Writing fanfic v writing original fic: some thoughts

As you know from my March reviews, I read virtually no fanfic last month but that didn’t stop me from thinking about it, and about my own tendency to write both fanfic and original work.

Over the last twelve months I’ve published two novels, a couple of short stories and three fanfics. (For details, see previous posts.) The fanfics were longer than the original short stories, and took more research. It occurred to me you might like to know some of the differences between original and fanfic writing from the point of view of the author.

First of all, when writing fanfic, it’s important to know the ‘canon’ or original book, show or film. There’s no need to stick to it. As soon as my story starts, I’m veering away from the original, whether my tale takes place during the canon, before or after, or in an alternate universe. However, it’s important to know what the characters were originally up to. If, for example, one of them died in canon but I want them alive in my story (my The Paths of the Living which is LotR fanfic)has Boromir survive the attack of the orcs) I have to explain, credibly, why my version differs. Other fans are unlikely to read or enjoy something that ignores canon and drives a coach and horses through it. My novel SGX has original characters set against the concept of the Stargate – it has failed to attract any attention from SG fans and cannot, of course, be published as anything other than fanfiction. I’m still quite proud of it but I can understand that fans of SG1 want ‘their’ heroes. In a completely alternate universe (The Morning Gift has Bodie and Doyle of The Professionals in eleventh century Oxfordshire) the core character traits need to be maintained or there is no point using the character or trying to appeal to other fans.

Obviously when writing original fiction there’s a need to know the ‘backstory’ of each character but at least I’m responsible for that backstory and readers can’t contradict me. I do, however, have to be careful not to contradict myself!

Most of us don’t recall every detail of the shows we have seen. Books are easy, because it’s always possible to re-read. Happily, TV shows are easy, too, because the episode scripts are online and can be read and referred to. In this way, if I missed an episode I can still get its full impact provided I know the context, and if I can’t remember e.g. a minor character’s name, well, there it is on iMDB. There are also trailers and so on (on YouTube) to help the writer become reacquainted with movements, voices, etc. Sometimes, as with two of the auction fics I wrote, there’s a need to binge watch a new show. For The ballad of o guerreiro I had to watch Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard and for The fault…is not in our stars I had to finish watching the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. The watching is not pure pleasure; it’s important to concentrate and notice details that can be incorporated into a story. Having said that there has to be some pleasure involved or the stories won’t arrive in the author’s brain.

When writing original fiction, once I have created the characters I feel as though I know them in much the same way as I ‘know’ characters in books or on screen.

Most fans talk about needing to get the voices right. It’s essential to listen carefully to characters in a show. Listening gets the writer closer to their patterns of speech, vocabulary they frequently use, mannerisms such as pauses, and so on. I try to use a beta reader who is also familiar with the canon so that they can spot where I’ve deviated from any particular character’s norm. I usually write Brit characters but if I ever write e.g. American ones, I look for a beta who is also familiar with the speech patterns and vocabulary of the country. I once wrote a story in The West Wing (Campaign) and my beta saved me from calling a sweater a jumper…

In much the same way it’s important to keep original characters ‘in character’. Many writers (I’m one of them) use extensive notes and glossaries, some of which they share with their readers but the primary purpose is to keep the writing consistent. Not to mention details like eye colour or favourite drinks!

Some critics and authors sneer at fanfiction, calling it derivative and lacking in imagination. This should not need to be countered, but here we go.

All art is in some sense derivative. The creator is inspired by other art or by events in real life. Many artists begin by trying to recreate well known works. An original writer who is using historical fact or current scientific research to underpin their story is no less derivative. Similarly, much original work relies on traditional tropes and we all know there are very few original plots. A book or show introduces characters to readers and viewers. If these characters are sufficiently well developed and likeable fans will inevitably weave further stories about them. Writers create new stories about Arthur and his knights, about vampires and about elves; artists and architects such as Gaudi (see header picture) are inspired by the natural world. When I wrote Lord of Shalott I had to be careful about ‘canon’, particularly Tennyson’s poem, and the only reason my work could be published was that the ‘canon’ was out of copyright.

All writing requires imagination. (Even the writer of non-fiction has to imagine how their words will come across to the reader.) Imagining a story or scene involving someone else’s characters is not much different from imagining a story or scene involving invented characters. Nobody accuses the creators of the modern BBC Sherlock of lacking imagination but this is fanfiction all through.

Another common misconception about fanfiction is that it inevitably revolves around sex. Admittedly there is some erotica. After all, readers like it! But a great deal of fanfiction is either ‘gen’ or only brings in erotic elements as part of a complex plot whereas I have read a great deal of original fiction that is more sex than story. Obviously, mainstream commentary will highlight anything that titillates the public. I have personally included explicit sex in some of my work, such as The Paths of the Living, and The Morning Gift, but I have written other fanfiction where sex barely rates a mention. As with original work it really does depend on the story.

Some people seem to regard writing fanfiction as a kind of apprenticeship to what they call proper writing. As I began writing both at about the same time I have never subscribed to this idea. Also, the words ‘proper writing’ tend to assign a higher value to things that are made for sale rather than given out of love. Much fanfiction is written and posted freely for the pleasure of other fans and the resultant fan community is itself a reward.

I enjoy the fanfic community and I enjoy the company of other original writers. Sometimes the two sets overlap, possibly more often than people think. I don’t feel my writing is really different in either genre. I do know both give me pleasure and I hope they offer something to my readers too.

For anyone who wants to find my fanfiction, it’s all (96 works) on AO3 (Archive Of Our Own) under the pseudonym moth2fic. You don’t have to be a member to read, to download, or to comment. And most of it is, I hope, accessible to non-fans who have no idea of the canon.

The picture shows details on Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We visited before construction was finished.

Last month’s fanfiction reviews

I should say before I begin that other than dragonflower1 whose other work I don’t know, these authors are friends of mine, online and in one case in rl too. But then I met them via fandom and I usually only make friends with people whose work I enjoy!

Anyone who is a fan of SGA might like to look at the secret santa stories from Christmas 2020. You can find the whole collection here: https://archiveofourown.org/collections/sga_secret_santa_2020/works and it contains a story by me (the author reveal was on Christmas Day). I wrote: Not Elves Exactly…

But here are my favourites that might well be accessible to non-fans. You can find them all in the collection.

lock it away (keep my heart at your place) by nagi_schwarz*****

In an accident, John is locked into a coma where he retreats into his dreams. Rodney is able to penetrate those, and gradually gain John’s trust in order to bring him out of the dream and the coma. The dreams are based on the world of Harry Potter, with all the magic implied, plus John’s love of music. Readers only need to know that Rodney is a scientist and John is military leader of the expedition to Atlantis.

A Matter of Trust by dragonflower1**** John/Todd

I felt almost obliged to read this, because I wrote John/Todd for an auction fic. This was much more strongly based on canon than my story, and had an open ending so that the reader could continue the tale themselves. (You can read my story here: Enemy Mine https://archiveofourown.org/works/26286616)

To access these stories you need to know that the Wraith are predatory enemies of the humans in the Pegasus galaxy and feed on their life force, and that Kolya and his men are human enemies of both Wraith and Atlantis.

Feel the Magic by Brumeier*****

A delightful introduction to a new ‘verse by the author, whose work I like. The SGA characters are recast in a special detective force, MagiCorps, which deals with magical crimes on this world rather than alien events on Atlantis. I’m hoping for more cases.

Not that kind of task force by Brumeier***** (find it via her dashboard)

Because of the MagiCorps story I wandered off to reread this one by the same author. The paranormal investigations here are for H5O, not SGA so the ‘verse has more canon elements, but is just as fascinating and again I want more.

Both these are AUs in that they take place in worlds with magic, not something that occurs in canon.

A deal to be made by pushkin666 ***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/28816863?  

The author was unable to resist a bdsm approach to the Johnson/Van de Leyen standoff. Hilarious (and very short) I think this is a perfectly valid use of real person fiction – not unlike cartoons and satire shows like Spitting Image.

The header picture is my current membership icon for OTW(AO3) which for those of you new to the fanfic world is Organisation for Transformative Works and one of their projects, Archive Of Our Own which hosts fanworks on ‘our own’ servers which means they’re not at risk of deletion. The OTW also campaigns for the legitimacy of fanworks and will defend them in court when necessary and appropriate.

Fanfiction over the holiday

I’ve used a Photoshopped version of a promotional picture of the main ‘team’ from Stargate Atlantis for my header, because that’s the fandom where I’ve been most active over the last month.

To anyone who isn’t sure about fanfiction, I have written more about it elsewhere but let me just assure you that it isn’t by any means all very amateur or pornographic. There is a lot of extremely good writing, some of it by published authors who enjoy playing in other writers’ ‘sandpits’ and some of the best stories are ‘gen’ involving no romance or sex whatsoever. Where there is sex – and of course there is, in any genre – it is not usually as explicit as some I have come across in published and comparatively mainstream fiction. And of course there is dross, as there is, again, in any genre.

I know people in most of my favourite fandoms. Some I have only met online but some are ‘real life’ friends. Fandom has given me some of the most rewarding and lasting friendships in my life. Some of them are superb writers. Others are excellent and insightful critics. I’ve met them through fan conventions, through smaller fan ‘meets’ and through collaboration online.

I rarely look beyond AO3 for my fanfic reading. As an ex-volunteer I’m familiar with the platform, with its ratings, tags, etc. and know how to subscribe to series, find collections, and so on. As this year saw the archive achieve 7,000000 works in over 40,000 fandoms, there has to be something for everyone.

For everyone who already enjoys fanfiction, I’m sure you’ll share my quiet pride that our very own archive has reached such a fantastic place.

For anyone who enjoyed The Merchant of Venice, West Side Story or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, fanfiction is for you. Give it a try and if you can’t find work that appeals, ask some of us to point you in the right directions!

December is a wonderful month for fanfiction.

I wasn’t involved in the Yuletide fic exchange this year but I have great fondness for it. The first ever fanfic I read was a Yuletide offering: The Water Horse by Thamiris***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/1630331 The rest is history…

I did get involved in the SGA (Stargate Atlantis) Secret Santa and have been avidly perusing the other offerings. It was fun trying to guess the authors who weren’t revealed until Christmas Day. My own contribution for anyone who’s interested was Not elves exactly… which can be found at https://archiveofourown.org/works/28091619 My recipient’s request let me explore world and culture building to my heart’s content. The team find a strange planet…

There were some excellent stories this year, but as they all require some knowledge of canon I won’t go into details. If you’re an SGA fan, you can find the collection and indulge. https://archiveofourown.org/collections/sga_secret_santa_2020

Of course, as usual, I’ve also been following the Marylebone Monthly Illustrated by Mafief, okapi and Small_Hobbit ***** and am always thrilled when one of the small offerings in this delightfully tweaked Sherlock Holmes universe turns up in my inbox. I inevitably want to leave kudos and am stymied by the rule that only lets you do so once. I was also delighted to receive a gift fic from Small_Hobbit, one featuring my favourite of her characters, Mouselet. Mouselet’s Review of the Year***** is quite short, very funny, and gives a taster for anyone who has not seen this writer’s work before. https://archiveofourown.org/works/28240377

I also want to recommend A Cyber Christmas Carol by asparagusmama***** This is a robotic AU version of Dickens’ story and is very clever and imaginative. https://archiveofourown.org/works/28292130 Save it to read next December!

I will confess to still not having read all the Pros Big Bang stories that were published in October. All I can say is that Secret Santas in fanfiction and special stories/giveaways in original fiction simply stole my time. Maybe this month… though I still have at least two SGA stories to read..

Halloween Gift: a gift story for Halloween

Happy Halloween everybody!

When I was at boarding school (UK) we made a big fuss of Halloween. We dressed up and told ghost stories, and the older teenagers put on spooky plays. We had candles and games like bobbing for apples. I have no idea how the staff coped with a lot of excited children in sheets rushing around a dark but candle-lit Victorian building. They must have been foolish or brave or both. I don’t suppose today’s health and safety rules would allow it! That’s the school in the header photo – imagine it with candles in every window and no electric lights on!

American trick or treat hadn’t crossed the Atlantic in those pre-internet days, so we didn’t do that, but in any case, trick or treating was associated with Mischief Night, the night before Bonfire Night in November. Everything nowadays seems to have been amalgamated into one end of October/beginning of November festival, no doubt to satisfy the demands of council-supported firework displays. And we got the American trick or treat bug, though Brit children mostly stick to spooky costumes, not princesses or supermen. In Portugal the older teenagers rush around with very ‘realistic’ ghoulish masks and I’m told by friends that Portugal has declared a 48 hour lockdown to prevent too much mingling this year!

Nowadays, I live in an old stone cottage (seventeenth century) with low ceilings, oak beams and a resident poltergeist. (A next door neighbour who has since moved away actually got her priest to come and do an exorcism.)

I don’t watch scary films – they make me jump, hurt my neck muscles, and give me a headache. But I like ghost stories, just for reading, not viewing!

You might recall my free story last Halloween which was based on our house’s history. The photograph that accompanies it is of our lounge window – where I write! And it’s clear that someone (not us) pebble dashed the front wall, presumably to stop it falling down. The modern facing hasn’t deterred the poltergeist in the slightest.

All of which leads to my free Halloween story for this year. It’s called Halloween Gift and is, like last year’s, in my ‘free stuff’. (See the tabs at the top of the page.) It’s about ghosts and witches (and a cat) but is ff and is (hopefully) cheerful fluff to offset the creepiness of the season.

I’d also like to link to some ficlets I wrote for an October ‘monsterfest’ run by a writers’ group I belong to on Dreamwidth (ushobwri). The ficlets are a mix of original writing and fanfic. They are interspersed with a few posts and poems you might recognise from this site. They can be found at https://archiveofourown.org/collections/Shoobie_Monster_Fest/works/27267490 and you could enjoy exploring the other contributions too.

Sorry this is so late in the day – possibly too late for friends in Australia and NZ – but I committed myself to posting on a FB group and that needed the first ‘publication’ of the freebie. I got a 3.30.pm slot UK time, so…

I don’t suppose many people will allow their children to go trick or treating this year. Greater Manchester, where I live, is in Tier 3 lockdown and visiting other people’s houses is illegal. I suppose you can knock at the door, but think about handing over coins or sweets without adequate hand sanitiser – not recommended!! So I’m going to curl up with some TV (not Halloween related) and then do my usual screen switch-off an hour before bedtime and read a couple of spooky stories.

Whatever you’re doing, enjoy the festival – and stay safe!

Monster Fest

A Dreamwidth community I belong to (ushobwri) has a Monster Fest during October when members are prompted to write about various ‘monsters’ and link to things they have written in the past as well as reccing work they have enjoyed by others. At the end of October they are encouraged to upload their offerings to a collection on AO3.

(At this point they go into support mode for members who are doing nanowrimo in November. The group’s name is a condensation of ‘you should be writing’.)

Not all the work is fanfic. AO3 is happy to host original work if it is part of a fannish collection or uses obvious fannish tropes. Members of the group are mostly interested in fanfic but write original stuff too.

One or two of the things I posted are already on this site in among other ‘free stuff’ and poetry, but most of the ficlets apart from the first one are new. The shifter ficlet is mm romance (nothing explicit) but otherwise the fics are gen. I have still used ‘not rated’ and ‘chose not to warn’ because my volunteer work for AO3 showed me you can never second guess what will trigger readers.

They are, inevitably, very short, because there were only a couple of days between prompts. But taken as a whole I’m quite pleased with them. I hope you will be too!


The picture was made for the community as an icon and we were told we could share it. I have no idea who made it.

Third and last auction fic: The fault…is not in our stars.

I finally finished my last auction fanfic. I had only offered one for FandomTrumpsHate but the mods asked if people were willing to write for the second highest bidder. In a moment of insanity I agreed!


The problem was that it was, to me, a new fandom. I had, admittedly, offered to write anything! So, I had to binge watch the first season of the show (Star Trek Discovery) and then find a friend who already knew it to hold my hand through plotting and writing. It was also a het pairing which is not something I write frequently. Plus, it was a canon romance so I had to be doubly careful. However, I managed to twist canon to give the characters an extra mission on another planet and had fun creating aliens for interaction.

I’m glad, on the whole, that I offered to write for the auctions. They were both very good causes. Fandom For Australia was for charities with a focus on the aftermath of the fires, and FandomTrumpsHate was for a variety of charities including justice for migrant children, gay rights, and other causes I support.

I did contribute a small amount to various charities anyway, but thought that writing and having my bidders contribute was a way to make extra for them!

I might offer again but I think I would be careful only to offer fandoms I’m already familiar with. All three requests were very specific and required a lot of research and careful watching of episodes. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it – I did – but it was very time consuming, and to add to that, it was hard to find beta readers/proof readers who were also familiar with the fandoms because of course my friends and usual readers tend to share my tastes!

So, to recap:

*A story in Star Trek Picard for Fandom For Australia. I ended up loving the show as much as my giftee does but again it meant a lot of time catching up! And the pair she wanted spent all of ten minutes together on screen plus it had to be an ‘everybody lives; nobody dies’ story to make sense of the request.

*A story in SGA for FandomTrumpsHate, with a rare alien/human pairing. That was hard but once I’d got my head round it the idea was fun to explore.

*A story in Star Trek Discovery, also for FandomTrumpsHate. Canon het romance but one which is in some ways doomed so working out a plot was hard. Also, needed binge watching.

My stories are on AO3 and are all getting kudos which is nice. The SGA giftee is thrilled with their fic, which is good. I haven’t heard from the other two yet. I hope they’re equally pleased.

The graphic for this post was made by me in Photoshop and Paint using two promotion photographs of the main characters in my Discovery story, on a background of stones by James Coleman (free download on Unsplash).

Enemy Mine: another fanfiction story


I’m telling you about my fanfiction again because I spent a great deal of time this year writing for the Fandom Trumps Hate and Fandom For Australia auctions in which someone bids for your work. The highest bidder gets a fic and pays to a specified charity. I foolishly agreed to write another fic for my second highest bidder in FTH and am still working on that.

My highest bidder wanted Stargate Atlantis, which is one of my fandoms, and requested an unusual human/alien pairing. I had great fun researching and writing the story and so far, people seem to like it.

Writing fanfiction is interesting and in no way do I regard it as less valuable than my original work. It does require slightly different skills with regard to plot, location and character, but it demands the same attention to language and story structure.

I explored the breakdown of team dynamics in the face of one member moving in a different direction, and possible aspects of the culture of an alien race who were only ever depicted in the show as a stereotypical enemy.

The story is very loosely based on canon, with an alternative perspective on some events, until near the end when it veers off into an alternative universe altogether with a happy ending. I think if you know the show at all you will probably find it all makes sense, but I also think anyone who doesn’t know the show and characters might find the story confusing at times because I condensed various references to canon in order not to spend ages writing about things fans already know.

Readers might notice that all the chapter headings are based on quotations from various books, shows and songs. The graphics are by me. The title is the title of a film I like which also has a human/alien romance though nothing else in common with my story.

Anyway, some of you might like sci-fi and some of you might like the human/alien romance. If so, give it a try and I hope you enjoy it!

The ballad of o guerreiro

Just a brief post to let you know what I’ve been doing. The first of my fandom auction fics is posted. My winner in the Fandom For |Australia auction is a close friend and when she asked for this particular pairing I had to watch the show rapidly! My story has spoilers for Season 1 so unless you’ve either watched or don’t intend to watch, don’t read! It was hard work turning ten minutes of screen time into ten thousand words but I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I hope some of you will enjoy it too. I especially hope my giftee likes it!

I don’t often mention my fanfic here but thought I would since it occupied a huge chunk of my time and was also for a very worthwhile cause. I think between us my winner and I contributed a great deal more than buying the odd bracelet!

So, if you’d like to read the result, see https://archiveofourown.org/works/26159467

…and… I also offered for Fandom Trumps Hate.


will take you to the main site of the organisation.

It’s basically an American thing but as so much of the hate-speech on social media is generated in America and then goes world-wide I feel it’s a good cause to support. I’d be more than happy to support a similar movement in Europe but so far as I know, there isn’t one!
My creator page is:


And yes, I say between 5-10k but if a prompt really interests me I’m likely to write more, even a lot more! So length is negotiable!

I would also like to mention a friend’s page:


is MistressKat’s page. She’s a brilliant writer (you might remember my rave review of Vlarian Oath). (Totally off topic, last night she managed to fine tune this site of mine to remove an unwanted tag and re-establish my icon for commenting elsewhere. I ought to contribute to something somewhere for that alone but instead, I made dinner…)

As with the Australian site, go browse, and if anything appeals to you (not just our offers) bid!

Fandom For Australia

I write, and I write fanfiction, so when I heard about Fandom For Australia it made sense to sign up. I have a lot of friends in Australia and have been distressed by the recent fires. I’ve donated to a couple of charities and a couple of sponsored events but wanted to do more.

https://fandomforoz.livejournal.com is running a fic auction to benefit Australian charities for the relief of various issues arising from the fires.

I haven’t done this kind of fic auction before, but I’ve made a ‘creator page’ and I’m hoping for bids for me to write a fanfic. And that means, of course, that I’m hoping one of you will bid!

Any of my fandoms would be fine – you can get a full list by looking at my AO3 dashboard https://archiveofourown.org/users/moth2fic and clicking on ‘Expand Fandoms List’. But I’ve mentioned my ‘main’ fandoms.
I’ve promised at least 1000 words but knowing myself, any story is likely to be longer than that. So if you’d like me to write in a particular fandom or even to a specific prompt, bid for my services!
There was a viewing period, which I’ve managed to miss, but bidding starts today and my creator page is:

If none of my offerings appeal, you might find others that do! Anything that raises money for the cause is welcome!