I'm in the middle of reworking my next manuscript, and I have a confession to make: while I edit and work with original characters and concepts, I've been cheating.
I've been having an affair.
Each morning I've spent in the arms of a new love, that of fan fiction. I've written quite a few stories (never ever to reach the light of day) about existing characters, ones someone else created.
It's an intoxicating exercise, one many view as degrading. "What's next, One Direction stories about Harry Stiles?"
If you think about it, fan fiction has been alive for centuries. Medieval bards sang lays about heroes his audience already knew. And more recently, some of the most successful books and movies center around previous writings: Wicked. Les Miserables, the Broadway opera. Once Upon A Time.
Fan fiction is despised, but it shouldn't be. After all, those writers ask the question inspiring authors everywhere: What if...?
What if The Wicked Witch of the West was friends with her sister?
In writing and posting my fics, I've learned something very important. Angst is one of the most vital components of a good story, and it is also one I avoided for years. My characters were understanding, reasonable people for the most part. They accepted their fates head-on instead of railing at tragedy and the other characters.
There's no one to blame but myself for this; I really suck at drama in real-life. I'm not a Real Housewife. When anger boils up, I'm the one scurrying away just as quickly as possible. If I do have to confront an issue, you can safely bet I'll do it in the worst possible way.
A moment for a deep breath - that's a huge revelation, by the way. Make of it what you will.
In any case, with copious feedback from the fan fiction sites, I see there must be no more scurrying and hiding from angst and drama. A slew of overly calm characters will quickly grow dull and bore the audience - and this from the calmest person possible. (...unless, of course, my back yard is on fire.)
So as I rewrite my next book, the largest note in red letters to myself is: PUMP UP THE ANGST. SQUASH THE CALM.
Whether I follow that line of reasoning in my own life remains to be seen.