Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Fan fic prompts

Many writers start out with fan-fic; fiction based on someone else's characters and story lines. I certainly did.

Back in high school, one of my best friends wrote great fan-fic TV scripts for some of the more popular shows on television at the time. My favorite was one she did for Mannix (yes, that dates me). They were hand-written on notebook paper, but she used the characters and gave them new plot lines. I wasn't confident enough as a writer to try my own, however. Yet.

I wasn't too far into my college years when my cousin introduced me to Star Trek fan writings. Paramount had taken ownership of the TV show and wasn't too sure what to do with those early magazines dedicated to the defunct program. I knew when I wrote my first (and only) Star Trek story that I was treading thin ground when it came to copyright, but figured as long as I didn't publish it and only showed it to a few people, I'd probably be okay.

(By the way, that story still exists in my file drawer. It's hand-written and my cousin and I fleshed out the plot together. I re-read it a few years back and was surprised. While there are the expected technical issues of a young writer, its actually a pretty good story. Listening, Paramount?)

Of course now, with 50 Shades of Gray beginning life as a Twilight fan-fic, the genre is growing in respectability, even if it exists in kind of a legal gray area (no pun intended).

Still, it's a great way to practice skills. The characters are already developed, the setting is pre-determined, even the overarching themes are already set in stone. All you need to do is 1) stay true to the original writer's intent and 2) focus on plot and point of view.

Today's workshop focuses on those literary elements. Remember, practice makes perfect! Using an existing book, movie or TV show allows you to slide on some elements and concentrate your practice on specifics. The prompts below focus on plot and point of view, so decide where you want to focus your energies and get crackin'!

To use these prompts as practice, use the following steps as a guide:

1. Choose one prompt as a 5-10 minute warm-up write. Use this time to relax and get your head in the writing game, so to speak.

2. Choose a second prompt for a longer writing, 30-45 minutes. Tie the prompt to a work in progress or start fresh. Be cognitive of the choices you're making as you're writing. Note the techniques you use, the sentence structure, the arrangement of words.

3. Reflect. This is the step we most often ignore and yet it's the step where the learning takes place. After you've done both writings, take another 10 minutes and, in writing, record what you did, how you did it, what you learned, what you need to change either in your process or your writing. Don't skip this step!


First, choose a TV show, movie or book that you love and know inside out (this makes it easier to focus on plot and point of view instead of everything else). Then choose from the prompts below and have some fun!

  • Put those characters into a unique spot and have them get out of it. Use an omniscient viewpoint or write as a TV/movie/play script.
  • Write from the point of view of one of the minor characters. Use this "outside" pov to show us a different side of one of the main characters.
  • Make up a new character who meets the established characters for the first time.
  • Explore the work by going deeper into the established action: two neighbors discussing Bilbo's sudden disappearance or two people from District 13 discussing Katniss' act of volunteering for the Games, for example.

Have fun and leave a tip on your way out!


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