Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fanfiction 101: It's About Having Fun

I've been wanting to write a series of posts on fanfiction for a while now. (My rant against fanfic haters before doesn't count). I believe fanfiction is a great exercise for writers, kids and adults alike. I also believe that fanfiction can help develop great original fiction. So I'll be sharing some fanfiction prompts in hopes that it'll not only encourage writing moms and dads out there, but also give some good ideas for those stuck-inside, home-from-school, heaven-help-us-the-game-console's-broken sorts of days.

A little bit of history, first off. Fanfiction is, of course, fiction that takes place in another's author's universe or uses another author's characters. I wrote fanfiction throughout high school and college, and the fandom I wrote the most for was Sailor Moon. I even bought the domain name thinking I would use it to create a massive archive of Sailor Moon fan characters. That never happened, and when a much more dedicated fan named Sakura asked for the domain, I gave it over freely with best wishes. (I'm assuming most people reading this have no idea what an "otaku senshi" is, but as a hint: that's one in the picture there.) The fanfiction community is massive, and I had a great time being a small part of it. Here's the thing, though. Fanfiction isn't just limited to groups of obsessive fans writing anime stories. It's way bigger than that.

Odds are, if you've got kids in preschool, they're constantly acting out the fanfiction ideas in their heads: "Okay, I'm Cinderella, and this time an alien is eating the school and I'm going to tell its mommy!"

Odds are, if you have kids in elementary school, they've actually been given fanfiction assignments in class: "Write the ending to this story in a different way" or "write about what you would do if you had powers like George the Super Bunny."

Why fanfiction? It's a creative exercise that gives you the starting material to work with. Of course, your seven-year-old might've very well hated George the Super Bunny, and would've been much happier writing a comprehensive essay about which prime number is his favorite. All the more reason to sit down and write a fanfic based around a character he actually cares about. I think one of the worst things we can teach kids is that writing is a chore and you just have to push through it. Writing can be anything: a painful chore or a delightful fun time. It all depends on what you're writing.

So, pencils (and keyboards!) out:

Kid-centric assignment: Pick a character from a book, TV show, movie, or comic that you liked. Start a story that begins with one of these two lines:
1) One day, [character] came to visit me.
2) One day, I went to visit [character].
(If you can't think of any good ideas, feel free to pick a different character that gives you better ideas.)

Adult-centric assignment: Pick a character from a book, TV show, movie, or comic that you may or may not have liked, but who, in any case, made a decision you felt was incredibly moronic. Write a story in which you somehow meet the character or, alternatively, write the character a letter. Either way, let them have it and be ridiculous. The only goal in this exercise is to have a good time.