I have touched on the idea of fanfiction many times over the past few years. People outside fandoms don’t really understand fanfiction—in short it is writing a story based on someone else’s characters and set in their universe. That’s a little simplistic, but the basic idea. I have been writing fanfiction since I first figured out that I could write stories about my favorite characters, starting with the Hardy boys when I was about eight.
But let’s talk about another aspect of fanfiction.
A lot of authors and movie/TV creators look down on the world of fanfiction. In a way I understand, it is someone else messing with your creation—but in another way it is the highest form of flattery people love your stories so much that they want to stay and play.
But that is not what I am talking about (completely) either.
I am talking about fanfiction as a tool for the writer/creator. Reading fanfiction in the worlds you have created gives you as an author an insight into your own world that you will never find in yourself. Seeing the characters, situations and adventures fans create (for better or worse) allows you to see more deeply into your own work. It’s a scary prospect, venturing out into fanfic in your worlds, but well worth it. Finding out where readers are attracted and how they see a character is an eye-opener.
I personally think every author should find someone to read their work, then write fanfiction. Maybe two—or if you are lucky enough to belong to a writing group, have everyone write fanfiction in everyone else’s universes. The insight is amazing! A minor character might suddenly be in the forefront of four or five stories, a certain character trait you thought was awesome is dismissed, the list goes on. It is a valuable tool and a way to hone your skills.
I have been thinking a lot about fanfiction lately. I know I have been asked how I feel about it. Personally? I love fanfiction. The idea that someone loves something I have created so much that they want to play in that world is intoxicating. It’s flattering and amazing, and even a writer goes some place I may not have seen with a character, it is their vision. I still write the canon, but I love what other writers can add, what depth they can bring, and occasionally insight they bring me about my own creations.
It seems odd, but the world at large is just discovering something that we, ahem, geeks have been aware of for years. My first “fanfiction” wasn’t even that—it was just a way to read more stories in a series I loved (I was eight, reading the Hardy Boys) and I had run out of books. Later, I dove into more serious stuff, starting with—of course—Star Trek. It was the beginning point for many writers, not just fans.
Over the years, I kept that awareness and love of “fanfiction”. It was always for just myself, or for a friend or two, never out there in public. The internet changed that, and suddenly the closet writers of fanfiction were out. Maybe not loud and proud, but out and sharing their stories on a larger stage.
This altered the world in subtle ways. No longer were the writers a few, quietly trading photocopies at cons—no they were posting in a very public way and that is both good and bad. It’s good because it allows writers from around the world to share their stories, their love of a particular universe with like-minded readers and writers. It’s bad because it has polarized fandoms, created the idea that fanfiction can be “canon” and at it’s worst, can lead to ugliness. Which is sad, somewhere along the way, people forget that it’s all about love.
I will always love fanfiction, whether it is playing in someone else’s world or reading what someone has done in a world I have created. What makes me happy is that the world is becoming aware of it, I just wish the awareness had a more positive cast.
I have been a writing all my life and have been published in newspapers, magazines and books. Recently, I have started working with writers helping them to learn to love their writing, and how we, as writers can learn from musicians and their techniques.