Let’s Talk: What’s so Good about Fanfiction?

fan fiction definition

Image result for fangirl rainbow rowellAs you may or may not have been aware of from either Goodreads or a sneaky glance at my blog home page, I recently (finally) got my butt into gear and read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. For those like me that are still massively behind on the YA contemporary trends, Fangirl’s central character, Cath, is a very popular fanfiction writer. She has thousands of readers and has even won awards for her stories. Basically, Cath lives and breathes fanfic. Her fandom of choice is a Rowell created series about a teen named Simon Snow which has some big similarities to something that rhymes with Gary Trotter. Just as you’d expect, reading this book got me thinking about fanfiction.

These days I feel like fanfiction gets a bit of a bad rap from the reading and broader community. People don’t seem to understand it and have a tendency to brush it off as being simplistic, weird, trashy, obsessive, even creepy. I’m in no way naïve enough to not be aware of the…darker and dodgier areas of the fanfiction webverse (come on, it is the internet), but at the same time, I also believe people discount the value of fanfic and the amount of work that goes into it. I’ll even willingly admit that during NaNoWriMo, I caught myself making a face at the idea that some people were spending their challenge working on fanfiction rather than original work (which is stupid considering I used to write it myself in my teen years – Twilight fics *shivers* dark days, guys, very dark days). Yet, now that I’ve sat down and thought about it (as well as chastised myself for being an idiot), while it may have it’s issues, fanfiction actually holds a lot of really great benefits.

Express Fandom Love & Meet Likeminded People

Pick any book, television show or movie in the world and I guarantee you that somewhere out there is a devoted group of fans who absolutely worship it beyond imagination. And the thing about fans is, once they get a taste of something, they just can’t get enough. Fanfiction is a fantastic way for people to not only constructively express their love of a particular fandom (okay, sometimes constructively), but also help them to connect with like-minded people. For the commonly found introvert (much like Cath in Fangirl), this is a good opportunity for socialisation and the ability to bond over a common interest. For people who have trouble socialising or difficulty finding others in the real world who share their interests, it’s a fantastic solution.

Writing Training Wheels

Writing is hard. Like, seriously hard. Plotting without epic holes, creating layered and interesting characters, world building that makes sense, and then there’s writing style (or in my case, trying to avoid saying ‘he said’, ‘she said’ fifty million times in one conversation. I panic, okay!). Fanfiction can be a great way for newbie writers to develop their skills. By already having a deep understanding of the characters, setting and rules, fanfic writers are able to focus on plot and the actual writing itself. I look back on my fanfiction entries from a decade ago (the horror) and can definitely see a big improvement in the way I write as I go along. It’s like writing with a support system in place until that person decides to try their hand at something original. They have the freedom to experiment and try new things in a safe space. The fact that people are then able to comment on their posts can also be a good way (well, not always) for those writers to get a sense of what they’re doing well and where they could improve.

Enjoyment & Entertainment

I don’t think it’s wrong to say that there are many people out there who enjoy certain fanfictions just as much, or perhaps even more, than some published books. Some fics build up enormous followings of people, thousands and thousands, who sit around excitedly waiting for a new chapter update and drop everything upon publication. In some instances this popularity factor is so big that it even drives fics toward publication as their own works, complete with a full set of name changes. I mean, just look at (I can’t believe I’m actually using this as an example) Fifty Shades of Grey. If you want to understand the power of people’s love for fanfiction, look no further than the money making force that is that trilogy. Sure, there are large percentages of fanfic that fall into the “trashy” category but hey, if it’s not damaging people with toxic ideas, what’s the harm in bringing people a bit of fun and enjoyment?

Continuations, Gap Filling & Spin Offs

One of the really fun parts of fanfiction is its ability to build on and expand canon stories in interesting ways. I can’t even count how many times I’ve come across a loose end I needed explained or a character that I wish I could have gotten to know better. Perhaps a sequence of events was mentioned during the narrative that would be cool to read about more directly or maybe the world has such a rich history ala A Song of Ice and Fire that’s it’s just bursting with stories? Well, fanfiction is the answer. There is a wealth of fics for every whim, interest, history, plot gap, romance, and side character. Fanfics can also be a great way to continue on with a beloved series or story even after it’s finished. While the published books may be over, the characters and their adventures can continue on through the writing of others.

Niches & Representation

I think it’s an understatement to say that there are some severe representation issues within mainstream books. We’ve made some great steps forward recently but there’s still a long way to go. A great characteristic of fanfiction is it’s diversity and inclusivity. No matter your interest, there’s fanfiction out there somwhere to float your particular boat (even if it happens to be…Drarry). Unlike published stories, online fanfiction isn’t bound by the rules of what publishers believe is “mainstream”/popular or will sell. Fanfiction can be written by absolutely anyone and its writers have the amazing freedom to take existing narratives & characters, and rework them to place a spotlight on the more marginalised and minority based groups. By giving these types of characters starring roles and more prominent stories within an already popular setting, they help those who enjoy, but often have difficulty seeing themselves in, the original works to find common ground and relatability.  Divider 3

Let’s Talk!

Are you someone who enjoys reading fan fiction? If so, from what kinds of fandoms? What’s your favourite website? Do you have a favourite fic?

Are you a fan fiction writer? If so, what about it appeals to you? What are your favourite types of fics to write?


16 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: What’s so Good about Fanfiction?

  1. I love fanfiction! sometimes I end up having periods where I don’t read ‘proper’ books and binge on fic because I already know and love the characters, as opposed to starting a book where I may not like the protagonist. it’s also easier to find tropes that I enjoy since you can search for things like enemies-to-lovers on AO3 which is super convenient!

    and it’s also great wish fulfillment, for eg. I shipped Swan Queen on Once Upon A Time and the writers were NEVER going to make it canon (even though if one of them was a guy, it would be a no-brainer; the male villain and female heroine who co-parent a child? who grow to respect each other and ally with each other against common enemies for the good of their kid/town/etc…who literally RISK THEIR LIVES for each other – okay, I’m going to stop pitching this to you, haha), so having fanfic really helped ease the frustration, I wasn’t as fussed about the show when there were talented writers putting out hundreds of thousands of words for my fave couple!

    1. That makes so much sense! Instead of spending time on something you may not even like, you’re reading something that you know you already enjoy the foundations of and then you just search for the kind of story you want set in that world. I can for sure get on board with that. 😁

      I definitely think wish fulfilment is one of the driving forces behind fanfic. Oh gosh! Swan Queen! That takes me back. I used to really like OUaT (I’m one of those lame Hook-Emma shippers but don’t worry, you’ve convinced me! That sounds amazing). I think it’s great that fanfiction writers can take missed opportunities from canon and turn them into something amazing or even better than the real thing. I guess fanfic writers have a lot more freedom to try things without worrying about backlash.

  2. For the last 6 years I got REALLY into fandom. Which means that, from 2012 until the end of 2017 I basically only read fanfiction. And I LOVED it.

    It’s so cool to read about your favorite characters in infinite different settings, while they keep their traits and characteristics. You don’t have to fall in love with the characters going into a story because you know them already. And, sometimes, fanfiction is the only way for you to see your favorite couple together. That was the void that fanfiction filled for me, because all my main ships — Sterek from Teen Wolf, Stucky from the MCU, Bellarke from The 100 and Dramione from HP — aren’t canon. And that sucks!

    Also, my favorite fanfic is definitely “Isolation” by Bex-chan. It’s a Dramione retelling of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You can still find it on ff.net 😊

    1. I can for sure see the appeal of that. If you really love particular characters, seeing them in different settings and tackling different events is great. Having the familiar mixed in with a bit of variation can be very comforting.
      Yes! Seeing your non-canon ships together is so good. I know heaps of people who love Bellarke, haha, and I could totally get on board with Stucky now that you mention it. 😊
      Good old fan fiction.net. Such a standby. The HP fanfic community on there is great. 😁

  3. I used to be a big reader of fan fiction back when I was a teenager, not so much anymore but I think back then I liked that there were stories that ended happily for my favourite characters who in books and TV shows didn’t always get a happily ever after. Plus it’s a whole world inside of a fandom world; the actual book or TV show finishes and usually there’s nothing more after that but with fanfiction there doesn’t have to be an ending.
    Honestly I kind of admire fanfic writers. Some of the stories you see are over 100k words and I struggled to write 50k for my own WIP last year (not just last year for NaNo but last year as a whole!)
    Great post. 🙂 ❤️

    1. I’m much the same. I used to read it during my teen years but drifted away as I got older. It’s always nice to see certain couples and characters finally get a happy ending where they didn’t in canon. There’s just so many possibilities. 😁
      I know right? Some of those stories are huge! That is some massive dedication to a fandom. I’m definitely envious. My sister has been writing one particular fan fiction for years now and god knows how long it is.
      Oh gosh, I wrote pretty much nothing in 2018 so you did a million times better than me. Perhaps there’s hope for both of us to improve this year! 😊❤️

      1. Also sometimes when you can’t let a favourite story go it’s nice that there are still people writing in that world and continuing the story.
        God that must be a really long fanfic if she’s been writing for years. Plus the dedication as well. 😀
        Hopefully we’ll both do better when it comes to writing this year. 🙂 ❤

    1. Yes, it’s such a shame! I even found myself starting to fall into a bit of critical trap, which is really silly of me. I now try to appreciate all of the positives fanfiction has to offer.
      No worries! And I hope your friend enjoys it. 🙂

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