Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fan Fiction, Love and Lust

A few years back, when I discovered how fan fiction was thriving online, I was amazed. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people pouring themselves into writing about various characters from Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy, Lord of the Rings, and so on. And the majority of it seemed to be erotic (and the majority of that, “slash,” but the popularity of writing about Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in bed together is something I won’t venture to explain here). People absolutely love reading each other’s stories about their favorite characters, and some of it is quite well done.

At that time, I posted online an Obi-Wan Kenobi erotic piece. (I later rewrote it in non-Star Warsian fashion as the story “As Commonplace as Rain,” published in my book Soulful Sex Volume II.) It gave me a great opportunity to get to know some members of the fan fic community, and to this day I occasionally get emails asking me for a copy of the original story. (Can’t give it to you, sorry--copyright issues and all.) The whole experience was fascinating, and I think fan fiction is something everyone who writes erotica should explore a bit. It has a lot to tell us about sexuality.

In my opinion, the reason why erotic fan fiction works so well is that the reader is already in love with the protagonist.

I maintain it’s difficult (at least for women) to get effectively and meaningfully turned on by erotic fiction that makes no attempt to get the reader to fall for the hero before she needs to lust for him. A single paragraph about his broad chest and muscular ass isn’t going to do it. For the story to work well, he has to be interesting, compelling, funny, inspiring, something. And even then, not every well-written hero--not even the classic alpha male--will work for every woman. Each reader’s taste is different.

But with fan fiction, you circumvent all these problems. If you are surfing for hot stories about Sawyer and Kate from “Lost,” it’s because you already know them and like them and have already partaken of plenty of preparatory sexual tension between them watching the show. If you are downloading a story about Anakin/Darth Vader, it’s because the particular archetype of the tortured soul moves you below the belt.

So the author of the story can get into the hot stuff relatively quickly and still have it work for you. The love is already there, so the lust can commence immediately!

Ironically, however, I have found that a lot of these amateur writers take more pains than many professional erotica writers to establish tension, develop character, and set up the love scenes. Well, perhaps it’s not actually ironic at all. These authors love the characters they are writing about and get a thrill out of their being present in the story even fully dressed and far from bed. To be interested in writing fan fiction, most of them are in love with Spike or Spock or John Locke, and consequently want desperately to do justice to that character.

I say, good for them. To me, this is a principle all writers who aspire to writing erotic fiction should apply. Pretend the hero you are creating is real; pretend he might himself come across this story some day and read about himself. Would he be impressed, write you a thank you email, possibly want to meet you? Because that’s undoubtedly the secret prayer of many who write fan fiction. They lie in bed at night fantasizing about Ewan McGregor writing them, “No one has done such justice to my portrayal of Christian in Moulin Rouge as you did in your story. You amaze me.” If, on the contrary, an author never lies in bed fantasizing about a character she’s invented, there’s a problem. You’re simply not in love with him, so how good can your writing about him be?

Some people may mock fan fiction writers, but as for me, I admire many of them. They have wonderfully vivid imaginations and genuine passion. Of course they know the difference between real and imaginary, they simply happen to like imaginary, and well they should.

Keep up the good work, you guys: show the world how love should pave the way for lust.


Erica said...

Diana as usual, and yes yet again you have completely explained what I can't in regards to fan-fic, and you've done it well. Thank you for adding this little snippet to your blog. I really enjoyed reading it and I am sitting here feeling less crazed as a result of it.

I am still writing my Hayden fics, and still loving them, and yes the reason I continue to write is because I'm just a smidge in love with the man (as nuts as that sounds). I'm having so much fun with it and I enjoy the writing process itself. It's my only way of being with Hayden, and when it comes to him I will take what I can get. Sigh...

Thanks again Diana! Brilliant blog today!

Diana Laurence said...

You are very welcome, Erica, and I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. The experience you describe is one an awful lot of people have had, me included most certainly, and it can be a perfectly healthy exercise with some nice mental and emotional benefits. Keep up the writing!


NeverEnoughJam said...

I've been writing fanfic since "Beauty and the Beast", through "The X-Files" to "The Office" these days. You explain very well the attraction of erotic fanfic: the shortcut of not having to establish the character and build a connection between the character and the reader. I knew this on one level, but you put it more succinctly. In fact, this is why writing fanfic is so dangerous for professional writers; writing with someone else's characters is like a crutch, dangerously like crack cocaine for some of us. We get sucked into someone else's universe, someone else's characters, and lose interest in creating our own. A dangerous bog, indeed.

But delightful, as you point out. :)

Thanks for your always interesting insights into the writing process.

Diana Laurence said...

You are very wise, NEJ. This is indeed the conundrum that is fanfic. It was interesting for me to "walk the line" between someone else's world and creating my own when I wrote "The Golden Padawan" (free online at It was a Star Wars universe, but the two main characters were original. But what amazes me about fanfic writers is how, although they borrow other people's characters and settings, they are often brilliant writers in their own right. I am intrigued by the idea of "The Office" stories...


time4moxie said...

I completely agree that the best erotic fanfiction comes from an intense love for the character(s) involved.

Like NeverEnoughJam (who so kindly lead me to your blog!), I've been writing Office fanfic, and it's a first for me (though I nearly wrote some X-Files fanfic years ago) - and the characters of Pam and Jim are so "real" to me, that sometimes it feels like I'm just channelling them when I write. It's good to know that I'm not as crazy as I feel in regards to writing these things....

Diana Laurence said...

Channeling is indeed how it feels, T4M, and it's that way with original characters too. Sometimes really spooky how it happens.

Hey, it was nice of Jam to pass on the word about the blog! Always great meeting more Jim and Pam fans.

And reading your story "Round Midnight" was sure a swell way to celebrate New Years Eve." It was totally how I'd picture J&P having their "first." Sigh. Well done, my dear!