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Really Useful Links for Writers: Fan Fiction

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Paul FitzSimons

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It’s safe to say that, having given them a try, I’m not a huge fan of the Fifty Shades books. Fair enough, I am (a) male and (b) an avid reader of crime-fiction so I wouldn’t exactly be FSoG’s target audience. (I doubt E.L. James is crying into her gold-plated cornflakes over this). But I do admire the series and its author, if for no other reason, for breaking down barriers and removing certain stigma within the writing and publishing communities.

The most significant achievement of course was to popularise the genre of erotic fiction, to make it something not just read in secret and whispered about in obscure corners. (If you want to have a go at writing erotic fiction yourself, have a read of my-two-cents on the subject.)

But what Ms. James also brought into the spotlight was Fan-Fiction – Fifty Shade was originally written as Twilight Fan-Fiction. It introduced the expression into the vocabularies of many more readers, writers and, crucially, the publishing industry.

For those of us unfamiliar with the genre, we can probably guess what Fan-Fiction is. It is the practice of taking an existing premise, world or character and creating an original story from it. Over the years, fans of Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula, Downton Abbey and, of course, Twilight, have capitalised on their love of their favourite book, film or TV show to create original, moving and exciting stories which, on occasion, are better than the subject matter on which they are based.

One of the key advantages of Fan-Fiction is that it can be an effective jumping off point for new writers, who have the urge to put pen-to-paper but are suffering from the lack of an original idea. So, in steps the world of Doctor Who or Gosford Park to provide a base.

And Fan-Fiction doesn’t have to simply wallow in the relative obscurity of websites or fan magazines. Fan-Fiction is increasingly gaining popularity and success, especially in cases where the original creator is no-longer alive. One could claim that Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss’s Sherlock on BBC (Season 3 doing the rounds at the moment) is, in fact, Fan-Fiction. Moffat has always claimed to be a huge fan of the Arthur Conan Doyle creation and the placement of a historic character in a contemporary setting is a widely-used device amongst Fan-Fiction writers.

Of course, for those of who are considering giving Fan-Fiction a go, there is no shortage of guidance and advice out there. I previously mentioned the TVTropes.org website when I was talking about the difference between a trope and a cliché. They also see the value in Fan-Fiction and give us a brilliant step-by-step guide to writing it. They suggest that we should have a clear idea as to the relationship with the original material, be it a continuation, adaptation or alternative universe.

Of course, the question of why we would write based on someone else’s original idea rather than make up our own is explored in a piece by best-selling author Hugh Towey. After he was approached by fans asking if they could write fiction based on his novels, Hugh got thinking about writing some Fan-Fiction himself. He chose the Slaughterhouse-Five world created by one of his favourite novelists Kurt Vonnegut. Hugh suggests that to write Fan-Fiction, we should pick a world suitably open for exploration.

It might also be a good idea to know the commonly-made mistakes by Fan-Fiction practitioners. On the Sycophanthex.com, we find out all about these mistakes by a Fan-Fiction writer who has actually made them and what he has done to avoid making them again. He points out that, although we have the advantage of writing in an already-created world, we must, at all costs, avoid the mistake of going OOC – Out Of Character. For example, if a well-established character has always acted or reacted in a particular way, we can’t change that behaviour just to help our story along.

One commonly-made mistake and a risk that many Fan-Fiction writers run is to become too loyal to the source material. We all have that book, TV show or film that we completely love but when we go to write a piece of fiction based on it, we find that it hurts to even change a location or expand a character. Over on WikiHow, we find out how to write Fan-Fiction without being too obsessive about the material or our writing process.

Of course, there’s no better way to see if Fan Fiction is what it’s what we want to write than to actually read some.  LJ Constantine is a fan of variety of period dramas and science fiction and Crime TV shows. LJ has written extensive Fan-Fiction based on Primeval, Star Trek, NCIS and Gosford Park.

 

Everything You Need To Know About How.

TVTropes.org know a thing or two about writing Fan-Fiction.

“Ah, Fan-Fiction. The controversial format of (usually) unprofessional, unsponsored fans writing stories directly based on their favorite fiction.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/SoYouWantTo/WriteAFanfic

 

Everything You Need To Know About Why.

Novelist Hugh Towey tells us what prompted him to start writing Fan-Fiction.

“I used to liken Fan-Fiction to writing with training wheels, but what I found while writing my work was that the training wheels get in the way more than they help.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/01/wool_author_hugh_howey_on_fan_fiction_and_kurt_vonnegut.html

 

Everything You Need To Know About What-Not-To-Do.

Sycophanthex.com takes us through the possible pitfalls of writing Fan-Fiction and, importantly, how to avoid them.

“Being a novice Fan-Fiction writer myself, and having made all of these mistakes and more, I feel fairly confident about prattling on about them.

http://sycophanthex.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45&Itemid=41

 

Everything You Need To Know About Not-Being-Obsessive.

WikiHow reminds us that, even if they’re Fan-Fiction, these are still our stories.

“You get to choose what happens. You’re only borrowing the characters. Imagination is important.”

http://www.wikihow.com/Write-Good-Fan-Fiction-Without-Being-Over-Obsessive

 

Every Example of Fan-Fiction You Need To Read.

LJ Constantine is an avid writer of Fan-Fiction.

“I’ve been writing Fan-Fiction since I was 11 years old and currently own more books than is probably healthy.”

http://www.ljconstantine.com/fanfic/trek.htm

About the author

(c) Paul FitzSimons

Paul FitzSimons is a screenwriter and novelist and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’ and a number of scripts for film and TV. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers. Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He doesn’t like country-and-western music or people who don’t indicate on roundabouts.

Paul also runs the Script Editing service Paul | The | Editor.

paulfitzsimons.com

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