Fifty Shades of Inspiration

by LimebirdCat

It’s made it into the top three ranks of the New York Times’ Best Sellers List, one of the world’s most prestigious best seller lists. It has shifted so many physical copies that it’s claimed records and it sits at the top of eBook lists like Kindle.

All because of fanfiction.

Erika Leonard, author of the Fifty Shades books to which I allude and better known as EL James, self admittedly had a bit of a midlife crisis. After reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, she felt inspired and confident enough to tentatively write a ‘fic and no doubt channel said crisis.

Originally titled ‘Master of the Universe’, it took on a life of its own, begging for its own continuity and life far removed from the realms of Twilight.

She took her original idea for the fanfic and reworked it into something amazing.

Fanfiction undeniably gave a writer the inspiration to find their own voice and story and grow from there.

I’ve spoken before on Limebirds about fanfiction and how much I thoroughly enjoy writing and reading it. I’ve also commented previously on how wonderful it is when it can help give you the nudge you need to get yourself going.

Sitting about, stuck for inspiration and hoping against hope that a character or plot will magically appear in your head is not always going to happen. Sometimes you need to have a play with something someone else made and then that can help inspire.

Sometimes it gives you ideas… other times, simply that wonderful knotty feeling in your gut that tells you what sort of story you want to write and who it should be about. You can’t deny the proof screaming down at us from the top three spots of the top sellers when you’re out and about. Fanfiction can help and inspire. Good, nay, great things can come from it. It can help you find your path.

I’m not saying it is guaranteed that inspiration will find you – just that it can and does happen.

I see the success of Fifty Shades as a huge reminder, at least to me, that fanfiction can shove you beautifully into the most right and wonderful directions.

Right then fair readers, to the books! Have I read them? Do bears do their mucky business in the woods? Of course I have.

Now, as much as I adored them, they are not cataclysmically-oh-my-actual-god amazing in their execution. Contradictory in places, a tad clunky and even the odd spelling mistake (shame on the publisher there!).

Was it great escapist fun? Indeed. Yes, it is resplendent in, erm *searches for appropriate euphemism* adult situations *phew*, but the characters are actually worth investing in. They are not 1 or 2-dimensional. They are complex in their own ways and its them and their developing relationships that make me hungry to turn the page. By book three, I was getting worn out (let alone our poor heroine Ana!) by the amount of adult situations there were. It got to the point where even I was literally muttering at the pages on my Kindle: “cut to the blummin’ chase already”.

The plot of the first book was a bit thin on the ground, compared to the other two. However, one has to understand that it wasn’t adult cuddles (I’m deploying euphemism number two there) without context. The hero is wired a bit weird and the heroine spends her time trying to understand and nurture him away from that. Adult relationships aren’t all about hand holding and making cups of tea. Adult cuddles can be a big hoofing part of how a relationship is underlined in some cases. Their adult cuddles move from him getting pleasure and that’s it, to, by the second book, him becoming tender and more in tune with the fact that he is capable of expressing feelings in another way than just plain old good-sweet-lovin (euphemism number three).

Then, you get people like Samantha Brick (a British journalist who infamously said that she couldn’t make friends with other females because she was just too beautiful. Unfortunately, she looks more like she’s been chewing on a large chunk of her surname) saying that the book is terrible because of how it treats women.

My ten-penneths worth is basically… what the hell? Quite frankly, when I was 21 and if I was single and some fit rich bloke stuck me in the same situation, I think I’d have done the same as Ana. As would most of my mates who were the same age. Women are, weirdly, allowed to enter into whatever sexual relationship they jolly well please as long as it’s between two consenting adults and no-one’s getting hurt. To say that particular liberty is degrading is, well, degrading. Women are allowed to be adventurous. Christian did not force Ana nor did he have a gun against her head. She demonstrates throughout the entire series that she is very wilful herself. I’m sure that if the character wasn’t into it  – and during the novels when she’s had enough, she makes a point of saying something – she wouldn’t do it. To say that women can’t enter into that sort of relationship is bonkers. I know it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of Twinings Breakfast Tea, but each to their flippin’ own I say.

That’s my ten-penneths worth.

So, what has the above have to do with fanfiction? It would be easy to assume I have gone off track by being all women’s lib etc… but I haven’t. This book, derided as ‘rubbish’ by some has sparked debate. It has entertained at least a million people. It’s talked about the world over and shops are selling out of it fast. There’s me, right now, a writer, talking about it on a writers’ blog.

All this talk, debate, thought and joy brought about by someone tentatively embarking on their writing journey from the humble beginnings of fanfiction. All because someone took inspiration from another. All because someone was helped find their voice and were set free.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Even if you don’t go down the path of fanfiction… just think about what you could achieve in your writing? The possibilities are endless.

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22 Comments to “Fifty Shades of Inspiration”

  1. I haven’t read any of them, but I’m a bit intrigued. Sometimes I find it easier to develop someone else’s ideas rather than my own (that’s why I enjoy writing with my husband so much). It’s really great to think that so much success can come from a fanfic!

    • It is ace to bounce off other people’s ideas and writing with the other half has seriously got to be fun. There’s a British couple who publish thrillers under the name of ‘Nicki French’. They are a brilliant writing tour de force and I love their work. Writing with the husband can lead to amazing things 🙂

  2. Reading this post has reignited my want to write fan fiction again! I really like the idea of it, because sometimes it’s hard to come up with your own ideas straight away, so why not help yourself out by using some other inspiration?

    I also felt the same as you about Fifty Shades of Grey, some of the sex bits I found myself skipping over because I actually wanted to read the story and find out what was going to happen. It also really confused and irritated me the way she called her *eh hem* her sex? What’s that all about? Is that an American term that I’m unfamiliar with? Anways…
    Even though I agree some of the dialogue was clunky, her ‘inner goddess’ really started to nark me and I pictured her as British (because of the way she spoke), I still really liked it. I felt that I could read them again straight after finishing.

    Anyways, I think I’m going to seriously consider looking into some fan fiction. Maybe I’ll start writing some kinky FSOG stuff! 😛

    • Argh Beth that’s a brill reply, ta muchly 🙂

      I get what you mean about ‘her sex’ thing. That was irritating. Not as irritating as the constant ‘oh my’. I personally enjoyed the e-mail exchanges they had and the way she dealt with Mrs Robinson, that was laugh out loud funny. Those were the bits I wanted to get to, rather than wall-to-wall adult cuddles.

      I’m just in awe at how amazing a piece of fanfiction can become and how it can be changed into something of its own.

      If you write any ff then please do share misses!

      LBCat x

      • I agree about the emails, I found myself skipping ahead of bits to read them! Some bits I found a bit implausible.. like how unsweaty and glamourous it was! Anyways, lots of more technicalities that I won’t go into here, haha.

        I shall, I shall! x

  3. I am half way through the third book and even though I find the books repetitive and not fantastically written I don’t discount them as rubbish. They are a far shot from the best thing I’ve ever read but I have read them and the second and third book kept me coming back for more because, as you say the plot lines in the second and third books are more substantial.
    I too began my writing career in the humble world of fan-fiction, my characters of choice were from the Harry Potter world. It was nice to have something pre-made so that I didn’t have to agonise for hours over it making sense in relation to characters, places and settings, I could just write. A freeing feeling. I even occasionally write a fan-fic, especially if I’m having a little bout of writers block.
    I have to say that I do love the characters of Ana and Christian. At work we are all agonising over what actor should play them in the film (a rumour that one is being made is floating around).

    • Oh yeah they’re def making the film and I’ve heard that lots of people are championing Ian Somerhalder, but although I love him in Vampire Diaries… I just can’t picture him as Christian. My ideal choice (and who I pictured while reading) was Matt Bomer or Henry Cavill.

      • Oh no no no! For me, Christian Grey is Tom Hardy. Cor-blinkin-blimey! The physical description of him is just so Tom Hardy in my minds eye. Grrrr 😀

      • Ohh nooo, looks wise I can see, but not personality. Don’t know if he’s got the sophisticated charm that I picture for Christian. haha! I could picture him playing Tyler though!

      • Ach nooo, it was after seeing him in Wuthering Heights were he was dangerous, sexy and charming. Oooh by-eck, he’s definitely the Christian in my head! I don’t think any of us are going to be happy with who they end up casting in the end! I haven’t even thought about any of the other characters casting. Mind you, has any other woman?? lol!

  4. I can’t understand half of what y’all say, but I enjoy your blog posts and comments! Beth, that “her sex” thing I think is an American term. It’s a juvenile, stupid term IMHO, that I suspect came into favor with some people because of the George Michaels song, “I Want Your Sex.” That’s just a guess, of course. Haven’t read any of the Gray books and am not sure I will. The “look inside” snippet I read on Amazon didn’t impress me enough to part with my hard-earned dollars.
    I used to write “Miami Vice,” “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” stories for fun. I don’t think that the term fanfic had even been coined back then. That’s how old I am. 🙂

    • LOL! Sorry, I think that’s just me and Cat! The majority of the other Limebirds are actually American, so they probably make more sense. 😉

    • To be fair Lynnette, poor Beth has no idea what I’m talking about most of the time, I do speak in rather odd, off the wall sort of randomness! As for the terminology, I think Beth and I deffo need that explaining 8S. Thanks for posting a reply to my post and joining in with this thread 😀

  5. I’ve never heard “you know what” referred to as “your sex,” and I’m an American. Has anyone considered that it may be just a little “tic” that the author invented for that character to have? 🙂
    I haven’t read the books, and have no desire to, I have to admit. I’ll tell you though, I am in love with the idea that you could write a book, throw it up on the internet (and elsewhere of course) and get it published worldwide so quickly! Now that is inspiring!

  6. Haven’t read the books but I might need to if only to get a clue as to what all this kerfuffle is about. 😉

  7. Here’s my usual off-the-mark take. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey and doubt if I ever will, and I don’t read fanfic. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of taking someone else’s hard-wrought creative ideas and doing something with them that the author never intended. Undoubtedly it’s a compliment to the author that the reader liked the book well enough to want more of it, but at the same time I consider it a bit of a corruption.
    Now after saying that, I’m going to make an egotistical comment. If I can just get my termite saga The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head out there and get some people reading it, I can see it forming the basis for fanfic. My termite peoples are fascinating and the possibility for stories beyond the retellings of myth that I’ve undertaken are endless! I have an idea for retelling Huckleberry Finn within a later stage of the termite civilization, and also a termite detective a la Sherlock Holmes! I may never live long enough to get those written, so maybe some fan will decide to do that one day!

    • As I am want to say – each to their own 🙂

      Fanfic’s are not everyone’s thing and that is absolutely fine. I’m certainly not deifying it as some sort of worshipful practice that always should be undergone. Instead, I am advocating the idea of taking direct inspiration and using it to help you create your own thing.

      Fanfictioning is something that happens constantly and has been around for hundreds of years. Every time Hollywood does a ‘reboot’ or rehash’s a Cinderella-esq tale, it has the same flesh and bones as the spirit of fanfiction. Taking someone else’s idea and creating something from it. Taking folklore even and making that into a story – it’s still someone else’s idea. Some stories are so ingrained into our consciousness as a culture that we don’t even notice that people are rewriting and reinventing other people’s stuff and taking it in their own particular direction.

      Although it’s galvanised recently as it pertains to recent popular fiction, it will still be little more than symptomatic of our collective will to reproduce a strand, a strain of an idea and keeping it alive. Just like in the spirit of oral history from the medieval period. Stories pass from one story teller to another and in each person’s hands it morphs and changes a little and become something beautiful in its own right.

      Of course, for me, it’s only wrong when you take someone else’s idea and try and pass it off as yours. That called plagiarism and that’s where I naturally draw the line.

      I’m so glad you joined in with this debate and took the time to read and engage with my post! It is always very gratifying when people join in and stir further discussion 😀

      Good luck with the writing 😉

  8. We find our inspirations wherever, who am I to criticise a source? Would I read it Fifty? No, and yes, I’m a feminist… but as a feminist, I believe each of us has the right to make our own choices in life. If someone is abused in some way and needs help, the dynamics of that all change, but one has to desire help, or fear circumstance. Sometimes change seems the greater fear, I’ve been there, and the consequences weren’t pretty.

    In my childhood, some derided comics for children, viewing them as rubbish and not a ‘proper’ tool of education. Nonsense. How many kids honed reading skill and interest on comics and as they grew older, read more involved works?

    If one itches to write fan fiction, let it flow. It doesn’t work for me, but I am not anyone else, nor they me.

    • Nelle – thanks for reading and commenting first off 

      You really have made some fab points and I’m very much with you. The children’s comic’s point I do agree with. It certainly adds up to the mass of creative forms that people look down on, but without understanding the good they do and the inspiration they provide. There are is certainly a culture of expression snobbery – comics aren’t good enough, fanfiction is stupid etc etc. Who are we to say which is good or bad? I’m one for championing the lesser acceptable forms, like fanfiction. What EL James has achieved with it is for me proof to the world that their derision is ill-placed and that so much can be achieved from it.

      I’m a feminist in as much as I am someone who believes that people, regardless of gender, should be allowed to do as they darn well pleased, as long as no-one is getting hurt (physically and mentally). The book itself points out that women have sexual appetites and need to be fulfilled in different ways – our hero’s previous relationships had all be with the woman’s 100% consent and that their tastes were not mainstream and therefore open for misunderstanding. Our heroine battles to prove to the hero that whereas she doesn’t mind some of it, she’s not into that sort of thing and he therefore has to learn to do things her way and realised he does actually want the same. No-one is abused here – other than the hero in his childhood and adolescence. All the women generally seem to be in control here, which I think is good to see. It harks back to Jane Eyre – a woman asked to do something she knew was wrong, ups and leaves because she can’t. Same with Ana and that’s good to see. Her terms.

      Ahhh, I like a comment that gets me all talkative and discussiony! I really appreciated your comment 

  9. I’ve not read these books buy now I have to see what the fuss is all about.
    Hope I’m not disappointed!

  10. I haven’t read them either, just because I have so many books on my list and why should I let them jump the queue? I will get to them but I’m worried that I’ll be disappointed with them – they’ve been so hyped up, how can they possibly live up to it? I’ll get to writing some fan faction too one of these days…

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