This year, like most years, I’m giving Nanowrimo a go. Not a very enthusiastic go, I’m afraid. I’ve become hooked on Draconius Go*, for a start, and I’m generally experiencing an apathy towards completing my stories. Lacking in motivation to write a story that “matters”, so to speak (as if any stories really matter to anyone except the writer), I picked up a story I’d begun last year, in a last-ditch effort to attain my 2016 NaNo goal.
Yes, I turned to Fanfiction.
I’m not new to the genre (if you can call it that) of Fanfiction. I started with it, back in 2000 with ElfQuest and Pokemon (although you could argue even before that, when I wrote a “Fantasy epic” inspired by my favourite song). I chose ElfQuest because they were semi-feral elves that rode wolves -so different from Tolkien’s statuesque and noble forest dwellers. Pokemon because, animals with magic powers! I also dabbled in a little Xanth (more in a “what if?” situation, as in “what if a feral, REAL, elf found its way into Xanth” but my motivation of introducing my ElfQuest OC to the Xanthian pun-world quickly dwindled) and wrote a song-fic inspired by “The Golden Compass”. These can be read on my Fanfiction.net page. Warning: They’re raw, lacking almost completely in editing and indubitably contain numerous grammatical errors.
Why is Fanfiction so alluring?
Well, most writers are also readers, or at the very least, enjoy some form of pop culture. Whether it be movies, television, books, cartoons, or even music, there’s generally something that speaks to us, inspires us: Characters that we wish were real people, worlds that we wished we could explore. Stories that we wished we could read. Sometimes the author takes the story in a manner you might not like, ie: kills off or abandons your favourite character, or totally skips over something you would’ve really enjoyed learning more about. As a reader and a writer, you can CHANGE THIS!
Writing in a Fandom universe means that your world comes fully created, no shuffling around trying to define a magic system, or decide how the weather system works, or how the cities and forests are laid out. It’s pre-made. Not only that, but you already have an established fan-base, since people who enjoy a particular fandom may seek further reading.
Original Characters or Canon?
Canon characters are those created by the original author or franchise: Harry, Ron and Hermoine for example. They do require a bit of delicate handling, and some authors may take offense at their “children” falling into the hands of amateurs, so if you want to write fandom and share it with the wider world, it might pay to check and see if your favourite author appreciates it. Some authors have outright refused to let stories written in their fandom be uploaded to fanfiction.net. George RR Martin, for example, considers it copyright infringement. If writing with Canon Characters, try and keep them as true to their intended personalities as possible.
Original Characters (OC) also come with risks, specifically when they come across as author-inserts and immediately catch the heart and soul of a beloved Canon character, in an effort of wish fulfillment. OCs must be as well developed as any Canon characters you may choose to incorporate. They must have flaws, and they must face challenges. If they’re perfect, and all the other characters love them, then you might have a problem.
When reading Fanfiction, I tend to be okay with either – as long as it’s well written and the Canon characters seem true to their author’s original voice.
Some of my favourite fanfiction stories are the James Potter series by G Norman Lippert (staring Harry and Ginny’s children, not Harry’s dad), although their American flavour did wear on me after a while. His stories are well written, very professionally marketed, listed on Goodreads and, most importantly, FREE. Because, even if your stories are accepted (if not endorsed) by the author, you cannot make money from them:
- unless you change them dramatically so that they are no longer recognised as Fanfiction, ala Fifty Shades of Gray and, allegedly, The Mortal Instruments..
- unless the author has actually asked you to write in her world – the Cassandra Clare spin off short story books, featuring Magnus Bane and Simon’s training in Shadowhunter Academy really do feel like glorified Fanfiction.
- unless it is based on a story that is out of copyright (or a folk/fairy tale). This is why you see a fair amount of stories from Hook’s PoV, or with similar plot structures to Shakespearian plays and Austen/Bronte novels. Fairy tale retellings could also be considered Fanfiction.
Another excellent Harry Potter Fanfiction is “Better be Slytherin!” which answers a question I’m sure you’ve all been curious about.
Fanfiction also gives you the ability to dabble in crossing characters between your favourite fandom (what if Buffy met Edward?). You can also take minor characters and make them the star of their own story. Fans might get a bit miffed if you start killing off Canon characters (in my “Pookamon” (anthro Pokemon) Fanfiction, I evolved Meowth before killing him off. It didn’t go down particularly well), but overall, it’s the chance to take liberties and have some fun!
Fanfiction I wish existed (and would write if I had the time or ability):
- Twilight as a psychological thriller.
- The Battle of Hogwarts: how Ginny, Luna and Neville held Hogwarts against the anarchy and chaos that ensured in book seven.
- A predator/prey changeling relationship in the Psy Changeling universe.
And if you want to read an excellent story with an original character that is in no way beloved, beautiful and brilliant at everything she does, and like a good dark romance, I strongly recommend FANGIRL_15 by Aimee Roseland. It’s not technically Fanfiction, although one might argue that the brothers do bear a striking resemblance to those in another series, but the main character is a massive fangirl (as the name suggests) who finds herself sucked into the world of the stories she loves – but finds not only is it darker, more frightening and overwhelming in reality, but also that they don’t trust her very much. It’s an amazing book, that even on the second reading almost had me weeping for the main characters. However, the ending is a bit weird.
Another fun Fanfiction inspired book is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, in which the main character writes Fanfiction (slash Fanfiction) around a series of books that bears some similarity to a certain boy-wizard. The story was so successful, and the fans so clamorous, that Rowell actually went on to write the Simon Snow story that the protagonist was penning!
* it’s like Pokemon Go, but with more realistic monsters (even though they have ridiculous names and no natural history), quests, duels with opposing team mates and treasure hunts. Yeh, it’s pretty addictive. I’ll post more about it later, promise.