A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Fan Fiction: Practice or Plagiarism

Fan fiction has always been a touchy subject among writers - both published and unpublished.  There are thriving fan fiction communities out there where fans post stories written in someone else's universe.  I've always referred to it as "playing in a neighbor's sandbox with their toys".  The world is established, the characters are established, and you can let your imagination take over and write a story without having to put the work in yourself to do the world building.

Now, I've written fan fiction.  I still do from time to time.  I've even published some of it online.  Does that make me a bad person?  Well, depending on the author whose world I'm playing in, it could.  There are a lot of authors who don't mind the fan fic, and there are a lot of authors who do.  The link leads to a list of authors and their reasoning behind their decisions.  It's very interesting to read through.  It's also interesting to note the authors that used to be rabidly against fan fiction who have now decided to permit fan fiction to be written - within certain limitations.

But it still brings up a very good question: is fan fiction plagiarism or just practice for aspiring authors?  I'm of the mind that it's practice.  One of the stories on my list "Jehnna's Story" started out as fan fiction set in Mercedes Lackey's world of Velgarth and the kingdom of Valdemar.  But I quickly realized as I wrote the story that it didn't quite fit.  So I started changing things to where it took place in my world of Aleran.  By the time I was done, there was nothing left of the fan fic aside from the name of the character.  Everything was completely different.

Another question to consider is those of us who read a book and go, "I could write something better than that."  I've had a few books where I've finished the book and decided to write a similarly themed story but in my own world.  Now, is that wrong?  Would that be considered a loose form of fan fiction?  Or is it plagiarism?  Or is it something completely different?  Again, there are people who disagree with me on this one too.  I say it's perfectly fine to take a base idea from one book so long as you make it your own and don't copy the other author's book theme/idea for theme/idea.

My Ghost Bard story was inspired by my rather disappointed feelings after reading The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling.  I thought I could tell the story better.  So I started writing about a girl whose twin brother was murdered by their own mother because she thought all twins were demons.  It evolved from there in quite a different direction from the original story until it was a different creature altogether.  But I still started with a similar premise - a child haunted by their murdered twin.

So, dear blog readers, I leave these questions for you.  What's your take on fan fiction?  And what's your view on "rewriting" a novel that you were sorely disappointed in?


  1. That's a tough one. I think as long as one doesn't try to profit off fan fiction then it is a good thing. It shows they liked the author's work enough to want to stay in that world longer. Even wanting to rewrite a novel shows that the author struck a chord with the reader. Would I ever do either? No. I have to many other stories begging for attention in my mind!

  2. I think fanfic is an amazing way to practice and for fans of a work to come together. Long after a popular series may end, the fandom will live on and thrive - just look at Harry Potter. But I think that if an author forbids fanfic of their world, you have no right to write it. Or, at the very least, if you do - keep it to yourself.

    As for writing alternate endings - that's fanfic as well, they're called AUs - alternate universes.

    But when you're writing a new book entirely based off someone else's premise, well... that could be easily seen as stealing. In which case I recommend doing it as well as possible. In fact, so well that it becomes an original idea: http://hollylisle.com/index.php/How-To-s/how-to-legally-and-ethically-steal-ideas.html