My story has over a million reads and over six thousand reviews. Wow. Impressive, right?
Notice that I said “story” and not “book.”
That’s because what I’m referring to here isn’t an original story written by me that’s been published as a book. Rather, what I’m talking about is a work of fan fiction. Yes, I wrote this novel-length fan fic that I’ve been kind of bragging about, but the characters and the world aren’t mine. They belong to the imaginative, wonderful J.K. Rowling.
I’ve dabbled and dove deep into the world of fan fiction on and off for twenty years. I started writing it back in 1995 at the age of 15, before sites like fanfiction.net even existed and when the internet was still very much in its infancy. My parents didn’t even have a computer, so I was basically writing the stuff for myself, re-imagining ways that the characters I loved would behave in different scenarios than had happened in their canon world. For me at age 15, this was Disney’s Aladdin.
Before I continue, for the uninformed, which I don’t think is many, fan fiction is writing fiction using someone else’s characters. The possibilities are endless. You may choose to write them in a different world or do a crossover with characters from another universe (meaning story/movie/book). You may have two characters fall in love who never did so in canon. There are really no rules for fan fiction.
Why am I writing about fan fiction now? Because, for me, it’s been a vital part of my writing history, and I don’t believe I would have gotten where I am today as a writer of original works of fiction without it.
Because of fan fiction, I also met many friends online and got to make connections with other writers, even if what they wrote was fan fiction. Not only did I write my own stories, but I spent hours and hours reading the works of others and leaving my thoughts and even beta-reading for a few people.
Writing fan fiction was usually easy for me. Using someone else’s characters and world they’ve already crafted is, of course, more simple than having to come up with everything from scratch for something original. I was already in love with these characters, so I felt like I knew them inside and out and loved the endless possibilities that fan fiction posed.
I was one of the first to join the fanfiction.net community when it opened its doors in 2001. To this day, I have an account there under the internet pen name of “Sindie.” It’s funny the fame that my most popular fic (The Moment It Began) got, because to these readers, I was “Sindie,” a faceless writer of Harry Potter fan fiction. I never expected anything I wrote to gain that much popularity, but what it did tell me was that I was capable of writing something novel-length that most of my readers would enjoy.
For any writer, I think, while we first write for our own pleasure, it’s also a wonderful thing to be able to share our stories with others. Just knowing that there are people out there who read something by me and that they actually liked it is all the more rewarding and compels me to write further.
While I’ll be forever thankful for my history in fan fiction, I must admit that it held me back from writing original fiction for a long time. The very thought of writing something original was downright daunting for many years, despite I first had the idea for what would become my first original story back in 2006. In March 2015, I finally began to seriously work on my story instead of writing fan fiction. Now, I wouldn’t turn back. I’ve self-published it on Amazon after a year and a half of writing, editing, sharing it with friends, and editing more. I’m now working on two more original stories.
All this got me to thinking: Do other authors and writers create fan fiction or did they write it at one time? Did they find value in it? Did they think it helped them become better writers? So I asked.
The vast majority of them said they love fan fiction and have written it. They agreed with me that there is value in it for many reasons: improving their own writing, practice at coming up with original ideas (even if those involved someone else’s characters), making connections, getting useful feedback, and bolstering their confidence as writers. And it’s just plain fun.
A few said they’d never written fan fiction, but they had read it and could see how writing it could be beneficial for the reasons listed above.
There was a small group who thought it a waste of time to dedicate so much to using other people’s characters, but this was a very small group.
There is a general consensus that some fan fiction is just downright awful, but the same could be said of original stories, too.
Overall, it would seem that many writers are of a mindset like mine when it comes to fan fiction. That’s good to know, for it validates what I already believed: that fan fiction adds value to our experiences as writers in a number of ways, the best of which is probably the practice it gives us by just doing what we love. Write.
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One response to “The Value of Fan Fiction”
I thought about writing fan fiction more often as an exercise. I dabbled in it in middle school, but never really took it seriously. I’ve been reading other fan fiction pieces, amazed at the depth of the characters and the plots the writers created. There are a couple of universes I would like to try my hand in. I’ll have to look at that fan fiction website you mentioned.