Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fan Fiction

I’ll admit, I am not a fan of fan fiction. 
I’ve seen fan fiction where the writers truly have talent. I’ve seen novellas written by fans that could truly stand on their own. Truth be told, some of these should stand on their own. The writers should write to the publisher, ask about licensing to produce a book in the world of a given series of fiction and/or offer their manuscript for consideration. I’ve seen other fan fiction pieces that paled in literary comparison to essays I wrote in the fourth grade. (Not a kind remark, trust me.)
I myself have read stories or watched movies where I would love to write a story of my own in that world. Something about the setting or the world just really grabbed me. To ply a character or a plot line into a series I enjoy whets my appetite. Often, such stories inspire story ideas in me.
The problem is, using someone else’s characters or world violates that person’s copyright. If I tried to sell such a story without permission, I’d get myself into a heap of legal trouble. Hence, fan fiction can never see the light of day.
I know the effort that goes into creating a story. The work that goes into creating the rules of the world that the fabric of the story is woven. That each character has a unique backstory supporting and driving that character’s motivation and actions in a story.
All that effort, plied on something that will simply be placed in a back drawer, or a file that will be stored on a backup drive and forgotten, just breaks my heart. The writer puts in all that effort and can never gain from that effort.
That’s why I am not a fan of fan fiction. I see so many people who truly do have a talent for writing, yet their efforts go to waste. It did make me wonder why someone would waste their time like that.
A friend of mine is a fan of fan fiction and she put forward some very good arguments. For one thing, she pointed out that it was good practice for writing. Second, it was a way to indulge in trying to work out a plot line that didn’t occur in a series, or one that the writer wanted to go in a different direction than was portrayed in the original.
“More importantly,” she stated, “not everyone has the ability to pull an entire universe out of their head like you do for such a story to exist.” Writers of fan fiction piggyback their story ideas into a universe that someone else already created, making it easier for them to try out their story ideas.
Touché.
Truth be told, how many times have I wanted to walk the decks of the Millenium Falcon or the Enterprise? Burn thread on the back of a mighty dragon? Or ‘tesser’ through time and space from world to world with no more effort than thinking about it?
When a writer is inspired to write a story, often the seed for the idea is inspired by another story. Romeo and Juliet becomes West Side Story, Cinderella becomes Cinderfella, Pinocchio becomes Data. This has been going on since humans began telling and writing stories, and will continue on into the future.
Even Aggadeh Chronicles has elements that were inspired by other stories; including Shakespeare, mythology, some fairy tales, and a video game. One key element in my story was the interaction between humans and dragons. Dragons in my world only interact with a select number of humans. So much so, that to the humans, anyone that a dragon will interact with is considered to be elevated above all others, even to the point where they could be considered a successor to the throne. This idea of exclusivity grew out of when I read Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series. In it, her protagonist, Ged, spoke with a dragon and that marked Ged as a great wizard. In my world, there is a reason dragons will only speak to certain individuals. (As that will eventually be revealed in the next book, I won’t give it away.)
My advice to people who wrote fan fiction has always been to look closely at what it was in the original story that drew them to write their own story. Then remove the elements that were part of the original and replace them with your own and make your story original rather than a spin-off. This is pretty much what authors do when they derive a story idea from some other source. Pare that story down to the bare essentials, the primal foundation that you wanted to write about. Then, create the details from your own mind and create a unique story.
Now, my whole argument that fan fiction was wasted energy because it could never be published without permission and licensing from the originators, has just been blown out of the water! Amazon just announced a fan fiction publishing service that gives fan authors the channel they need to write and actually publish their fan fiction!
The upcoming service is called Kindle Worlds by Amazon Publishing. While not active yet, Amazon will soon be opening the service for submissions.
Amazon Publishing negotiated licensing from several franchises that are popular among fan fiction authors. This licensing allows Amazon Publishing to publish pieces written by authors based on those franchises. So, at last, a fan fiction writer can actually have his or her piece published and collect royalties! At last, those who wanted to pursue the notion that Bella should have gone furry instead of parasite can now have their story published for real on the Kindle. What if Apollo discovered that Starbuck was actually Adama’s lovechild?
Royalties on the sale of fan fiction are split between the fan fiction writer and the originator of the series, which basically covers the licensing fee. This is an easier solution on an amateur fan fiction writer, who ordinarily would be unable to afford a direct licensing fee from a publisher.
Naturally, there are some limitations to be aware of before you jump into writing your fan fiction.
You have to remain true to the world in which you are writing. Crossover titles such as Harry Potter and the Pretty Little Liars are probably not going to happen. But maybe Hermione’s Secret Diaries could work. Also, you will have to keep your story within the guidelines that the originator sets for the series. This is the same thing that a professional author would have to deal with to write for a franchise like Star Trek or Star Wars
The world you want to write in must be one of the franchises with which Amazon Publishing has an agreement. Currently, only a number of Warner Brothers franchises are available. Amazon says there will be more coming.
Last, when you submit your manuscript to Amazon Publishing, you are granting Amazon Publishing exclusive world rights for publishing your material. This agreement holds for as long as the copyright is valid. In other words, if you write a magnificent masterpiece that turns out to be a big hit, Amazon is the only channel that can sell your book until you willingly expire the copyright and make your work public domain. Of course, once you make your title public domain, anyone can publish it without having to pay you royalties.
Still, this could be a good way for a wannabe author to test the waters. From what I gather, the service is geared more towards short stories and novellas than full-blown novels.
I’m sure more detail will be available when Amazon activates the service.
Of course, this begs the question: would I license Aggadeh Chronicles into this program? Possibly—when I’m done writing all the stories I have for this series.