Fan fiction is a term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator. It can be based on a book, a video game, a soap opera, or other pop culture phenomenon. If you google your favorite show, you will no doubt find some stories written by other fans out there. Some of it is written by amateurs just looking to have a good time or voice their opinions about what should have been. Some comes from writers or aspiring writers. From time to time, the value of writing fanfic vs. original fiction can be called into question. Some members writing community don’t consider it to be “real” writing. While it can never be published in book form or sold for profit, I would venture to say that it is absolutely “real” writing and I can think of at least five good reasons to do it.
Character development and consistency is very important when writing original fiction. With fanfic, the characters are already developed, but consistency is still the key. Staying true to the characters that people know and love is tough and must be taken seriously. To really do it right, you’ll need to examine their vocabulary, imitate typical speech patterns, describe their mannerisms etc. Both the actions and the dialogue need to be spot on. If your portrayal of a legacy character is not up to snuff, you’ll anger the fans you’re supposed to be writing for and they can get rather rowdy. They will keep you on your toes, but it’s good practice.
If you’re a fluffy romance novelist considering trying your hand at murder mystery or vice versa, writing fanfic may be the perfect way to test out a new genre. It’s a great way to try out new techniques in smaller chunks of serial fiction. That way you can see what works best for you and what’s best received by readers as you go instead of experimenting with a novel sized piece. You can apply what you’ve learned to the novel later on.
Fanfic readers are avid fans who are constantly looking for more to read. They get excited when a new chapter comes out. Many will read it almost immediately and review or comment on your work. They will be brutally honest, but that’s a good thing. This feedback can be very valuable. Of course, you have to weigh the responses and see which pieces are valuable and which pieces you should just let go. That’s good practice for when the reviews of your novel start rolling in. With any luck, however, you’ll be able to take some of the critiques and use them in your original writing.
If you write good fanfic, chances are you will build a fan base that will want to check out your book once it’s published. Some serious writers may tell you that they don’t want to be known for this fanfic. If you’re looking to go down in history with Shakespeare or Tolstoy, you may not think this is for you. But most of the time the goal is to write and enjoyable piece of fiction that people will buy. I once read that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally marketed to the Twilight fanfic audience. You tell me. How did that work out for E.L. James?
It’s fun! Most of us became writers because we love stories. We love creating. It’s fun. It’s an escape. Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of a writing project, I get so mired down in the technique and the structure that I lose sight of the reason that I started to begin with. So, if you find yourself stressed over the current project, take a break and write something a little more frivolous. Again, that is not to say that fanfic should not be taken seriously, but it’s not what’s paying the bills, so you can afford to relax just a little bit. Enjoy your favorite characters. Rewrite their stories to make them what you always hoped they would be. Throw them into a wild love triangle or a new super spy mystery. Just have fun!
A Final Word of Advice:
If you are writing fanfic to hone your craft with hopes of publishing your own original work someday, have fun, but make it good. I know I just finished telling you that it is a non-threatening way to experiment. I stand by that, but make sure that even in those experimental phases you are putting out the best product you can. Don’t forget to focus on mechanics too. Just because people are pop-culture fans and not literary critics, it doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a well-written story with good grammar. Too many errors will leave a lasting impression, and it won’t be a good one. So spend some time editing. Remember that once you put it out there, you can never really take it back. You don’t want to go down as the one who had a great story but mutilated the English language.
So there you have it. As far as I’m concerned, whether it’s original or not, it’s all good practice. You can’t publish your version of your favorite soap opera, but you can tap into the existing fan base for exposure and feedback. You can improve your technique by taking risks you wouldn’t take on your own. Just remember, as in all writing, respect your characters. Respect their history, but don’t be afraid to take them somewhere they’ve never been. Go somewhere you’ve never gone. Grow. Get creative. Get busy. Get writing!