Guest Post: On Writing Fan Fiction
The following post was kindly written by request (from me) from an amazingly awesome friend of mine. This writer requested that he/she remain anonymous and they will explain that below but they did give me permission to share their screen name (mysterypoet66) on Fan Fiction Net/Live Journal in case you are curious about their writing. Now, why did I ask someone to write this? Here is my big confession: I actually enjoy reading fanfic. I agree with the author below that a lot of it can be quite frightening but, regardless, there is the ‘shameful’ truth. I do not have the discipline to finish my own personal story creations when I start them, therefore I have never dabbled in writing fan fiction myself. Nevertheless, I believe there are some fan fiction writers out there that are better writers than “professionals.” I also find it hilarious that there is such a stigma against online fan fiction while we regularly publish and promote books that could easily be at least linked to fan fiction (ie Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or even Wicked). Anyway, yes. I read fan fiction and fully love and support my friends who write fan fiction. If nothing else, read the following post with an open mind. I’m not trying to recruit people into reading fan fiction (let alone loving it) so much as just trying to get the point across that people who write fan fiction? Not necessarily as crazy as you assume.
I consider myself a serious writer. Which is why I’m not revealing my identity here. Fan fiction has been painted as something that is considered lazy, deviant, and certainly not, “Real,” writing.
(Although it’s far more accepted, these days, which is an odd dichotomy.)
Consider this: every adaptation, every reinvention of a mythos, every, “Reboot,” and sequel not written by the original author, can be considered fanfiction. Neil Gaiman writing for Doctor Who, when he’s been a fan of the series since childhood – yup. Broadly considered, it’s fanfic. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss updating Sherlock Holmes? Ditto.
I’m not saying that every author of fanfiction is a skilled or serious writer. But saying that every author of fanfiction is dreadful, does a serious disservice to people who craft stories as carefully as any novelist or screenwriter. Some people, like myself, write fics to polish their RL writing process, as well as engage in their love of characters. Some do it to blow off steam from their real-world writing jobs. Some do it as a hobby. Some do it for porn.
Yes, that’s right – fanfiction is full of porn. Or, if you think of it another way – it’s full of things that can’t be put onscreen, but that are logical in both human and storytelling terms.
Yes, there are some very extreme forms of porn, including things that make a lot of us very uncomfortable. They’re also things that in, “serious writing,” are taken seriously.
Okay, in fanfiction, some of it is just seriously kinky porn. I’m not particularly keen on the Harry Potter fandom, or Supernatural fandom, because there’s quite a lot that will freak me out.
One of the things that tends to get quite a lot of attention in fanfic, is slash. Most people know that slash is a M/M relationship, although it originates from the, “/” used in any pairing. I recently saw an icon on LJ, “My fandom warns for het,” and spent a good 10 minutes giggling. The interesting thing to me about slash, is that there has been a long tradition of catering to the heterosexual male gaze in erotica, (and heavens to betsy, look at the, “Lesbian,” or, “Girl-on-Girl,” porn available on the internet,) but very little catering to the female gaze or LGBT gaze. That’s changing, rapidly. Slash is overwhelmingly catering to anything BUT the heterosexual male gaze. Truthfully, slashfic can either be amazingly good, or really horrible. It depends on the author. Like any story, and any sex therein. An interesting point about the phenomenon of slash, is that the authors tend to be overwhelmingly female. Women are a whole lot kinkier than we’re given credit for, and don’t you forget it. In my own fics, I am someone who prefers to stick to canon (or at least canon-if-you-squint,) when it comes to orientation and relationships. I don’t do original character romantic pairings, (the dreaded Mary Sue/Marty Stu effect,) because that is not the reason I write in a given fandom. Some authors will do anything to get the characters they want in bed together, regardless of how out-of-character it is. Some are so scrupulously in-character and canon-locked, that they don’t feel fresh. It all depends on the author. As all storytelling does.
One of the things that truly inspires me, as a writer – full stop, is that the best authors in fandom, make me want to read their original work. Being able to write a character that is so familiar and beloved, in ways that are completely true to the character, and yet completely surprising, is not easy. This is the universe you’ve been given – make it work, make it new, make it exciting to the reader. These are the rules. When authors go AU (Alternate Universe,) the challenge is greater. Is this still canon-enough, are the characters recognizable, does the universe you’ve created make sense? And fandom is harsh. You think your creative writing workshop crit is brutal, wait until you screw with someone’s favorite character, or god forbid – kill them off in a story.
And I haven’t even broached the subject of the ‘ship-wars. Try writing Jack Harkness with anyone but Ianto, or writing the Tenth Doctor with anyone but Rose Tyler, and god help you. No, I’m not actually kidding. People take their ‘ships, incredibly seriously.
A fandom can broadly be described as a bunch of people who share a love of something. Be it Star Wars, Twilight, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Good Omens, Discworld, or Transformers. Not everyone in fandom writes or reads fic. Many do.
(Yes, there is Transformer slash. No, I haven’t read it. Although I have a certain admiration for anyone that can write it, because I can’t even imagine how to do it.)
We’re telling the stories we want to read, telling the stories we want to see, we’re telling stories, and that is the point. Is some of it weird, or kinky beyond what most writers feel comfortable publishing under their own name, even if it were original work? Yes. The vast majority of it, however, is no different from Amy Heckerling deciding to write Clueless based on Jane Austen’s Emma, or something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
The difference is – we’re not doing it to get paid. We’re doing it, in fact, with the absolute knowledge that we won’t. We’re doing it because we love the characters and we want to tell stories.
Isn’t that what any writer wants?
Human beings have been telling stories since the dawn of time. Everything since has been a variation on a theme. Pretending otherwise is silly. What makes any story original, is how it’s told, the world that the author builds, the characters, and the skill of the execution.
I can respect authors who prefer not to have fanworks based on their work posted, but I think I respect the ones that acknowledge it, even more. Steven Moffat, Simon Pegg, J.K. Rowling, all acknowledge that people love what they do enough to riff on it, (much as I adore his work, Jasper Fforde’s insistence on no Thursday Next fics being posted is. . . odd, to me, given how much of English Lit he borrows.)
So, yes – I write fanfiction. I don’t do it under my own name, and I keep a pretty tight lock on my identifying details in fandom, because I do consider myself a serious writer, and I want other people to think of me that way, too. I’m a serious writer, but maybe I should say I’m a serious storyteller, instead.
The thing is, writing in fandom has taught me more about the craft of writing – structure, pacing, character, and narrative flow, than any of my teachers. It’s taught me at least as much as being a voracious reader from the age of three, has.
I’ve also read fanworks that are infinitely more original and well-written, than dreck that’s being published by major houses. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned though, is that regardless of how insecure I may be, and how much I have to learn about prose, (and I do,) I have the ability to tell different kinds of stories.
We make art with the tools at our disposal. Be they fanvids, or fics, or visual art. Some are funny, some are dramatic, some are sexual. That’s what we do. We make art about what moves us, we explore the human condition through a variety of modes.
Everything is a version of something else; all of it is meant to translate what we – as creators, see in the world.
I find it interesting that television and film companies, and even novelists, often draw upon other sources. How many versions of Shakespeare, or Austen, or Dickens, or. . .
How many updates of those works? When in doubt, go to the public domain.
I take umbrage at the notion that writing fic is somehow not real writing. Taking a leap of the imagination, doing research, constructing and maintaining a plot and narrative progression – in what way is that not real writing?
We write what we know. First principle. What we, as members of fandom, know – is what we love. Where we go from there, is neither required nor guaranteed.
The fact is, if I weren’t a reader, a lover of film, art, music, television, and above all – books, I would never have wanted to be a writer to begin with. Everything is a version of something else. All we do is look at it through different eyes.
Yes, I’m a serious writer. I take writing fic as seriously as I take my original work.
That’s what writers do.
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