I wont try to hide the fact that I originally skimmed over the Anna Todd story back in October, and followed it up immediately with a dramatic eye roll. Another one, I thought. For some reason, the story is suddenly making rounds on social media again, and this time, it is accompanied by some pretty nasty comments.
Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that Fifty Shades makes my soul hurt, but my issue with Fifty Shades has nothing to do with the fact that it was a Twilight fanfic. My issue with Fifty Shades is that it is genuinely fucking horrible writing. It’s a story with potential, but it BADLY needs an editing team……and a sexuality reality check. THERE IS NO WAY SHE HAD NEVER SO MUCH AS TOUCHED HER GIRLY BITS BEFORE MEETING MR. PSYCHOPATH!!!!
I’m going to stop myself right there. I am not here to bitch about Fifty Shades of Grey. I could go on and on about what makes Fifty a shitty read for HOURS. I am here to talk about the latest news regarding a fan fiction author hitting it big.
I am completely open to intelligent, RESPECTFUL discussion on this, but any nasty comments will be deleted. We are all adults here and if your argument is valid, you can make your point in well thought out and dignified way. Remember, everyone, like you, is entitled to their opinions.
Fan fiction is a damn touchy subject among the publishing industry peeps. Some have a hardcore view on fan fiction, to the point of feeling that anyone who writes fanfic should be sued for copyright infringement. Others find it flattering. I have interviewed many authors for Pure Textuality and I always ask about their feelings regarding fanfic. Here’s are two very opposing views on the subject from some peeps you *may* have heard of:
For me, I am wishy-washy about it. I don’t feel the subject of fanfic is black and white. I can’t speak for everyone, so, keep in mind, these are just my feelings.
Fanfic doesn’t really hurt anyone. Ignoring Fifty Shades of Grey’s suck factor, FSOG in no way detracted attention or revenue generated from the Twilight audience. Twlight was aimed at tweens. FSOG is aimed at an adult audience. I have to give it up to FSOG in that the series caused a bit of a sexual revolution. Woman around the globe were suddenly willing to admit that they like getting their hair pulled while doing the no pants dance.
In its manuscript form (on the fanfic site), FSOG was an original story which used the same names as Twilight. Among the fanfic community, it became wildly popular, not because it was Edward and Bella, but because of the story. When it was picked up by a publisher, the names and locations were changed. Once the changes were made, the story no longer had anything at all to do with Twilight. The only argument at that point is that it initially became popular because of the names featured.
This is a point I disagree with. My reason is that when it got picked up by a publisher and put out to the world at a charge, it was no longer a Twilight fanfic. It is an original story, and it’s a story which is nothing at all like the story of Twilight. One thing to remember, though, is there are a LOT of readers who loved FSOG who have never read fanfic, so, for them, Edward and Bella weren’t what pulled them in. Honestly, do you have any idea how many people have no clue that FSOG was originally a Twilight fanfic??? That’s because the story itself has absolutely nothing to do with Stephenie Meyer’s world.
Another great example is a fanfic I happen to be a HUGE fan of. The story Saints & Sinners by fanfic writer EricIzMine. All of EricIzMine’s stories are inspired by the world of Southern Vampire Mysteries (for those who don’t read the books, this is the series the HBO show True Blood is based off of).
Although Saints and Sinners uses names and settings from the SVM series, the story itself is completely mundane in nature. There are no supernatural characters and the plot of the story has absolutely nothing to do with the cannon of the SVM world. Sookie is not a part-fairy telepath, she’s a school teacher. Eric is not a vampire, he’s an FBI agent in town working a case. Alcide is not a werewolf, he’s also an agent working a case. Aside from the names of the characters and the names of the places they go, the story itself has absolutely nothing to do with SVM or any of Charlaine Harris’s stories. I stumbled across this story, gawd, I dont know, two years ago? Maybe three? Anyway, the story is completely unique and very well-written. I immediately wrote a review of it on Pure Textuality, fanfic reviews being something I very rarely write. I raved about the story and how the author should change the names and publish the damn book! To this day, I stand by that sentiment. For those who love mysteries, and particularly those who love serial killer novels, you’d love the story. Alas, I have no clue how to contact the author as she doesn’t have a ‘contact me’ section on her website. I only hope that she saw my review and saw how much I genuinely enjoyed her story.
Saints and Sinners is just one of MANY fanfiction stories she has which are inspired by the SVM universe.
And that, my friends, is the key. Inspired by…
As a writer, there are many things which inspire my stories. Celebrities. Musicians. TV shows. Characters in books. Movies. Hell, conversations with a good friend will occasionally spark something and it may end up in a book of mine. My point is, we are all, as writers, inspired by something. Our muse. Does that mean we are all guilty of stealing from someone else?
Take Vegas, for instance. Michael ‘Vegas’ Tremayne, the vampire-slash-hired gun in my Hellfire series. Vegas is David Draiman, front man of heavy metal bands Disturbed and Device, but he’s not Dave Draiman all the time. What I mean is he’s Dave Draiman is this picture:
I saw this picture years ago and that was it. My character was born. Aside from the look of him, Vegas is absolutely nothing like the man himself. My character isn’t a heavy metal singer. He doesn’t have those super-sexy labret talons. He doesn’t speak in the same exaggerated annunciation. That picture is merely the inspiration for the character.
My character Charlie was inspired by James McAvoy and Shaun Morgan (from Seether). Shaun’s looks with the way James McAvoy speaks in the movie Welcome to the Punch. I’ve always seen Charlie as Shaun Morgan…
…but when I watched Punch for the first time, I about dove out of my seat. Charlie’s voice had come alive!
My Hellfire short story Suffering was inspired by the song Take Me Away by Seether. When trying to get out the emotion Vegas was feeling, I listened to that song about 500 times in a row. It’s beautiful and full of despair.
Cassandra was inspired by the absolutely gorgeous and always graceful Lena Olin, who also happens to play a vampire in the big-screen adaptation of Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned. Oddly enough, the vampire performance is not what inspired me! It was her performance in the Roman Polanski flick The Ninth Gate. She was elegant and deadly. I just loved her.
Going back to the news about Anna Todd. Now, I’m not a One Direction fan, nor a Harry Stiles fan (I don’t even know which one he is lol), but I am obviously in the minority. Whatever this story is that she wrote with Harry Stiles as the character has received over 1,000,000,000 views. Yes, that says one BILLION. If the story itself sucked or was a blatant ripoff of something else, that wouldn’t have happened. All she did was use his name for the character directly inspired by him, and she didn’t for one second hide the fact that the story is INSPIRED BY HIM. The story is still all hers. So, she got signed, changed the name, and now her story will hit book shelves in a big box store near you.
We all take inspiration from something. Regardless of the fact that names are used in the fan fiction version of these stories, the stories are unique in their own right. That’s all that should matter. If the story was being published using someone else’s characters, and the author was making money off of the story with someone else’s characters, I could understand the argument of copyright infringement.
But they’re not.
Let’s take a look at this from another angle. Those who are against fanfic, I want to pose this question to you: How do you feel about retellings/reimagined stories??? This is something the YA sect is INFAMOUS for, though the YA crowd are certainly not the only ones doing it.
There are a great number of these (just a small handful shown above) that have hit all the major bestseller lists and they are heralded instead of shamed, yet one could easily argue that these stories are not at all original. Yes, they are tweaked, but how are they any more original than someone who uses character names in fanfic? Granted, retellings are usually of stories which no longer have copyrights due to age, but once the names are removed and the story is published, fanfic is no longer fanfic and therefore doesn’t violate these anyway. So why the bad rap? Just one side note, of all the books shown above, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the ONLY ONE to actually credit the author of the original story…. Copyright or no, that seems a little wrong, don’t you think??
I have seen a lot of whining on social media about Anna Todd scoring her six-figure contract. The most common sentiment I am seeing is ‘Why do I bother writing original stories if all it takes is fanfic to nail a publishing deal?’ Well, they are writing original stories, people. And for the record, Anna Todd’s “story” is over 2,500 pages long (Simon & Schuster has broken it into a 4-piece series) and she wrote it in just over a year. That’s pretty fucking impressive if you ask me.
Her story got picked up because it is original. Was the original draw because it had the name Harry Stiles in it? Absolutely, but I highly doubt the story got over a billion views simply because of his name. There had to be a good story there for people to keep reading.
THE POINT OF THIS POST: All I ask is that you take a deep breath and don’t judge based on the fact that the writer started out with fanfic. They’re not robbing anybody. They’re not making anyone read their shit at gunpoint. More importantly, their not holding YOUR readers at gunpoint and stealing YOUR sales, so why get upset about it?
On a separate note, no snubbing either! A lot of writers start out with fanfic. Fanfic is an excellent way to really stretch your legs as a writer. You write your story and put it out there. As time goes by, you get feedback and hone your craft. Give the fanfic writers out there a break. Fanfic writer. Self-published writer. Indie writer. Traditionally published writer. Newspaper column writer. Blog writer.
We are all writers.
Simple as that.
Rather than smacking Anna Todd down online for her accomplishment, how about celebrating her and giving her a well-deserved pat on the back for a billion fucking views??? I know for a FACT that I don’t know a single writer who can boast a billion copies sold, even with a free Kindle book…