Concepts, Fanfiction, and Tyrannical Bumblebees

The concept I am going to introduce today is as important for blogging and essay writing as it is for fiction writing.  If originality is your goal, it can do that.  If being interesting is your goal, it does that too.  If you’re simply looking for a cool phrase that’ll make you sound all writerly and important, it can provide that too.

What separated Cassandra Clare from the Harry Potter fanfiction life?  What brought her from virtual anonymity to the fame she enjoys today?  Was it just good writing?  I doubt it.  Good use of the HP characters?  No, because all the books she’s published are separate.

Before we answer that, I must ask you another question.  Why are you reading this post?

It’s the bumblebees, isn’t it?  Put bumblebees in the title and you’ll get everyone reading.  You don’t want to read about the concepts or outlining– I’ve posted about them before.  Why read about what you already know?  Tyrannical bumblebees, however…

So all this brings me to my point.  Why are you reading this post, and why did anyone else read Clare’s stuff?  Why is anything original when we all know it uses the same techniques and occasionally the same story?

It all comes down to one little thing, that element that makes your story original and interesting, and the thing itself sounds cool on its own.  It’s a little bundle of fun in three words– so strong it can remove fanfiction from its original, blog-scanners from their scroll bar, and animal fat from frying pans.  Well.  Not necessarily the last one.  But it’s still pretty cool.

This thing, my friends, this little packet of power, is called the gee-whiz factor.

Cool, isn’t it?  Gee whiz, the gee-whiz factor!  But what is it?  It’s whatever makes you say “Gee whiz”, or whatever you like to say when you’re pleasantly surprised.  “Wow”, “Cool”, or “Groovy” could be substituted too, but I don’t think many people from this generation would like the sound of the Groovy Factor.

The gee-whiz factor must be present in everything.  Even if you’re James Patterson and you reuse the same plots over and over again with a stereotypical main character, you have to have a gee-whiz factor.  Something has to set the book apart from the last one, where the same main character battled the same sort of crime in the same city.

And what is a series but fanfiction written by the author?  Thus, the same goes for Cassandra Clare.  The characters weren’t really important– she could make new characters in her stories and it could still be fanfiction.  What she needed was to mess with the fundamental concept of the HP world, wizards at boarding school.  Her gee-whiz factor turned out to be demon hunters in New York City.  It wouldn’t matter if it had contained a kid with glasses and a lightning-shaped scar on his head, it still would have been different enough to sell.

Take this post.  I’ve posted about writing for a while on this blog, and no one seems to go for the more technical posts.  But when I add a llama into the title, or a tyrannical bumblebee, suddenly they’re stumbling over themselves to read it, just because it’s different.  Now, don’t look at this as manipulation on my part– I don’t want anyone to storm off in a huff because they didn’t get to read about bumblebees.  But really, this should be a consideration in writing blog posts.  What’s your spin on this topic?  What separates it from everything else?  What makes it yours?

Sure, you could write about plotting, but anyone who reads past the title will probably already be interested in plotting.  They will probably know just as much as you do, maybe even more.  What do you have to offer them, therefore, that isn’t already theirs?  What will make them say, “Wow, I didn’t know that before”?

Let’s say there’s a kid at a science fair presenting a posterboard about bumblebees.  Printed in 72-point neon green Comic Sans, his display postulates that bumblebees are cute and fuzzy but they have sharp rear ends so you shouldn’t pet them.  What a cute project.

Now turn around and look across the aisle, where there stands a kid who didn’t put much more into his display.  He did bumblebees too.  72-point neon green Comic Sans is scattered across the board, making the eyes of those reading water like a leaky faucet.  His project, however, instead of simply “Bees”, roars in bold text, “THE TYRANNICAL BUMBLEBEE”, and explains how horrible the queen bee is to her citizens.

Now, to which display will the casual viewer dedicate her last vestiges of focused eyesight?  Which display will she pore over, trying to find meaning in that senseless jumble of neon squiggles?  And, wonder the two boys, to which will she award the coveted first prize ribbon?

The kid with the volcano exhibit, of course.  The volcano always wins the science fair.

Nevertheless, the judge probably read the Tyrannical Bumblebee, as opposed to just the Bee.  It isn’t a question of title, however, but of content– of the gee-whiz factor.  Often the gee-whiz factor is so cool you can’t help but put it in your title, which is how titles get interesting.

Think of the gee-whiz factor as the qualification for you to write about this topic.  You need a reason, more than just thinking that it’s cool.  Bees might be cool, but it’s the tyrannical bumblebee that wins the day.

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62 thoughts on “Concepts, Fanfiction, and Tyrannical Bumblebees

  1. *applause*

    This was good. Thought-provoking, even.

    … I agree with you and I wish I could think of some gee-whiz factor for this comment. This is a boring and useless comment that somewhat resembles spam.

      1. Yep. I’m afraid of a good many bugs. I have never been stung by a bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket… anything along those lines. As far as I know, I could be allergic to bee stings.

      2. I should hope not. That’d be terrible. Just minding my own business one day, strolling through a flower garden then “OUCH!” and I fall over dead. What a fate that would bee.

      3. Well, if I were, I wouldn’t use them so often. Cause then I’d get stung, right on the lip, and then we couldn’t talk to each other, because my lips would be so swollen and then I’d start speaking Polish and I only know like words in Polish except now, because Larry the Cucumber taught me the word for lips: USTA!

      4. Charlie? Charlie Brown, Charlie Bucket, short for Charlotte from a certain collaborated story… to what are you referring, sir?

      5. Well, I understood once you told me what you were talking about. As I said, I’ve only heard it once in my life (good thing I remembered it).
        It is a good joke, though.

      6. You’re quite welcome. It really does help, though, when one understands the punch line, though that goes for most jokes.

  2. I think it would be quite entertaining to read about the queen bee and how she uses her subjects like slaves. I think it’s been done before, though, swapping the bees for human characters instead.

  3. Good post. It got me thinking, which is always good. Thus far the stories I’ve written are vastly lacking in the gee-whiz factor. Though my latest idea has some.

    I think I like Groovy Factor better, actually. Or perhaps Fascination Factor. Yay for alliteration!

    Now, I would say that there are books out there that do sell without a gee-whiz factor. Specifically, I’m thinking about contemporary romances, but, having not read many of those, I may be completely wrong. I have watched A LOT of murder mysteries, though, and, other than murder, most of them don’t have much of a gee-whiz factor. Sure, some of them are anti-social geniuses, or gardeners, but the police ones are often the same (Specifically, I’m comparing Midsummer Murders and Inspector Lewis). This raises a question in my mind: Do some genres have built-in gee-whiz factors? Something like romance or murder that attracts readers/viewers?

    1. Yes, there are books like that. TV show episodes too. But the memorable episodes always have a gee-whiz factor, even if it’s something cliche like nine nuclear bombs hidden around major cities.

      1. Cliched gee-whiz factor. I hadn’t thought of that. For some reason my head defined geez-whiz factor as being a non-cliche. But you’re right, that’s what it is.

        I’m using an iPad and Autocorrect wants to change “That” to “Haha.” ‘Tis vexing in the extreme.

      2. Behold, Liam, I am the iPad trickster. Tremble at my glory. The fact that you disprove of Space Cats 2 only illustrates the fact that it is a marvelous story because you used sarcasm. This clearly demonstrates that it was worth the time for you to think of something that belittles the story. There for you can ether rejoice in the glory of Space Cats or sit in it’s shadow as it blossoms in to a wondrous serial.

      3. The fact that you use “the fact that” so often only illustrates the fact that you don’t really know what those facts are. In fact, the fact that your fancifully flabbergasting fictions don’t face the facts forces me to finish this freaky fuss fruitfully.

        What do you hope to get out of more Space Cats? Are you looking for more humor, more story? The first installment was all humor, no plot– a parody, not a humorous drama. If you’re looking for more of the same, we’d have to find completely new jokes, which would be near impossible since we told them all in the first installment. If you’re looking for a story this time, your wishes preclude the actual possibility of a good sequel, because the sequel wouldn’t feel the same as the first installment. I’ll be blunt– we don’t have the humor, and we can’t do the story. However, if you would like to “rejoice in the glory of Space Cats”, you may reread it at your pleasure. It’s not about to disappear into thin air, though if we continue, its glory certainly will.

  4. Fascinating post! I don’t read much fan-fiction, actually. It’s like a sign advertising stuff–posts need to catch people’s attention. And art, I guess. Who wants to look at a simple painting of a vase when they could look at a sketch of a three thousand pound bear getting his teeth brushed by an elf child? XD

    I do have to say that yes, you can pet some bees. 🙂 You can pick up and play with a drone (male honey bee) with no problem, because they don’t have stingers. The reason I was so attracted by this post was because a few years back a bumble bee got stuck in my shirt and I thought I’d never get it out.

      1. It is!

        I actually didn’t know bees were cuddly until my friend (Who’s family keeps bees) told me about his first day in beekeeping class. They set loose a bunch of drone bees in the classroom and let them roam around for the entire class for the students to watch and hold. 😀

      2. Almost ate a bee? My, what exotic taste you have.

        I was doing pretty well on the not making them mad front until the lawnmower incident. We owned the bees for over a year before I got stung by one for the first time, and that was because one of them was silly enough to fly up my sleeve during a hive inspection.

    1. I just finished a Pratchett book. If you look closely, that widget tells you what I just read, not what I am reading.

      However, yes, I did read Going Postal, and I finished it this time. I actually liked it quite a bit, but not for the plot. I’ve been judging Pratchett by his plots this whole time, and that doesn’t work, so I switched to judging him by humor instead. That worked quite well for actually liking his books. He still can’t plot, but I liked the jokes.

      1. Yes. I know. But when I read Pratchett before, I was analyzing them on their plot, not on their jokes. Now that I’ve switched it around, I’ve had much more fun because why worry about what’s too far gone to change?

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