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I’m very pleased to have been nominated in the second annual Whiteboard Awards. These awards are run on the Fox Forum (although they are unofficial) and they recognise excellence in House fan fiction across all ships, genres and characterisations. Check out the cool promo video:

Being nominated is very exciting and I honestly don’t care too much what happens next. There are so many wonderful writers nominated (including many dear friends) so the competition is very tough. I will be excited if I win, I will be excited if my friends win. Either way, I can’t lose!

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A very intimidating title, there, and one I’m not sure I’m going to completely deserve with this post. However, it is something that has been on my mind this week as I battle with a few of my usual writing demons.

In traditional romance writing, the character arcs of the hero and heroine generally follow predictable trajectories. That’s not to say every character goes through the same thing, but that there are generally recognisable stages and steps that characters go through as we progress through a story. Probably one of the most well-known is the hero’s journey monomyth. (Wikipedia reference) If you want to know what that is, watch Star Wars, because apparently George Lucas copied it. Or so people say. (I haven’t done any actual academic creative writing theory, so for those of you who have, forgive me if this seems primitive.)

However, what can you do when the lead role in your story (whether hero or heroine) is played by someone else’s character – one that your readers know well and love? How much leeway do you have to change that character or to have them undergo some kind of transformational journey? And, if you decide to play things carefully, how do you ensure that your story is still satisfying and that, by the end, it feels like all the characters (both canon and OC) have come to the end of their respective journeys?

In writing House, there are some quite strong constraints around the character which, in my mind, he can’t grow too far from. He can’t suddenly become a submissive, docile man who will go along with whatever the heroine wants (or second hero, in the case of slash, I guess). He also can’t NOT change, because the whole point of the story (in a romance) is for him to find happiness in another human being, which, as a canon character, he finds incredibly difficult. The trick lies in finding a balance somewhere between.

Many fan fics I’ve read seem to go too far one way or the other.

Either House doesn’t change and so the story isn’t satisfying or doesn’t seem believable, because the House we know on the TV show would not be instantly transferrable, unchanged, into a stable, loving relationship. (Yes, we all know it’s there, just under the surface, and that’s why we write this, to explore it, but we all have to admit that he would have to change at least some things in order to make it work.)

Some fan fic writers go the other way and make House into an instantly soft and squishy, passive romantic lead. Yes, he gave Cameron a corsage. Yes, he brought Cuddy’s desk back from her parents’ place. But let’s face it: mostly, he’s still a bastard. He’s a bastard alpha male with a hidden streak of romantic purism and that’s what makes him so damn irresistible as a romantic lead.

I’m not saying that I think I get this balance right myself. It’s just one of the elements that I find difficult about writing House fic. When you write non-fan fiction, your characters are your own and you can invent the backstory and character flaws and past experiences that help to meld the transformation that the character goes through. When you write fan fiction, you are limited by what the canon has revealed and what tweaks you can fit in around the edges.

When a fan fic writer gets this balance right, to me, this is when the pairing or ship or storyline doesn’t matter. If you can take a known character, expand them in a believable way, take them through a journey that transforms them and yet they remain emphatically who the readers recognise, then I think you have succeeded. If you do that, I don’t really care who you have him sleeping with. Agree? Disagree?

Gertrude’s House. As if I didn’t bang on enough in other internet forums, I decided I needed one of my very own.

Basically, I realised that in my efforts to get published in the “real world” , there was no end of helpful advice out there in blog land. But I get a lot of my writing practice  – and, to be honest, my writing pleasure – from writing fan fiction. (Specifically, just so you know, House MD fan fiction. And I primarily write House/OC (OC = original character) romance fan fiction.)

And on that topic, well, there’s really not so much out there. Or, if there is, it’s hard to find!

I know, fan fiction writing is seen as geeky and nerdy and – to use an Australian word – daggy. And often looked down upon as an inferior literature form. Yes, there is some terrible fan fiction out there. But, let’s be honest, there’s some terrible books out there too. I know. I’ve read them.

What I want to do with this blog is:

  • talk about my writing  and what I’ve learned about writing, posting and reviewing fan fiction (because after all, isn’t every blog just a little bit selfish and self-centred)
  • to have somewhere I can interact with my readers outside of the limited review-reply features
  • occasionally get some of my wonderfully talented fan fiction writer friends to contribute their wisdom and advice
  • pass on some of the things I’ve learned to the betterment of my fellow fan fiction writers

I know, it’s not “save the world”, but hey, it’s my blog. And I’m not doing this out of a sense that I am any kind of expert – far from it. I guess I hope that by sharing my knowledge, I might encourage others to do the same and then we all get to learn.

I can think of so many things I want to blog about. A few of the topics I want to cover include:

  • some of the general writing hints and tips I’ve gathered along the way that apply to writing any kind of fiction, whether your own characters or some you’ve borrowed
  • posting fan fiction – how often, how to build a ‘fan base’, how to make readers eager to read your work (not that I know all the answers, here, just a topic I want to explore!)
  • reviewing fan fiction – what authors really want to hear from readers
  • how other writers write, the processes they use, the techniques and tools and tips they have to pass on
  • the specific challenges and opportunities of fan fiction writing and the limitations of using someone else’s characters
  • the decision of whether or not to follow the ‘canon’ of the ‘verse you are playing in
  • how to deal with developments in your chosen fandom within your writing

There. I figure if I can think of seven post topics just off the top of my head, that’s a good way to start. And of course this is where you can add comments and tell me about other stuff you’d like to see me cover — or write something yourself for me to publish – I think I’m going to love guest bloggers if I have any volunteers!

Who knows where we’ll go from here. Drop me a line if you have further thoughts and I hope this turns out to be an exciting new adventure for us all.

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The great and wise Gertrude Stein