Would you write fanfic again?
Since I’ve just started my first Guy Fan fiction script story, I would have to say yes. There were some undeveloped bits to his character that I wanted to explore further. And with my “Vicar of Dibley” fan fiction–I have a full season of 8 episodes outlined in detail and several sections of dialogue written. And then, there is my “Thorin’s Hope” story. But for the most part, I write original script stories set in contemporary times around themes that matter to me–true love, how we define beauty in our society and who is worthy of love, and the complexities involved in blending your life with another as you build your relationship together, etc.
J: Would you encourage fanfic writing as a starting point?
I think writing fan fiction can be a helpful way for novice and non writers to begin. But, just as contemporary writers put a new spin on Jane Austen’s Emma with the movie Clueless, novice writers can take the themes from Shakespeare and other great writers to help get them going. Those of us who continue in the fan fiction genre past our novice stage do so because we want to resolve something with the characters or the plot–as I stated previously–or explore new avenues that the original writers had not thought of nor developed.
G: a) Just start writing. It doesn’t matter what it is. It won’t be perfect the first few sentences, paragraphs, or pages that you write. You can go back later and edit and expand it. Do however pay attention to your grammar and your spelling eventually. Unless you are trying to emulate a particular dialect–as the scriptwriter did in Sparkhouse–keep your writing simple. Avoid run on sentences. And I tell you this as a very verbose girl. Just look how long my response to your interview is. Ha!
b) If you can’t figure out how to make it work plotwise for your couple or characters, then think how they must feel. Ha! Good drama and comedy are about conflict. So, you need to find that conflict in your story and in your characters and then resolve it by the time your story ends.
c) Also, be observant about your daily life and the people around you for potential story ideas. Not that you want to tell the stories of your family’s and friends’ lives–they might stop inviting you to family and neighborhood functions. Ha! But do notice that the everyday occurrence can turn into something interesting. For example, one of my stories that I refer to as “Miss Trouble Ticket”, starts with a computer calendaring system that is being changed at work and the heroine needs assistance–she gets it and much more. This calendaring system story premise came about because we were indeed changing our calendaring system at work and there were kinks with it.
d) Find inspiration in literature and song and incorporate it into your work. One of the “hooks” in my writing is that I bring my literary background into my writing. I have one male lead quoting 17th century love poetry or a Shakespearean sonnet to his lady love. And yet another story has the groom singing a love song from a popular musical to his bride at their wedding.
e) But always, always, always cite the other authors’ works properly. Even if you use only the scrap of a quote–or even just a single identifiable word, such as “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane–you must attribute it appropriately to the original author and/or the original work. And frankly, you’ll look more erudite doing so. Looking erudite isn’t my intention. I just enjoy fine literature and I like to promote it to the next generation by referencing it in my works.
f) Don’t limit yourself to a particular genre of story. My love stories encompass a wide range of genres–comedy, drama, farce, action adventure, etc.–except for horror and science fiction films, I don’t go there. Well, I haven’t yet, anyway. Ha! But I also realize that my audiences–and my stories’ maturity ratings–are different for my different stories. So, get to know your audiences and their tastes in terms of what works for a particular story destination. And though I do like happy endings, one of my stories actually has a bittersweet and slightly sad ending–since life is not always tidy.
g) Be selective about whom you let initially read your stories. Seek out good beta readers who will gently give you some guidance. Then gradually work up to those beta readers who like to give no holds barred criticisms.
h) Become a beta reader of others’ fiction yourself. Identify what they are doing well in their writing that you like and see if you can emulate it. But don’t just copy them. Be your own writer, find your own style. After we had done some story collaborations together, an online writer friend asked if I would read her latest fan fiction work as one of her beta readers. I was honored to do so and I spent five hours one Friday night reading it at one sitting. Then I emailed her some general as well as some specific suggestions–typos here and there, please describe a bit more, and I even penned a few lines of narration and dialogue here and there to illustrate what I was suggesting to her. She wrote so well to begin with that I didn’t have to suggest too many changes to her. However, I was gratified that she used every one of my editing suggestions–and she even used my narration and dialogue sections that I penned. It gave me even more confidence for my own writing to know that other writers valued my opinions about their writing.
i) Here is my story filename coding scheme. Each time I revisit a story, I create a newly renamed version of the filename–so I can always tell what is the old version versus the new version is. The first draft is zzStoryTitleMonthDayYr. Then the second draft is zyStoryTitleSep2311. This insures that my current script story version is always at the top of the window for the folder for that story–each story has its own folder. And you need at least two letter codings because with 26 letters in the alphabet, zz to aa versions get you over 625 versions possibilities. I won’t need that many versions. But I definitely needed a coding scheme that reflected more than just 26 versions of a story. I know, I’m way too organized. But with working on over 40 stories in rotation, I have to be organized.
j) With stories and characters, you need to come up with good character names and story names. Keep a chart of the names you use. And, I have had a few instances where a story started out with one title and then I felt that title fit another story idea better and I changed it. The same thing has happened a few times with character names. Oh and I visit those baby names sites to find out the meanings of names in order to give characters eponymous names–such as William means protector, and Richard means strong, etc. It’s okay to switch things around and don’t beat yourself up about it. Now that I’ve been writing for 1.5 years, I haven’t needed/wanted to make any character name or script story title changes lately. Again, that’s because I set up my stories so thoroughly in the beginning.
k) That brings up another tip–do your research. Use the web and other resources to research places and historical events that you might want to incorporate into your stories. I’ve even gone so far as to print out location maps for cities or venues. And, in the case of the John and Margaret Thornton home, I diagramed its floor plan and furniture layouts because it is integral to some of my plot conceits. Finally for my Guy fan fiction script story that I’m writing now, I researched various social customs of the crusades time period to make sure that I was being at least somewhat accurate with regard to my characters’ interactions. Ha!
l) Read your stories out loud to test the dialogue and the narration or exposition. You’ll find that you usually need to shorten your dialogue sentences to allow for breathing. Ha! There is nothing better than hearing your words out loud for giving you ideas on how to improve upon your phrasing.
m) Here is a stylistic note. I realized early on that I had a tendency to write my narration or internal monologue sentences in the past verb tense–even though I was describing action happening in the present. Ooh! That’s a no no–unless, of course, you are actually referring to something that occurred in the past. So, I make a conscious effort now to be in the present as I’m writing–both literally and figuratively. And in using the present verb tense appropriately, I feel it makes my writing feel more vibrant and immediate–as if the audience is actually seeing the action play itself out. Here is an impromptu example of what I mean with regard to past tense vs present tense in an internal monologue exposition:
1. Past Verb Tense–Terry realized that he wanted to cross the room to ask her out on a date. And he did. (stilted)
2. Present Verb Tense–Terry realizes that crossing the room to ask her out on a date is what he wants to do. So he does. (better)
The present verb tense version–though a little longer–conveys a sense of “as it is happening” action. Again, I’m thinking cinematically. But I must say that not every writer agrees with me on this point as I read some of their works that use the past verb tense liberally.
G: My script stories are my babies–and it time that some of them fly the coop. So I really want to find a venue for them. My ideal wish is for some of my script stories to be produced for film or television–or the stage as in the case of my one act bedroom farce. I have only made tentative steps in that direction by beginning to share my stories with others in the last few months. I looked at the BBC site for writers–but they only want Brits to submit ideas or sample scripts, very anglopheniacentric (a made up word of mine) of them. Ha! And, I would love to be able to contact the “Vicar of Dibley” writer Richard Curtis about my ideas for a new season of that show. Even if he didn’t like my Dibley stories, it might convince he and Dawn French and the other cast to return for a season of Dibley specials that we would all enjoy. I do have a college friend who works in Hollywood–but I was loathe to mine that friendship beyond my generally asking her if she can recommend some writers’ web site resources. And, I’ve checked out the Writer’s Guild of America web site where you can “register” your scripts before you start sending them to agents and studios. But WGA doesn’t really claim to be a copyrighting service. And apart from not wanting my stories to gather dust on the shelf, I don’t want my script story ideas stolen or plagiarized. Realistically, I hope that I might ask some of my friends in local theatre in the community and at the universities if they might do a reading of one or more of my scripts. And then, maybe I can get something produced locally. From there, who knows? So at this point, these are wishes and dreams. And these may be pipe dreams. But we have to have dreams, or we are just treading water in our lives.
J: Thanks so much Gratiana for joining me.
G: Thanks so much for asking me to share my thoughts about my writing with you. Cheers!
NEXT: An interview with Prue Batten