In December I finally completed the fan fiction story I set out to write back in July. 56,000(ish) words of it.
Actually before I tell you that there is a rather more odd side to this. Why is it the only people who understand fan fiction are the ones that have either a) created some themselves or b) want to write? I found myself almost blushing at the admission of writing a fan fiction to someone the other day. Like I should actually know better than be writing this kind of fiction and I stopped, to take stock, afterwards (it’s always the thinking afterwards that gets me) and was plain annoyed at myself.
So before I explain my writing let me explain fan fiction again because now I’ve got 56,000 words under my belt I rather see myself as a defender for this style of writing. In fact so much so, had I of known such nice groups of people existed (who write fan fiction), then I’d have gotten stuck into this long ago.
First of all to understand this you have to put all other types of fiction you’ve ever read aside.
That’s it, put it back on the shelf and empty your mind.
While any fiction will have three main structured parts to it, a introduction of character/story that leads up to the big climax and finally a resolution, fan fiction is no different because lets be honest if a story doesn’t have a few twists and turns you soon put it down. So don’t expect fan fiction to be a rumble of words that waffle on for hundreds of pages, it certainly doesn’t. What it does is take places, dates, characteristics of a well known characters and turns it all into some thing new, exciting and very often fresh to read.
I hear you, you’ve got two issues with that – creative liability and, how does something that’s been done once get to be written again?
Simple – nothing is ever original. Well, it was once (obviously) many moons ago but not now. Everything is basically a replica of something else and no where is that more apparent than in fiction. Harry Potter was (and I’m only using this as an example not because I’m a fan) a phenomenal success but it wasn’t unique. Themes within the stories could have equally applied to Lord of the Rings, Through the Looking Glass (and possibly Alice in Wonderland), and goodness knows how may wizard-esk books that came before the first publication. And it’s not to say there was any duplication only that the ideas were already embedded before JK Rowling sat down to write.
Now obviously the Character names within Harry Potter are original and with each character will come unique characteristics, language and traits because we as readers need to be able to identify them (or with them) easily. And this is where fan fiction comes in.
The unique traits a character has portrayed can be used time and time again, in all sorts of different ways but it doesn’t lessen the creative license to the original writer. On the contrary it’s like gardening, you teach the skills and expertise and that in turn can be used again and again everywhere to emulate and share. As the fanfiction writer you’re celebrating the craft, not spoiling it.
Now obviously there are different creative licenses depending on what your fanfiction is covering. I covered a TV programe. A script is probably laid about (covered in dust no-doubt) in many of the actors homes, producers offices and television broadcasting archive rooms right now. I’ve never read all 224 episode scrips (fortunately a lovely band of fans did translate every single episode script into English), I couldn’t tell you who said exactly what, when. I have written my story based on my visual interpretation of the show I watched. The same might go for a film, a cartoon or even an online game.
So, why did I get slightly embarrassed while attempting (a very lame) disclosure of my story? Well aside from the fact I get horribly embarrassed about all my writing (I automatically start to sweat, it’s not a good look), I don’t believe it will ever really be mine to tell.
Because it’s not mine. It belongs to a German TV company over in Munich (or Berlin, or another big city in Germany) and trying to explain what it was that I was emulating through my writing was rather difficult because unlike most fiction where you can pick the book up and start reading from page one, in fan fiction you’ve got to know the context of the original story before you can read page one.
If I told you my story is about two women who, after having been separated for four years bump into each other again by accident and a series of dangerous liaisons take place it would sound good but that’s only my half of the story, the rest started off in 2012 on TV and unless you’ve seen that you’re going to wonder what the hell you’re reading.
But this is where is gets really important…
This type of writing (no, it’s not a genre it’s a specific way of story telling) is absolutely necessary and essential. It doesn’t matter if the story I’ve written never sees the light of day, nor ever gets read. What’s more important is that it is written because I wanted to write it. As a writer in training I’m building my words, my vocabulary, my English language skills (more so than school and writing groups ever could).
When you write fan fiction you are developing as a bona fide writer. If you don’t want to be a published writer, it doesn’t matter because you’re still being creative – you’re getting out of your system (the only way you know how) hopes and dreams for the characters that were never expressed originally, and only you (or me) can do that without the need to get hung up on specific character descriptions.
My skills of writing have certainly improved since I began my novel and it’s given me a great foundation to start crafting other pieces. I’ve also used fan fiction to break down and understand other fan’s writing styles in a way I’ve not looked at before, another way of gaining writing skills – and believe me there are a load of talented writers in fan fiction land that I can learn from.
So if you’ve ever thought “gosh I’d love to write a story but I haven’t got a scoobie where to start”, I’d say go down the fan fiction route and don’t be afraid (or shy) to try it out. You won’t be disappointed.
You’ll find my writing among a host of very talented English language writers on the Jemma fanfic website
Cover photo courtesy of Lew (tomswift) Holzman