I Like Your Style! Inspiring Other Writers

Part 9 (and last) of The Fanfiction Experiment

‘Your soul is a beautiful thing, child,’ replied the grave man’s voice, ‘and I thank you. No emperor ever received so fair a gift.’

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

When I’m in the throes of a story, I will question sometimes whether I’ve become obsessed. There’s something very insistent about a tale all wrapped up in my head. It will entreat me to pay attention to it at the most inconvenient times. My thoughts trail away to a scene, and the characters begin to interact, whether I’m in a position to listen or not.

Medieval writing desk
Medieval writing desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s no wonder that some of us writers grow emotionally attached to our stories. They become part of us. And when they are written and we close the book, it is a painful separation. An inexplicable grieving period follows that no one really shares or understands. Connecting with other writers is a way to find support for that intense connection that a writer can experience with his/her story-child.

When a writer hands over that treasured story for another to read, it’s a gift—even if it may seem more like a white elephant. Many writers are looking for someone willing to read their manuscript with an objective eye and to give insightful feedback. It is an opportunity to be supportive, not only of the work but of a writer’s heart.

Fanfiction allows you to observe a writer’s style and temperament before you agree to invest your time. Last summer, I discussed my great experience with my first critique partner. It worked out well, but it was definitely more of a blind search than getting acquainted with a writer through his/her online work and corresponding through private messages. I’ve reviewed and touched up many works from fanfic writers I got to know beforehand. I became interested in supporting the writer and his/her style first.

Here are some tips for encouraging meaningful interaction that can grow into that supportive writer relationship:

Give thorough, honest reviews
Receiving a thoughtful review is everything to a serious writer. He/she will seek you out for genuine feedback because he/she is not there simply to amass reviews. (I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice, mind you.)

Writing a thoughtful review is also a writer’s advertisement. This is true for blog comments, isn’t it? It’s the primary means I use to find writers whose work I’m interested in reading, whether it’s through blogging or online fiction.

Reading glasses
Reading glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Volunteer to be a beta reader
Being a beta reader, that second pair of eyes, is a ton of fun, but it requires sacrifice. It’s important to make the most of what you can offer a writer and prioritize, considering the time you will spend on the work. It’s necessary to be selective. One can’t be a beta reader for every writer who makes the request, but it’s worth it when you’re interested in a writer and/or the story. And beta reading isn’t just a service, it’s a learning experience. It helps a writer reason through the stream of someone’s work objectively, and it develops awareness of one’s own storytelling weaknesses. In my opinion, the object of a beta reader is to give a writer the assurance that the story flows and speaks to the reader. Honest assurance.

When I’m the writer, I try to be considerate of my beta reader, both of his/her time and feelings. I want to create a relationship in which it’s okay for my beta to respond, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure about this” when expressing a gut feeling. Sometimes a reader’s intuition benefits a writer more than textbook corrections.

English: "A Helping Hand". 1881 pain...
English: “A Helping Hand”. 1881 painting by Emile Renouf Français (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Be a mentor for a less-experienced writer
There are different ways to go about this–there are organizations, of course–but you can do this on fanfiction sites, too.

The lengthiest fanfic chapter story I’ve worked on was 25 chapters, and I accepted redrafts of each chapter. The story was written by an advanced high school student. It was a magical adventure, and her passion for improving her work made the whole experience magical for me. I started from scratch and returned to writing basics. Instead of cleaning up grammatical errors, I was allowed to help her restructure her sentences for better impact and flow. (You can’t do this with many writers because repeating a simple rule of grammar can come off belittling.) I brainstormed with her for ways to make her characters more than actors under her pen. The ideas came from her own head, and I just prompted her to decide the mood or conclusion she wanted and to think about ways to communicate that. She taught me so much! She completed her fanfic, and we’ve kept in touch. She’s in college and writing for her university’s paper. It makes me happy to know she still loves writing, despite my critiques.

In case you’ve missed a post or two, here are the points I’ve mentioned in the Fanfiction Experiment series:

  • All Fiction is Fan Fiction.

 Fanfiction:

  • is a ready-made setting for all types of writing exercises.
  • can help you realize who your audience is and how to talk to them.
  • inspires a writer to develop crisp characterizations.
  • can help you learn to write what your inner reader wants to read.
  • challenges writers to hold a reader’s attention.
  • sites can help you stay accountable, motivated, and focused.
  • allows writers to filter through the trends.
  • allows you to observe a writer’s style and temperament before you agree to invest your time.

I hope something I’ve touched on in this series has inspired you to think outside the box about ways you can develop your craft. Granted, fanfic readers aren’t editors, nor are they versed in all things considered marketable by the publishing industry. The majority of readers read what they do because they like it, not because they’ve analyzed the trends or they have a good eye for the best opening line. But it’s eye-opening for the writer who considers his/her craft a journey. No matter how much one learns, there is always something more to be gleaned. There is always room for growth. Keep writing!

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To Boldly Go Where Everyone Has Been There, Done That – Being Original

Part 8 of The Fan Fiction Experiment

My taste is so bad! I just begin to realize it, and I am feeling my ‘growing pains,’ like Gwendolen in ‘Daniel Deronda.’ I admired the stained glass in the Lincoln Cathedral the other day, especially the Nuremberg window. I thought Mr. Copley looked pained, but he said nothing. When I went to my room, I consulted a book and found that all the glass in that cathedral is very modern and very bad, and the Nuremberg window is the worst of all. Aunt Celia says she hopes that it will be a warning to me to read before I speak; but Mr. Copley says no, that the world would lose more in one way than it would gain in the other.

A Cathedral Courtship by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Every writer has to start somewhere, and the journey from that somewhere is strewn with embarrassing moments where we realized what we thought was good writing fell miserably short. I think it’s because writers tend to take writing advice quite literally. It can result in an avalanche of same-sounding, soulless stories. It’s good to follow the Writer’s Golden Rule on this one:

“Don’t bore others by emulating the things that bore you.”

Duplicating what’s already on the shelves doesn’t help a story to resonate. There are bazillions of blogs that advise writers to try new techniques and methods. Remember the tip about describing your character through traits of a specific animal, like a cat, snake, or bird? I’ve noticed an influx of this in stories lately. Overused techniques are bullets aimed at a writer’s foot. Readers like variety; so when I read about a new approach, I ask myself, “Is this something that will fit my style naturally? Can I make it distinctively my own?” If not, I chuck it. There’s a fine line between mimicking and capturing. One isn’t really me, and the other becomes part of my style. In the long run, this will help me retain my originality because thousands of other writers read the same advice.

Social networks have made trending and trend-following much simpler, which means the time frame for a trend can peter out much faster. Fanfiction allows writers to filter through the trends, making it a great way to track what’s still catching your reader’s eye and what everyone is over and done with.

Grumpy cat
Grumpy cat (Photo credit: Adrian Serghie)

It’s a useful sieve for stale dialogue tags. I think of dialogue tags being like photo memes. Take Grumpy Cat for an example. A common reaction is shared among viewers when they see this “I’m not amused,” crusty, frowning cat. Phrases and words can trigger the same reaction, describing the character’s state succinctly for the reader. Once readers connect to a commonly used tag, it’s golden. For a time at least.

Here are some dialogue tags that connect with readers:

Shifting Strands of Hair

She curled her knees to her chest, pushed back a loose strand of hair, and waited.

and

“You don’t know, do you?” Charlie said with an amused expression. He reached up and brushed a strand of hair from her cheek. She met his eyes as the realization of what he meant crept over her.

Moving strands of hair away from the face denotes an emotionally charged moment. It can be an act of vulnerability, frustration, or a display of tenderness.

To Clench or Ball the Hands

Carmen laughed as she tore my flyer in two. “Who’d vote for you, Schizoid?” she said, tossing the pieces at me and prancing into the classroom. I stood in the hallway, my hands clenched tightly, not sure whether I wanted to scream or cry.

Making fists with one’s hands means the person is trying to keep control in the midst of strong feelings, usually negative ones.

Here are two more tags that are somewhat overused:

“She bit her lip.”

“His jaw tightened.”

What do these tags mean to you?

Board meeting room
Board meeting room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Common phrases and words used in everyday conversation, or in blogs, can make it into the thoughts of fanfic characters. Remember ‘I digress?’ How about reading ‘ebullition’ and ‘pedantic?’ Those were tripping up easy-read blogs a couple of years ago. I’ve been tempted to use ‘pablum’ and ‘caveat.’ It’s my theory that most of these words come from the workday environment—because sales pitches at business meetings aren’t complete without digging up a seldom-used word to redefine in commercial terms. I imagine there’s some Words With Friends designer using Tipping Point strategies to highlight one word per season. He/she muses over things like, “Hey, I wonder how many people I can get to use the word ‘ycleped?’”

A manuscript can be edited for dialogue and wording, but what if the story is based on something most readers don’t want to read about anymore? It would be good to know that in advance, since the story might not be given a chance by a publisher. I might poll readers to ask them what subjects they are tired of seeing on the shelves, but I think it’s better to observe what they flock to and what they avoid. As a fanfic reader and writer, I can tell you what I’ve grown tired of and what I’ve avoided writing. And I thank you for asking.

Vampires. Top of the list. I won’t make any of my characters vampires. I will find some other way to denote his/her charismatic personality and deadly intents.

Pouty Princesses. This includes pouting teens who don’t know they are princesses and learn it later in the story. I will give my heroine value and recognition without the bejeweled crown, and without the puckered lower lip.

Snarky Sorcerers. (Yes, I mean witches and wizards, but I like the catchy alliteration.) I will leave the spells at home and help my character explore new ways to exert power or influence over others and learn self-control.

Also, there’s some serious oversnarkensation going on in children’s and young adult literature. (That portmanteau is supposed to remind you of ‘overcompensation.’ Get it? Heh.) Snarky dialogue is like lemon juice. It can give a story zest in small doses.

Zombified and Angsty Dead People. Okay, what is this obsession with having died a few hundred times? I’m not saying I wouldn’t be angsty if I were dying over and over, too, but what was once supposed to be gruesome is quickly becoming old and stale. Kinda like zombies. Has anyone noticed that zombies are vampires without the magnetic charm?

Skimming the current fanfics to find out what everyone else is writing about ad nauseam can help you avoid these pitfalls. Conversely, if you’re not nauseated by it, and still interested in reading it, it could mean others are still interested in more books on that topic, too. So, say you have a manuscript already written about a snarky zombie who learns he’s actually an emperor of wizards. Do you hold on to it for a bit? Should you wait for readers to forget about zombies and wizards so they can be all surprised and thrilled at its reentry? Or is now the time to introduce “Fitz Mulroony, Magic’s Really Rotten Royalty”?

Bottom line: Trends come and go. I’m going to love my book for itself. I won’t be embarrassed to introduce it without tricking it out in the latest look or painting it over in the season’s hottest colors. I’ll glory in its quirks. Didn’t I labor over it and call it names and throw terrible fits and tell it I never wanted to see it again? My book and I have come a long way together. Both of us can just be ourselves now.

Friday’s last post in this series will focus on what a writer can learn from supporting other fanfic writers.

(Disclaimer: My opinions on vampires, princesses, and zombies are purely my opinions. You might still enjoy reading about them. No, of course I’m not rolling my eyes! Well, yeah, my fingers could have been crossed while I denied that.)

Where’s the Ending? Completing Your Story

Part 7 of The Fan Fiction Experiment

There was no ‘One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out ‘The race is over!’ and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, ‘But who has won?’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Dodo from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Dodo from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most difficult and annoying issues that plagues writers—and readers!—on free online writing sites is the inability to complete the story. There are tons of incomplete works of fanfiction, along with furious readers and apologetic writers. Let’s face it, writers can lose impetus, especially when there isn’t any monetary motivation involved. Plus, waning interest and plot bunnies come complimentary with storytelling genius. Many writers cater to them, leaping to a different tale without rescuing poor Sheila, the Little Mermaid’s sister, from the clutches of Korth, King Triton’s evil twin. Readers want writers to be reliable.

Johannes Vermeer - Lady Writing a Letter with ...
Johannes Vermeer – Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid (detail) – WGA24698 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not easy to be a steady serial chapter writer. It’s even harder to finish the story. Diligence is a muscle a writer has to exercise. Sense and Sensibility was originally written as a series of letters and read to the family. Think about that: It’s probable we wouldn’t have Elinor and Marianne and their beautiful love stories if not for the support of Jane Austen’s family to keep her writing. Unfortunately, not everyone has a family like Jane’s.

Fanfiction sites can help you stay accountable, motivated, and focused while writing your story. Every writer craves encouraging reviews, but they won’t keep a story going if the writer doesn’t have a purpose for continuing. So, begin with a purpose statement. ‘What?’ you might say, ‘Can’t a writer just write for the fun of it, to free one’s adventuresome spirit?’ Actually, a writer always has a purpose statement because no one writes without a reason. Some purpose statements include: “I want to try a ghost story,” “I want to explore a political theory of mine,” “I want to exorcise a harsh time from my past,” “My teacher says I have to write this,” or “I want to see how much of this story I can complete if I make a goal of posting two chapters a week.”

When beginning a story, writing down my purpose statement is like insuring my work. It’s my fallback. Without it, my story can become like a game of Telephone; I start with one idea and the story mimics flypaper, gathering plot bunny carcasses until I can’t find the original idea at all.

Here’s an example of a purpose statement:

I am writing Backwash, My First Job at a Dentist’s Office because I need closure on this most disgusting experience in my life, and I need to defend my decision to brush my teeth fourteen times a day.

I try to be as descriptive as I can. If I’m writing to a specific person or audience, I include that as well. This helps me refocus on the reason for writing the story, should I get sidetracked, say, by deciding to change the plot midway through. (Fanfic reviewers can have very tempting ideas, by the way. It is easy to get sidetracked, especially once a writer begins to receive good feedback.)

It’s just something to consider if your original reason for writing is important to you to stick to. Changing the story to accommodate a different purpose isn’t necessarily bad, but changing your motivation can change your work. It can also usher in a bad case of writer’s block.

There’s a general consensus that J.K. Rowling wrote Deathly Hallows with her fans in mind because there are nods in the 7th Harry Potter book, and it reads differently from the giddy, sky’s-the-limit feel of The Sorcerer’s Stone. After reading book seven, my sister and I discussed our theories on how the book would have differed without the influence of Potter fans everywhere. We’ll never know.

English: Cropped version of File:Lucy_Maud_Mon...
English: Cropped version of File:Lucy_Maud_Montgomery.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, wrote the other books in the Anne series after there was a demand for more. The rest of the stories in the series are great, but it is my opinion that there is something very precious and delightful when you first meet Anne that you don’t find in the rest of the books. Did this affect the sales of these books? I doubt it.

To clarify, your purpose statement is not the premise or the story outline, which are excellent ways to keep a writer focused, too. Some writers work best when following a premise or outline, while other writers like to wing it; but all of us have a purpose when we first begin writing the story, be it simple or complex.

Monday’s post will be about fails at originality. And next Friday’s post will be the last in the series.

(Disclaimer: Something about opinions and experiences. Writing this post distracted me, and I forgot to write it down.)

Help! I’m a Wordophile! and Other Confessions

Part 6 of The Fan Fiction Experiment

He is going to write a very learned book. Only everybody will be dead before it can be half finished.

The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope

You may think that fanfic writers—especially the serial chapter sort—are a wordy bunch. Maybe…and maybe not. One thing I know: Fanfiction writers are challenged to hold a reader’s attention. Fanfiction has a fickle audience. You have to keep your readers intrigued without resorting to posting one explosive scene after another.  Here are some ways I’ve learned to do that:

English: Hand I'm bored Español: Mano I'm bored
English: Hand I’m bored (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Be Segue Savvy
Writers can’t wait to write the scenes that build the conflict, but the story between these scenes deserves just as much love and attention. Writers—this includes the traditionally published ones—make the mistake of losing story momentum, along with their readers’ interest, by neglecting the between-scene transitions. It’s easy to become too intent on getting to the next big plot highlight instead of keeping the plot toasty all the way through. If you’re depending on these major scenes in your story to persuade the reader to keep reading, you are not writing a story; you’re writing an outline. You, as a reader, know this when you read it. And fanfic readers don’t hang around for, “Wait! You haven’t gotten to the good part yet!” A fanfic writer learns to give the story drawing power amidst the valleys, or risks losing his/her audience.

Don’t Drown in the Details
There’s a tendency in the born writer to dwell on things that have no bearing on the plot. I can’t help writing them, but at least I can see them for what they really are and remove them. I have this little file where I dump—I mean, keep—those lovely jewels. I pretend I will come back, promising to find the right place for them. That rarely happens, but it helps soothe my ego, which loathes deleting anything that might be somewhat witty.

For the fanfic writer, the back story and research are compiled for you by the original author. This is the ideal way to begin. You will know immediately whether dwelling on tangents will be your nemesis when you start writing long passages describing the contents of Bella’s backpack, rather than explaining how Jacob clandestinely returns the backpack to her after their midnight motorcycle ride in one of your “Lost Scenes from Eclipse” chapters.

English: Willamette University College of Law ...
English: Willamette University College of Law Long Law Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Resist the Urge to Research
As a research slave, I can attest that it does not aid a writer’s sanity to do any research when writing the first draft. With fanfiction you have a short window in which to update your story once it begins. Pausing to spend a month studying up on Viking water crafts to make your warship a little more realistic for that How to Train Your Dragon fanfic is probably a bad idea. It is better to do any research before, to inspire your pen, and wait at least until that first draft is written before going back through to fill in the blanks and rework the misconceptions. Just let it go while you are in the midst of writing. It’s a terrible time hog, and one of these days I’m going to heed my own advice. 😛

Writer’s ADD is planned for Friday.

(Disclaimer: My opinions were not sufficiently researched while writing this post. My research has never, ever been sufficient, only copious.)

“I’d Like to Order a Mystery, a Side of Romance, and Add a Pinch of Sarcasm, Please” Writing What You Like To Read

Part 5 of The Fan Fiction Experiment

Never bet your money on another man’s game.

– Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Every reader has a different expectation when he/she opens a book. You can wind up in a losing game of chasing the trend if you try to write based on what you think others want to read…this week. Besides, the best stories are often the ones where the writers penned what their own inner readers craved.

Fanfiction can help you learn to write what your inner reader wants to read. It lets you test out your literary concoctions on a random sampling of readers—one that doesn’t have any impetus to support garbled writing or purple prosaic slop just because it’s you. You get to find out if what interests you interests others. Sometimes that means tearing out all the back story and the family connections in an adventure. It might be a fun study for you as a writer, and you should delve into the back story for yourself, but imagine picking it up off the shelf. Would you like having to wade through the four info-dump paragraphs that introduce every character? Not likely.

James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault and 2nd ...
James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault and 2nd Earl of Arran (Photo credit: lisby1)

I’m a Jane Austen-ophile, but I’m not a British aristocracy buff. There is a rare sect of Austenites that congregates for the pure pleasure of touting genealogical trivia. Some of them believe a long, meandering family tree belongs in the introduction of a regency fanfic. Now, if I have to know and recall to memory Sir Pimpleton Snigglebothum’s entire progeny, I will shelf that fic pronto. But I didn’t consider this when I first entered the Austen fandoms. I spent hours trying to get a grip on the difference between a duke and an earl, and which family house claimed which lands and what their links to the crown were–all to come up with a decent set of fake family names and titles so I could begin the actual story. You will not find that story online. It was duller to read than it was to write, if that’s possible. My point is, I wasted my time fulfilling other readers’ expectations, when I should’ve been writing what I enjoyed.

Try perusing fanfic stories in a fandom for one of your favorite novels. Many fanfic writers will attempt to write in the style of the author. Reading through these attempts will help you develop an eye for the original author’s methods and tricks. Does the author sum up large periods of time in a sentence or two? Does the author use flashbacks to keep the story moving? What narrating perspective is employed? Are the descriptions highly detailed? Is the story peppered with sentence fragments? Focus on what intrigues you about the way the author wrote that great story—what pulls you in—and implement it in your own fiction.

barsetshire 2: barchester towers
barsetshire 2: barchester towers (Photo credit: cdrummbks)

In the stories I crave, the author goes off on tangents and philosophizes in a way that endears me to the characters. Shortcomings are introduced from a perspective that lets me laugh sympathetically with the characters, not at them. They will reach the inevitable rock and hard place and leave me emotionally torn because I’m sympathizing to some degree with both sides. I find this scenario in many of Anthony Trollope’s novels. He was a master at creating reader sympathy for his characters. I also admire Elizabeth Gaskell’s understanding portrayal of those with conflicting views in works like Wives and Daughters and North and South.

What story-telling methods do you like best, and which authors satisfy the appetite of your inner reader?

Next up: Help for Wordophiles

(Disclaimer: My inner reader likes to read my opinions and pretend those opinions are clever. I’m pretty certain that’s why I’m posting this series.)

What a Character! Tackling Characterization

Part 4 of The Fan Fiction Experiment

After all, the reason why poets invented these stories was surely just this—so that we should be able to see our own behavior mirrored in these other, imaginary characters, which thus cast a vivid light upon our own daily lives.

Cicero, In Defense of Sextus Roscius of Ameria

This will seem like a no-brainer: a good character relates to your reader. But it’s not as easy as that. You, the writer of the character, are not the reader. What do you know about the filters and experiences of the stranger who opens your book?

The beginning of your story is where a reader is most aware of your ability to relate to him or her. He/she can become attached to your character, or the situation surrounding your character, in just a few lines. Make your character come alive for your reader, and he/she will overlook a few hundred mistakes to find out what’s going to happen.

Fanfic stories mean instant camaraderie with fans, stemming from personal relatability to fictional characters we all love. You get to tap into that emotional attachment when you write a fanfic about one of these beloved fictional friends. When a fanfiction writer takes liberties with the characterization of an original author’s protagonist, protective readers will jump down a fanfic writer’s throat. For them, the character is not “canon,” and that’s like lying about their close friend.

Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fanfiction inspires a writer to develop crisp characterizations. When writers tackle these fictional friends I know and love, I get to see how much or how little the author of the original story included in the description of a character’s personality—and how much I’ve assumed. Developing an awareness for the details that an author provides about his/her characters means I can better decide what details I want to include or omit about my original characters, and how I want to convey those details in my story.

Secondly, writing from the perspective of your favorite book characters lets you practice allowing a personality to speak through you, not like you. Two of the worst mistakes in writing a character are the dreaded “Mary Sue,” which is just the writer inserting herself into the story, and going OOC (out of character), where the character reacts in whatever way seems to move the story along to the writer’s whim. Practicing characterization through fanfics sharpens the ability to later define and describe an original character’s personality traits so a reader will recognize someone he/she knows in real life, and immediately relate to your character.

Angry girl.
Angry girl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Protagonists who aren’t perfect are the ones we form literary relationships with. You know the temperaments and quirks of the people you are close to in real life. And don’t you love them even more for that? It’s their humanness. Don’t short-change your characters by omitting their inconsistencies. Don’t be afraid to write about your character’s flaws. Let him make mistakes. Let her be influenced by circumstances. Let him make promises that will selectively be forgotten. Let her contradict herself. Allow him to adamantly assure himself that others are at fault. Let your character judge the people around her because we all view things from a flawed perspective. Part of developing a relatable character is learning to allow those rough edges to show. That’s what makes them lovable. That’s what makes a story real to its reader. And, yes, even characters of plot-driven stories need some attention.

Friday will be about feeding your inner reader.

(Disclaimer: These opinions are based on my love of character-driven fiction. You may hate that. You may hate characters altogether. 🙂 )

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.)