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For some of us the problem is never shortage of ideas, but shortage of time. Most of us, even. I have a feeling large numbers of us are lunchers. However if you ever do find yourself stuck with a story you want to do, and a mechanical quandary you don’t know how to answer, this might just be the kick you need.

I thought this might be an apt topic considering the recent news of Harry Potter authoress J.K. Rowling, who’s suit against a fanfic writer attempting to publish an alphabetized list of her imaginary characters has many wondering why a study of the mythos surrounding a series that itself heavily borrows from myth would be considered infringement, or problematic to the author.

Ah, the meed-ja, as the British say. While I’ve sniffled in the past at the inability to quote full (short) works I’ve wanted to analyze and comment on, I must say that I’ve also found myself fully capable to express what I wanted to say without the crutch of the source materials.

Here’s the rub, and this goes for fan fic of all shapes and sizes: The BEST fiction, be it allusory to other work (most works typically are) or completely unusual (often in the way an in image system with a completely new metaphorical association has been crafted) all typically bring some sort of author-specific insight to the table.

In reading the Harry Potter “Secrets” paperbacks in the line at any chain bookstore, you will find, even after the incredibly insightful high points, that most of the content is a bit on the fluff. You might say this is because the author deftly uses the hot trend of the current pop subject matter to blend the reader into a more serious academic pursuit of deconstruction, but were that true, there would be no grounds upon which to have your trousers sued forth from your bottom.

One thing I protect dearly is the age old tradition of parody. I don’t mean meanness, for which it is sadly so often mistaken, but true parody in the sense of making light of the truly disastrous in an attempt to disarm our panic and lift our dread just enough to slip in a fresh, breezy injection of perspective that brings us all just a little further off the dirt floor of modern plasticine, and out just a little closer to the garden.

If you’ve ever read Rowling’s other self-written lexicons, they’re short little pamphlets anyone who comes in contact with children should at least be familiar with. But they’re also cute, and funny, with a hint of other information about her dizzying, operatic array of characters.

There have been rumors for ages about how she’s left her children alone and unattended while she went off to write, that she’s such a horrible writer from book one that it was made a children’s story, that she’s got a carrot for a nose and two lumps of cole for eye sockets and melts in the Summer until little children go and build her up again in the Winter time. Apparently the kids aren’t dead, none of the older ones look particularly starved or traumatized, except of course by the act of paparazzi stalking after them, and somehow the machine that is Harry Potter, whether you like it or absolutely despise it, has changed the whole map of modern English literature pretty much on the level that Charles Dickens did in his day.

It’s true, the first, from what I can tell in a flip-through, is simple simon. But that’s not the point, say her target fan base. Some of her later work, be it due to more relaxation on her editor’s part, or a more developed style gained through necessity, is quite moving, strangely at odds in some ways with the earlier books, but undeniably decent writing and well on par at the adult level. It’s not surprising young adult fans who have grown accustomed to her increasingly mature content to match their own developmental needs would then form a sort of cultural icon in her name.

In the face of that knowledge, a librarian who wants to make a book sorting a website’s worth of user-contributed fan-fic comments is possibly missing the point about what “Harry Potter” actually is — at least as much as an author who cares that a lexicon being published might actually even ding her titanium-plated hull.

But of course, she does make a good point. There’s only one author who can do the best job of writing a lexicon of all her imaginative inventions. It’s more a sign of the desperation and obsessive nature of fan writers that someone astute and determined enough to research and compile an entire lexicon of source research would, after all this time, never have it occur to them to use the million and one inspirational source works cited from ancient mythology to go off and write their own version entirely.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I do it all the time, and I’ve helped other authors let go of the bottle in joint ventures to separate their genuinely good, original source work from the sloppy rough patches where they’ve glommed on to pop lit cliché instead of really finishing what they’ve started.

I know from the gate that I will likely be despised for ratting the old chains of “originality” and “artistic integrity” at first, but I also secretly know when they’re finally plotting their own original stories, because they’ve stopped waving them about to show everybody before they’re finished.

Real work is terrifyingly personal. It should be. And we should all be allowed to write that way because that’s the difference between slaving over a content carping website versus a billion dollar franchise, one imaginary character at a time.

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