|The cast of Mystery Men|
Fanfiction has a less than stellar reputation in the serious publishing industry, but there are at least 2.2 million users posting stories in 30 languages around the world at the biggest site www.fanfiction.net. And that doesn't count all you anonymous lurkers out there who read and NEVER REVIEW. Yes, I'm talking to you. Just drop a note that says, "I read this. It was good." You'll be making some poor non-paid author's day (mine included). Plus there are loads more sites like Live Journal and Deviant Art that post fics too.
So in honor of my long held personal and academic interest in the phenomenon of fanfiction, I'm going to address one of the first elements of writing it:
Have a burning desire to write that story.
For instance, I love the movie Mystery Men. It's such a fabulous tribute to, spoof of, and exploration of the superhero movie. In this world, nearly everybody has some kind of weird, marginal superpower. The Shoveler who can shovel really really well. Spleen whose gas is silent but extremely violent. Mr. Furious who gets really mad---really mad. The Blue Rajah who throws forks---hey, anybody can throw a knife, but a fork? Invisible Boy who is only invisible when nobody is watching him and it somehow works. And my favorite, The Bowler with her signature bowling ball containing the skull of her dead father, Carmine the Bowler.
I adore this movie, but I have never once been afflicted with a fanfiction story about it. Maybe the movie wound up all the plot bunnies. Maybe there wasn't somebody I just had to see hooked up (romance is a major thread in my fics). For whatever reason, as much as I loved the characters in Mystery Men, I never wanted to write about them. So I didn't.
Too many times, we writers of "real" fiction spend a lot of time studying the market and trying to come up with the next Harry Potter or Twilight or Hunger Games or Shades of Grey. So we end up with this uninspired pastiche Dirty Harry Games Taking Place at Dusk and we wonder why there are no takers on the manuscript. It's because the burning desire ain't burning.
If, by some chance, you are like me and need your muse to get off her rear and go to work, you better find an affliction of plot. You better stir up an itch you have got to scratch. Fantasize about it. Tumble over the thoughts in the top of your head until they began to bother you at night.
If your original plot isn't coming together, never fear! A great way to break loose the creative mojo is to write a little fanfiction. What's a movie or tv show you love? What is the one thing that never happened in it that you always wished you could see? Now write it. Run it up the digital flagpole at fanfiction.net and see who salutes it.
Trust me, somebody out there really wants to read it---unless it just sucks eggs. In that case, definitely start writing fanfiction and work on your creative chops. Learn from your reviews. Ask for honest opinions. Get beta readers. The only way we get good at our craft is to practice it. Fanfiction is a super accessible, fun, free way to toss your pearls before a built in audience and get nearly instant feedback.
But whatever you do, DO NOT start writing Harry Potter fics just because they are so incredibly popular. You MUST have a burning desire to write this piece above all others. Some of my very best work is in the Earth2 fandom---a small but very loyal group---and some of my best writing cohorts and internet best friends started right there (I'm talking to you, NatX!) I wouldn't be where I am without those fics and those readers. They made me better.
So what are you waiting for? Inspiration? Let me toss out a few ideas---romances that never came to fruition, minor characters whose stories beg to be told, missing pieces of the big picture (I'm thinking lots of Firefly fics), continuations of stories that have "officially" ended. Any of these can be your sandbox to play in.
Meanwhile, if you want to read mine----gotta plug myself for a second 'cause I just ADORE reviews---I am at www.fanfiction.net/~arcole and you can always check out my first real published novel The Blacksmith's Daughterat http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=14 from Musa Publishing.
Now what are you waiting for? Go get afflicted with plot!!