Fiction comes in all different forms, but one form of it that we often don’t discuss seriously is fanfiction. Often derided or seen as lesser than original fiction, fanfic is a massive and diverse scene with lots of different authors. I’ve gotten one of them, who writers under the pen name RedFive, to give us all a little insight into the world of fanfic, what it’s about, and what its appeal is.
What got you into writing fanfiction?
My first fandom was Sailor Moon, which was a property that was already over in Japan by the time I started writing. I LOVED Sailor Moon. I loved everything about Sailor Moon in middle school. There was never enough Sailor Moon in my waking hours. So I threw my allowance at VHS, later the DVDs, the shirts, the card game, they toys…shit, I even bought Mixx’s original run of floppy comics before Tokyopop brought it out in a more traditional form. But there remained one big problem: the show was over and there were no new stories coming.
Fortunately, I found FF.net and a community of fans who also thought the situation was untenable and so, determined to keep living our best lives, we started writing our own stories.
Why do you choose to write fanfiction as opposed to original fiction? What appeals to you about it more?
Writing is not my career; it’s my hobby, my therapy, and a social thing I can share with my friends. I want to write what’s fun. Right now it’s these characters that inspire me and the therapeutic benefits of writing fic are of immense personal value.
What do you see as the value of fanfiction? Why do you think it’s a writing style worth writing?
It is different for everyone. For many people fanfiction provides a safe place to explore trauma, grief, issues of sexuality and identity, etc. There is a comfort in sending your heroes or the characters you identify with into danger to battle the monsters in your real life. Sometimes the characters come out stronger for it. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they break, and that too can be healing in a way. Fanfiction allows the writer a safe place to deal with their personal carnage. I love that about it.
Fanfiction is also a great place to work on your craft and test different styles in short or long form and get instant feedback from the community.
Fanfiction is known for its strength of community in many ways. What do you think are some of the advantages of being part of a fanfic community as a writer? Some of the disadvantages?
The community is the best part! I still have friends I met in college through our shared interest in various fandoms. Plus, if you’re stuck on a piece of writing or are looking for experts on obscure subjects, chances are there is someone in the fandom who can help.
All communities have drama llamas—some bite harder than others. It’s unavoidable. Treating others as you’d like to be treated goes a long way in life, but sometimes no matter what you do there will be assholes out there who will try to bring you down for the hell of it. Deal with them as best you can. Report harassment if you see it happening to someone else. Make use of the block button. Self care is important. Sometimes that means stepping away from the computer to recharge by doing whatever else fulfills you, reducing your workload, or letting a WiP go that’s just is only making you miserable because it is not coming together like you hoped.
I think there’s a widespread idea that fanfiction is all or mostly smut. Do you find this to be true, or is there more diversity here than people give it credit for?
There is a more diversity than fanfiction gets credit for but this can vary from fandom to fandom. If there is book, movie, show, pairing, or kink that you love, chances are there is a fic for it**, and if not, go write it. Someone, somewhere is waiting to read your fic (even if they don’t know it yet). There is also a lot of fanfiction that doesn’t contain any sex or romantic plots at all.
I know a lot of people hear “fanfic” and instantly think “oh, it’s that erotic stuff”, but that fails to account for the diversity within erotica itself. Love and attraction are so much more complicated than the biological bits. Fic about characters on the asexual spectrum for instance, may not contain the erotic elements many people generally associate with fanfic, but the relationship is no less intimate for the absence of sex.
What makes a good fanfic?
It’s the feeling you get when you hang out close friends you haven’t seen in a long time. Especially when it’s about a book series that has ended or a show that got canceled before its time. References to the original source material feel like inside jokes among a close group of intimates.
Tell us about some of your upcoming projects.
So speaking of shows that got canceled before its time….
The main thing I’m working on right now is an Hannibal–Jaws AU, which sounds ludicrous but works surprisingly well.
I wanted to write something exploring a pause in the action that occurs canonically midway through Season One. At this point Will and Hannibal are friendly but not true friends.
The villain though was giving me trouble. I wanted an opponent for the boys to hunt together that was not Hannibal’s alter ego “the Chesapeake Ripper,” but I didn’t like any of my early ideas. So I started to write a list my favorite villains and thought about what made them menacing.
The shark from Jaws
I didn’t get any further than that.
Animal imagery already plays such an important role in the show, and here’s a fun fact: did you know sharks are cannibals in utero? How could this not get any more perfect?
So I dropped Will and Hannibal into the plot from Jaws. As I outlined, the shark became Hannibal’s foil and a point of fixation and obsession for Will Graham who has been recently been beaten by another apex predator, the Ripper, two episodes ago. It’s a redemption mission for Will–a chance to redeem himself. Meanwhile his and Hannibal’s friendship grows in pursuit of a common enemy making it harder for Will to see the horrible truth that stands at his shoulder in the guise of an ally.
Plus, Maneater is THE BEST TITLE EVER for a Hannibal-Jaws mashup, which I cannot take credit for. Praise be to my work bestie who not only introduced me to Hannibal, but helped name this fic.
It’s not up yet, but will be by the end of the month and updating weekly until finished.
As an author, what appeals to you about writing specifically Hannibal fanfic as opposed to other properties?
I’ve always loved the world. Silence of the Lambs is my 2nd favorite movie of all time so when I tell you that NBC’s Hannibal is incredible and Mads Mikkelsen outshines Anthony Hopkins by leagues, it’s high praise indeed.
At its beating, candied heart, Hannibal is a dark, romantic fairytale with a wry sense of humor and beautiful imagery, which are all things I love.
Plus, the fandom is amazing! Folie a plusieurs! (Madness shared by many.) I have never been a part of a fandom that has been as welcoming, supportive, organized, and fun as the Fannibals are, and there are some INCREDIBLE writers and artists in it. I’ve also discovered so many ace writers and Fannibals through the fandom, which is a just amazing and brings me such joy.
There are several authors nowadays who have seen their original fiction become popular due to their start in writing fan fiction. Do you have similar aspirations?
NOPE. Not me. I worry that when writing becomes my business, it will cease to be that thing that brings me joy. Again, that might change one day, but I’m not going near that teacup anytime soon. There is freedom in making art for art’s sake.
What is your writing process like?
I outline everything. EVERYTHING. 500 words. 5,000 words. 50,000 words. Everything gets some form of an outline even if it’s just a short paragraph sketching out a short ficlet.
Longer pieces get a very in-depth outline, which starts as a one page word document then gets fleshed out over time into color-coded note cards and broken out into chapters.
Below is a shot of a section from my Maneater outline. Green cards are ideas, lines of dialog, description, and factoids that suit a Hannibal aesthetic. Red card are thoughts relating to the Jaws source material. Blue are the goals Hannibal is being moved to achieve. Yellow are Will’s goals. I like the the color coding method because it allows me to see at a glance where the story is out of balance.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into writing fan fic?
Watch Hannibal. Oh. Sorry, that wasn’t your question was it? I’ll try again:
JUST DO IT! Then go find an online community of writers to go hang with. Fiction with friends is always better than going it alone.
P. S. Seriously though…watch Hannibal–now available on Amazon Prime or in this budget friendly box set! https://www.amazon.com/Hannibal-Complete-Collection-Blu-ray-Digital/dp/B01JTPRHXY/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1478478149&sr=1-1&keywords=hannibal+boxed+set
(There is fic for D.H. Lawrence. D.H. LAWRENCE! Take note college lit professors.) http://archiveofourown.org/tags/D%20H%20Lawrence
If you’re interested in reading Maneater or other works by RedFive you can check them out on Tumblr.
Hopefully you found this interview enlightening or informative. Did it change your mind about fanfic or give you an insight you didn’t have before? Thanks for reading and feel free to leave any responses in the comments!