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LIFE WITH THE SHORTMANS
WARNING: This post is unstable and may morph at creator's will. Major changes will be documented under the initial date. Thank you.
All right, so I've noticed in my traffic stats over the years that I get a ridiculous amount of visitors on the first chapter of this story every month… and then around twenty or so on the second chapter. As you might imagine, this has been cause for much laughter and facepalming on my end of things.
I've considered making a page like this for a long time, and finally decided to just go for it since it doesn't look like my passion for this story is going to be dying down any time soon. If you're looking at this, then you were probably lured in by either the reviews, favorites, the premise, someone else recommending it, or – and perhaps the most likely – the fanart.
So I'm going to go ahead and explain exactly what this fanfic is, in a nutshell, along with the history and all those other spiffy doodly-dads. To clear up the confusion once and for all—because there has been a great deal of it over the years, and having to issue the same explanation over and over has gotten me so cross-eyed I fear for my 20/20.
If you really don't care for a history lesson and would like to just skim, I've bolded the parts I feel are the most relevant.
So let's start at the beginning, shall we?
The main characters – the children of Arnold and Helga in this story – were created when I was fourteen and still relatively fresh in the fandom. Josh (Ham), Phil and Amanda Faith were all spontaneous characters I created for a fanfic titled Family Movie Night, which was a birthday gift for an old friend. Zack was actually a character I'd had since I was kid—but eh, that's too long a story and I really want to try to keep this as concise as possible.
They were meant to be one-time OCs and I had no plans to work with them again after the fact—as you can see, that didn't quite work out. I ended up having more stories in me, so I wrote them sporadically. They presented themselves as Midnight Conversations, Too Good, An Old Doll, and a drabble or two, along with several other unposted stories that got lost in my old computer. Since so many stories and ideas were spawning, I just kinda went "mehhhgnkanfa" and decided to lump them all together in one place so they'd be easier to follow. That place was here.
The first chapter, The Great Jelly Disaster, was written pretty early on in 2011, when I was 15, and then for a year after that the fic was more or less abandoned. And when I did pick it up again, it was because I was going through some personal drama junk and I was sick of the fandom scene in general, but I still wanted to write because A) HEY ARNOLD! is very near and dear to me, and B) I really, really, really needed the practice.
Basically, I wanted to be left alone… but I wanted to write and have somewhere to put that writing.
And where better a place to accomplish all this than an OC fic? I knew no one was going to care. The Great Jelly Disaster originally only had like five reviews.
But then it got popular. Real popular.
Now, you may be wondering why that is, and I'm here to tell you now that I don't have a mother. flipping. clue. I have been trying to figure out what the heck I did so right for years now so that I can learn to hone it and take over the world, but so far all I've done is cry. A lot. I mean, I of course wasn't opposed to this fic getting attention – otherwise I wouldn't have posted at all – but I wasn't expecting much more than the occasional "Haha, funny! Update soon!" comment. So needless to say my jaw's been permanently bolted to the ground. HA, but more on that later!
As for what this story has evolved into, well...
For a long time I stuck with my plan of just writing one-shot, comedy-skittish chapters here and there that were loosely connected, but then I got frustrated with how underdeveloped my characters were, so I started Shortman Secrets, which was a series of parters that gave the characters backstory and depth. Almost Perfect was the first of these, and was separated into two parts and didn't take me but a month to write up. Then Looking Up happened… which ended up being six parts… and then Breathing Slowly… which has so far spanned eight parts and is still going… with each part being around 10,000 to 30,000 words… See, Shortman Secrets was only meant to last a few months, but something inside of me snapped. Snapped like stale tortilla chips. With bombs in them.
This is how Frankenstein's monster was created, people.
So, plot has happened. Many plots have happened. Many plans have been made. Many more characters have been created. Much screaming has ensued, and a great deal of fangirling and maniacal laughter. Oh, yes. I've been having a blast.
Over the last three years, Life with the Shortmans has become a beloved pet project. I'm writing this story to practice character development, plot, pace, and story structure, among other things. This story has taught me the power of total rewrites, epic revisions, outlines, planning, and colossal heartburn. Things I didn't understand before.
Really, this story is infuriating to me because it's like one big rough draft. Even with all the work I've put into later chapters, it's still a very awkward story and I'm not going to pretend it isn't. Sometimes I read stuff back and want to slam my head into a cinderblock. But there's really not much I can do to fix that now. I mean, I could always go back and revise it into oblivion, but I'm afraid that would take a lot of work and a lot of time—time that I simply don't have. So that probably won't be happening, or at least not any time soon.
But cinderblock or no, I'm proud of this story, if only because I've put my heart and soul into it. My poorly written, painstakingly outlined heart and soul.
The reactions, though!
Yes, well. Like I said, people have taken an abnormal liking to this story. Since I've picked it up again, I've gotten several fanfics, countless pictures, fan messages, a play, figurines, and a comic. It also happens to be one of my most reviewed stories on here and gets an incredible amount of traffic. The reception has been absolutely insane, and honestly, I haven't really known what to do with it. I've never been very good with handling attention, despite how my SuprSingr persona may make me seem at times. I apologize that I've been something of a baby and have run away to hide under my bed rather than facing some of that reception at times. I'm working on sucking less, but it's been just as much a journey as writing for Life with the Shortmans. As of right now, I'd like to issue a formal and sincere Thank you to anyone who's given my silly story a chance, because most people wouldn't, and haven't. You guys are really incredible and I will never be over any of you. You have no idea.
Because, to be perfectly frank? Before, if someone had told me I'd have an actual fanbase going for this thing, I'd have probably smacked them. I was in a dark place, dealing with some pretty severe depression, and you guys gave me hope. I don't want to get too mushy here and make anyone uncomfortable, but really, just—thank you.
I guess the main point I'm trying to make with all this is that Life with the Shortmans is not good. It is a messy, ridiculous, confusing, and occasionally OOC story—and not just with the canonical HA! characters, but with my own characters as well. But that's the entire reason I'm writing for it. I'm working to become good so I can create content that is consistently unique, well-crafted and solid. So far I know I'm doing at least something right, so it's a good start. And I'm having a lot of fun in the process.
So for whatever reason you decided to click on this, I hope you're able to get a smile out of it. :D
Like, a small one? Just a little twitch? No? ok
Happy reading, and remember to always respect the brow!
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