It’s a common saying that creativity is born from restraint. Fanfiction can be one of the best ways to test this theory: you have characters with pre-set interiorities (if not going on the same journey), and a certain set of beats you can choose to hit (or not). Fanfiction can be as free as only using the recognizable names and places of the original work, or hewing as closely as possible to the established universe of the work of fiction you’re playing around in. This is why so many published authors have worked through early ideas and styles through fan fiction.
When we were putting together the list of tags for the Trope Tote design, I realized how effective they could be as writing exercises. Taking my favorite OTP and putting them in a coffee shop AU is a great way to practice dialogue, and thinking of a creative way to have these characters in the same coffee shop at the same time.
The project of an Alternate Universe fanfiction is also a fantastic mind puzzle. If you try to import characters from Star Trek into a historical setting, it’s a really interesting process to apply Uhura or Picard’s main characteristics to a dramatic Regency detective story. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James is basically a published detective alternate universe fanfiction continuation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It’s more of a post-canon futurefic, to be entirely accurate, but it still provides great reading.
If you’re in need of a good writing challenge, set a weeklong trope-a-thon. Here are my suggested prompts:
I can’t wait to see what you write on Archive of Our Own and beyond!