Last time, we discussed the different options for publishing a story that had its genesis in fan fiction: name-change-only, reworking, and rewriting. Whether we believe there’s ever a “right” way to publish a story that began as fan fiction (fanfic), authors who completely rewrite their story should be recognized for at least making the attempt to avoid the ethical issues of the pull-to-publish (P2P) process. As I stated last time, these different approaches shouldn’t be lumped together with the attitude that all P2P is equally bad.
Today, I’m happy to welcome an author who took the path of rewriting her Twilight-based fanfic story from scratch. She stripped her story down to the premise and started over with new characters, which in turn, led to a new plot, as these characters reacted differently to the premise’s inciting incident. An analysis by the Turnitin plagiarism software confirmed that her original fiction story, Into the Dark, is 99% different from the fanfic version of the premise, which was called The Hostage.
That sounds like a lot of work for a story that might still be unaccepted by some, simply due to its fanfic roots, but when I heard her unique premise, I understood her inability to let this story idea go. I love all my premises, and if necessary, I’d be willing to rewrite the whole story several times too. *smile* (In fact, published authors have done exactly that!)
Please join me in welcoming Stacy Green, author of Into the Dark!
Jami Gold: Hi, Stacy, let’s talk about the big picture of the P2P issue first. How would you define P2P and do you support it?
Stacy Green: For me, it all comes down to the amount of work you put into rewriting and creating a new story. If you’ve got an original premise and are willing to rewrite, then choosing to publish isn’t necessarily wrong. The key is how different the published piece is from the original.
I don’t think simply taking a fan fiction piece you’ve written and then changing the names and selling it is right. That was the main issue I had with 50 Shades of Grey—the 89% ratio to characters that so closely resembled Edward and Bella. It bothered me that the author didn’t change the characters, or even better—start over.
Jami: How did your attitude toward P2P affect how you approached writing Into the Dark?
Stacy: I had to start completely over. I felt—and still do—that as long as I wrote an original piece based on the premise and didn’t simply reuse what I had in The Hostage—I was writing a new book.
That meant accepting the fact that fan fiction is not the same as a novel. I’d build up a bit of an ego based on some of the reviews, and I had to check all that at the door and realize I was a complete novice.
Essentially, doing it right meant trashing everything and learning craft and the business of publishing.
Jami: What makes Into the Dark different from the usual P2P situation?
Stacy: I don’t consider Into The Dark as pulled to publish. I took a premise—the idea of a stalker staging a bank robbery to kidnap a woman—and wrote a completely new story. New characters—down to motivation, background, physical, etc. Only the very basic concept of the beginning was kept.
I also had to learn how to write a real book. I’d already figured out I was pretty clueless about that, so I studied story structure, point of view, plot and character, scenes, and took some online classes.
I started from scratch more than once. Even though the Edward and Bella I created for The Hostage were very different from the real characters, they were both one-dimensional, and I still had to create the hero and heroine all over again for Into The Dark. It wasn’t until I created detailed backgrounds for both of them that I finally got their personalities the way I wanted them.
And then there were the plotting issues. I was a panster, and The Hostage had no direction—just a basic idea. Figuring out the plot for Into The Dark was a huge work in progress. I wrote two separate drafts before I really figured out what turning points and midpoints were. And then I had to write another!
But it ended up to be a great thing, because I learned how to be a much better writer. And I’m still learning, of course. That’s the best thing about writing.
Jami: The Turnitin plagiarism software program showed that Into the Dark is 99% different from The Hostage. Can you talk about the ways you ensured this was an entirely different story?
Stacy: Well, The Hostage wasn’t even halfway complete (and still over 100K words at that point!) when I made the decision to pull. I then spent a year doing everything I spoke about above: learning craft, characterization, structure, etc., keeping only the premise as I’ve explained.
My hero had no real background and was utterly one-dimensional, so I created one, adding personal and family conflict—a family past that’s dark and tragic, which is a complete opposite from Edward’s apple-pie life in The Hostage. My heroine was a skittish, angry introvert who was very hard to like. I started fresh with her more than once. For her past, I kept one idea from The Hostage—the role her grandmother played in her life, and I still toned that down a great deal. I gave her a new personality, background, and character arc.
In The Hostage, the Cullen family played a vital part. Those characters were dumped. The hero, Nathan, does have a sister, but she was rewritten and is based on a close friend.
I chose to keep the Taker’s nickname, but that’s about all that’s the same with him. He was always my creation, but he was originally supposed to have erotomania—when a stalker fixates on someone because they believe that person is in love with them. I abandoned that idea and created a new, much more layered background for him that is actually the driving force of his obsession with Emilie.
All the scenes and concepts with the homeless were created specifically for Into The Dark. I spoke to Matthew O’Brien, author of Beneath the Neon, about what it was really like in the tunnels to ensure I got it right.
Jami: Which aspects of the story are the same, and why did you keep them?
Stacy: Like I said, the only things I really kept are the Taker’s name and the premise of using the bank robbery as a ruse. I kept the premise because it was original and had a lot of potential. As for the “Taker,” I just loved the name too much to give it up. I think it invokes fear and would make a great headline.
Jami: I can understand why you kept both of those! What are you most worried about if people think this is a P2P situation and that these are the same story?
Stacy: My biggest worry is people purchasing Into The Dark because they think it’s The Hostage and then feeling cheated/disappointed. That’s actually how I discovered the stories were being confused, because a reader of The Hostage emailed me excited to finish it. I cleared everything up for her, and I want to make sure I do that for everyone else. If Into The Dark sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to read it. But don’t buy it thinking you are finishing The Hostage, because you’ll be disappointed.
Jami: If these two stories are so different, why did you pull The Hostage from the fanfic community?
Stacy: At the time, I felt that leaving The Hostage up (even with a disclaimer) would be unfair and give people false hope it might be finished. And to me, trying to carry over readers of The Hostage seemed like an insult to them. Embarking on a career as a published author meant building a reader base from my new writing.
Secondly, I was a bit of a coward and afraid of the backlash from the author community. I didn’t want the online writing world to know I got my start in writing Twilight fan fiction, and that was stupid and selfish. Being a part of that world gave me the confidence to take the next step, and I finally realized I needed to be grateful instead of embarrassed.
Jami: If you had it to do all over again, would you still pull The Hostage from the fanfic community?
Stacy: No. They are two different stories, and that’s easily proven. But more than anything, I regret deleting all those reviews. When I pulled The Hostage, I was thinking only of myself and my own future. I didn’t stop to think that I was also deleting all the hard work that so many reviewers had put into the story, and for that I am very sorry. Pulling it was rude and ungrateful to them, and I never even thought of it from their perspective until it was far too late.
Jami: Any final words you’d like to say to potential readers or to those who still believe Into the Dark should be labeled P2P?
Stacy: I know it’s different. I’m confident in what the software says. However, I realize there are some purists who will always believe Into The Dark qualifies as pulled to publish, and that I did the wrong thing. It’s like politics or religion—I can’t change their minds, and I won’t try to. My main reason for the interview is to let readers who want to finish The Hostage know this book isn’t the same thing so they have all the information before they decide to spend their money.
Stacy Green is fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind and explores true crime on her popular Thriller Thursday posts at her blog, Turning the Page.
After earning her degree in journalism, Stacy worked in advertising before becoming a stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. She rediscovered her love of writing and wrote several articles for Women’s Edition Magazine of Cedar Rapids, profiling local businesses, before penning her first novel. Her debut novel, INTO THE DARK, is set in Las Vegas and features a heroine on the edge of disaster, a tormented villain, and the city’s infamous storm drains that house hundreds of homeless.
I want to thank Stacy for that honest and insightful look at her reasoning, process, and regrets in bringing Into the Dark to publication. Personally, I think she did things the “right” way, and I wouldn’t even call this situation P2P. She didn’t pull to publish that same story. She pulled a story she had no plans to finish and then decided to reuse the premise. However, others will have their own opinion.
(Edited to add: After commenters weighed in here, Stacy decided to repost The Hostage on fanfiction.net. So her story no longer qualifies as P2P under any definition. Pulling a fanfic story—for any reason—has become a red flag in some of the fandoms.)
Even with this long route of completely rewriting a story, there’s still a risk of confusion because the premise is the same, and people who read only the similar-sounding blurb will assume the story itself is the same too. I don’t know of a way around that problem, as our blurbs should be the “hook” to our story, the most interesting aspect of the premise, and it’s often that aspect that makes the premise worth rewriting. So that essence of the premise won’t change—no matter how much the story itself has changed.
I applaud Stacy’s efforts to get the word out and ensure that she’s not appealing to those fanfic readers with false expectations. I wish more fanfic authors would put in the time and effort to take the path Stacy has.
Have your thoughts about P2P changed after learning more? If so, how? What would make you go through the work of rewriting one of your stories from scratch? Do you have any suggestions for how to overcome the issue of similar-sounding blurbs in situations like this? Do you have any questions for Stacy (about P2P, her process, her book, etc.)?Pin It