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Ask Me Anything
Question: What was the hardest thing about transitioning from fan fiction to original fiction?
Hey, thanks for the question. You’re right that I’ve stopped writing fan fiction. Here’s what that transition was like.
Let me start off by saying, fan fiction is a wonderful place for writers to cut their teeth and learn the craft. I’ve posted stories related to fandoms on the internet since 1998. (I’d actually written fanfiction since the 1980s though.) Just as a sampling, you can check out my stories at fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org which hosts my stories for Xena: Warrior Princess, StarTrek: Voyager, Once Upon a Time, Swingtown, Boston Public, and StarTrek: The Next Generation.
The fact remains you’re always playing in someone else’s universe. And it’s a very gray area at times what I feel comfortable reading about, or doing with, these not-mine characters. One thing I always had a hard time doing was “retro writing,” writing the characters as they were in a season that was no longer airing. I’m always too aware that the characters became different than that, had experiences that, even if I didn’t like the overall impact on their character, I liked the episode for one reason or another. The few times I tried to pretend something didn’t happen and write the story I wanted anyway, elements would creep in that the event was part of the character’s history and thus, impacting the storyline.
For example, Dark Swan. The concept was FANTASTIC. But the execution left Emma (and I think Jen, but that’s another thread entirely) inhabiting the shell of an independent woman and her character arc became subservient, a complete 180 and with no plans to “redeem” her from that (it was touted as being her happy ending so often, it was clear the writers had no plans to grow Emma’s backbone back into place, which would have been a helluva interesting journey).
My muse just fizzled out after that. I couldn’t write substantive works in the OUAT universe any more.
“There’s always AU (or uber),” you say? And a lot of AUs proliferated within the last few years in the OUAT/SwanQueen fandom. When the Xena bards did that, usually starting from the “many lives” aspect of Xena and Gabrielle’s soulmate bond, it led to what I consider the first new boom in lesbian fiction since Ann Bannon, Patricia Highsmith, Karin Kallmaker in the late 20th century. To read more about the early part of the 21st century and my take on the lesbian fiction boom, read this post.
Absolutely I would not be writing original stories today, though, unless I had the welcoming and encouraging environment of fandoms. With eager beta readers and readers who offer comments and kudos, the support is ever-present. And the critique of plot or characterization cemented an understanding for me about two key elements of fiction: engaging, heartfelt characters within an intriguing plot.