I’d rather pour myself into a world I love and understand
than make something up out of nothing.
–Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl
This past Saturday, I took a leap. I presented a workshop on using the media we already love to create original fiction. I’ve taught this before, in a previous iteration, From Fan Fiction to Fantastic Fiction, usually as a month-long online workshop, and the one time I presented in person to another chapter. a couple of years back, I’d tried to fit the entire course into an hour. Hint: that’s not really possible. It was fun, that first presentation, because I love, love, love speaking in front of a group, especially about a topic that means a lot to me. So much fun, in fact, that I didn’t hesitate when the opportunity came up to do it again, and as long as I was doing so, why not take it one step up and gear things toward writers who already know how to write original fiction?
Not that writers of fan fiction don’t. Far from it. As I say in that class, if you’ve watched a favorite show or movie and thought “that was great, but it would be better if…” then yes, you can come up with original ideas. From Fan Fiction to Fantastic Fiction is geared toward writers interested in moving from fan fiction to original work, and I love teaching it. I hope to teach it a lot more. Hearing students talk about loving their stories so much and being so determined to get them down that they would dismantle an entire desktop computer system, pack it into the back of their car and drive over a hundred miles to put the whole thing back together and spend the weekend writing with their collaborator, that’s a shot of adrenaline right there. Some of my previous students had asked if there was a second level to this course, some chance to do something with the tools they gained in our time together.
Until now, there wasn’t. It’s still under construction, but once that seed was planted, like the seed of a story, I couldn’t ignore it, and so, when the opportunity to present to my local chapter came up, I took it. What I found was a learning experience for me. Talking to a group that included Golden Heart winners and a RITA nominee, where several members have impressive backlists and the rest are on their way, has a different feel to it, and that’s exciting. When I gave exercises to do during the presentation, pens moved like lightning. I hated to make all that writing stop, but the results were worth it.
I loved that one member asked if they could combine characters from different sources, and another asked if they could use one canon and one original character. My answers were yes and yes. Another asked if these techniques could be used to reverse engineer an original character who wasn’t quite gelling. Yes, again. If a character isn’t coming together, have a look at characters who are like them and see if anything clicks. After the presentation, we had a lively and fascinating discussion on how the media we love inspires the story worlds we build for ourselves, and the exclamations of surprise when members found other members shared some of the same favorite media were a delight.
Today’s quote comes from the fabulous Rainbow Rowell, of whom I am a fangirl, after reading her novel, Fangirl, (and her upcoming novel, Carry On, is the fan fiction her heroine, Cath, wrote about the characters in the fictional Simon Snow fandom in Fangirl. How’s that for meta?) and jumped out at me from the start. Thing is, we can know our own original story worlds and characters that well. It’s not making something out of nothing, because it’s making something out of everything we’ve ever been, seen, done, heard, tasted, smelled, thought, dreamed, feared, wondered, suspected, etc, etc, etc, all blended in a way that is unique to the individual, and I find that fascinating.
The crayons in today’s picture, a rainbow in themselves, were on one of the tables when I arrived, and yes, I did have to play with them in my all purpose notebook. It’s like blood in the water to a shark or waving a red flag at a bull. I see the crayons, I color with the crayons, and I do notice if they are Crayola or not. Kind of like getting into a fandom. There’s looking at what’s already there, and then there’s taking something from it and making it mine.