Today’s post is an interview with MJ Scott, a fan fiction writer for the fantasy card game, Magic: the Gathering. MJ is a regular columnist on GatheringMagic.com and posts her fiction on her blog MoxyMTG.com. I’ve been interested in the Fan Fic genre lately and thought that picking MJ’s brain about the genre might be good for all of us to read. The first post in her current story arc can be read here.
I don’t know what the technical def of fanfic is, though I’d guess it has cheesy and sexual implications. My personal working definition is this: an original creative story composed by any fan of a given established franchise.
How long have you been writing Fan Fiction, and what got you started?
I’ve been writing about a year now. I started with a series last summer about Sorin Markov from the Magic: the Gathering pantheon. He’s a hot-bodied superpowered vampire, so it was low hanging fruit as we were still in the throes of Twilight’s popularity.
3) How has writing Fan Fiction benefited you? Do you think it’s helped you become a better writer?
It has absolutely benefited me as a writer. Fanfic gives you the freedom to explore your voice, safe beneath the canopy of someone else’s world/characters. You can explore tangential plot ideas you think are interesting; you can explore characters’ dark secrets, sexuality, history, etc.; you can have fun with dialogue or situational comedy. If you’re a weak plot writer, you can work out on that. Or maybe you’re soft on snappy conversations – you can practice using established characters. You don’t have to get hung up on names or setting up a world from scratch (which can be huge time-sinks). Fanfic is a great vehicle for you, as a writer, to cross-train, so to speak.
4) What are the challenges to writing Fan Fiction?
In my opinion, you don’t want to go too far “out there” – you don’t want to directly contradict anything that’s really important in the canon of the world you’re working in. So you have to do your research, read what’s been published from sanctioned sources. You need to have a healthy respect for what’s been done. You can bend the rules, but don’t break them. Working within the limits of the chosen world is part of the creative exercise.
5) Have you ever received feedback from anyone at Wizards of the Coast about your fiction?
I haven’t, but they haven’t told me to stop yet, so we’ll keep on keepin’ on. I would hope they can see it’s done respectfully and from a very disciplined, very serious creative place. I love Magic and am inspired by the game and characters. I strive for high quality and I think that comes through.
6) Do you have specific goals in being a Fan Fiction writer? Is it just a hobby, or part of a strategy, or something else entirely?
My goals as a fanfic writer are to 1) work on my weak areas as a writer 2) get feedback from readers on my style/product, 3) start gaining exposure as a fantasy author (it’s so competitive, not to mention scary to put yourself out there!) and 4) have fun! I am very attached to all of the characters I write about, and creating stories around them is sort of like hanging out with good friends.
7) What would you say to those who think writing Fan Fiction “isn’t real writing”?
Well, I’d ask them to define what “real writing” is. And then I’d have to say that writing speaks for itself. Some writing resonates more than other writing. It has a life of its own – we can judge it based on lit crit metrics, or based on whether Hollywood comes calling – but what does any of that really mean? Fifty Shades of Grey was a Twilight fanfic. It has influenced over 70 million readers. Flavor text on Magic cards is just that – text on a TCG – yet the readership for that creative writing is 12 million. We’re entitled to our opinions, to say “this sucks” or “that’s great” – but in the end, the written word has its own destiny.
8) Which story (or post) are you the proudest of? Why?
I’m fond of this installment. I felt the pacing and character development was strong in this post. There are a lot of telling moments for the characters. I often feel I’ll reveal too much or too little, and that my dialogue is much stronger than my plotting. But this post had a nice flow and balance.
9) Do you write anything else? And/or do you have goals for writing something else?
I am working on a few books simultaneously right now. One is a real summer read, light romance deal, based on my experiences in the food/beverage industry. Probably not for most in the Magic demographic, ha! The second is an erotic adventure epic, combining elements of sexy graphic novels/comics with a serious fantasy narrative. The third is my big swords-and-sorcery opus, MJ style – it’s like Fight Club meets Game of Thrones.
10) If someone wants to start writing Fan Fiction what do they need? Burning love for a character? Commitment to a subculture? A loose screw? :)
My therapist once told me I shouldn’t drink because I have “poor impulse control.” That’s exactly what you need to start writing anything, fanfic included. You need to suspend disbelief in yourself. I mean, it’s embarrassing. Writing in the public eye is like standing naked on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float while playing the national anthem on the trombone, televised live on Good Morning America. When you don’t know how to play a trombone, and you have a bad tramp stamp tat from that spring break in ’01. I don’t see that therapist anymore, but I do remember his last name was Stoke. I think he was a vampire.
11) Name a fictional character that you absolutely love, but haven’t written a story for yet.
Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet. I’d like to write him (her) as female to male trans-rogue who’s in love with a very effeminate Romeo. We’re all players on a stage, and I find our various roles fascinating.
My thanks to MJ for taking the time to do this interview. I think the genre of fan fiction is fascinating and one that should be embraced by more writers. You can read my Fan Fic Short “The Demon Inside” on MJ’s blog.