Hi, my name is Jennie. And I write fanfiction.
I’m not supposed to say that. “Real” writers don’t write fanfiction — and if they do, they don’t admit it. Literary writers certainly don’t. I can see the head of the local writers group cringing as he reads this. But I’m saying it anyway.
Why? Because I’ve found over the past 12 years that fanfiction builds my storytelling skills much more quickly than if I were muddling away on my original fiction. I’ve written probably 750,000 or so words of fanfiction in that time, most of it during the past three years in the NCIS fandom. I’ve used those stories to shake off the rust from a five-year hiatus from fiction writing, then to go on to build my skills in plotting, pacing, structure, dialogue, description… Pretty much every skill you need to have for fiction writing, I’ve developed through writing fanfiction.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I just launched myself into a novel-length fanfiction story that’s very different than what I’ve written before. Part of the reason it’s so different is because the plot bunny that hit when I was brainstorming made me realize I had the chance to try out a technique called voice journaling that James Scott Bell had mentioned in Conflict and Suspense. I’ve been toying with using it for the novel rewrite, especially after two reviewers dinged my antagonists in Thrown Out for not being as well developed as the protagonists. But the idea of trying it out on a project that’s that far along gave me pause.
This fanfiction story gave me a chance to start from scratch in building the antagonist first and getting inside his/her head. That led to me trying a different technique in storytelling — first-person snippets from the POV of the antagonist at the end of each chapter. I’ve been fiddling with a similar approach in All That Is Necessary, but third person POV and not every chapter. It gave me some of what I wanted, but it wasn’t working as well as I had hoped. But experimenting in this fanfic project with this combination of deep third for most of the story and first for the chapter endings is creating an effect that I’m liking and that the readers seem to be enjoying. If that’s the right word for being completely creeped out, which has been the actual effect.
Even as I delve deeper into this side project and into a story that would probably give me nightmares if I wasn’t the one writing it, there’s a piece of my brain that’s making notes about how these techniques could work in ATIN and cataloguing how readers react as I post each chapter. As both the new story and the novel revisions play out, I’m going to be interested to see how this cross-pollination continues to play out.