Today I am swapping blogs with Julie Lynn Hayes and we are both talking on the same subject – fan fiction. You will find the link to Julie’s blog at the end of this post, and my own take on the subject will be there later on today.
Writers have to start somewhere. We don’t burst out of the womb with pencil and paper ready to record our first impressions. That comes later. We discover our interest in writing, our desire to string words together in order to shape ideas, and tell stories, as we grow and develop as people. But just as someone who’s learning to ride a bicycle needs training wheels, so a writer needs a writing safety net, so to speak, which allows him to safely practice his craft.
Enter fanfiction writing.
For many authors, this is the first bastion of learning to write. You take a fandom, characters and situations you’re familiar with, and you run with them, adding ideas of your own. It’s safe for two reasons—one, because these are characters with whom you and your readers will be familiar, which is half the battle won already, and two, you can’t possibly sell these stories so you are safe for now from the fear of rejection.
I was involved in what became a heated discussion in an author’s group once about fanfiction. One author was quite disdainful of any published author (which we all were) who continued to write such time-wasting pieces of trash. But I have to disagree. Fanfiction is a wonderful way to hone one’s own writing in the areas of one’s greatest weaknesses.
I began writing fanfiction before it even had a name. In fact, I’d forgotten about my early pieces until recently, when it dawned on me that they were actually my first forays into fanfiction. I was not even eighteen at the time, probably younger. So I guess it’s safe to say I started writing fanfiction a good 35 years ago. The one I remember had to do with a then popular night time soap opera by the name of Peyton Place, which I watched on a regular basis. Today’s TV programs make that one look tame in comparison, but in its day it was rather controversial.
My foray into more modern fanfiction writing began no more than ten years ago, I think, when I wrote a ginormous crossover story for my daughters. It became so huge that it was actually a book and it involved several fandoms. But I learned while I wrote, and that’s the important thing, besides the enjoyment of writing. I realized that I had some weak areas in my writing—characterization and plot. Writing fanfiction allowed me to experiment with those things, and work on them, using my fanfiction as a safety net, until I realized that they were no longer my weak areas of writing. When you find yourself writing more OC’s than canon characters, it’s probably time to move on to original works.
Anything which improves your writing skills can’t be a waste of time, surely. Which is why I took umbrage with the author who belittled those who enjoyed writing it. We write because we love it, right? Some things we write just for the joy of writing. No one needs to be critical of that.
Fanfiction, of course, cannot be sold. Why? Because we, the wannabe authors, don’t own the characters we’re writing about. This is right and good, and it should be so. Would we want some other writer taking it upon themselves to play with our characters and get paid for it? I don’t think so. Fanfiction can only be posted if it’s for free, that’s just how it goes. Can we write our own fanfiction and get paid for it? No, then it’s not fanfiction by definition.
On the other hand, there is a growing trend that I’ve noticed in some authors which really drives me crazy, which involves taking the characters of a dead and out-of-copyright author and using said characters as their own in their own novel for which the new writer receives all the benefits to be had from the arrangement. In other words, legal fanfiction. Lately, there seems to be a proliferation of new novels involving Jane Austen’s hero Mr. Darcy. He seems to be the darling of the romance set. And I cry foul!
It’s not that I object to Mr. Darcy as a character. No, not at all. Within the confines of Pride and Prejudice he is a most wonderful character. But to take him and the other characters and tell their story in any way you please strikes me as smacking of fanfiction tendencies and a complete lack of originality. If Jane Austen were alive, do you think she’d approve? Somehow I doubt it. I’m not sure where these writers get the chutzpah to rewrite Austen. Let them stick to their own characters instead.
There is also the new trend of taking familiar pieces of literature and adding zombies. I don’t think I’ll comment on that, other than to wonder where that idea came from.
I don’t write much fanfiction any more, I have to admit. Mostly because I don’t have the time, not from a lack of inclination. I am sorely tempted, especially because I now have new fandoms that I’d like to explore – Deadwood, Rome, Six Feet Under, Dexter, DaVinci’s Inquest, Justified, to name just a few. It’s still a lot of fun to play with other people’s characters, whether you get paid for it or not. I like to have people read my fanfiction and enjoy it. It pleases me to get reviews on stuff that I’ve posted at the fanfic sites. And I enjoy role playing too, which is just a form of fanfiction, except you do it with other people.
Fanfiction is a good way to learn, and to practice what we learn so that we become ready to apply the same principles to our original characters. It isn’t a waste of time or effort. It’s a part of our writing heritage that most of us won’t soon forget.
Do any of you write fanfiction? What are your favorite fandoms? Who are your favorite pairs? I’d love to hear about it!
Julie Lynn Hayes’ latest novel, Leonard di Caprio is a Vampire is out tomorrow.
“Tis the night before Halloween, and Fisher Roberts wishes it was over, not being a fan of this or any other holiday. But he tolerates it because his roommate/best friend Hunter Long takes a childish glee in all things Halloween. And Fisher has a vested interest in keeping Hunter happy. If only he could find the nerve to tell his childhood friend that he loves him, and has for a very long time.
Fisher thinks Hunter is carrying things a bit far this year, though. First Hunter claims to be a vampire, and he just won’t let the silly joke go. Then he forces Fisher to go to a costumed Halloween party which Fisher would rather avoid, especially when he realizes where it’s being held, and whose house it is. Things at Fisher’s job might just be going south, too, when he receives a mysterious summons to report to the editor’s office the next morning. And then Fisher goes and does something stupid—like kissing Hunter!
Bad leads to worse when Fisher ends up at the Halloween party from Hell, and he learns something that threatens to destroy his and Hunter’s relationship forever. Running from his fears, Fisher encounters a strange young man with an unusual resemblance to Leonardo di Caprio, who shows him things he never realized before, truths about his life and the people in it.
Can Fisher find his way back to Hunter, and can he find the courage to do what his heart wishes?
Leonardo di Caprio is a Vampire
“Did you know that Leonardo di Caprio is a vampire?”
Fisher Roberts stopped in mid-chew of a mouthful of fibrous cereal to cast a wary, disbelieving glance at his best friend and roommate Hunter Long on the other side of the table. Wary, because he wondered what in the world Hunter was going on about so early in the morning. Disbelieving, because he only had so much time for breakfast before he had to get going to work, and he had a bad feeling that Hunter was trying to eat into that time. Why he wanted to do that was beyond Fisher. Of course, a lot of things about his roommate were beyond Fisher, despite the fact that they’d been friends since they were—well, too young to actually remember how long they’d known each other. But for as long as Fisher could remember, he and Hunter had been best buddies. And he’d learned over the years that, with Hunter, longevity did not equate to knowledge-ability, far from it.
Now, Fisher could react in one of two ways. He could ignore his roommate and keep eating. Pretend he’d heard nothing. But from past experience, that would only cause Hunter’s performance to escalate. Which would entail taking more time to decipher what he was saying, and in the process make Fisher even later to work. Or he could simply bow down to the inevitable and give in by asking him the question he was doubtless waiting to hear. Even if it brought about that smug smirk he was so fond of wearing.
Fisher finished chewing, swallowed, and managed not to roll his eyes as he reached for his juice to kill off what was left in the glass. Waste not, want not. “What do you mean?”
Hunter Long might be six foot two and possessed of a body that many a male model would kill for—at least that’s what Fisher heard the girls who flocked around him say—with the palest of blue eyes that twinkled all the time, and a smile that could and did light up a room. But honestly, he had the capacity to be an overgrown child at times, and this was one of those times. Fisher chalked it up to it being that time of year.
“Well,” Hunter replied, “look at him, going on forty, and he looks just like he did what, fifteen years ago? It only stands to reason he must be a vampire. They never age, you know. I mean take a look at us. We’re almost his age, but over the years we’ll grow up to be little old men and he’ll still be playing sweet baby-faced guys even when he’s collecting social security, know what I mean?”
“There are no such things as vampires,” Fisher made his typical logical reply, “and just because it’s Halloween tomorrow night, and you’ve got the house all decorated for it, doesn’t mean you have to bring it to the table. Know what I mean?” He arched a no-nonsense brow at the other man. This was not Fisher’s favorite time of year. Neither was Christmas, come to think of it. Or any other holiday. Ironic that he should write articles for a living that meant he was forced to expound on such seasonal topics for Midwest Home and Fantasy, a regional online magazine with a growing fan-base, when he had no real interest in them himself, being a practical, no-nonsense kind of a guy.
“I’m a vampire.” Hunter smiled, leaning across the table toward Fisher. “Want to see my fangs?”
Link to Julie’s blog