Writing fanfiction can be fun, fulfilling and provide a surprisingly large readership for your work. I often use fanfiction when teaching kids how to write stories. Today I’ll share some tips for writing fanfiction and an exercise to try it yourself.
Tips for Writing Fanfiction:
- Remember the characters have already existed elsewhere. You can put them into a new situation or setting, but you can’t change their past (unless you introduce a Doctor and TARDIS, then you probably can).
- Know the voice of your character. Don’t try writing about a famous character you’ve never read or studied. Learn them. Become an expert. Fans will know if Ron Weasley speaks out of character.
- Study your setting. Not just the layout, but the feel, the mood of the setting.
- Try to keep to the existing style when writing fanfiction. Don’t do a serious drama based on characters from a comedy. That’s not the type of fiction the fans are after.
- Add a little something. Despite what I said in number 4, you should add a little touch of your own style to the piece. Otherwise readers may as well just stick with the original text.
- Share! There will be fans who will get a lot of entertainment from reading their favourite characters.
- Toughen your skin. Die-hard fans may love your work, but some will hate it because you’ve dared to toy with their beloved characters. Don’t take it personally. It really is them, not you.
- Cite the original work. Be open and let people know who you stole your characters from. Don’t take credit for someone else’s work, otherwise it’s not fan-fiction, but a sneaky form of plagiarism. Some people like to use a disclaimer (there’s some debate over whether this is helpful or not). You can find an example here: http://www.ehow.com/how_8532096_write-disclaimer-fan-fiction.html.
- If it’s erotic fan-fiction, warn the reader. And if you’re taking characters from a children’s novel for erotic fiction, be very, very careful. You may spark anger from the original author (or their lawyers). Parody is legal, but it could still be a pain.
- Have fun! Writing fanfiction is for enjoyment. Don’t try to live up to the original author, or prove yourself better, just have some fun while you strengthen your writing skills. I had a real laugh writing my scene between Granny Weatherwax and Death (you can read the story HERE). I also find fan-fiction a great way to entice kids to write stories and I’ve heard some great plots from young writers based on Scooby-Doo, Doctor Who, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and various anime/manga characters.
Think there’s no future in writing fanfiction? Guess again!
- Rewrites of classic stories are a form of fan-fiction. Think of all the re-tellings of Shakespeare, such as the film Ten Things I Hate About You.
- Television series often use multiple writers. Series that have existed a long time sometimes accept proposed scripts from new writers. These writers must adapt to an existing world and keep characterisations true to form; fan-fiction is great training for this.
- I won’t even bother mentioning a certain saucy novel that started out as Twilight fan-fiction, you already know how successful that was.
Your Turn to Try Fanfiction:
- What is your most favourite novel of all time? Open to the first page. Now, copy that text, but change the character and as many nouns, adjectives and verbs as you can. You will have a completely different passage, but your style will remain similar to your favourite author. This is a great writing prompt to try with different genres to see which style you feel more comfortable with. It’s also a great prompt to try in the classroom with kids. Take in photocopies of the first paragraph of lots of popular novels; the kids will enjoy the challenge and be surprised with the quality of their results.
- Mix stories. There are a lot of fanfiction stories based on Doctor Who/Sherlock Holmes crossovers. Try combining characters from two very different shows or mediums. Perhaps a comic book hero with a tv detective show, or a science fiction novel with a romance movie (Bridget Jones on Star Trek?). This is quite a challenging exercise because you are mixing two styles and you have to keep the essence of both in your story. Another popular one with the kids (Transformers meets My Little Pony?)