Recently I’ve been thinking about the area of fan fiction and wondering whether it is a good or bad thing.
I’m sure all writers, whether they are published yet or not, would have mixed feelings about fan fiction based on their work. Ont he one hand, it would be nice that your audience felt so inspired by your characters that they decided to explore them further through their own writings. It would be great to have a fan base that felt so strongly about your characters and your writing that they felt compelled to do a little writing of their own.
On the other hand though, these are the characters you poured your heart, soul and countless hours into creating. You know your own characters intimately, better than anyone will ever know them, often better than you even know yourself. These characters are a piece of you, living out their days in the realms of your subconscious mind. You couldn’t help but feel a little… ripped off maybe? I’m not sure of the right emotion, but through fan fiction you would feel like they’re trying to steal pieces of you, making assumptions of the characters you know so well, the characters you created. You might even feel a little pissed that these people are trying to steal your ideas, world and characters, that you devoted countless hours to creating, no matter how much you value your fan base.
Then comes the legal issues, when the fan fiction is published and shared on blogs and other media. It’s not just your feelings about the matter of published fan fiction (yes, published does include blog posts etc.), it’s also a legal matter of copyright and plagiarism. Whilst it is nice that they feel so strongly and passionately about a writer’s work, legally published fan fiction is a huge issue.
Take the example of Fifty Shades of Grey, whilst it’s not exactly an example of great literature, it is still a published work selling millions of copies worldwide and a motion picture. Most people know that Fifty Shades began as a work of fan fiction, inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. This was openly admitted, Fifty Shades is Twilight fan fiction, it’s written all over the internet, pretty sure it was mentioned almost every time during any sort of interview or promotion about the book as well.
So how does Stephenie Meyer feel about E. L James making millions off the Fifty Shades Trilogy, a series that was admittedly started as fan fiction of her own Twilight series? I would say she would quite quickly get over the “nice” feelings of feeling honoured that a reader felt so inspired by her work and quickly move on to thoughts about how a publisher paid E. L James to rip off someone else’s work and turn it into a warped Mills and Boon novel with with a heavy dash of BDSM. If you google “Stepehenie Meyer’s opinion of Fifty Shades” you will see countless articles discussing Meyer’s not so favourable opinion. Whilst I don’t believe she actually has said in public, “How dare that b***ch turn my work into trash and make money off of it!”, it is obvious that Meyer does not approve of the adaption, by saying very little except she “refuses to read it”, it is obvious that she does not think much of E.L James and her “fan fiction”.
I know how difficult it is as a writer to come up with a truly original idea, we are influenced by everything around us, including what we read, however this is mostly subconsciously. Yet I feel there is something very wrong with someone who openly admits that their published work began as fan fiction of someone else’s writing that they spent countless hours developing and creating.
I am the type of person that gets very involved in the world of fiction, the characters, the setting and so on, both with what I read and my own writing. However, I could never in good conscience, publish a work of fan fiction, whether I earned money from it or not. As a writer, I would feel a little bit flattered, I suppose, that someone felt so drawn in by the characters I created, that they felt inspired to explore the characters further in their own writing. However I would be quite annoyed (putting it mildly) if they then chose to publish their fan fiction, in any form, either on a blog or as a paid piece of work.
If you do enjoy writing fan fiction, I suggest you keep it for your own enjoyment and not publish it in any form and definitely do not send a copy to the writer whose work inspired you. They don’t want to see the evidence of your “thievery” and like I said before, a writer knows their characters better than anyone ever will and your adaption may feel like a complete betrayal and butchering of their characters.
Outlander author Diana Gabaldon will give you a very straight forward opinion of fan fiction that perfectly sums up my own view:
Diana’s Fan Fiction Policy
You know, I’m very flattered that some of you enjoy the books so much that you feel inspired to engage with the writing in a more personal way than most readers do. Both for legal and personal reasons, though, I’m not comfortable with fan-fiction based on any of my work, and request that you do not write it, do not send it to me, and do not publish it, whether in print or on the web. Thank you very much for your consideration.
(Diana’s Fan Fiction Policy retireved from her official website: http://www.dianagabaldon.com/)
Of course this opinion may not reflect the opinion of all writers, but I would say the majority would feel similarly.
If you read a great book and feel so inspired by the story and the characters that you simply have to explore it further through your own writing, might I suggest that you keep this writing to yourself or perhaps only share it with a small circle of friends. Do not publish it on a blog, do not turn it into a novel and start pitching it to different publishers to make your millions and do not send a copy to the original writer whose work inspired you so. Whilst it is flattering for the writer that you enjoyed their work so much, these feelings do not outweigh the feeling of betrayal and thievery the writer may feel.
So if you feel inclined to write a bit of fan fiction, that’s fine. By all means, write to your heart’s content, but do not publish it in any form and definitely do not go about intending to make some money out of it, just keep it for yourself to further enhance your enjoyment of the original writer’s work.
I don’t mean to offend anyone who thinks fan fiction is amazing and should be shared on every fan blog int he blogosphere, I am simply offering one writer’s opinion on the issue.
One day when I publish my novels, I will be very flattered if my characters and their stories inspired others to write, but please keep it to yourselves.
© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.