Topic: Is it Possible to write a good book as Fanfiction?

Moon_Flower_WMThis week’s blog post is a topic, rather than a single book review.  I suppose the most important thing about this blog to me is that I enjoy writing and producing work.  So occasionally, if I am not inspired, either by book or topic, I don’t post.  Luckily, that lack of inspiration is rare. But for the past few weeks, I was overwhelmed with the fan fiction works over at Archive of Our Own webpage.

It is a collect of fans and writers that produce  volumes of books based on a huge range of original works: from books like Sherlock Homes to TV shows like MerlinSupernatural, and Teen Wolf.  I have spent several weeks reading book after book in the Teen Wolf realm.

Introduction:

This massive amount of reading lead me to the question: Is there any value in fan fiction?  I have attempted to read some other fan fiction derivatives like 50 Shades of Grey, which were horrible, despite the fact that they were published works.  So the question can easily be asked, what chance do we have as readers, to find a well crafted book that was not written for profit?

The reasons that these individuals are not paid for their work, even if it is of the highest quality is often because of copyrights and the potential of lawsuit.  Who wants to get sued for writing something out of love and admiration of the original concept?

So, let’s look at some examples I’ve read from AO3 and see what I consider good vs. bad and what I consider the characteristics for success.

When a Fan-fiction Author Uses the Same Universe:

When a writer bases their work on another’s original work, there is a “bible” of lore that they should not break.  For example, Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite and he has superpowers.  If suddenly he was from Mars and worked as a handicapped janitor, it would not be the same universe.  So, here are some  things that I need to be satisfied:

Technical facts and history is in accordance to the original work.  It does not have to be perfect, but like my example above, I would notice the difference.  If it draws me out of the story, then it has strayed too far.

Writing Quality is Acceptable:  This is a universal requirement for me.  There is a range of acceptable quality, usually a 3 star and higher (on a 5 star scale).  Granted, the 3 star is obviously not a well written.  Take 50 Shades as an example.  I could not read past the first few chapters because the writing quality was so poor.  Now, in a published book, this is a greater issue for me, because there was an editor and publishers reviewing the document.  While fan fiction often has beta writers, there might not be as uniform in attention to detail.

The work can stand on its own:  This is vitally important to me as a reader of fan fiction.  If we utilize the same variables as the original work, I should not think, “well, this is exactly like the tv show, but I would rather watch it.”  Even if it is in the same universe, I want my enjoyment of the book to stand on its own.

Some examples:

Moon_WCfilter

The first is You Don’t See Straight, by Annber.  They have a paranormal similar universe, the same characters, with a good deal of the same back story.  Now, in this case, the back story of Derek is greatly different, and provides us with part of the plot.  This is also more sexy fun time novel (would call it erotic), so obviously the tone is different.  But overall, it is a well written book, with a consistent plot, and has great character development.

A second intriguing example is Prince Among Wolves by tylerfucklin.  It does vary from the original TV show, but we still have the paranormal universe with our werewolves.  What makes this work for me is that the characters still act as they normally would, plus we get a similar werewolf universe as TV.

However, another novel, called The Alpha Pair by ShiningOmicron, while somewhat enjoyable, I would award it closer to 2 stars because of the lack of polish.  It remained fairly close to the TV show, but it felt very 1 dimensional and I did not feel connection to the plot or characters.

Now, why do I still mention The Alpha Pair?  Because, the next book that ShiningOmicron wrote was Strength Thy Name is Family, which is an extremely good novel.  I will discuss this novel in my next section of “alternate universes”.

When a Fan-fiction Author Uses an Alternate Universe:

The other type of fan fiction I would like to discuss is “alternate universe”.  I have previously written a post about an AU Teen Wolf fan fiction book in DILF by Twentysomething.  These types of fan-fiction have a greater latitude in their storyline.  If Stiles is now a truck driver, well that’s ok now.  But I do still have some requirements:

The Characters Must still Act “In-Character”:  What I mean is that while their back history, current job, universe (magical versions normal), might be different, these characters hold the same values and motivations.  In DILF, while Stiles and Derek’s lives were very different, their personalities were very similar.  Derek was emotionally repressed and Stiles was his bubbly, spirited self.

The other two things are repeated from above:

Writing Quality is Acceptable:  This is a universal requirement for me.  There is a range of acceptable quality, usually a 3 star and higher (on a 5 star scale).  Granted, the 3 star is obviously not a well written.  Take 50 Shades as an example.  I could not read past the first few chapters because the writing quality was so poor.  Now, in a published book, this is a greater issue for me, because there was an editor and publishers reviewing the document.  While fan fiction often has beta writers, there might not be as uniform in attention to detail.

The work can stand on it’s own:  This is vitally important to me as a reader of Fan fiction.  If we are dealing with all of the same variables as the original work, I should not think to myself, “well, this is exactly like the tv show, but I would rather watch it.”  Even if it is in the same universe, I want my enjoyment of the book to stand on its own.

Some Examples:

This list is a little shorter, as it seems more authors are writing in the “werewolf” universe.

DILF, by Twentysomething is my first choice, as mentioned  before.  Stiles is a schoolteacher to Derek’s nephews in which Derek is currently raising.  The writing is excellent and I was so compelled to find out what happens.

I’ve Lived for These Few Seconds by Kyrene is technically still in the same universe as Teen Wolf, after all, we still have the Alpha Derek.  However, the focus is on Stiles’ non-supernatural life.  I love the idea of adding a bit of Drag Queens and cross-dressing into my Sterek.

More cross-dressing occurs in Bright Eyes, by wearing_tears as Stiles as a cabaret singer.  Where this story excels is that we have all of our Beacon Hill characters and personalities, in a completely unique plot-line.

Need a little Fluff?  Baking My Way Into Your Heart by theSilence is a story of two college students who fall in love, after first being friends.  Stiles finds the secret of Derek’s love: baked goods.

There are more to suggest, but these will get you started.

Conclusion:

Not_One_Way_WM

So, what does this long post mean?  I believe that there is value in fan fiction.  These authors give us nuances into characters that are not explored in the original works, and provide us alternative paths that the characters could walk.  Sometimes, the authors follow the same universe and other times they set an entirely new world to explore.

To say that fan fiction is worthless is a disservice to all of the hard work and hours these individuals have spent in writing.  It also does a disservice to the readers who love and support them within the community.

It might be true that we must narrow the best choices from poorly written, but we do that already whenever we get a book from Amazon or iBooks.  I think of these fan fiction webpages as the breeding ground for brilliant minds as they learn how to write.  Just think, some day you might see their own original pieces on the shelf.  By reading these books and providing feedback we aid a greater cause: creatively of the human spirit.

Bea

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