Learning to write can only be described as a process of trial and error. For every polished piece or story that is published, there are others that are still in messy draft form.
Many writers (myself included) started writing via fanfiction. Fanfiction is fiction that is based on previously released work. The beauty of this genre is that there are so many opportunities to take the narrative in a new direction. The story can be a prequel, a sequel, go inside a character’s head, take place in an alternative universe, etc.
The one caveat is that the publishing date determines whether or not the writer is breaking copyright laws. Anything that was published more than 100 years ago (i.e. the novels of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens) is public domain and obviously fair game. The same cannot be said if the tale being crafted is based on a work that is less than a century old. Anyone writing, for example, Harry Potter or Star Warsfanfiction is wading into legally murky waters.
The answer is yes, you can learn to write via fanfiction. Some of my early works are in need of a major rewrite. Even with that cringe factor, there is no doubt that I was learning along the way. The basics of creating fiction in terms of narrative, characters, setting, etc, can be mastered via this genre. E.L. James, the creator of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, has become one of the preeminent authors of our era started out by creatingTwilight fanfiction. Regardless of one’s opinion of James’s writing, there is no doubt that she has turned a hobby into a successful career.
Not everyone takes the same route when they start out writing. That does mean, however, that one path is better or worse than another. We all learn how to craft stories in our own way and own time. One of these routes is fanfiction.
There is more to adapting a classic novel to the modern era. In theory, transferring the characters, narrative and setting from the original novel to a new novel sounds relatively easy. But the reality is that it is easier said than done.
Soniah Kamal’s new novel Unmarriageable: A Novel, was released last month. Based on Pride and Prejudice, the book is set in Pakistan. Alys and Jena Binat come from a family of five sisters. Both are in their early 30’s and neither are married, much to their mother’s chagrin. In their world, social status, connections and money play a role in where one lands on the social hierarchy. Once upon a time, the Binats were high up on the social hierarchy. But a family squabble has forced the Binats into the middle class.
At a wedding, the Binats are introduced to a pair of young men. Fahad “Bungles” Bengla takes an instant liking to Jena, while his best friend Valentine Darsee is quick to dismiss Alys. In response, she hates on him like her life depends on it. Will these two couples end up together?
I loved this book. It has the spirit of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, but it feels new and exciting. I appreciated that Ms. Kamal did not simply translate Pride and Prejudice from early 19th century England to modern-day Pakistan. She added new layers and expanded the characters in a way that did not feel like an utter destruction of the characters that Austen fans know and love. There is also an Easter egg in regards to Austen’s own life, but I will not tell you where it is in the novel. You will have to find it.
When it comes to creating well written fanfiction, a good writer knows how to balance their narrative and their voice with the narrative and voice of the original work.
Christina Boyd’s new Jane Austen inspired anthology, Rational Creatures, was published back in October. Containing 16 new stories from well-respected JAFF (Jane Austen Fanfiction) writers, the focus of the stories of Austen’s female characters. The question that each story asks is if the heroines are the standard romantic heroines or strong, capable women who are able stand on their two feet in spite of the era that they live in?
I’ve been a fan of Ms. Boyd for the last few years, I enjoyed her previous anthologies, The Darcy Monologues and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. This book is well written and an easy read. I would caution, however, that this book is not for the newbie Jane Austen fan. It requires a level of knowledge that comes with multiple readings of Austen’s work and a deep knowledge of the fictional worlds that she created.
When rewriting a classic novel for the modern age, it takes more than merely transplanting the narratives and characters from one era to another. It is the writer’s job to ensure that the emotions of both the characters and the reader is equally transplanted.
In the Sense and Sensibility reboot, Jane if Austin: A Novel, by Hillary Manton Lodge, the Woodward sisters Jane, Celia and Margot have dealt with quite a few upheavals in their lives. First their mother dies in a car accident. Then their father is accused of a business scandal. Jane and Celia must take care of themselves and Margot, who is a few years behind her elder sisters. A few years after they have rebuilt their lives, the upheaval happens again. When the rent is raised on their tea shop in San Francisco, the sisters find a new home in Austin.
While temporarily living with a cousin, the sisters have their fair share of issues with their love lives. Celia’s relationship with Teddy ended just before she and her sisters left for Austin. Jane is infatuated with Sean Willis, an up and coming musician. Meanwhile Captain Callum Beckett, a retired Marine is watching Jane from afar while dealing with his own past.
In terms of Jane Austen fanfiction, this one is well done and extremely enjoyable. While it was still Sense and Sensibility, I felt like the author was able to weave her own voice in the story as well.
The fanfiction genre is a genre that has never gone out of fashion. Readers and writers are always eager to know what has happened to their favorite characters after the original book ends.
The Darcys: New Pleasures is the third sequel of a series of Pride and Prejudice fanfictions by writer Linda Berdoll. It’s been 25 years since Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy repeated their marriage vows. Their children are now young adults and going through everything that young adults go through. The problem is that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, like all parents of children who are of similar ages, can’t exactly reconcile that their children are on the way to growing up. While this is happening, Elizabeth is dealing with a thorny medical issue and their son, to his father’s chagrin, is not only crushing on a village girl, but spending his time with his uncle Wickham’s son, who is becoming more like his father everyday.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. Taking Mr. and Mrs. Darcy 25 years into the future was an interesting choice for Ms. Berdoll to take as a writer. I also liked her previous books in the series. I can’t put my finger on it, but for some reason this book didn’t do it for me, as much as I hoped it would.
Among literary heroes, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice stands out. For over 200 years, he has been the literary boyfriend of many a female reader.
The Darcy Monologues, edited by Christina Boyd, is a series of short fan fictions with Fitzwilliam Darcy as the main character. Set in a variety of time periods, all of the stories are told from his point of view.
I wasn’t sure about this book initially, but I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because not only did all of the writers know the ins and outs of the character, but they were able to tell Darcy’s story in new and different ways.
One of the recent trends in publishing is the merger of a classic novel with the supernatural. While some of these narratives succeed, others don’t quite reach the mark.
In Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by respected Austen author Amanda Grange, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzilliam Darcy are newlyweds. Instead of traveling to the usual honeymoon spot, Mr. Darcy takes Elizabeth on a strange tour through the continent. While they appear to be as happy as passionate as any pair of newlyweds, the marriage has not been consummated and Darcy appears to have a secret. Will Darcy’s secret be reveled and will he and Elizabeth have that happy ever after?
I have been a fan of Amanda Grange for a few years, her novels of the diaries of the Austen heroes are well written and engaging. The problem is that this book is not one of my favorite Amanda Grange books. I found myself fighting to finish the book.
You being many a sentence with “It is a universally acknowledged….”
As a single person, your dates are compared to the following
If the date was good (and your female and/or straight): Captain Wentworth, Edmund Bertram, Fitzwilliam Darcy, etc
If your date was bad (and your female and/or straight) : Mr. Elliot, Henry Crawford, Mr. Collins, Mr. Wickham,
If your date was good (and your male and/or straight): Anne Elliot, Fanny Price, Elizabeth Bennet, etc.
If your date was bad (and your male and/or straight): Elizabeth Elliot, Mariah Bertram, Caroline Bingley, Mary Bennet etc
You frequently drop references to Austen characters and story lines in your every day conversations: i.e.- when sharing the details of a bad date with a friend: He was such a Mr. Collins. I wanted to puke.
You compare your parents to the parents in Austen and thank your lucky stars that your parents are not like them.
You want to see, have seen or own one of the following because more than one Austen actor is on the cast list. This is regardless of whether it is a period piece, if it is related to Jane Austen or how the reviewers reacted.
The Kings Speech
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
A Little Chaos
Summer In February
Much Ado About Nothing
Bridget Jones Diary
You own more than one copy of her novels (I have three physical different copies of Pride and Prejudice, well four if you count the digital copy).
You spend way too much time on youtube watching Austen related videos, thinking of songs that would make good videos, writing Jane Austen related fanfiction or killing time by looking up Jane Austen related products on etsy.
You still think Colin Firth is one of the hottest guys you’ve ever seen.
You own more than one filmed adaptation of the books.
And finally, you have a group of friends who are just as crazy about Jane and her books as you are.
It is universally acknowledged that Jane Austen never married during her lifetime and ended her stories with the traditional happily ever after. It is therefore, in the eye and the imagination of the reader to create the post cannon life of her characters, in and out of the bedroom.
Inspired by the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, Linda Berdoll continues on with the story of Pride and Prejudice. Over the course of approximately 10 years and three books, starting with Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife , Ms. Berdoll imagines what the married life of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy would look like.
The responses to her books have been mixed. I know some of my fellow Janeites did not like her books. But for me, I enjoyed them. The writer in me has sometimes asked about the lives of the characters after the wedding vows are complete. Ms. Berdoll answers that question in a way that, for the most part, is true to the characters as we know them. I will be blunt that it is at the end of the day, a fanfiction. A published fanfiction, but a fanfiction nevertheless.
Would I recommend it and did I enjoy it? I would recommend it and I did enjoy it, but that does not mean that this book and the two sequels that follow are everyone’s cup of tea.