Pokémon fan fiction taught me to write

In middle school, I wrote nearly 50 chapters of serial Pokémon fan fiction, which I published to an Internet forum that my friend and I ran.

It wasn’t a story about a Pokémon trainer — no, this project, which reached nearly 20,000 words by its end, had the Pokémon themselves as the principle characters. It was inspired by the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spin-off series, where there are no humans and society is run entirely by the ‘mons.

The prose is… well, here’s a few paragraphs from the first chapter:

“And that’s why fire types can overpower ice types, but not water types. Remember, it’s all about physics, guys. Any questions?”
Rhyperior peered over his students. As usual, Cherrim was paying perfect attention, writing everything he said in her pink notebook. Flaafy was trying to pay attention, but couldn’t help staring at the clock in the corner of the room. Spinda was drawing pictures in his notebook; he was always a little bit of a dreamer. Gengar was listening to his MP3 player, but Rhyperior knew better than to try to punish a student like Gengar. He looked over at the back of the classroom. Pichu was asleep, with his head in his arms. A small trail of drool led from his mouth.

“Pichu!” He yelled. Pichu woke up quickly and turned his head to face his teacher. This clearly happened often. “Which type is invulnerable to electricity? You all of people should know this.” Pichu groaned and thought for a second. “Uhh, Rock types?” Rhyperior shook his head. “No, Pichu, it’s ground types. And your desk is up here, not next to the heater.” The other students in the class stifled laughs as the tired Pichu picked up his things and moved up next to Cherrim. Meaning well, Cherrim turned to Pichu to explain. “See, Ground types insulate electricity, while Rock types conduct it.” Pichu put his head on his hand. “What’s the difference between the two, anyways? They’re basically the same.” Rhyperior slammed his hand down on Pichu’s desk, rattling it and him, and putting a dent into the middle of it. “Mr. Pichu, there is an ENORMOUS difference between them! You just don’t pay attention in this class to notice. Why, in my family, we respect the differences between them! I have relatives that have been hit by paralyzed because they forgot that!”

Pichu laughed. “Really? I mean, they both get owned by Water and Grass. Seem pretty similar to me. Rock and ground, grass and poison, dark and ghost; they all have the same theme with little changes.”

Rhyperior turned red with anger and ordered Pichu out of the room for the rest of the period. Cherrim gave him a sympathetic but stern look as he got up. Gengar snickered and tried to trip him on the way out, but Pichu merely hopped over his foot, tripping Gengar himself and clearing his desk. “C’mon, man. You’ve been using the same trick on me all year; get some new material.” Pichu said to Gengar as he left. The class started to laugh at Gengar as he turned red too. They didn’t like Pichu, but they hated Gengar. Even Cherrim giggled a little. Pichu got little enjoyment out of this; he always hated the sound of his voice, and only spoke because it sounded much worse when he heard it recorded.

Rhyperior’s voice boomed out into the hallway. “Remember now, everyone, the test on recoil damage is coming up. You need to know all the attacks that utilize it, and all the abilities that manipulate it.” Pichu heard the kids inside begin to shuffle around and get their things. He was about to go back into the class, but hesitated for a moment when he heard Rhyperior’s voice.

“And if any of you even consider playing hijinks like Pichu, you’ll get the same fate as him, every single day.”

But as juvenile and simplistic as the writing was, I don’t feel any embarrassment re-reading those chapters or revisiting that time in my life. That’s because that story was part of a huge amount of writing I did at that age that gave me a chance to imagine characters, plot out stories, and try to put my ideas into words other people can understand. Like a lot of millennials, my writing skills were first honed through fan fiction.

Games offer a surprising linguistic education to the young mind. Story-driven strategy games like Warcraft 3 taught me words like “elusive” and “impudent” while I cheated my way through their single player campaigns. Role playing games showed me the compelling power of storytelling around a small cast of vivid characters romping around the galaxy / world / multiverse.

But Pokémon gave me a foundation to put those lessons to action. There were already hundreds of the little monsters by the time I started writing the fan fiction, titled “Pokémon: Team Quickflash,” so I was free to assign personalities to some of my favorites and put them in storylines blended together from the tropes of some of my other favorite games.

Of course, it was also subconsciously a way I worked through my own pre-teen feelings about isolation, social anxiety, school stress and the desire to be free from obligations.

A common refrain for any creative endeavor is that you have to make a lot of crap before you first put out something that people will enjoy. Team Quickflash may have been my crap, but it was wholesome, fun crap to write. And I still love to look back on it every once in a while.

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