There are lots of different opinions on fanfiction. Some people hate it – they believe it’s an insult to the original author and should be considered plagiarism. Others – like those who publish it – believe that, so long as the names are changed, fanfiction is free game. I like to think that I’m somewhere in the middle on the topic, stopping short at fanfiction is cool, but it gives me the skeevies when someone tries to make money off of it.
I’ve written a lot of fanfiction, guys. Even now, while I’m working on my own projects, I still have a few fanfics going. The one that inspired me to write this prompt? It’s based on The Blacklist, but incorporates a character from my previous post. I’ve not published any of my recent works, but occurred to me recently that I was most prolific with my own work when I was also writing in my favourite authors’ worlds simultaneously. It never occurred to me that one influenced the other; to me, it was that either I was writing, or I wasn’t. I’m starting to believe that may be at least partially wrong.
Fanfic helps me as a writer to explore certain aspects of my story that I’m unsure of. It helps me understand other writers’ worlds, and allows me to play with my characters and develop them by putting them up against fully actualised characters. It helps me establish my own understanding of character emotion and motivation without thinking about the details, which unblocks me. I know that I get obsessed with the details – it’s what will make me a good writer. I also know that this obsession leads to some serious writer’s block. By using pre-existing worlds, I’m able to play with my characters in different scenarios and find their voices without allowing my OCD on how my own world works to hold me back. Fanfic for me is just like any other writing prompt; use X characters to create a scenario. That doesn’t mean I’m not writing my original story as well, but it means I have somewhere I can play with my characters stress-free.
I sometimes wonder what I would do if someone approached me with an offer of $500,000 – the amount offered to the author of After, a 50SoG fanfic – to purchase my own fanfic and publish it as a book. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I could say I would refuse. I like to think have integrity, but a half a million dollars is a heck of a lot of money. I have student loans, and the Husband and I want to buy a house and a puppy, and it would certainly open up the number of places I could apply to graduate school with the likelihood I could afford to go. Would I feel like I was selling out?
I’ve been looking back at my more popular fanfics and it occurs to me that I could feasibly turn them into novels on their own accord, but the knowledge that they were based off of characters that belong to someone else gives me pause. I respect every single author whose characters I’ve ever borrowed – that’s why I borrowed them – and whenever I play with them, it is my intent always to respect their world, and to make sure I leave it all where I found it when I’m done playing. I figure that if I’m having pause now, when the chances of them getting picked up is minimal, then if I ended up with a story and the opportunity to actually sell one of them, the cost would be too high. The original authors might not know – indeed, they might not even care – but I would know. I would care.
That said, if one of my fanfics makes a publishing company interested in me, or if one of my fanfic screenplays intrigues some network, then so be it! I would love to be part of a writing team for any number of awesome TV shows or film series. Or, you know. Get paid to write my own original works.