The Difference Between CNF and Fiction

I fell into writing via fanfiction. Not the “M rated romance” sort, I should note. It was the kind of stuff you’d expect from a dyslexic nine year old—spelling mistakes, one-dimensional characters, weirdly decent dialogue, the “what-even-is-a-comma?” sort of feel. For those of you who don’t open incognito windows and sign into your Fanfiction.net account more often than you should when your roommate’s not home, allow me to paint a picture: It’s more or less a breeding ground for teenage angst. Sort of like Tumblr, but in word-form. It’s people, mostly teenagers, trying to get their raw and untampered emotion out before being able to fully analyze it, which, I think is a stage most of us have been in.
Speaking is hard. Digging into your emotions is hard. Sharing them with others is hard. I remember a friend once asking me what was upsetting me (which, seeing as I was a moody little teenager in high school, was pretty much everything), and I physically couldn’t answer; I felt as though there was a sort of heaviness in my throat that would block whatever words I tried to come up with.
For a while I tried writing what was upsetting me in the form of fiction (be it fanfiction or otherwise). It sort of helped, but not entirely. Although the emotions were going on the page, I couldn’t claim ownership of them. It wasn’t me who was upset—it was some 30-something year old dude from, like, Chicago who wants to talk to his sister, but can’t for such-and-such reason. In this sense, CNF made things easier. The writer in me wanted pieces to be good, or at least salvageable. This couldn’t be done without (A) Actually looking at what was upsetting me, and (B) Owning both the emotions and the experiences. Both these are about as much fun as they sound, especially when the things you don’t want to look at have been bottled up for the better portion of your life. To take this a step further, the emotions and thoughts and importance of situations have to be stated almost explicitly—more so than in fiction, which is something I learned only recently. That again is hard; not because I care about what others know of me, necessarily, but that I have to spell certain things out to myself—and god knows there are things I’d rather not acknowledge, as is something that I think can be said about most people.

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