Caution: This promises to be a lengthy ramble.
My favorite movies are far from perfect. In fact, I wouldn’t even venture to say they are the best movies I’ve seen. They are just my favorite. “What’s this,” you say? Why would my favorite movies not be the best? If I have no outstanding complaints from a movie, there’s nothing left for me to do but admire it and move on. It’s the one’s with elements or endings that bug me I will watch over and over again. There are exceptions to that rule, but generally I like a movie most that plagues me late at night with the question: What if…?
What if that artifact was picked up by the wrong person? What if this character got a second chance at happiness? What if she made the wrong choice? What if there was a sequel that was actually good?
It should be flattering to the creator of the book or movie if The End is never accepted. It means I connected with the characters in a special way. It means the story felt real enough that I could see it continuing even after the book was closed or the credits rolled. As Count Fosco says, “As long as one is leaving anyway, then leave them wanting more.” The greatest stories don’t entertain me for a few hours; they start me on a quest for more, more, more.
[Enter Fan Fiction]
Fan fiction gets a bad reputation and I guess I can understand why. It’s a big gamble, jumping into the world of story spin-offs, and many people don’t have the patience or interest to sift through the rubble for the rare gems that exist. Many only know fan fiction as the result of illiterate tween fans ripping off from other people’s work and making their schoolgirl fantasies come true through racy bedroom scenes. And sadly, in a lot of cases, those people would be right. However, I very much enjoy what could be called good fan fiction. Furthermore, I refuse to feel shame over it.
Fan fiction is like a recipe. Let’s say canon–the source material–is a recipe for muffins. Everyone enjoys a good muffin, but some of us might think muffins can be improved by blueberries or bananas or nuts. So what do we do? We substitute ingredients here and there until satisfied with the taste. No one who added fruit would claim to be the inventor of muffins, but their recipe gave others the chance to explore new versions of a great thing. As due credit is given for basing fruity muffins off the original recipe, I think its perfectly acceptable to have them, provided you don’t take a clump of oatmeal and try to pass it off as a fruit muffin. I’ve seen that happen in the world of fan fiction and it is bad.
The authors who declare their works off-limits to fan fiction writers are like the cooks who have a super secret recipe thy refuse to give out, and I absolutely respect that, as should all writers. Just as long as they know there’s no rule about what I daydream or REM dream. BWAHAHAHA!
What am I even talking about? My analogies are insane.
Fan fiction is good writing practice. There’s a huge network of helpful literates on fan fiction sites who are prepared to leave reviews full of constructive critiques. Original stories don’t receive half as much attention as fan works do, so if you need a group of strangers telling you whether or not you can write worth beans, a one-shot fluff on the likely inner thoughts of MCs during a romantic scene is a good starter step.
… take hearts, for example. In fan fiction, character deaths can be undone, lonely souls can be brought together, and stories that used to be wretched can be found to hold some merit after all.
Here’s a list of my favorite fan fiction genres, with a short explanation as to why I find them so great:
[Contains movie spoilers!]
Phantom of the Opera – I’m not part of the angry Erik-avenger mob who screams that Christine made the wrong choice. She obviously loved Raoul and that’s why she chose him. However, tragedies aren’t really my thing. So now and then I read a well devised Erik/Christine ship. The one’s where he kidnaps her or simply doesn’t let her go to be with Raoul make the most sense. Then it’s more about Christine coping with her marriage to a maniacal genius and the both of them learning how to love each other. I’d love to read more Erik/OCs but unfortunately most people who write OCs in the Phantom section are truly horrible writers with no concept of what century they’re getting themselves into and their stories are riddled with errors and cliches.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – I’m currently obsessed with this one. Anyone who saw the movie can (probably) understand why. That ending just screamed “there’s more to it!!!” I want a sequel made that follows the best of the fics I’ve found. Without them, I probably would have been completely depressed over the fact that Tamina got a whole lifetime erased from her. Instead, I distracted myself with continuing stories where Dastan tells her of the other time but withholds the manner of their relationship as they flee Kosh’s assassins and Tamina struggles with trust. Or there’s the one where Tus didn’t believe Dastan about Nizam and tossed him in prison… My point is, this story has to be an endless source of excitement for alternate character destinies. It’s practically the point of the story–it writes it’s own fan fiction! The dagger itself makes anything possible.
Twilight – Because it’s NOT Twilight! This is a hilarious thing. Twilight and all its sequels are ridiculous. Fan fiction of it is great! So many authors write stories that you would not even recognize as being taken from Twilight except for the names of the characters. I’ve read mobster stories, frontier stories, modern kidnap stories, pirate stories… you name it, there’s a good one in the Twilight section that got there just because it happens to have an Edward and Bella in it who are meant to couple it up. They’re not even vampires! These writers take everything annoying and nauseating out of those books and toss it all out like the bantha waste it is. This is the most exceptional genre because I love it for not following or respecting canon.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Just… play the game. If you don’t get it then, you never will.
Harry Potter – Haven’t started yet, but obviously some changes must be made and I’m looking forward to reading them. Snape doesn’t die, for one thing. And I want some of the story told from his perspective.
I think the real shame of fan fiction is how under-appreciated the good ones are. But stuff like Frederick Forsyth’s Phantom of Manhattan is getting published, sold, and made into musicals; prequels and sequels come out and make us roll our eyes and groan in turns, and we have several remakes of the same movie which only get worse and worse with each successive film. Then again, one of the things that keeps the good fan fiction set apart is that it’s not created with the intent to make money. Fan fiction authors on free websites write purely out of love for the source and the hope of sharing their ideas with others.
–Fan Fiction Terms–
ship – pairing characters in a romantic fashion; I ship Erik/Christine
canon – the original story from which fan fiction is derived; can be used to describe pairings within a fic as well
fluff – sweet and happy romance which does not include smut
OC – original character; a character of the fan fiction author’s design that did not exist in canon
MC – main character
AU – alternate universe; Twilight characters set in the 19th century, for example