249: From Fanfiction to Just Fiction

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From Fanfiction to Just Fiction

It's a well-known fact that fanfiction lets you play with the raw materials of your favorite videogame or TV series. But did you know it can also provide excellent practice for aspiring fiction authors? Vanessa Cohen details how fanfiction made her a better writer.

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I recall when I first discovered the existence of fanfiction. It was indeed one of those truly appalling pieces you mentioned at the end...But I saw the potential right away!

Indeed, practice is practice, even if it is fanfiction. They can start out horrid, and evolve into something good as the writer gains experience.

I just really wish my one friend would get this already. She's written dozens of actually decent fanfics but refuses to go into actual professional writing because she doesn't think she can do it.

I actually do the potential in fanfiction. It's a great starting point for most writers, since it forces the writer to work with several different personalities that are already set (atleast good writers will do this. Sometimes you just get people that decide that all they want is the body of that character and throw away the mind/soul of them making them just a name in the story). If they want to fit a character in there, they have to somehow create a background that fits with the story, and then have to have the character accept them in a realistic manner (and this method will vary from character to character and from world to world, meaning you do have to still be flexible). It's great to see it when it comes out right (I really can't ever discount the genre because two of my favorite webcomics, Last Days of FOXHOUND and Bob and George, were technically fanfictions, and good examples of both trying to fill in the gaps before waiting for the sequel, putting your own spin on characters who didn't get fleshed out, adding original characters, and creating an entirely new story).

However, all that being said, some fanfiction just doesn't need to be. I understand that worlds created in mediums such as books, movies, and games are fun places to get caught up in, and I myself have though up stories in those places when the real story ends, but a lot of them I know enough to realize that they just don't work or that the story ended properly and it doesn't need anything else (I'm also against very unnecessary sequels *cough*Dawn of the New World*cough*). My point here is just like with regular stories, work with the idea for a bit to see if anything good comes of it before you decide that it is entirely worthy of being added to the every growing library of the internet, because if you work to only create one good work rather than 12 quick ones that you thought up instantly and didn't even really flesh out, you'll gain more from it.

Haha, my own FF VIII fanfic has also spawned a completely original work! Though it changed media (from prose to comic-form) I'm still taking a lot of my ideas from the fanfic I created and building from there.

I had a Phantasy Star 4 fanfic when I was in 5th grade. Indeed, what you wrote about your FF fanfic brings back memories....but oh god I can't even look at that old story. It burns the eyes, with it's trite, juvenile romance and terrible, shallow characters ;).

A great article, though. We should never be ashamed at what kick starts our imagination. A muse is a muse... is a muse :).

DreadfulSorry:
Haha, my own FF VIII fanfic has also spawned a completely original work!

Same here. Well, not exactly. And it wasn't Final Fantasy. I made a habit of never writing fanfiction for anything I liked, instead writing for fandoms I hated, but saw interesting ideas in. I wrote two fanfics for Pokemon and one for an obscure comic called The Witch Girls (I'd stumbled across a website that featured character bios a long time ago and thought they were interesting, bought the comic and found it to be the biggest letdown I've ever experienced and it's jaded me for life).
I won't say they were the best things I ever wrote, because I was in high school and I didn't know how to write back then, but I learned a lot from those experiences.

And some of the characters were interesting enough that I later incorporated them into other stories. In fact, some of the major elements of my story multiverse came out of these fics.

That was a really great article.

On the whole negative attitudes against fan-fiction, I find that when the author creates entirely new characters, but still sets them in the same universe, they will get a lot more respect for their work.

I find that fictions about already-established characters tend to recycle and over-use their funny traits and over-emphasise key parts of their personality to the point that they devolve back into flat gag-despensers because the writer forgets to focus on the little nuances that made them great in the first place.

Fanfiction turly is a portal into the original world, for those who wish to tread that path. When I first started fanfiction, it was in Jak and Daxter (My Inuyasha fic before that doesn't count. I only wrote it cause a friend told me to, and fanfiction forgot it the second I deleted it) and my whole reason for writing was to disprove the Mary Sue in a romance story. Granted it was a nearly impossible task and my my SI OC Loor essentially useless, but it was a great amount of fun and let me get into writing personalities and playing with interaction. My mother, who had played some of Jak and Daxter and read each chapter as I finished it, actually came to me after a particular set and asked just how much diologue was taken from the game in that particular chapter. Turns out, none of it! I had just managed writing Daxter well enough that it sounded like it could have been canon.

Learning characters is a huge advantage when it comes to creating your own. When you've already played with a fully fleshed out creature, it's easier to create. But currently, I'm noting a problem with fanfiction that is forcing me into original work.

I have a thing for SI fanfiction. The OC Loor is in every one of my stories, and since she's based off of me I've seen no reason to change her name fic to fic. As I left Jak and Daxter and entered the terrifying world of Naruto (And it is terrifying. I never even watched the whole serise, and dear GOD they're all plot nazis.) my work grew more and more original. As Loor and her sister-sidekick Fury entered the world, several peices grew tweaked and changed as I re-wrote them into my brain's lines of understanding. A grand total of 3 reviwers are still following the story, loving each fresh and new turn of events, down from the 20 some I started with.

But the problem is I just can't work within some of the combines of the Naruto world, or should I say the lack there of? Some events within the story just blew my mind when I actually examined them, realizing none of it made any sense what so ever. When I changed things to make them sit with some proper sense, I lost readers. As I changed the world to obey simple laws of logic and physics (Oh god, physics) I could almost hear the shouts of dishelved fans telling me that's just not how it worked. Now, nearing the end of my fanfic and likely my entier fanfic career, I've come to realize I can only work in a world of my own making if I want things to make any bloody sense.

But of course, I think that's a jounry quite a few authors have made in fanfiction. I've lost so many fans to my originality, and you know what? I'm okay with it.

Hopefully now the original story I attempted to write at 13 will blow them all away after 5 years of practice.

As a wanna-be writer myself (yeah, I know) I have written a few fanfictions in my time. The weird thing was I could never finish a story before I wrote my first fanfic. They just kept going on and on and on and never ending. Then I ventured into fanfic and found it so easy to write. I didn't have to worry about characters, other than the one I inserted into the premade environment, and the story practically wrote itself. After awhile I just found it so much easier to finish my own stories.

If you are interested in reading my fic (shameless plug) I'm on fanfiction.net. Search for EnigmaHarper. I have 2 stories published.

Tehlanna TPX:
I had a Phantasy Star 4 fanfic when I was in 5th grade. Indeed, what you wrote about your FF fanfic brings back memories....but oh god I can't even look at that old story. It burns the eyes, with it's trite, juvenile romance and terrible, shallow characters ;).

A great article, though. We should never be ashamed at what kick starts our imagination. A muse is a muse... is a muse :).

That is one of my all time favorite RPGs.
I'm surprised I didn't write any fanfic for it myself at that age. It was very engrossing.

I can see some merit in the practice department but one of the most entertaining things about writing fiction is making up realistic and believable characters. This can also be quite a challenge, so while it might be good practice in one regard it is writing with a crutch in regards to development of characters and/or setting.

GonzoGamer:

Tehlanna TPX:
I had a Phantasy Star 4 fanfic when I was in 5th grade. Indeed, what you wrote about your FF fanfic brings back memories....but oh god I can't even look at that old story. It burns the eyes, with it's trite, juvenile romance and terrible, shallow characters ;).

A great article, though. We should never be ashamed at what kick starts our imagination. A muse is a muse... is a muse :).

That is one of my all time favorite RPGs.
I'm surprised I didn't write any fanfic for it myself at that age. It was very engrossing.

I can see some merit in the practice department but one of the most entertaining things about writing fiction is making up realistic and believable characters. This can also be quite a challenge, so while it might be good practice in one regard it is writing with a crutch in regards to development of characters and/or setting.

Yes! It is a very great practice tool. I still employ it, at times, when I'm stuck on a certain aspect of my writing. I think it'd be great in, like, Jr High or High School English as well. Get the kids involved by employing stuff they like!

Tehlanna TPX:

GonzoGamer:

Tehlanna TPX:
I had a Phantasy Star 4 fanfic when I was in 5th grade. Indeed, what you wrote about your FF fanfic brings back memories....but oh god I can't even look at that old story. It burns the eyes, with it's trite, juvenile romance and terrible, shallow characters ;).

A great article, though. We should never be ashamed at what kick starts our imagination. A muse is a muse... is a muse :).

That is one of my all time favorite RPGs.
I'm surprised I didn't write any fanfic for it myself at that age. It was very engrossing.

I can see some merit in the practice department but one of the most entertaining things about writing fiction is making up realistic and believable characters. This can also be quite a challenge, so while it might be good practice in one regard it is writing with a crutch in regards to development of characters and/or setting.

Yes! It is a very great practice tool. I still employ it, at times, when I'm stuck on a certain aspect of my writing. I think it'd be great in, like, Jr High or High School English as well. Get the kids involved by employing stuff they like!

Right. It's just that this practice needs to be supplemented with role-play (paper and pen RPGs are good) or some other character development practice.

Finally...I began writing from fanfiction!

I learn so much from plot or how to make a character think, is that I began to really get serious about it.

This article is so true. I started writing fanfiction in high school for Yu-Gi-Oh! because, well, I had read the manga and watched all the anime and wanted to reconcile the differences/fix the stupid (ie drop two of the seasons). Then I started adding OCs. I'm still working on the OCs and my own additions to the universe to this day. It practically is it's own original work, and will be with some more expansion. It's fun to go back to them during little lulls in my college schedule. Being a Literature major mean research papers, not creative writing as I had hoped, so taking a break from the soul-crushing assignments to my own little fantasy land is such a relief. These characters have even inspired other completely unrelated characters and stories. I've noticed a increase in skill of my creative writing as well as my imagination, which definitely helps when I roleplay with my friends. And to think it all started with a fanfiction.

I've had similar experiences. Fan fiction is one of the ways I started to develop my writing skills and find my own voice. That's probably why I still hold onto some of those old stories. Not because they're good - most of them are pretty crap. But they were the cradle from which my style emerged, and I wouldn't be where I am now without them.

As someone interested in wanting to try his hand in fan fiction precisely for the purpose of using it as a springboard to writing real fiction, I would like to thank you for this article. It was both very helpful and informative.

However, I sometimes wonder if writers (and people in general) bother themselves too much with the notion of "Mary Sue/Marty Stu" characters. I mean, how people perceive fiction is entirely subjective. What is incredible and deep for one is a pathetic excuse of a story for another. Likewise, one may perceive a certain character as a "Mary Sue" character while another may not. Even tests that are made to determine "Mary Sue" characters are entirely subjective in their premise.

This is not to say that people should intentionally write characters as flawless and whatnot. But real life people start as blank slates and only gain qualities and flaws as they grow. If this holds true for characters as well, is it really worth creating characters in a certain way for the sake of avoiding what others may think makes a bad character? Doesn't one run the risk of alienating the character from the rest of the plot by doing so?

I have a great idea for an original work. Howbout a group of mages who are like JEDI mages right? One is like the "serious" guy, the other guy is the "funny" guy (maybe southern accent?) and there is this girl right and she's like the leader girl but you don't want to giver any discernible personality traits. Let's stick to 1 dimensional archetypes. Different accents is more than enough to add depth

. At some point, before you know anything about this character, she sacrifices herself so the other guy goes "NOOOO" so that makes the reader feel sad right? So then there's this renegade jedi mage, and she has FIRE powers and has a snappy zinger to rebut every line every character has because she puts them in their place because she's one step ahead of everyone! Her flaw (i notice you think flaws are important) is that she's just too cool for everyone. (maybe her name can start with the same letter as yours and she can physically resemble you a lot too)

Oh yeah you should definitely have these Jedi(ish) guys introduced in a scene and conflict that has nothing to do with the main plot so they can vogue with their weapons for a while. They should never be in any real danger nor should any tension be built until the girl sacrifices herself (again, very important that we know nothing about her when this happens.)

Oh right. Almost forgot. You should play Bioshock and then get the very original idea to get a huge fangirl boner for it and completely rip it off in tone and style (but done poorly of course. a HUGE, shallow contrivance is a must)

It's so good to know you stay AWAY from Mary-Sues and understand the gamut of human emotions and interactions so well. I'm sure you're a productive, contributing member of society who gets out plenty and can afford to buy yourself all the video games you play. You're an inspiration to us all.

Ah, fanfiction. I remember trying to write fanfiction a couple of times, but I couldn't really get into it. I enjoyed planning out the story, but when it actually came to writing it...I'm not very comfortable writing other people's characters as opposed to ones I've created myself. I don't know what it is, but it makes me squirm a bit.

The one instance where I actually got something on paper came after listing various ideas for "what if" scenarios, which is the kind of fanfiction that actually appeals to me to write. Specifically, it was for Cowboy Bebop, the what if being, "What if Faye had never met Spike in that casino?" I went down a brief outline of chapters to parallel the actual series and tried to brainstorm how the circumstances would be altered if the boys had been on their own and Faye had been doing her own thing without the Bebop around to bail her out, complete with Faye meeting the Feng Shui girl (whose name I've forgotten) and having a bit of a runaround with her as the girl can tell Faye isn't meant to be there - the story's not what it was supposed to be - and she wanted to know why.

Only wrote the first chapter of it, but it was fun just trying to figure out how the story might have progressed if it had been two divergent paths rather than one combined group. Interesting exercise even if it bore no fruit.

I think many, many great authors can say they got their cues from fan-fic to begin with, and indeed, many modern stories seem to be simply over-hyped fan-fics *coughTwilightcough* But I didn't come in here to sound preachy and hate on Twilight. As it was said in the article and here a few times, one of my favorite stories (thus unfinished and unnamed) started as a fan-fic, following the exploits of Freya Crescent of FFIX before and after her adventures in game, flowing into a spiraling story of love, religious betrayal, and sorrow. Upon being done with FF9, I reviewed the old story, and I loved it! I forgot how it was based off FF9, and noticed if you took away the Burmecians, Chaos and Cosmos, it had nothing to do with it! And so, I started re-writing the work, moving it to my own world, and bringing the characters to their new home in that special part of my brain reserved for my creations.

I still keep a portfolio of my old terrible fan-fics and fan-games, just so I can see how I've grown as an author and learn from past mistakes, even in my current fan-fic pursuits.

Yvl9921:
I just really wish my one friend would get this already. She's written dozens of actually decent fanfics but refuses to go into actual professional writing because she doesn't think she can do it.

This brings up a point I love to make to truly great fan-fic authors. I've a favorite fan-fic I have acctually printed out and read as a book occasionally, it is that damn good. But I digress: Fan-fic writers with true potential, I point your attention to the Warcraft books by the likes of Richard A. Knaak and Keith R. A. Decandido. These are nothing more than fan-fics that have been endorsed by Blizzard, especially Lord of the Clans (a book that follows the Warcheif Thrall's youth, childhood love with OC included) and The War of the Ancients Trilogy (OC's go back in WoW time to interact with established characters and fight in a big war that has already been shown in games. Sound familiar?) While these sounds like they are simply fan-fics online, I acctually own the official books of these.

I haven't done any writing in a long time, and I suppose that using some established characters and adding in a few of my own is a method, as long as I try to avoid a lot of the usual pitfalls.

I had been writing for about three years when I started my first fanfiction (An atrocious Draco Malfoy thing which I now quite rightly disown)

It did improve my writing though, because I found out very quickly what other people liked and didn't like about my style (for example, my dialogue needed a lot of work. 5 more years to be precise.) It wasn't just the writing part of it, it was the community driven aspect, where other people would read it and comment on it. It was an experience unlike anything else I've ever been through.

I love fanfiction, and I'm still writing it today, and it's still sparking new ideas for me. An idea for a KP Betty Director fanfic I'm working on has now given me a whole plan for an Original Story with a similar character.

And of course, any time Fanfiction is mentioned, it's shameless MZ plug time. Visit fanfiction.net and check out my username (MelasZepheos) for Kim Possible fanfction.

One day, most writers will probably have started their works with fanfiction. But until then we'll keep laughing at you ;-)

Seriously, though, the other day I found out that someone had published a book by Kafka called 'The Office Writings' (or something like it). It's a collection of Kafka's works... that is, things he wrote on his job. So it's just a bunch of memos about insurance and containers. Of course, it's just a way to milk money off a ridiculously famous writer that has been dead for decades and only became famous after he was already dead. But then I realized, imagine a famous writer from, say 2025. What is he writing right now? What is it that people will publish in 2125 to cash in on his fame?

...Yeah, actually I thought that author would have written several snappy videogame FAQs. Sorry. But the concept is the same.

I had the idea of setting a world in the near future and have someone read that book, a collection of videogame FAQs by someone who became a famous writer later. And so each chapter would be prefaced with an excerpt from a video game FAQ. If you ever find a book that does that, it means I got out of my lazy ass and started writing[1]. Or that someone saw this and stole my idea. That bastard.

[1] Well, OK, writing actually involves sitting on my lazy ass. You got the idea.

I think the appeal of fan-fiction to budding writers is that much of the framework is already in place. I've been considering doing some fan-fiction myself, if for anything because I think some of the video games I've played could be expanded upon greatly.

I've dabbled in many fandoms over the year, but the one constant is that they're all anime fandoms. I've also learned a lot in my 5 years of writing, that nothing ever comes out perfect the first time around. I found some notebooks from the 8th grade and I just groaned when I read what I had written...so few details and so many grammatical errors!!! (Yes, me, a grammar nazi had shitty grammar at one point, but didn't we all?) I compared to to my writing now and I was pleased with my growth and development as a writer, but I'm still learning.

So, I think I'm going to go open word and write a little...my OC is calling for me to hit something with a hockey stick!

This is exactly what I'm doing. When I started writing fanfics it was laughably bad, now it's improved greatly and I've nearly broken my first 100,000 word story.
FanFiction is definatly an underrated way of improving your skill at writing.

As for the concern of mary Sue or not Mary Sue, I would not let it become a leading notion. lead characters often have Mary Sue traits, even in original published works. Just look at Naruto and Sasuke. Special powers, teen angst, exclusion in their past, it's all there. Though people don't seem to be too bothered about it. And don't even get me started on Goku from DragonballZ. Also outside manga/anime...look at captain Kirk or captain Picard - also Marty Sues if you look at it. And Harry Potter (I mean, the original, not as displayed in fandom) is also very Sue.
The trick is not to overdo it though.

But knowledge of such characters and the inherent plot flaws that come with them is good to have. Knowing what makes characters Mary Sues helps you steer around it, and it serves as a reminder to add flaws to a character, as those are interesting to play with.

The Mary Sue issue has stopped me from writing fanfic again. I like certain characters enough, and sometimes I make little doddle stories in my head, which I enjoy. Important is that I know that I would likely be the only one to enjoy that story, as it is very flawed. Some stories don't need to be shared.

I myself write fanfics and want to become a published writer, but I still feel I need to work on my writing skills a bit more. And Mary Sues/Marty Stus are an issue for me, especially since I happen to like/tolerate characters that have been labelled as such (though I still hate the Twilight series with a burning passion). But yeah, I still want to make improvements to my writings and become a better writer, and fanfic writing is a good way to do it... as long as one doesn't go overboard.

I've been writing what I would loosely call a fanfic of Half Life 2 through Episode 2 called No Life. I say loosely because I try to stay as canon with the Half Life Universe without actually mentioning the main characters such as Alyx Vance or Gordon Freeman too much. I actually use real people(myself included, ego thing...) as the main characters and have the setting outside Philadelphia leading to inside it. I've been working on it for two years, the first year was an EXTREMELY rough copy and I scrapped most of it to start from scratch, the result of which I'm starting to like. I don't know what I'm gonna do with it, but my friends have gotten really interested, enough they bought the original Half Life for their PC/Macs so they know what the hell happened. Once they all beat the original Half Life and its expansion Opposing Forces(I use shepard a lot as a sort of past role model sort of thing), I'm gonna buy them all the Half Life 2 pack which has Episode 1 and 2 in them. But I went off topic, I don't know if I'm classified under fanfic because I usually think of fanfics using the original characters and twisting the story to ask what if. I'm writing the story as a different point of view on another side of Earth.

Here is the actual site with the introduction and first 4 chapters, albeit un-edited because I can't access the FREAKIN' SITE but oh well...I'm working on chapter 6 now.
http://sites.google.com/site/nolifestoryproject/

just reading some fan fiction can make your life better:

http://img293.imageshack.us/my.php?image=amazingsobaditsgood.jpg

"Can Fanfiction Make You a Better Writer?"

Yes, but only while writing it. The best things I've ever written were fan-fiction of Lord of the Rings and Diablo. That's because I already had an established medium, with set limits, stages, characters, continuity. Everything was there, all I had to do was weave them in a way I liked.

When writing original work, I always fall in to the vicious circle of reiterating. I don't have a style set in stone, a limit, or actually a perfect ending. So I feel compelled to rewrite, improving the quality, the detail, but delaying to the point where I've written hundreds of pages in 5 years, all of them being rewrites of the same 30 pages I started with years ago.
Fan-fiction is a lot easier.

Practice in writing is no different (theoretically) from practicing football, martial arts, guitar. The more one does something, the more quickly one will find it easier to do that same thing and, generally, the better one will get. I think that fan fiction could be a good start because you typically will have at least some basic characters set up from which you can draw inspiration. It's kind of the same as learning Stairway to Heaven or Iron Man or Smoke on the Water on guitar. Yeah, you're not really doing anything original or impressive anymore, but you are learning how to move your hands across the fretboard and also chords and rhythm and all that other good stuff. I want to say writing is slightly different, but I'm not sure that I can.

Anyhow, the real reason that I first started this post was because the picture is off just slightly. The person pictured is left handed, which isn't the "wrong part", but it appears that she's writing from right to left. Is it silly to notice that?

in theory fan fiction can make you a better writer. however, most write pure unadulterated crap.

Keep the Mary Sues out of the fan fics and then they will be one hell of a lot better.

As a professional writer, I can say writing fan-fiction is like exercise; by doing it, you strengthen your skills.

However, you still need a basic understanding of plot, character development, and pacing. Otherwise, all the 'exercise' in the world won't take you that far. And frankly, a great number of fan-fiction writers haven't a clue how to structure a good story. Yeah, sure, you can write 180+ pages about Final Fantasy, but if it's 180+ pages of purple fan-worship... then you've wasted your time.

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