In something of a departure, I’m not going to rant today, at least, not much. Instead, there’s a snippet later and a bit of stuff about the process of filing the serial numbers to turn fanfic into something original.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with fanfic (I’ve committed fanfic in three universes I’m prepared to admit to), but unless said fanfic is of something like Jane Austen where everything is safely in the public domain, you can’t sell it without going through the process of filing off the serial numbers and adding your own special touches to make it not recognizably derivative of any particular piece. If you can do that you can do quite well – the infamous Fifty Shades of Gray started life as Twilight fanfic, after all.
My first pass is usually pretty straight: change the names, tweak the dialog, and modify the world-building, so that what’s kept is the plot (which could be my original plot but might not be), my characters and my interpretation of the original characters (which is usually original to me anyway) albeit with changes to the more obvious characteristics. Second pass is often a complete rewrite that aims to keep the flavor of the original fanfic, the – sometimes renamed multiple times – characters and their interactions but builds in its own plot around the general feel and concepts of the original piece and/or original fanfic (depending on whether or not the plot follows the original closely).
Each time I’ve done it, the second pass has unleashed the Mad Writing Skillz (otherwise known as temporary insanity due to going deep into writer-land – somewhat awkward when it happens while I’m at work) and generated mega extra backstory that was never in the original piece as well as deepened the world building.
Yes, this the YA piece where dogs rule and humans are the very much despised minority. The second pass is about 45k words in and powering along, building a complex back story and universe as it goes. No, I’m not going to say here what it started as fanfic of, although those of you who know me well enough can guess (those of you who already know, shut up already). It’s different enough now that the original source is really only an inspirational seed with a bit of tribute thrown in.
Also, as a second level joke (I may have been overtired when this happened, but I ran with it anyway) all the nation names except one are inspired by Baen authors. Sometimes they’re the actual author’s name, sometimes they’re a derivation or a nickname. And one or two (or more) Barfly names crept in for characters. Most of the rest of the names – as befits a piece that’s more or less Golden Age of Piracy with magic – come from known pirates and sometimes with a nod and wink to fictional representations of them.
Oh, and he’s not in this snip, but when the Dread Kitten Westley shows up, I may have been excessively cute.
The docks of Whaler’s Rest were busy at all hours. Whaling ships of all sizes, trade sloops and galleons, the occasional frigate from one or another of the navies who claimed the lands around the Gold Sea, all made port in Whaler’s Rest before chancing their lives and fortunes passing through Cutthroat Neck.
The shouts of the sea dogs rang across the docks, and dogs of all ages from youngsters barely old enough to take to the seas to weathered old salts with grizzled fur scurried to finish their duties. There were even a few humans to be found, furless shabby things with bony limbs and sharp, hungry faces. Most of them wore heavy iron collars with the mark of their owner stamped on the metal, and they labored at the hardest, most menial of tasks.
Two young humans watched the controlled chaos from behind stacked crates. To those familiar with human ages, this pair couldn’t have more than fourteen years to their credit, but their hunger-tight faces and hardened eyes told of experiences no pup should have seen. One of the two carried an old, notched saber on his belt, the other had two knives.
“Looks like Cap’n Willard’s made land,” the one with the saber said in a low voice. He flicked a finger towards a galleon with more guns than a trader ought rightly to have. “Best ye collect that trinket Black Jack be after.”
The other pup nodded. “Aye. Ye’ll be gettin’ th’ goods for the Pack, then?”
“Aye, Kat, that I will.” He studied the docks through a gap between crates, gray eyes narrowed. “You be careful, now,” he added. “Black Jack’s been givin’ ye some odd looks of late. He may have figured ye for female.”
Kat growled low in her throat. “Kit, brother mine, I’m always careful.” She didn’t say the obvious: that some things couldn’t be escaped no matter how careful you were. “That skummin’ skeeve tries aught, I’ll slit ‘im from weasand to gizzard.”
Kit clasped her hands briefly. “I’ll meet ye at Jack’s once t’ goods is safe stowed.”
“Aye. Watch yer back, Kit. I ain’t the only one as has enemies.” Kat slipped back out of the hidden corner, into the shadows between the dockside buildings and the cliffs separating the docks from Whaler’s Rest proper.
She emerged from the shadows well away from where her brother lurked, waiting for his chance to get to the Pack’s courier without attracting too much attention. Even a male human had to be careful: too many dogs figured a human pup an easy target for a collar and some easy silver.
Kat eeled her way through the crowds, keeping her head down so none of the dogs could claim she was ‘disrespecting her betters’. No few of those dogs lost their coin pouches in her wake: their fault for leaving them on their belt for easy lifting. There wouldn’t be much, not from dock laborers and traders, but a handful of copper was the difference between buying stew at one of the inns and scavenging the middens or hunting rats in the sewers.
Willard had docked at the long pier, where he could have men swinging loads the full length of his ship. That meant Kat had to get past the men guarding the pier to keep thieves and gawkers at bay.
Both of them frowned at her approach. She recognized both: a grizzled old gray terrier mix known only as Snagtooth and a burly mostly-black mongrel with the unlikely name of Christopher French. Both bared their teeth as she drew near.
“Git out of it, pup,” Snagtooth growled. “Ye’ve no business here.”
“An’ a fine day to ye fine gents, too.” Kat kept her voice cheerful, relaxed. “If’n ye wants t’ argue me business, ye’d best take it wi’ Black Jack. Cap’n’s got a special fer him.”
French snarled. “So the Slicers is doin’ th’ rat king’s errands now?”
“An’ I’ll let ‘im know ye said un, French.” Kat smiled when the dog flinched. Black Jack might rule half Whaler’s Rest’s sewers, but the man that called him a rat dog was asking to die. “Course, if’n ye lets me through an’ quits yer fuss, I c’n forget.”
French growled, but relaxed a bit when Snagtooth rested a hand on his shoulder. “Leave be, French. It ain’t worth a fight wi’ Black Jack.” The old dog gave Kat a hard glare. “One o’these days ye’ll trip yerself, boy.”
Kat only shrugged. “Aye, that be true. But today I got a delivery t’make.” She offered a mock bow. “Thankee kindly f’r the warnin’.” As she walked out onto the pier, she heard French mutter, “Damn Slicer pups. Think they’re good as a dog.”
“They’s quick t’ th’ blade an’ don’t care who they feed t’ th’ rats,” Snagtooth said. “That makes ’em good as any dog, until sommat takes ’em down.”