Author Pat Kirby ("The Canvas Thief" and "Music of Chaos") discusses why she currently writes fan fic:
My name is Pat Kirby and I'm...a fan fiction writer. It's been a day, okay, half an hour, since I last took someone else's characters and wrote the hell out of them.
This confession is brought to you by an eff-load of personal drama over the last year, which obliterated the desire to write original fiction, and the realization that even in the midst of absolute pathos, I've strung words into sentences, scenes and, glurk, written nearly 200K words worth of fan fiction.
Truth? The first thing I ever wrote, a Legolas and Mary Sue love story, penned when I was eleven, was fan fiction. This was followed by dabbling in Buffy-verse and Babylon 5, featuring more embarrassing self-insertion characters. Fortunately, I was too self-conscious to post that crap anywhere and it all vanished several computers ago.
Eventually, I decided to be a "real" writer, fell in with a crowd of writers who believed that fan fiction made the Baby Jesus cry, and gave up my fannish ways.
I was clean and fic-free for nearly a decade until I hit a creative dry spell. Think Sahara Desert. My muse was a tinder-dry mummy, so friable it collapsed into dust in the lightest breeze. This muse-killing heat wave powered by a combo of personal crisis and crippling self doubt that assured me that everything I wrote had more suck than a Dyson vacuum.
One day, for old times' sake, I wandered over to a fan fiction site and perused the movie-based archives, ending up in the one for Marvel's Thor. And there, I fell face-first into a non-canon pairing that was so ridiculous, it made total sense. Then, like all characters, borrowed or otherwise, these two crazy kids started a conversation in my head. I wrote down that dialogue. Added some description. Tripped over a plot.
And, holy jalapenos, Batman, I had the beginning of a story! Uploading that beginning made for a kind of online field of dreams: if you post it; they will come, and read.
I was writing again. Not my world. Not my characters, but words. Some pretty awesome (and destined to be reused in something original). Even when shit continues to go splat on my fan, my borrowed characters keep yapping at each other, and the story grows.
I have no idea why.
Maybe it's because someone is actually reading the fracking thing. Last I looked, it had well over a thousand followers. Which, sadly, or amusingly, (depending on how sober I am) is many times the amount of people who have read my original fiction.
Mostly, I think it's because it is fan fiction. No pressure (except for those thousand followers--Yikes!), no worries, no editors--"Look Ma, I makes typos and errors in the subjunctive tense," no chance of pissing off paying readers. I suppose, if I were inclined to brave the wrath of Marvel and go all 50 Shades, doing the search-replace thing and swapping "Thor" for "*Todd," the potential exists for a making a few pesos off a self-pubbed thing. But, you know...ethics?
The fact that my fic will never be anything more than a glorified writing exercise is very freeing. It's a public work-in-progress and Jackson Pollock-like, I'm splattering words on the page, sometimes with a plan, sometimes just for the sheer joy of letting this character say something appalling to that character.
As I write this, my overwritten tome of dubious legal provenance is two chapters away from being done and my feelings range from vaguely sniffly (I'll miss you, misused characters not mine) and Halle-fracking-luiah, I Finally Finished Something.
As habits go, fic writing hasn't been that destructive. Awoken by jealousy and a sense of neglect, my original characters have started muttering in the background. Perhaps 2014 will be the year of 200K words in an original work.
Or maybe I'll fall off the wagon and play with more borrowed characters and worlds. It's all words; it's all good.
Happy New Year!
*The Mighty Todd. Therein lies some fabulous parody potential. There's your writing prompt; have at it kids!