Every Friday, I’ll answer a reader question anonymously. I’m open to anything (it doesn’t have to be writing or book related), so don’t hesitate to send in a question. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Contact tab.
Oh, this is a tough question. But probably not tough for the reason you’d think.
What’s funny is that fan fiction (using another writer’s characters/world to create your own story) has been around for a loooooong time, but it only recently gained massive notoriety because of the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. (If you’re not familiar with the background of Fifty Shades, it was originally written as fan fiction for the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.) If you want to go see what type of fan fiction is out there, there’s a huge online community. (And there are many more sites than what I just linked.)
So what’s my opinion of fan fiction in general? Honestly? Here’s where it’s a tough question: I don’t really have an opinion. I know fan fiction is out there. I know a lot of people write it. (Including some traditionally published authors.) Many new writers get their feet wet using characters from someone else’s world, just to see if they can write a story, and then move on to write their own stuff. When I was a teenager I wrote a story about vampires who were born, not made, who looked human but could run on four limbs like a wolf. Looking back, it was probably loosely based on the vampires in author Elaine Bergstrom’s world, which featured the Austra family and their reliance on stained glass windows. (They’re great books, especially if you enjoy historical fiction. You should check them out if you have time.) Were my original stories fan fiction? Not technically, because I didn’t share any plot lines or characters, but the similarity was there. Does it even matter? No, because those stories are all written longhand and shoved in a box in the back of my bedroom. They’ll never see the light of day.
Do I feel like writing fan fiction is worthwhile? It depends on why you’re writing it. If you want to write something commercially viable, you’re going to need to create your own world and your own characters. If all you care about is seeing Harry Potter make out with Ender, you’re going to need to write fan fiction. (Or read it. It’s probably out there somewhere.)
For me, personally, I don’t see any point to writing it. I like to write my own stuff, and it would feel weird trying to animate someone else’s characters or populate their world with my own creations. That said, I don’t have anything against people who love to write it. (I think one of my critique partners even writes a fair bit of it!) Many people find enjoyment in fan fiction, and I don’t see any harm in it whatsoever, unless the writer is trying to pass it off as original, or for financial gain.
In regards to fan fiction of The Elemental Series, I know it’s out there. Sometimes people send it to me directly. It’s incredibly flattering, and I’m so touched that my characters have inspired other writers. That said, I can’t read it. I’ve tried many times (I even tried last night just so I could write this post), and I just can’t do it. It’s like watching someone else speak through my kids’ mouths. It’s just … odd. Please don’t be offended if you send it to me and I reply that I can’t read it. It’s not you. It’s me.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Amazon has created a way for people to write (and publish) fan fiction. I don’t know all the details, and I know it’s only for specific worlds/characters/television shows, but if you’re interested, you can read about it here.
What do you guys think? What’s your opinion on fan fiction?