Creative Trespassing in Fanfiction.
Some time ago it came to my attention that I had become known for my habit of "writing into" other people's stories -- basically picking up where the original authors left off and penning additions to their ficverses.
Currently I've gained a little notoriety as one of the writing crew of Aftershocks, which isn't my ficverse either. It is hardly the first time I've cut the fences and wandered into someone else's world, though (and after all, any work of fanfiction is basically that, isn't it?).
My first victim was diysheep . I wrote a Contract-verse piece which never got published, not because Sheepie disapproved but because I was, at the time, shy of jumping into such a dark and frightening end of the pool. Obviously I got over that, but I digress.
I've also written into the ficverses of perspi (an epilogue for her astounding No Little Charity), deelaundry (because I couldn't stop the pain from Locked Up and Set Free in any other way), kidsnurse (broke my heart with It All Comes Down to This) and -- most consistently of all -- nightdog_barks . I've lost track of how many times I've wandered into Nightdog's worlds and made myself at home. Aftershocks is just the most obvious, largest example.
I've recently realized that some people may get the idea that I tromp right in wherever I like, and get away with it. Worse yet, some of the less experienced members of the audience might get the notion that it would be acceptable if I did that.
That's why I want to talk about how it works -- because that's not the case.
What I do is this: I write out whatever it is I'm seeing, and then I either email that to the original writer, or post it under a lock for their eyes only.
Keep in mind that I only do this with writers who already know me pretty well. They know that if they critique what I've done or tell me outright that they can't use it, I will not be hurt, won't sulk -- there will be no drama. I make that very clear.
If the other writer likes what I've done, then they (and any first-readers of their choosing) get to critique the daylights out of it, suggest changes, whatever they want. It's also their call as to how, where, and when it gets posted.
If they don't want to use it, it never sees the light of day at all, and that doesn't bother me.
When my friends write into my stories it's the same way. So far I think I've only published a couple of things by KidsNurse, but there's more in the works, a big thing of mine that's been greatly expanded by my friends.
The process is more a collaboration than anything. Aftershocks began when one of us jumped the fence into the Bad Company 'verse, and look what that turned into. It can be incredibly rewarding. But it's delicate, particularly at the start and particularly if you're not already close friends with the person whose story you'd like to expand upon. Or if you are close friends but your writing style or your ideas may not be seen by the other writer as a good match.
Some of your ideas will get rejected. Some of the pieces you write just won't get used. I've written numerous fragments for Aftershocks that just didn't end up working out, and it is still Nightdog's call, ultimately.
I don't doubt that it works the same way for those who write into Sheepie's ever-expanding Contract universe.
I know that my stories have caused a few writers to consider playing in the sandboxes of others, and that's great -- but we have to live with one another. Collaborations can't be forced.
As a writer, I'd be very suspicious if someone I didn't know well, both in terms of the quality of their writing and their level of emotional maturity, wanted to add to a story of mine. It's important to have a level of mutual respect and trust already in place. It's important not to assume that the person you're writing for will just have to love it. It's important to ask yourself whether you're going to be hurt or angry if they don't. If the answer is yes, you'll get emotional about it, then don't go there.
I hope this will be helpful to someone who has wondered about the "rules" involved in walking into another writer's story. It's mostly just respect, courtesy, and making sure to check your ego at the door.