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Do You Read or Write Fan Fiction?

Do you ever read or write fan fiction? Would you ever write stories set in the world of your own novels? Is fan fiction an art form?

Fan fiction was an unfamiliar beast for me when I started writing. I learned much later that many writers hone their writing skills by producing fan fiction: cutting their teeth on plotting and writing techniques within someone else’s writing universe and using their characters and motivations.

I discovered fan fiction when some of the TV series I watched didn’t live up to their early promise. I found chatter on how writers had taken it upon themselves to write scenes they would have liked to see on screen.

I began writing my first novel, You Beneath Your Skin as a series of flash fiction when the characters of Anajli, Jatin, and Sakhi visited me during my timed writing exercises (like this one).

Once The Blue Bar was contracted to be published by Thomas & Mercer, I realized there were many aspects of the story and its characters I was yet to explore . I could write fan fiction within my own writing universe!

I began penning fan fiction in the one-shot gazette, which has become my most popular edition, outstripping the writing gazette and the reading gazette in its rate of subscription.

Some of the fan fiction I poured into this blog, where it lives in little bits and pieces. Below are a few snippets from The Blue Bar universe, some from the One-shot Gazette, the others from this blog:

1. Fan Fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: Please Read the Letter

If we’re talking secrets, I have one. One I ran away with. It made it worthwhile to run. I never had a reason before. I also had no one to run to, especially not you. I can say this now, what I would never have admitted before: if I ran to you, and you tossed me aside, I couldn’t bear it.… Read More

2. Fan Fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: Decrescendo

Footsteps, measured. Loud in the sudden silence. Raj-put. Went the murmur. Raj-put. Sa’ab. Raj-put Sa’ab. Whispers. Nods. Men and women, focused. Until he appeared. 

Tall, his mustache a shadow over his bow-shaped upper lip. Eyebrows curved, but lashed in a frown. As if to say, go on, out of my way. Expecting the path to clearRead More

3. Fan Fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: There’s Blood on the Sheets

Most days Papa accepts Bilal’s offer of the drink. A light sleeping potion mixed in. Not enough to make him sleep, but it calms him down, making him pleasantly drowsy. Dangerous man, Bilal, but fortunately for us, loyal to a faultRead More

4. Fan fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: The Other Woman

Rain patters in my balcony, droplets clinging to the ferns, seventeen floors above the stink and stress of Mumbai. Had we been married, or even engaged, I could have asked him to stay back a little longer, enjoy the rain with meRead More

5. Fan fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: An Unlikely Kind of Love

Why she likes him is a mystery. His boys, goons every one of them, tell him he’s handsome. She doesn’t. She spills the truth. She’s remarked on his fat belly, thick dark neck, and receding hairline as objects of her affection for the past seven years. If either of them had cared a little less, he’d have married herRead More

6. Fan fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: She Stared Unseeing at the Ceiling Fan

I stare, unseeing, at the ceiling fan. My mother-in-law says that suffering is a woman’s lot in life. I believe her. Like each morning, I’ve woken early, hoping for a few minutes of quiet before Mumbai comes grumbling into my bedroom with its traffic noise and fumes, the clatter of my neighbor’s kitchen, weak monsoon sunlightRead More

7. Fan fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: The Meet Cute

The target is in my line of sight to the stage, seated at a prime table, within easy reach of the bargirls who are mostly women in their twenties or older, outfitted in garish sarees and ill-fitting dresses. Other than herRead More

8. Fan fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: On Occasion, a Scream Lasts Long, and Makes no Sound

When it happened to her, it felt like the end of the world but now that she’s away from it all, she feels nothing, not pain nor hunger, because you need a body for those, and she has none. There were bits of bone under the mossy bridge where they dropped her, but after a few years these got picked up and squirreled away in a ziploc bag, an evidence drawer.… Read More

9. Fan Fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: It is Not, Until It is

I share my rooms with six other bar girls. I’ve never been on such an empty stretch, nor anywhere this quiet except for the endless swish of the sea, and the waves crashing on the shore. They seem cheery, with much to say, but then disappear without a trace into the sand. Just like us bar girls… Read More

10. Fan Fiction from the world of THE BLUE BAR: When Faced with Danger, Pretend

The first thing I noticed was his mustache. The second, his broad shoulders. Third, the way he spoke. A savarna. A higher-caste man. My terror mounted, but all he wanted to do was talk. Chat with me. And quickly afterward, with my parents.
 
A policeman. An Assistant Sub-Inspector in Mumbai police. My parents, terrified, didn’t approve, but that was neither here nor there…Read More

Do you ever read or write fan fiction? Would you ever write stories set in the world of your own novels? Have you read any of the stories above? What do you think of the characters? Would you like to read more of their story?


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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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24 Comments

  • Pamela says:

    I wrote a two-part fiction Western love story based on an old Western TV series. It was fun and the fan club members enjoyed it.

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!!.. I don’t seek out fan fiction but if it appears interesting I will read it.. I think you write what your heart wishes, no titles or labels… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

  • ccyager says:

    I’ve written fan fiction just once, a novella in the Star Trek 2009 reboot universe at FanFiction.net. I approached it as I do any writing. What I found was that I enjoyed the challenges, but loved the characters that appeared that were NOT part of that particular universe and wholly mine. I’ve also loved hearing from readers who enjoyed the novella. That’s been a pleasant surprise. And I made certain that Paramount wouldn’t come after me for using the Star Trek name and some of the characters.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Cinda, I used to spend a few happy hours on fanfiction.net and would love to discover your novella! Fan fiction can be so entertaining because it takes the imagination along alleyways the original does not.

  • Fan-fiction is a topic which has always interested me. I have read and written it. I have a lot to say on it, so please bear with me. 🙂

    My most popular fan-fiction series was spun from Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy X games after I noticed a peculiar link between some of the settings and the end of X-2. Nothing was said of this link in the games, but my mind took the parallels and ran with them. To this day, many of my first readers from the early 2000s think of those stories as “canon” even though they obviously are not. (And I have to explain that their age is why they don’t correspond from the actual canon stories produced in the following years.) Just when I think no one cares anymore, I start to pull them from the website, and, without fail, someone will contact me asking what happened to the stories — why am I taking them down? LoL … So, for better or worse, they remain.

    When I studied English at university, I took a film literature class that really opened my eyes to derivative works. A derivative work is any work that is basically a reinvention of the original publication. It could be something as simple as converting a book into a different type of media, or it could be as expansive as creating sequels set in the same world as the original. Retelling alternate versions of the same story also qualifies as derivative work. Fan-fiction is a derivative work. Every story written based on the franchise of Dr. Who, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, Nancy Drew, etc. are also derivative works. The difference between fan-fiction and franchise is not the fandom. Neil Gaiman was absolutely giddy and being given a chance to write an episode for Dr. Who. He is a huge fan of the show. The difference between fan-fiction and franchise is copyright permissions.

    Fan-fiction is a gray area legally because some writers detest seeing someone else handle their creations. The usual argument here is that it can damage the reputation of the canon work, or maybe the author just simply cringes at the idea of someone mishandling her characters. The reason doesn’t matter; what matters is the copyright holder has the power to forbid it. Or to hand over the reigns to whichever derivative production he prefers. (i.e. Don’t write fan-fiction, but movies are okay as long as I am consulted in the process.) In some cases, even that is a legal challenge. I worked for Wizards of the Coast, and they use different authors to write novels and games using the same world, same characters, etc. But in some cases, one game or book can’t draw art or content directly from another without copyright infringement because of the details in litigation and contracts. Authors who sell their works to publishers sometimes are forbidden to do what they want with their own characters in future works because they no longer own them, the publisher does.

    Other writers love seeing what fans do with their creations and even encourage it. Sometimes publishers might encourage fans to write fan-fictions because it drums up excitement and interest in shows. Wattpad often offers contests from TV producers for well-written fan-fictions of their series, for example. If you are making derivative works of your own original content, you as the copyright holder have permission to do that, so long as it doesn’t violate any previously settled contracts with a publisher. 🙂 But often they are just called sequels or shorts, rather than fan-fiction. Just like how official franchises aren’t called fan-fictions even though technically they still borrow material from the original work and either reshape it or continue it for telling another story. Most “series” are made of one original story that then was expanded into derivative works by the same author or guest authors or even ghost authors of the original. (Nancy Drew books are credited to the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, but that series has always been and continues to be published thanks to ghost writers.) I write derivative works about my own world setting and characters quite often. I just call them short stories set in the same universe. But I am self-published so I answer only to me where derivative works are concerned. It’s funny though, I once had someone ask permission to write a fan-fiction of my Final Fantasy X fan-fiction. I was hardly in a position to say “No, it’s my work!” Because part of it was … but part of it wasn’t. 🙂 So … it’s complicated. And the fact that fan-fiction is widely known to be “first attempts” by many beginning writers, it has a low-level reputation for being automatically bad. But … it isn’t. It’s kind of like self-publishing, where some of it is excellent and some of it isn’t. Just like in the publishing industry overall.

    A couple of final thoughts … Fan-fiction is FOR fans. You can’t drop in on episode/book number 7 and expect to understand half of what’s going on. You might like what you see, but a lot of it will go over your head because it’s assumed you’ve read/seen the first six. So, if you’re not a fan of a series, it’s not really fair to judge it. Also, and this is especially true of books converted to film or TV series, derivative works by their very nature ARE DERIVATIVES! They aren’t the same because they CAN’T be the same. By their very nature, words on a page are different from actors staging action. People complain all the time that film versions aren’t as good as books. This is why: they are different by default. They will never be the same because they’re not! Judge derivative works on their own merits. You can compare them to the originals in some ways (that’s what I had to do in my film lit class), but you cannot expect a derivative work to be just like the original. That’s not how it works. Derivatives need to be judged on their own merits and by different criteria as to whether they are entertaining.

    That’s long-winded, I know. Lol … But it’s a subject very familiar to me in many ways. So, maybe something there can offer insight to anyone interested. Opinions will vary as much as derivative works themselves. 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Melody, thanks for this detailed, thoughtful, and very insightful commentary.

      I knew a fair bit of this, but a lot of it was also new to me. Fan fic is more common in the romance, scifi and speculative genre: I at least haven’t come across many fan fic for crime novels or series.

      You’re right in that technically my stories above are just stories, not fan fiction written by fans–I’m merely playing in my own universe, exploring the characters in ways which the pacing of a crime novel would not allow, detailing the human elements. I call them fan fic because that gives me an excuse to write stories outside of the genre–none of the stories here are in fact crime stories though The Blue Bar is a crime novel. I write at the intersection of literary and crime, so these explorations are fascinating for me.

  • Jemima Pett says:

    Ah, but are flash pieces about your own universe fan fiction? Surely you’d have to be writing about a shared universe with established norms (canon), rather than your own, however many fans you are sharing it with. We’re your fans, after all!
    I read some Phantom of the Opera fan fiction recently, reviewing in a few weeks. I’ve been following the author’s progress on it for a long time 🙂
    Then again, is fan fiction only fan fiction if it’s written by fans? So spin-off novels from a series (I had all the Man from UNCLE books!) are just merch if they are written to order, rather than by a fan for love?

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Jemima, you’re right, maybe these really aren’t fan fic, but short pieces in my own universe. Had never written them deliberately before, so it felt like writing fan fic!

      Imo, fan fic is definitely written by fans–I was trying to emulate my ‘imaginary’ fans lol. If they’re written to order within a Universe, it is a spin off, or just an extension of the Universe.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I’ve been given some fan fiction, but couldn’t get into it … but I love your clips above – great reads and then I can see where they’re heading (or think I can!) … I’m so bad at reading … I still have to finish The Blue Bar … I not good- sorry! Obviously I read, but it’s a struggle to put time aside to read – must switch off radio and tv … I’ll get there … cheers Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for reading these, Hilary and no worries about taking your time with reading The Blue Bar. I find I’m less focused about reading these days, as well. We do what we can, given the trying times we live in.

  • Sonia Dogra says:

    Hi. Your fan fic Please Read the Letter inspired me and I tried something similar with my wip. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of it on a personal level after the Letter post of yours. I am marking all of the above to be read. Thank you for bringing these aspects of writing to us.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Ah, Sonia, you make me want to be a better writer. Thank you for being such a kind support over the years.

  • I’d never heard of fan fiction until a few years ago. I think I’ve read some things that might quality, although I’m not sure.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Fan fiction is so diverse in quality, in genre, and in length. You might enjoy them if you found your genre.

  • I don’t seek it out, and rarely read it. And of course, don’t write it.
    I suspect I would treat your own ‘fan fiction’ as writerly explorations.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Sue, yes, mine could be called writer-ly explorations. I do sometimes feel tempted to write fan fiction in the worlds of others.

  • setinthepast says:

    Both!

  • I’ve never written it and I don’t believe I’ve ever read any.

  • Those were amazing stories!

  • shilpa says:

    I am so clueless about writing fan fiction! ;P

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I was, too. Then I started writing fan fiction for my own novel. It is is just bits and scenes that will slow down the pace in a book, but are (hopefully) interesting to read on their own.

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