Kindle Worlds: A (Former) Fan Fiction Writer’s Perspective

Well, let’s talk about Kindle Worlds, then.

In 2001, I graduated with my PhD in second language writing after seven years. Before I began those seven years of academia, reading a ton of stuff that wasn’t about creative writing, I had this idea to become a novelist. And I’d had some nibbles, and then I went off to grad school (again!) and disappeared for seven years.

After grad school, I was rather keen to see if I could still write. So, I thought a safe arena to try this out in would be fan fiction. As it turns out, Harry Potter fan fiction. I was captivated by Book 3, The Prisoner of Azkaban. I also wondered how Rowling could build a character like Snape so he’d actually be like he was portrayed (I wasn’t one of those change Snape women who wanted to put him in Argyll socks and wash his hair.) Mind you, this is weird for me. IF the author has done their job, I am usually pleased with what there is on the page, and I never feel the need to add a foot note. But here, there were too many questions that I wanted to answer.

One day I was thinking about this Snape problem, and a voice whispered in my ear. “Come over here,” it said. “Let me tell you what happened.” And it was NOTHING like what really happened, of course. But, this is me talking about why Kindle Worlds may not be such a good idea for you fan fiction writers–namely, you don’t know what you’re going to want in the future.

Read more, if you are so inclined.

The character that whispered in my ear was a young man named Errol Klarion. He turned out to be Severus Snape’s cousin, and what he told me was a story about their growing up together. It was The Substance of Shadows, and it involved their time as children and their time at Hogwarts, and their time afterwards. The damned thing was about 3 books. I stopped writing after about a book and a third, because

1. I had proven to myself I could still write.
2. I had started to get addicted to the audience that found the story compelling. It was one of the most popular fan fictions of the day, and I worried that if I didn’t walk away, I would never write anything of my own to sell because I liked the petting.
3. The original character’s stories were more compelling to me than the Harry Potter character stories, especially as the last three books came out, and they didn’t measure up (IMHO) to the first four books.

Please notice: I used the words original characters. In the end, Substance of Shadows turned out to be a thinly disguised original piece with Harry Potter elements thrown in. It was very much a first draft kind of endeavor. I was writing for a hungry audience (for which I was grateful), and while the ideas were good, the craft wasn’t nearly where it would be now, thanks to the awesome power of writer education!.

And back then, in 2005, there was such a stigma for fan fiction if you were trying to break in. So I decided I’d best stop. (BTW, you’ll note that my serious year of beginning to try to publish is 2007. I made a mistake in 2005 of accepting a job that ate my soul and helped me gain about 50 pounds. At least the job has changed. 😛 ) So, I pulled the fan fiction down, although if you do a search for “Errol Klarion,” you can still find vestiges of him floating around the Internet in his previous incarnations.

I have no regrets about writing the fan fiction story, but I realized that the Klarion story was bigger and cooler than a limited fan world would allow. So, I pulled the story back in time, and I’m working on the first one now, the first of a 70-year family saga that starts with two Klarion sisters in the 1840s, and ends with one Klarion daughter trying to save her mother in 1914. Errol and Stephanus (note the name change, thanks. Severus is not Rowling’s–it’s an actual name, but I ain’t going there.) I wanted to write that original story and share it with the world. If I can write it well enough and get it published, and all that stuff.

***

And what does this mean for Kindle Worlds? Let’s just say that I hadn’t known I wanted to use pieces of my fan fiction for later original fiction. And let’s just say that, in order to improve my audience, I might have published it at some place like Kindle World, provided, of course, all rights were groovy with the author, etc, etc. And let’s just say that I made a little bit of money with it.

Then let’s say that I decided I wanted to use those characters elsewhere. Um…since they are part of a story that someone else technically owns the rights too, I’m not sure I can. My problem is the opposite of a published author’s problem. They want to know if someone else can make money off their characters (and that looks like yes, if the requisite permissions are given.) But in my case, the neo-pro author, I may have closed the window to a set of characters that I’m loving plotting and writing about.

Since one doesn’t know what the future will hold, this could be problematic.

Now, I suppose if you’re only writing strictly about the characters someone else created, and you’ve no intention of adding anything of your own, or if you know for absolute certain that you aren’t going to do anything but fan fiction, ever, well, heh, rock on, you crazy diamond. But food for thought, my fan fiction writing friends. Food for thought.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

2 thoughts on “Kindle Worlds: A (Former) Fan Fiction Writer’s Perspective”

  1. Amen, Tribesmate. Choir here agreeing with everything you said. And the worst part of leaving that stuff up there is if the writers actually ever get tapped to write tie-in fiction (which is legally licensed fanfiction that authors can make money off of), they can never use the ideas they wrote in the fanfic. Too many legal hassles.

  2. Nice. Very good points.

    I agree. I think fan fiction can be a great ice-breaker for some writers, but in most cases you can go farther and do more if you’re working in your own world, not somebody else’s.

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