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Fan Fiction that Doesn't Suck
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sugarraydodge



Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Posts: 647
Location: Utah
Fan Fiction that Doesn't Suck  Reply with quote  

On Sunday I was (for some unexplicable reason) inspired to write an essay about Fan Fiction and how to make it not suck. I want to repost it here to see if anybody has anything to add, or tell me that I'm totally wrong. I'm down with either one.

Quote:
You want to write fan fiction, yes? You totally adore the characters you want to write for and want to get to know them better by writing a story for them, yes? Your only problems are that fan fiction is a joke in the literary world, those pesky copyright laws, and the fact the owners of the intellectual property wouldnít read your story if you sent them a hundred copies and a scented candle? Three for three!

Itís nothing to be ashamed of, privately (but I wouldnít go out and advertise the fact that you write fan fiction if you are trying to find a literary agent.) Many aspiring writers try their hand at fan fiction. I sure did. At the very least it helps them home their craft so they can begin writing original works. But for those who want their fan fiction to be taken seriously, thatís where the dream ends. Fan fiction gets a bad rep for a reason, and that reason is most of it sucks. Another reason authors of fan fiction arenít taken seriously is, beyond the legal aspect, because agents and publishers think that they are too lazy to come up original characters, settings, stories, etc. That, and fan fiction authors are viewed as over-excited fanboys/girls who havenít taken the right dose of medication.

But there is a way to beat all that! Fan fiction, when done right, isnít really fan fiction. Itís original work! Yes, I know that must be very confusing, so let me break it down for you. Here is how you can write fan fiction, have it not suck and still be able to attach your name without being called a hack, a nutcase or an intellectual property thief.

1. Choose a character or property you love. Or maybe even two or three.
2. Come up with an original story for them. You have to give your audience a reason to read your work. Donít rehash old events and give it a twist ending, or tell vignettes that take place in between seasons/episodes/books/issues/etc. Come up with an original and complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
3. Make the characters your own. Tweak them slightly or even dramatically. Change their names. Give them their own original back-stories. This is key to not being sued, and is what gives your umbrella of legitimacy.

Now all that may sound like a no-brainer, but many fan fiction authors canít seem to grasp onto the concept of originality. I know what youíre saying. ďBut people will think I just ripped off the idea from such-and-such!Ē Yeah. So? Having that stigma is much better than having the stigma of fan fiction attached to you. Plus, if you use original characters, you are not bound by pre-existing facts and events to tell stories. You have a complete license to do whatever you want with them! They are YOUR characters, so make them your own! Characters are what make a good story. If you donít have good, interesting characters, then nobody is going to care about the story that you are telling.

But, if you simply MUST cling to your beloved characters in their true and unaltered form, there is a way to do it and stand out from the over-stunk landfill of fan fiction.

1. You must not suck. You cannot lie to yourself about your writing abilities. If you suck, then youíll go nowhere. If you are good, or even great, it makes it easier for the audience to hold their nose to avoid smelling the putrid fan fiction fumes while they read your work.
2. You HAVE to tell an original story. This is the same as step two above. Originality is what separates you from the rest of the landfill.
3. You have to know the characters intimately. No, Iím not talking about having imaginary sex with them (which I KNOW some people do in their minds. Blech!) I am talking about knowing who they are, what motivates them, and why they do what they do. This is why back story is so important. The characterís past influences who they are, and without that knowledge you are going to be flailing badly, and all the fanboys will be able to tell. And you should care what the fanboys think because they are the only ones reading your stuff.

So, with all that in mind, get out there and write yourself a good story. It is all about the story, after all, so write the best one you can.

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Post Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:13 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
Re: Fan Fiction that Doesn't Suck  Reply with quote  

sugarraydodge wrote:
Here is how you can write fan fiction, have it not suck and still be able to attach your name without being called a hack, a nutcase or an intellectual property thief.

1. Choose a character or property you love. Or maybe even two or three.
2. Come up with an original story for them. You have to give your audience a reason to read your work. Donít rehash old events and give it a twist ending, or tell vignettes that take place in between seasons/episodes/books/issues/etc. Come up with an original and complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
3. Make the characters your own. Tweak them slightly or even dramatically. Change their names. Give them their own original back-stories.


I kind of have to disagree with these points. Changing a few identifying facts about the characters doesn't take it out of the realm of fan fiction; it feels more akin to giving the characters funny hats and fake noses. Fans of the original series are, more likely than not, going to recognize their thinly-veiled protagonists.

If you wrote a story about a down-on-his luck truck driver for Mary Kay named... Mucker Brace, who picked up a hitchhiker and crashed the truck while she, ahem, played with his stick shift, and who, during his recovery, made friends with a talking vampire bat named Esteban... we'd all know where the original story came from.

It's not original fiction if you've renamed Luke and Leia and fiddled with their stories a bit, yet still have them racing around the universe in the Millennium Falcon, fighting the Empire.

Point is, it's not just characters you'd need to change, but whole worlds, -- major political structures, the rules of how magic works in that world, cities and nations, everything.

At which point, well... why not just write your own original story?

Quote:
This is key to not being sued, and is what gives your umbrella of legitimacy.


No, it's not. The key to not being sued when it comes to fan fiction is to not attempt to profit from it. Most authors will simply ignore stories fans write that are set in their worlds. They have to. But if you were to go out and try to sell a story set in the Potterverse, even if none of Rowling's characters made an appearance, she'd have every right to sue.

Quote:
ďBut people will think I just ripped off the idea from such-and-such!Ē


Aside from the shoddy writing, one of the things that made me want to throw things when I read Eragon was how very derivative it was. That kid didn't have an original thought in his head, and it showed -- the intro was a rip-off of the Wheel of Time intro (even going so far as to talk about history becoming legend becoming myth). There were things stolen from the Pern novels, things stolen from Dune, things stolen from Lord of the Rings. Renamed and stuck in a blender together, sure, but all very clearly identifiable.

When Paolini grows up, maybe he'll have a decent, original story in him. And hey, he made a shit ton of money off of his crappy series, so he even gets paid for practicing.

But if I'm going to play in someone else's universe, I'd rather live with the "stigma" of writing fanfic than having other fans call me out on trying to claim someone else's original work as my own. In the first instance, I'm at worst considered a geeky fan. In the second, I'm a thief.
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Post Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:13 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
sugarraydodge



Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Posts: 647
Location: Utah
Re: Fan Fiction that Doesn't Suck  Reply with quote  

Lauren wrote:
If you wrote a story about a down-on-his luck truck driver for Mary Kay named... Mucker Brace, who picked up a hitchhiker and crashed the truck while she, ahem, played with his stick shift, and who, during his recovery, made friends with a talking vampire bat named Esteban... we'd all know where the original story came from.

It's not original fiction if you've renamed Luke and Leia and fiddled with their stories a bit, yet still have them racing around the universe in the Millennium Falcon, fighting the Empire.

Point is, it's not just characters you'd need to change, but whole worlds, -- major political structures, the rules of how magic works in that world, cities and nations, everything.

At which point, well... why not just write your own original story?


See, you get it. It's an exercise in creativity. Everything you just said is the whole point. Smile

I think the perfect example of my point is this book here:



I know it's not fan fiction, but it serves my point. Stand-in characters can become even better than the characters on which they are based. Smile

... Mucker Brace? That's a terrible name! Razz
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Post Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:19 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
wlstone



Joined: 12 Sep 2008
Posts: 13
Location: Here-ish.
 Reply with quote  

People actually read fan fiction?
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Post Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:46 pm   View user's profile Send private message
MJ Felder



Joined: 26 May 2009
Posts: 25
Location: Independence, MO
 Reply with quote  

    wlstone wrote:
    People actually read fan fiction?

It's quite common in the anime community...
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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:03 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
cornman



Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 821
Location: under the golden gate in a fridge box
 Reply with quote  

lamb and fool can be considered fan fiction?
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Post Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:02 am   View user's profile Send private message
sugarraydodge



Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Posts: 647
Location: Utah
 Reply with quote  

cornman wrote:
lamb and fool can be considered fan fiction?


I'm gonna so "no."
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Post Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:59 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
Stewies Mom



Joined: 13 Jun 2009
Posts: 877
Location: totally thinking it should cool off again
 Reply with quote  

Sorry, but fan fiction doesn't do jack for me. I think that if you're going to write, write YOUR own damn story.

Post Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:40 pm   View user's profile Send private message
PubGuy



Joined: 17 Jan 2007
Posts: 9
Location: Lincoln, NE
Fan Fiction  Reply with quote  

I'm going to disagree with SugarRayDodge and say that in a certain sense Lamb and Fool could be considered fan fiction.

Wikipedia defines fan fiction as "a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator."

Author Guy is a fan of Wil Shakespeare and with Fool, AG is working in a world created by Mr. Shakespeare.

So what's the difference between Fool and someone writing a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story? Well, Willie is dead and his copyright long expired, so AG can pretty much do what he pleases in that world. Joss Whedon, on the other hand, is very much alive as of this writing and holds the copyright to Buffy.

So there's a legal difference and its important to recognize that. Your Buffy story will not be published no matter how good you think it is. That's not the way it works. You can publish it at www.fanfiction.net, but keep in mind that technically even that is illegal. It's just that no one except Lee Goldberg (www.leegolderg.com) cares. Your fanfiction is just for fun. If you're doing it for any other reason than your fooling yourself.

So artisticlly, what is the difference between Fool and your Buffy story? Well, I'm guessing everyone on this board thinks AG kicks major ass. Is your Buffy story that good? Probably not. Is there anything that says it can't be? No.

I've read several published Buffy books most of which contain poor attempts to capture Buffyspeak on the page. The best execution of Buffyspeak was actually in a fanfic on fanfiction.net. I wish I could remember the author so I could link to it.

Actually, dabbling in worlds created by other authors has made for some interesting work. Just make sure the copyright has expired if you want to make any money at it. Here are a few examples:

Finn by Jon Clinch
http://www.amazon.com/Finn-Novel-Jon-Clinch/dp/0812977149/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264540187&sr=8-1

Grendal by John Gardner
http://www.amazon.com/Grendel-John-Gardner/dp/0679723110/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264540335&sr=1-1

Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker
http://www.amazon.com/Dracula-Un-Dead-Dacre-Stoker/dp/0525951296/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264540385&sr=1-4

Renfield: Slave of Dracula:
http://www.amazon.com/Renfield-Slave-Dracula-Barbara-Hambly/dp/0425211681/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264540476&sr=1-1

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
http://www.amazon.com/Pride-Prejudice-Zombies-Classic-Ultraviolent/dp/1594743347/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264540672&sr=1-1
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Post Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:23 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
sugarraydodge



Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Posts: 647
Location: Utah
 Reply with quote  

Yeah but all that stuff has a unique twist on those properties, making it original work. At least in my opinion.

I think I need to clarify my opinion on Watchmen and Alan Moore. Watchmen was based on Charlton Comics characters and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is based on public domain characters and stories, but the work itself takes those concepts in moves them into areas they have never been before. The same can be said for Lamb and Fool.
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Post Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:10 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
killertatertots



Joined: 14 Dec 2007
Posts: 10
Location: Ottawa , Canada
 Reply with quote  

I read fanfiction from time to time. Often, there is something that happens in the original story I don't like, so I go and read other people's versions of the endings. Or I read the erotica versions where characters hook up that dont in the original. There is some truly awful stuff out there, but there are also some amazing, book length, well written pieces too.

Post Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:42 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
JustAGirl



Joined: 05 Jan 2008
Posts: 2230
Location: North Carolina
 Reply with quote  

I don't need to read about Harry Potter and Ron Weasley getting it on... I really don't.
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Post Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:51 pm   View user's profile Send private message
sugarraydodge



Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Posts: 647
Location: Utah
 Reply with quote  

killertatertots wrote:
I read fanfiction from time to time. Often, there is something that happens in the original story I don't like, so I go and read other people's versions of the endings. Or I read the erotica versions where characters hook up that dont in the original. There is some truly awful stuff out there, but there are also some amazing, book length, well written pieces too.


There is some good stuff here and there, I'll admit. But the bulk of it is.. well... yeah. And you're right, JustAGirl, nobody wants to see that... except for those that do, but that's not me, so... yeah, I'm gonna stop talking now, thanks.
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Post Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:21 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
zendao42



Joined: 05 Sep 2006
Posts: 13570
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 Reply with quote  

JustAGirl wrote:

I don't need to read about Harry Potter and Ron Weasley getting it on... I really don't.


What if they're in a 3some with Hermione?
Or you could add Malfoy to that & make it a gang bang... Twisted Evil


I dug Barry Trotter (the satirized version of HP), just saying... Wink

Post Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:14 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
JustAGirl



Joined: 05 Jan 2008
Posts: 2230
Location: North Carolina
 Reply with quote  

zendao42 wrote:
JustAGirl wrote:

I don't need to read about Harry Potter and Ron Weasley getting it on... I really don't.


What if they're in a 3some with Hermione?
Or you could add Malfoy to that & make it a gang bang... Twisted Evil


I dug Barry Trotter (the satirized version of HP), just saying... Wink


Barry Trotter... I'll have to Google that.

I got no problem with the homosexual aspect. It's a character aspect - it's little Harry and Ron! Or big Ron, if you believe the fan fiction. heh heh.
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Post Mon Jun 21, 2010 4:30 am   View user's profile Send private message
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