ladybrooke: (Default)
[personal profile] ladybrooke
Is it merely the opposite of fanfiction?

The word original has several meanings, but in the context of original fiction, the following is the most important:

3. arising or proceeding independently of anything else: an original view of history.

Definition , original numbering kept in place.

In order to be considered original fiction, the story must consist of something that has arisen independently of anything else. That is to say, it must not be based on any preexisting ideas or books. This has been the dividing line between fanfiction and original fiction for decades.

In reality, all of the the so-called original fiction is not original and publishable by any grand idea that the author had, inventing everything in the book from scratch. The fiction category at bookstores and libraries would be much smaller if that were the case. It is publishable because the character did not come from media released recently.

How can people, as readers and writers, say that fan fiction is lesser because it does not contain original characters, but turn around and write stories that contain characters that are not original? The fact that Tolkien’s books were published in the 1900s does not mean that if a person takes Argon or Aragorn and writes a story about them, that character is automatically less original than if somebody takes the Henry VIII and writes a book about him. In fact, it is arguable that any work featuring Argon would automatically include a more original character, by sheer virtue of the fact that save Tolkien and perhaps his family, the world knows far less about Argon than is known about Henry VIII. More must be invented to write a story featuring him than must be invented for a story featuring Henry VIII.

Historical people, legendary people, and mythological characters are no more original than any character from a book published this century, regardless of how much work an author has to put into making that character come to life. Regardless of if you’re writing Henry VIII or Sir Frederick Tilney, Guinevere or Dindrane, Aphrodite or Bia, the work put in does not make them an original character. A writer cannot claim that they came up with the idea of Aphrodite, the idea is laughable.

The difference between original fiction and fanfiction therefore lies in the matter of copyright dates. Nobody accuses Shakespeare of writing fanfiction, though Romeo and Juliet was very much a play based on a preexisting poem. But nobody at the time was thinking of copyrights, much like modern people don’t think of copyrights when it comes to claiming Guinevere or Bia for a story. Fanfiction is only as Historical Fiction, and for a person to look down upon it merely because it does not include all original characters and is based on preexisting media shows a lack of understanding of many of the major players and themes in modern day literature. Unless, of course, the person also looks down upon Historical Fiction and any book that mentions a person, mythological, legendary, or historical, who the author did not come up with.

So who is ready to criticize Rowling for Nicholas Flamel, Yolen for King Arthur, and Gregory for using the Tudors?

Yes, I'm back. I brought you all a nice, shiny 500 word essay on original characters in original fiction, non-original characters in original fiction, and fanfiction. Hopefully, I don't forget my password again.

Date: 2012-06-03 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi Brooke! =D

Yeah, there is something silly and hypocritical about looking down on fanfiction, if one likes much of the literature today that's based on mythical/historical/public-domain-fictional characters.

I can understand where people perceive a certain difference between fiction based on recent stories and fiction derived from much older works. Older materials are more ingrained in the culture, plus if the author is long gone there's not as much concern about disrespecting them. None of that, however, means that fanfiction is contemptible, a waste of time, etc. There's plenty of excellent fanfic that could easily appear in bookstores a century from now, once the original works are in the public domain, and be read as serious fiction.

Date: 2012-06-04 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very well said!

Date: 2012-06-22 01:59 am (UTC)
dawn_felagund: (art lives)
From: [personal profile] dawn_felagund
I personally believe the whole notion of "fanfic" is a fallacy. (I've written essays on this too. :D) Fan fiction is fiction. Only fairly recently did we begin to enshrine the notion of "originality" as a prerequisite to be considered a good or serious writer. As you note, many, many, many--I'd even go out on a limb and say nearly all--medieval and classical stories pull from works that existed before them. I'm currently auditing a class on the history and literature surrounding King Arthur, and it's impossible to discuss these stories without spending a significant amount of time on sources: the myths, folklore, and existing written stories that were directly borrowed to construct something new. Going back even deeper, into the oral tradition, it wasn't originality that mattered but a particular storyteller or poet's skill in telling an old story in such a way that it felt new.

I write both "original" and "fan" fiction, and there's something to be said for doing something that (as far as I know) no one has done yet, but there is also something to be said for taking stories and characters and ideas that are familiar and comfortable to my readers and writing them in such a way that, hopefully, they find something new to love in an already beloved story or universe. To do the latter, in many ways, can take more skill than the former, as a truly original idea can disguise less-than-perfect writing, but a bland retelling of a story already known to my readers is just that: bland.

(Sorry for coming so late to the party, btw! :)


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