Turning Reality into Fiction

It occurred to me the other day that this blog has no theme. It still doesn’t so don’t get your hopes up just yet. It was conceived as a place to vent about being forced from my job, to showcase my questionable writing skill and then to be used to promote my novel, if I ever get it finished and become the next Fifty Shades fan fic-to-real-fic success story.

The key phrase here? If I ever get it finished. It’s hard to publish a book from the inside of my skull.

But I’ve yet to really talk about my labour of hate, which has weighed me down for the best part of twenty years. Anyone else notice a theme in my life? Twenty years in one job, in one relationship, working on one novel. Hey, I’m nothing if not reliable , eh?

Pass it on to potential employers if you know any *nudge, nudge, wink wink*. I may not have a working knowledge of Excel, but at least I’ll be in the office to fuck up in front of you.

Anyhoo, back to the novel. I think I mentioned once my teenage pretentiousness where literature was concerned. Well, it wasn’t just confined to reading. Writing, which has always been my art/creative expression form of choice, suffered the same fate. I think at aged fifteen I was trying to write a fantasy novel set in the regency period. Pretty dumb, when I had little idea of the nuances of either. But hey, Pride and Predjudice and Zombies got made into a movie so maybe I was just ahead of the curve.

In any case, my first serious attempt at finishing a novel came at around 17. It took me eight months, was about 170’000 words long (which is around 80’000 more than would be considered by a publisher) and was pretty awful if I remember rightly. I cringe that I sent this to agents and publishers and expected anymore than for a polite chain reply that not even London publishers can polish a turd.

Then I got lost in fanfiction, where I’m fucking legendary and people love me. Both phrases of which are the best fiction I’ve ever written. They are currently true, but when I started I was largely a guilty secret in the Harmony Fandom world. It’s taken over a decade for the penny to drop and I now spend most my days archiving fan favourites or positive messages from one site or another.

And therein lies the conundrum. How to switch this out from fan fiction to original fiction?

It’s been done at least twice in successful fiction that I know of. Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight. Both, from what I understand, began life as Harry Potter fanfictions. I think both featured Draco Malfoy in the main character roles, but I’m not 100% on the details. But I’m sure I read about this online.

Now, I’d like to make it pretty clear I am not attempting to plagarise Potter by using my own popular fanfiction to get my original novel written. It’s actually the other way around. I’ve been using the platform of fanfiction to test-drive characters and storylines from my own work – albeit to an exaggerated Potter-shaped degree – to see if they work.

And, low and behold, to my shock horror they actually do.

Now, obviously, this is as much to do with my Potter fanfic story as my original ideas, but they work quite nicely in tandem, as my latest fanfic epic is based in an Alternate Universe story world, where Voldemort won and turned Britain into a magical police state that Harry has to rescue it from. And my original idea is based strongly on concepts from conspiracy theories, the Ancient Aliens theory, and involves a plot by sinister world controlling forces to eliminate natural power (I don’t use the ‘M’ word, I think Rowling pretty much has a patent on it now, as well as broomsticks, black cats and wands) from the world for complete dominance.

I think it sounds pretty fun. Its a standard tech vs nature story, with cool underground cities, ugly bad guys, runic and ritual sorcery and my amazing writing style lol. And its based wholly in Wales and I fully intend to put my country on the world map with it! But therein lies the difficult problem. How to take elements from the real world and slide them into a fantasy story.

Now, whatever your take on conspiracies and ancient aliens, it makes a damned good basis for dramatic fiction. Dan Brown has made a decent living off exploiting such things. And I’m trying to do the same, just adding a fantasy twist and dropping the target audience to young adult. Is it any more difficult to believe that the government are poisoning the sky with chemtrails and our food with aspartame to rid the world of magic than it is to make us all infertile as a form of population control?

I’m not here to educate you about the reality of that, do your own digging and you’ll learn the answers. And dont believe the media, including me. Make your own conclusions.

So anyway, there’s the crook of my story. And I think it will work, if I can just get my head around the specifics, which change in my mind on a weekly bloody basis, and have for the last nine months since I re-worked my novel for the ELEVENTH time to accommodate this latest change. The problem is always the same, and I think it’s a conundrum for many writers.

Where the hell do you start?

And my problem is several fold in this. I have to establish my main characters and not one, but two, internal story worlds, which are familiar but different to the readers world, which is the ultimate backdrop for the story. And I’ve experimented with at least ten start points for this version of the story. It’s not an easy choice to settle on. But the irritating thing is that if I ever get past this establishment, I have the rest plotted out and it should be easy to smash out. But that niggle comes back to you – if you can’t hook a reader from page one it doesn’t matter how good the story is by page 100. They wont ever get to see it.

And the real world elements have to be woven in to make them seem natural. Even the most skimming reader will reject a plot dump contrived to establish a story world. Its lazy, and speaks volumes about your narrative control. But, for me, its important to have real-world elements in fantasy. Unless you are targeting a ‘high-fantasy’ market, like Warcraft and Warhammer fans, then having a completely alien world will turn off most casual readers.

This is why I think Potter was so successful. Hogwarts was a character in itself. A familiar one, at that. We all went to school and I’m pretty confident most of us would have preferred to cast spells and ride broomsticks than sit through lessons on igneous rocks, scalene triangles and do cross-country running in PE in the freezing winter wearing the shortest shorts ever made.

So that’s my battle for the day. Make my reality into fantasy. Its something of a metaphor for my unemployed life right now!

2 thoughts on “Turning Reality into Fiction

  1. Troy Sanders

    Question – have you ever mapped your universe out? I mean physically, with pen/paper/post-it notes? I work in software development and we use story-mapping methods all the time to define features of products, and their user stories. In this instance you could map characters/locations/relationships/interactions/characteristics. If you start putting these thoughts and ideas down on post-its you could map it all on a wall and connect the dots. Using a free tool like Trello you could turn these into actions and record thoughts and progress. You could then start getting some of those ideas out of your head and onto paper. You could give yourself achievable tasks to do – like research a particular location you want to use if it’s real, or understand a relationship between your characters. I don’t know if it would help, but I think you would benefit from it.


    1. ianp1981

      There are a few writing apps that do a similar thing but they arent user friendly in my experience unless you want a dozen tabs open at once. But im old school, scraps of paper and a cork pin board!


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