Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fanfiction

Fan Fiction…It’s all over the web. Open up any television series forum and it is there. Okay, there is probably more, but this is all I’m familiar with. There are some really talented writers out there writing fan fiction. So, tell me…what do you think about it? Do you write it? Have you ever written any of it?

Until last summer, I scoffed at the idea of writing fan fiction and reading it. It felt strange writing about characters someone else had created. In some ways it felt like theft even though I was crediting the creator with their creation. Basically, it had me feeling gauche even though I would have felt honored if I had affected someone so profoundly that they wrote fan fiction based upon my characters.

So, this past summer I found myself entering a fan fiction challenge. I’m still trying to figure out how I got prodded into doing it. Awkwardly I stepped into the role of writing canon characters and adding my own characters to the mix. I had a mission and an ultimate objective, but it was my creativity that had to find the resolution not based on canon rules. I wrote my first piece and discovered that it was a hell of a lot of fun! Imagine my surprise when I realized that my fan fiction wasn’t complete as I had thought. It was missing something.

Background. History between the canon characters and my characters. Okay, now it was getting more awkward. How presumptuous of me to want to write more, right? Well, I did and without the loom of a challenge hanging over my head. I wrote a beginning to my story, blending the beginning with the challenge I had already written. The beginning shaped a comprehensive history between my characters and the canon characters. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I wrote more. Picking up from the ending of the challenge story, I wrote about what would happen if their journey together continued. By this point, I decided I had lost my mind and, more importantly, I was/am too obsessed with someone else’s characters.

But through this insanity, I learned a very valuable lesson. By writing fan fiction I was able to get into the head of my characters—not the series canon characters, but my characters—and I was able to stay in their heads because I had created distinct lives for them before I ever started writing.

Wow! That was and still is a defining moment for me. This is not how I had ever written any character since putting the first words down on paper. I’ve always been a pantser, letting my character muse guide me wherever she/he wanted to go. And while I still do not think that’s wrong, lately it has created distinct problems for me. In the last year, I have started two novels and halfway through I’m bogged down with the reality that I still do not know the basics of at least one of my main characters. Nothing is working, nothing sounds right, the personality is blah, so boring it is bringing me to tears, and it would be easier and less painful to bang my head against the wall. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the action is worse than watching grass grow and the romance is so tepid I would run screaming if the hero/heroine looked in my direction with a romantic bent. If my muse doesn’t want to visit them often enough to write about them, then how can I expect a reader to want to read about them?

So, I find myself in this unique position. I’m inspired and eager to write fan fiction because I know the characters. Not just the canon characters, but my characters that I have created. The main point is I KNOW THEM and I want to keep revisiting them even though there is no real romance left, everything is resolved, but still they keep fighting and begging for more storyline. Frustrated, I was thinking WHY when I needed to do some “real” writing.

And then it hit me. I’ve already said it more than once, but I KNEW these characters from the inside out, everything about them. There’s real passion in them, charisma, depth, shallowness, flaws, life and death challenges, all of it I see and realize clearly in my head. While they may be just characters in my head, they are as real as any flesh and blood person beside me.

Then I got to thinking about the novels I had set aside. What did I know about those characters? I was stunned to realize that even though I’d written half of their life, I still did not know who they were, what they stood for, or even what made them tick. This is what I need to know if I want to give them personality and breathe life into them. So, my goal is to revisit them, write out specific goals, characteristics, personalities, traits, all the things needed to make a character crackle and pop with vitality and life…just like the characters I created for my fan fiction.

Basically, I think writing fan fiction has helped me realize some of my weaknesses as a writer and has further developed and honed my writing skills. It certainly has made it clear how important it is to flesh out a set of characters before going in depth with their lives.

4 comments:

Jen Bluekissed said...

I think you should add a technorati button. It'll increase traffic, as will listing your blog with blog catalog. There's good stuff here. :)

MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott/Kate Davison said...

Gracen,

I am of two minds on fan fiction. In a way it is incredibly complimentary that people would love an author's characters so much that others would want to write about them. On the other hand, I would freak the fuck out if someone used my characters in such a way. That's the control freak in me talking. It would feel like someone stealing from me. I just know it.

Other than that, it sounds like you used it as a great learning/writing exercise and for me, anything you can learn from or help you grow as a writer is wonderful.

I'm a perpetual (read compulsive) outliner and character sketcher. When I sit down to write a novel, I've already written out complete interviews with my characters and know them like close friends. However, they still have the propensity to surprise me every now and then, which is cool. But I know them as people and it helps with goals, motivation, conflict so much.

Great post!

-Kate

Mark Alders said...

I do like fan-fiction, after all, we are all fans of something or another, aren't we?

But...

I really don't know how I'd react if it was written with my characters from my books. Interesting...

Thanks for the thought provoking post, Gracen :-)

Sierra Wolfe said...

Thanks Jen! I'll check into doing that. :) Glad you liked the blog!

Great post Gracen. I've never written any fan fiction myself, but I know my daughter has. She used to enjoy doing that alot. Not that she ever shared it with anyone, but she did do it. :D This is also the one who says she doesn't want to be a writer, LOL. Why wouldn't anyone want to do that? It amazes me. :D

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