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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My Top Five Love Stories

These are my current top five books and movies. It changes, of course.

Books

English: Persuasion (last Jane Austen Novel) c...
English: Persuasion (last Jane Austen Novel) ch 23 : Captain Wentworth is showing his letter to Anne, “with eyes eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to t...
Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab by William Blake, 1795 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2.  The Book of Ruth

You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.

Illustration to the North and South (novel by ...
Illustration to the North and South (novel by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Take care.—If you do not speak—I shall claim you as my own in some strange presumptuous way.

4. Emily’s Quest (Last of 3 in Emily Series) by L. M. Montgomery

It came clearly and suddenly on the air of a June evening. An old, old call–the two higher notes and one long and soft and low.

5. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

We belong to each other now really and truly, no make-believe.

Movies

1. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

2. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

She could peel an apple in one long, curly strip. The whole apple.

3. The Parent Trap (1961)

I miss those wet stockings you used to have hanging around the bathroom. And I miss my razor being dull because you used it to shave your legs with. And I miss the hairpins mixed up with the fishhooks in my tackle box.

4. Wives and Daughters (1999)

I couldn’t go. I couldn’t go without… Molly, do I still have any chance with you?

5. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

My dearest sweetheart, Klara, I can’t stand it any longer. Take your key and open post office box 237 and take me out of my envelope… and kiss me…

After choosing these, I realized the most appealing thing to me in a love story is sacrifice, whether it’s through waiting or giving without expecting anything in return. I hope you’ve had a lovely February! Expect another post tomorrow because I plan to update my blog Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in March.

The Soup with a Stone

Have you been slurping soup to stay warm this month? Good, because it’s National Soup Month. One of my favorite soups is Stone Soup. A rather anticlimactic name, eh? Why not a more appealing title, like Chicken Tortilla or Mushroom and Brie? Stone Soup may sound unimaginative, but in my family this soup is magical.

When I was growing up, my brother brought home Stone Soup from the library. He begged my mom to make it. Of course, I had to read the book, too. Any book that can make you ask your mom to make soup from a rock must be incredible.

And that’s where the magic began. If I’d been given the soup without the story, I might have liked it. Maybe. It was the story that made me crave a soup with a stone.

Bringing magic to the mundane often relies on how you introduce it. I remembered this when I made the first pot of Stone Soup for my kids. Toddlers have finicky taste buds, so I didn’t think they’d go for turnip greens floating in their bowl. (How many of us do?) I told my kids the story of Stone Soup just before I served it—my version. Wanting them to anticipate the soup, I played up the flavor with lines like, “Oh, it smelled so good!” and “They took the first bite, and it was delicious!” and “They ate it all up.” I told my kids it was a magic stone. I romanticized the whole experience and then put the bowls of soup in front of them.

It was really funny the first time because they didn’t know how to react to that first bite. It was a wholly new taste, but the story made it wonderful. Over the next few weeks, I introduced the soup again. They brought rocks to me, asking “Dis make S’one Soup?” If I’d cooked a ham recently, then I’d tell them they’d found the magic stone to make Stone Soup! (I never actually put a stone in the soup. In my version of the story, the magic stone disappears when the soup is made.)

Here’s my recipe:

Rilla’s Stone Soup

3 cups of water
1 hambone with some meat pieces still attached

Heat to a boil in pot on the stove. Simmer until the meat falls off the bone. Remove any pieces with gristle and remove the bone. Add:

5-6 potatoes, diced
4-5 carrots, sliced
1 onion, minced (almost puree for tikes)
salt & pepper to taste
3 cups of water
1/4 to 1/3 cup ham drippings

Cook until carrots and potatoes are done. Add:

14 ½ oz can turnip greens

Simmer a few more minutes. Serve with bread or crackers.

And here are two important ingredients for storytelling:

1. Be animated. Use your hands and your expressions. Play the parts. Be vocally dynamic to convey the mood of the story and the feelings of the characters.

2. Use tangibles. Anything that is experienced through the senses sticks in a child’s mind like glue. And it doesn’t have to be food. Stealing out of the house to a patch of woods beside a buggy little pond to share a book like The Witch of Blackbird Pond makes a setting come alive for a young mind.

Essentially, aren’t these the things that make a book magical, too? We write about the physical actions of the characters, how they feel, and their mannerisms. We write about what they see and smell and hear to make it come alive, to make it memorable.

Rilla's Stone Soup
Rilla’s Stone Soup

So, the moral of this story is: Never judge soup by its name.

Eat More Pie, Half-Pint

Apple pie
Apple pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s National Pie Day—the edible kind with the ‘e.’ Please don’t make me watch another video with a song to memorize 3.14…blah, blah, blah—and what is the point of knowing all those numbers again?

My favorite pie was once Peanut Butter. I had a boyfriend in college who told me he tried to make a peanut butter pie for me but accidentally dropped it while taking it out of the oven. I still think he was lying because any peanut butter pie connoisseur knows it’s a chilled dessert, and the few that touch the oven should only do so at the crust stage. But what do you say to a guy who makes up something he thinks will please you? You kindly say nothing—and then you begin to wonder what else he might be coming up with just to make brownie points. (Looking at it from his point of view, it would’ve been a good idea to get out of a relationship with a paranoid girlfriend.)

My favorite pie is Apple now. Very American of me, eh? My quest for the perfect apple pie began when the kids and I read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Almonso’s family ate apple pie for breakfast and lunch. They were always eating apple pie. I thought if they could do it, so could we. So we did. We ate thick servings of mouth-watering, tart Granny Apple slices topped with a beautifully browned lattice crust and cooked in caramel sweetness.

I make one a month on average. I tell myself they are much better than the Oreos and powdered donuts that my husband and kids would eat if I didn’t. When he calls from work to check if I’m still alive, I like tell my husband, “There will be apple pie when you get home!” Then I feel like I have my own Little House on the Prairie.