A post in praise of fanfiction.

One of the most exciting things about creating the Little Somerby universe has been the endless possibilities that have occurred to me since its inception. From the day that Matthew Carter walked into my head (January 15th, 2014, to be precise), I’ve been wallowing in the creation of characters, places, relationships and events that are all of my own making. I made them up. Completely and utterly. From my head. Mine.

You might be wondering why I’m labouring the above point. Well, as a writer of a lot of fanfiction over the years, I’ve finally found a set of characters, events and places that have made me as excited as any of the worlds I’ve played in that belong to other people. And that, quite literally, makes me gasp. I’ve spent the best part of my writing life so far creating stories that involve established characters and settings, from Dungeons and Dragons to Top Gear to Robin Hood (various incarnations) via The Lost Boys, Tomb Raider and Red Dwarf. I’ve written fanfiction for as long as I can remember. I’ve even written about writing fanfiction, and had it published in an academic journal.

The thing is, fanfiction is fab. It gives you the chance to play with characters and settings that you already love, and keep the magic of a show or book going for a little bit longer. I learned a great deal of my craft writing fanfic, and, although it wasn’t conscious learning at the time, it was actually pure enjoyment, I can look back and see how my writing has developed over the years. And the frisson of excitement I felt every time I started a new story was a real rush. The last piece of fanfiction I wrote was completed nearly two years ago, just before I fell pregnant with my second child, and then my writing, understandably, stopped for quite a while! It was this piece, a gentle piece of RPF (Real Person Fiction) about a conversation between Richard Armitage and Lucy Griffiths (Guy of Gisborne and Marian of Knighton from the BBC’s version of Robin Hood). RPF takes many forms and flavours; I was particularly proud of this story because I felt it handled an ‘on the record’ discussion between the two actors in a gentle and respectful way, and allowed me to explore my take on the ‘endless conversations’ that Richard and Lucy were said to have had about how to play the scene where Guy kills Marian. If you want to see the two videos I reference in the story, they are here and here.

Fast forward seven months, and I started writing again. It was original fiction. And Far From the Tree was born. And now I’m in the exciting position of having completed a draft of the novel, and having created characters that are mine and mine alone. And I’m finding that as exciting as writing any fanfic. The thing is, I never thought I would be as excited by my own work. I never thought I’d be capable of creating a world inhabited by characters that would affect me as deeply as those created by others. And yet, the characters I’ve created are speaking to me just as clearly as any of those I’ve written about that already existed. That frisson of excitement I keep getting when a plot point or idea comes to me is just as exciting, and I’m revelling in the ability to take the story anywhere I want to.

So this leaves me with a final question; how would I feel if, one day, other writers wanted to play in my universe, and write fanfiction about my characters? My perspective at the moment is ‘bring it on!’. I’d love to see what others could do with my characters, and as a ‘textual poacher’ myself, it would certainly be an interesting parallel. I’d like to think I’ll still feel that way when I’ve sold 100,000 copies of Far From the Tree, and that I won’t forget my fanfiction writing roots. After all, I’ve read a lot of fanfic over the years, as well as writing it, so why not give other readers free rein? They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all…;).

Lucy Griffiths and Richard Armitage in Robin Hood (BBC)



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