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'Fanfic' Is Not a Dirty Word

Nov 02,2012
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There seems to be a sentiment amongst authors that fanfiction is a bad thing. Oh sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but for every author who’s cool with people writing fanfic based on their books, there’s another author who’s loudly and passionately opposed. So why are so many authors down on it?

I think it’s a generational thing. From what I’ve seen, it's mostly Baby Boomer authors who are on record as having a negative attitude to fanfiction. Younger authors – who, for the most part, have grown up using the Internet – tend to see it as being complimentary. After all, if people are writing about your characters and the world they inhabit, that means it has a special significance to them, right?

I wrote my first piece of fanfiction when I was 7. It wasn’t called “fanfiction” back then, because this was 1990 and the Internet was still made of tin cans, fishing lines and bubble gum. When I say “my first piece of fanfiction”,though, I should probably point out that almost everything I wrote then was fanfiction. Oh sure, I’d change the names. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became The Warrior Cats and The Transformers became The Power Converters (for all your overseas travel needs!), but the purpose was the same. I wanted to tell stories about characters I already knew and loved.

It continued as I got older. I remember writing an incredibly long (and incredibly bad) Spider-Manstory, as well as starting on a Batmanstory and not getting very far with it (proving how tricky Batman can be to write for!). When I got to be a teenager, I even uploaded a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story to (I’m pretty sure I deleted it a few years later, so I doubt you’ll be able to find it...fingers crossed!).

Eventually, I moved on and started creating my own world and my own characters. But writing fanfiction provided a training ground, a framework for practicing my storytelling. I already knew how the characters should speak and act thanks to my established familiarity with them. It removed some of the more challenging aspects from the process of writing.

When I studied Creative Writing at uni, there was one girl whose only aspiration was to write fanfiction. The other students seemed to look down on her for that, but it occurred to me that there’s plenty of professional fanfiction out there. Just look at all the Star Wars and Doctor Who books that get published every year (though the catch-22 of it is that you generally need to have already established yourself as an author before they'll let you write what's called a 'licensed fiction' title).

Some people may say that my book, Vanguard Prime: Goldrush , reads a little like fanfiction. After all, I’m a huge comic book fan and have drawn on the archetypes of the superhero genre in creating my characters. That’s been a very conscious choice, however, with the intention of breaking down these stock characters and exploring their hidden dimensions as the series progresses.

That said, if I was offered the chance to write a Doctor Who book, I’d totally take it.

How about you? Do you write fanfic? Do you read much fanfic? Or do you feel that it’s not worth your time? Let us know in the comments section!

Nov 07,2012
anonymous's picture
it is so amazing :) i read justinbieberfanfiction and it so the best thing, i could read it for the rest of my life!1 i am planning on writing one too, they are really good and i think they should be made into books
Nov 06,2012
I think you raise a really good point, Jordi; fanfic often serves as a character piece. Fanfic writers tend to seperate a character out from the main plot of the story they're featured in and take the opportunity to delve into their psychology and background. It's the rare fanfic writer that will attempt something on the same scale as the original story that they're writing about. Like Ambivalence put it, I think a lot of writers just want to "test out" their favourite worlds. It's perplexing to me that an author could take serious issue with that (so long as nobody's trying to make a profit from it). Of course, maybe I'll feel differently the first time I run across a piece of fanfiction and they've done things with my characters that I feel they'd never do!
Nov 05,2012
anonymous's picture
Personally I don't write fan fiction but I first discovered it recently when I was hearing that people were writing fan fiction about One Direction. I don't read much fan fiction as I'm not interested in it but I've heard a few of my friends read me their stories. I don't mind it as it gives the chance for people to imagine and believe.
Nov 05,2012
I can't say I'm a fan of fanfiction, not that I'm an author to complain. I just don't like reading my favourite characters being destroyed - not physically, but the way they're being represented. That being said, I guess the way someone writes about their favourite character is the way they see it? I'm not holding it against anyone, I just don't read it myself (: In terms of writing it.... well, yeah, guilty, though unintentionally. It's like an author creates this awesome concept or world, and you just HAVE to put in your own character and test it out in the world, if that makes sense?
Nov 05,2012
I agree that fanfic is a great way of practising and developing as a writer. I worry that it may begin to be perceived as *the* route to publication, though (especially after the whole 50 Shades saga). I've never tried to match Tolkien (that would be terrifying as well as impossible!) but I've loved giving (and reading) a greater voice to his background characters. Personally I've often focussed on Rosie, and her relationship with Sam. But one of the best fanfics I've ever read was from Boromir's perspective - I never liked him as a character until after reading that piece.
Nov 02,2012
I really think it shows the influence that the Internet is having on the development of writers. More and more emerging authors have a background in writing fanfiction. Cassandra Clare springs immediately to mind. Lord of the Rings fanfic seems like it'd be a challenge to write, though. I can't imagine trying to match the number of poems and songs and invented languages that Tolkien included in the original books!
Nov 02,2012
Fanfic came up at our recent InkyFest celebrations, as author Rhiannon Hart also used to write fanfic. Quite a few kids in the audience did too! From One Direction to Avatar: The Last Airbender. I used to write (and read) Lord of the Rings fanfic. Made a lot of great friends from it!

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