Last week, I confessed that it was fanfiction that really brought me to writing fiction at all. And it was fanfiction that, somewhat paradoxically, brought me to my first original novel, too.
My freshman year of college, my “honors” writing class final was to see Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on opening day. I’d never been interested in Tolkien (this is turning into a regular confessional column, isn’t it?), but who could say no to cheap tickets and an easy final?
So I saw it (and then saw it again. and again. and . . . yeah), and discovered a whole new fandom to write about. And yes, in keeping with our confessional theme, it was, of course, completely Mary Sue–based. Utterly shocking, I know.
It wasn’t very long, however, before I began to see the potential for my own story. I’d created my own culture and borrowed just one character (I’d tell you who, but . . . seriously, there are reasonable limits to everything!), and even then I was using my own characterization.
Aside from that character’s name and a few bits of Elvish, there wasn’t a whole lot of ethical debate about this fanfic. I finished the story out as perhaps a short novella length, probably, and knew what I had to do: I had to make this my own.
That entailed inventing different cultures for the characters, and, of course, constructing a language, which then bled into changing my major to Linguistics. It stuck, though I did end up adding another major and a couple minors. Writing was already changing my life.
While all that was going on, I also had to change up my class schedule for my second semester. I managed to sneak into two classes that were notoriously hard to pick up: flexibility (Stretching to fulfill my PE requirement? Yes.) and creative writing (which would eventually count toward an English minor. Double yes.).
I frequently forget this, but I did take a college-level creative writing course. Incidentally, my professor was Dene Low, now an Egdar-nominated author (and that book, Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone is so fun!). Also, I’d like to note that this makes me totally legit as a writer. Right?
So my erstwhile fanfic became the beginnings of my first original novel, epic fantasy as all first novels should be, even though I didn’t and still don’t read a whole lot of epic fantasy. Honestly, I don’t remember the details, but it involved a king’s youngest son (Haldan) who travels to a fabled land of superhuman/magical people with its queen (Avelath). They’re leaving their land because the planet says it’s afraid (keep in mind I had NOT yet read the rest of the Lord of the Rings trilogy). As a younger son, Haldan doesn’t have much of a future at home, so he joins Avelath on a quest to find a new home, unite three warring kingdoms and save the world.
I brought the first bits of that novel, which still doesn’t have a title, to my first ever actual writing workshop in this creative writing class. The feedback wasn’t really that great (= useful), although even then, ten years ago, guess what? I should cut my prologue. (Totally true. Totally did it. Totally helped.)
My class schedule was very full that semester (18 credit hours), but also kind of odd in that I was done with class by noon every day, so I frequently spent afternoons working on expanding the story into a novel and IMing with my best friend, who happened to be a writing friend from high school, too.
Some things never change 😉 .
But, then, some things do. When that novel fell through, I went through a long writing drought. More about that next week!
How has your writing changed over time—genre, subject matter, fanfiction vs. wholly original? Come join in the confessions! 😉