Letting the fans write your shows future . . . literally

Yesterday I e-talked about how some of the most entertaining entertainment opened a door to a world that an audience had never seen before.

Well, while researching that blog (which was about 50 Shades of Grey), a giant door was opened to me which led me to a wormhole of a world that I knew absolutely jack about.  (Side note: one of the reasons I love writing this blog, is I learn a crap load while prodding and poking blog ideas – which is why I recommend blogging to all those curious cats out there.)

What was waiting for me on the other side of that door?

Our fans.

First, back story.  That super-novel known as 50 Shades of Grey was written by E.L. James (a J.K. Rowling-type pseudonym for Erika Mitchell), who has only been writing since 2009.  How did she start?

She wrote fanfic.

What’s fanfic (aka FF or fic for short)?  Good question (and I’m sure a common one, if you’re above the age of 30).

Fanfic = fan fiction.  Stories written by fans using the characters and basic premises from popular source material (in a way, Wicked might be the ultimate fanfic).

Cool, right?  Fans so passionate about a book, that they can’t get enough . . . so they write more to satisfy their burning desire to stay in the story (Twilight inspires a lot of fanfic – and was what inspired E.L. James to start writing).

E.L. James posted her early FF on the most popular fanfic site on the web . . .  www.FanFiction.net.  I trolled on that site for a while yesterday, learning more about this amazing community of super-fans.  And it was like a supermarket of FF.  There was fanfic about books.  About movies.  And . . .

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit . . .

They have fanfic about musicals!

And a whole ton of it!!!

I know, for some of you this will be like, “duh.”  And when I found it, I was like, “Duh.”  Of course there’s fanfic about musicals.  We’re a major art form.  People are uber passionate about what we do.  Musicals and plays are inspiring.

But look at it all!  There is fanfic about Rent, Wicked, Hairspray .  . . but also fanfic about less likely shows like John & Jen, Journey’s End . . . Zanna, Don’t!  Click here to see it all.

Once I got over my shock and awe about the depth of the material, I started to try and think like a marketer.  See, when fans self-generate this type of material, with no push from the marketing department, imagine how much they might create if you threw a little marketing fuel on the fire.  Yes, it’s a younger audience, but that’s also tomorrow’s audience, and if we could encourage more fanfic today (perhaps in a more official environment of our own and not just on another website), perhaps we’d be encouraging more audiences for tomorrow.

Excuse me now, I’m going to read a story about what happened when Dainty June returned to see her sister after Gypsy became a star.  I wonder if she and Tulsa are still together, don’t you?


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  • Adrienne says:

    There is a lot of fan fiction from G rating to NC-17 and ranging in quality from poor to amazing. However, my perception is that your welcome to the authors is a minority voice.

    Many authors of the original work (especially the more recent material) are VERY possessive of the world and characters they have created. They see Fanfic writers as infringing on the original material. The argument is made that historically well loved characters and tales are written and rewritten.

    Your example of Wicked illustrates this argument. Wicked is a reworking of an already existing tale created by a different author. The Greeks and Shakespeare are also often cited as examples of worked and reworked tales. Though The Greeks and Shakespeare no longer hold the rights to their work.

    I support Fanfic writers in their work. But I think it is also important to recognize the current strong push against them.

  • Chris Edgar says:

    I like that this trend toward fans directly influencing the plot of a popular piece is being recognized — I am going to release the first episode of an online animated musical series shortly, and one of the advantages of the episodic format I’m looking forward to will be that I can revise future episodes based on viewers’ comments on the characters and plot.

  • Cara says:

    I don’t write fanfic, but I’ve read it. I discovered it many years ago (over 10 years ago) when it was still very new and very unheard of. Like Adrienne said, there is some that is very good and some that is very bad. I found it as an out let for things that didn’t really go the way I wanted. A book that ended a way I didn’t like. A movie or tv show that wasn’t doing what I thought they should. You can find your own versions.
    While I understand an author’s rights to their own work (I am a writer, and very posessive of my own work), I also understand that it is very much an honor that someone likes your work enough to try to keep it going. Or cares so passionately about it that they’d try to make it work in a different way.
    Also, I only recently discovered the musical section of the fanfiction world and it freaked me out so badly, I couldn’t read it. It was just weird to me for some reason. Hypocritical, I know.

  • Bryan David says:

    Dear Mr. Davenport, et al:

    “American Rose’ by Karen Abbott gives a brilliant depiction of Miss Lee. The Late Great Mr. Arthur Laurents covered her in a Libretto he wrote for the ‘Great-White-Way’ That is a writer’s dream; he got to Direct his Book; his dream with the production I saw starting with Ms.Tyne Daly and directed his productions with both Ms. LuPone & Ms. Peters.

    Every writer dreams of directing his own work one day. I imagine that every PRODUCER dreams that he/she get to be THEE producer of such a show (Six (6) English speaking cast albums thus far?)

    Somebody took a chance on that little show called: “GYPSY”

    I wonder who’ll take that chance on a workshop for:

    “Whitechapel” ©

    The Life & Times
    ‘Jack The Ripper’
    A Musical Love Story! ™

    Bryan David
    Playwright & Lyricist


    © Copyright 1996/2007
    Bryan David/Brandon Kress
    All Rights Reserved

  • Andy says:

    You haven’t read fanfic until you’ve come across at least one mpreg story… mpreg meaning “male pregnancy” and being an odd offshoot of the slash genre. (Slash being gay or lesbian relationships using pre-existing straight-identified characters, such as Kirk/Spock, from which the “slash” genre’s typographical name is derived.)

    Here is a website with a good sample of the writings*:


    So what does this have to do with musicals? Nothing commercial, but perhaps the inspiration for the next Fringe show out there…

    * Alas, the infamous livejournal page (unfortunately now defunct) of the notorious Voldemort/Pikachu pregnancy coupling isn’t included. 🙁

  • Fanfic.me says:

    We are about to release fanfic software to producers, writers, movie studios, etc. to encourage fan involvement and interaction with their characters and stories. We use this same software at http://www.Fanfic.me, but we will have a version available for others to use, as well. If interested, email me at info @ fanfic.me for more information.

  • Rich says:

    Fanfiction is really interesting, and being alerted to it is one example of why I enjoy Ken’s blog so much.
    My key takeaway was noting the popularity rankings of the plays/musicals within this FF category. While perhaps unsurprisingly Rent, Wicked & Cats were the most popular I noticed the Broadway Musical, Chess, made the top twenty-five. Chess hit Broadway in 1988 but survived for only two months, presumably due to lackluster reviews. Word-of-mouth (pre Internet era) was very positive however, and I personally loved it. Nice to see it still has a solid following via FF.

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