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Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Art of Writing Fan-Fiction

Fan-fiction is awesome.  I mean, you can take the characters that you love, plunk them into your own writing, using your own words, plot twists and fresh takes on the subject matter and create something totally new, while still sticking to your original obsession.  You can resurrect the character that BBC killed off somewhere around the first few episodes, or kill a baddie that just seemed to keep sticking around, no matter what happened.  You can fast-forward through the hero's life to discover What Happened Next, or delve into the heroine's backstory and give new depth to a character.  At times, your brilliance is writing plot twists and thinking up scenarios is so, well, brilliant, that you're amazed the author/screenwriter didn't think of it in the first place.

But.  There are several problems with fan-fiction, or more particularly how fan-fiction is written (at least a few of the pieces I've read), that I felt strongly enough about to write this post.  Just as there are so many advantages in writing the stuff - I've only listed a few of them up above - there are challenges and pitfalls as well.  Some of them I've fallen into, some of them I've seen others fall into, and some are just my personal opinion :P  I'm going to go through them, point by point, along with throwing in a few tips and some things that you can do while writing fan-fiction (it doesn't have to be perfect, believe me).
    ...and no one else....
  • Stay true to the characters.  One of the best things about writing fan-fiction is that you don't have to create any new characters unless you want to.  As a writer who struggles with creating well-rounded, interesting characters, this is a big plus for me.  But you have to stay true to the character(s), and if you break the mold, you'd better have a good reason.  For instance, I used to write Enjonine fan-fiction where Enjolras saw Eponine and he instantly fell head-over-heels in love, giving almost no more thought for France/revolution.  That is wrong.  Enjolras could definitely fall in love with Eponine ;), but it most likely wouldn't be instantaneous and he would never forget France.  I've stopped writing that kind of thing now.

    Also, even though actions speak louder than words, don't forget the actual words the character says.  Unless you've moved a period story to modern day, or a modern story to period times, keep the flavor/vocabulary of the words authentic (this goes for any kind of creative writing, really, but people will jump on you even more, it seems, if you're not authentic in fan-fiction - lots of people are fiercely protective of their favorite books/movies/shows).
  • You don't have to match the writing style of the author.  I've read a few pieces of fan-fiction where the author went out of his/her way to perfectly match the author's writing style.  It...didn't work.  Not by a long shot.  The author was so intent on making their work appear exactly the same as the original that the rest of the story got lost in 'translation'.  What I would suggest is this: let your own writing style show through, but add a few key phrases/thoughts/techniques that would subtly show the author/screenwriter's influence.  That way, your reader isn't bogged down with technical writing mechanics, and instead be able to enjoy the story, while still hearing echoes of the original work.
  • The writing doesn't have to be perfect.  I rarely, if ever, edit my fan-fiction.  I write them for friends who are just interested in seeing my take on different stories - mostly Les Mis - so I don't really bother about ruthlessly cutting out adverbs and unnecessary words.  I just send it off once I'm done the first draft.  I call fan-fiction 'fun writing', because it really is.  I don't have to worry about getting every little thing perfect, so I can focus even more on the story.  It's basically brain candy for both the writer and the reader :)

    Samanthan Hahn Write Every Day Big Click Magnet
  • Fan-fiction is fun, but don't let it take away from your regular writing.  This used to be a tough one for me.  I wasn't all that interested in my novel a little while ago, so I wrote tons of fan-fiction, comforting myself with the thought that it was still technically writing.  Well, it was, but it wasn't really doing my writing life any good.  So I set it aside and focused on my novel.  Pretty soon, I was engrossed in the story, and I didn't have the slightest desire to write anymore fan-fiction.  Now that I'm finished my novel, I've gone back to it and it's more fun, now that I don't have to feel guilty about an unfinished draft in limbo.  All this being said, if you're novel is one big piece of fan-fiction, that's an entirely different story :)
  • What are your obsessions?  I only write fan-fiction about things that I'm so passionate about, I can't help but write about it (blog posts don't count).  I've always wondered about certain things whenever I've watched/read certain books/movies.  I've written a couple of Jane Austen pieces, one Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye fan-fiction and several Les Mis stories.  I'm considering writing a full-length Robin Hood novel based on a couple of the books, with tie-ins to the BBC show, but that's still completely in the pre-planning stage.  What I'm saying is, if you're going to write fan-fiction, and you're going to be spending a good chunk of your writing time doing it, pick something that you won't slow down on half-way through.  I never waste good writing time on a project that I'm not entirely enthusiastic about (I just don't start it at all), and I think that's what's helped me write so much - both 'normal' writing and fan-fiction.
  • If you're a person who listens to music while you write, listen to music that's specific to your project, if at all possible.  This is a fun one.  I've listened to Jane Austen music a lot while I've written Emma fan-fiction, and it really helps.  I'll probably listen to the BBC Robin Hood soundtrack when I get around to writing that novel.  If you want to do this, but don't have any music, I suggest going to Youtube.  You can get pretty much any soundtrack ever created on there, and it's been invaluable when I need good writing music.  I've found that music actually helps me get into the right flow, especially if I'm listening to the appropriate tracks for certain writing moments :)
#music #quotes  via

Annnnnd...that's pretty much all I have to say :)  I hope you found at least some of this post helpful - please comment and let me know what you think.  Oh, and if you have any other tips, put them down too.  I'm always open to new suggestions.



Una Mariah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miss Jane Bennet said...

Wonderful post! It was indeed very helpful and I especially liked your second and third tips. Let's see...I really can't think of anything to add to that. Great job! :)

Anonymous said...

This is great for people (like me) who want to write fan-fiction. Or try at least! I hope I stayed in tune with everyone's character. As for the writing like Victor Hugo, well, I did try to stay a little old-fashioned. I'll admit that! :) Sometimes it sounds so much more sophisticated than nowadays. I do hope, Eva, that you did enjoy my Joly fan fiction. It was my first, and probably the last time I've ever tried fan-fiction. By the way, when is the rest of your Jehan and Cosette story coming out?
~Hannah S.

Eva said...

@Una - sure, I'd love it if you would read/critique my fan-fiction! I actually deleted all my old stuff, 'cause it really was terrible, but I'm working on a new piece now that I hope will be done soon. If you email me at, I'll see that you get it when I'm done.

@Hannah - oh, don't worry, I wasn't talking about you when I said some authors try to copy the original's style too much :) I really liked your Joly fan-fiction. I can't wait to read more of your work.

Anonymous said...

(Sighs, huge 100 pound weights comes off shoulders) :). Whew! Your post came a little after my fan-fiction came out, so I was a little worried, I'll admit that! But I hope to take your and other peoples tips in stride so my writing can be better. Your book Torn Hopes sounds interesting and awesome! Let me know when it's published, I'll pick it up hot off the press! :) By the way, I'm stumped on Joly's story. I mean I know he has to die (sniffles and eyes water) Who is cutting onions!!!!!! (sob here). But before the barricades come, what should I do? It's easy to think of a back story, but endings are hard to write.
~Hannah S.

Eva said...

Well, if you want to be a beta-reader when I finish editing Torn Hopes, just let me know - I'd love to get your input and I think you'd enjoy a little 'sneak preview' before it's published ;)

Anonymous said...

~Hannah S.

Sierra Bailey said...

I love this post, Eva!! Speaking of fanfiction I just finished the one you sent me. We're gonna have to talk so I can fangirl over it.

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