The Art of Imitation

For all that various movie and TV producers and marketers of books seek to promote interest among their sometimes-rabid fans; one aspect of fandom sometimes gets the cold shoulder.  I’m referring to fan-made tributes to their faves, namely fan-produced artwork and fanfiction.

Some fans of particular storylines or universes “play” with particular characters as a labor of love, or of devotion, to the original.  Some use established characters and storylines as a way of developing their own skills, or copy existing characters to practice their craft in paint, digital graphics or other forms of visual art.  Still others choose to write stories out of desire for altered plotlines, story finales that didn’t satisfy, or to change a beloved character’s sexual orientation or life experience.

Numerous websites are devoted to sharing such works with other fans, and some of these amateur “authors” go on to publish their own original work.  In this way, fanfiction can be seen as a training ground for aspiring writers; among those who admit to producing such at one point in their careers are Meg Cabot and the legendary Stephen King.

Many authors/producers are flattered by the interest and devotion of their fans, and some have even taken steps to encourage it.  It can be flattering, and even be considered publicity for the authors’ original work.  Of course some professional authors are more concerned about plagiarism and copyrights, and it should go without saying that fan creations should always include disclaimers about ownership and not in any way produce profit for their imitators.

You may say you could never imagine indulging in this making fanfiction yourself:  okay, then, pick a story you have loved, either from childhood or perhaps a difficult point in your life. It can be it a movie, a TV series, or a book character, as long as it was something that meant more to you than an image on a screen or words on the page.  Did this character help you in some way, by becoming something you could identify with or look up to?  Was this fictional character a friend, a mentor, a hero?  Perhaps it was a passing fancy, or a seriously unrealistic obsession.  (I won’t ask you to admit that!)  The point is, this character(s) took on a life beyond the original intention for you.

Now, imagining your character, did you ever at least have an idea for a new plot involving him?  Did you wish for a different outcome to an existing storyline, or did you find that the questions left unanswered by the conclusion leave you wanting more?  If you were unsatisfied by the writer/producer and thought of a way in which the conflict could have better been resolved, then you have taken the first steps to create your own fanfiction.

Perhaps you are or have been an art or graphic art student.  You have a project to do, and instead of an original subject you decide to copy a popular character, one that speaks to you for whatever reason.  Maybe it is a character that is familiar and so is easy to draw, maybe you find it easy to find “official” images of the character to use for reference.  In making your own version of another character, you’ve produced a fan image.

So, it’s more common than you think, and as long as you “create” with respect to the original and in no way try to pass off the professional work, or any aspect of it, as your own, it can be fun.  Bear in mind that while “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” (Charles Caleb Colton), these authors earn their living from their original work, and depend on your support for their next book series, episode or movie, even more than you look forward to it!



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