Lets talk about Fanfiction
What is Fanfiction?
According to Oxford Definitions, fanfiction is a noun described as “fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc.” To some, this probably sounds pretty silly. Why would you write about something someone else already created? What is the point? I’ve written a lot of fanfiction in my time. I still do. I know quite a few writers that do as well (there's a website known as Archive of Our Own that is built on writers of fanfiction - at the time of me writing this, there are currently more than 6,287,684 works published there!) But why?
Fanfiction is actually a pretty unique writing tool, outside of being its own art form. I use it in a variety of ways.
1. Probably the main reason I started writing fanfiction - Did your favorite character die? Not anymore. You fixed it. Fanfiction allows a writer to bend the rules, changing the original timelines, settings, and endings, into something different. In some cases, worse. It can give you sense of satisfaction, whether that be an elaboration on a poorly treated side character, an amendment to a death you never got over, or even giving an ending to something that was snuffed prematurely due to Hollywood drama. Examples include but are not limited to: Tony Stark deserved better, season 8 of Game of Thrones, Firefly, Dracula Untold needs a sequel… the list is endless. Sometimes you just want to change something for the fun of it. The challenge. And sometimes you just want certain villains to be eaten by dragons instead of locking them up.
2. Fanfiction can defeat writer’s block. Its true. Its easy, for me at least. Especially when writing - and doing the last 7 drafts of Between Worlds over the last two years or so - fanfiction was a great outlet for the scattered thoughts and desires I wanted to express but couldn’t when drafting my own work. Random ideas clutter up my mind pretty quick (as previously mentioned, music and visuals really inspire me - and sometimes that’s a problem) preventing me from focusing on the important things like my main draft. So using characters that already existed, I could get those ideas out of my head, out of my way, allowing me to continue working.
3. Its a great tool to explore different styles, different kinds of characters, and different ideas that are hard to build up from scratch. Fanfiction is an excellent way to practice a certain type of writing or explore a new writing tool. Like a prompt challenge used to really get the writing to flow, it can be easier when you as the writer aren’t having to come up with characters, setting, backstories, etc. I used fanfiction (in conjunction with the medium the characters came from, often movies and TV shows) to practice writing fight scenes. I loathe writing fight scenes. Fanfiction made it a little easier to not get lost in descriptions. I also used fanfiction to explore writing intimate scenes, expand my comfort for writing characters that are way smarter than me, and most importantly to get used to writing with and around difficult to grasp characters.
4. It can help create good writing habits. A writer has to write. When it comes down to it, that's the truth. And writer’s block hits every at some point - it can span hours to weeks to months. There are hundreds of articles, books and podcasts about how to overcome it. A lot of times writer’s block can hit because of fear, or because of distraction from other things, or even just a lack of ideas for the current work in progress. The important thing for a writer is that no matter what, they write. Even if its a little bit every day. Even if its forced. Even if its horrible. Fanfiction can be an outlet that allows a stuck writer to move forward on a different path. More than once, a little drabble of less than a thousand words can knock the writer’s block out of place and get me going again on the main project.
My best friend and I collaborated an Assassin’s Creed Syndicate fanfiction that took over our lives for 8 months. Together we wrote over 250,000 words (for perspective, that's about the size of Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix) almost every day for 6 months during my last two semesters at college (sorry mom) and I spent 2 months editing it. I printed and bound two copies for both of us (something I greatly enjoyed!) and it sits on my shelf today. Occasionally I’ll pull it out to read, even now. This happened after the 3rd draft of Between Worlds was written, a massive overhaul that overwhelmed me all summer. The fanfiction was all the pent up energy I had stored during the drafting.
There are a lot of reasons writers will turn to this form of art. Fanfiction has its place. It’s useful. It’s fun. It’s no less work than writing original content, I assure you. Whatever reason its used, Fanfiction exists. The good, the bad, the weird, the ugly… its a little bit of everything, and there is always something to be found to fit any taste. Fanfiction is just another branch of the writing tree.
FACT: Fifty Shades of Grey was originally a Twilight fanfiction published on Archive of Our Own. A publisher came across it, contacted the author, and after all names and locations were changed it was published as is. Original work can and is birthed through fanfiction - my other work in progress, The Story of Us, started as a few different fanfictions that grew into something a lot bigger and well out of the world they started in - but the roots are there and the work wouldn’t exist without them.