… the practice of acquiring full or partial control over a landscape from a particular book, TV series or movie and occupying it with existing or new characters performing original actions.
This is, of course, the merging of two definitions: colonialism and fan-fiction. Although they are completely different things, they actually share a common aim and employ a similar methodology.
Follow these simple tips if you fancy delving into the murky world of fan-fiction:
- Don’t lose sight of the rules of good fiction just because you are adding a pre-existing arena to your literary empire. For example – don’t gratuitously kill off poor old Harry Potter just because you can (cue evil laugh). But if he must die because it makes sense as part of a well worked out plot – then this is fine. Kind of.
- Don’t undermine the integrity of the story you are trying to tell by introducing character traits that are unlikely to be true to the original stories. For example – no matter how tempting it may be to portray Bart Simpson and Buffy the Vampire Slayer snogging behind the bike sheds – this is unlikely to happen. I mean – he’s only 10 for a start!
- Make it so amazing that people will want to read more. If you’re planning on serialising your fan-fiction on a website or blog – do it for love or do it for love. Don’t bother begging for reviews or comments and declaring that you will only post the next instalment if you receive a certain amount of feedback.
- Add more information about the characters. Tell us about Katniss Everdeen’s hitherto unknown childhood pursuits. Entertain us with Gandalf’s antics at wizard college (hey – now that’s a great idea!). Reveal to us what Peppa Pig will do at her prom. Fans always want to know more about their favourites, so make sure that you don’t disappoint.
- Get yourself a Beta Reader to check your grammar, spelling, readability and syntax before you unleash your masterpiece into the world. It would also be advantageous if they are a fan because they will be able to tell you if the story works in the manner intended.
- Avoid cliches. Spend a little time getting to know existing fan-fiction. Some aspects of the landscape have already been covered many times over. Always look for a fresh angle to cover with your carefully crafted prose.
Above all – respect your fans. You may be doing this for love rather than money, but make sure that it is the love of the fans that drives you rather than love of twisting their beloved characters out of whack.
And one last thing – if the copyright owners detect that you are making money out of their characters then they will stamp down hard on your pinkies – and that can really, really hurt, so be careful.