The Fan Fiction Experiment

Who writes fan fiction?

How many times has the Cinderella story been revisited? What about Snow White or Beauty and the Beast? Do you know how many books and movies claim to be adaptations of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?

English: Cinderella drawing of Ludwig Richter ...
English: Cinderella drawing of Ludwig Richter (1803-1884) Deutsch: Aschenputtel Zeichnung von Ludwig Richter (1803-1884) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s no big secret that writers from all walks like to write fanfiction. Fanfiction gets published all the time. Online, readers gobble up stories about their favorite movies, TV shows, popular books, classics and fairy tales with insatiable appetites. People want more of the stories they love.

Sites like Fanfiction.net thrive off offering readers and writers their fill. I compare these sites to yard sales. Some bookworms won’t want to make the effort because of the junk, but they miss out on the treasures.

And, yeah, fan writing can be poor—it can—but permitting writers to post really bad writing gives them a way to create and experiment with uninhibited zest. These writers are still in the original packaging. They haven’t been chiseled by formulaic plot and prose yet, and the spontaneity bubbles up in every line. It’s exciting to find those shiny new writers with that intuitive sense of how to get their concepts across in fascinating ways. The thrill of happening on that blossoming wordcrafter keeps me scouring stories for the clues that hide between the descriptions and chuckle at me from the narrative. The stories I’ve found on Fanfiction.net have inspired me to write from the heart, to think about my characters differently, to challenge traditional methods of speaking to my readers. There’s joy in reading fanfiction.

Then there’s writing fanfiction. My first fanfic took a great deal of courage for me. It wasn’t easy, deciding to let strangers read and reflect on my first try. It had tons of mistakes, and it still garnered such a great response I knew I wanted to write more fiction for public consumption. So I started writing in other fandoms. I tried the classics and popular books, TV shows, and movies. I dabbled in anime/manga and video game-based fanfiction. I deleted many bad tries, but they developed my writing skills. My approach to the fanfiction world became a writing experiment. My stories became my case studies, and the reviews and hits became my data…and the writers and reviewers became my friends.

English: Rainbow
English: Rainbow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I’ve learned is: All Fiction is Fan Fiction. An author’s style is really the sum of what he/she has read and experienced. Every story is, in essence, adding to something already in existence to create something new. A writer who takes this view understands that utilizing the wheel in different ways can be far more effective to wheel-users than attempting to reinvent it. Fanfiction doesn’t limit creativity, it directs creativity. It conjures a rainbow of endless possibilities.

I plan to tell you more about what I’ve learned from writing fanfiction starting next Monday and continuing through the Mondays and Fridays of March. I hope it will inspire you to think creatively about methods to use to improve your craft.

(Disclaimer: Smut-writing and advertisements are obnoxious in fanfiction, like anywhere else, but most of the offensive stuff can be avoided through customized filtering and ad-blocking software.)

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Author: Rilla Z

I'm a scribbler. I'm genuine. Sometimes I'm too genuine. My topics of interest are: this world, the worlds inside my head, and the world to come. Oh, and cups of tea. Yes, I write about my cups of tea.

4 thoughts on “The Fan Fiction Experiment”

  1. “An author’s style is really the sum of what he/she has read and experienced.” I have to comment that I absolutely agree. 🙂 This is also why I think a writer should be, first and foremost, a reader. More books, more authors, more styles offer versatility to the new writer. And, of course, the experiences shape him (or her! – Happy International Womens’ Day!).

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    1. Exactly. There are some books I’ve strongly disliked that I’ve learned a ton from. They’ve helped me think more critically about what the written word can do. And thanks!

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  2. Yes! I used to grimace at the concept of fan fiction when I was young, because I had such a pitifully narrow view that I relegated it to teenagers taking a story they read and making the characters do things that were distinctly not in their character, or terribly in line with the plot (obviously everything I stumbled upon of that nature fit that description, or was subtle enough that I never realized I was reading fanfiction, even if I thought it was great). I would sniff judgmentally and say they should be more original.

    Of course, I could see the way I emulated writers I liked (and stole their concepts to one degree or another) and whipped myself for it, always trying to distance the ideas and warp them farther. I had an idea that using a writer’s characters or ideas that way, especially if done poorly, was an insult to the author. Now I think it’s just good practice, both from the point of understanding and analyzing why that book was inspiring enough to encourage that person to write and putting it down on paper in their own way, and possibly a jumping point into creative new twists. I was doing the same thing I condemned people of, I just wasn’t introspective enough to realize it. Of course it didn’t hurt that over the years I met many lovely people who started writing fan fiction and were better writers for it.

    Until that realization most have eventually had shattered my judgement entirely came: what story or plot hasn’t already been written in one form or another? It’s a rare day, if ever, that we stumble across something 100% original, and many of us might not like it, because it would be different. There are general archetypes, plots, and formulas for writing, and they are not wrong.

    I am writing a novel that is an obscured Cinderella, but Cinderella all the same. I’ve been writing and restarting and rewriting the book for over fifteen years, and I did not even realize what I was writing until three years ago when I suddenly realized that I have been an abysmal hypocrite. I should have realized that when I stole others tiny little plot details or ideas and warped them in, or when I borrowed overarching themes from mythology, but I failed to realize it until that moment. Oops.

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    1. Same here. An amazing plot would come into my head, and thousands of words later, I’d figure out it was just another Beauty and the Beast. Then I’d be disgusted and delete it all, thinking about all the time I’d wasted. But it wasn’t wasted. It was good practice. I hope. 🙂

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