Friday, January 25, 2013

When a Reader Becomes a Writer

We all know that there are books capture the imagination of the reader. But did you know that sometimes, wheels begin turning in the reader’s head—What would the story be like from a minor character’s perspective? What happened after the end of the book, or between chapters? What was happening to Mr. March while Little Women was taking place? What if Bella Swan worked in an office, and Edward Cullen was her boss…?

When the wheels start turning in the head of someone with the ambition to write, these thoughts can result in the hobby that dare not speak its name-- fan fiction. Fan fiction is what is produced when “what ifs” become a story in itself. And, as it turns out, writing it has been an urge people have had before this term was coined. Some who write it may not even realize that what they are doing has a name. In some instances, these writings go on to become beloved books unto themselves.
For example, did you know that 50 Shades of Grey began as a piece of Twilight fan fiction on the internet? Anastasia Steele used to be Bella Swan and Christian Grey was actually Edward Cullen. It was written as an “alternate universe,” “what-if” scenario, and then gained a popular online audience. Eventually the names of characters and places were changed, edited, and the piece was eventually made into an ebook. The rest is history!

Here are some more examples of novels that have been inspired by already-existing, usually classic works.

Death Comes to Pemberley takes place after Pride and Prejudice ends. The drama centers around the murder of the notorious Mr. Wickham, and leaves his wife Lydia heading to Pemberley in a frenzy. 

Phantom by Susan Kay is a sympathetic, detailed re-telling of Phantom of the Opera, from the perspective of people the Phantom has been acquainted with (including an extremely minor character, The Persian, from the original novel), and the Phantom himself. 

Cosette is a sequel to Les Miserables, continuing the story with her marriage to Marius, and the continuing political drama unfolding in 19th century France.

Wicked is a re-telling of The Wizard of Oz, from the perspective of Elphaba. We learn what it was like growing up as a green girl, follow her friendship with Galinda, the Good Witch, and learn about her true love, all leading up to her undeserved reputation as the Wicked Witch of the West.

In March, we follow the father of the March family from Little Women, through his trials and tribulations as a preacher during the U.S. Civil War. Well-researched and full of rich description, March takes its inspiration not only from Little Women, but from the letters and diaries of Louisa May Alcott's father. 

The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy is, you guessed it, in the form of Mr. Darcy's diary from Pride of Prejudice. If you ever read Pride and Prejudice, and longed to know Darcy's daily struggles, his relationships outside of the Bingleys, and his innermost thoughts when he was finished with a day of gazing helplessly at Elizabeth Bennett, this is the book for you.


Linda K. said...

I have to admit I am not a big fan of Pride and Prejudice (sorry but...) However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies... now that's a winner! I really love this weird take-off on the original.

Anonymous said...

I loved March by Geraldine Brooks. The change in point of view added depth to the story that inspired it. Another work with an altered point of view is the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It is a tragi-comedy and the action in it takes place "off stage" of Shakespeare's Hamlet, featuring 2 of Hamlet's minor characters.

Tracy G. said...

This is a neat article discussing fan fiction online and in print:


When I think of famous fan fiction I always think of the numerous Star Wars titles that continue the story long, LONG after Episode VI

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