Posted February 6, 2012on:
I don’t usually write fanfics. I get all hung up sometimes about using someone else’s characters and making sure the voices sound right and all that stuff that applies to anyone monkeying around in someone else’s back yard. It’s possible they may like what you did with their flower beds, but then again…
I do take inspiration from other people’s work, usually negative.
- ‘Why did they do that?’
- ‘I could have done this better.’
- ‘I’d rather the story went this way…’
Many times I take these ideas and use them to enhance my own stories. Not in any way that violates copyright, of course, but there’s no need to say where the idea came from or use names anyway. It’s the scenario that matters.
A fanfic is a different beast, and there are different types of fanfic. Many are enhancements of something, a story written to add corroborative detail to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Or it could be hairy and convincing, but not enough for the guy writing the fanfic. Some TV shows try to mirror their weekly schedule in the script, and fanfics are written to fill in the gaps. One fanfic author I especially like blithely ignores the romantic tension plot of our mutual favorite series and has the characters expressing their affection openly, if not explicitly.
What makes a fanfic work for me is whether or not the storyline of the original story needs to be changed to accommodate it, a technique known as retcon, for retroactive continuity. (I’ve read some novels that try to do the same thing, which to me is a sign of bad writing. We won’t even mention
Highlander 2.) The less ‘retconning’ there is, the better the fanfic, at least to me. My respect for the logic flow of the original story sort of requires me to try to carry it forward into any fanfics I read, or write. A story that at least doesn’t contradict the original is minimally OK. If the logic flows into the fanfic, if the fanfic explains something in the original story using the story’s own logic (which I’ll call explanatory power), so much the better. (Of course the author of the fanfic may have a different idea of what that logic flow is than I do, in which case he’s wrong.) Clearly multiple fanfics can be written to extend or embellish any story at any point, and as long as they satisfy my criteria I’d say they were all equally good, qua fanfic. The actual writing may still suck.
I have so far written all of two fanfics, not counting the scenes in my books which were inspired by other stories. Those were scenes, not complete stories, and the characters were my own. I’ll give you points if you can tell me what the scenes are and what the inspirations were. Points are cheap.
My only reason so far for writing a fanfic is that I felt a complete or partial lack of closure to a story arc, i.e., the logic is incomplete. Incomplete logic annoys me in and of itself, which often means that the story itself bothers me, given how tied together the two are. My first fanfic was written solely to scratch an itch inflicted upon me by the TV series Chuck, back in season three, when a story arc that stretched for four episodes ended abruptly, without a happy resolution, or even a sad one. I suppose I could have lived with a sad one, but since I prefer happy endings that’s what my fanfic gave her, sort of. It’s on this site as Free Story #2, above. It was a short exercise for a minor character. No retcon involved, nor any explanatory power.
I just finished my second fanfic yesterday. Again it is for the series Chuck, one of the few TV shows to have characters that involved me enough that I would care enough about them to write a fanfic. The series just ended, and the final episode ends with a major plotline unresolved. The producers say this is to allow viewers to make up their own endings, but the more likely explanation is that they wanted a hook to hang a new series or movie possibility onto. Innocent that I am, this rather cynical second possibility did not even occur to me until after I’d plotted out the fanfic I wanted to tell, to resolve the plotline as I felt it ought to be resolved, i.e., no retconning, maximum explanatory power, and an HEA.
This was the fastest writing I’ve ever done, 7K words in three days, or about 9 pages a day. The characters were there and I knew them all and loved them. I believe they all act in character and sound right. I knew the story intimately, and even though the logic isn’t exactly the tightest in the world, there were certain conventions to be observed and standards to be upheld, and I think I did. It’s one of the few I’ve ever plotted out from beginning to end, or was able to. This story wanted to be written and it wanted to be written right now! (Plus I’m in the middle of another novel and job-hunting so I really don’t have a lot of time.)
I sent it out to a few beta-readers already, and I’m hoping to post it either tonight or tomorrow. If you like the show Chuck I hope you’ll check out my story and tell me what you think. For other fanfics about all sorts of stories, not just TV, check out fanfiction.net. I’m sure there are others.
Remember, all authors love feedback. If you have a favorite author, write and tell him so. Tell his publisher so. The only way to keep the stuff you love available is to spread the love and spread the word.