Fan Fic Vs. Inspiration


Everywhere you look on blogs these days, someone’s talking about 50 Shades of Grey. The overnight success aspect, the media’s fascination with it, the fact that it was once fan fiction.
This is the thing that I’ve been talking about with my husband, the fan-fic thing. A lot of writers are really upset that this was once fan-fiction and is now making money hand-over-fist.
Now, I’ve not read the book, and I only read the first Twilight book (took me 6 weeks, oh my God). But people are upset that E.L. James took Stephanie Meyers’s characters and put them in her own book.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been inspired by other media, and while I’ve never published my work as fan-fiction, some of it is very clearly inspired by shows I watch and movies I see. In fact, one of the first things I wrote (for myself) was a new ending to one of my favorite books, because I didn’t feel like the heroine deserved what she got. What I loved about that new ending was that I understood the characters enough that I could write them well, in their own voices. I found it recently and was once again amazed that these secondary characters sounded so true to how the author wrote them.
Anyway, that’s not what this is about. It’s about being inspired and what is fan fiction and what is not. I know I’m not the only person inspired by shows and use those as a jumping point for my own writing.
Most obvious is A Ghostly Charm, my only paranormal, wherein the hero is a ghost tour leader who doesn’t believe in ghosts until they start showing up. The idea was actually based on a dream I had about Dean Winchester leading ghost tours at Halloween to make extra money. Mal is very close to Dean in looks and attitude, though he has a different backstory and a different sidekick. (I wrote another paranormal, but it is way WAY too close to SPN for me to publish it.)
Alex in Breaking Daylight is very similar to Alex Karev from Grey’s Anatomy in looks and attitude, though he has a different backstory and is a soldier instead of a doctor.
Gabe and Peyton from Hot Shot? Doug Ross and the pediatrician intern that Maria Bello played, taken from the hospital and dropped on a mountainside.
Something to Talk About was a mash-up of Virgin River and Gilmore Girls, both of which I was obsessed with the summer I wrote it. Heck, in my head, the diner where Ellie worked was Luke’s Diner.
So my thing is, when does it stop being inspiration and start being fan fiction? I feel like I made my own characters, but I did have those characters as a jumping point.
Have you been inspired by TV? Or are you like Nora, who never has an actor in mind lest she use the actor/character instead of making her own?
FWIW, I’m using Geoff Stults in looks only. He’s not Walter from The Finder. I only wish I could get him to lighten up a bit like Walter!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bernadette Walsh
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 08:31:18

    Great post. I agree, it is hard to draw the line.I read the Grey trilogy and while it certainly wasn’t well written there was something compelling there–why else would so many people buy it? There are all these Jane Austen books out there–are people not upset about that fan fiction because Jane is dead or because it hasn’t reached the height of the Grey books? As a romance writer I think anything that gets more people to read romance books, especially e-books, can only help the whole community. Sour grapes serve no one.


  2. Leslie Garcia
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 10:28:45

    Loved your blog, MJ–like seeing the thought process. I’ve only used fan-fiction twice, and only one in published form–I wrote a John Wayne/Dean Martin based western because my sister and I had a crush on a young man in her drama classes–my father burned it when I got kicked out of home, and I wrote it in high school chemistry class. Love’s Lasting Song is almost completely based as far as physical appearance on Argentinian singer Diego Verdaguer, but since I only saw him in televised appearances when I was just learning Spanish, I don’t feel very guilty–basically I created him as a character anyway. But I did enjoy thinking about it.


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