Making The Switch from Fanfiction To Original Fiction

There are no rules. It's your world, do what you want with it.

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Many fanfiction writers come up against obstacles, AUs that just won’t work or a plot point that veers too far out of character. I have quickly realised, however, that these obstacles are nothing compared to the task of coming out of fanfiction and beginning to write original fiction. Points I hadn’t even considered about writing had suddenly appeared and I started to worry if I was completely out of my depth. I tried to search for anyone in the same situation and found nothing out there. So, here are just a few of my own pointers to consider if you’re thinking about making the jump from fanfiction to original fiction but are struggling with where to start.

In fanfiction, characters are already provided for you (although sometimes we paint them over with an alternate universe). When writing original fiction, you have to come up with your own characters: their look, their personality and what motivates them. This can be a very daunting task, but scribbling in a notebook is a decent place to start. Take notes on the similarities you find between favourite characters and real life people to help build an idea. I like to start with a character’s look and then move on to a dream, a goal or something that they want to achieve. Draw from your own personal experiences (or someone else’s). Use the same technique to add glimpses of their traits, hobbies, and backgrounds. Surround them with a family, friend or a partner. Once you have some notes, this becomes a base to build your original character on.

Knowing where to base your story is a huge part of building your new world and determining the way it operates. You want to get it right. This is one specific area where knowing your fandom really helps. Chances are, whatever show, film, book or RPF you write about is set somewhere — whether it be the Wizarding World of Hogwarts or the historical bunker belonging to the Men of Letters, there is always a place you enjoy being taken to. Thinking about why you like that place and the quirks that make it so immersive is a great start. Does it have a small, friendly atmosphere that makes it pleasant to return to? Does it have a mythical element that takes you away from the real world? Does it just simply have a nice look to it? Any inspiration about what makes this place so enjoyable for the characters will help you figure out what you want to write about. Now, obviously you don’t want to go copying a world, or anything of that matter, so make sure you combine any notes you’ve made. If you’re taking and using more than a couple of points about a setting you like, maybe think about what really sticks out to you and add your own twist to it. It’s a balance of inspiration from what you love and your creativity. Using too much of the work that inspired you can border on copying the original work.

This is one area where fanfiction writers show their brilliance. In fanfiction, you don’t have to think too much about characters and setting, which means you have to focus twice as hard on the plot. When writing original fiction, what you’ve already figured out about your original characters’ wants and desires should give you a vague endpoint to your story and something for them to strive for. Then it all comes down to blocking their path. A well-known tool for all types of fiction writing is to make things difficult for your characters. You may have become attached to them, but as all good media shows, nothing good comes without a price. So take your characters to the bottom, make them work to crawl back up.

When writing original fiction, just remember — this is in your own hands now. There are no rules to adhere to and, because you invented it, people cannot say you got something wrong. Fanfiction is great, and more and more people are coming to realise that, but creating a fictional piece of your own is still very much a requirement if you’re considering a writing career or even if you’re just looking to expand your skills. Writing original fiction forces you to look a lot more inside yourself and at what you really enjoy about other works (which is a very helpful writing tool). These points may not work exactly the same for you as they did for me, but hopefully they will help as a starting point to build upon. Most of all, it’s your world, do what you want with it!

About L Geary (1 Article)
L is an 18-year-old queer student and aspiring writer who has been writing fanfic for 3 years. They're very much split between multiple fandoms with an affinity for any (and every) ship. If you can find them, they'll probably be reading 100k of fluff.

4 Comments on Making The Switch from Fanfiction To Original Fiction

  1. This is great, thanks!

    I started out with original stuff years ago, but I’ve spent most of my writing time on fanfic since then. The majority of my stuff is character studies, and these combined with an open world game like Skyrim, have enabled me to finally make a couple of well-rounded original characters beyond the first ones I started out with years ago (something I’ve struggled with for a long time).

    I’ve been looking into finally taking all of it and doing something with it, and this gave me a bit of a boost!

    • Wow! Great to hear about your success creating original characters after doing some writing exercises and character studies with Skyrim. You should definitely give it a good edit and move forward with it. Maybe you’ll get it published! 🙂

  2. If your stories can work out without the character(s) or any specific thing related to the fandom you’ve picked, why not write your own story and call it original? If you gonna tweak a character until he/she becomes unrecognizable, why not create your own OC in the first place? That is how I see it.

  3. I’m kinda glad I started working on original stories first

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