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A fan-tastic writing practice

Saturday, 3rd July, 2021

By Nardia Keenan

According to fanfiction writer Lori Emmett, writers who want to practice their craft without having to world-build or set up lengthy plots can benefit from fanfiction.
It was one of the genres presented at the Broken Hill Writers’ Festival this year, which was an initiative of ‘Under the Silver Tree’ co-op bookshop.
Fanfiction is defined by the Organization of Transformative Works as “…a work of fiction written by fans for other fans, taking a source text or a famous person as a point of departure.”
Lori said that fanfiction is a good way to practice writing imagery. If a writer wants to describe a storm at sea, fanfiction eliminates the need to write a context for the storm.
“You pick ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or ‘Moby Dick’, you select the characters you want and then you just focus on trying to describe ‘it was wet and windy’ in as many different ways as you can.”
Lori said that readers already know the characters in those established stories and can picture them being hit by a sudden storm at sea.
“You don’t have to give a reason for the ship or the crew or the storm.”
She said that not having to write context can also make it quicker to write dialogue.
“A writer can go straight to ideas when a world already exists and doesn’t need to be built.”
In the science fiction television series ‘Star Trek: Voyager’, viewers already know and care about two of the main characters; Captain Janeway, who is captain of the starship, and a borg called Seven of Nine, who is a recovering human/robot hybrid.
“You don’t have to make characters or try and build up empathy for them with your audience,” said Lori.
She said that the characters in ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ could be transplanted to an Alternate Universe (AU) such as the most popular fanfiction trope or recurring theme, a Coffee Shop AU.
“One character will be the barista. The one you want them to pair up with will be the customer.”
In the ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ example, a fanfiction writer could write a conversation where Captain Janeway is a barista who teaches a customer, Seven of Nine, how to develop her individuality.
Lori said that fanfiction provides a rapid way to represent social issues and can educate and teach tolerance and acceptance.
“There’s quite a bit of fanfiction where people are using characters and a world that are already built and well-known to explore some bigger issues.
One way is through ‘headcanon’, a term used to mean a quality that is not part of the original story but becomes accepted when fans feel that it is or should be.
“I’ve read some really good Spiderman fanfic, where the author headcanons Spidey as autistic.’
However, fanfiction writers can’t just plagiarise established works and make a few tweaks.
“Credit must always be given to the original work and original authors, although, if you’re posting on a fanfic site, credit is generally assumed.”
A fanfiction site also provides a following for a writer and Lori said that publishers these days like to see published work and a following.
“They like it if you have a blog with a following of readers already established. Fanfiction can do the same things for you.”
Lori said that people might scoff at fanfiction but she sees it as important.
“It’s a way to represent, be represented, practice and learn and it’s one that anyone with the internet can access.
“Even if I’m wrong, it’s still a lot of fun.”
For more information on writing fanfiction, Lori recommends fandom.org
To register interest for future writers’ events, contact ‘Under the Silver Tree’ co-op bookshop on 8000 1942.

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