Fanficton: A Practice in the Art of Storytelling

A Girl Writing; A Pet Goldfinch. Henriette Brown (1870). Oil on canvas.
A Girl Writing; A Pet Goldfinch. Henriette Brown (1870). Oil on canvas.

Good shows, films, pieces of literature and other narrative mediums all have one thing in common: they leave their audiences wondering, “What will happen next?”

Sometimes this desire is filled by a particularly diligent author, screenwriter or director. Sequels are made, spinoffs are constructed, and an idea that started out as a solo effort can be extended into a successful series. One of the unexpected downfalls to worldbuilding is drawing in an audience so much that their desire for more can’t be satiated.

Tolkien's world of Middle Earth has captured the imagination of audiences around the world. Lore from The Lord of the Rings has been continued in a series of books by Christopher Tolkien.
Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth has captured the imagination of audiences around the world. Lore from The Lord of the Rings has been continued in a series of books by Christopher Tolkien.

Enter the world of Fanfiction, an attempt to curb the appetites of fans who aren’t satisfied by what has already been established in a creative product. Those who find themselves fascinated with the worlds in works like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Legend of Zelda, or even The Big Bang Theory can find their refuge in an abundant online community dedicated to fulfilling the desire to know more. The most prevalent web source for Fanfiction, Fanfiction.net, features thousands of categories for TV shows and video games which archive the written works of amateur fans. The popularity of Fanfiction for books like Twilight has resulted in some of its adapted publication. Fifty Shades, anyone?

Master of the Universe was a Twilight Fanfiction that became Fifty Shades of Grey. Later, another two books were adapted to complete the trilogy.
Master of the Universe was a Twilight Fanfiction that became Fifty Shades of Grey. Later, another two books were adapted to complete the trilogy.

But Fanfiction isn’t a new concept. Nor is it a phenomenon unique to the internet. The internet has made Fanfiction more accessible, increased its popularity and its demand from audiences. Fanfiction has been around since human beings began to tell stories — or since they began to write them down, anyway. Eventually, storytelling branched into different artistic mediums, like comic books, film, video games, and television. The advent of new narrative mediums increased the scope available for fanfiction, but the outcome remained the same.

The inherent value of fanfiction — fulfilling the human desire to tell stories — has remained apparent throughout its history. By fulfilling this desire, fanfiction has established itself as a legitimate and valuable art form. It has enhanced the narrative storytelling tradition, and in the current digital era, encouraged young writers to get their start in a massive online community. Its use should be supported by authors as free exposure and complimentary to the resonating power of their own stories. In a post-modern world, nothing can be constituted as original. Stories are borrowed, freed, and made accessible through their restoration across time and culture. To quote Jarmusch:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.”

Fanfiction Throughout History

About five hundred years ago, a writer by the name of John Milton was so inspired by the Genesis tale from The Bible that he decided to rewrite it in present-day, Enlightenment-era English. Paradise Lost took him longer than twenty years to produce. At this time in his life, he was blind and had to dictate the whole thing to his daughters, who wrote it all down for him. Milton claimed it was his greatest work, the product of divine intervention from God, who had told him the story every night while he slept. Once the sprawling epic was completed, it was hailed as one of the greatest works ever produced in the English language. Today, it is studied as part of the canonical literature by students of English all over the world, and it stands in literary magnitude alongside the works of Shakespeare and Homer. Professors of Milton studies claim that it is the best work in the epic genre ever produced.

John Milton was so inspired  by the tale of Genesis from the Bible that he wrote Paradise Lost. It is considered his magnum opus.
John Milton was so inspired by the tale of Genesis from the Bible that he wrote Paradise Lost. It is considered his magnum opus.

You might have guessed it by now, but this great work Paradise Lost was originally written, and remains to this day, a piece of fanfiction.

Before Paradise Lost, another of the great writers of contemporary English, a certain William Shakespeare, also dabbled in the art of fanfic. Romeo and Juliet, a work adapted from an Italian poem, The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, was just one of the Bard’s borrowed works. Antony and Cleopatra took two historical, dramatic figures and expanded on their lives. The play elaborated on their tumultuous relationship, passionate love affair, and ultimate demise using evidence and rumour from history. Some of his most famous and popular plays, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV, could all be classified as fanfiction.

Some of the Bard's most famous plays were adapted from Italian, Scottish and British narrative traditions.
Some of the Bard’s most famous plays were adapted from Italian, Scottish and British narrative traditions.

Human beings have always felt the desire to tell stories, and when stories end, it’s hard to accept that the characters or narratives an audience has become so invested in are really, truly gone. Fanfiction fills that desire for knowledge in a way that is safe, imaginative, and provides excellent practice for original storytelling.

Contemporary Work

Although Fanfiction.net remains the premium source for fanfiction, other social media platforms are providing informal spaces through which to self-publish work. Livejournal, Tumblr, Storywrite and DeviantArt provide open platforms through which to publish written works, including fanfiction. Just like any literary publication, however, each of these sites caters to a slightly different audience. Livejournal is well known for “kink fics” — works including explicit and raunchy sexual acts between fictional characters — that violates some community guidelines on Fanfiction.net. Tumblr provides an integrated and extremely complex fan community that is split into “fandoms”. Each fandom offers a devoted community who repost fanfiction, fanart and other fan medium works with specified search tags. This system makes it easy to find a very specific type of fanfiction, and easily check its quality based on peer review.

If you are looking for a slightly more professional, tightly knit community of writers, Storywrite will fit the bill. The community on this site is devoted to acquiring the tools necessary to write well. Most users post original short stories, but fanfiction can be an excellent first step into getting established within the community, and later branching off into more original storytelling.

DeviantArt is widely known for its art mediums, but it can also be a good source for publishing fanfiction. Establishing a profile on DeviantArt as a dedicated writer could generate a loyal fanbase of readers who pay attention to story updates. DeviantArt provides somewhat of an online portfolio, allowing users to utilize its potential as an entry point into the publishing industry.

The Good, The Bad, The Infamous

Fanfiction has dominated the internet for a long time. And like in any community with a history, certain writers and their works have gone down in the books as fantastic, or infamously terrible.

One of the best known pieces of fanfiction writing pays homage to the world of Harry Potter. My Immortal was a fanfiction originally posted on Fanfiction.net in 2006. It was subsequently removed for reasons still unclear, but not before it had made the rounds of the internet as the worst fanfiction to ever be produced. Akin to the cult fascination with Tommy Wiseau’s The Room in the film industry, My Immortal is the most commonly used example of fanfiction gone bad. So poorly written and so bad that it’s almost good, there is too much incongruity surrounding the work to deduce whether or not it’s intent was satirical.

The world of Harry Potter has been one of the most popular realms amongst fanfiction writers.
The world of Harry Potter has been one of the most popular realms amongst fanfiction writers.

“Hagrid ran outside on his broom and said everyone we need to talk.

‘What do you know, Hargrid? You’re just a little Hogwarts student!’

‘I MAY BE A HOGWARTS STUDENT…’ Hargirid paused angrily. ‘BUT I AM ALSO A SATANIST!’

‘This cannot be.’ Snap said in a crisp voice as blood dripped from his hand where Dumblydore’s wand had shot him. ‘There must be other factors.’

‘YOU DON’T HAVE ANY!” I yelled in madly.”

— Excerpt from My Immortal, Chapter 11.

Despite the author’s intent, the work has enjoyed a cult popularity status within the online community. Its poor quality is determined by grammatical errors and inconsistencies in plot — common ailments of fanfiction — but also an infuriatingly angst-ridden heroine, direct misspellings of the names of characters from the original Harry Potter, and plot lines that seem to run in circles of confused triviality. There seems to be no point to the story, no drive to the characters who control it, but that may be exactly the point of it. In My Immortal we see a reflection of the fanfiction community in its astounding poorness, its unwillingness to accept change, and the phenomenon by which something so terrible has been pedestalled and revered for its, intentional or not, comedic elements.

But although fanfiction is largely sneered at online for its exemplary bad form, there also exist many imaginative, impassioned and highly visual works that do justice to original content. A famously excellent work in the fandom of The Legend of Zelda, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time by Arxane, dates back to 2001 on Fanfiction.net. A retelling of events from the video game by that name, Ocarina of Time provides a detailed and meticulous explanation of the relationships, stories, and events that make up Hyrule in a highly intimate narrative that breathes life into static characters. This fandom is one of the most difficult to write in because its lead hero, Link, is mute in the game series. His voice is instead redirected to the player, who is responsible for choosing his responses and deciding his personality. Because of this, every writer has a different perspective when considering Link’s voice.

Link has traditionally been hard to characterize  due to his muteness in The Legend of Zelda game series.
Link has traditionally been hard to characterize due to his muteness in The Legend of Zelda game series.

But what Arxane does here, in my mind, perfectly encapsulates Link in a way that is not too demanding, and not too removed. It is an intricate balance of emotion and action, sympathising his character and redetermining the fairness of his destiny.

“Link’s heart fluttered with unease. Ruto was alone in this world now that her entire race was frozen under a tundra crafted by magic, and the only thing keeping her going was the faint hope that someone would break the spell. Now that he had reappeared, the look in her eyes didn’t lie: it was the sincere rekindling of emotions unused for countless days since being released from the ice imprisoning her people. Like Malon before her, Ruto saw something in Link that meant something to her, and to destroy something that precious — even if it were an illusion — wasn’t something Link was prepared to do.

Still, he had been rather surprised by Ruto’s insistence to accompany him to the Water Temple. He suspected she desired to convert her vision of him into a reality, but he would prefer believing she wanted a hand in freeing her people from Ganondorf’s cruel tomb of frost. If the latter idea proved to be the real reason, maybe Ruto had matured more than he cared to believe.”

— Excerpt from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Chapter 59.

This passage perfectly encapsulates Arxane’s ability to project Link’s voice, thoughts and hopes. His writing can turn a boring moment in a game, or a seemingly unwritable scene, into something tangible and entertaining. Link’s time spent picking through dungeons is used to convey his personality and innermost reflection. His relationship to others, an integral but stunted part of the game, is portrayed with vibrant complexity. The fic is not without its problems — it would do well to have an editor look over the final draft for errors — but what is done well here more than makes up for small blips. Without a publisher, this is the height at which fanfiction can hope to reach: breathing life into an ambitious work with a highly complex main character, an imaginative story, and a compelling narrative that provides context to the more nuanced moments of the game.

Driving The Desire To Write

One of the biggest challenges for new writers is to actually get in the habit of writing consistently. Putting the pen to paper, or the hand to the keyboard, on a daily basis is increasingly difficult in a world proliferated by interactive media. Why invent a new story when so many satisfying ones already exist in the world? And why bother producing when simply consuming is so much easier?

This is a problem all who endeavour to write must face at some point. Its increasingly difficult to get started in storytelling when that encroaching feeling of dread hits: the fear that all good stories have already been written. It’s nearly impossible to produce new, original content, especially for one who is inexperienced in doing so. This is one of the reasons new writers get so discouraged right out of the gates. There’s no room for new, mediocre work when so many fantastic and original stories already exist.

Fanfiction provides a doorway out of that dark hole of banality. By using stories that are already established in some way – like a plot, or a set of interesting characters, or a Brave New World – writers can gain experience without feeling discouraged or blocked by the nagging feeling that they aren’t good, or original enough. Fanfiction provides an excellent outlet for amateur writers to express themselves in an environment that is safe, stimulating, and relatively easy. They can provide readers thirsting for more with new stories that satiate their desire to learn more about characters, or a world, that has already been produced.

The community of Fanfiction.net is particularly encouraging. The service is anonymous, free, and allows for just about anyone to try their hand at writing. A comment section is provided for each story, and serves as a great area for constructive criticism, and even more importantly, encouragement. It’s extremely difficult to send off a piece of original work to a publisher and get a rejection letter, or worse and even more common, nothing at all. This doesn’t provide a safe and encouraging environment for new writers to flourish. Instead, it creates a sort of “sink or swim” atmosphere that is true to the publishing industry, but is much too intimidating for a young writer who is just starting out in the field.

Like anything, there are catches to using this service. Because of the ease with which new stories can be published, there is a lot to wade through before finding something that could be considered high quality. There is no editorial service provided, which means that most writers can publish without even reviewing their story. The ability of writers to adapt to changes, and get used to an editorial process of revision that makes their work better, is a fundamental skill that isn’t offered through this service.

J.K. Rowling has traditionally been very supportive of fanfiction of her work.
J.K. Rowling has traditionally been very supportive of fanfiction of her work.

But the benefits to young writers definitely outweigh the drawbacks. And the fandom they write for is enriched with unique, imaginative voices that breathe new life into old tales. What’s so powerful about fanfiction is the stories that are told again and again, independently of their creator. The new echoes of familiar characters and places resonates across an online world that encourages creativity and drive.

It’s free exposure for the original author, without them having to produce anything new. The fact that their content moved someone so much that they decided to continue the legacy of their characters is proof of a great, engaging work, and should be seen as a compliment. More than that, writers should encourage this process as a way to get new and young writers writing. With so few in the field, this kind of exposure should be encouraged as a first step into storytelling and self-publication.

After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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84 Comments

  1. I read fan fiction all of the time because there are shows and/or characters that I miss and aren’t on the air anymore. There are a lot of awfully written stories on there, but every now and then I come across a diamond in the rough. FF.net is a great place for aspiring writers to become better by writing whatever they want while getting constructive criticism from readers to improve on their writing, that way some day maybe they will have the chance and talent to publish their own stories with their own characters. There is nothing wrong with it!

  2. Avery Geer
    0

    Like Hollywood hasn’t been pumping out stolen, recycled, borrowed, unoriginal stories for years?

  3. Whatever one’s feelings on fanfiction, it’s a fascinating subject. Anyone who is hearing about it here for the first time and has had their attention piqued would do well to do some more reading before forming an opinon, however.

    I’d suggest looking at some of Henry Jenkins’ work. Or even going to fanlore.org, a wiki kept by academics who are also active fans working to document the history of fanfiction.

    This may be an interesting introduction to fanfic for somebody new to the concept.

  4. Cracking article. Say what you like about fanfiction, it gets people writing!

  5. DClarke

    So well thought out! It had a great flow and really interesting subject matter. I think you have been very fair about the benefits of fanfiction and the various forms it has taken.

  6. Intriguing observation made on fanfiction.net being like the real world of publishing in that criticisms towards one’s writing are often more direct and opinions uncensored from this site. Still though, fanfiction.net has also been sometimes called the “pit of voles” since some of its examples of writing are indeed so atrociously bad and talentless, especially since it’s one of the most obvious places to start posting fanfiction as was stated.

    Your title in referring to fanfiction as “a practice in the art of storytelling” resonates particularly on a personal level as well as being thought-provoking. The first writing I have ever submitted online was through the fanfiction medium and that was also how I learned to hone different types of writing and styles. Plus some of the reviews given could be helpful if allowed for consideration like whether the writing was believable for a character or if there were too many italics used to needlessly emphasize every detail.

  7. As a frequent reader of both fiction and fanfiction, I can ensure you…not all fanfiction are bad. Some of them are really well written stuff. Fanfiction is a good practice platform for aspiring writers.

  8. Sherrod
    0

    As someone who only heard the term ‘fanfiction’ recently, I found this fascinating and quite an eye-opener, I had no idea there was so much going on. While the idea of favourite fictional characters falling into the wrong hands is unnerving, no-one is forcing you to read it, and it can sometimes work suberbly, eg Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. I suppose fanfiction might act as a sort of playground for young writers. The books that emerge from the shadows will most likely do so because they are fashionable or just lucky, but once in a while because they are really good.

  9. I just can’t do light reading. If it’s badly written, clichéd and derivative I can’t get past the first page. I am sure people enjoy writing fanfic but reading it is another matter.

  10. You’ll find that the vast majority of fanfic writers are women in their twenties and thirties.

  11. One of my favourite quotes comes from the author Tom Holt who, somewhere midway through the Potter series observed that JK Rowling was only the third-best writer of Harry Potter fiction on the planet. And he was right, albeit mostly because Rowling had to stay true to a very child-friendly style.

  12. I have studied fanfiction extensively at university and I’m a writer and reader of it.

    Most fanfiction is terrible, but so what? I think the more important point is that it’s providing a space for people (especially young females) to express themselves in a way that subverts the mainstream culture of what they’re “supposed” to like. On originality…well, is anything original anymore? Authors borrow, to greater and lesser extents, it’s part of a storytelling tradition that has been going on since a long time before copyright!

  13. I resent the fact that it’s 50 Shades that’s brought the concept of fanfiction to attention.

    • Ryan Errington

      To be honest, there can be some fan-fiction which is quite ridiculous and nothing more than silly fantasies. Hence 50 Shades of Grey.

  14. Everyone should have a take on fan fiction writing. I’m pro writer nowadays. And licensed writing under the scrutiny of a copyright holder is dull as dishwater and basically technical writing. I applied for a job writing background blurbs for a major games company and am really quite glad I didn’t get it. Thinking back it would have been the very opposite of a creative job, producing writing that is as creative as the rights holders want it to be, rather than actually having fun with writing within a setting or even shaping that setting yourself.

  15. Aaron Hatch

    Congrats on your first article being published, and I very much enjoyed reading through this article. More often than not, I thinks it is too easy for someone to role their eyes when they here about fanfictions. While not every fanfiction can be compared to Parricide Lost, I think writers should use fanfictions to not only spread their imagination, but to also learn how hard it is to write full story. Writing your own story is harder than it sounds, and fanfiction is a good for beginners.

  16. Nof

    This is a great article! I like that you inserted excerpts from fan fiction, it helps bring the image into the reader’s mind of what you’re talking about. Fanfiction, for a long time, was something I didn’t quite understand. It’s great that this article is informative.

  17. Im Alone
    0

    Shakespeare used other people’s ideas for some of his plays.

  18. brewster
    0

    I’m looking for something to read next. Just finished Katie Collins Can you Keep a secret, which was actually a true story but very similar to Fifty Shades, but I’ve no idea what to go onto next. Someone please tell me!

  19. Krystina
    0

    I have read some truly excellent fanfiction that rivals many published books I’ve read. And even if 100% of it were totaly awful, I would still support it because it gives those who would normally never write a word a chance to express themselves, it allows people to continue to be a part of worlds that the end of a series otherwise would have ended completely, and it makes people happy – you’d have to come up with a pretty good reason to condemn that!

  20. Maybees
    0

    Any genre with “fic” after it seems like “shi” to me. People make up their own stories about someone else’s characters. Why don’t they just create their own?

    Originality will always trump more of the same.

  21. It is part of a tradition of after hours fantasising that continues today.

  22. Fanfic writers just writing for the sole purpose of recreating something that was already done. And another thing: fanfic may seem like a cop out for a writer and at first I used to cringe at it a well. But you see, the writers still have to come out with new story ideas but all they do is just use the characters that they love in different scenarios and maybe create different characters in the same plot line from their point of view. All it does it open up different possibilities for fan theories. Nowadays, that’s simply how I see it. With that said, the amount of One Direction Fanfic scares me to a degree that isn’t even possible.

    • sunlight
      0

      If you were in it for the money, I guess you would change the character names and descriptions just enough to ensure you didn’t have to credit the original author.

  23. YsabelGo

    Great article! Good conversational tone that also informs the audience. Please keep writing, I enjoy your work!

  24. Joey Van
    0

    Fanfic’s a really interesting phenomenon worthy of critical attention.

  25. I myself don’t know exactly why fanfic writers do what they do, however I have one idea as to why. When you see something that you absolutely love, such as a TV show (Let’s take Doctor Who for example) There are people who absolutely love the show, love the characters and maybe they have ideas for what the characters could do. An alien who goes around saving planets and civilizations but connects with humans because they’re in their basic stages, because he looks like them and can on some level relate. There are so many adventures that those characters go on, and sometimes people have ideas on different adventures that haven’t happened or maybe they think a different ending would have been better.

  26. Some of the earliest fanfic, was produced by women in the 1970s writing for underground publications. A lot of this was homoerotic literature focused on Capt Kirk and Mr Spock from Star Trek.

  27. I don’t read it, but I in those far-off pre-internet days of the 1980s I did write lots and lots of Doctor Who stories.

  28. I think fanfic’s a lovely thing. It’s either people playing in other people’s fictional worlds, or working out their feelings in a non-judgemental, supportive environment. Other than in slightly sinister contexts like Twilight (This is well worth a read on that) it’s nothing more than a (sometimes disturbing, sometimes pleasant) expression of the person writing it.

  29. Yes, a lot of fanfiction is badly written, banal and derivative. But then, ninety per cent of everything is crap, and I think the top ten per cent of fanfiction stands up well in comparison to the top ten per cent of any other kind of literature.

  30. VelvetRose

    Great article! You really break the stereotype around fanfiction that I’ve been hearing about how it’s just young women writing about kinks and such. It’s not. It can be (and often is) so much more.

  31. Art Gleason
    0

    Using established universes is a great way to start writing, and I think the social aspect of fanfic in the internet age is lovely (when it’s not terrifying).

  32. Lexzie

    “The fact that their content moved someone so much that they decided to continue the legacy of their characters is proof of a great, engaging work, and should be seen as a compliment”. This line pretty much sums up fan fiction, in my opinion. I love how fan fiction brings a sense of community to a fandom. It keeps fandoms alive. It encourages writing.
    I fully support fanfiction, as a reader and as a writer of the art form.

    Thank you for such a well done article that highlights both the negatives and the positives. I really enjoyed the content and the layout of the article, and I look forward to your next one!

  33. Quill

    An encouraging article on fan fiction for both writers and readers.
    I have enjoyed reading it greatly.

    Recently I have noticed a lot of change of views towards writers (and readers?) of fan fiction – from the negative (poorly written, strange twists in the laws of the original universe of the idea used) to the positive (interesting recreation of a plot line, well-written story). Fan fiction has not only evolved from a specific gathering of fandom, but also an opportunity for new and practicing writers where they have the freedom to experiment with an already existing plot, idea, or world and create something with it.

  34. Grace Maich

    I think fan fiction is a great way to practice writing consistent characters! Writers get a lot of criticisms if their characters act out of character (for lack of a better term), so most authors are careful to ensure everybody acts in a way that would make sense given their behaviour in the original book/TV show/etc. It’s an easy way to practice writing characters in different scenarios.

  35. I am one of those who believe fan fiction is beneficial for the beginning writers. The advantage of fan fiction is that the writer is already familiar with the characters and the world, so he/she can focus on the plot and other elements more easily.

  36. It is probably appropriate for the fledgling writers, but originality of both characters and the plot should be their final aim.

  37. dreamcapturer

    I have actually read several fanfictions that are better written than novels.

  38. arielsilkett

    In support of Fanfiction and Fanfiction writers, it is an escape, a stress reliever. As Emilie’s article suggests, Fanfiction definitely has more benefits in stored than drawbacks. It is a great activity for young writers that want to explore their talents or experiment with writing.

    In terms of school and education, it is a great tool for the classroom- all educational levels. Teachers may be surprised by the positive feedback from Fanfiction assignments, even from the least expected students. That’s why Fanfiction is as big as it is today- anyone can do it if inspired to do so. I really hope the world continues to play around with Fanfiction.

  39. I’ve read a lot of fanfiction, and I’ve come to see it as a way to elaborate on a particular character or character relationship. Many fans find they are not satisfied with the original existing relationship between two or more characters, or perhaps even find themselves so deeply attracted to a character, which fuels their desire to continue their own version of the character relationship. Thus was the invention of “shipping,” and bromance, and all that. It’s a great way to explore character development and plot while using characters you already know. Takes away the hassle of going through the whole character creation, but offers the excitement of creating your own ending. It also satisfies that desire to see your dream ship sail.

  40. Christina Legler

    I’ve been writing fanfiction since I was a kid, and back then I didn’t know it was fanfiction. That’s not to say what I wrote was GOOD by any means, but I always enjoyed it. I still write fanfiction quite often. It’s good practice, and it’s just plain fun. Sometimes I get frustrated with my own writing, especially when it feels like no one is interested in it or will ever read it, but people will always read fanfiction, no matter how bad or good it is. It’s often a morale boost for me. 🙂

  41. The glory of books is that they come in genres and styles. Not every genre will be for everyone. I have nothing against FanFiction—yes I read the first 50 Shades and thought a 6th grader could have written better—however, as long as the repetition of characters and concepts evolve into something of the authors OWN, then I see no harm 🙂

  42. Hannah

    Just a suggestion for avid fan fiction writers: look into writing spec scripts for network TV shows. You may get paid, or even procure a job because of it!

  43. Lily

    I started writing because of fanfiction and I continue to write because of fanfiction as well. Because of my constant writing, it gave me the confidence to want to create my own writers and I know if and when my stories get published, I’d definitely want to encourage people to write fanfics of my stories as well!

  44. Like Tina Belcher, I got my start writing erotic friend fiction, then I found fanfiction.net, I’ve been off and on that site for 12 years… Maybe more. It does provide a start for young writers because even if you have one fan that gives you the drive to keep writing. I remember sitting up all night long and falling asleep in school because I had to keep writing. I’m glad that now as a 26 year old it’s no longer a dirty little secret that I write fan fiction.

  45. Fanfiction presents itself as an interesting topic that oddly enough causes a bit of controversy in academia. After the emergence of 50 Shades of Grey, the idea of Fanfiction moved from a being a hobby that you would occasionally share that you did with your friends to one that became taboo to speak of if you wanted to be taken seriously as a writer. I’m unsure if this because of the overwhelming demographics that occupy the site (women; teens to 40s), but the idea that a person has written Fanfiction automatically calls to question their ability to write. Personally, FanFiction was something I read between 12-18 years of age. Sporadically throughout that time I wrote stories, short pieces, etc. Does this mean I’m any less of a writer now? I would argue that it has only helped my writing ability. I commend the website for providing a space for beginning writers to have a chance to play around with characters or setting. It provides a wonderful opportunity to grow as a writer as well as a space for almost what could be considered a workshop setting.

    • I agree with you that writing fanfiction is a great way to practice writing! It allows for a stepping stone to get into writing!

  46. Trae23

    As long as I have known, I have always been into fanfiction. From reading many different title of books that have interested me to reading books based on movies. I was always interested in the storyline that went along with the book, movie, or even anime for that matter which pulls me in deeper. If a movie, book, or anime doesn’t have a storyline we can relate to we simply don’t read it or even bother to look at it. Ideas aren’t original until we decide how can we put our own life experiences and twist on a narrative and re-event it.

  47. Slaidey

    I don’t know if I’ve left a comment already, because I do know this isn’t the first time I’ve read this article. It’s caught my interest twice and I’ve enjoyed it as much reading it on both occasions! You have inspired me, and I feel readier to open myself up to the writing world by contributing to fan fiction sites like you recommend to get one’s foot in the door. Thanks.

  48. I love fanfiction for it’s ability to allow people with creativity, but not the drive to write, to find something that pushes them to try it out. However, I sometimes feel that fanfiction takes “bad” writing and simply because of what it’s written after is elevated above gems of writing that are original, which is just a sad happening…

  49. Fanfiction is a medium very close to my heart. My first published works were all works of fanfiction and I still write and read it to this day. It is, in my opinion, one of the most creative outlets and also the most flattering. Imagine someone loving your work so much they create their own pieces in honor of it!

    (Archiveofourown.org is also another fanfiction site that is very popular and has a wide variety of fics, if anyone wants to check it out!)

  50. I definitely agree with your overall sentiment that fanfiction is actually a positive in the world of writing. Fanfiction is an excellent way to practice writing and express thoughts and feelings people have about fictional worlds. There are certainly many badly-written fanfiction pieces, but that does not inherently make all fanfiction a bad practice.

  51. This is the first time ever I heard of fan fiction. Some aspects of this article was beneficial because it provides with a insight of how it feels to be a newbie writer, trying to write something great but there is a “sink or swim” industry and your story or series may not matter to others. But there is no harm in trying.

  52. You elegantly argued fan fiction can be high art. I would never have thought of Paradise Lost as fan fic. Well played.

  53. I agree, I don’t think any media is inherently bad. It all stems from whether or not the creator is willing to hone their skill and make it the best it can be.

  54. Such a neat article! I found the section on the history of fanfiction particularly interesting. I like that you pointed out all the positive influence fanfiction can have, because I think it often has a bit of a negative connotation. Having written fanfiction since I was 13 years old, I can honestly say it helped me develop so many applicable skills. Not only did it make me a better writer since I was getting experience, but I learned how to take criticism and discipline myself to update on a schedule. Fanfiction has truly played a large part in shaping me as a writer. This was a great read!

  55. MichelleAjodah

    Fanfiction has been such a hot literary debate topic lately, and I love hearing opinions on it. I like that you looked at both sides, but ultimately fell for the benefits. I agree that it’s a great way to kickstart the creative/writing process. It’s definitely something I did as a young writer.
    If anyone is looking to read great fan fiction, I’d suggest Ray Bradbury’s short story “Usher II”, which is Edgar Allan Poe fan fiction. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

  56. Michael Richardson

    I’m a writer who approached the process through finding I had a knack for wordplay in my critical analyses of the literature I studied in school. I’ve always tried to create original plots, characters, etc., and more often than not, I find myself with writer’s block for that very reason.
    I have good friends in college who, as part of NaNoWriMo, chose to write fan fiction, and they explained it all to me largely in this same, ultimately positive lens.

    They told me it was very beneficial for honing your skills and refining your weak spots as a writer. The subject is intriguing, and I particularly liked the portion, “Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul.” I feel this is a great medium to enhance oneself as a writer, while more importantly, writing about subjects that matter to you personally. Very in-depth explication of the topic, kudos to the author.

  57. carleydauria
    carleydauria
    0

    I love the idea of fanfiction having been around for centuries. Most people may see it as a lesser form of writing, but I give huge credit to fanfiction writers! Some people, while being only 16 years of age, have written full-on novel-worthy material based off of different TV shows, movies, and books. I agree that it is a very excellent way to get your foot in the door!

  58. The Aeneid can easily qualify as fan fiction, as it is a spin-off from The Odyssey, and it was written by Virgil (not Homer, the author of The Odyssey). The Aeneid was written almost 2000 years ago.

  59. “Fanfiction” is indeed gaining more exposure and popularity because of our increasing demand for media and content. Consider the Roman playwrights who assimilated Greek plays into their culture by putting their own spin on things, especially where politics were concerned. Maybe the connotation of fanfiction being a lesser form of writing is only a modern way of thinking about it. In Shakespeare’s day, as you point out, it was certainly normal, especially between warring theatre houses.

    As a reader and writer of fanfiction, it’s true that fanfiction.net is not perfect (neither is AO3, Livejournal, nor others), but it does provide a great platform for writers that is universally easy to a.) write and upload your own stories, b.) review and follow works in progress, c.) save favorite stories, d.) follow favorite authors, and e.) beta works for fellow writers who need help in editing (and in some cases who need help translating from other languages to English). The community you build and become a part of can be a double-edged sword, but that’s also no different than the “real world.”

  60. I find that some disciplines are more restrict in the manner within which a writer can “adapt” or “utilize” a plot. Some books like Fifty Shades of Grey have received more criticism than, as you mentioned, books like Harry Potter. I believe there should be an acknowledgement from the author in either case. Pretty much any writing we do is and has to be inspired by something we read, see or encounter, but it is how the author adapts ideas that make a difference of how serious we consider that particular piece of work. There is also the degree of closeness to the plot as well as the distance in time and space between the actual source and the fanfiction that enables as to either criticize or praise the work. In addition, I think we should also credit the amount of research original writers do and their training in becoming writers, when we read fanfictions.

  61. Arazoo Ferozan

    I find that some disciplines are more restrict in the manner within which a writer can “adapt” or “utilize” a plot. Some books like Fifty Shades of Grey have received more criticism than, as you mentioned, books like Harry Potter. I believe there should be an acknowledgement from the author in either case. Pretty much any writing we do is and has to be inspired by something we read, see or encounter, but it is how the author adapts ideas that make a difference of how serious we consider that particular piece of work. There is also the degree of closeness to the plot as well as the distance in time and space between the actual source and the fanfiction that enables as to either criticize or praise the work. In addition, I think we should also credit the amount of research original writers do and their training in becoming writers, when we read fanfictions.

  62. For anyone just getting into fanfiction, I would highly HIGHLY suggest doing archiveofourown.net instead of fanfiction.net. A lot of authors have transferred their fics over to ao3 instead and it has a easier interface and search engine to use in order to wade through the fics more easily.

    But as you’ve said – fanfiction is an invaluable tool for beginning (and continuing) authors. While some of it is poorly written (often because the people writing it are young or new writers) there’s a vast majority that’s exceptionally written – equal to or better than many formal, published works.

  63. Jaye Freeland

    I love how you ended this article. So true. I’m also really glad that you brought up the subject because so often it’s seen as taboo when in reality, it’s such an important community. What’s better than like-minded folks coming together and writing/talking about what they love? Yes, some Fanfiction is a little bit out there, but it’s all at the discretion of the writer’s imagination. Just because you close the book doesn’t mean the story has to be over.

  64. I really like that this article gives some merit to the world of fanfiction. Although some fanfics are laughable, and the world of fanfiction can quickly become a black hole for any avid fan, I think it is a useful tool when it comes to writing. When I was younger, I would unintentionally write fanfiction about tv shows that I enjoyed. Doing so allowed me to create original stories without too much mental exertion, and it was fun because I loved the characters. Practice with writing fanfiction allows people to be very creative without having to go through the (sometimes) painful process of creating their own characters and the world they live in. Fanfiction can be an extremely useful tool to help young writers transition into creating their own stories.

  65. Tiffany

    Great article. Fanfiction (and its writers) really get the short end of the stick when it comes to literary credibility. As an English major myself, some of the most intense, perspective-shifting works I’ve read have been fanfiction–which is always hard to explain to people because they never take it seriously. There’s great power in people coming together and writing simply out of a great love of doing so, and being able to challenge mainstream narratives (ie. heteronormative rom coms) while they’re at it.

  66. Starting to write a fan-fiction is much easier than continuing it for long. A lot of Dedication and time is required. As well as one should be prepared for the foul comments by critics.

  67. To me fan-fiction is just a way to make your favorite characters of the story act as you want them to.

  68. I became a fan of fanfiction around the end of 2012 and let me tell you..there’s some really cheesy, poorly written stuff out there. But every once in a while, you’ll come along a great one that will rip your heart out in the 3 in the morning and wonder why the author hasn’t become a best selling author. Wattpad has some really great emerging writers that have yet to be discovered.

  69. Well done.

    I think anyone who wants to draw a big fat line between fanfiction and ‘original fiction’ should just jump off that high horse and give it a try (reading or writing). I found that writing fanfiction has given me the chance to develop a writing work ethic and routing that I was not able to do with original story ideas. Having a well-established world with well-established characters gave me the freedom to play around with story ideas without getting bogged down with the world / character creation details and feel enthusiastic about it. In the meantime, I can still think and work on my original world and characters that will likely take a few more years to work themselves out.

    It’s not unlike playing a classical piece on an instrument – follow the score but you can still interpret the music the way you like. Trying to play a musical piece while creating it? Ugh.

  70. I encourage people who strive to write good fanfiction to instead strive to write good fiction first. We live in a world of iterators, not creators. Try to stand out from the pack.

  71. JennyCardinal

    This is a great article. I love that you wrote about new writers feeling as though everything’s been done because I have experienced that (and still do) when I started writing my novel series. I subconsciously would write things I have seen and heard from Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia and other works because they are the genre my novel series is in. It is difficult when I recognize these parts in my manuscripts and have to rewrite them, but I know that I have the ability to create something that, yes, people may have seen before, however, I can and will connect that to something no one has thought of yet. And it is always nice to see others paying homage to the greats. Fanfiction is a nice playground where you get to make the story your own.

  72. justjosie

    My favorite part of fan fiction is the way which fanfic authors can encode representation and ideology in their works. This capability really gives the audience a new edge.

  73. Nayr1230

    I’ve always been an avid lover of fanfiction. Fanfiction is what got me into writing in the first place, bad fanfiction and terrible text-based RPGs set in fictional universes. And although I’d hate to have anyone read samples of my writing from that time in my life, the fact is that it is part of my history as an author and always will be.

    I believe on the subject of fanfiction that more attention should be paid to creative writing in public schools. Fanfiction is certainly an outlet for it, yes, but many don’t know that websites like fanfiction.net exist. I only learned because of fanfiction.net’s somewhat mixed-bag of connections with the anime and manga community.

    It is my belief that more care needs to be put into creative writing education in public schools. Maybe including a paragraph in this article connecting fanfiction as an outlet, to the fact that many schools do not offer creative writing programs? That might be a good addition here. Otherwise, I did not see any issues.

    This article was a treat to read, and reminded me fondly of many late nights in high school writing fanfiction. Great job!

  74. Fanfiction is wonderful, I’ve known many young budding writers who have gotten their start in fanfiction. It’s a good stepping stone for many!

  75. Amanda

    I’ve always found it interesting that so many published works are blatant fanfictions and yet it continues to be looked down upon as a creativity outlet and means of entertainment.

    Thanks for the article!

  76. Interesting…I’ve actually always been totally turned off by fanfiction. I’m a rabid Harry Potter fan, but aren’t the bittersweet parts of the series (Sirius’s death, Snape’s secret past, Dobby’s sacrifices) what makes it the best? Sure, I can dream up alternate and nicer realities, but it was the original storylines that made me cry.

  77. Great article! I used to sneer at most fan fiction, but over the past few years I’ve come to see it as a great way for new writers to get started and work on their craft. After all, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

  78. Zyana Hault

    This is so far the best explanation of story telling. All of your points are very useful and informative for me.

  79. gabyelan
    0

    As a fanfic writer myself, I enjoyed reading about your positivity surrounding the community. One example you gave, however, shows how fanfic can get out of hand and even be dangerous and misrepresent large demographics. Fifty shades of grey, a product of the Twilight saga, embodied the same tone and writing style that pulled so many readers into the story. The problem with Fifty is that the trilogy has such a large fan base and most of which aren’t familiar with the kink content that the author (also not familiar with their content) tried to write about.

    Now there are a profuse amount of ladies and gents out in the world that think Fifty embodies the BDSM lifestyle, when in reality the book portrays essentially the antithesis of that.

  80. ReidaBookman

    This is a very interesting piece that got me thinking differently about fanfiction. I agree that fanfiction is often the start for an intimidated writer or simply a place to try your hand at writing if you’re not sure if it’s something you want to do.

  81. CandiceLocklee

    While I don’t read it myself, I do agree that the world of fanfiction is an interesting one. I can see the appeal of writing stories based on worlds and characters that already exist, especially as a great way to build and test your own skills as a budding writer. As you mention, fanfiction can become published work of its own and the writers can become established authors of their own successful series.

    I think anything that gets more people reading and writing can only be a good thing.

    Also, thanks for the excerpt of ‘My Immortal’ – too funny!

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