Your story is boring, right? You are so sick of it. The writing sucks, the plot is boring, with no subplot whatsoever, or even a big, bad amount of holes, and you could go on. The only glimmer of hope is that you have characters you want to tell a story about, a plot you want to build on, or maybe even some ideas and themes that you want to come through.

Minus the themes thing, does this remind you of any particular story? Bad writing, plotholes, boringness? Huuuuuuuge fandom that goes nuts for taking only the characters and plonking them in the middle of ‘get them together stories’ in a thousand different ways.

No, I’m definitely not talking about Twilight.
Okay, that’s a lie. I am talking about Twilight.

Now that we’ve established this fact in about twice the wordage needed, let’s get to the nitty gritty of it: your story sucks, you’re all too aware of this fact, and for whatever reason, you want to save it.

You know what the fanficcers do? By definition, fanfiction is simply writing one’s own story about characters or concepts that have already been created. So they take Bella and Edward and they transplant them to Mexico, or an all-human high school, or a travelling circus, or a medical drama.

In the process of changing the setting, they end up with a related subplot, like a drug heist gone wrong, an oncoming pep rally, or a lion tamer that wants to take over the world, or Bella losing her life and actually staying dead. (Oh, please, I beg of you, Jurisfiction!—make this canon!)

And in some of the really good ones, these Mary Sues we’ve come to know and hate (or love, in my case, as you all know how Edward is destined for me someday), well, they’re a tiny bit more fleshed-out. Suddenly, Edward has more to worry about than keeping Bella isolated from anybody she wants to be friends with, and begins to care a bit about the drugs not making it to the general populace of Miami, or wherever you Northern Hemispherians source your drugs. Suddenly, Bella has to worry about seducing Edward without ending up married (!), and has to deal with maybe losing her life for real.

As a side note, you’ll notice that the treatment of this in even the middle-grade Twilight fanfics is a lot more in-depth and angsty than the series itself. I have a theory that this is because they don’t want to be called out on being ‘unrealistic’. Oh, the irony.

Such is the power of the revamp. (Now that I’ve noticed the pun, pun totally intended. I’m going to start capitalising it.) And I’m not talkin’ no wishy-washy reVamp where you start from a slightly different aspect or talk from a different character’s point of view. Most of those with sucky stories they want to save have already tried that. I’m talking about uprooting these characters, and letting the fresh air of a new setting mellow both you and them out, so they can speak for themselves, explore the things they want to do, flesh themselves out.

You see, a change in setting presents so many possibilities. For one thing, your corporate espionage/romance plot may just not work during World War Two. This is where your characters come into their own. The unexpected setting stimulates your brain and gives you ideas galore: New York becomes tourist-gets-lost, urban fantasy faerie Court wars, starting a new business, alien invasion, anything you like, that you can now transplant your characters into and make an amazing story.

News flash: writing is meant to be fun! It’s why we do it! And if you’re sticking with something you hate, it’s no longer fun. So let me repeat what I said in my last paragraph:


If you want to do it, do it. It doesn’t matter. You are free to mess around with this plot as much as you like.

And that is the charm of fanfiction, most clearly seen in the Twilight fandom. Fanficcers don’t worry about the original plot of Twilight: that’s already been exhausted, and it’s time for something they can play with. Something they can have fun writing. Hey—the original is still there for them to pore over and love. Same principle applies here: you’ve still got your original story. You’re just fanficcing for now.

Thinking of what you’re writing as only fanfiction (no offence to any fanficcers out there!) can take the pressure off you as an author. You don’t have to force the plot to twist in a certain direction: it’s only fanfiction. You don’t have to come up with the most original thing ever: it’s only fanfiction. You get the idea. You can do what you want.

Or you could even just switch perspective. Midnight Sun has got to be the prime example of this: although Edward still talks like a middle-aged woman, and is still obsessed with Bella, it’s a much more interesting look into the psyche of a self-justifying stalker who hates himself, and it has a couple of sub plots involving neighbouring vampires who come to visit, the Cullens’ reaction to his newfound love and the like. As opposed to Twilight itself, which is from the point of view of a girl who’s never done anything truly terrible, and the sole plot is EWDaRD!1!Eleven!! Although it’s not perfect, it’s a definite step up.

If your characters are the ones causing you to hate your work, you already know what I’m going to say. Go find some new ones. Maybe it won’t be a boy called Scheherazade with blue hair mystical pixie flying powers, unless this is what you want to do, but the principle is the same. Or just reVamp (ha!) your old ones. Lower-grade (and some higher-grade) fanfic writers do it all the time. You ever heard of OC fics? OOC fics?

(If you seriously haven’t and you’re not just messing with me, which on this site is about 50% likely, have a squiz over here. )

Or you could try writing about a different character in the work. Stop looking at Edward and Bella, bless them, and stick Bree Tanner under the microscope.

Be warned: a few things may have to fall by the wayside in the name of Art. Maybe you’ll have to recycle the original plot you wanted in something else. Maybe a scene you really wanted to write will no longer fit. Don’t worry, just say it with me: It’s only fanfiction.

So just try it. The worst thing that can happen is that you stuff it up completely, and lets face it: you were already in that position anyway. Sometimes, you just have to let go.

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  1. Romantic Vampire Lover on 28 May 2010, 12:04 said:

    Wonderfully done, Steph. :D

  2. dragonarya on 28 May 2010, 12:12 said:

    Great article. I was just thinking it’s been a while since a writing article was posted here.

  3. Sól on 28 May 2010, 13:21 said:

    Awesome article :D
    But… why would someone name a boy Scheherazade? XD
    Though she does pwn.
    [One Thousand and One Nights ftw, I’ve read the Aldine edition so far :D]

  4. bobtheenchantedone on 28 May 2010, 14:17 said:

    I approve of this article. This is something I need to remember. : )

  5. Danielle on 28 May 2010, 14:56 said:

    I can picture SMeyer reading this and nodding like a bobblehead. Scary.

    Great work, Steph. As an unapologetic fanfic writer, I must confess that I have written a Twilight fic or two. One involved WWII and one involved the Joker.

    Ah, if only, if only it were canon.

  6. fffan on 28 May 2010, 23:32 said:

    Hmmm… I wonder what Edward and Bella would do if OMG THE WORLD WAS SUDDENLY ATTACKED BY COWS WITH GUNS!!!

  7. Steph (what is left) on 29 May 2010, 00:28 said:

    @ffan: Ooh, I know this one! Invent a cow-specific bazooka, grab the guns as they fall from the hooves of the cattle, and use them to go wage war on countries with nuclear weapons!

    Or, alternatively, … go on confessing their love for each other?

    Anyway, thanks, guys. Glad you like.

  8. swenson on 4 June 2010, 17:31 said:

    This is exactly what I’ve done with some of my old stories before! The plot just wasn’t working, but I loved my characters, so… we went from AU medieval-style fantasy to modern-day urban fantasy, with some sci-fi on the side. I guess I never really thought of it in fanfiction terms before, but now that you mention it, it pretty accurately sums up what I did.

  9. Lucy Gray on 8 January 2011, 23:38 said:

    This is amazing. Thank you, this is great advice. I will share it with all my friends :) Thanks so much!