In Praise of Fluff

Distinguished readers, I have a confession to make: I write fanfiction.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. If you're active within fanfiction communities, you might think "oh, cool". If you're not, you might think that I lack social skills, have poor hygiene and spend my time pairing up fictional characters with my impossibly perfect original characters.

I'm not going to get into shipping wars, because I think they're the one of the nastiest parts of any fandom. Nor am I going to try to prove to everyone that I'm a normal person, because while I do hold to socially acceptable standards of hygiene and conversational ability, I've made my fair share of terrible, overpowered characters. I might write about how this isn't necessarily a bad thing at some point, but this is not the post for that.

Rather, I want to talk about fluff - light, happy fanfiction with characters acting adorably together. I think that in some fandoms, fluff is overlooked as not having as much literary merit as a more serious, angsty work. I think that this is utterly nonsensical and misguided.

I'm not going to argue that angsty works don't have their place. Angst done well is honest and gives author and reader alike a safe space to explore their emotions and learn to empathise with others. But you can't derail characterisation for the sake of cheap drama and if you use illness, disability or trauma as a cheap way of making your fanfiction seem deeper than it is, you will be rightly criticised. Angst and trauma are not toys.

Equally, you can have too much of a good thing. You can have reams and reams of well-written angst and it will become exhausting to read. Suffering is exhausting.

Fluff exists to balance out the angst. Sure, we like to have a place to explore our dark and painful emotions and to empathise with others, but literature is a way to escape as well, to distract oneself from the stress and pain of everyday life. If you're deeply invested in characters, you want them to be happy. You want light, cute fluff. And if you want funny fluff, be prepared to work: writing consistently funny comedy is arguably harder than writing angst. Even writing unintentionally funny work is a talent all of its own.

So here's my argument: angst and fluff balance each other out. We need angst as a safe place to feel and work through emotions, but we need fluff as a way to escape and give our poor beloved characters a break. Both are necessary.