Anyone read Fifty Shades of Grey? That bestselling novel was originally a Twilight fanfiction. It’s been overwhelmingly considered a terrible book with bad writing and horrible editing. Incredible that it became a movie. Does this make fanfiction a valid form of literature? Well, this week’s question comes from OpheliaMorse.
I think fan fiction has an emotional credibility, if nothing else. Look, I really like fan fiction — I’m the one from a previous answer who said that’s what they wanted out of writing. Some can be extremely inventive, or emotionally resonant, or tie things up better than the author did; others can be ham-handed self-insertion or plot-less sex. All of that is fine, in my opinion. They all show engagement with the source material and a desire to be part of it, and can be a great way for a fan-writer to hone their skills before jumping off to their own project (or for blowing off steam in between their own projects). I never wrote fanfic myself — I was acutely uncomfortable with the thought of not doing others’ characters justice — but I’ve had years where I read a ton of it because I wanted more of a world and the original author(s) just hadn’t provided enough to sate me. With the Kindle Worlds thing Amazon is doing, maybe fan fiction will be able to step up into legitimacy.
I have mixed feelings about fanfiction. On one hand, a major aspect of writing fiction is the creation of a setting and characters that make sense and go well together. A fanfiction writer has that part of the job done for them. On the other hand, it might be just as difficult fitting your own story and ideas into a fictional universe that isn’t yours, and not change that universe into something of your own creation. When done well, fanfiction can be a skill I respect. But I’ve also seen plenty of fanfiction that butchers the author’s original stories for the sake of wish fulfillment.
I think fanfiction can be a great jumping off point for writers. It provides writers with a ready-made set of characters and situations that the author can then extrapolate from. However, I don’t like the idea of publishing fanfiction without the permission from the original author. It’s not fair for a writer to financially gain from someone else’s idea. It’s at that point in the process where the writer needs to move beyond those characters and create ones of his/her own. A writer who can write good fanfiction can also write good original fiction.
I think fan fiction is fun and it allows the reader to continue the story of characters they have enjoyed. I don’t know if it actually has commercial credibility. But, I’ve never read any either.
Fan fiction can be a great exercise for those starting to write or experimenting with different aspects of writing. When I first starting taking writing seriously, I dabbled with fan fiction to figure out how to make readers feel, to find what point of view worked best for me, to learn to describe settings and objects in a way that created a visual image, and how to create a beginning, middle and satisfying end.
Playing with someone else’s world and characters creates a level of freedom that allows the writer to focus on other things. Some of the hard work is done for you. You have world rules to work with, a setting, you already know the characters, their goals and weaknesses. All you need to do is figure out a storyline that plays, at least to some degree, into what already exists and start writing. It’s also a great tool because you have a readership who knows the world and the characters and if you get something wrong, they will tell you. There’s a level of accountability to get the details right and describe things correctly.
I think fan fiction is one of the reasons that there are more writers now than ever before; it’s a good way to ease into writing, since it involves some of the same processes as original writing but with less work required because the characters and worldbuilding already exist.
Because it involves a lower level of creativity than original writing I would say that it has somewhat less credibility, but it has some and there are published authors who got their start with fanfic. (However, taking a fanfic and trying to pass it off as an original story just by changing all the names is not something I have a very opinion of.)
Fan fiction has always gotten kind of a bad rap. It’s considered to be “lazy” writing, because you’re taking the world and characters that someone else worked hard to create, and plopping them down into your own plot. It’s not hard to agree with the poor assessments sometimes, because a lot of the fan fiction that can be found out there is poorly-written drivel that only came to light from a fanboy/girl’s desire to insert his/herself into one of their favorite tales.
But that’s not all fan fiction is about. Fan fiction is about showing your love for another’s writing. It’s about having fun and trying to honor that writing, and maybe even creating something new as a result of it. Think of all the movie remakes and reboots that are out there. Are they not, at their core, fan fiction? And sure, some of them might make you cringe a little, but some of them are absolutely amazing. Is “The Avengers” not a form of fan fiction, created through a re-telling of a pre-existing comic? You’re damn right it is.
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for fan fiction, because the “genre” is how I really got into writing in the first place, and while it’s often scorned in the “professional” community, I think fan fiction definitely has it’s place. At its least, fan fiction is an opportunity to more easily practice your writing. At its best, fan fiction can turn into a worldwide phenomenon that brings something old and brilliant back out into the light.
Oh, yeah! Fanfic all day! Of course, as with any form of art, some are better than others. I’ve read fanfics written better than some international bestsellers. Just because something is written and predicated off another world doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as not being credible. Many great writers would’ve never found their way to original fiction without the gateway drug that is a good fanfic.
I don’t feel that fan fiction has any place being published in any form; that includes the internet. I see fan fiction as a violation of copyright, which is backed up by copyright law. Fan fiction is, at its core, a derivative work. Therefore, it cannot be done without the express consent of the author, and if it is done, it is owned wholly by the author of the original work. Nobody can tell you that you can’t write it for yourself, but the moment you put it out there for anyone else to see — whether you sell it or not — you’re breaking the law.
That said, I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with someone practicing their writing by writing things that are based on the works of someone else, but if you want to be taken seriously as an author, write something original.
I don’t have a problem with fanfiction in general. It’s a great way to practice writing without having to develop the world and characters. Just focus on the writing and making a story. It also shows appreciation for a story.
However, there are some problems. Some authors don’t appreciate fanfiction, especially if it’s used for profit. It is an infringement on the author’s copyright. And what happens if someone believes that the unauthorised fanfic is part of the storyline? I could see the original author writing a new novel in the series that completely contradicts an existing fanfic, causing fans to question the original author. Okay, so that’s probably unlikely, but you never know.
So, fanfiction is fine if it isn’t for money, and it’s not against the author’s wishes.
How about you?
Do you enjoy fanfiction? Do you think it’s a credible form of writing? Let us know in the comments below.