Retellings, Fan-fiction, and Obsession

In last week’s post, I reflected a bit on my roots as a fan-fiction writer as it related to my latest decision to self-publish. As I think further on the type of writing I’m doing now, I realize that the subject matter and impetus hasn’t really changed all that much, either.

Back when I was thirteen, it was Aladdin fan-fiction that really hooked me into writing seriously. I’d been writing for most of my life, but it was through fan-fiction that I began to successfully finish stories. I loved the characters so much that I wanted to immerse myself in their world again and again and again — and I wanted to stay there long enough to finish what I’d started.

I wrote my first non-fan-fic novel when I was fifteen. By the time I was eighteen, I had abandoned fan-fiction to focus on my own original stories. This was in line with a trend that was emerging in which my fan-fic began focusing more on original characters I had created for the Aladdin universe than on the primary characters themselves. It’s been 13 years since I last penned any fan-fiction, and I don’t think I’ll ever return to it.


Except that I realized my predilection toward retellings really constitute their own type of fan-fiction. I’ve written three fairy tale retellings (using Sleeping Beauty, Rumplestiltskin, and Rapunzel as source material) and I hope to write more. Two of my other novels, while not retellings in the strictest sense, borrowed heavily from Biblical stories. When I was thirteen, I started writing fan-fiction because, as much as I loved the source material, it just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted not to just consume it, but to create it, to give something new back to the content that had inspired me so much.

That’s exactly what I’m doing with my fairy tale retellings and my exploration of religious themes in my books now. So I guess I haven’t drifted so far from my roots after all.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg recommends writing about your “obsessions.” That’s what I’ve been doing, in various forms, since my early obsession with Aladdin. It’s good advice — my obsessions have changed over the years, but my response to them hasn’t. And that’s kept me writing.