Ben Wisehart grew up in the idyllic town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. An early encounter with the supernatural shaped his worldview and served as the catalyst for his career as a bestselling horror writer.
Ben left Point Pleasant at the age of twenty. Thirteen years after abandoning his home, he returns to the town to investigate the apparent reemergence of the terrifying creature responsible for his childhood nightmares.
In Point Pleasant, Ben is confronted not only by the town’s resident monster, the Mothman, but also by Nicholas Nolan, Ben’s former best friend. Together, with Bill Tucker—the old recluse who lives on the edge of town—Ben and Nicholas uncover the mystery of the monster in the woods and discover that the ghosts that haunt us are sometimes made of flesh and blood. And sometimes, they lead us home.
Join me after the jump where I talk about the gothically creepy Point Pleasant by Jen Archer Wood, and find out why I'm talking about fanfiction in the same breath.
My fanfic tastes are currently exclusive to the television show Supernatural. A sub-set of Supernatural fanfic focuses on the romantic relationship between Cas and Dean. I have to be honest, even though I am fully invested in where Cas and Dean's relationship is going on the show, I don't usually read Dean/Cas (Destiel) fanfic. In the fanfic I've read, I often find that Cas is written as over the top naïve and I just don't think that's true to his character. However, not long after I wrote my Saucy post about fanfic writers turned professional writers, I caught wind of an Alternate Universe Destiel fanfic that people said I MUST read and to act fast because the author was pulling it offline soon.
The fic was Point Pleasant, written by Jen Archer Wood, and classified as Alternate Universe because it wasn't set in the Supernatural world. The fic was long, novel-length. And I read it in two days. Point Pleasant is one of those fics you stay up into the night reading, even though you have to get up early the next morning. I remember thinking, as I was reading, This is publishable. As is. The characters were fully developed, the storyline complex and airtight. Most fanfic, by definition, takes the shortcut of using characterization and world-building that has already been created. Not so with Point Pleasant. Even though their names and some background information was similar, these were quite definitely the author's own creations. This is one of those fics where you wonder why the author is spending his or her time writing fanfic instead of getting published and getting paid.
I stumbled across the author's blog and discovered (drumroll please) the fic was pulled
Why, you ask, would I want a copy of the book when I already had the fanfic? After the research I did for my fanfic post, I was curious about the process of going from fic to published work, and here I was watching everything in process. I was curious about which details would be changed. I wanted to know if, after the alterations, I would love the story just as much. If I wasn't reading about Dean and Cas and John and Bobby and the others, would I still think the characters were as well-developed? Would I still get just as submerged in the story?
I DID. I was immediately drawn into the mythology and the horror story of the book. The Mothman has been terrorizing the town of Point Pleasant for decades. The town leaders know it, but keep it under wraps in a seemingly mis-guided effort to protect the town. The story has a very gothic feel; add in Ben and Nic's encounter as children with the Mothman along with the small town atmosphere and it's a little reminiscent of early Stephen King; Point Pleasant and Derry, Maine, could be at two ends of a worm hole.
"Ben!!" Nicholas repeated, but Ben could not see his best friend; he could only see the thing as it lumbered toward him, slow and stalking, with its wings drawn tight behind its back.If you are familiar with the Mothman legend, you'll recognize those details in Point Pleasant. Archer does a good job of blending the historical urban legend with her own contemporary fictional events. And my heart ached for Ben just as much in the published work as in the fanfic. As a very young adult, Ben leaves behind his trauma and heartbreak in Point Pleasant, but decides to return several years later under the guise of literary inspiration. However, we all know he's going back to fight his own ghosts. He hasn't come for the home-baked cherry pie, that's for sure.
It jumped, and one of its wings unfurled to bat something away from its head. Rocks, Ben realized. Nicholas had leapt from his bike and was throwing rocks at the Mothman's head.
Ben scrambled to his feet and dragged his bike along with him as he rushed past the creature, who was still occupied with defending itself against Nicholas' well-aimed assault. Ben jumped on his bike just as Nicholas threw one final rock and then climbed on his Schwinn.
"Go!" Nicholas bellowed, and Ben needed no further encouragement.
Archer doesn't provide us with angst just for the sake of angst. The conflict serves to move the story. This next part is mildly spoilery, so if you're a spoiler-prude as I am, you might want to skip to the next paragraph. Point Pleasant is not a book where Ben and Nicholas pine after each other and missed opportunities, and finally get together and have their HEA in the last 10 pages. Ben and Nic actively work together to solve the Mothman mystery, and in doing so they navigate their relationship together as adults. Their relationship is complicated, exasperating, but right, and the reader gets to go along for the ride as they each decide if it's all worth the trouble.
Nicholas resumed chopping, but his posture had gone rigid. Ben was not sure if the sheriff was waiting for more information or if he was trying to figure out a nice way to say 'please shut the fuck up about this' to someone he wanted to sleep with at some point in the near future.
Either way, Ben carried on.
The other reason I was curious to see the published book copy is I wondered if the dynamic between Ben and Nic would change at all. Much of the fanfic I read is, um, saucy enough to give most published erotica a run for its money. And Point Pleasant has some of the hottest sex I've read yet. Archer has said that some of the sex scenes were altered through the editing process (I believe the editing process was rather thorough, not just a skimmed “once over;” rather Archer used the opportunity to turn a great fanfic into an even better quality product during the publication process). I haven't compared the two versions word for word, and although that might not be a bad use of time, I can say the sex scenes in the published book copy carry just as much bite as the fanfic version. What makes the sex work in Point Pleasant is the scenes aren't gratuitous. Rather, the sex is a means of communication between Ben and Nic, of showing the reader where they stand at that moment in the story. I'm a big fan of show, don't tell.
At it's heart, Point Pleasant is the story of a bond between two men, one that started when they were children and continued through adulthood even though it got fractured along the way. Point Pleasant is primarily Ben's story, who learns to look at people below the surface, beyond what they want him to see, in order to find the connections and love that is truly there. And... it's a damn fine, creeptastic horror story. So creepy it's probably part of the reason I stayed up so late into the night reading it.
One other difference between the fanfic and the published book: the book is illustrated throughout, beautifully, by Svetlana Fictionalfriend. This Wench gives Point Pleasant 5 Lips!
Let us know if you've read Point Pleasant in either of it's incarnations, and what you thought of it.
**all images courtesy tumblr.com