Being the social animal that I am, I was at this thing that occurs at people’s houses… I believe the foreign land of Iowa City refers to those as… uh… PARTAYS or something. So I was at this party with some creative and, quite honestly, fucking brilliant people a few nights back. The subject of writing came up in the whole “New people meet each other” interview type segment when I was introduced as a writer and this ridiculously awesome girl listened and then hit me with a complete doozey of a question when I had said my dream jobs are mostly involved with continuations of existing franchises.
“So no offense because I’m actually curious but how do you maintain some aspect of yourself in that? What do you say to the people who will say you don’t do anything original?”
Now, social rules while at these events allow for some think time before a response, especially if you have a drink in your hand and a dashing smile… and I was ever so grateful for that. There’s an answer but holy crap! Girl, I just met you and you’re throwing DOWN! (Excuse me while I hide the semi I’m now working on… it’s not because you’re a girl but more because you challenged me and are AWESOME!). So I took a swig, smiled, exhaled, and started talking.
Suffice it to say that she and I got along superbly the entire night but she had a point. It’s not that I don’t have original stuff because I have a whole cache of it. It’s not that one is easier than the other (though most initial reactions will be “it is SO MUCH EASIER to just adapt stuff or write the next story for a pre-existing franchise”) or anything. For me, it’s “How can I get this central germ of an idea across in the most entertaining/marketable and quality manner?” Sometimes, if it’s “Hey, this telemarketing job SUCKS and I’m rather displeased with the institution I attend for my education,” then that’s going to turn into an original “don’t fuck with smart kids” revenge story. If it’s a more complex idea or one rooted deeper in my own life or emotional spectrum… well… especially if it is a more difficult conflict or feeling for people to deal with, it is often better to root the story with characters that exist already and people are already familiar with. Not saying that’s a “good idea” for a writer just starting out with no cred… you can’t really just walk up to Joss Whedon and say “I have your next Avengers movie” and expect ANYTHING to come of it other than giving the guy a laugh. BUT IF YOU HAVE TO TELL A STORY, why not just get the practice of adapting to pre-existing style, voice, character, etc?
So my answer…
“There are already so many quality characters and stories out there for which to frame entire backstories/histories in… why not use one as a vehicle to tell an original story? The Dark Knight franchise is not the first Batman trilogy but it IS one of the cornerstones of the franchise. So that plus the fact that it forces me to adapt to many different styles of writing and story telling thus making me a more versatile writer… hopefully. And I’m the ultimate fanboy so why not write for the characters I love and who have inspired me?”
I’m not saying it’s the best thing in the world to do when you don’t have any credit and nobody will take it seriously but in the end, it is creating and I find it fun. So why not? This isn’t my high school cross country team or the School of Music where “…because it’s fun…” is tantamount to laziness and failure. If you’ve got a story to tell, tell it. Think of it as a Ferrari with the keys in it and a long, inviting road ahead of you. At the worst, you call it “fan fiction” and never show anybody. It’s like painting a cat to look like Pikachu. It’s not but it kinda is but it’s not but it kinda is……………. and it’s fun and cute…. and yes, I have the picture.
AND THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NOT WRITERS… don’t you even dare tell me you haven’t stared out the window and day dreamed about being in your favorite show or movie and having some story take place around you that never actually happened in said show or movie. You know you do it :P. So maybe write it down on a napkin or in your iPhone or something next time or maybe just go to a party, have a bacardi and lemonade, and tell someone who is eager to meet you and learn about you.
Easy come, easy go…