Today’s prompt is:

“How do you feel about fan fiction?”

Well, I blogged about this one a while back, so I’ll be lazy and repost that answer here:

Yes, I’m going there. I won’t say that fan fiction is worth just as much as actual literature, but I will say that it does, in fact, have some worth and its own set of uses within the world of reading and writing.

Given some of what’s out there, that can be a little frightening.

Now, most people, when they hear the words “fan fiction”, think of the lowest of the low – characters completely rewritten to suit the author’s whims and plunked into completely improbable situations or, worse, into horribly improbable romances. Terms like “AU”, “Slashies”, and “OCs” pop up everywhere and wonderful characters become mere parodies of themselves.

To be completely fair, probably 85% of what’s out there consists of that kind of writing. But… there is that understated 15% that is actually worth reading. I know this because, at the behest of some friends, I’ve edited a few stories over the years. This exposed me to the good, the bad, and the downright gag-worthy as I waded through chapter fragments and full stories alike.

Here’s my thinking – writing good fan fiction is actually useful practice for the aspiring author. Keeping established characters completely In Character and abiding by the rules of a universe not your own is surprisingly difficult – it takes scrupulous attention to detail, enough imagination to concoct a plausible story that would fit in the world you’re writing about, and a deft enough hand to mimic the existing style of the characters.

All this is great practice for writing consistently – a good skill to have when creating unique characters and worlds of your own. If you can’t stay true to a character that’s already been written, how can you expect to keep your own character from straying off into OOC-land? (OOC, for the blessedly uninitiated, stands for Out Of Character and is one of the biggest complaints about fan fiction).

WritingOne thing I noticed during my days of reading fan fiction is that the more underdeveloped the existing characters are, the easier it is to write your own story about them. Worlds with vague mythology or flat characters are more easily adapted to the new author’s whim than those with extensive and well-developed backgrounds.

I’ll use Jim Henson’s Labyrinth  and the ever-popular Harry Potter as my examples.

Labyrinth for all its fun and charm has some pretty flat characters. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of my favorite movies, but so much of it is woefully under-developed (I love it anyways though).  In using that world as a base, all one must do is keep the Goblin King snarky, slightly sinister, with just the barest hint of a soft side and we’re good. Sarah can easily be rewritten into many different roles and still seem In Character as long as she’s spunky.

Harry Potter fiction is much harder to write given the complexity of the world and the extensive character designs (people do try though, *sigh*).

fanfic

Draco Malfoy is most often victim to being badly written. He’s almost always written as the bad-boy with a heart of gold (not so), has been dressed in “baggy skater pants and a ripped rock band t-shirt with black nail polish” (nope – expensive suits, people, and not a hair out of place), and has had some of the most inane dialog placed in his mouth (a sneer and a cool put-down are more his style, not screaming profanity, just sayin’).

Given how thoroughly Rowling wrote Malfoy, there are only a few roles that he can play convincingly, unlike Oliver Wood and the Quidditch team, who being side characters, can be adapted to more situations without any damage to their original selves.

So, yeah, that’s about it. If you’re serious about wanting to write well, give fan fiction a shot, since writing practice is writing practice. It’ll give you a springboard, at least, to being able to write your own characters well.

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