I’ll tell you what’s wrong with fan fiction.
Ever since fan fiction started to gain popularity in the late 90s (re: the dawn of the internet), it’s earned a bad reputation. “It’s not real writing.” “It’s not original.” “It’s plagiarism.” “It’s a waste of time.” But to someone who loves to write and is a fan of a lot of things, I stand here today to defend the writers of fan fiction, aka “fanfic” and to reassure them that what they’re doing should be appreciated and respected.
Fanfic is exactly what it sounds like: fictional stories created by fans of a certain published work. For example, there are thousands of fanfic stories that take place in the world of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, and other such works. Some writers stay within that world, and some do crossovers, for instance, having Frodo stumble upon Hogwarts on his way to Mordor. Fanfic usually refers to written stories, but it also may apply to artwork.
Admittedly, a lot of fanfic is ridiculous (not to mention filled with spelling and grammatical errors). I would probably never seek out fanfic devoted to Legolas erotica, nor would I want to read about “a very special relationship” between Batman and Superman. But there’s some fanfic out there that I find truly interesting. I follow a blogger who does mostly Harry Potter fanfic based on the backstories of the original Hogwarts founders. To me that’s interesting because it’s something that no one knows about except for J.K. Rowling, because we can make up our own backstories to enrich the stories that much more.
And that’s basically what fanfic is. It’s a way for us to either extend a world that we love so much that might have ended too soon, or it’s a way for us to insert parts we felt were missing from the story. You wanted Aang to hook up with Toph in Avatar: The Last Airbender? Write it yourself! It’s like imagining “what could have been” and just having fun with it.
I’ve never really written true fanfic – I’ve never even dared writing a story that takes place at Hogwarts or that takes place where Firefly left off – not because I have no interest in it, but because it seems like such a daunting task. Not only would I be meddling in something that’s already fantastic, but I would really have to know my shiz. You can’t just start writing fanfic based on Lord of the Rings just because you liked the movies. You have to know a TON about every character and the story just so what you’re writing actually makes sense. And trust me, people who read fanfic on the internet will let you know after the first paragraph whether you’re half-assing it or not.
How I began writing twenty years ago, however, was taking certain actors that I liked at the time and writing about their personal life intertwining with my main character. One example would be my character meeting Matt Damon before he became a big star and then they get together and he basically lives his real life, just alongside a fictional character that I created. I wrote a similar story revolving around Orlando Bloom while he was in drama school before Lord of the Rings came around. I guess you can say it was like “real life fanfic”. Completely fictional based on real-life events. Like Lifetime movies. But still fanfic.
Fanfic writers will most likely never get published, though there are certain authors who absolutely do not allow anyone to write fanfic on websites like FanFiction.net, like Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire) and George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones). Other authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, however, support the art of fanfic and seem to encourage it among their fans (though I wonder what Rowling thinks of all the Harry/Draco shippers out there).
So what are the most popular brands of fanfic that people are writing? On Fanfiction.net, the number one fanfic work based on movies is Star Wars, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean and High School Musical. The top three TV shows generating fanfic are Glee, Supernatural, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And when it comes to books themselves, the big three are Harry Potter, Twilight, and Lord of the Rings. No big surprises, though I’m a little shocked to see Newsies in the top ten. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who knew its potential!
A lot of people don’t see fanfic as legitimate writing, which I think is crap. So it’s usually not the best writing in the world. But you know what? Writing is writing. I don’t care if you’re writing in your diary about your day, blogging about arts and crafts, or writing a story about Loki (like my co-worker is currently doing). If you’re writing, your brain is working. If you’re writing, you’re using your imagination. If you’re writing, you’re creating. And that’s what’s most important.
So don’t feel like you’re less than a writer if you like to write fanfic. What do you think all those fairy tale retellings are? They’re fanfic in its purest form. If you like to write it, keep on writing and don’t stop. Because sometimes a different point of view is all we need to fully understand and appreciate a story that we already love.
Happy reading and writing, fans!