When you have read a book or watched a television series or a movie, do you experience any of the following thoughts?
- I could have done it better
- the ending should have been different
- character x should have been developed
- I want it to continue
Well, then perhaps fan fiction (reading and writing) could be for you. It makes up a staggering 33% of all online content about books on the internet.
Fan fiction is created by fans of a book or movie/tv series as an Alternate Canon (AC) to the original story (or Original Canon – OC). Often created by non-professional people just because they really love a book or characters in a movie. They do it for free, just for the love of a book. And they are often extremely talented. Some fan fiction is way better than the original in my opinion.
I have a writing background (started writing when I was four, have an Honours degree in English literature and journalism, love reading and writing, trained as a journalist, taught journalism for the internet and am now a proofreader/translator/English teacher) so I love watching these writers develop and get into the characters.
My first interest was in Brokeback Mountain fan fiction. Brokeback Mountain was a short story published in the New Yorker. Only 11 pages long. I love Annie Proulx – she can use a few words to paint a picture that speaks a thousand words and is a Pulitzer prize winning author. When I heard it was going to be made into a movie I wondered how they would manage to make 11 pages into 2 hours. But they did. That screenplay was perfect. They didn’t add or leave anything out. The movie was extraordinary. You didn’t notice the gender of the characters, just the impossible love story. No matter what happened, it would not have ended happily.
So the fan fiction grew out of people wanting to give it a happy ending or wanting to continue the story somehow. There were prequels, sequels, whole alternate canon which started from particular points in the book. I decided to try. And I learned so much. How to develop characters and keep them interesting, how to cope with the pressure of writing regular updates, the reviews from thousands of readers, the deluge of email from people. You can just see yourself getting better day by day. The best of Brokeback Fan Fiction is Beans and Crazies by Montana crows.
I tried to write a happy ending. It did not work because if you stay true to your characters and the society of the day there was never going to be one. It was doomed. You cannot change that without changing the characters. So I tried an alternate story with the same character which gave a happy ending but then there was no story. So I had to keep it happy enough for people to want to read but angsty enough for people to remain interested. You have to remain true to the characters. It kept me on my toes I can tell you.
My second interest has been in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James arose as fan fiction of the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer, and was published as its own trilogy about a year ago. It has topped bestselling lists for ages – I seem to remember that it is the fastest selling book/series of books of all time. In this case often when people exhaust the books themselves, they write further, purely out of love for the characters and/or the story. And they can actually write! Fifty Shades of Grey would never have been published the usual way because of the content. But the huge success of it as fanfiction meant that publishers really had no choice in the end. It now has its own fan fiction – – my two favourites are from Christian’s point of view and from Taylor’s point of view . The latter is hysterically funny. If you are put off the subject matter but want to know what the story is about, read the Fifty Shades of Taylor fanfic and you will get the rough tough plainspeaking bodyguard’s point of view. The originals were not particularly well written but these two are written way better. The one from Christian’s point of view starts a bit shakily but she really improves quickly.
The original authors have different views on fan fiction. Terry Pratchett, Stephanie Meyer and El James, J K Rowling are positive to it, Annie Proulx is against it and Ann Rice has changed her opinion from against to leaning to for. There is constant debate about the legality of it but the sheer proliferation of this new genre and the new fans it brings to the original works is likely to lead to it growing rather than being stopped.
Much of the concern stems from slash fiction (which is same sex pairings of fictional characters from famous movies/tv/books) and sexually explicit fan fiction. The most common one used to be Spock and Kirk from Star Trek.
For myself as a teacher of writing/sometime writer, it is invaluable to both myself and my students. There is constant help from other members with story lines, proofreading, editing, feedback and character development. Your likes and views always give you an idea of how good your story lines are. It is very difficult to do but extremely gratifying.
Some sites to look at are:
and this one with a list of the others