While I’ve been working on getting my notes together for Horrible Monster, I’ve been back writing fanfiction. I started this particular story – The First Mallrat, set in the world of teen apocalypic sci fi series The Tribe – several years ago but haven’t worked on it since 2009. I’ve been rewatching the series lately so picked the story up again, and it’s been fun. I’ve added two more chapters to the above linked story and have another almost ready to upload and a fourth started.
I’m really enjoying getting back into this world. The Tribe is a great series, for all that it’s very much a product of its time, and in the first episodes at least a product of the inexperience of the child actors performing in it. It’s also a powerful series, dealing with several issues that teenagers could well face – including sex, bulimia, bullying, depression, brainwashing, and simply trying to survive in a world the characters struggle to understand. The Tribe is full of great characters working together in spite of differences.
For me, writing fanfiction is an indulgence. It’s fun, there’s no pressure, and I get nearly instant feedback from a very small but dedicated audience. Since I’m writing the story in a serial format, I’m not worrying about an ending, or building up to a climax, or any of that. I’m just looking at where things stand and seeing where I can go from there, sometimes taking into account the parallel canon events in the show and at other times taking my key characters off in another direction entirely.
That freedom is one of the main attractions of fanfiction. The world and the characters are pre-made, so there’s no need to spend any time making notes and developing these elements, you can just pick up where you like and run with it, adding characters and elements of the world as needed or desired. It allows you to focus on the story, the character relationships and the actual writing, and to jump right into all that straight away.
One of the things I find most beneficial about writing fanfiction is that it helps me to learn how to depict characters. This is perhaps something that works best when writing fanfiction of a visual medium, like a TV show or film. I can see the way a character, like say, Lex, acts on screen. He’s brash, he speaks up whenever he has an opinion, he interrupts, he has a confrontational tone a lot of the time. I can hear the way he speaks on screen, and when I write him even though the scenarios are different I can hear his voice clearly in my head. When I am writing character interactions in fanfiction, I am interpretting what I see on screen and translating voice patterns, mannerisms and body language onto the page.
With my own characters in my original fiction, I don’t have that on-screen version to copy from, but having copied from them for the fanfic, I know what I need to consider – the way they speak, the words they use, how they stand, how they interact with others within a conversation.
But there’s also cause to be wary with fanfiction. Much as I am enjoying working on The First Mallrat again, it cannot last. It’s not serious writing. It’s a fun interlude, but it is not and cannot be my main focus. It keeps me writing while I spend time thinking, but before too long it must be set aside once more in favour of a story with a future. Fanfiction can never be more than a fun few chapters posted online for fans of the world to enjoy. Creating my own worlds is my priority, and I can’t let the fun of fanfiction distract me from it. Not that my own stories aren’t fun, but there’s a lot more effort that goes along with that fun.
Here’s my deadline: the end of this month. One more week. That should be long enough for me to finish the current chapter, and it should be long enough for me to have worked out enough of the things that need to be worked out in Horrible Monster for me to make a start writing it. Play time is over, it’s time to get back to work.