Monday, July 28, 2014

Write Fan Fiction

I have written fan fiction. To my knowledge, I have written four pieces of fan fiction in my life. I might be forgetting something, but I don't think so. Anyway, I'm not ashamed or embarassed that I've been a writer of fan fiction. I've also read a lot more fan fiction that I've written. I used to read fan fiction all the time. Fan fiction, if it's good, can be a great way to revisit a world that the original author has left behind. Those same characters and places and times offer so many more potential stories than any one author could write. Fan fiction is harmless fun and I fully endorse it. And I endorse you writing it. Yes, you, the serious writer, the would-be author, the professional aspirant. Write some fan fiction. Why you ask? Why put time into this? Why sully your good name? Well first of all, you don't need to share it. I shared mine the way I did because some folks wanted to read it and so I could make this point I'm about to make. So this can be our dirty little secret. Secondly, you need to experiment. You need to push yourself and challenge yourself and strive to be better. You need to go outside your comfort zone and do something new from time to time. Short stories are great for this kind of thing. Short Stories allow you to explore new ideas and techniques and genres without committing to writing 80,000 words of experimentation. Unless you want 80,000 words of experimentation. I've done that too. "But Carl, how does all this relate to fan fiction?" Look, nameless voice of the confused audience, you need to get past this prejudice you have against Fan Fiction before we go on. Even if you don't hate the notion of fan fiction and think it's harmless fun, there's still a good chance you think it's the land of young women living out their Twilight bondage fantasies, die hard Naruto loving japanophiles with not actual interest in literature or syntax or even just a "good jumping off point" before people become serious writers. I've heard all the reasons to hate, ignore, disregard, discount, look down on or patronise fan fiction and fan fiction writers. There's nothing you can tell me that I haven't heard and you're still looking at it the wrong way. Instead, start looking at fan fiction as a pre-packaged setting. You open the box marked "Harry Potter" and you have a world, a history, characters, rules, events and everything else that you need to begin telling a story. All you've got to do is mix in your own fresh ideas and tell your Harry Potter story. And those ideas - those oh so necessary creations plucked from your imagination - are what separates fan fiction from canon. New ideas are not optional when writing fan fiction. And those new ideas can be character archetypes you don't usually write, narrative voices you don't usually use, genres you're uncomfortable with, obscure themes you're not sure how to explore. When you begin writing a story from scratch, be it a short story, a novel or a play, you really are beginning with a blank sheet of paper. Everything that goes onto that paper has to come from somewhere inside you. You have to make the people, the places, the past, present and future, you have to make the heroes and the villains, you have to create the mood, the imagery, you have to come up with the themes and how you're going to explore and argue those themes, you have to give everyone names and personalities and purpose. I don't need to tell you that writing happens to be a shit load of work. Fan fiction fills in some of those blanks for you. It gives you more time to focus on a few key ideas that you want to experiment with. That's the beauty of fan fiction. Don't ever stop experimenting and don't let your prejudices get in the way of something that might help you to improve as a writer.

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