thinking?!
2) What do you look for when you read fanfiction? Are you reading anything now? What is it and why do you like it?
Canon-compliant plotty fic is my kryptonite. I really wish more people wrote it. I can honestly say that if I have a choice between porn-without-plot and canon-compliant plotty genfic that includes Cas, I will read the latter first every time. Over and above that, writing that doesn’t stray too far from my perception of these characters: as world-weary, surly, unsentimental men the wrong side of thirty-five (Cas by some way!), who find it almost impossible to express their feelings, but who love unreservedly.
I’m not actually reading right now because I’m working on something, and I always try to avoid reading if I’m writing. But I have bookmarked a couple of D/CBBs that look great at first-glance.
3) What is the favorite piece you’ve written and where can readers find it?
I don’t honestly know. I like certain aspects of all of them, or perhaps I think fondly about them because they were particularly easy to write. For example, with one of those early genfics, The Killing Moon, the words just poured out and I’m really happy with some of the plot twists in it. Then there is True North, which I’m proud of because it was my second D/C fic after the Chrysler Almighty crackfic, and I think a lot of people didn’t expect such a total 180° in tone, so it was nice to surprise them.
Something Stupid I like because it was the first fic that I wrote from Cas’s POV, and I feel I got him right. Then I had a lot of fun writing A Distant Mirror, trying to get the right mix of humor and pathos, and trying to push myself to maybe write better than I had in my contributions to Redemption Road. I don’t know if I did – what I wrote for RR is probably my best efforts… it’s definitely my best plotting. But flipside is that working on the RR project was a really unpleasant experience at times, and that somewhat takes the glow off of it. But… yeah, my writing for that project probably is my favorite. Writing with someone I clicked with as perfectly as I did with Swordofmymouth, who remains a close friend, was incredible. It was like we Vulcan mind-melded at times. The spoiler about Claire Novak returning is the icing on that particular cake!
4) Are you working on anything now and, if so, can you tell us a little bit about it? Fandom? Pairing? Plot points?
I wrote a fic a few years ago called Shine, and it was a sort of re-imagining of how Swan Song might have happened, since I was a typical butthurt Deangal who was enRAEGed at being “cheated” out of Michael!Dean!
At the time I hadn’t written that first “proper” D/C fic, but Shine was one of the first steps towards doing that – it’s pre-slash, I guess. Anyhoo, I have gotten so many requests over the last few years to write a “proper” D/C version of it that I am revising it. It’s taking me ages, partly because I got sidetracked into writing something else that ended up being put on the backburner*, and partly because I started to feel (and still do to some extent) pretty disinvested from the canon. But I am back on it now, and revising the original pre-slashy version of it too. So there will be a much more polished pre-slash version and a ‘proper” D/C version. There’s a little way to go yet but I’m pretty happy with how it’s shaping up.
*Backburner fic is languishing and could well end up being 45K that is never finished. I recently showed the WIP to a friend, who loved it, but I dunno. Something happened to dent my confidence about the writing, so it might never be finished. We’ll see, I guess.
5) Any advice for aspiring fanfiction writers?
That’s a difficult one. We all perceive these characters differently depending on our own circumstances, age, whatever; and that means we create our own version of these characters. Me, I’m probably older than quite a few of the other popular D/C writers, I have kids, for various RL reasons, I’m pretty cynical when it comes to romance. And that goes to how I write Dean especially: as a world-weary cynic who has (in his own eyes) failed at love, and who is really emotionally constipated! So, anyhoo, what I read from other writers might not always work for me, but if it genuinely is how the writer perceives the characters, then it’s as valid a portrayal of them as my writing tries to be. So I don’t know that I’d want to tell people how to write… it’s such a personal thing, you know?
Buuuuut if I were to just focus on technical stuff, I would say, don’t be afraid of dialogue. Don’t mire your writing down in a great big wall-o-text that ends up sucking the life and forward-motion out of your fic if you can cover that exposition in a few lines of dialogue!
Thanks for sharing, Z! I now have a bunch of new fics to bookmark and read over the weekend (I’m not sorry).
If you have questions for Zatnikatel or would like to spotlight your favorite fanfic author, let us know in the comments or tweet us @nerdwrldprblms