On fiction

Desperately Seeking Celesca?

This is my tagline for this post. For this is essentially what I’d like to discuss today. A prickly little question that divides the writing community from amateur level up.

So I write fiction. Primarily, at the moment, fan fiction. So, what is fanfiction? Is it plagarism? Is it laziness? Is it writing at all? This post was inspired by an article I read and shared on my blog last week and it got me thinking, so much so that I submitted a readers’ letter to a popular writing magazine posing this this exact question.

Is fanfic real writing?

Well lets break it down. This is a divisive topic, and for all those who value fanfiction writing there will be an equal force who vehemently decry it. Cast it off as poor quality vanity publishing. I can certainly see the case for that. Anyone can do it, the quality can be questionable, and the authors are, essentially, using someone else’s ideas in place of their own.

But does this mean its bad? Or that fanfiction has no worth?

This is where I pop in my own counter argument. I’ve been actively writing fanfiction for easily fifteen years. In that time I’ve produced at least five novel-length stories, as well as a number of shorts. I am currently enjoying something of an Indian Summer. My current story is proving to be very popular. The reviews I’ve received have left me speechless at times and I seem to be entertaining a good number of people.

Nearly 1000 readers are following either my own personal profile or the story itself. Which means every time I post a new chapter a thousand emails fly out around the world, and people come to read my words. Is that not real? Actual people, and an actual audience, reading the original tale that I’m weaving into a fictional world built by someone else?

I’d argue that it is.

And then there’s the tangent aspect that I see fanfiction as a perfect vehicle for. Skill development. Here you have a platform to practice all the skills of the craft – plot development, dialogue, character. You have a ready made audience to feedback to you, and critical writers will take the comments, go back and improve.

Which brings me back to my tagline. I have two fictional daughters, two characters who simply walked into my head fully formed. Where I have struggled to pin an original idea down to use them in, its handy to have fanfiction as an outlet to test run them. To get to know the characters a little better and to get used to writing them. My first daughter, Enola, has actually made it to my original story on two occasions. I’ve reached far enough into the story where she makes an appearance. I love her and enjoy writing her. But each time I’ve lost the thread of the plot and, like a bad game of snakes and ladders, slid right back to the start.

My second daughter is my favourite. I know, I know, you should never pick favourites with your children but there, I said it. Her name is Celesca and I have never gotten to write her. In four years since she came to me, no draft has ever gotten that far. I’m pretty sure she resents me for it. But, low and behold, a position arose in my current fanfictin story and she was perfect for it. So, in she went.

And my readers love her too.

Which illustrates the point. Fanfiction is what it is – a decried media. Purests don’t like it, fans do. But if you look at it for its potential them it certainly has merit. I’m able to work with and develop my original characters, sometimes masked under familiar faces, in a world that I’m comfortable writing in. I learn about them, and it points me towards how I fit them into my own story world. If they don’t work for my fanfic audience, I have to look at them again, alter my style to present them better. But, as of now, both my girls are doing quite nicely and helping my story reach heights of popularity I’ve not enjoyed before.

So, here’s to a long hot Summer! Mimi’s enjoying it too. I just hope she catches me that mouse soon…

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