It's been over thirty years since Captain Kirk helmed the original Enterprise, yet he and his intrepid crew of explorers still go boldly where no one has gone before. The "Star Wars" trilogy ended years ago but the printed word allows the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo to continue.
Whether it be on the shelves of the local bookseller or on the Internet, the genre of fanfiction is growing in popularity.
Fanfiction can be loosely defined as a style of writing based on an existing novel, television show or comic book. There are various reasons why a writer might choose to write a story based on a character or situation created by someone else. For the most part, fanfic stems from a desire to take a story or character somewhere where The Powers That Be cannot or will not.
The desires which motivate one to write fanfic range from filling in the blanks in a vague episode, creating or expanding a romantic relationship between two characters and finally, to continue with a story once a show is off the air. For example, the television show, "Beauty and the Beast" starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman has long been off the air, but that fantastical romance continues in stories written by fans.
Writing fanfic, despite the existence of previously created characters and situations, does have a set of rigid guidelines based on the fact that the author is borrowing someone else's property.
When writing fanfic, keep the following suggestions in mind:
1. Make assumptions - In fanfic, it's okay to assume that your readers know who Doug and Carol from "ER" are. The majority of the people reading your story already have an interest in the show and will know most of the background already. For that reason, there is little need to introduce Deep Space Nine's Jadzia Dax as "Lieutenant Commander." Most readers will already know this information about Dax, so there is no need to repeat this detail.
2. Canon - Fanfic usually is backed up by a formidable canon of material. For the most part, readers will expect a story to follow canon, unless it is specifically noted that it does not. There are exceptions to this rule though. A relationship story, for instance, does not usually follow canon if it's a story that creates a romantic relationship between two characters, such as Scully and Mulder, who are not intimately involved on "The X-Files." Stories, like a Scully-Mulder romance, are usually accepted as non-canon stories.
3. Know your characters - Keeping true to the characters and philosophies and themes guiding the original source will help keep your story on track. For example, writing a story about "Melrose Place" in which Heather Locklear (Amanda) joins a nunnery does not work. However, if you have a story where Amanda backstabs someone else on her way up the corporate ladder, you have a story about Amanda which is much more believable.
4. Don't venture into unknown territory - This is a good rule of thumb for any type of writing, but when heading into the fanfic territory, it's usually not a good idea to write ahead of what you know or write about a subject you are not familiar with. If you want to write a story about the trials and tribulations of the doctors of "ER," that's fine, but don't spout medical expertise if you don't know what you're talking about. Along the same lines, place your story on a timeline you are well-acquainted with as to avoid conflicting with canon events.
5. Start small - Contrary to popular opinion, fanfic is not easy to write. Because you are playing with characters and situations already created, for the most part, you are bound by the personalities that someone else has formed. You don't have the luxury of moving out of those personalities like you could with characters created by yourself. For that reason, start with short fanfics and practice manipulating the characters and situations. It also helps to read other fanfic that others have written in order to get an idea on how fanfic should sound and feel.
The cardinal rule though, for fanfic, would be to have fun throughout the whole writing process. Fanfic, by its very definition, expands upon a realm already popular with people who actively search out those stories and those who write fanfic genuinely love the stories they create, thus opening new possibilities within a story structure that previously would not have existed.
Have something to say about this piece? Visit the Message Board!
to Writing Articles page