Avoiding Adaptation Drift When Writing Fanfic

I have long lived in the world of fandom and fanfic** – so much so that I sometimes get so caught up in variations and AUs and adaptations that canon and fanon begin to blur together. More than once, I have been convinced that a plot point was actually canon when it’s actually just become so commonplace in fanfic that it seems like it should be in the source text. Going back and revisiting the original usually resets my mind and provides pleasant surprises with the new things I find in a text I’ve read a billion times before. (The mark of any great piece of art, I think, is the ability for it to constantly surprise you with new discoveries every time you pick it up.)

Clearing the slate by rereading is great for a reader. What about for writers? Definitely re-reading will help, but here’s a great tip from Rosie J. over at A Happy Assembly (the place to read and post Jane Austen fanfic):

If anybody...wants an exercise to help avoid adaptation drift, and also to help get the voices of the characters in their heads, I have a suggestion. 

Open up a word processor. Open up P&P. Start typing the text of the book. 

I stumbled into this method years ago when I was writing Tolkien fics, and it really does work. It's a twofold thing too: it separates what's canon from what's the miniseries or fanon, and it reinforces the voice of the narrator and voices of the characters. 

Time-consuming? Absolutely. But the time spent is part of the point. By entering every keystroke manually, you internalize the text on a deeper level than in simple reading. You become far more aware of where Austen uses commas and semicolons (spoiler: a lot). You get her word choices in your head (loads of alliteration). You catch nuances of characterization that can get run over if you're just reading (like how often Darcy smiles).

It's a great exercise even if the plots you write are rarely canon-compliant. If you're wanting to write more Austenesque and less Heyeresque, this is a good place to start (and occasionally repeat). 

While this is Austen-specific, it can really work with any book or TV show or movie you might be writing fanfic for. It would be great to use to catch the cadence and the idiosyncrasies of characters’ speaking voices, especially for fanfic of shows or movies where being able to capture the same style of dialogue will go a long way to providing an authentic representation of that world. 

Try it and let me know if it works for you!


**The first fanfic I ever read was a published Star Wars book because I was super into Han/Leia after seeing the Special Editions in the mid-90s. The book is popular in the Star Wars EU, but all I cared about was reading more about Han and Leia's relationship.

Fandoms that followed included Buffy the Vampire Slayer,


Lizzie Bennet Diaries (literally ran out of fic to read in that fandom),

and Pride and Prejudice (the OTP-est of the OTPs). 

Basically, all my ships have generally been the tiny, ass-kicking woman with the hot tall guy in total awe of her.