So you want to write fanfiction? Here’s how!
art in upper right corner: Reunion by Arlyss Ray (Melkor/Sauron)
These are the slides from a Fanfiction workshop I did at Cascades Library in Northern Virginia in October 2015.
Most people don’t approve of fanfiction. When I introduce myself at writers’ groups, I say, “I write fanfiction, which I realize is less well-thought of than writing bodice-rippers.”
Harry Potter is by far the biggest fandom out there, with over 700.000 fanfics on fanfiction.net, the largest of the fan sites. Twilight is second, with over 200,000. Supernatural has 100,000, and Doctor Who, LOTR, Percy Jackson, Sherlock, and similarly popular fandoms have about 50,000.
Many writers do terrible things to their favorite characters, but that’s pretty much required of any writer. “Unhappy characters, happy readers,” as they say in writing school.
“‘Ship” is short for “relationship”.
If the relationship is same-sex (typically two male characters, one of whom the female writer identifies and the other to whom she is attracted) it’s called “slash”. The term originated with the Star Trek fanzines in the 1970’s. The original usage was “Kirk/Spock”. (as opposed to “Kirk & Spock”, which refers to a platonic friendship.) Approximately 40% of all fanfiction stories are slash.
Contrary to popular belief, slash is not always porn. The novel Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, about a college student writing a Harry/Draco fanfic that was G-rated slash.
Most people think fanfiction got started with the mimeographed fanzines passed around at Star Trek conventions, or possibly the fan stories based on Sherlock Holmes, when Conon Doyle was publishing his stories in the newspapers, but it’s much older. There was fanfiction on the Bible and the Iliad, and that’s just the oldest ‘fic we know about. (because before that, there wasn’t writing)
All writers have stories in their heads. Even if you just think about how a tv episode should have ended differently, or how two characters should have gotten together, it counts. It’s the basis of fanfiction (of any fiction).
Crossover – where would fanfiction be without it?
No matter what your type (planner or seat-of-the-pantser) it can help to sketch the general structure of your story, either before you start or after you’ve been writing for a while, to get a sense of what you have.
You can plan a story to the last detail before you begin to write, or you can dive in and see where it goes? Which is better? They’re both good. Pick you methods according to what best suits your personality.
After you’ve finished drafting, add the fine detail: techniques to manipulate the readers’ emotions (yes, writers are extremely manipulative – it’s required for membership in the guild) and the fluent wording.
At the top of the pyramid, there are writers who were born with amazing talent. No amount of study or effort will get you there. At the bottom are writers who are bad, and will never improve. Most of us are in the middle. Learning the craft of writing and working hard will move us closer to the top.
The author Uvatha the Horseman at a book signing. The sign says, “Ask me about Fan Fiction.”