On Writing Celebrity FantasiesbyAchtungNight©
There comes a point in many writers' careers when they reflect on what they pen and why. I am at that point right now as I type this document. Perhaps you, the reader, are there with me. Whether or not, I hope you find lessons in these words. I hope you will understand that the opinions expressed herein are mine and that everything I say is merely a suggestion. Now let us turn to the subject before us.
For the past several years, I have been creating fictional stories about famous people and putting them on the internet. I am far from the only individual who has done such a thing. You may be considering it yourself. Some have said my actions are wrong. I choose to disagree. I mean no harm to the real people behind my characters. I am merely indulging and documenting imagination. Hopefully, you are the same.
Fantasies about famous people have a place in society and history. In medieval times, knights and bards used to write love ballads to the ladies they admired. It did not matter to them if the target of their affections was promised to another, or if she knew of the favor she was given. In the early 20th century, erotic comics called "Tijuana Bibles" were circulated featuring well-known figures in erotic situations. Invariably, they were published without the figures' knowledge or permission. The tradition of celebrity obsession and satire is well-established in our current media. Magazines such as "Mad" and TV shows such as "Saturday Night Live" have built their reputations on it, as has the entire tabloid industry. Wild "facts" concerning certain celebrities, particularly Chuck Norris, are popular online. Celebrity fan fiction is merely another facet of this tangled web.
People write such stories for many reasons. Some have fantasies about famous people and wish to put them on paper for others to enjoy. The stories can also be expressions of admiration and affection towards a famous figure, or commentary on what they mean to a writer. They can be comedy, tragedy, or drama. Fans may request them of writers. Whatever the reason, they are a valid expression of the writing craft.
Writing celebrity fan fiction is legal. People create it because they can. The United States Supreme Court established this in Hustler Magazine vs. Jerry Falwell in 1988. They said that fan fiction is free speech, and thus protected under the United States Constitution. Any writer who chooses to turn his pen to the topic should thus have little to fear.
Yet, given all this, I often find myself questioning what makes a good celebrity fantasy story. I am not the only author I have seen in such a quandary either. This essay may help a writer of celebrity fantasies get over their insecurities concerning the genre and improve their writing. I make my recommendations based on what I have learned over the course of my career.
First, there are some things the celebrity fan fiction writer should keep in mind. These sound like heavy-handed warnings for a reason. If you respect them, there is less chance you will ever be sued over your work. Yes, you will probably win any lawsuits thanks to the precedent of Hustler Magazine. Still, a lawsuit can bankrupt, exhaust, and greatly trouble both plaintiff and defendant. In my opinion, it is rarely worth getting into one. Fortunately, they can be deterred if you follow the advice herein. It also may improve your writing, and your rapport with fans who give you feedback.
The stories you write may feature real people, but they are not real and can never be real. Trying to make them real would be offensive and wrong. Fantasies are all well and good, but getting obsessed with them is not. Write all the fantasies you wish. Just remember they are fantasies and nothing more. Remain detached as you write and don't get personally involved. You should give the task all your writing skill, but going overboard and confusing fantasy and reality is a bad thing. I hope you knew that already.
The celebrities used as characters in the stories are not the real people they mirror. They are imaginary parallel universe echoes of those people, concocted by the author. While based on real people, they are altered and idealized to a degree that reality and fantasy does not mesh. This is natural when creating a fantasy and it is fine. You probably would find it difficult writing your real self into an erotic story. Now think about how hard it is with someone you don't know.
It's especially tough when we want to turn a famous actress like Reese Witherspoon into a lesbian and we know in real life she probably isn't. So we create a character with the same name, personal background, and appearance, but who happens to be lesbian instead of straight. This is fine. Every writer takes shortcuts and makes stuff up. It is fine to do that with celebrity fantasy stories, as long as you do not go too far from reality or become too involved in your own work. Our fictional Reese Witherspoon will only appear in our stories, we acknowledge that she's not real, and we won't be informing the real Reese of her existence. Now if she comes across the story on her own and is all right with someone thinking of her in such a way, that's fine. We won't be soliciting her opinion, though. We're not that type of fan. We're merely putting the fantasy we have into text for readers to enjoy perusing. Hopefully all those who see it will enjoy the read.
Celebrities usually cannot admit in public that they know fan fiction concerning their lives exists. Those who hear of it will often worry that the author is crazy. There is reason for such fear. An obsessed fan killed the singer Selena Perez. President Reagan was shot by an insane fan of actress Jodie Foster. Stephen King wrote a popular novel called "Misery" about a fan who tortures a writer into giving his series the ending she wants. Other celebrities are often stalked, harassed, and pushed into extreme emotional states by fans. Every person who would admire a celebrity greatly enough to create fan fiction about them faces the burden of proving they are not like these notorious fans.
Thankfully, cases where celebrities are flattered or amused by their fans are far more common than cases where celebrities fear their fans. Celebrities know that having people drawn to them is part of the cost of being famous. So is getting crucified in the tabloids, and becoming icons to people who will never know them as anything more than names and faces on screen. "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher is among many celebrities who have written books about what fan worship means to them, and how it is both enthralling and disturbing at the same time.
Fans may not approve of fictional stories concerning their idols either. They can have certain images in mind for celebrities, and when you challenge those images, they may focus their anger on you. Some critics also see celebrity fantasies as the refuge of a weak writer, one who has trouble creating original characters and plots. Readers not familiar with the celebrities used in the story are sometimes turned off by the characters before they even start looking at the tale. It can be difficult to get the positive traits of a famous person across in your words.
If you think you can deal with all this, and still put out quality celebrity fantasy stories, I encourage you in the endeavor. The rest of this essay contains advice on how to accomplish the task. Take heart. Fantasies can be captivating even if they are not real. Celebrities often read fantasy stories about themselves and see them as the honorable art they are, even if they don't wish to admit it. Readers can judge stories based on their quality and not preconceived notions of what is proper in writing. All this is more likely to happen than the situations I described prior to this paragraph. I have learned this while publishing fan fiction, through the feedback I have received. I give my fellow writers the following tips.
Assure readers of your sanity and objective nature when you write celebrity fantasies. Include an upfront disclaimer that establishes the stories are not real, for open-minded adults only, and penned to reflect the inspiration their celebrity characters gave the writer. If you want to solicit feedback or discuss how and why you created the story, the disclaimer can be coupled with an introduction. Keep it brief, though. Your story should do most of the talking.
As you imagine scenes, keep in mind that you are advertising the people about whom you write. The feelings of fans who read your work about their idols are in your hands. You have a great responsibility not to alienate those fans from the famous faces they adore. I get pissed every time I read in the tabloids of how Patrick Swayze is dying of cancer. It upsets me more when he insists he's doing fine in his own public statements. I have admired Patrick onscreen since I was a child. My little sister was in love with him once, maybe she still is. Neither of us wants to think of Patrick as a liar, and the tabloids have made him out to be one without his cooperation. We probably won't like it if your story does something similar. Make your Patrick somebody we'd appreciate getting to know. You can have him curse the tabloids, that backs our positive image, but don't prove the tabloids correct.
Research the celebrities who will be your characters before you write them. Put their names in a search engine and visit the sites that come up. View pictures so you have a clear idea of their appearances. Watch their movies, hear their music, and find out what makes them well-known. Lurk on discussion boards and find out what people think of the celebrities who draw your attention. Study magazine interviews and TV appearances. From all this, you can get familiar with the celebrity and know what readers will expect from a fan fiction piece featuring them. That way, you won't be confusing fans who already have an idea of what your characters should be like.
You can also find believable ways to transform the celebrities into characters for your story. How can you make Angelina Jolie a lesbian and turn readers on to the possibility? Why is Jack Nicholson into seducing young girls? Does George Clooney really love the woman you have him romancing in your plot? Could Britney Spears actually have that fetish you envision she does? Make the reader understand why you believe all this to be possible enough to write it out.
You also need to get clear on what you want to tell readers about the famous people on whom you have based your characters. What made them famous? Why should they turn us on? Are they worthy of admiration, and why? Any celebrity fan fiction story should answer all these questions.
Don't use a celebrity's fame as an excuse for laziness. Not everyone who reads your story may recognize your character based on name alone. I first learned of actress Jamie Lynn Sigler through a celebrity fan fiction piece I read for Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was the basis for another character. I have since become a huge fan of "The Sopranos", a Mafia drama in which Jamie Lynn Sigler starred. Many people have become aware of celebrities' works through my fan fiction, and your stories may perform a similar service.
The above point also applies when describing characters. You can't just name a celebrity and expect us to know what they look like. Evan Rachel Wood has had blonde, brunette, and red hair during her lifetime, and has also had frequent mood swings. If I read a story about her, I want to know what color her tresses are and how she's feeling about life at the time of writing. I love her as a depressed Goth and as a vibrant free spirit. But which side of her am I seeing in your story? Tell me in your description of her physical appearance, clothing, and so forth. Dialogue and actions will also help, but appearance is the building block for further development.
To put it another way, don't just give us a celebrity's name and expect us to know who they are. Describe their body and personality. Quote their famous lines. Tell us the songs they've sung, or the movies and TV shows they've starred in as applicable. A little advertisement goes a long way. If I don't know who the real Audrey Hepburn was, your story can tell me to watch her iconic performance in "My Fair Lady". That film may even become an accompaniment for the fantasy your story creates. Expanded description helps you shape dialogue too, and parody if you're doing that. More than anything, it helps readers suspend disbelief. When reading a celebrity fantasy, I want to get as close to the reality as possible and then see the twist.
Give your character a name and face, then show us who you want them to be. Is your Brad Pitt gay or straight? Why is he into BDSM? Does Madonna ever let her hair down and drop her haughty stage persona? Are the Jonas Brothers really as devoted Christians as they seem? Is Hillary Duff a closet incestuous lesbian? What circumstances could turn her into one if she isn't one already? When you write a fantasy, you need to make readers accept what you plot out. Just stating what you want to be true is not enough. Show us how the fantasies could be real. Your disclaimer and the press will remind us they are not.
Put a unique spin on famous characters if you get an idea for one. Also, bring them down to our level. This will show critics that you can be original. The tabloids have been painting celebrities as selfish fame whores for decades. Fans are tired of the image. Now suppose we get an actress who knows the tabloid image of her is wrong but feels so much angst over it she has to date and break up with someone different every night to distract herself. Suddenly we have a possibly good plot.
Pick your targets well. When I decided to write a religious slut character into my fan fiction, I needed someone who would grab the reader's attention and who was believable in her role. Erika Christensen has a Mae West figure and a diverse acting portfolio. Her films often include hot sex scenes. She has expressed a rebellious nature coupled with devoted spirituality in several interviews. Despite the fact that she has never been nude on screen, she has told reporters she is comfortable with exposing her body. In 2000, she informed Allure Magazine: "I was always the kind of girl who would get dressed in front of other girls and then wonder if I embarrassed them." In 2005, she told Spike TV that she knew stories about celebrities' sexual escapades were on the internet and laughed. The pilot episode of her ABC series "Six Degrees" featured her performing a striptease while riding atop a garbage truck. Her love scenes are always dramatic and exciting. She is strong in family values, and tolerant of diversity in others. In 2007, she opened a Scientology church in Florida. The following year, she directed an off-Broadway play with heavy psychological themes, including acceptance of lesbianism. I was attracted to Erika by all this, and she helped me create her character for my stories, whether she knew it or not.
I don't think the equally beautiful and religious but less slutty Mandy Moore would be as believable in a story about a religious nymphomaniac. She seems repressed in her films, rarely does love scenes, and has never talked about sex in an interview as far as I'm aware. If you can find something that proves me wrong and create a fantasy Mandy based on that, however, I'd be interested in reading about her.
Two additional research issues bear discussion. Many celebrities have controversies surrounding them. Why did Woody Allen's marriages fail? How can Mel Gibson call himself a faithful adherent of a strange religion that many people dislike? Is Lindsay Lohan a cocaine addict? Is Mick Jagger able to perform sexually at his age? These are just a few examples of the questions people have about celebrities, things that we know about because of the tabloids. They are among the reasons we recognize famous people and are fascinated by them. Any writer of celebrity fantasy faces a challenge when it comes to controversy. Do you ignore it, if you can? Is there a way to settle the issue in your writing so that fans who read your story can maybe get a sense of peace? Dare you put it down in text if so?
There are ways to incorporate tabloid garbage if you have to include it. I agree it is sometimes unavoidable. We'd hardly read a story about Brad Pitt and not expect to at least see some mention of his breakup with Jennifer Aniston. It's been hyped so much. But to make things more fun, you can include pieces of the story the press doesn't know or spin things in a positive way. You made up the information, but that doesn't matter. At least you're admitting what you've done in your disclaimer, something tabloids never have.
Creating a lie we'd like to believe, that may not be a lie anyway, also helps the fan sometimes. Maybe Marilyn Manson really does host sex parties, only there are no drugs or minors involved. We'd like to see him as a good person, right? Perhaps Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are more open-minded than their reputation makes them seem. Make us consider the possibility. Kristanna Loken and Michelle Rodriguez could be in a lesbian relationship. If they are, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's probably over now, since Kristanna got married to a man in the summer of 2008. Michelle might still come over sometimes to spice up their lovemaking, though. That's a good topic for a fantasy. The reader will be more comfortable imagining it than the negative picture the tabloids paint. Create a positive picture and you will earn praise.
In addition, controversy can be worth exploring if it makes sense in your plot. Readers will expect some attention to it, and it makes a good plot device. Christian Bale has a drinking problem and a pretty female fan drives him home. He rewards her once he sobers up, or maybe she takes advantage of him while he's inebriated. Jessica Alba is feeling the woes of a declining Hollywood star, and she needs a sympathetic ear. Your character befriends her, and she's grateful enough to let him take her home. So what if Kate Hudson has a habit of sleeping with random strangers? This fact helps readers suspend disbelief when you write a character based on Kate Hudson who happens to do the same thing. Just remember to respect both sides of a debate concerning a controversial issue if you get into one. You never know if the person reading your John Travolta story loves or hates the fact that he's into Scientology. Please either side by making him find both benefit and price in his adherence to this controversial religion.
Debates can become steamy stories also. Suppose Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Condi Rice get in a private yet heated argument over some political issue. Each woman presents her case, and they come to agreement on several points. They also get attracted to each other, and you can guess what happens next.
If you must mock a celebrity in your stories, you should do so without malicious intent. Have the celebrity laugh along with the jokes. Teach us a lesson based on their mistakes. Famous people can make interesting villains, but not all readers want to see them that way. Keep negativity to a minimum in your characters and concentrate on their qualities worthy of admiration. You have the power to do just about anything with the real people you are using as characters, but you still have a responsibility to treat them right. Make them into the best versions of themselves you can envision, and then show that vision to the world.
The second issue concerns anti-fans. These trolls enjoy disrespecting celebrities for a variety of reasons. You can see them on celebrity message boards all over the internet. Might they read your story? Should their views on your characters be addressed?