I've just rediscovered the fun of writing fan fiction.
Fan fiction was how I started writing, really. Back in the day, as a middle-schooler, I was introduced to Star Trek and fell in love with sci fi. The adventures! The drama! The new worlds!
So of course I invented my own character (an intergalactic space princess*, how else?) and inserted her into whatever that week's episode was and watched how the plot changed as she joined the adventure.
This was how I got through boring classes day after day after day. I daydreamed.
And of course I wrote it all down. That's what you do with stories. How could you grow up in a house with books in every room and not know that?
I even had a friend back then who did the same thing, and we'd write stories together, each with our own heroine, passing a notebook back and forth between classes, taking turns adding a chapter to the story. (The trick with those was always to have your own heroine come out on top in scene, but to do it subtly enough that your friend couldn't complain about how you'd treated hers.)
I never stopped writing fan fiction, really, though eventually several of those stories followed enough rabbit trails and started being legitimate stories of their own, universe included. And developed even further and started having real characters and not just Mary Sues.
(Imagine my joy when I learned that even Bujold wrote fan fic back in the day. That my favorite sci-fi series ever wouldn't have existed without her proposing her own Star Trek what-if?)
But just this week I've discovered a new use for fan fiction, something that's made me fall in love with it all over again: it's a great writing warm-up.
Fan fiction - at least the way I do it, with no audience in mind ever - is just fun. I don't have to worry about it making sense, or about writing the boring parts, or about plausibility. It's just stick-my-Mii-in-my-current-favorite-story-and-run. It's a blast. It's like sprinting.
I imagine this is how other people feel when they write their "morning pages" or their free-writing. But free-writing doesn't get my engine running the same way story does. To take an exercise metaphor: free-writing is static stretching, fan fiction is dynamic stretching. The former actually makes you weaker, making microscopic tears in muscles that aren't yet warm. The latter gets your muscles moving through their range of motion, psyching up the fibers that are needed for movement.
I've always liked writing fan fiction.** But I never realized how useful it is. It reminds me that all of it is supposed to be the fun part. So once I write a page of fan fic, I can go over to my novel and hit the ground running, remembering that the fun of the story is in the characters, the impossible situation and just how fast and how far I can make it all go.
Peace of Christ to you,
*I actually still use the same character when I write fan fic now that I did when I was thirteen. She's just grown up a bit.
** Not reading it. Generally, reading other people's fan fiction is deadly. Which is why mine isn't getting posted anywhere.