As an older fandom dinosaur (note to you kids in high school: I've been dabbling in fandoms for literally decades) I've had my own share of bumps in the road, hard lessons to learn, etc. It happens. Usually, you find that people are cool and understand social rules, even on the internet. Why, I remember my first week on LJ where I took someone's icon and didn't credit the maker, a BNF, too. The maker emailed me and said, "Looks like you're new. Here's how it works to credit." Thank you, person! I didn't know, and now I did. They weren't shitty about it, they were just making sure I knew what was what. (I'm...going to be shitty about it, fair warning.)
No one likes to come to a new school and not know where to sit, after all, right?
So let me explain the very basics of fanfic and fandom and how we're a community. And you don't fuck over your community (in case you didn't know that already.)
1. You'll notice that fanfic communities expect you to add a disclaimer somewhere - either on their journal, or on your LJ/tumblr/spiral notebook. (Mine is on my user page) Why? Because kids, back in the day there were ACTUAL LAWSUITS. This is something that most of my LJ friends and I have been around long enough to know: a lot of authors don't like you taking their things and playing with them. Fair enough. I won't ever write Diana Gabaldon fic, because she is awful towards her fans and fanfic. Joss Whedon? LOVES it. Loves. Told people to write it! Awesome.
So we add disclaimers saying that "We do not make any profit from x, y characters, and understand that we don't own them." Easy! Don't try and sell your merman Harry Potter falls in love with starfish Draco fic on Amazon, and you're golden.
2. Tropes! Here's what they are: the buddy cop. The meet-cute whimsical romance. The young girl/boy falls for a vampire. High school AUs. Merman meets sexy starfish. Firemen. (Also see: construction workers, doctors, teacher/student. Blah blah.)
Not one of us owns that concept. I, for example, didn't invent stories about firemen. How ludicrous for me to think, right? Just because I wrote a story about a fireman? Yeah, I don't think I invented that at all. (We're getting there, hang on.)
3. Actual plot, locations, story arcs in fan-fiction stories... That is the beauty of fan-fic. We take beloved characters (say, Luke and Leia) and make them a coffee shop barista and harried artist, and then make them fall in love. Fun! It's like how you played with your Barbies (or whatever toy) and made up things. We all had Barbies (or whatever toy) and did that. Aww, we have shared experiences! That's nice.
But would you write a story that says the exact same thing that happened in Star Wars? Gosh, that's dumb! What you would most likely do is write moments in between, moments you wish happened, moments that were deleted, etc. You'd make an alternate universe, maybe, where Leia is going to take the veil and Luke is the priest that is in love with her and Han is the janitor at the Abbey. Why would you write the story over? And probably take a lot of short cuts, because seriously, Star Wars is long, right? I mean...just go read the script online.
4. "But Laura," you might ask, "what if I really enjoyed a story I read about Luke and Leia as barista and artist and they fell in love, and I couldn't stop thinking about it, so instead of just re-reading that story, I wrote it over? And turned that 90K story into 3K? And didn't bother with all of the story development and pacing and characterization but had mostly the same sort of story arc? Like a quick hand-job instead of taking my time? What about doing that?"
First, that's a lot of questions , take a breath. Second, NO. You don't do that. Because that means you are lazy and a bit of a thief. It's not like using the same Barbie doll to tell a different story, you're telling the same story with the same Barbie that your big sister used when she told you that story earlier that day because - I guess - you're not capable or willing to come up with your own? So why are you writing fanfic if you don't have your own stories to tell?
We write fanfic because we a) want to play with these characters that we love so much, and b) because we have stories we want to tell that are unique and special.
If you aren't making something unique and special, why the hell are you writing stories? Why aren't you just READING the stories you like?
In Glee fandom, it's incredibly frustrating to me how young (read: immature, not physical age) and selfish a portion of the fan-base is. They read a story and the comment isn't "I enjoyed that," it's "OMG MOAR FROM A DIFFERENT POV!!" How about you enjoy what was given you before you stick your hand out for more, Christ! And there's a new trend of taking people's well known stories and rewriting it. And then posting them all over the internet.
Example 1: Little Numbers is an incredibly popular and adorable story in Glee fandom. (I love it. LOVE.) It's also very unique in that the whole thing is told through texts (with added videos and images. Adorable!) And there's a shitty rip-off that's started to be posted all over the place with tiny little tweaks here and there to make it "different." NOPE. THAT IS SHITTY. AND STEALING. If you like Little Numbers so much, re-read it.
Example 2: I posted a story over the holidays called "Where There's Smoke." I was over the moon with the response I got. I also poured a lot of time and effort into that story - I treated it like something I would want to publish, honestly. There isn't one thing I would change about it. I had people tell me they were going on a WTS trip in Brooklyn, wanting to visit the places I mentioned in the story. WOW! That's amazing!
And because I track "where there's smoke" and "firefighter!blaine" on Tumblr (I like to thank people, you see, I'm gracious like that) I found that someone (that is very young, hence this post) has basically changed one or two things in the overall story and condensed my 100,000 word story into something closer to 3K. My unique character tweaks? She's got them. Stable of specific canon characters that I used? Yep. Fucking baked goods as a thank you (with Blaine specifically requesting something, tee hee!) which leads to a date -- but instead of a bar, it's a fireman's diner.
WE ALL KNOW THAT HYDROX COOKIES SUCK, RIGHT? I'm not even going to try and be sweet and helpful. This shit pisses me off. I was pissed when I saw the rip-off of Little Numbers, too. (And it's not my story!) Someone else took liberties with my story and posted a "continuation" of WTS on FF.net without asking me, which prompted me to make a point of saying that I don't want this universe I built played with. I don't claim to own Kurt and Blaine or freaking Luke and Leia. But the unique story that I told, I DO THINK I OWN IT. And I don't want you playing with it.
(Here's me being awful: I simply don't trust others to write it well. To know what I was trying to say and honor that. So. If that's bitchy, then I guess I'm a bitch.)
KIDS/ADULTS: be creative. That's the whole point. Otherwise, what the fuck are you doing? Look at your life, look at your choices. ;)
This sort of thing is going to happen. After all, communities like "stop plagiarism" exist for a reason. But in case you didn't know that's what it is, it is. Once you know, you can do better, right? [/Maya Angelou]
HEY. And when I started posting "WTS" (It was completed at the time, btw.) I had someone show me that there was another story that had a similar beginning (Kurt, Rachel living in NYC, Rachel starts a fire, Blaine's a fireman.) I was sick to my stomach. Why? Because I do not steal. I won't even eat a grape in the grocery store, guys. And the last thing I'd ever want to be accused of is ripping off someone's story. I got in contact with that author and we both realized that our stories are completely different, given the eerie similarities in the first portion. We both decided that it made sense that canon has told us Rachel and Kurt will end up in NYC together, that Rachel is a bad cook and would be likely to start a fire, that it was hive-mind to put Blaine in a manly job like being a firefighter.
But "Captain Anderson?" That was all me. And "We die?" That is all fucking me. That was me showing respect to the actual job of being a fireman, something I took seriously. So put on your big girl panties, folks, and make something YOURS. Stealing: It's not the same as taking Luke and Leia and making them rival dance captains of a high school, it's making Luke and Leia twins separated at birth and retelling the entire god damn movie. WHY. Why do that?
I will own that I might be a little grumpy [hurr] given that my smoke detectors all went off last night at 2am for about 15 minutes in a cacophony of evil. Oh, and also because I'm bothered. =/
PLAY NICELY WITH OTHERS. We're a community here. This is meant to be FOOD FOR THOUGHT, not gas on the fire.
*I think my mean girl rants are why someone called me an ego-maniacal shit-heel. *shrug* I've never censored myself, not going to start doing it now.