A Lesson Learned From Writing Fanfiction

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The Internet is home to writers of all kinds, not the least of which are fanfiction authors. Google "fanfiction" and you'll find thousands of websites dedicated to this pastime. Not only is it entertaining, but it can strengthen the original ideas in your own writing.

If you've never heard of fanfiction, it's a written piece created by a fan of a particular television show, movie, video game, or book. The fan usually writes the story to explore the depths of a certain character or introduce elements into the original plot's main canon that have previously gone unexplored.

Take for example Star Wars. A fan of the movies may decide that Yoda's backstory needs to be told. He or she will proceed to introduce a new setting, possibly new characters. Or a video gamer may be dissatisfied with the game's ending and prefers a different take. What would happen if Luigi rescued Princess Toadstool instead of Mario?

The possibilities are endless in fanfiction. I enjoy reading and writing it when I'm not working on my own stories. On several occasions, though, I've noticed that there's a free flow to those writings that is harder to incorporate into an original creation. One afternoon of fanfiction could produce 3,000 words. The characters' interactions and internal monologues were spot on. Why couldn't other writing be this easy?

Simple. Two reasons. One, the main characters and settings are already in place for you. No worries about building a world. Two --and this is the big lesson I took from it-- if you're a fan, you already know alot about the story. You've watched the characters consistently, gotten to know them over several seasons, or played various sequels of a video game since childhood. Of course you know how to navigate those waters! It's just like swimming to the other side of the pool.

So how does this apply to our original stories when we get stumped by our characters' wacky behaviors or elements that just don't fit?

We have to take the time to get to know them. Sit down and imagine how the heroine would hold a conversation over coffee. Can the hero join you? Does he hate coffee (some hero...just joking!)? What if you took a walk and encountered robbers? How would the hero intervene? What would he say to you afterwards? How would your heroine react if she came into your house while you were rocking out to your favorite band...while wearing ratty old pajamas and rollers in your hair?

These scenarios are kinda strange. They are from my head :-)  But whatever your personality is, you can think of situations that bring out your characters' traits. Concentrate on them. Let them play in your head like your favorite TV show. Just don't do it while driving.

How do you get to know your characters?