By Lisa Olson (Boots)
I remember the first fan fiction I wrote. I was about 12, maybe 13. I was lonely and away from home, and had made new friends I wanted to impress. I wrote them into a Nancy Drew-like mystery that was just awful, but they loved it. I was in!
I’ve written a lot of stories based on stories, movies, television and novels that others created. Some were for friends who couldn’t let go of the romance of a character or actor, and some were for me. I can remember entangling Luke Skywalker in romance, or using pretty words to recapture the feeling I had when I first saw two of my soap opera characters kiss.
But it’s stealing!
True enough, it is stealing. But, as Mason Cooley said, “Art begins in imitation and ends in innovation.” The ideas going on paper, the situations, thoughts, style and form are all original to each individual author. It’s the same character, but they’re doing something new and different.
We just can’t let the characters or situation go. We honor and obey the rules of the universe as set down by the original author or screenwriter, we pay homage to the actor who brought it to life or to the writer who sold us the characters so fully. We pay them the biggest compliment we could. We write about it ourselves.
So, why do you do it?
Like most fan fiction writers, I don’t write fan fiction for anyone but myself. I know going in I’m not going to make money from it, that it won’t make me famous, and that it probably won’t leave my little circle of friends. When I write fan fiction, I write for fun, for love, and for the sheer joy of creating. In the process, I’m honing my skills, learning a little something about character and continuity, and bringing my creativity back from the dead.
Fan fiction gives my creativity an energy boost. Like all writers, I sometimes run into a block about plot or about a character’s motivation, or I just can’t seem to write that day. On those days, I can drop my lagging spirits into a world I know intimately and play around. I might take a random comment or idea and follow that path to its end. I might write about a favorite lead character, create a new and interesting character, or bring a background character up into a lead position. No matter what I choose to do, I’m writing again. I’ve defeated that ‘writers block’ monster.
But fan fiction isn’t “REAL” writing!
I couldn’t disagree more. Fan fiction has all of the attributes of “real” writing, even if the framework was done by someone else. I still have to think of characters and situations, formulate plot lines and possibly chapters, consider setting and timelines and historical facts, and keep my work as error free as possible so it’s easy to read. It’s real writing work.
There are also hundreds of novels published every year based on the characters, work, and situations of others. A whole new “Star Wars” universe sprouted from the ground as soon as George Lucas said he was taking a four-year vacation from making those movies. “Nancy Drew” novels have always been written by a variety of authors, and readers who became writers, working under the same pen name, Carolyn Keene. “Star Trek” universes dominate three or four shelves in the library and bookstores. If fan fiction weren’t real writing, it wouldn’t be getting on the shelves.
This is all interesting, but why are you telling me?
One of the things we do at Toasted Cheese is inspire others to write. Three things I hear a lot are: I have writer’s block, writing isn’t fun anymore, and my writing skills are really (behind, out of date, lacking, gone, non-existent). Fan fiction might be able to help you with all those things.
For example, I belong to a “Xena: Warrior Princess” fan group called the “Themiscrya Amazons”. This is a very small band of women who were impressed by the ideals, ideas, language, adventure and fun of one part of the “Xenaverse” and expanded on it. One of the activities we do is write in a role-playing forum.
In this forum, each of the members has a character based on the Amazons from the television show. We write a history, find a niche that needs filled, give ourselves interesting lives, and then write about them. Each one is unique and different, and each writer brings something new and fresh to the story line in the forum. We build and weave around and through each other’s style and ideas, creating complex plots and stories that never seem to end up where I had figured they would go.
To make the forum work, we are allowed to ‘move’ the other characters. I’ve learned how hard it can be to be true to the nature and personality of a character while attempting to push your character where you want it to go. And how frustrating it can be when someone has yours do something against his or her nature. But it’s teaching me how very different characters are motivated.
I’m learning about my own style and voice as well. It’s important to be unique in an online world and hard to have a character not sound like your online self.
I’m also teaching others by doing. I think the members of the forum are learning a lot about mystery and revelation, sensory details and description, dialog and grammar. Like my writing, I’m showing, not telling, and I think it’s making a difference. Our forum is a lot of fun to read and participate in, and it’s one of hundreds on the Internet.
You’ve sold me, now what?
The Internet is full of fan fiction sites. You can write about everything from “Frasier” to “X-Files” to “Young Hercules” and back again. Heck, if you can’t find one you like, start your own. You’ll probably get six other writers not only commenting, but also posting work of their own.
The easiest way to find fan fiction is to type the title or name of your topic of choice into a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, Hot Bot, etc. To narrow your search, try “fan fiction, <name here>”. The rest is up to you.
You should look at the terms of service and disclaimers for all fan-related internet sites. Be sure your work remains your own, of course. Be certain that credit is given to the original authors or creators of the work. Double-check that the site won’t sell or steal your idea or writing. It’s always best to comb the rules and then to lurk for at least a week or two. Make sure the overall tone is one you are comfortable with.
Why not try it? You can start with the exercise that goes along with this article, or you can visit one of the Internet sites listed below. Give yourself permission to “steal” and see where it can lead you.
Personally recommended fan fiction sites:
- Themiscryan Amazon Nation: Must be female and join the tribe to participate. Should have a working knowledge of Xena: Warrior Princess Amazons.
- Eunice’s Frasier Fan Fiction Archive: A personal collection that accepts new stories also includes links to other Frasier fan fiction websites.
- Fan Fiction Net: This site encompasses a variety of fan fictions, including poetry, books, television and movies. Asks for registration, which is free. Offers readers the opportunity to respond to the author and review the work.
Sites from searches: