My side, your side: Fan fiction and The Gilded Hour

An email from an unhappy — and proactive reader.

Ms Donati, You have created a wonderful but unfinished story with very lovely and interesting people. Since you have written that you like to leave unanswered questions at the end of your books I will not be able to read your future works of art. I read– almost uninterrupted —” The Guilded [sic] Hour” and could not believe you would give up on the story without having an ending.—I know you think there was one—but I beg to differ. I have read the blog about this story—-and your answers to the comments were not satisfactory. I am writing my own ending to your story with each story line having a happy or unhappy closure and will not need to read any sequels. Thank you for your lovely start —now to start on my own end of the story lines.

My reply:

Ms Williams —  I take it as a compliment that you feel so strongly about the story and the characters. You are, of course, welcome to do as you please, as long as you don’t attempt to publish what you create. I wish you best of luck with it.

Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas Annotated pages from David Foster Wallace’s copy of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas Annotated pages from David Foster Wallace’s copy of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I didn’t have to think very long about how to reply to this reader, and I meant what I said: she is free to write whatever she likes and resolve storylines to her satisfaction, as long as she doesn’t publish what she writes. It’s not in me to be angry or even irritated by this. I’m a little unclear on what she thought she might accomplish with her letter. Is she hoping I’ll change my ways? Ask her to collaborate in writing the sequel? Tell her I want to see what she writes? Maybe she’s just hopping mad and needs to vent in my general direction.

To be really clear: I have no problem with fan fiction. You have to really love and care about the world I created and the people in the world to go to this kind of trouble, and I really do see that as a great compliment. But I can’t and won’t read whatever she — or anyone– might write. The risk is that if I read fanfic, I’ll be accused of stealing ideas and sued.  Am I missing out on something? Impossible to know. Ms Williams is missing out on whatever I come up with in the sequel, which is her right. I can certainly  carry on without reading her endings to my stories.

So, I thank Ms. Williams for the compliment, but I can’t interact with her at all about this. 

I’d be curious what people think about this subject in general — not specifically the email from  Ms. Williams, but her need to resolve the story to her own satisfaction and timeline. 


5 Replies to “My side, your side: Fan fiction and The Gilded Hour”

  1. I’ve created my own ending for a book I loved. But it was to a complete series that finished suddenly and with no resolution, leaving me feeling confused and disappointed. I actually regret ever reading it in the first place, and have never read anything else by that author.

    For everything else, no. As much as I love writing, that’s not why I read. Reading is my escape to other worlds and I have no desire to impose my own vision on them.

    I don’t much like unanswered questions in books, but that’s just me, and it won’t stop me reading unless it is as severe as the example above. Others are quite happy to have a little mystery remain.

    Cliffhangers between books in a series are frustrating but expected. Although I did love the Wilderness series for its lack of them (with one exception). I’m yet to read The Gilded Hour – not because I’m not excited about (I am!), but because I’m trying to reduce the time I have to wait between books…I’m not very patient ;)

    1. I understand — I’m impatient too. My favorite thing is to find an excellent novel, the first in a series of five or six or more, that are already in print.

  2. Hmmm… that’s a tough one. I think most readers who love a book or a television series or a movie want the story to continue but everything comes to an end. I have many friends who are writers of fan fiction and I’ve enjoyed some of their work but I don’t think it could or should replace the original work it’s based on. An alternate point of view is just that, an alternate point.

    I’d definitely agree that you shouldn’t interact.

  3. I sympathize with the reader in a way, as I imagine many of us have been burned by an unfinished series, when the author dies, or simply does not write more of what she originally intended. (I’m still sad about a wonderful book that was first of an intended trilogy; talk about unanswered questions!) I have a friend who will only read finished series, but even she got burned when the author’s announced series of six didn’t resolve after book six–it turned out the author needed another book to wrap everything up.

    On the other hand, once I was out of my teens, I don’t think I would write to the author to castigate them for such an “offense,” and nor would I want to write a sequel myself, as much as I hope you do. I like to think about what might happen after the final page, but I certainly don’t think I could do it better.

    1. I don’t mind if a reader has such a strong connection to a character that they let their own imaginations take over. I think about other writers’ characters like that too, sometimes. But I keep it to myself.

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