Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Filing off the Serial Numbers: part one

Filed down fanfiction is all the rage these days. From Fifty Shades of Gray onward, there is a movement to get the derivative works turned into salable original fiction.

Inkstained Succubus has a call for this as well. There are two pieces of my own filed-down fanfiction in IS collections. Today, I'll be talking about how to file off the serial numbers well. In later episodes, I'll show you how I did it.

There are two kinds of filing. One is when you take a whole story and alter it. The other is when you take elements you invented for an established universe and drop them into an original one. I'll be talking about the first kind today.

I got my own start writing fanfiction, back in the days when we had to resurrect Spock ourselves. Over the years I've written in about two dozen different fandoms. But very few of the stories would make the transition to original fiction.


Because they are very closely tied to their universes.

The best illustration I can think of is Brimstone. (short lived series, 1997)
Brimstone fic tends to be fairly one-note. The series episodes mostly had the same basic plot: Dead cop Zeke Stone is hunting down the Damned Soul Of the Week for the Devil. Good series, good characters, but you can't translate that to original fiction.

AU fiction can work very well for the transition. If you've already made everyone in a paranormal universe into a human, or if you've sent your own Mary Sue off to an American wizarding school, or if you've made Han Solo a trucker and Luke a mechanic out in the Arizona desert, or if you've got a crossover between a couple of movies set in neutral ground, the transition is much easier.

Once you've decided on a story, you have to file it down.

The first step is to change your characters' names and scrub the universe references. This is vital.  Once this is done, look it over and see what's left.

Have a friend not in the fandom read it. Get their opinion.

If you have a solid story left, flesh it out. Give Fred and Bob or Jane and Sue their backstories. Make them as real as Kirk or Harry or Leia was when you wrote the story.

In short, treat the fanfic as a first draft. Change the names. Change the setting. See what you're left with.

Part Two: A Walk Through, coming next week.

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