There are so many ways people become involved in their favorite fandom, and reading and writing fanfic is one of the biggest. I like to imagine and come up with my own theories about the things we didn’t see on screen, but what makes someone actually sit down and write the rest of the story? To find out more about writing fan fiction, I spoke with my cyber-friend Zee’s Muse, who writes in several different fandoms.
First, some basic demographic information. How long have you been writing fanfic? What fandoms do you write stories for? What other fandoms are you interested in besides the ones you write in?
Zee: I’ve been writing fanfic since 2003. February of 2003. At this time, I read in three fandoms, actively read in two fandoms and write in four — Tolkien (both LOTR and The Hobbit), Harry Potter, Doom (the Movie), and Robin Hood (BBC 2006).
I guess the big question is, why do you write fanfic? And why did you choose the particular fandoms that you write in?
Zee: Creative outlet mostly. When I first started writing, my interest was in the LOTR fandom. I thought Elves were hot! I hadn’t read Tolkien’s works, so I high-tailed it to the used bookstore and bought everything I could find. In searching the Internet to find out more about the movies (The Two Towers wouldn’t be released for 5 more months) I discovered LOTR fanfic — specifically, the dreaded Legomances written by young teenaged girls. And I’m thinking to myself — you know, my daydreams have more substance than this! I was going through a really bad time at the time and had too much time on my hands, so I started writing. As my writing and story telling ability evolved, it became a more of “what if” and “what happened” after the book/movie ended?
What do you enjoy most about writing fanfic?
Zee: It’s a creative outlet. The ever exploring of “what if”… it’s a way to keep the story going. Sometimes, you don’t want the story to end, or there are unanswered questions. What happened after their happy ever after? Did they really? What about the main guy’s best friend whose heart was broken and wandered off? I can go places the original fiction didn’t go.
Do you prefer writing for existing characters or creating your own original characters in a world created by someone else? What are some of the pros/cons/considerations of each approach?
Zee: I try very hard to stick to canon — because there are people out there who will fry you for AU. There are people who will fry you for sexual activity at all in Tolkien’s work. There are all sorts! Not too long ago, there were websites — blogs — set up for no other reason than for fans to make fun of other fans’ writings. (And I’ve read these holier than thous’ fanfiction — talk about boring crap!) Either way — if the person I’m writing about has a mentioned spouse or significant other, that’s going to be what happens in my fic. If I’m writing Celeborn, he will be WITH Galadriel. Period. They had one child. Period. Her name was Celebrian. Celeborn did not have out of wedlock children, nor did Galadriel. Elrond was married to Celebrian.
Of course, the more we know about a character, the less leeway a canon writer has. Truth is, when someone reads fanfic and there is a canon character in it, the reader WANTS to recognize the canon character. Say the canon character is Severus Snape — he has a sallow complexion, is cranky, mean and rude, has a hooked nose and has been standing over a hot cauldron for a long time. I can’t STAND to read Snape with an aquiline nose, silky hair, and calling Hermione “My dear little witch” — WHO IS THIS PERSON??? So I prefer to write about little known characters with no attachments. That way I can write significant others and what not and still remain true to the canon.
What do you find most challenging about writing fanfic?
Zee: Keeping canon characters in character and keeping them believable. I have to hear their voice. I have a huge fic I’m writing now and if I’m not careful, I lose the Main Character’s voice and I have to go back.
Do you have a particular writing process that others would be interested in?
Zee: I have found it helpful when I write a fic, to write out a bulleted story arc. Just follow the bullets down. You can add and subtract from it as needed, but it really helps when you get to the dreaded middle and you’re stuck in the mud.
Who/what are your influences, writing-wise?
Zee: Stephen King. Robert Jordan.
What types of things do you like to read? Does this influence your fanfic? Or, does your interest in fanfic influence what you read?
Zee: I read pretty much everything I can get my hands on. A LOT of fantasy. Romance (yes — I have a thing for dark, broody knights). I love action-adventure, mystery, medieval mysteries, archeology mysteries or adventures.
Any particular advice for people who want to write fanfic?
Zee: Grow a thick skin. Not everyone will love your characterization. Not everyone will agree with your interpretation. That’s THEIR problem. As long as you’ve put out the best you can and you’re happy with it. I have told one or two people if they don’t like what I write, they need to go write their own fic. Please. Go do a better job. This is my vision. Now, if you’re getting NOTHING but slammed, maybe there’s a grain of truth there. Get a beta reader — someone who will not only catch your grammar and punctual errors — it happens, it’s easy to miss — but also find someone who will tell you, this ain’t flying.
Are there any other fanfic writers you enjoy reading that you’d like to give a shout out to?
Zee: OMG too many to count. I’ve recently discovered the Richard Armitage fandom (Thorin Oakenshield, Guy of Gisborne, John Thornton) and the incredible quality of the fanfiction written about his characters is amazing — WhatKatyDid, CarlyQ, Morrighansmuse, to name a few. To start… once upon a time there were a load of LOTR authors, [and] Harry Potter, but the fandoms have died down since the movies ended and sadly, the LOTR fanfic writing groups haven’t really picked back up with The Hobbit, unless you like Durincest… which I don’t.
I really appreciate Zee taking the time to answer my questions! I have really enjoyed the stories of hers that I have read, particularly the ones in the LOTR universe that center around minor Rohirrim characters. If you would like to check out her fan fiction, you can find Zee at: ArchiveOfOurOwn, Fanfiction.net, and WattPad, among other places. Just be aware that some of her stories are NSFW/not appropriate for all readers, so check the ratings and tags before you start reading. Thanks again, Zee, for talking to us!