Tag Archives: fanfiction

Why ‘Write What You Love’ Means All Fiction is Fanfiction

Fanfiction gets a bad rap. Some of it is deserved, of course, but what else do you expect from amateur writers scribbling basically for their own amusement?

Of course you’re going to get purple prose, authors inserting themselves into stories as Mary Sues, and unrealistic and uncomfortable situations. But maybe the difference between ‘original fiction’ and ‘fanfiction’ is not that one is sadly ripping off other people’s characters, while the other is actually coming up with new stuff.

Maybe the difference is – ‘original fiction’ is just much, much better at hiding what it’s inspired by.

I started thinking about this issue lately because I’m currently working on two very non-serious bits of writing: one about the characters from The Iliad making havoc in the modern world, and the other re-imagining what Mansfield Park would look like if it was set today. (I have many more ‘serious’ projects that I’m procrastinating on, of course – don’t we all?)

Anyway, I started wondering – am I writing fanfiction? Or are they different enough from the original to be ‘original fiction’? After all, several authors have published books reimagining both The Iliad and Mansfield Park. Both The Iliad and Mansfield Park are in the public domain, of course, so that makes it easier for authors. No one’s going to sue them if their work is ‘not original’ enough. But don’t tell me that’s seriously the only difference between fanfiction and original fiction – that fanfiction is fiction about characters that are not in the public domain.

The next thought is obviously – everything is ‘inspired by’ something else. Authors love to talk about their influences on their writing. If you, as an author, want to see more of one type of story, you start writing them yourself. If you do this, you are a fan of something, and you are writing about it because you are a fan. Stretched to its broadest definition, this is what fanfiction is.

So at what point are these inspirations and influences far enough in the background that the world can acknowledge these authors as ‘real writers’? You can even tell, in some works, when an author models their character on another well-known character. And published authors are definitely guilty of inserting themselves into their own stories – both Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer have been accused of inserting themselves as Mary Sues into their plots. And in terms of plot – Shakespeare basically just re-wrote famous stories in his plays, and he is considered a master of literature. And many authors have made a career re-writing fairytales. Is this ‘original fiction or ‘fanfiction’?

Basically, I think my conclusion is, that like with anything else, the line between the two are not black and white. Fanfiction tends to be found on internet websites, tends to be of amateur quality, and deals with copyrighted characters. But that’s not always true – many fanfictions contain very high quality writing, and there are definitely writers who work with public domain characters. Also, ‘original fiction’ tends to be published by publishing houses, and contain original characters. But sometimes these original characters are clearly influenced by other characters. And sometimes published books could easily be described as fanfiction if they’d happened to be published online on a website instead.

Which brings us to that age-old question – what is originality? Does it even exist, or is everything just a recombination of old things that always existed?

In other words, it is possible that there really is “nothing new under the sun.” And if everything is just a recombination, maybe some writing is just a better and more interesting recombination than others. Which could lead to my radical title up there at the top – we could legitimately call all fiction writing fanfiction.

Provocative thought, no? Agree or disagree?

Note: check out my previous posts on The Iliad and Mansfield Park, if you’d like to know why I’d be enough of a fan of these works to write about them 🙂

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Reactions to an Engagement – ‘Mansfield Park’ fanfiction

No, ‘Jane Austen fanfiction’ is not my new replacement for Why Polly?, but it is for this week. I wrote this quite a while ago, but I held off on posting it so it wouldn’t interrupt Why Polly?. This is a short fanfiction of Mansfield Park, from Mary Crawford’s point-of-view (remember – the girl who Edmund was in love with but was so wrong for him?) Mansfield Park is one of the lesser-read novels of Jane Austen, so it’s not a huge surprise if you haven’t read it, though I recommend all of Austen’s novels. If you’ve read it, I also spewed out my thoughts on the book previously, in Rant About Mansfield Park.

Reactions to an Engagement

It is a terrible plague to mean to be rich, yet to have fallen for a man who is not.

Why couldn’t Edmund have been rich? Why couldn’t he have at least been the eldest? Or possessed some yearning to increase his income, or to go into some profession that was guaranteed to raise his prominence and expand his style of living?

I looked out the window, down at the rainy streets of London below. A dull day. Nobody about, nothing going on. There was nothing to do but sit here with my own thoughts, and some of my thoughts were rather too painful.

No, better yet, I ought not to have fallen in love with Edmund in the first place. He was so unlike the usual sort of man that attracted me! So invulnerable to all my teasing, so steady and calm, so contented with the country and the lack of stylish amusements it afforded. Insensitive to my teasing he might’ve been, but he had not been insensitive to my charm. Indeed – the months I had spent at the Parsonage had been some of the happiest of my life. To see his gaze soften with admiration as I played that favourite air of his on my harp… But while I had enjoyed his company, I would’ve been better off not to have fallen in love with him. Why had I?

I truly hadn’t intended for such a thing to happen. Usually I select my conquests with care, and judge whether I will succumb to their charms after much contemplation. Edmund was extraordinary to work his way into my affections before I had half-realized it.

Yet for several briefs moments this past year, I had thought maybe I was more tired of the amusements of the city than I realized. That perhaps wealth and consequence, though I had never had either, were not as engrossingly important as I had always imagined. For several moments I had thought so – thought perhaps I could adjust to Edmund’s quiet country-parson’s way of life. Until I stepped back into the bustle of London, and I knew I could never give such amusements up.

There is nothing more terrible than to love and yet know you yourself are the reason the love must be given up.

Not that I had had such a choice. Edmund had turned away from me with a hard heart and hardened eyes, and nothing I could do could make him change his mind. Perhaps it was best to know that now – to know if I had married him I could never have convinced him to spend some months in London, or drive a more stylish carriage, or to seek more fashionable acquaintances. Still, it stung me to my very soul that he had made the decision to break off the potential of anything between us, not I. I might not care so very much if I had felt I had taken control in the deciding.

Oh, I am a failure even at attempting to fool myself. There is no way I could have convinced myself to give such a man as Edmund up, no matter how miserable I should be.

So could I convince myself things were better this way?

Last that I had heard, Edmund was courting his cousin, Fanny Price. Fanny Price! If nothing else had illustrated the impassable gulf that existed between him and me, this did – the fact that he could be consoled after giving me up by a girl such as Fanny. That insipid, shy, retiring shadow of a girl, whose acquaintance I had persistently pursued for so long because I knew how important she was to Edmund! Long had I pursued the acquaintance, without feeling I knew the girl a whit better than before the acquaintance had begun. Such a quiet girl! Yet one who might speak her opinion on moral matters quite decidedly if pressed, and stick to it to a surprisingly degree – a degree no one would have predicted, from her otherwise obliging temperament. Fanny Price’s fastidiousness had ruined everything for my brother – and perhaps now she would ruin everything for me.

What? Was I still clinging to a shred of hope? It did not matter if Edmund married or did not marry Fanny Price. He’d made it clear he would never come back to me.

It was time for me to fling myself into society again, to distract myself with admirers, to appear light-hearted and charming to all who laid eyes on me. And I had been doing so until this day, and until this moment of dullness and silence I had convinced myself I had forgotten everything that had passed in Mansfield Park. But I knew now that none of the unattached society men would hold a candle to Edmund’s steadiness, his earnest ability to convey to a lady how very much he felt for her by a mere glance of his eyes. There was something in making a man such as him admire you! Fanny Price should know how much she had gained!

Yes, she likely did. I could not accuse her of presumption, but she must’ve at least been in love with Edmund for some time.

I was a fool, but as long as he was single, I did have hope.

At that very moment, my brother, Henry, entered the room.

“It is over, Mary,” he said.

Not his flirtations, that was for certain. He had thrown himself into his usual pattern of behaviour with a vengeance, and without seeming much more contented as a result of it. A certain class of respectable women avoided him, of course, but there were enough willing to associate with him to distract him. Except it looked as if he was as difficult to distract as I was.

He handed me a society paper. “Edmund Bertram has announced his engagement to Fanny Price.”

I lifted my eyes to his face. “She has got him at last, then.”

It was only the anguished look on my brother’s face that convinced me it was true.

“I still love her, Mary,” he said. His hand found the arm of the chair behind him, and he sunk himself down into it. “I didn’t think it was possible – I still love her.”

I had never thought it possible either, that my brother could ever lose at the game he played so well. That there’d every be a soul among all the ladies he juggled that would make him regret he could not convince himself to drop the others. Lost? Oh yes, my brother had lost. He is not the sort to love often, perhaps never more than once. And he knows reforming, even were he able to attempt it, would do nothing to win the heart of Fanny Price, nor raise his character in her eyes.

Oh why, oh why had the Crawfords ever gone in among the Bertrams and the Prices? They exposed the folly we could not stop clinging to. And neither of us were the better for having met them.

My heart twisted inside my chest. Edmund was to be married. Henry and I had both played and lost. Life made it clear we could not have everything we wanted, and we’d learned our priorities well.

If only such priorities did not look so dreary and monotonous on their own.

 

 

If you enjoyed Reactions to an Engagment, I also previously wrote a short piece on Emma – called Not Emma.

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Top Ten of 2011: Ugly People, E-Publishing, and Limericks

Fireworks by Semnoz. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

OR, Why People Read Stories and Stuff

It’s Quotable Wednesday today, and since it’s coming up on a year since I started blogging regularly, what better way to celebrate than to quote myself? So here is a list of the Top Ten Most Viewed posts of 2011, brought to you by Stories and Stuff.

First up: The Case for Ugly Romantic Interests

I guess I wasn’t the only one who noticed how rare ugly romantic interests are. And strangely enough, I left Shrek off the list, though he’s one of the most obvious ones.

2.) The E-Publishing Experiment

E-publishing is an extremely hot topic among writers at the moment, so I guess this isn’t a surprise. Once my experiment is a little more under way, I may update on how the journey went sometime.

3.) Do You Need to be Younger than 40 to Write Great Novels?

I have no idea why this one is so popular, since I never thought about this question till I read the article about it. Still, the question is intriguing when you think about it.

4.) Frustration

This one was a surprise for me also, but I guess frustration is a very common human emotion. This post was on the frustration of not being able to find time to write while being in school.

5.) Fanfiction: For Geeks Only?

I never realized quite how popular fanfiction actually was, till I wrote posts about it. I kept it quite a secret for a long time that I wrote fanfiction at all. This post was about how useful writing fanfiction can be for a writer.

The last 5 posts will be my fiction posts, since it makes sense to me to list them separately. The fiction and non-fiction were all mixed together in my stats lists, which again surprised me, because I thought less people would read fiction online than blog posts. Anyway:

1.) Chapter 1: On the Train to Hogwarts (Unexpected Situations)

Yes, my fanfiction beats out all my original works. Oh well, Harry Potter is very popular, so this makes sense.

2.) Limerick

Really? My poetry comes in a number 2? Or do people really search “limerick” that often, and click on whatever pops up? I can’t say this is an especially good limerick. 

3.) Thoughts of Mr. Knightley, A Missing Chapter from Emma

I’m glad people appreciate Emma as much as I do.

4.) Of Long Noses and Light Feet: Chapter 1 (Why Polly?)

Good, my most recent story is well up there. Introducing Polly, and how she begins to get into scrapes with princesses, enchanters, and dangerous magical creatures…

 

Okay, I could put one more fiction example, but I want to put two commonly searched terms in the last spot instead. One term is “abolish the monarchy.” Apparently my post on The Royal Wedding – Will We Abolish the Monarchy? hit a chord with anti-monarchists. And the other term is “Edith Tolkien.” I had no idea she was so popular.

What was your favourite post of the year?

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Thoughts of Mr. Knightley, A Missing Chapter From Emma

And now for something completely different…

 

 

Author’s Note: I do not pretend I can write like Jane Austen. Aside from the fact she’s a genius at writing courtship novels, I could never write in that exact style of English, because the language’s changed since then. All the same, I’ve been obsessed with Emma lately, so I had to try something from Mr. Knightley’s point of view. This bit is inspired by the book, and not the movie, so hopefully you won’t be confused about any of the details I’ve included.

Of course, if you wish to know what happens next, read Chapter 49 of Emma.

 

Mr. Knightley’s Thoughts Upon Travelling to London

 “I should like to see Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return; it would do her good…”

He had said that. He, himself, had said that. So why should it be that he was very much in love, and certainly in doubt of a return?
The hooves of his horse thundered over the ground below him. He soon would be far from Hartfield, and all residents therein. Distance at this point in time was desirous and necessary, but he highly doubted any length of distance could fully settle the tumult of his soul…

He had almost kissed her hand – been the merest breath away from doing so, but something had held him back. Something in the way a blush had risen to her cheeks. A blush he’d seen a hundred thousand time before, from her precocious infancy to her full bloom of womanhood, but the last blush before this had been accompanied by a smile and a laugh, and been directed at Frank Churchill.

Frank Churchill – that dog!

He straightened in the saddle. All the bitterness of spirits could not be enough to excuse an uncharacteristic slump to his shoulders. He would learn to be indifferent. He would learn indifference enough that Emma would be free to smile at whomever she wished, without it so thoroughly affecting him.

London was only fifteen miles hence. He should be in there, in Brunswick Square, by evening. Then a pleasant evening with John and Isabella and the children should drive all thoughts of Hartfield from his mind. One could never fully concentrate on anything with those boys of John’s rampaging about.

His upper lip twisted. But now the road was empty. There were no such distractions around.

Emma! – Emma! – Emma, who was so dear to him, so heedless of her own faults, and yet so eager to do better. Always resolving to improve and always forgetting her resolve mere days after making it. How often it had used to amuse him! How far less amusing it was to watch those faults be worsened under the hand of a careless, foppish, flirtatious young man…

Still, at his encouragement, his, she had gone to see Miss Bates today. She put some value in his reproofs, that relieved his mind. Sound counsel had always held weight with her. This proved it still did, though not that she preferred sound counsel from any particular source. Least of all that of an old family friend.

That they could disagree and yet never cease to be friends – that was the pinnacle of it all. Far too many women of his acquaintance could not bear for their opinions to be crossed. Yet he could be irritated with Emma and she bore it with spirit. And he was not always right, he knew he was not always right. He could not support always being agreed with by a woman, or a woman who always needed to be agreed with by him.

Which was why of late he had begun to consider… Donwell Abbey felt very empty and cold despite the number of fire lit… he wished for light, lilting chatter to cheer his long evenings and drown out the thick silence…

But not such chatter as he had endured at Box Hill! Miss Woodhouse demands from each of you one very clever thing, indeed. His ears could not bear the words.

His gaze fell on the very fine stand of trees in the distance. It was far easier to think of a stand of trees than that disastrous party. There must be some good timber yonder in that stand. He wondered who could possibly own the lands hereabout.

Yes, indifference.

For thirty-seven years he had been indifferent. Thirty-seven years he had lived in peace, content with the knowledge he possessed an income which could support him, and could make life easier for his tenants. For a long time being known in the county as a “good landlord” had been enough. He had felt useful. He had contributed to the betterment of people’s lives, including that of his dear neighbours. He had grown used to ignoring the prophecies of the women of Highbury – “I declare, he will be married by midsummer,” or “she surely will not fail to catch his eye!”

He had been content to live by himself and mix with society at his leisure. There was a good amount of silliness in Highbury society, as there was any time one mixed a great number of disparate people together, but the majority of them were worthy souls. He had never seen any reason to be a snob, or hold himself above them. The only failing of the place was the scarcity of suitable companions for Emma.

Again. He would not wish to take back the moment Emma had been laid in his arms as a boy of sixteen, but he most assuredly would have paused if he had known the doubt that darkened his mind right now. The ease in which perfect contentment with his own society in his own house would suddenly turn to disgust at the dull creature he was on his own.

The ease in which a slim figure, the closest approximation of an accomplished young lady Emma could be without ceasing to be Emma, could slip herself into the centre of his daily routine, his conversations, his thoughts.

Those arching black brows over bright eyes, so warm with regard for him…

He’d admit to anyone he was fond of her. He’d sworn he’d do his best by her, the moment he’d heard the news her mother had passed away. She deserved a friendly hand to guide her when her overeager feet led her to stumble, and a neighbourly eye to watch out for her. But this – this prompting in his hear was to do more, far more, and he could not do that now, not while Frank Churchill –

He could wish Frank Churchill at the ends of the earth – at the bottom of the sea, if it meant he would be away from Highbury. He never wished harm against another man before. But now, he hated most of all how this disappointment caused him to be untrue to himself.

He would never be glib, like Frank Churchill.

He would let plain words speak for himself someday.

He could only pray to God that someday he would be granted the chance to say them.

He did not dare to allow himself to hope again, not until a certain letter of Mr. Weston reached him and he had read the postscript. Then he burst out –

“Jane, Jane, you will be a miserable creature!”

But, if he could do anything about it – not Emma.

***

Lookin' GoodPrince.CharmingLooking for some more romantic reads? Check out my ebooks, Prince Charming and Lookin’ Good.

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Copyright Woes and Weirdness

If you write both fanfiction and original stories, you know there’s a tension between the two – as a fanfic author you want the freedom to use other people’s characters, but as an author you kind of hate the thought that someone out there could take your precious creations and do creepy things with them…

Copyright hasn’t always existed – at one point the only way to copy a book was to write it out by hand, which definitely cut down on the number of copies of each book there were – but over time people developed the idea of “intellectual property” and created copyright laws to protect that. It’s kind of a weird idea when you think about it. Everyone can legally protect their ownership of the wild flights of imagination they came up with inside their head. I mean, plots and characters you write about don’t actually exist except in the pages of your book, but you still own them. Wow, that imaginary country I dreamed up yesterday actually belongs to me. 🙂

Of course, there are good reasons for intellectual property rights. It would be worse than frustrating to know someone took your book, changed one scene in it, and is making millions of dollars by publishing it as their own. On the other hand, a certain kind of freedom is lost. Back in the ‘good old days,’ people made up all kinds of stories about Robin Hood, Merlin or Cinderella, because no one claimed they owned them. No one would protest if you took a random character from Homer’s Iliad and expanded on his adventures. And you could take a little poem known as he Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, rewrite it as ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and became famous.

It’s a human urge, when an author or screenwriter or whoever presents you with a new world and a set of characters, to want to experiment and play around with it. No wonder fanfiction was created. There’s no way a creator can output enough stuff to satisfy the demands of all his or her fans. And people will always want to answer the question of “what if – ?”

I wonder (I’m just theorizing here) if stories used to be viewed more as collective creations, with various communities adding and adapting them over time. Whereas now we think of them as individual creations, and no one but the author can say what is allowed to be done with them.

Not that there’s any middle ground that I can see. We all have to work within the system we live in. But I’m glad the internet allows us a bit of leeway in experimenting with things like fanfiction, while the law does offer us authors protection when things go wrong.

Would you prefer copyright anarchy, or draconian legislation? What do you think?

 

(For more of my thoughts on fanfiction, see this post)

 

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Frustration

Frustration is…

… having a zillion writing ideas in your head, but not having time to actually write them. Because you have to write a boring, derivative history paper instead. Or study for statistics.

I came across the concept of dead fanfiction today – basically it’s fanfiction that never gets updated because of other life interferences. That can happen with any kind of writing, actually (how many abandoned blogs have you come across? How many novels never get finished?) My hope is that I get a chance to work on these writing ideas before the excitement dies or I forget them…

How do you cope with life getting in the way of writing?

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Fanfiction: For Geeks Only?

Or, What I Learned From Writing Fanfiction

 

Ginny Weasley – as my 15 year-old self drew her…

So, now that I’m looking back over my looooooooong career as a fanfiction author (just kidding) and wondering whether it was a useless exercise. After all, when I look back at some of the drivel I posted on fanfiction.net, I cringe. And it’s not like I could ever get recognition or money for that stuff – it’s frowned on to swipe characters from other authors.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that it did make a difference in my writing after all.

After all, it did enable me to try some ridiculous stuff I never would’ve tried in my “serious” writing. It allowed me to be as sappy, mushy and sentimental as I wanted. Once you’ve tried writing the extreme, it’s a little easier to scale back and be more realistic. Also, it helps you experiment with aspects of your writing without worrying about characterization. Practice on one area at a time. Sometimes that’s helpful for a writer.

Writing fanfiction is a bit like playing house when you were a kid – you have a set of stock characters (the mom, the dad, the baby, etc.), and a certain setting, and a certain set of events that are more likely to happen – but as a kid you have complete freedom to let you imagination run wild within those bounds. Before you know it, you’ve played for hours.

Another point is, people read fanfiction. When I went back recently to check my old fanfiction account (that I had not updated since I was in junior high), I was amazed to see it still got one or two hits a day. And I hadn’t updated in eons by internet standards! So I posted a little something new, to see what would happen, and I got over eight hundred hits in a day. Needless to say, that’s higher than I get on this blog.

Besides, people leave comments and reviews, and though lacking in constructive criticism (it’s mostly “I like it! Keep writing!”), it boosts your confidence. It forces you to actually write another chapter. Recently it dawned on me that a writer is not really a full writer without readers (which is one of the reasons I am updating this blog more often).

Yeah, so call fanfiction writers lame and geeky if you want. It’s a bit of a weird hobby. But it’s a ridiculously engrossing and incredibly fun one.

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