Something Borrowed

Sometimes we get stuck. The story we’re writing stops working, or the words don’t feel right (if they’re coming out at all). There’s many ways to counter that miasma, and get us producing words again.

When you’re committed to telling a story, switching to another piece of work can feel like you’re giving up, but there’s a series of valid Somethings that you can write instead, that can help to clear out your head and get your writing cogs working together again. Almost everything you work on will be one of these four Somethings, so switching between them shouldn’t feel like the guilt-ridden escape that it sometimes does.

Well, here’s where I really give it away – the theme linking these somethings, so you don’t need to guess to know what the next one will be. This one first, though!

Let’s assume whatever we’re working on isn’t. It’s not working. NO, IT JUST ISN’T!

Sometimes you don’t have any old stories that you want to work on, and you feel like you need writing something out, but can’t really be bothered to do the leg work for it. One thing you could do to really get you out of your own head, but still continue to write, is to write fan-fiction. Okay, so technically we’re not borrowing a story when we write fan-fiction, though we do borrow the setting for the sake of telling something else.

Why a borrowed setting?

You don’t have to do quite as much work. You’re able to get right into the story without having to build up the setting or conventions of the story’s world. Writing Harry Potter fic? We know there’s magic. Star Wars, The Force and Jedi and so on. Ooh, a Klingon? I wonder what the setting might be. Whether you’re using the established characters of the canon, or throwing in new ones (but oh, beware of author-insertion characters!), there’s already less work to do, and you can concentrate on the characters and story.

Exploring someone else’s setting also means you have to work within the limits of the world, and while you don’t need to mimic someone’s style, you do need to have characters acting in accordance with how they’ve behaved in canon fiction. Whether you’re exploring other sides to a canon story, or adding new stories, you have to work within limits. Having those limits also stretches your imagination, as solutions to plot problems that you may have used in your own stories might not be plausible. It presents challenges that are different from writing your own material, and thinking of ways to overcome the obstacles – that’s something worth trying.

See, not just about making it easy on yourself, but testing your flexibility as a writer.

The other thing it can do, if you’re putting your stuff online, is raise awareness around you as a writer – but probably not. It is nice to get feedback on something you’ve written though, and if you put your stuff on Archive of Our Own or  fanfiction.net, you might get feedback from people that love the fandom you’ve chosen, plus okay yes, there’s exposure to be had. Mightn’t be as much as it might get on your own blog or other avenues, but it’s helpful to get feedback from people not used to your own style.

Sometimes it’s not even necessary to go to the lengths of writing out a story. Planning, formulating plots, building characters – those are all skills that help with other writing, so honing those definitely helps.

8 thoughts on “Something Borrowed

    1. Ordinarily I’m not a huge proponent of it either. The only fanfic I’ve written recently was specifically for one of my challenges, and was intended more as a way to sort of my head-canon for a fandom, rather than aiming for a fan-fiction story. Recently I’ve had a little bit of an urge to write something in that fandom again, which started with the announcement of that contest for The Dark Crystal – I thought about what would happen if a similar opportunity presented itself in another fandom, and my thoughts ran away with it.

      You make a lot of great points, and similarly believe that author insertion/wish fulfillment is a bad trend in fan-fic, and that it should be avoided completely. Just noticed I’d commented on the post you linked to previously, and I’d say all that still holds true for me.

      1. Now a crowdsourced script for Dark Crystal I could get behind. Or some kind of writing contest. Then fan-fic would have a purpose and could launch a writer into a real career. Plus the first movie opened up a world, and gave us a tiny peek at it.

        1. I can also admit to possessing a bit of curiosity around this whole Kindle Worlds deal, but ugh, the fandoms they have on offer just do not appeal to me.

          Writing fanfic and then doing a name change is too much of a cheat to me.

  1. Honestly, I find fan-fiction — GOOD fan-fiction — to be harder to write than original stories. To write good fan-fiction, you have to have a deep, profound understanding of the characters, their relationships, and the world they live in. You need to understand the nuances of their character, their deepest motivations, and the pieces of themselves that they hide from other characters. With original fiction, you still need to have these things, but you can always tweak those as you need and no one can really say anything because you can use the excuse, “Well, I created this, so what I say goes.” In fan-fiction, people can call you out with very specific facts, quotes, and examples from the show/book/movie.

    Also, I would suggest archiveofourown.org over fanfiction.net anyday. Ao3’s works are generally of higher quality, and they have a kick-ass organization system.

    1. I think the difficulty depends on your investment in the fandom. I know that the few recent times when I’ve considered writing some fan-fiction, it’s been for worlds that I either really liked, or was obsessed with. It’s true that others can call you out if you’re not being true to the canon source material, but you also have the ease of not needing to create a new world. I know that personally, in the one potential fan-fiction story I’m currently feeling some love for, the difficulties I see are in the new elements, not setting up the characters and places. For the rewrite of my novel, I get some flexibility, but still need to do all the legwork.

      I’ve only just recently learned about AO3 from a friend, so may have to throw that into the post, just for the sake of giving people the full picture.

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