Tuesday, January 22

How Harry Potter changed my life and taught me to write (otherwise known as the pros and cons of fanfiction)

When I was a kid I wrote horse stories.  All of the "books" I started to write or wanted to write had a horsey theme of some kind.  Why?  Because as a kid I read a lot of horse stories.  Then in fifth grade I was introduced to the Wonderful World of Harry Potter and life changed forever.  No, seriously, Harry Potter changed my life.  Here's how:
  1. Harry introduced me to the fantasy world of magic, and mythical creatures, and worlds apart from our own boring Muggle world.  This led me to pick up a number of other fantasy books in middle school and high school including Lord of the Rings, the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, and the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey all of which are some of my very favorite books, and THAT led me to stop writing horse stories and start writing young adult with a fantasy element type of stuff.
  2. Towards the end of high school I discovered the enchanting world of fan fiction.  It served as a completely new portal into the Harry Potter world, and within a few weeks of reading it, I had determined that I would write one of my own.  I ended up writing several.  Thus began my real introduction to writing, with actual people reading what I was writing and providing feedback.
  3. The website where I posted my fan fiction also happened to be an incredible community of people, and I began to make friends.  Friends that started as writers whose stories I read and loved, and readers that read (and shockingly) loved my stories; both of which eventually became friends that were genuinely invested in one another's lives and well-being keeping up on facebook, through e-mail, and for a lucky few meeting in real life.
Harry (and the friends I made on HPANA) essentially taught me how to write.  I built characters, developed storylines, convinced my readers that Draco and Ginny were destined to be together, and fell in love with the whole writing process.  It never occurred to me until recently, when my awesome new writing partner and friend from HPANA and I were discussing our original works, that entering the writing world with fan fiction could also be a handicap.  She pointed out that she thought it had crippled her because of the shortcuts we were able to take.  My jaw dropped at the realization that it had done the same to me, too.  The setting, the magical world and its limitations, a unique sport, characters, families, everything involved with the school, more details than we could ever describe had already been established.  All we had to do was create the story.  Introducing characters was simplified because we already knew and understood their backstory.  Determining the limits of a magical world--how much can they do--what is still not possible even with magic--was already thought out and answered for us.  So much of the deep thinking and layering of writing, the nitty gritty details that really make a place real, the solid foundation of a universe that is both unique and believable had already been done for us.  While we were developing characters and manipulating relationships that already existed, we weren't creating all of this vital story-making stuff.

Several years ago I began an epic journey into writing all seven years of the Marauders' time at Hogwarts.  Reading Marauder-era stories was one of my favorites and I wanted one of my own.  Throughout college my posts became more and more infrequent, as did everyone else's on HPANA until it was eventually shut down.  I had reached partially into their fourth year, but by that point I had really fallen in love with the original characters I created and the relationships I established.  This past NaNoWriMo I decided to try to transport my own characters and an adaptation of a couple of the marauders into a world of my own, continuing to write the story I had worked for so long on, but in an original format.  Turns out, characters respond completely differently when you put them into a new setting with new people, and anything reminiscent of the fanfiction story has become so minimal I believe it's rather difficult to recognize.  This is awesome, and even better than I had hoped, but establishing my own world has definitely been a challenge.  Yet at the same time, the chemistry between the characters remains, and I think that's why for the first time since my fanfiction days, I have consistently written something new almost every single day for over a week now.  It's not huge, a week and some change, but it's a big step for me, and a positive one at that.

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