4 steps to stop writing fan fics and start writing original stories

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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. 

About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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  1. Writing original fiction is something I’ve found easy since high school. There our Advanced English teacher set us to writing short stories through years 11 & 12, and her way of teaching us about voice and characters was similar to the above. What she made us do was to read a heap of fiction, starting with Orwell’s 1984, and make us write a short story in his voice. It really helped me with my own voice (I already was consumed by reading) and helped me to digest stories and identify the different components of fiction – plot, theme, timing, voice…but most importantly character development. The other thing I always try to do is highlight some element of my own personality – and then build a caricature of it before folding.it into my protag. They are all a part of me, amplified.

    • A lot of people don’t discover their love of writing until their love of someone else’s story moves them to pick up a pen (or attack a keyboard). But your teacher sounds fantastic. And you have an excellent point about character development. I’ve done the same thing with my characters (albeit unconsciously).

  2. Lizzie Bennett, Edward Cullen and Harry Potter fan fic? That sounds almost like a confession Steph…

  3. Nice post!

    I got my start writing fan fiction, too, but I eventually found that I enjoyed creating new situations for (sort of) new people (only sort of new, because most of my characters have a lot of me in them). I still enjoy dipping my toes into fan fiction, mostly because it’s so easy, and there are characters I love…and, those are stories I don’t worry so much about publishable aspects, like plot flow and staying succinct – they let me just write.

    Very good suggestions for the budding original writer, though!

    • Oooh, good point about not having to worry so much because you’re not going to publish it. A lot of new writers let themselves become paralyzed by the fear that whatever they write won’t be good – when the rest of us know you have to write something terrible before you can ever write something good. Fan fics are a great way to break the ice. Unless, of course, you’re what’s-her-name who wrote Shades of Grey (a confessed Twilight fan fic with the names changed and the bloodsucking removed).

  4. I have… issues with fan-fiction. A few of my friends write it, and one of them writes it quite well, but the thought of other people picking up my characters and messing about with them chills me a bit, and that makes me feel sorry for the authors whose characters suffer such a fate (which is practically every published author, now, from ancient texts forward). I do see the value for the writers of fanfic: “breaking the ice” as you say, and using it as a training ground. I even understand the desire to write fanfic, but it still rubs me wrong.

    One of my fanfic-writing friends (she writes original fiction as well, and I have a high respect for her abilities) mentioned to me, once, that two of my characters who, though unrelated, have a father-son relationship, would quickly be slash-fic if the story were ever published. That’s something I will have to get over if I am ever published, because it seems to be inevitable. 🙁

    • Oh, yes, the thought of fan fics of MY work distresses me greatly. I think the great majority of fan fiction is better left in the privacy of its writers’ own notebooks, to be practiced but not published. But there are some stories that invite other writers, such as the Star Wars franchise, in which there are dozens of different authors and hundreds of books. I think in a case like that, where the story has so much growth potential, but the original author doesn’t want to continue and doesn’t care if someone else does (George Lucas evidently doesn’t, so long as he gets paid. In fact, he’d have better let one of the extended universe authors write the Phantom Menace, et al, instead of him), fan fiction is just fine.
      But I also think it’s rather tragic/pathetic that Shades of Grey, which is an erotic fan fic of the Twilight saga, but with the names changed and the vampires removed, has gotten so popular. Just seems wrong.
      And as to slash fiction—gaaahhh. Unspeakable evil.

      • Oh, indeed. In cases where the work has been intentionally opened to the creativity of others, all is well. I don’t object, either, to people writing fanfiction for themselves, as an exercise in working through something they found dissatisfying in a story, or as a means of stretching creative muscles.
        All writing, fiction and nonfiction, has its roots in something the writer has taken in. I probably wouldn’t write at all if I hadn’t started with exploring the possibilities of others’ stories in my head. My first feeble attempts at writing were, though not quite fanfiction, very heavily based on the work of Brian Jacques.
        At the same time, I feel that there is something inherently unethical in commandeering someone else’s characters and worlds and doing what one likes with them. It’s a violation.
        It occurs to me that I may be overly critical, for commandeering characters and ideas is the basis for all ancient storytelling, but… again, when I come back to my own work and think of someone making my characters behave in uncharacteristic ways in situations that are not cannon, I get… “grumpy.”
        And yes, the existence of Shades of Grey makes my head hurt in more ways than one.

      • “I think the great majority of fanfiction is better left to the writers notebooks.” – as a hobbyist Fanfiction writer… I COULDN’T AGREE MORE!

        The amount of bad fanfiction I see makes me angry, I love fanfics, but it takes the better part of an hour to find a good one in the massive slush pile!

        every time I look for a pokemon fanfic I make sure to refine search and say “no Ash” because there so many with him in it!

        Kingdom hearts, a series I love- it has fanfics like Twilight! nothing but riku and sora slash… not one person has written about the heartless at all in 82,000 stories! its all “AU sora and riku become lovers LEMON WARNING! SLASH!”

        its people like them who give Fanfiction its bad name, and the reason I’m on this site- to avoid becoming one.

        I wonder how small that 82,000 would become if those terrible fics stayed where they belong?

        • Omigosh, maybe you should start your own fan-fiction publishing site that only publishes the best? You could gather a team of editors, all experts in various famous fictional universes, to judge each work based on cannon, writing quality, and how accurately the characters are depicted. Fan fic writers would submit their work to you and readers would trust you to have only the best stuff. Of course, I’m not sure what copyright issues you might run into. It couldn’t be properly “published” work for monetary gain. But it would be so cool.

          • I hereby agree to this. I’d love to create a website like that. I’m homeschooled, and I take writing classes at the highest level possible, writing for several hours a day(my own original work), but I read a lot of fanfics. I have a blog for one of my fandoms that has links to different fanfiction that I have read and not just liked, but thought were high quality. Having a website for something like that is one of the greatest ideas I have ever heard.

          • Homeschoolers FTW! Welcome. Maybe YOU should start the website. 😉

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