Writing good fanfic is tough. I'm becoming more convinced by the day that writing good NGE fanfic is next to impossible. NGE is nightmarishly complex, and its characters are compelling by virtue of the fact that they feel real. Capturing that verisimilitude would be difficult for a professional writer, let alone amateurs like us. I'm wondering if anyone's really managed to do it. Hell, I'm wondering if anyone's even come close.
Here's what I consider "good" for these purposes:
- *First, you gotta do the research. No really, it's essential here.
*You gotta understand the characters. That means realizing that no, Shinji's not really a wimp, and no, Asuka's really not a nasty bitch. They're both a fuck of a lot more complicated than that.
*You gotta remember you're dealing with children. These are not adults -- they are 13 and 14 year-old children. Oddly, this does not rule out romance and sex -- kids sometimes do it early when they're living in traumatic conditions. But you still gotta remember they're kids, not adults.
*You need to remember that you're writing in your native language and not Japanese (unless you are Japanese, in which case never mind). That means using Japanese words and honorifics in your fic reads like Engrish -- i.e., it's fucking stupid. "Oh, but English can't translate all the nuances of Japanese..." Yeah, no shit Sherlock. That's why it's tough. Stop using crutches and learn to write.
*You gotta manage plot, pacing, prose, dialogue, and all the other crap that every other fiction writer has to deal with.
And that's just for fics that diverge from canon at some point. If you're enough of a masochist to do post-EoE fic you have some extra stuff to deal with:
- *You have to remember what Instrumentality means. It means your primary characters were inside one another's heads. It means Asuka won't be asking Shinji where he was when she was being destroyed by the MP Evas, because she knows that. She won't ask why he masturbated over her in the hospital, because she knows that. Likewise, Shinji won't ask Asuka about her mother because he knows that. He won't ask her why she's mean to him, either, for much the same reason. It's fair to say the characters probably won't be familiar with every single memory and nuance of the other, but they'll know the major events because that's what Instrumentality means. This is why Orchestrating the Silence is so fucking annoying -- the author can write, and damn well at that, but he doesn't grok what Instrumentality means. All the money shots in the latter half of the fic wrestle with questions the characters shouldn't even need to ask (and I don't care because it's fucking beautiful despite all that, but it's still fucking annoying because I keep thinking about how much better it would be if the author really understood EoE).
*You have to figure out who's coming back and why, and you have to sell it. It's a good idea to remember at this point that the Adam and Eve scenario is fucking stupid. The reason it's stupid is because Yui tells us outright that other people can come back. If you want to stagger it somehow (e.g. "Shinji and Asuka are good at manipulating AT fields since they've been trained to do exactly that, but it will take everyone else awhile to catch up") that's fine, but you have to sell it.
*You have to figure out how your subjects will survive, and you have to sell that.
*It's probably a good idea to remember that the point of EoE is that life is hard, but ultimately worth living. Pure WAFF misses the point. So does darkfic/tragedy. Scar Tissue is an example that kinda sorta dodges the bullet here, since it's darkfic that's leading somewhere, but it has other problems (like "holy fuck, you need an editor man!").
*You gotta remember that rape, dismemberment, suicide attempts, killing other human beings, being shot at by other human beings, being the godhead of species-wide apotheosis/mass extinction events, watching people you love die, betrayal, and various and sundry other unpleasantries are things that have to be fucking dealt with. You can't sweep them aside to focus on your damn WAFF. It's stupid. Once this stuff has happened to the characters you have to deal with it if you're going to use them.
*If you're using a Peggy Sue you're using a damn crutch. Either have the balls to make a legitimate AU or do the heavy lifting and tell your own goddamn story. Stop dicking around like a fucking amateur.
I'm sure I've missed some things, but you get the point.
Now, I have made not one, but TWO lists. And I've posted them on the Internet. That means some dweeb is gonna feel compelled to argue about them! Well, feel free dweeb. The lists aren't the point. They just illustrate the standards I'm going for here, along with the fact that writing fiction, good fiction, is tough.
So, for those of you who can read the above and say "okay, you're full of shit on this point, but I get your drift in general," have you come across any genuinely good NGE fanfic out there? Or am I gonna have to continue to vet it the same way I do doujinshi (i.e., "holy fuck this is a stupid story, but damn if it doesn't scratch that itch just so...")?