Today’s post was meant to be my Top Ten Favorite Books, but I changed my mind at the last moment. If you still want to know about my favorite books (No, not novels. Some of my favorite books are novella length, so books is the appropriate term for me to use when referring to my favorite works of literature.), then tune in next Saturday for that post. I’m still planning to do it, despite my sudden change in plans.
If you’ve read the title of today’s post, then you know we’re going to be talking about fanfiction. Specifically, what it is and why people write it. I will also be going over some useful terms to know, and the benefits of writing fanfiction. Some basic fanfiction etiquette is also in the cards if I have my say. You can consider this post a primer of sorts for people interested in writing fanfic, and for those just interested in what it is.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I write fanfiction when I’m not working on original stuff, and that I enjoy writing it. This is the first of many post I on the subject that I will making an official part of this blog, covering everything from things I love about it, to the things I hate in regards to it. Here’s a glossary of terms you will need to get through the following post:
Fanon: Things adopted by fans as canon, but not strictly shown in the source material. A lot of times these things are logical offshoots of what is found in the source material, but that isn’t always the case.
Canon: What is shown in the source material, whether that be a comic, Anime, TV show, book, or a movie. Even what is shown in a video game, because there are certainly plenty of fan written stories written about video game characters as well.
Fandom: The people who enjoy whatever the source material is, they sometimes even have specific names. For example, Trekkies are fans of any of the Star Trek shows and movies.
Ship: Short for relationship, this has to do with pairing characters romantically together. You have three main forms of shipping, slash (male/male), femslash (female/female), and het (male/female). There’s also poly relationships, but they’re less common than strict two person pairings.
Gen: Stories without any romantic relationships or that are about friendship fall under the heading or gen, which is short for general. Gen may also be a story rating, where the fic is basically child friendly or equivalent to a G or PG movie rating.
What is fanfiction and why would people want to write it?
Fanfiction or fanfic for short, are non-liscenced derivative stories written by fans of a book, movie, TV show, comic, or video game that is still under copyright by the owner or their estate. Why am I defining it in legal terms? Because, legally despite what other say of derivative retellings and adaptations of out of copyright things. You can not have fanfiction of something that is owned by the public and not a single person or organization. Yes, fanfics are derivative. But Jane Austen isn’t going to come after you if you try to get retellings of her work published, Joss Whedon the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer legally can and will.
So, why do people write fanfic if they can’t legally make any money off of it? Simplest answer to that is because they love the source material, and want to spend more time in that world/universe with their favorite characters. Sometimes there’s something in the source they want to change, or wish never happened despite their love of the source. They end up writing an alternate universe that diverges ( I will be referring to this as AU-Canon Divergent from now on.) from the canon material right at the point of their unhappiness with their beloved source material.
Say I write an AU-Canon Divergent story in which Thorin never dies in the Hobbit, or Frodo finds his cure in Middle Earth instead of sailing into the west. Those can be considered fix-it stories, I “fixed” something that bothered me about the original despite my love for the movies, or books. But don’t think that all AU- Canon Divergence stories are about fixing something in the source material, most are what if type of things. What if the Enterprise had never found the Xryillian ship after Trip became the first ever recorded pregnant human male? ( For all of those recoiling in fear, yes, Enterprise did make one of their male crew members pregnant. If you’re interested in that episode, it is either episode four or five of the first season of the show.) What if Trip and T’Pol’s bond wasn’t romantic in nature?
Of course not all fanfiction falls into this, some of it gen as I mention in my glossary a little ways up the page. Other fics don’t fall under general but are still canon friendly, or essentially extensions of canon with no changes. And still other fics take the what if portion of writing fanfiction even further to diverge completely from canon and place things in an entirely new setting. At its core, fanfic is a labor of love for the people who write it.
Where do people read fanfiction if it isn’t allowed to be sold?
Writers of this type of fiction post to archives that deal with this specific type of fiction. Places such as Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction.net, as well as smaller archive sites that deal with only one fandom. I myself post at both FF.net and AO3 (Archive of Our Own), as well as a smaller Star Trek: Enterprise only fanfic site. Yes, you heard me right. I really did admit one of the fandoms I write for is Enterprise. Star Trek has a history as a whole of encouraging fanfiction, and also encourages writers to submit canon compliant fiction (Stories that comply completely with the source material given in the shows, and would be indistinguishable from an episode were it ever filmed.) for liscencing.
My stuff tends towards AU- Canon Divergence, so I won’t ever seek publication for it. Even my more compliant fanfic tends towards things such as slash or femslash, making it automatically a no for publication. And I am content with that.
I want to write my own fanfiction, do you have any tips or basic etiquette I can follow?
Tip 1) Use proper grammar, and make notice of how things like character names are spelled.
As a reader, I will hit the backspace button like lightning if I see someone misspell the name of a character. Take pride in your work, and don’t just throw it up on the internet after you’ve finished it. Let it sit for a little bit, make it the best you can make it.
Tip 2) Keep all the characters in character.
Readers notice when a character isn’t behaving as they should, and for many of us it’s a deal breaker. We won’t read further and may put that writer on our Never Read Again list. This can be helped by getting a beta reader, someone who reads your work before others. They should catch things such as if the character is in character or not, and whether your plot makes sense. Get involved in the community around that fandom, join a board if you can. Sometimes you can even find one in your comments, that’s how I found my beta reader.
A really good way to make sure your characters sound like they should, is to read, watch, play etc. the source material again with an eye towards how they act, and speak/sound.
Tip 3) Have fun!
Long as your plot makes sense, Spock is in character, your spelling and grammar is sound, and you handle any sensitive topics with respect etc. people will love your story. Heck, even for most people you don’t have to have all of these. People love stories where plot and character are fine, but everything else is bad all the time. But still, don’t let have fun mean you’ll be embarrassed to look back on your work in the future. You won’t be perfect the first time, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your best.
With all that said, I think I’m going to go work on some Star Trek fanfic. Maybe I will work on my blog serial (At the end of next month I’m premiering a series of original serialized stories about a supernatural detective, who solves crime in 1900′s Boston.) , or on an original short story. I don’t really know what I will be doing to tell you the truth. Either way, join me next month for more talk of fanfic.