Fanfiction: immersion in existing works from readers and writers


Hi all, this is one of the first articles I submitted in my undergrad to the student newspaper (named Cruwsible at the time) about FanFiction. This piece won me first prize in the publication’s first ever writing competition. I remember writing a lot more at the time, but reducing it to fit the submission guidelines. I wanted to share it here as well. It can also be read on the publication site -> here. I remember sending it to the editor with the title “Literachore” thinking I was making a hilarious joke about worldbuilding. I love a good pun, and even a bad one.

I accidentally and luckily discovered fanfiction back in 2006. Fanfiction is, as its name indicates, fictional writings by fans. Fanfiction can be based upon television shows, novels, video games, graphic novels, plays, films, and even historical figures and celebrities. The stories can utilise the pre-existing characters, situations, and settings of fictional worlds in a variety of ways. The stories can have a great deal or very little in common with the canon of their chosen fandom (fanatic domain).

Fanfiction is enjoyed for its endless possibilities and serves as a great medium for budding writers to hone their skills. It’s a rather versatile platform for people to build confidence with their writing and to experiment. Not all fanfiction is wonderful though, which is hardly surprising when you consider how easy it is to post online and how many people do so.

Fanfiction writers can explore characters and situations in splendidly creative ways. I love reading alternate universe (AU) fics, and stories with ships that deviate from canon. Canon in fanfiction terminology refers to the creator’s original work. For example: It is canon that Severus Snape killed Professor Dumbledore at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and any story that changes that fact deviates from canon.

Some fanfiction writers have gained notoriety through later publishing their own stories. Many people are aware that EL James first penned her novel Fifty Shades of Grey as a Twilight fanfic, and that Cassandra Clare first wrote the infamous ‘Draco Trilogy’ of Harry Potter fanfic before going on to write her series The Mortal Instruments. I’m not arguing that fanfiction writing builds the skills needed for writing novels or screenplays, but I’m am saying that it doesn’t get in the way of it. I am pro-fanfic.

Fandoms are brilliant communities for developing ideas and theories. Fanfiction is an irreplaceable way of participating in a fandom. Many people argue that fanfiction is pointless and that aspiring writers ought to put their efforts towards creating original works. However, this isn’t why fanfiction writers write fanfiction (try saying that fast, five times). Worldbuilding and character development is not always a fanfiction writer’s desire. Having the foundation of some elements of a story or situation laid out is a great appeal of fanfiction, providing many opportunities to write and read the stories the fans want to see with the characters and settings they desire.

Fanfiction is supported by many authors – Neil Gaiman (Stardust) and JK Rowling for instance. However other prominent authors such as Ann Rice (Interview With the Vampire) and George RR Martin (A Song of Fire and Ice) have openly spoken out against fanfiction because they dislike their creations being used by others, and find it harmful to their intellectual property. Incidentally, the writings of Rice and Martin have acquired very strong and large fandoms.

Fanfiction is not a profitable medium, and although that tends to give the form a bad reputation, it is better that way where ethics are concerned. Legal issues with fanfiction deal with copyright infringement when fanfiction writers begin to acquire financial gain from publishing fanfictions. As a derivative medium, fanfiction is not illegal to write or publish.

There is so much that can be moulded out of existing fandoms of novels, films and all the other mediums mentioned in the beginning. In fanfiction Bella Swan can die during childbirth. In fanfiction Joffrey Baratheon never has a King’s crown touch his head. In fanfiction Rose and the Tenth Doctor aren’t sealed off  in parallel worlds. In fanfiction Snape doesn’t have to kill Dumbledore.

With fanfiction something familiar can be adapted into something new and exciting. Fanfiction saves me the trouble of creating my own context when I don’t need or want it.

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