Fanfiction: It’s Not What You Think

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Doubtless, you’ve heard of fanfiction. Doubtless, you have some opinions. Regardless, do you really know what this subgenre of a million other subgenres even is? What can writing fanfiction do for you?

What Is It?

Fanfiction is a derivative work of another creator’s story. The original story that inspires the fanfiction may be a book, a television series, a film, a play, a comic, or essentially any storytelling media. In fact, I’m pretty sure back in the Stone Age, one Neanderthal fell in love with another Neanderthal’s story, and told an official sequel around the campfire the next night.

What It Isn’t

Writers and readers of fanfiction get a really bad rep for their passion. Most people automatically assume fanfiction is hastily-made, poor quality work that showcases the writer’s desperation more than their skills.

While there are lots of fanfiction stories that have poor grammar, shaky plots, and weak characters, that has more to do with the writer’s age. Lots of young people first dabble in writing – at least publicly – through fanfiction. Poo-pooing the entire world of fanfiction because it welcomes the youngest, least experienced writers is just snobbery.

You’ve Already Read It

Believe it or not, I can safely say if you went through high school English, you’ve read some fanfiction. Any work that retells a classic myth or fairytale is, technically, fanfic. If you like movies, I guarantee you’ve seen fanfic. Essentially all of Disney’s movies are just retellings of older stories, and there is a very thin, blurry, and subjective line dividing retellings from pure fanfiction.

Some of the most famous classic works that count as fanfic include Paradise Lost, The Once and Future King, and even Macbeth, if you count historical fandom.

It’s Marketable

Although plenty of fanfic writers happily bask in the joy of creation and critique among their fellow fans, plenty want to share their work with a larger audience via publication. And, honestly, the only thing standing in their way is copyright. Fans of older works, like Pride and Prejudice, don’t face this hurdle at all. There’s a thriving subgenre of Regency romance dedicated entirely to retellings, unofficial sequels, and spin-offs of Jane Austen’s most famous novel.

Other writers begin writing fanfiction, realize their Alternate Universe (AU) is unique and original enough to stand on its own, and turn it into an original story. Cassandra Clare’s Shadow Hunter stories had roots in her fanfiction. Fifty Shades of Gray began as a fan work, too.

Should You Write Fanfiction?

Yes, if you want to. If you have an original world, but you aren’t sure about your characters yet, borrowing another author’s toys can help dissolve writer’s block and give you a spark of inspiration. Writing anything is great practice, and if you struggle to master tone or have wildly inconsistent characters, a host of readers who already know the character can help you master character development.

Of course, you don’t need a reason to write fanfiction at all. Write because it’s fun, or because you want to investigate the themes in that movie you saw last week in greater detail. Maybe you think the original creators did it wrong, and you want ‘fix it.’ You can do anything. It’s a free-for-all, and you’re welcome to join the melee.

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