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Which Came First: The Author or the Idea?

This is a topic I haven’t touched before, mainly because it is so heated and polarizing.

Fanfic pulling to publish.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!

I’m not a fan. But before you say ‘yer jus jellis of da suckses’, ah, no, I do have reasons.

I never begrudge anyone money, in any amount. You want more money? Great, go for it.

What I do have an issue with is the method used to get to that. When you write fanfic (using literary–or even real person–characters as the basis of your story, putting them into an out of character situation), you are acknowledging that some part of your story is not your original property. Period. No matter that you had a completely original setting, journey, ending, etc, the characters are still not your own. You did not have to spend hours, days, months, even sometimes years, creating your universe, deciding how each character would act, what they would say, do, their personality, their flaws, their strengths, etc. When you post it in an already established base of fans, you are poaching on those fans that already love the core characters and want to see more of them–more than the original author and creator can give. If you write well and have a lot of them flock to you, yay for you. But, they were still already in place, waiting for the hook to dangle, and all you had to do was put a new lure on it.

Read more…

If you have an original idea and want to ‘test the market’ to see how it would be received, and you plop these established characters in and post some of your story to gauge the reaction, then yank it to publish into a format you charge for, you kind of suck. Fanfic is free. You cannot bait people with a partial story, then make them pay to see the rest. This isn’t a trailer for a movie.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote fanfic. Just a couple stories, but I did. I had fun. I had some loyal fans, and I still consistently get notices of new people ‘favoriting’ my stories and messaging me asking if I’m writing more (no, not fanfic anyway). They weren’t great literary works, and I had inspiration from many sources, but I NEVER would have written them on my own, without those starting characters. At the time (2-3 years ago? maybe 4? eek), fanfic was in full swing, and the fandom was still happy. Back then, NO ONE would think to publish that stuff. Well, I think there were a couple, but they didn’t really go anywhere. I can tell you this: writing original fic is much, MUCH, MUCH harder. I should know, I’ve been writing one for a while now.

If you have great success as a fanfic author, then yay for you. Try writing original fic, and see who is loyal enough to still read what you write. Nothing wrong with bringing the fans along to that, but I think you will find that not as many care when it isn’t their characters from fanfic. But I do have a major issue with ‘rewriting’ (read: change names of characters and perhaps some distinguishing features, maybe throw in a new scene) a fanfic and publishing it as original. It’s not. Frankly, it makes me a bit sad to see this happening, because I don’t understand why anyone would pay for something they already got for free–especially when the ‘book’ gets cut in two or three parts, and you get charged equal amounts for each, when you read the entire thing for free the first time.

If you are a talented writer, then you should have no problem finding success with an original story AFTER you flex your writing chops with a fanfic. It’s called a warm-up, and that’s okay. Just don’t charge people for watching you do your scales.

To make this end on an upnote, and a bit of a challenge, I’ve seen several authors from the fandom venture out into original fic, and I applaud them. I’m not counting myself in that because I am not yet a published author, but I know the level of difficulty in doing it, so I appreciate it. Can’t we celebrate them? Why aren’t there Twitter hashtags with their names in them, supporting their books?  (I’ve read quite a few already, and I can hands-down say the content/grammar is better than a lot of the published fanfic right now.) Why aren’t we having days to show support, posts dedicated to them, the ones that have the balls to branch out? It is incredibly difficult to get people to take a chance on a new premise, versus using what they already know and love. I know there is some support for this, but not nearly enough. Please comment here and let me know who your fave original fic authors are that originated in fanfic. I’d love to check them out.

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