Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When Readers Write Stories

image I love when readers write stories. You find it a lot in erotica, romantica, and fan fiction. These are not professional stories, and I think the majority of them do it for fun, to explore themselves, or to explore a treasured world, and not with any hope of writing professionally. They are often no longer than an email, and usually written in serial, posted to forums, email lists, or fan fiction sites.

I love these stories.

Some of them are poorly written, some of them are not bad, and some of them show a spark of talent. Some are great, even.

They are all special. Often they bring tears to my eyes. (All someone has to do is bare their soul and I automatically love them. I love people.)

Robert Heinlein said he could write a story for anyone, and I guess (only guess) the way he did it was to tap into his intended audience’s hopes and dreams.

imageIn these amateur stories, you can find your reader’s hopes and dreams. They are usually emotionally transparent, and often, the writer’s heart’s longings are laid bare.

I think that’s why I appreciate them so much.

My audience’s problems, hopes, aches, struggles and dreams are what I try to tap into when composing a story. If the main character is going to be relatable to the readers, then the main character needs to share one or more similar emotions. 

I suppose you can find those hopes and dreams in published fiction, but they tend to be more artfully hidden, less obvious. More about what the author wants, than what readers want. With readers’ fiction, what they want from a story is really out there.

I’ve heard of a couple authors who actually host fan fiction on their website. Do you happen to know who? How do they do that, legally? It’s very cool. I would do that in a second, if I could!

image My point, I guess, is what I always say: treasure the amateur. Respect all fans of writing. Bless, don’t judge. And there’s more than one reason to be grateful for all who write.

Do you ever read amateur or fan fiction? Ever take inspiration from the hopes and dreams they share? Search for that special kernel of heartfelt desire inside their story?

Search for what their heart is seeking in stories?

22 bonus scribbles:

Edie 1/28/2009 03:41:00 PM  

I've never read or written fan fiction, but that has to be the greatest compliment to writers. I've heard of writers getting started with fan fiction, then writing their own books and getting published.

Lauren 1/28/2009 04:22:00 PM  

I don't read much fan fiction and I have never written any. That being said, if I ever got published I would love it if someone wrote fan fiction about my characters.

Susan Helene Gottfried 1/28/2009 04:48:00 PM  

I have links to fan fiction up on my website. (And need to add the one that showed up today, too!)

As for how they can do it, it's simple. Unless the author has sold the rights to their characters, they can easily allow fans to enter their world. It's when fans try to profit from their creation that you have the legal issues.

Leon Basin 1/28/2009 05:21:00 PM  

This is a cute blog!:)

Leon Basin 1/28/2009 05:21:00 PM  

Hey, how are you doing?

Heather Harper 1/28/2009 05:28:00 PM  

"Bless, don’t judge."

Love that. Can I quote you for a Weekend Zen? ;-)

Robin 1/28/2009 06:02:00 PM  

That's very cool. I've never read fan fiction. I'd love to, though. I'd like to be the hero of fan fiction, and wear very cool outfits.

spyscribbler 1/28/2009 07:00:00 PM  

Edie, I haven't read but a little fan fiction, but you're so right! I think Meljean Brook started out that way, but don't quote me on it!

spyscribbler 1/28/2009 07:01:00 PM  

Lauren, I've never written any, either. I've been tempted, now and then! Especially about Ranger, LOL. :-)

spyscribbler 1/28/2009 07:02:00 PM  

Susan, that is the COOLEST! The unexplored depths of your website, LOL!

Shuddering at the legal issues, LOL...

spyscribbler 1/28/2009 07:02:00 PM  

Thanks, Leon! Good, how about you?

spyscribbler 1/28/2009 07:04:00 PM  

Heather, really? What a compliment! That is so cool! Sure!

PS: Have you checked out Janna's blog today? She had even a better quote:

"Don't think about what you could do, if. Think about what you can do, because you are."

spyscribbler 1/28/2009 07:05:00 PM  

"I'd like to be the hero of fan fiction, and wear very cool outfits."

You would rock as a superhero, Robin! I can totally imagine it! LOL!

colbymarshall 1/28/2009 07:07:00 PM  

I never really read any fanfic, but I remember back before the final HP came out how there was one piece of fanfic that was circulating rumored to be the real final story. It seemed obvious to me that it wasn't real, the style was so different, but there you go.

Amy Nathan 1/28/2009 10:08:00 PM  

You have such a wonderful outlook and such a warm heart.

I've never read or written fan fiction, but I'd think any author would be flattered. How wonderful to so inspire others. I'm sure that fan fiction writers also inspire one another.

You're right - we need to embrace everyone who loves books and stories. Together we create the circle.

Angie 1/29/2009 01:18:00 AM  

I read and write fanfic, as well as commercial fiction. [wave]

It is a compliment, it's awesome when readers get that engaged with a writer's characters or world, and I've never understood writers who get all bent out of shape about it. [shrug]

About how writers host it, legally, I don't know anyone who does right now, but Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon used to host their fan Categories back on GEnie, and allowed and encouraged fanfic within two of their fantasy worlds. The way they did it was 1) there was a point of departure in each of those worlds, so that the world the fans were writing in was actually an alternate universe version of their (Misty and Larry's) world. If you're familiar with the Heralds of Valdemar books, for example, the point of departure was that Chris actually escaped and lived. So the fans weren't really writing in the same world Misty and Larry were writing in, and that gave them legal protection, or so they said. (A lot of fanfics are AUs anyway, because the writers want to explore something different, just as a datapoint.)

And 2) they put in a lot of restrictions as to what kinds of characters could be written, and what eras of their story-history could be written in, etc. They never said so, but my personal opinion is that the second set of restrictions was put into place to keep the nest from being too comfortable. They had reasons why the restrictions were in place, but they were BS IMO. I think they were trying to encourage the fan writers to feel the pinch of the too-small world, and go out on their own to write their own original fiction.

But anyway, that's how one writing team did it. I don't know whether the AU trick actually protected them back then, or whether it would protect a writer now. It was an official fan site, though, so it's not like they were sneaking their approval out to the fans in a plain brown wrapper. :)

Angie

Kath Calarco 1/29/2009 09:19:00 AM  

I'm not sure how I feel about fan-fic, or if I'd feel complimented if ever my characters ended up in fan-fic. I might be in a minority here, but at first blush I have to say it'd feel sort of copy-cat-ish. But, that's just me. I often wondered how Maraget Mitchell would have felt knowing her novel had a sequel written by someone else.

Realmcovet 1/29/2009 09:37:00 AM  

Such a beautiful post Spy. You are one of the kind souls of the earth that is like a gem washed up on the shores of life. I love how you pay such close attention to detail, how intuitive you are. Such a rare quality.

Dal Jeanis 1/30/2009 12:47:00 PM  

Spy - great, hearty-felt post. Very useful point of view.


Angie - I'd bet that those restrictions were also to prevent the fanfic from being able to claim that they had added any important feature to the AU which affected the main world.

I've given a lot of thought to how to get high school readers and fan authors involved in the world of my YA novel that will be published this year. I know lots about the world that won't be known to readers for at least five years, but that might be "stepped on" if fans were given full reign. So, I would have to carefully restrict the sandbox to a particular location and time zone, and articulate well the rules of magic and tech.

Angie 1/30/2009 02:38:00 PM  

Dal -- I'd bet that those restrictions were also to prevent the fanfic from being able to claim that they had added any important feature to the AU which affected the main world.

I'm sure that was the intent of the "AU" gimmick. [nod] This was right around the time of the whole fiasco with MZB losing the right to write in a largish temporal chunk of Darkover because of some idiot fanwriter (and seriously, I didn't know any other fanwriters who sided with that person) so it was pretty brave of Misty and Larry to let fans play in their sandboxes at all.

Angie

Zoe Winters 1/31/2009 09:21:00 PM  

I've both written and read fanfiction.

I started writing it when I was obsessed with Buffy and couldn't make myself write original fiction. It led me to discovering paranormal romance, and then I stopped writing it in favor of my original fiction.

Melanie Avila 2/02/2009 12:32:00 PM  

I've never read either, but I think I used to write fanfic when I was a teenager, without realizing that's what it was. Or at least I certainly daydreamed about fictional characters. :P