Fanfiction: Friend or Foe?

I’ve been writing fanfiction for as long as I can remember. I’ve also heard of tons of hate towards fanfiction for about as long.

For me, fanfiction was one of those things that first opened me up to writing longer stories. Up until that point I had written plenty of things but nothing quite felt right and I didn’t feel like I was improving just writing what was in me at that time. I stepped into fanfiction without too much interest but I steadily grew to love it, posting very frequently on the most popular fanfiction website online, www.fanfiction.net.

Since I loved writing fanfiction and, to me, that was what mattered, I was generally oblivious to the hate plenty of published authors had towards fanfiction. As I began to take notice of it I was still very much comfortable in the fanfiction world, as well as easing into writing novel-length stories of my own, and had a growing resentment for those authors that were insistent that they did not want fanfictions of their works written.

That resentment is still there, I’ll admit; I find it really selfish almost. But I have to admit that as time has gone on I’ve become to understand their feelings also. To an extent only, of course.

My characters are like my babies; my plots come about through the nurturing of my babies. Of course I don’t want someone to come along, snatch them up, send their lives to hell and take credit for it. At the same time, fanfiction is fanfiction. It’s in a place where it is often very clearly marked as ‘fanfiction’ so if you don’t like it, don’t read it. I would hate to see my characters interpreted the wrong way, or have changes made to them that I would hate. Then again I can always choose not to read something; that’s good enough for me. Sort of like ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

The authors that don’t want to see their characters ruined have fair concerns in mind. I recently read a fanfiction of one of my favourite manga series. In this fanfiction, one of the lead characters was suddenly a woman who had apparently been disguised as a man for the whole series, and all because the fan wanted to play true love to one of the characters. That was horrid!

The authors who think fanfiction writers are going to get any monetary payment off of their hard work need a reality check. When posting on a fanfiction site you are inadvertently stating that this is not your universe and these are not your characters, so what’s the problem? None of them really do it for any monetary profit; I know I certainly didn’t!

Over the years I’ve seen and felt so many advantages to writing fanfictions and I think they’re advantages that make a lot of authors’ arguments moot.

George R.R Martin states that writing fanfiction is the ‘lazy way out’ of writing. I don’t believe that this is so; I believe that it provides plenty of opportunities for a writer to try something that is a bit out of the box for them, in something that they don’t have to commit as much time to but still give fresh ideas to possibilities.

I personally have always written original works and always written fanfictions on the side. For me, a fanfiction is a fun opportunity to try something that I wouldn’t normally work with but I have the added challenge of trying to keep things in the fanfiction as close to the reality of the original series. My intentions would never be to change the entire series, but rather to tackle something that the original author may not have had enough time to flesh out.

Stephenie Meyer, writer of the Twilight series, doesn’t hate fanfiction and doesn’t forbid people from writing it but it does frustrate her. She says that based on the amount of talent, time and energy that some writers put into fanfictions they should probably be spending it on writing their own novels and getting them published. Fair enough. She’s not wrong. It’s complicated but, for example, let us say that an author wrote out a great little story that inspired me to think ‘I would love to write those two characters in this sort of situation’, and invent a scenario that the two characters undoubtedly encountered but was not shown in the book. To recreate those characters and give them the same background in order to run your little experimentation then you’re almost plagiarising, are you not? So why not do this with fanfiction, in which you are clearly stating that the original background story and characters are not yours at all and take no credit for it?

Recently I thought two characters were extremely interesting, had a difficult and almost peculiar relationship with each other and had backgrounds that would cause them plenty of problems. I was intrigued by a scenario that they were obviously going to be in but that was kept out of the original story. I then wrote fanfictions for that because it was far more honest to do that than to recreate them almost exactly identical, because one little change would ruin everything, and technically plagiarise work.

As previously said there are also numerous other appealing factors of fanfiction. I love to write oneshots! It’s the only time when I can write anything in short! My own novels become novels almost because I have so much to do and go on about that they become that length! Oneshots are fun and creative ways of working with someone else’s characters, write an interesting little story and do all that without having to explain absolutely everything!

Also, I find it increasingly perfect practice that helps me keep characters in character! Never do you have to be more careful about the way you portray a character in a scenario than when you’re playing around with someone else’s characters! No doubt it is frustrating to read characters that are absolutely nothing like their original and so I always aim to keep the characters in character! After all, nothing turns me, and a lot of other readers and writers, off more than seeing ‘OOC’ (out of character) written in a story summary. I think it’s far worse when a writer knows that the character is OOC and they still insist on posting it. If you’re not going to remain true to the characters themselves at least, why post it? Why write it at all? It’s alright if your interpretation is different, but it has got to be understandable also.

After all this, I’m simply saying that I can understand why people, authors especially, have quite some hate towards fanfictions. Really, I do! But it’s not all bad either and my position on it hasn’t changed in about 8 or 9 years and, to be honest, I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.

So, what is your stance on fanfiction? Do you read it, write it or both?

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2 thoughts on “Fanfiction: Friend or Foe?

  1. Sometimes I just read/watch something and start imagining a perfect story with those characters. I start writing the story in my head, and get really excited about it. Then, I write fanfiction. I am a friend of fanfiction, and i think it is a good writing exercise for people that have trouble coming up with their own characters. I just would wish the fanfic writers would stay true to the characters and not just randomly have a really nice person kill someone or have someone sleep with someone that they are supposed to hate in the original.

    • Thank you for commenting!

      I’m happy to see another fan of fanfiction! I really do enjoy them. I agree about keeping characters as they were originally intended; character progression is good, but a sudden, strange and unexplained personality change is not fun at all. A physical change is just as awful; those fans that change a characters gender to hook up with their favourite character tend not to be in my good books.

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