I’d like to think there was a time in every aspiring writer’s life where they made up stories about their favorite characters from some media and had the nerve to write it down.
I’ve been doing it since I was fourteen.
I’ve had two fanfiction.net accounts, an adultfanfiction.net (for the perv in you) and I recently (like maybe a year or two ago) got an Ao3 (Archice of Our Own)
People don’t really count fanfiction as writing which is fair considering its taking characters that do not belong to you and creating whole new scenarios for them. At the end of the day, they are still other people’s writing no matter how creative you get.
I always viewed fanfiction as practice. Very good practice because people are very quick to like and review it. You always know what your fans think about each chapter and can improve upon the story every time you post. I love fanfiction. It offers much of what writing classes don’t — it gives you an amazing inside look of what the average reader thinks of the characters and the story itself. You’d be surprised how much insightful and constructive criticism I’ve gleaned and how much better of a writer I am for it.
But most of all, it never has to be taken seriously…that is…until recent years.
Yes “Fifty Shades of Grey” immediately comes to mind as fanfiction allowed to be levied against “real” writing. Fifty Shades is actually a perfect example of what happens when a massive fanbase put their money behind something they find interesting — or rather satisfies their own fantasies. I’m sure there are many who still remember when Anastasia Steel was only Bella Swan and Christian Grey was a human Edward Cullen.
Fifty Shades is a poor example, if I am to be honest with myself as a writer and as a fanfiction writer. It’s poorly written, poorly planned, poorly researched porn…which is about half of fanfiction in existence. You never had to plan, you never had to write well, you never had to research because its just fanfiction — it’s not serious.
But publishers have made it serious by choosing to sensationalize a fanfiction, introducing the idea to an entire percentage of people who didn’t know what it was or worse, believed it to be a refuse for people who can’t write. I need not say that Fifty Shades of Grey was exemplary proof of the latter (yeah, I said it. Fight me.) This is damaging and I will tell you exactly why.
The world of fandom is filled with amazing writers. You’ve read Gregory Maguire’s Wicked — fanfiction. You’ve read Star Wars the extended universe — fanfiction. You’ve read Rick Riordin’s Percy Jackson series — fanfiction. You’ve read adaptations, re-imaginings, continuations, alternate universes of what if? Fan-fic-tion.
Fanfiction has always been a clear and dominant presence in the published world. The world of books is filled with Fanfiction from bottom to top by writers we pay in order to see our favorite characters placed into extraordinary circumstances. Even online, there are absolutely amazing Fanfictions for books, television shows, and anime. Even now there’s an author aspiring to become published whom I discovered through her phenomenal fanfiction.
Her story telling, prose, and character interpretations are absolutely beautiful. It is almost a downright shame she is not known by millions for her exceptional storytelling alone (but don’t worry she’s still working on it and I have little doubt you’ll know her someday).
The reason Fifty Shades of Grey is damaging to the fanfic community because it perpetuates a particularly popular but glaringly untrue ideal: Fanfiction is not real writing and is only for bad writers and psycho fans.
Publishers have taken something from what I would consider the strange side of fandom and blew it up to make money from it. It rode the hype of the fact that it was first a Twilight fic so it profited from the Twilight fandom first. Then profited from an underfed community of women who have certain tastes that they are afraid to express. It gave them an in — albeit an unhealthy one — to a world they only flirted with in their night time thoughts and daydreamed when no one was paying attention. They could entertain these fantasies without worrying about what people would think or how it would affect their kids to engage…
However that’s a whole other discussion and has been hammered home repeatedly by the BDSM community. So I won’t discuss that. I will stick to the fanfiction portion.
The Publishing of genuinely bad fanfiction undercuts the people who work hard, who write their hearts out about characters they care about from source material they’ve read again and again and have built whole worlds around that source material that not even the authors themselves had thought of. It insults, but most of all, it makes the people who look down on fanfiction feel justified and gives “serious authors” the inch they need to say “fanfiction is for the less talented, the unimaginative, the hacks.”
Well, I am a fanfiction writer. I write bad fanfiction which is constantly evolving and full of holes. I am not the greatest fanfiction writer out there — I have read far, far greater. But it doesn’t take away from my originality. It doesn’t stifle my imagination, it doesn’t mean that I myself am not a serious writer. It doesn’t mean I take my fanfictoin seriously…but I am one of the people who haven’t forgotten what fanfiction is.
Fanfiction is practice, Fanfiction is passion, but most of all Fanfiction is FUN.
Majority of the people who write it already have other original stories brewing and write fanfiction to improve and get feedback in order to better themselves originally. So having something like Fifty Shades of Grey is both encouraging….and severely damaging. Because bad fanfiction turned into a million dollar cash-grab leaves room for self-doubt as well as the constant hammering nail of “not a real writer” in the soul of every one who dared to put pen to paper with their favorite worlds and characters.
But, ya know, that’s just my opinion.
I support a lot of fanfiction writers who are trying to make it into the publishing world and salute those who have made it. But I would beg that those “serious writers” and critics would remember that much of what they’ve praised and considered real fiction or even “good writing” has stemmed from someone loving something so much that they made up something about it. But most of all don’t base your entire opinion about a pool of talent based on a piece of over-hyped badly written fanfiction.
Also publishers if you’re going to pick up fanfiction, there’s stories that are far more deserving. Come on, guys. You’re better than that.
Those still writing their fanfiction and loving it, keep going because you are loved. Those who are aspiring to transcend their fanfiction, carry on my wayward writers because you’ll get there!
“Why did you feel the need to write this?”
Just felt like writing about fanfiction and how much I care about it. This happens sometimes.
God Bless The Fandoms.
-Harli V Park-