“There’s a time and place for everything, and I believe it’s called ‘fan fiction'” ~ Joss Whedon
“Fanfiction isn’t copying- it’s a celebration. One long party, from the first capital letter to the last full stop!” ~ Jasper Fforde, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
In my teen years, I used to write fanfiction. In fact, fanfiction was pretty much all I wrote. I’d started some original stories before my fanfic era, but for a good three years of high school, those stories went on a perpetual hiatus while I occupied other peoples’ worlds.
Fanfic is to some the lowest category of the low; it’s embarrassing to admit you write it, and it exists for fanservice purposes only. But for me it served another purpose as well.
All writers are big readers. At least, every writer who feels the calling to write in their bones, is a big reader first. I went through a lot of periods where I wasn’t writing, but one thing was constant: I could never stop reading. If I go a month without reading a book, I feel wrong. Weird, like there’s a piece of me missing, a phantom limb itching to be scratched.
I was falling in love with other people’s worlds and words long before I ever found or fell in love with any of my own. Sometimes my love of another person’s creation would get to such gargantuan proportions where I’d think There is NOTHING I could write anywhere near as good, as perfect, as beautiful and enticing as I find this story. There are no characters I could create to rival these. Of course, I still feel all these feelings when I read things I love, like I could never measure up, like I’m burning from the inside out with jealousy at the same time as I’m savoring every minute of the tale. And that’s what we want as readers, isn’t it? A story that not only gets us so fully immersed we forget when our last meal was or what time of day it is, but a story that we might resent just a little because we wish we’d written it ourselves.
Through all of my teenagerhood, I had one such crush on the Harry Potter series, (I mean, don’t get me wrong, that fire’s still burning, but there was a point when it was an absolute inferno ). Not a unique obsession, I know, especially considering I am the “Harry Potter generation”- I was Harry’s age when the books picked up and Harry’s age again when the last one came out. There were (and are!) HORDES of people writing fanfic for these books, and I was one of them for a few years. I’d been having problems with writer’s block and my writing changing and growing and not knowing my exact style or voice so well anymore, and then on top of this I fell so much in love with J.K. Rowling’s world that I stopped thinking about my own worlds entirely. I could never write books like these, I could never write characters as vivid as these. But even though I had generally grown to fear all writing, I still felt the itch to write *something*. So I wrote fanfic.
I wrote either angst-filled fanfic or silly, cracktastic parodies for the most part, and while most of the time I felt weird about not writing anything original (in fact, I can remember wondering during that time if I’d ever feel like writing anything original again), I also started to notice the good it was doing me. Fanfic took my mind off of world-building. I started writing with a world already pre-built, conditions already set, and a whole cast of side-characters to choose from, already fleshed out to an extent by canon. This left me to focus on story and characters. Whether I was writing an original character or shading in one from the canon in my own interpretive way, whether I was making up my own story or doing a parody or parallel plot to a pre-existing story, I was able to focus so thoroughly on these things without having to worry about building a foundation first or having a place for these characters and stories to roam. All of my stories today are very character driven, and all of my favorite stories were always character driven as well; I think fanfic helped me to achieve this quality I emulated. And because fanfic was not a place to take yourself too seriously, I felt I could relax a little more writing it, which allowed the words to flow.
There’s fanfic out there that’s pretty ridiculous. I might even say the majority of it is pretty darn ridiculous, including most of what I’ve written in the past ;). But it’s damn FUN. As a reader, it’s a virtual playground, and as a writer it helps you to concentrate on and exercise areas of your writing. It can even help you to find and strengthen your own voice at the same time as you try on and imitate the voices of others. I know writers have differing opinions on this, but if someone were to write fanfic based on my work, I can’t help but think that no matter how bad the writing, how out of character the characters, I would be pretty darn flattered. Because I know the feelings that inspired me to write fanfic, and those are feelings I think every writer hopes someone someday will feel about their books.
I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you next week!