Why I think everyone should write fan fiction.
Fan Fiction is a controversial subject in the writing world. Published writers say that it's an infringement on their writerly rights and creations. Would be published writers say that it's a cheap substitute to real writing. It's fraught with bad, terrible and disgustingly horrifying writing. However, I think that fan fiction is a fantastic idea for the beginning writer to do.
One of the most difficult things to do in writing is the creation aspect. The creation of characters and then writing them so that they're not some sort of flat creation. World building is also difficult for the beginning writer. All of these things take away from some of the more basic craft things that a writer needs to learn: plot, story telling and dialog. And this is why fan fiction is a good thing to write.
Fan fiction has everything that a writer needs. Characters, a world to put them in. The characters have their motivations and there is even a history of the world. It leaves the writer room to work on other aspects of their craft, the creation of a plot, coming up with smooth story telling techniques and writing believable dialog. They know how a character is supposed to act. What they like and dislike all ready. All they need to do is keep the character in character.
Of course, this is the biggest problem with a lot of fan fiction writers. They don't see writing fan fiction as an exercise in becoming a writer, in fine tuning their craft but instead as a way to write out their fantasies. They don't see the need to keep the characters in character, but instead want to use them to be original characters in their own stories. They don't understand what fan fiction is really about. The writing of stories in someone else's world, but instead think that it is just a template for their own fantasies. They use the characters and the dressings of the world and then go off on their own tangents that don't fit the world. The craft of writing isn't important to them.
Instead they have an idea and they write it, without realizing that they have to see if it actually can work in the world that they're writing in. They force the characters into positions that they can't be in. They then expect to be patted on the back for writing something.
But I digress. I think that if a person really is serious about the craft of writing and interested in becoming a better writer, writing fan fiction is a good exercise for them. They have a model that they need to mimic, something that is difficult to have in writing original fiction. In other arts, like painting when you're learning how to paint, you have models and exercises to copy. But writing so much of it you have to create on your own that if you don't have a good character, then the rest of your story falls flat. But if you're using someone else's character, then you're free to work on other aspects of your writing. And when it's done, you can compare your writing, the way you wrote the world to the original text and see what you did right and what you did wrong.
It makes you learn how to keep a character in character. It makes you have to follow certain rules for a world. It requires discipline to write good fan fiction. You can't write whatever you want and so you have to really think about what you're writing and why. Why are you making a character do this? Is this something they would really do? Is this a plausible use of something in this world? Does it contradict other set down rules?
This is one of the reasons that I enjoy writing fan fiction. I have a ready made world to play in, and I get to work on things like character and story. I don't have to worry about creating a new culture or wondering if this fits into my world. It's all already there. I just have to make sure I'm using everything correctly. It's a good writing exercise.
On an utterly unrelated side note, I'm curious as to the sort of fan fiction that'll be created when my works get published. I can look at what I have written now and extrapolate what sort of things Sue Authors would take advantage of, but for the more serious writers, I'm not so sure what they'll do, and that's something I'm curious to learn about.