Stuck writing stories about Elizabeth Bennett, Harry Potter, Edward Cullen, or (heaven forbid) all three? Maybe you’re longing to create something of your own, but you don’t know where to start (or maybe you’re desperate to stop this madness before Mr. Darcy elopes with Bella Swan). Well. I have good news.
Fan fiction is a great place to start. In a way, I started with fan fiction (X-Men was my guilty pleasure in junior high – so many possibilities!). The pre-existing world, concept, and characters give you the freedom to experiment with plotlines and storytelling without having to fill in every single detail yourself. It’s a good outlet. Good practice. Kind of like training wheels.
But if you’re reading this, it’s time to take off the training wheels. Here are a few pointers to help ease your transition.
Start with one original character.
Start small. Invent one character of your own to fit into the existing fan fic landscape. Give him or her a name, a background, special talents, likes, dislikes. Have a good time experimenting with how a new personality will fit into the world you know so well, beside the characters you have loved so long. This isn’t so different from taking an existing minor character and giving them a more prominent part.
Move that character into an original setting.
Another baby step. Take your character and put them somewhere new. They take a trip, move across the country, go to college, get kidnapped. It can still be within the fan fic concept world, but in a scene you have to create from scratch, with supporting characters you must give birth to. Don’t worry; this will be easier than you think. It doesn’t have to be a finished story, or even very good. The important thing at this point is that it’s 90% yours. You’re almost there!
Consume other fiction.
Meanwhile, in your recreational reading, take a break from the world of your fan fics. If you write Star Wars stories, get out of the extended universe! Visit the worlds of Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Shannon Hale. Step out of your genre and read a little Marcus Zusak or John Green. Fill up your head with new material—it’s fuel for original ideas.
Dare to be different.
Here’s the part where your authorial benefactor lets go of the bicycle seat and sends you flying down the hill. Write like the wind! In the beginning, check yourself frequently to make sure you’re not lapsing into the other writer’s world again—examine the relationships you create and the order of events. It’s normal to see some similarities (nothing is new under the sun): just make sure you’re not doing what Paolini did with Eragon.
A final note:
It may be a long time (a lot of digging deep into parts of you that hurt) before you come up with something truly unique and beautiful. Remember; if it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong. But you’re out of your rut now, and on your own. So let the adventure begin.