As transformative work, fan writing always, in a sense, begins in the middle of a relationship, a conflict, or a world. Even in fan fiction where the story depicts characters meeting for the first time, those characters have a pre-existing relationship in the source-text and in the minds of readers.
Within commercial romance, a similar process occurs. In commercial romance, genre archetypes also serve as pre-existing types of characters and worlds for an individual story to build on. As with all literary genres, each romantic hero or heroine’s story leans a little on the ones that came before it. Like fan fiction, commercial romance sub-genres are also organized around common story-worlds and motifs (the regency, the paranormal, the contemporary western, etc.). Both commercial and fan authors rework these archetypes and storytelling traditions, contributing their own ideas about romantic conflict and their individual voices into these larger connected pools of stories. In this way, both styles of writing engage in the practice of remixing and transforming pre-existing work.
What do you think? Do you buy the idea that the production process for commercial romance has such similar properties to the production of fan fiction/transformative work? Comment at Fandom Then/Now.