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Saturday, January 4, 2014

FanFiction Writing for Kids

In my burgeoning 40th birthday crisis (that started with a nine season X-Files marathon and went where Journey and U2 are suddenly cool again, video games are the priority for spare time, and tshirts are the preferred mode of self-expression), I've been reading Star Wars Extended Universe (EU) fiction, Doctor Who comics, and countless Tumblr blogs with mashups and spins on my favorite characters. In the process, I've come to appreciate the creativity of fanfiction. So, based on a handful of blogs I found wondering why people write fanfiction, I found a few things to consider for young writers:
Using a 4th grade Common Core writing standard for an example, (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3b Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.) students could use a well-known character such as Percy Jackson, and give him a new situation to respond to. Such as what if Percy went on vacation to Colorado and encountered Choine the snow goddess? How would he react? In X-Files fanfiction, writers try to tell a story with the characters in 155 words or less, which means you have to tell your story succinctly and with careful word choice. Can you describe how Percy reacts in 155 words or less and have it be believable? Can you draw your readers in that quickly? You could even do this with a novel read-aloud or as a guided reading activity. Which brings me to my second point:
When writing shorter pieces (because in reality, most of our kids aren't going to be writing full length novels), why not take advantage of the groundwork another author has laid to establish the world? If the readers are already familiar with the world of Bone, the writer can jump into the new storyline without having to provide a lot of tedious backstory to familiarize the reader with a strange world's landscape, history and odd indigenous characters. They can focus on a single coherent plotline, a limited number of characters to develop and connecting with their audience. So, why not have students...
Fanfiction is far older than 60s sci-fi television. Shakespeare spun tales his audience was used to hearing, and relocated them in settings they understood to boot. Virgil's Aeneid was based on one of Homer's minor characters in the Odyssey. Myths, fairy tales, legends, all these were types of fanfiction in their day. ("Tell us a story of the hero Jason!") Storytelling of that sort involves audience reactions and immediate feedback. It would be easy and fun to establish fanfiction collections in notebooks or using something like a class wiki or Edmodo site for students to respond or add onto each others fanfiction stories based on their personal interests (imagine the Minecraft story collection!). And if the writer's interest is a little more obscure, try reaching out to the fanbase online via fansites or official blogs. Having a reblog of your work can be highly motivating for a budding writer. And if you're looking for that authentic tie-in...
On this site you'll see some familiar names that are great examples to hold up to your aspiring writers. Fanfic is a hot debate among writers. One author of a popular series says it's a waste of time but in my opinion every writer should be honing his or her craft writing fanfic on a daily basis if only to write something better. (But maybe that author's upset that a more popular book started as the fanfic of a frustrated reader.)

Follow-up Jan. 12: I just watched the Bronies documentary on Netflix. Did not know there was so much My Little Pony love out there!