We write [fan fiction] because we love these vampires, Doctor Who companions, or demon hunters so much that we can’t stand not knowing what happened in those missing scenes or giving them the chance to make a different or better choice. We want them to have that last love scene, to redeem themselves, to not get killed off. These characters make our lives better–even if it’s just for a short time. Fanfic, to me, just returns the favor. ~ McCrary Golden
I don’t write fan fiction, but I do imagine favorite characters from movies or television shows moving about in my original storylines. Or I’ll place my own created characters in worlds I find in books. I’ve done this since I was a child. As a young adult it helped wile away the hours of the hurry-up-and-wait reality of the military. And even now, such imaginings help me fall asleep at night. Though I haven’t transferred these stories and characters from my head to paper the way a fan fiction writer might do, I feel a kinship with such writers.
Many authors of original works are against the publication of fan fiction because of possible misuse or that it threatens their livelihood (Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card). Some authors tolerate fan fiction under certain conditions (Anne McCaffrey, Kristen Randle), while others embrace the fan fiction community and encourage fan writing (Hugh Howey, Stephenie Meyer).
A writer should always respect another writer’s wishes, work, and copyright. I also believe there are good reasons to write fan fiction. Here are ten.
1. To Celebrate the Characters and Stories You Love
Have you ever finished an awesome novel, movie, or television series whose characters and/or story wouldn’t let go of you? Ever wished such stories would never end? If you write fan fiction, you can keep the story alive. Writing for the love of the story is a foundational reason most fanfic writers take up the pen to begin with.
2. To Break Writer’s Block
The next time you hit a wall in your latest manuscript, write some fan fiction to break through. Let go of the need to produce, and free your mind to be creative. Give it a chance, it could become your go-to way to get you over the wall and back on track.
3. To Regain or Begin a Joy of Writing
What better way to find what you’ve lost than to return to the place it all began. Make writing fun again by using the story world of a favorite novel or movie. And if you want your kids or grandkids to be more involved in reading and writing, fan fiction could be the answer. Can you say, “Sponge Bob in Space?” Oh, yes.
4. To Get Creativity Flowing
If you’re looking for a way to be more creative, writing fan fiction can address the three needs of creativity: exercise, stimulation, and an outlet. Taking time to strengthen and nourish the imagination is as important to a writer as conditioning the body is for an athlete.
5. To Refine Your Craft/Storytelling Technique
In fan fiction, the characters and settings are already in place, leaving you free to work on plot. Or you could take an established storyline and add a new character to the mix. By using predefined elements and adding a bit of study, you can learn such things as what makes strong, believable, and sympathetic characters; how setting impacts a story; and what story structure is about.
Much of Wattpad’s popularity is based on fan fiction, but after a month sifting through the platform’s original fiction categories I suspect that…in popular genres like sci-fi, fantasy and young adult, Wattpad’s best contributors are more than good enough to match their professionally published counterparts. ~ Damien Walter
6. As a Springboard for Original Writing
It’s only natural that your own characters and storylines will spring forth from all the imagining and creating that’s necessary to write fiction. One idea sparks another, which sparks a variation, which leads to your own complete, separate, and original work.
7. To Connect with Kids
Looking for a way to connect with your children or students? Writing stories together or reading your created bedtime story using favorite characters and settings can be an awesome shared experience. So can using a television show or comic you loved as a kid as a basis for new adventures.
8. To Join an Active Writing Community
There are many online fan fiction communities that can satisfy the need to interact with like-minded people, share stories, and get feedback, including Archive of Our Own, FanFiction, The Gossamer Project, Skrawl, Trekiverse, and Wattpad.
9. To Get Discovered
Practice and perfect your craft through writing fan fiction, and the publishing industry might take note. Big Bang Press is one publisher who recruits authors from the fan fiction community. “We want to take people who have been writing a lot of fan fiction and honing their writing talent, but who are interested in writing original stuff and clearly have the talent and ability to do so.” ~ Morgan Davies, Big Bang’s editor-in-chief
And Skrawl has partnered with Hollywood to allow rights’ holders to search for new writers and story lines among its posted stories. “Much like publishers like Simon & Schuster have offered book deals to Wattpad authors, Skrawl’s community seeks to invite the film industry into the minds of its users.” ~ Mercy Pilkington
10. To Get Paid
It’s a long road to get published in franchised worlds, such as Star Trek or Star Wars, in which you have to be proven and tested, and invited in. Amazon’s Fan Fiction program – Kindle Worlds – is an option if you write in specific licensed worlds that include crime, paranormal, romance, science fiction, and superheroes. See the complete list at Kindle Worlds.
What do you think about fan fiction? If you write fan fiction, why do you? And if not, why?
You might also want to read:
“Fan Fiction: An Epiphany”
A.L.S. Vossler talks about her progression from believing “fan fiction is the lowest life form of the writing universe” to accepting it as a good way to get creative juices flowing.
“A writer should always respect another writer’s wishes, work, and copyright.”
Yes! My biggest problem with fan fiction is that many (most?) writers of fanfic don’t think that author of the original work should have any say in the matter, that “your fans own your story once it’s published and have the right to do whatever they want with it.”
I create “fan fiction” IN MY HEAD all the time. (People who know me would be shocked to hear that, I’m sure.) However, I don’t write it down, and I definitely don’t publish it. I don’t want anyone telling lies about MY imaginary friends, so I don’t tell lies about anyone else’s.
(I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other about fan fiction until someone — who shall not be named, but his initials are JGB — wrote and published a few novels using the setting and characters from a fantasy series I love… against the express wishes of the author of the original story.)
I don’t have a problem with fan fiction writers sharing their stories on fanfic sites. Most of those writers love the characters so much they don’t want the stories to end. But publishing a derivative work for profit using someone else’s world and characters is simply wrong (unless you have the original author’s consent). Thanks for the comment!
This is excellent advice. What a great column to help us. Thank you for your ideas. I really appreciate them.
Thanks for stopping by!