First, an announcement: My short story collections, MA’S MONTHLY HOT FLASHES: 2002-2007; LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL and THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK, are each now priced at $0.99. Go. Buy. Amazon. Smashwords.
Now. Last Monday, I told about the beginning of My Creative Past. This post is about passing notes out of class.
In high school, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who made up stories based on stories I read and watched, nor was I the only one who injected myself or a stand-in for myself into those borrowed worlds. Yeah, you know who you are. ~grin~ My friends and I didn’t have classes together–Jane went to an entirely different school–so we passed notes OUT of class.
These notes were running shared-world serial stories, often with humorous bits, usually with romantic bits. We would decide on the show we were going to “do” and choose up boyfriends. I believe my boyfriend in Star Trek (TOS) was Scotty. I’ve always been a sucker for a Scottish accent, even a bad one. Everything else, we wrote as we went along. Fictioneer A would begin, would write a note establishing the context and the initial conflict and pass the note to Fictioneer B. Fictioneer B would write the next bit from her point of view, moving her romance and the story forward, and pass it on. And so forth.
We thought we were just having fun, but we were also learning some writing lessons. Each of our little episodes moved the story forward, from the situation as it was handed to us to the different situation as we handed it on. Part of the fun was writing characterization and dialog as close as possible to things the borrowed characters would do and say while tweaking them and motivating them to suit ourselves. We were juggling at least two–sometimes more–plots/subplots, keeping in mind the individual subplots each of our co-writers had going for her characters. The stories didn’t just ramble around; they had tension and arcs and did, eventually, wrap up.
Some of us also wrote our own fanfic (That’s fan fiction, in case you don’t know.). For me, these tended to go farther afield. While I still based the stories in borrowed worlds (Star Trek, Dark Shadows), and I still had a stand-in (what the fanfic community calls a “Mary Sue”), I was more likely to do a change-of-pace that went right off the deep end into full-out farce. In this, I was strongly influenced by a friend named Lelia Lindsay, who started it all with her “Spock Shocks”, which were pretty much baggy-pants vaudeville with Vulcans in.
Devra Langsam, instigator and kingpin of the fanzine Maziform D, published some of my stuff (under my maiden name of Marian Turner and then under my current name). Eventually, I stretched the tether so thin it broke completely, and I was writing original books and stories. I had a fondness for the old pieces, though (you can find most of them at my old blahg here) and, in a process called “filing off the serial numbers”, rewrote the first short story into a novel, FORCE OF HABIT. Coming full circle, I took one of the characters from that novel, Mary Sued Devra Langsam, Holly Jahangiri and Jim Overturf’s detective Kurt Maxxon, and wrote a short story based in my own invented world. “By the Book” will be released soon, as will FORCE OF HABIT. I’ll let you know.
Is it fanfiction if it’s your own work you’re pirating? Should I sue myself? Which one of us pays the court costs?
WRITING PROMPT: What was your favorite imaginary world when you were a kid? Did you and your friends play out the stories you had seen or heard or read, or did you make up your own? Did you fight over who got to play Peter Pan and who had to be Hook, or did you just assume Pan and Hook and all take subsidiary parts?