There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about the term ‘fanfiction.’ A writer of fanfiction cannot easily admit to being such a thing in most circles. Why is this? Because most people associate the word ‘fanfiction’ with the idea of bad writing or ludicrous pairings or both.
I figured it was about time to set a few things straight, from the mouth and mind of a fanfiction writer:
1, Fanfiction does not equal bad writing
While its true that at least half of fanfiction isn’t stellar, this isn’t true for all fanfiction. Some fanfiction is extremely well written with novel worthy voice, characterization, and plot. Some fanfiction is emotional and really hits you in the heart. Some fanfiction is meaningful and inspiring.
The reason so much bad fanfiction exists is because some people don’t care to try harder and some people are still in an early stage of writing. I began writing fanfiction at the age of 12, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t writing tiny stories in picture books from the time I was 5, and nothing I wrote before seventh grade was anything noteworthy. When I began writing fanfiction online, I had bad paragraph form and just generally terrible formatting. I grew older, signed up for a creative writing class in high school and two more in college, and now my fanfiction is complimented so often by so many people for so many different reasons that I tend to become grievously annoyed by people who automatically associate fanfiction with bad writing. Fanfiction has this bad reputation because many people, myself included, have slowly worked our way through the stages of developing writing skills with fanfiction as our medium.
The key here is to pick and choose your fiction.
2, The type of fanfiction you find is based on where you look.
While an obvious choice for fanfiction is Fanfiction.net, other sites, like Livejournal, can also be extremely useful places to find fiction. Simply search the site for the communities made for your fandom and behold the glorious plethora of fanworks – from videos to photo-shopped images to fics. What fandom you’re looking for decides just how much fandom you find.
Popular shows or movies may even have entire websites designated to them. You just have to keep your eyes out. Fanfiction.net has a reputation for some of the worst fanfiction available, but the good stuff gets posted there as well. However, Fanfiction.net’s easy to use interface makes it the breeding pool of the young writers and thus makes it filled with a lot more low-grade writing than perhaps some of the LiveJournal groups.
3, Fanfiction does not automatically mean a weird pairing.
Hetero pairings, usually meaning a pairing already represented in the show but not necessarily, are the most common types used in fanfiction. There are quite a few cases where the pairing of the story is not the one from the show or movie. This does not mean the pairing is weird.
Homo pairings, also known as slash or fem-slash, are also quite common in fanfiction. These pairings, while more often than not having no outspoken evidence to back it up, are extremely popular for the chance to read deep into subtext within a show or movie. These, while perhaps harder for many new fans to accept or even acknowledge, are also not necessarily weird. The issue with saying fanfiction is always about ‘weird’ pairings is that depending on the reader, the pairing may seem completely normal.
(For the rest of this blog, I’ll use Harry Potter as a reference.) I have no problem with hetero or slash pairings (ie. Ron/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, Hermione/Draco, sometimes known as Dramione, Ron/Harry, or Harry/Draco, sometimes known as Drarry). I don’t even always have issues with incestuous pairings (Fred/George, sometimes known as Wincest). In my personal opinion, the ‘weird’ pairings are ones that pair significantly older characters with significantly younger characters (ie. Snape/Harry, also known as Snarry. or Dumbledore/Snape, or any number of random pairings in the Harry Potter fandom pairing teachers with students or death eaters with students). However, some people love the student/adult pairings and find them totally natural. They can even find sources in the fandom to back up their claims.
As far as I’m concerned, any pairing is viable if the one supporting the pairing can use the series to back it up. I may not agree with the pairing, but it’s still viable.
The issue is that most people only hear about the odd pairings for the simple fact that they’re odd. Word of mouth isn’t going to spread about Ron and Hermione anymore than the books and movies have already spread it. Even Harry/Draco isn’t really considered odd in the fandom anymore. The weird ones, like Neville/Dumbledore, are the ones that are going to stick in your mind for a long time and make you wonder what kind of rainbow that writer was inhaling to get that idea. The simple truth is that a lot of the better fanfiction deals with pairings that are considered ‘normal’ by most of the fans. The weirder pairings are harder for the general fandom to grasp and so they don’t catch on and thus not many people read them. They may also be written by the younger level writers and thus be out-of-character to begin with (meaning the characters don’t act like the characters in the movie/show/book).
4, There are two major types of fanfiction. Learn the difference.
The first, and possibly most popular, way to write fanfiction is called SL or DU fanfiction. That is Story Line or Divergent Universe. I used to consider the two indicators as different types, but the truth is that true SL fiction only comes from the writers of the show or book.
Story Line means the fiction is directly in line with the events of the show – these stories are mostly ‘what so-and-so was thinking during such-and-such event.’ These tend to be popular for extremely dramatic scenes of shows. Divergent Universe stories are stories set within the universe of the show or book and using the same, or mostly the same, histories for the characters. However, things happen in the stories that haven’t or never will happen in the series. This covers most fanfiction. The birthday party Ron, Hermione, and Harry have for Hermione in one story is a DU story because that never happened in any book nor in any movie. However, it can be at Hogwarts where they’re all still wizards and facing the same issues as the books, and thus the story takes place in the same universe as the original work and is merely ‘diverging’ from the main story.
The second style of fanfiction is also quite popular. This is the AU, or Alternate Universe fictions. These stories use the same characters and same names but change the universe. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all their friends are now muggles living in New York and going to high school. Harry is the godson of Sirius, the local mob leader. Draco is an angel. The whole story is sci-fi. All of these options have nothing to do with the original story line of the original work and are thus in an ‘alternate universe’ or ‘alternate world’ or whatever you’d like to call it.
Most authors tend to use both styles, switching depending on what inspiration hits them.
It is important to remember that not all fanfiction writers run in the same circles, that certain fandoms encourage better writing more than others, that all writers start at some lower level, and that even if the writing is brilliant and perfect there will always be something about it that someone in the world won’t approve of.
It is also important to remember that many published authors today started out in fanfiction and a great deal of tomorrows writers will also have gotten their start in fanfiction.
The beauty of fanfiction is that when you find the right fandom, you will find a whole intricate society of fans who will encourage you and cheer for you as you increase your skill and work at your style. This is also true for artists and video editors. I find making fanworks to be a fun and exciting experience. The only downside is it distracts me from my real books that I’m writing. Still, I wouldn’t give up all my experiences with fanworks for anything, and I will continue to be involved in fanworks until the internet is killed.
I encourage fanfiction, fanart, and fanvideos. When my books becomes popular one day, I will look forward to the many ideas of my fans and I will request permission to actually create a site where they can all be hosted and shared. What I believe many creators don’t understand is that fanworks are like free advertising. So long as they aren’t stealing the work itself, who cares if they come up with stories involving the characters or take clips and mash them together to clever songs? Who cares if they draw the characters as stick figures or older than they are or even if they’re drawn exactly as you imagined them?
Fanfiction is fun and creative, and I encourage all young writers to give it a stab if they’re looking for an interesting way to test their boundaries and skill.