We’ve all heard the claims. Fanfiction = bad writing. Blah blah blah. Gatekeepers want to keep readers of fanfiction from enjoying fanfiction and writers of fanfiction from enjoying writing it. For some reason.
For one, fanfiction = bad writing is a false equivalent. Just like original fiction = good writing is a false equivalent. I’ve seen excellent fanfiction and read terrible published original fiction, both traditionally and self-published. (The self-published = bad writing argument is a whole other can of worms.) Don’t get me started on how the latter fuels my writerly fury.
Just let people enjoy the thing they like. It’s not hurting anyone. In fact, writing fanfiction for me represents the ultimate form of fun writing. Is writing fanfiction low-stakes? You bet. No one is asking for your money to read it. And that gives me an opportunity to blow reader expectations out of the water. Queue the smug satisfaction.
I’ve got five solid reasons why writing fanfiction rocks. Check them out below and let them encourage you to try your hand at writing fanfiction, if you’ve haven’t already. Wink.
Like I mentioned, no one demands your money to read fanfiction. In fact, that’s illegal here in the states. And while fanfiction does not always equal bad writing, it often does (and that’s okay!). Sometimes the writer’s talent shines through with great plot or characterization or tension building more than with sentence structure and punctuation. You can still be entertained.
Because readers of fanfiction come in expecting less-than-perfection, the pressure to write publication-quality writing is off. Let me tell you, as a perfectionist writer, that is a huge relief. There’s nothing more freeing than knowing I just have to write my best and my best will almost certainly be good enough for the fanfiction arena.
How many writers get critiqued on the lack of setting for their story? You know, when your beta readers mention your story is happening in a vacuum because you haven’t described the area around your character, or the setting of the plot overall. Sometimes you just want to focus on the interaction between your characters. But then you have to use your writing time to build settings and even worlds.
And you know what? I don’t always want to be researching and working out what currency my fantasy realm uses, because ugh, my character just needs to pay with a lot of money to show off their wealth. Let’s get on with it! I would much rather play with someone else’s setting and not have to worry about making up my own for just this one minute.
This is why I write present-day fantasy so much. The setting is right there and I already know it pretty well, given that I live in it and all.
Same thing with characters. The character someone else made may have grabbed me so completely that I want to explore more aspects of their personality. What would they do in this situation? Can I faithfully recreate the behaviors that writer imbued them with? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s find out!
Addition to Existing Narrative
Oh geez, that great show you binged is already over! That 10-book epic series just ended and there’s no more coming! But wait, someone out there made fanfiction about it. Now there’s more to read!
That’s what fanfiction does. It makes more of the stories you love. You can make more of the stories you love. It’s not that the original work is better so there can’t be fanfiction, it’s just that, with fanfiction, there’s more. Of course, you may not always like the fanfiction out there. But that’s just more incentive to add to the narrative yourself with a version you do like!
The biggest thing for me about writing fanfiction is getting to practice narrative techniques. Maybe I’m good at setup and writing beginnings, but I don’t tend to make it to the big fight scene in the middle. Or maybe I just don’t usually write fight scenes. Either way, I don’t have so much experience writing fight scenes to make them feel natural. I could practice on my own, but what weapons do I give the characters? What attitudes will they have about fighting? What strategies are they likely to employ? Here I go down a research rabbit hole, and now it’s midnight and I’ve written nothing.
With fanfiction, I already know all this information. I don’t have to lay the groundwork just to get to the thing I need to practice writing. I can jump right in and when the fight scene I’ve written is done, I can post it straight to a fanfiction site to see what readers think about it. Rinse and repeat.
Oh, how we writers grapple with collecting willing readers. Links to Facebook, to Twitter, to Tumblr, to Instagram. Hashtags and loglines and promises that the original fiction we wrote is free to read. Writer’s lifts to get more followers who might look at our feeds ever again to read what we post. Often we resort to posting in other writer groups with fingers crossed.
Yet with fanfiction, the original writers, producers, and game makers have already made something that many, many, many people love. A portion of those lovers of the original story might go looking for more of it, hungry for anything like this thing that has gripped their hearts. When you post up fanfiction, readers actively looking for more of that game or show or book will find your story. You don’t even have to beg them to read. Unless you’re writing for a very obscure story. Even then, you’ll probably get some views. More than zero.
That’s more than I can say for some of my original fiction.
Have I convinced you yet? If you want to try reading fanfiction, you should check out the major outlets, Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction.net. Same thing if you want to try writing fanfiction. It’s ridiculously easy.
Think you might enjoy reading the fanfiction I’ve written? If you like the weird west fantasy of Deadlands, the nuclear apocalypse of Fallout 4, or the supernatural urban world of Blood Blockade Battlefront, you can check my fanfiction out here and here.
What’s your favorite thing about writing or reading fanfiction? Got more reasons to love fanfiction than I’ve listed here? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!
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Little Blue Marble 2022: Warmer Worlds
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The last eight years have been the warmest on record.
Little Blue Marble‘s anthology of speculative climate fiction and poetry from an international slate of authors mourns and hopes in equal measure for the fate of our world and its ecosystems.
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