A series of blog posts I've wished to do are based off my lesson plans from when I taught creative writing. I've been debating for a while, but then Fifty Shades of Grey came along. Oh, I have no intention of reading that crap, and if you like it...sorry, it's crap.



OMG! You mean I can re-read Twilight but there's sex in it? EEEEK! 


 
I've worked in BDSM and have been a Dominatrix for almost 13 years. As much as I enjoy BDSM I personally prefer Dominant Women/ submissive men which don't sell, so I'll keep it to my personal life and off paper, yet it makes me cringe at works like this. Just hearing the highlights of that book makes me want to howl with laughter. A woman who is not only a virgin but has never jilled off by age 21? Nutty to say the least, probably has vaginismus, most definitely will have a hard time forming a mature sexual bond and achieve orgasm with their first partner. And as one Amazon reviewer very intelligently said, (I'll add in here real mill- and billionaires tend to be submissive, not always, but usually) if a Dominant has that much social status, money, and experience they do not want an untrained sub. Hey, after 13 years of being a Top when I seek a personal slave novices need not apply. Training is boring. Add to all this weak prose and I cannot understand why anyone is buying this book....except...

It's fan fiction of an even shittier story line... the Twilight series. "Revealing" that was a masterful PR to get Twitards to buy this shit. It just makes me laugh, for fanfiction is the #1 source of inspiration for all writers, but now it's getting a bad name. 

Wait, wha? You read it right. My best example is Case of the Missing Millionaire which is my fanfiction of Dashiell Hammett's collected works, most particularly The Thin Man. There are hundreds which you can research on your own, but for fun you can even check out this list of books inspired by various works of Edgar Allen Poe. See, when we want to clean it up, we say "inspired" not "omg! omg! fanfic yeah!!1!!1!"

There are many ways to come up with ideas for a story but perhaps the easiest is fanfiction. There is one basic general rule: Take a work you like and respect but make your focus changing one aspect you didn't like. James took Twilight and subtracted gay, sparkling vampires, and added lame BDSM sex. I took The Thin Man and made the protagonist a femme fatale from 1930's & 40's Film Noir,or at least a woman who develops over the seven stories into one. When you read  finished works there are hundreds of differences, but it begins with this: take your favorite story, movie, or historical event and ask yourself, if I redid it, what is the most important thing i'd want to change?




For some reason 99% of the time the answer seems to be: sex, gay sex. Never the path to go when you want to legitimately publish.


 
If it's something big- making it more feminist, making it less tragic, making it more humorous and upbeat, or making it really dark, go for it. If it's really small, say getting rid of 1 character who's not a protagonist, or just putting the same people & plot in a different setting don't do it. (Note the exception is musical theater, which always the exception to good writing. The Whiz...oh, gods, I still shudder.)

Let's say you have picked your story and figured out the change. Let's go for a wacky one, and if any of you take this idea and make it I will sue you unto the ends of the Earth. Okay, let's say you want to re-write The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz only the wicked witch's minions are vampiric monkeys, and Dorothy is unknowingly a hereditary vampire hunter or dhampir, and is a kick-ass feminist and not a passive girl. Okay: the big change here is you gave Dorothy a purpose, a goal other than just returning home, an ability to deeply impact the entire world of Oz as more than Glenda's unwitting assassin and friend to the misfits.




Wait, shit- it's been done? Oh, well, that's no obstacle!


 
So what's the next step? Well, you have to look at what you changed and ask yourself how it changes everything else. Dorothy is quite naive and must continue to be so as at the end of the story as she must kill the wicked witch without any culpability. The naivete of Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man allow this. Every character she meets except the wicked witch and her monkeys are in fact quite child-like. So if we want to keep the fantasy element but get rid of the child-like, we have to change that. Make Scarecrow a straw man possessed by a poltergeist. Tin Man could a former poacher and technophobe cursed to become metal after poaching on the wicked witch's lands. The Cowardly lion could become the former king of beasts shamed and fallen from grace through trickery who is healing wounds and seeks allies to help him reclaim his throne. Oohh, it's getting nice and gothic, isn't it?

Now before we go any further, is the work public domain? If yes, do you want everyone to know this is fanfiction? If so, call it an adaptation and you're pretty well set and good. If it is public work and you don't want everyone to know it's fanfiction change all names of all people and places, and change the ages of 2-3 peripheral characters who introduce conflict or plot points.

If it's not public domain change all names, change all places, add or subtract a protagonist (in our example give Dorothy a werewolf who travels with her in a nod to Toto), change ages of all secondary characters, and for 2-4 secondary characters who introduce plot points, multiple their numbers. You have to do all this as legal issues come into pay: you don;t want to get sued, do you? In our example Glenda the Good witch would become the triumverate of Grendalle, three good teenaged witches who are guardians against the dark. The Lollipop guild becomes the escaped slaves of the wicked witch, ancient adults cursed into children's bodies hiding out in a condemned Candyland amusement park.

What other changes do we make? Well, what's your genre? Here's a quick list:

  • If Epic or Fantasy - Change all the impact artifacts (the red shoes become a gauntlet or amulet, blood-red and sparkling with power)
  • If Romance - Make the least alpha character into the love interest (the Tin Man is her soul mate because he's the only one who can kick more ass than Dorothy...now)
  • If Sci-Fi - in addition to character bios make then D&D character sheets, or Call of Cthulhu, or Cyberpunk, or whatever fits your sci-fi sub-genre. Don't play D&D or other RPGs? Then why the fuck are you writing sci-fi? Think of characters according to their alignment and abilities. Go play D&D until you get it.
  • If Mystery - change the deus ex machina of secondary characters into mystery characters (Grendalle the Good Witches charge Dorothy to find who killed the wicked witch, which is how she meets the misfits & uncovers a conspiracy in the house of the last living wicked witch)
  • If Horror/Thriller - change all secondary characters to monsters or creeps (Grendalle the Good Witches is a three-headed hydra-like creature embodying evil, good, and neutrality, but only one aspect at a time, the settings and plants are sentient and slightly malevolent)
  • If Drama - Kill the protagonist at the end or kill everyone else (Dorothy wins and kills the head vampire/wicked witch but all her friends die in the process)  


Knowing the genre you want will help determine the main changes. Beyond that you have to use your head. If the story is well known or not pubic domain, you have to change anything fans remember. In our example...flying monkeys, ruby shoes, yellow brick road...they all have to go. Monkeys become feral vampires, ruby shoes become a magical gauntlet, the yellow brick road becomes the trail of doom marked by flaming trees. Another big thing people remember are the tornado...gotta change that. Dorothy (let's call her Devin from now on) should be propelled to this strange world by other means. In our example let's say she finds a ruby-like stone at a junk shop that is missing from the gauntlet, and it pulls her into another dimension.




What he said...that's all you're doing here


 
Last but not least you must detract about 20% of the scenes of the original and insert your own, and also mix up the order. This will throw people off the most. Sad but true. For example if we take away all the before and after scenes of Dorothy's life, let Devin find the stone thrifting, and let that be the last we hear of our dimension.

So using all this, let's say our story is a epic with horror notes and a very wee tinge of eroticism, and here is how it reads:

Devin, a 23 year old graduate student finds a strange ruby while thrifting. Upon polishing it she is transported to another dimension where her arrival interrupts a sacrifice and kills a demonic priestess and her accolytes. The last good coven left, the children of Grendalle, have been cursed to live as a three headed monster. Grendalle pulls the gauntlet from the dead demonic priestess' hand and offers it to Devin who shows them the ruby. Grendalle reveals Devin is a dahmpir, a child of a vampire and a living woman, and is the only one capable of killing the evil vampire queen who rules this dimension (and who has killed all the dahmpir that existed there). The only being who knows where to find the queen is the human sacrifice now dying. Grendalle take the man's soul and places it in a straw man upon realizing his spirit will be a poltergeist.

Donning the gauntlet and taking the wicker man's arm, Devin sets out. Walking down the path of burning trees the wicker man tells Devin about the vampires who they see peer out at them from the dead forest, scared by Devin. They are set upon until a robot manages to kill all the vampires before they reach Devin. Scornful, the robot laughs when she says she will kill the evil queen but agrees to join them and help her quest, for he was cursed into the robotic body after poaching on the evil queen's lands. As soon as he joins he senses someone following them, and it is revealed to be a werewolf who jumped through the portal with Devin to escape a werewolf hunter. To evade the vampires they follow one fork of the path into the forest of horrors.

The robot teaches Devin how to kill vampires and she becomes more adept at it but then the group is visited by the evil queen. She is massively powerful and breaks them up, and Devin is alone with the robot who suggests they seek out the last known sorcerer who may join their cause. 

Wandering the forest of horrors they are nearly driven mad by personal demons and forbidden desires until they emerge at the crystal caves. Inside they discover the last sorcerer is long dead, his legend has been perpetrated by the beastmaster, a being like a lion who was removed from his rein over all beasts by the evil queen. Healing an injury for 50 years he is almost whole and agrees to join them in their quest.

Once more into the forest of horrors they are overtaken and awaken in an abandoned amusement park surrounded by children-of-the-corn-like figures. They have been captured along with the werewolf and the wicker man and the children plan to make them fight for their amusement. The wicker man leaves his body and finds another close by and releases them in the light of day when he weakest and they run.

The group stops so the wicker man may rest and the children pursue them. The werewolf, starved and on the cusp of a full moon, east one and scares the rest off. Devin, wary and near breaking, finds comfort in the robot and wonders about him as a human.

Their melee reveals them to the evil queen who sends her vampires after them. The master of beasts is at full strength and his roar calls their allies. in an epic battles in the nightmare forest they slay most of the vampires. The robot and Devin escape and make their way to the evil queen's fortress. In a battle to the death Devin prevails and removes the evil queen's heart with her gauntlet, presenting it to the robot whose curse ends and he turns out to be a total babe, yadda, yadda, yadda. Oh, they do not return to her dimension, but all misfits move into the palace and become the defenders of the land.

Now, reading that you get the impression that it's fanfiction, but it might not be. Want to fool everyone? Take the above, place it 2,000 years in the future, make it another planet, and make Dorothy into identical twin starship captains. Make the tin man an android, the scarecrow a cyborg, the cowardy lion and Toto aliens as well and done!

We'll go over other forms of inspiration in other 101: 1- entries, but for now I hope you have the general framework of how to turn any fanfiction into actual fiction. This is intended to help you turn a specific story or event into fanfiction, the next lesson will show you how to craft an ode to a style of writing. Just remember true fanfiction doesn't have to have good writing, but published fiction should. In the Writing 101: 2- series we'll review the basics, but remember good dialogue, strong characters, snappy action, parsimonious exposition, and good pacing are all things your work MUST possess.

These lessons will appear weekly and will be marked in order. 101 Deals with inspiration, the very first step of writing, and 102 will deal with the basics of crafting, 103 gets into the nitty gritty, and from there we'll go over everything from start to publishing. Have fun!