Thursday, May 8, 2014
Before the mudslinging begins, let me say here and now that I enjoy fan fiction. I’ve even written some: back in the ‘90s I published a couple Star Trek: The Next Generation stories. (In one of them, Wesley complained to a teacher that he wanted more of a challenge. The teacher programmed the Holodeck with Alien. This is why I should not be allowed anywhere near media tie-ins.)
I’m still writing fan fiction, sort of. Or maybe it isn’t. You be the judge.
These days I have a love/hate relationship with fanfic. I love to read it. If a show or book or characters move me, I love to write it. However, now that I’m a grownup with expenses and trying to make a living with my keyboard, I hate writing something I know will never earn me money. Unless you’re writing 50 Shades of Grey, which is a whole other animal.
There’s a way around this, however, that lets me write what amounts to fan fiction (at least to me) while allowing me to sell it to pro markets without having to look over my shoulder for lawyers and plagiarism suits.
What’s this marvelous invention that lets me have my cake and write about it too? It’s called Alternate Universe, or AU for short.
Basically, it’s your favorite characters … but not really. They might be younger or older than they are in the show/book/movie, or in high school, or different genders, or have different occupations, or be gay (helpful if you’re writing slash). It’s not the official characters from the official show/book/movie background; it’s folks from the universe next door. This allows you to do whatever you want with your faves and not have to worry about things like lawsuits and stealing and keeping them in character. You get to play with the toys in your playground.
For instance: a fanfic story where Harry Potter is an American would be AU. Stories where Sam and Dean aren’t brothers and can therefore indulge in their overwhelming lust for each other without the squick factor are also AU, if a bit questionable. Or Dr. Who as your high school science teacher (how'd you like to go on his field trips!). You get the idea.
I used to question this. I mean, if you’re going to change the characters to the point they’re practically unrecognizable, why even bother calling it fanfic? I always thought fanfic was about writing additional adventures of your heroes—the untold stories, as it were. All the worldbuilding’s already been done, you just plug Harry or the Doctor or the Winchesters into your plot and see what they do. What’s the point of AU? If you’re going to change them that much, why not just write an original story with original characters?
Okay, yeah, they can have sex. And they do. Holy guacamole, do they have sex. More than they do on TV, and in a lot more interesting positions. If you want to see where the new crop of erotica writers is coming from, check out fanfic sites.
And then I realized the real attraction: change things around enough, and it becomes an original story with original characters … which means you can sell it for real-world money and not be called a plagiarist.
All of a sudden I’m in the mood to write me some AU fanfic.
It’s been done, and long before Edward and Bella got name changes and started having kinky sex as Christian and Ana. That’s just the most famous example. I recall flipping through a SF paperback and recognizing characters and concepts I first ran across in a Star Wars fanfic. I’ve heard there’s quite a number of paranormal romances out there that started life as Buffy/Spike stories. To my knowledge I’ve never read one, but I’d love to.
And, of course, there’s my own book, Belonging, which would have been M/F except I got hooked on Supernatural. That one’s extreme AU, Wincest division. Made watching the show really interesting for a while.
Why not just write original characters? Turns out I did. They just look and sound a helluva lot like Sam and Dean. I got to flex my fan fiction muscles while writing a book I could pay bills with. And not a lawyer in sight.
Let me set the record straight on one thing: don’t go skimming through fanfic sites looking for the fanfic version. There isn’t one. There never was. Yes, people do “file off the serial numbers” and publish rewritten fan fiction. I skipped that stage and went straight to the original version. Saves time. Only trouble is, if you do that you lose out on the fanfic audience that follows your stories and, hopefully, will buy your non-fannish stuff. Well, Supernatural doesn’t have the huge fandom that Twilight enjoys anyway. I doubt if I missed out on much.
I’m still doing it, too. The book I just finished started out with Sam and Dean as the leads again. They didn’t stay that way for long. Within a chapter they’d developed totally different personalities, and somewhere along the way I realized Dean’s character actually looks more like Tom Hiddleston/Loki. But it makes writing dialogue so much easier when you can hear a specific voice saying the lines in your head. To say nothing of the fun in visualizing the sex scenes.
For my next project, I’m mulling over a story for a Halloween anthology. I’ve decided to “cast” Dean and Castiel as my heroes. Under different names, of course. And different backgrounds and personalities. And lots of slashy sex. I always wanted to try my hand at some hot Destiel. Why the hell not? Nobody needs to know, and I need to fill up the gas tank. Off to the alternate universe!