This is a one-shot starring Courtney and Sierra (duh). Plot explications would be inconvenient to the premise.
For the sake of moral standards (Gosh, how I hate that expression), I must warn you: the story uses one variation of the B-word, and the S-word also occurs at one point. I don't know how that would affect the rating, because other than that this story is as clean as it gets.
The cursor parked on the Notepad icon. Courtney took a deep breath, and clicked it.
A twitch of insecurity pervaded her when the blank canvas that was the text application popped up on her laptop screen. She looked around, certain someone was watching her and judging her. Yet the only other soul she found in the room was Sierra, who was lying innocuously on the bottom bunk, minding her own affairs.
Courtney blinked, and turned back to the computer. No, she reasoned to herself, it's okay. She's not even here.
And so she began to write, with a word/numeral pair that eternally haunted the deepest, darkest realms of her self-consciousness.
- CHAPTER 1
She bit her lip. The first sentence was always the hardest to pull through, at least with respect to her writing process. The first half of the story was already outlined, all the characters were placed in accessible pockets on her brain, and she knew exactly what she wanted to say, and why, before going in. But that first sentence was, as usual, a vile, inevitable Eldritch abomination, placed there with the precise intent of knocking her down.
She shook her head, doing her best to overcome it; nothing. Her fist lightly hammered the desk.
"I'll never be a writer," she whispered.
Sierra heard that desperate cry, and, as she had taken upon herself to always do when her roommate was in distress, looked up from her phone to see what was up.
"What are you writing?" she said as a start, for she knew Courtney would not respond well to a more direct approach to her quandary.
"It's... this YA novel I've been working on."
"What is it about?"
"It's... it's a very vague plot. There's a large group of people, and they... I don't know how to put it. It's basically an ensemble piece."
"Sounds kind of like Total Drama."
Courtney rolled her eyes, thinking She can't go for five minutes.
"For the last time, Sierra, don't remind me of that crap. Seriously."
"It's a part of your life. You can't just ignore it forever and pretend it didn't happen."
"Well, I guess God tried to be sure of that when he threw you back into my life."
"I'm happy to do my job." Sierra grinned, and Courtney ended up paying it back. It's funny how much I used to hate her, she thought, reading that as yet more proof that Total Drama was something to keep in the past.
"I can't even get past the first sentence, though," she confessed.
"Do you need help?"
"No offense, Si, but I don't think you'd be a good writing partner."
"I do write well, though," Sierra said, not the least bit offended. "Just ask the readers of my fanfic."
Courtney uttered a disdainful grunt. "Fanfic," she repeated; the word put a sour taste in her mouth. "You're right, that's some serious high art."
"Why do you look down on me for writing it? It's just like any other literature."
"No, it's not. That's like comparing apples and apple-flavored candy beans."
"Do those exist?" Sierra's face lightened up. Courtney rolled her eyes.
"I don't know. That's not the point."
"Well, if they exist, they must be pretty good." Sierra then paused, as if to let Courtney picture the outcome of that sentence before it came. Finally, she added: "Just like fanfiction."
"Sierra, you can't compare fanfiction with actual writing. Actual writing involves an extensive, deeply exhausting creative process, and fanfiction is just xeroxing with some makeup on. You don't come up with the characters, you don't come up with the events, you don't come up with the interplay..."
"Yes, you do," Sierra said, a lot more defensive. "Okay, maybe not the characters, but everything else is on the writer. You don't just take a TV show you like and then find a transcript and tweak it. You actually have to think of a story. Sometimes you even change the way characters would behave."
"Still, it's an unpermitted appropriation of someone else's work. It's probably illegal to some degree. And how sad is it that you write fanfiction about us?"
Sierra bowed her head. It was not rare for Courtney to call her out on living in the past and whatnot.
"That is a fascinating TV show, okay? There was nothing like it before it."
"How can you think that? It's just a more cartoonish Survivor."
"It's great." Sierra crossed her arms. "And at least somebody reads my work."
Courtney opened her mouth, certain she was offended, but unable to counter Sierra. She did fancy the idea of having people read her stuff, but just as she began to lean towards that position, she came up with a counterargument.
"Yeah, but the people who read it are only doing it because it's about something they already like. It's not like someone who isn't a fan of TDI will go and read TDI fanfic and think 'Oh, my God, this is great' or anything. Even if it's brilliant, which it can't be--"
"Why can't it be brilliant?" One of Sierra's eyebrows went up.
"Because it's fanfiction. It's just a bunch of lifeless fanboys and fangirls venting their love for something they got nothing to do with in the form of uninteresting little adventures and dream-fulfilling love stories. Do you know how many awful Courtney-and-Duncan fanfictions people email me to this day?"
"It is a very popular subgenre," Sierra pondered. Then, remembering she was in the middle of an argument, she reacted: "But not all fanfiction is bad. Sure, about 80% of the stuff I see is crap, but a lot of it is really good. And when it's good, it's goooood."
"Okay, so there's some fanfiction you think is decent. Still, is fanfiction. That alone qualifies it as an inferior form of expression. Any serious writer would think that way."
"J.K. Rowling approves it."
"Do you seriously count--" Courtney looked out into the hallway. After making sure there were no Harry Potter fans lurking, she continued. "Do you seriously count J.K. Rowling as a serious writer?"
"Of course I do. And you know what? Maybe if you actually gave a chance to fanfiction, you'd agree with her."
"What do you think I should do? Read it? Start writing fanfiction myself? I want to be as far away as possible from that world, Sierra. Fandom creeps me out."
"It could be a writing exercise. Anything goes if it helps you become a better writer, right?"
"You're being prejudiced."
"We're not seriously having this discussion," Courtney shook her head. "Sierra, I want to be an actual writer. Fanfiction couldn't possibly help me achieve that, at all."
"You are being prejudiced."
"So? Sometimes prejudice is justified. You can't actually say you think fanfiction is a form of art or anything. I already waste too much time with unimportant stuff. Fanfiction is pretty much at the bottom of my list of things to experience."
"Well, it's your loss," Sierra shrugged. "What I can tell you is that, in a crowded writing community, you have the possibility of feedback. Free, almost instant feedback." She let that sink in before astutely adding, "And who knows how long you'll take to get past that first sentence of yours?"
Courtney glared angrily at Sierra, without actually saying anything; then, she made the unintelligent decision to turn back to her computer and leave her friend hanging.
It wasn't unintelligent because Sierra was hurt; the purplehead was, in fact, quite amused by the reaction -- why, on the contrary, it was unintelligent because it let on Courtney's hint of a rendition.
Courtney stared at her laptop screen, her mind venturing far away from her YA novel. She had never dedicated more than thirty seconds' worth of brainpower to the subject of fanfiction, and even then her musings hadn't gone beyond seeing in it a disheartening sign of the derailment of Western civilization. But something in Sierra's words had awoken in her a new viewing angle on the topic.
It was not that she stopped knitting her brows at it; nothing of what she thought of fanfiction as a concept and as a social fact had changed or ever would. But the audience-hungry writer in her was intrigued, if not excited, by fanfiction as a practice. After all, Sierra did have a point in saying Total Drama was a part of her past, and, come to think about it, it wasn't that bad of a series, at least not up to the homestretch of season 1. There would be some undeniably tempting nostalgia to revisiting that world, and -- who could tell? -- maybe she could even find some online peers to share her accumulated neuroses with. Sierra had at some point mentioned that some of the fanfiction-writing -- and reading -- community was very nice and welcoming, and that was something that she could use, however artificial and impersonal her "friendships" were to be. And who was to say that, with the right amount of creativity and brainstorming, she wouldn't be able to craft a truly great story out of that world? It was a challenge, for sure, to come up with good fiction out of preexisting one, but weren't challenges, after all, what the greatest writers were made of?
Sierra was savvy enough to read a change of heart into Courtney's downplayed reaction, and so she quickly asked "Do you want to do a collab?"
"What's that?" the internet-jargon-unfamiliar Cortney asked.
"It means we would write a story together. I know all about fanfiction writing and publishing, and you could bring in your superior creative capabilities. We'd make a great team."
"I don't write that well." Courtney let a smile escape her.
"You don't really think that. Otherwise you wouldn't be trying to write a book while being all bitchy about how fanfiction isn't worth your time."
"Well..." Courtney thought some more. "I could blow those fanboys out of the water."
"Most of them," Sierra agreed. "But don't be too arrogant. You don't know shit about writing fanfiction, not yet. You've got a long way to go, and a whole lot to learn."
"That would be your job, wouldn't it?"
"Yes. And I'm happy to do it."
It was settled: from then on Sierra and Courtney would be a single writing force, and their creative output was to be published for the entire viewing world on a popular online medium for stories of that variety.
Before jumping into that undertaking, though, Courtney vowed to herself to not let it overcome her main life struggles -- becoming a published writer, finishing Law School, buying herself a place. It would be a slippery slope for someone who gave in to useless side activities more than she would like, but Courtney thought to herself, I can handle it.
Even if that thought didn't come through, she always had the option of quitting halfway and placing all of her focus on what she felt was truly important -- that would be simply a matter of getting her life together rather than a cowardly renunciation of sorts, and surely Sierra would completely understand.
Lastly, she needed to think of some way to tone down her involvement in the fandom, as she wasn't really a fan as much as someone looking to pour her creative juices somewhere. After some thinking, she decided that a meta-packed short story detailing her own struggle would be enough -- she was, after all, a Total Drama character, even if her tricky situation wasn't likely to be one of particular interest for outsiders.
All there was left was the actual challenge of writing the collab thing, but this time she would have her roommate to help come up with the first sentence. With all of that life-altering process resolved, the one first sentence she needed to worry about was that of the meta one-shot.
And, not without some thinking, she ended up finding a perfect fit, and began to write:
- The cursor parked on the Notepad icon. Courtney took a deep breath, and clicked it.