On Writing Fan Fiction

Anonymous asked: “Hey Lizard, do you have tips for fan fiction writing?”

I don’t really follow fandoms too well and the more I try, the more I’ve come to the realization that I’m pretty pop-culture illiterate in a lot of ways. Sometimes I think, maybe I just watch TV wrong because I just never really automatically “shipped” anyone with anyone else.

Same goes for books, films, radio shows, and so on. I watch, I enjoy, but I’m terrible at wanting to direct any character to a certain fate. I read a book recently where the heroine got together with this guy I hadn’t expected her to and I was just thinking oh my gosh, this is going to be such an interesting dynamic to read about. Not really caring if they had chemistry or worked well or that she didn’t get with the guy I assumed she’d end up with. It’s not for lack of deep reading or passion, it’s just I don’t know… maybe that I just don’t hope for anything when I read? That sounds so horrible. It’s not. I love a good book and love it all the more when a character does something I didn’t expect them to do. 

Anyway, back to fan fiction. I don’t necessarily read fan fiction and am on dreadfully unfamiliar turf, but I think there are a few tips that I think can help any writer, especially when you’re writing with characters and a world that’s already established. All of these rules as well kind of apply to later drafts of your own work. Once you have established your own world and characters, you’re just as bound to write by them as you are anyone else’s. Or at least, I’d assume. 

First, think of what the character would do, and not what you would want the character to do. Someone told me recently that all fiction is a lie and as writers, it’s a matter of making that fiction become believable. So, crazy things can happen, but you have to work with the established realism of the world you’re working with. That means when you’re questioning a scene, you might want to be asking yourself is this something these characters would do now? Or really, what steps would need to be taken to bridge what they are able to do to what I’d like for them to be able to do? Characters change over the course of a story. That’s expected. But they probably don’t change all that quickly, that’s got to be built up over the course of the story. 

Fandom wikipages are your friend. I might know next to nothing about fan fiction, but I’ve learned a bit about what it looks like writing for TV. TV series have dozens of writers. There’s a writers’ room. Its collaborative and scripts are always changing, but the one thing that all shows (or at least almost all shows) have for their writers is the series bible. The bible contains the world, the rules of the world, the characters, their projected arcs, and an enormous amount of information on the show. (Some are thinner than others. Some are notoriously huge, but it’s how the writers keep track of the actual story so they can continue writing and try avoiding enormous plot holes and contradictions as they go.) When writing fan fiction, I think you’ve got to know your stuff. Be accurate. Use resources that fans check and update to fact check your work, because you’re writing for your peers who definitely know their stuff just as well as you do. 

If you want to write something that doesn’t fit the characters or world of your fandom, ask yourself, why is this fan fiction? There are so many stories out there that are set in alternate universes where the protagonist is dating the villain or someone who was not the love interest in the actual series and circumstances all around are just so different, while there is nothing wrong with writing it as fan fiction, it seems an awful lot like original fiction to me, even if parts and aspects happen to be loosely inspired by a TV show, film, or book. If it’s becoming your own beast instead of a fan work, why not embrace it? Let it become your own thing. 

The last thing I wanted to mention, don’t write fan fiction to gain popularity on fan fiction sites. It shouldn’t be about likes or comments or whatever the heck they do on fan fiction sites. Don’t let it be all about how many readers you’ve gotten that week. That’s going to suck the fun right out of it after awhile. 

And these, mind you, are tips from someone hugely unfamiliar with fan fiction. Anyone who holds this topic near and dear to them, please reach out and share your advice.

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