Saturday, June 8, 2013

Interviewing a Fanfiction Author

I think this might be true of most writers--that moment when you are reading or watching a TV show or a movie and go: "What happened to that character? Why did it end that way? I can do better than that!"

For me, I was 12 and it was Titanic. I rewrote Jack not dying numerous times--surely Rose could have shared that door she laid on with him? Fanfiction remained a hefty portion of my adolescence. I wrote some (some of them endless), but I was mostly a reader. I never posted my fics (mostly because I never finished them) and they were usually more about my actor crush of the month rather than any character he played. 

I no longer write fanfiction, though I still read it a lot. Writing fanfiction, like writing anything fictional, can either be a starting point for aspiring writers or a break from more technical and serious writing or a creative outlet. 

I asked my cousin, ilovetoread09, a fanfiction author, a few questions. How is the writing process different when using existing characters? What kind of writing basics does a writer learn while writing for a fandom? And what about those immediate reviews? (The thought of those reviews terrifies me.)


How long have you been writing fanfiction?

I would say since about 2009. Like a lot of authors on Fanfiction.net, I mainly read stories first before summoning up the courage to post my own story. It’s pretty nerve-wracking putting your writing out there for others to read and review. You can get actual critique, depending on what fandom you are writing for.
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I know you write Castle fanfic. What about the show inspired you to write about those characters?
What inspired me to write Castle fanfic was the season two finale. Like a lot of people, I was disappointed with the ending of the episode and wanted to re-write it. Unfortunately, I took it a little too far and completely destroyed the personality of some of the characters. (Let’s just say I really did not like the current love interest of Kate Beckett, the main female lead).

Besides that, there a lot of what-if scenarios for the characters that pop into my head, and then I just write them. Admittedly, there are some ideas that I have that are too outlandish to write and post on fanfiction.


Have you written fanfic for other fandoms? Do you read fanfic in other fandoms?

Yes, Castle was not the first fandom I delved into when I created an account. Here's the kicker, I wrote for, wait for it...the Twilight fandom! Yes, I wrote for that! I was about thirteen or fourteen at the time and was into the whole vampire fad that most of the girls were into at that time. I wrote a few stories for it, but have since deleted them from my account out of pure embarrassment. The fandom did help me get my foot in the door with writing fanfiction and I learned basic writing structure such as starting a new paragraph each time a new peson speaks. If I didn't know that, I would have been in big trouble in the Castle fandom.

I do read other fandoms, such as: Titanic, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Good Wife to name a few.  I’ll occasionally drift to other fandoms out of curiosity. My latest kick has been Beauty and the Beast which actually has some pretty decent stories in it.


What would you say are important elements for a good fanfiction?
Keeping characters in character: Besides basic grammar and spelling, keeping the characters in character is an important element, especially with television shows it seems. When writing a fic, the writer should consider whether or not the character they are writing would behave as they are being written. Readers can be critical about this, depending on the fandom. The Castle fandom is fairly critical about this when reviewing a story. However, if the characters are in an alternate universe (AU), readers are a little more lax about it, as long as there is a good reason for a character behaving differently. Other than that, try to keep the characters the way they are portrayed. 

Plot: Like any story, a plot is needed. The plot should be believable and not so outlandish that it could never happen to the characters. I’ve seen some far-out there plots that turn out pretty good, and some that just don’t. This goes for AU stories as well. The other thing with plot is to maintain the main storyline. I’ve seen a lot of fics that start out great, but then diverge away from the original storyline, causing people to forget what the story was originally about. This is usually due to the story becoming too long or something was put into the story that made a sub-plot become the main plot for about ten chapters. This causes confusion and readers need to be reminded what the story was about in the first place.

Listening to reviewers: This is actually a fairly big thing, to me at least. You’re putting up your story to be read by others, chances are it’s going to get praised and critiqued. Praise is great and I like it, but who doesn’t? Anyway, it’s nice to get reviews praising your story, but the critiquing is more important. The critique could help improve your story and attract more readers. If one person is making a suggestion to improve your story in a certain way, you could brush it off if you want. However, if several people are making a similar suggestion, you should heed it and try to improve the story by either changes past chapters if you can or try to avoid making the same mistake in future chapters. (i.e. a character acts overly-dramatic in a situation where they normally would not). Also, if you ask for constructive criticism, take it! I’ve seen quite a few authors who ask for constructive criticism or suggestions, only to complain about it later saying that the reviewer doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It drives me nuts, quite frankly.

Description: I’m not gifted at description, and probably never will be. I mainly use dialogue to describe a character’s emotions or a particular place. I’ve tried a few times to be descriptive, but it always turns out sounding kind of awkward. There are some great writers in the Castle fandom that can do description and make it sound like pure poetry. I am definitely not one of them. If you can do it, go for it. Description makes a story a whole lot better.

Originality: When planning on writing a story, try to keep it as original as possible. If you see similar plots to yours in fandom, find a way to make it different. Also, try to avoid writing plots that are considered cliché. These include: pregnancy stories, abuse stories (apparently), overly-sappy romantic stories, and putting in elements that are cliché for the particular fandom you are writing for. (i.e. Ever since Castle made a comment about Beckett smelling like cherries, it’s become her permanent scent in the fandom. It could have just been the perfume she wore that day). Also, if you’re seeing a particular type of story being written during a period of time, chances are you should stay away from it. Your reviewers may actually thank you for the reprieve.
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Thank you, cousin dear, for your very insightful answers. I feel like she's picking up writing elements faster than I did; she's certainly growing that thick writer skin necessarily when dealing with others' opinions. 

I don't find myself attached to other peoples' characters as much anymore--even with Downton Abbey, which I remain obsessed with--I'm not terribly up in arms about what happens to the characters because they're not mine. 

Having said that, one of the best stories, never mind fics, I've ever read was a Downton Abbey modern alternate universe story called Both Alike In Dignity. I finished it and went, "God, I wish I could write like that!" 

So, dear readers, have you or were you a fanfiction writer? Have you ever read any? If yes, what did it teach you about writing? 

4 comments:

  1. I definitely started with fanfic. While I prefer working on my own stories/books these days, every now and then I'll knock out a quick fanfic. It's fun, and you never know what could help land you another fan!

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    1. I think the last fanfic I wrote was a Once the musical continuation. It's on the blog somewhere.

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  2. I was really into reading fanfic back a long time ago. I've written some satire plays for Sailor Moon, but never any actual stories. And only one other person has ever seen those plays. Lol! I always saw fanfic-land as this special club and I was just an outsider. For some reason wanting to change things I didn't like in other stories, just lead me into writing novels.

    By the way...Jack TOTALLY could have fit on that thingie. He did not need to freeze to death. So pointless.

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    1. As I said, I still read fanfiction, but I tended to veer in my own fics into Real Person fanfiction. So I guess I was trying to write original characters, but they weren't original. i was never involved in fandom...that felt kind of scary.

      Jack was skinny; he totally would have fit on the wood!

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