Reader Question Friday: Some thoughts on fan fiction

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 brigidmary@gmail.com or use the Contact tab.

Q: What is your opinion of fan fiction? Do you feel that it is worthwhile, or should people only stick to writing their own original works? What are your thoughts on people writing fan fiction based around your characters and their world?

A:

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?

4 thoughts on “Reader Question Friday: Some thoughts on fan fiction

  1. Thank you for the response, Brigid. =) It was definitely different to what I was expecting, but not in a bad way.

    The Fifty Shades trilogy was barely even a blip on my radar, as I know of so many other fan fiction works that have ended up being published (the most recent was a One Direction story!), but I suppose this question had been coming up more often because of Fifty Shades.

    I guess I’m bias in saying it, but I think fan fiction is a very worthwhile thing. It was what started me writing, when I was eleven, and through posting it online I had people telling me what I was doing right and wrong – it helped me gain a better understanding of character development, plot structure, and of course aided me with me spelling and grammar.

    I learned more from writing fan fiction than I ever learned about literature in school.

    And although I never turned any of my fan fiction works into original stories, I learned that I loved to write through writing them, and that led me to starting original stories. And because of that, I will always love it.

    I asked this question because published authors seem to have such a broad opinion of the subject – J.K. Rowling encourages it; Anne Rich forbids it. I’ve also heard from other authors (I can’t remember exactly who at the moment) who say they can’t read fan fiction of their own stories, for legal reasons. (Which I understand, so I quite enjoyed hearing your version of that issue.)

    I’d also like to add that as a fan fiction writer, I gained myself a group of friends who are not only loyal readers to me, but also people who are not afraid to tell me when they think something I’ve written is stupid or unrealistic – which is something you desperately need when you have a family who think everything you write is golden. 😉

    And sure, I could have gained them through writing original fiction. But on the sites I was writing for, fan fiction was King. If you wanted readers on your original stuff, you stole them from the fan fiction fans.

  2. I have to agree with Renee. I started reading Sailor Moon fanfiction in high school because I LOVED Sailor Moon and wanted more. People out there were writing different versions of the love story, so I got to read the main couple falling in love hundreds of different ways.

    It inspired me to write original stories… but I didn’t have a readership. So I changed the names of my main characters to Sailor Moon characters (there are enough personality-types in the show to make it an easy task) and called it an AU (Alternate Universe). Suddenly I had an established readership and dozens (if not hundreds) of comments on my writing. In the end, this is how I met all of my online friends/crit partners/book nerds. They all wrote Sailor Moon fanfiction, and now, a decade later, we’ve moved on to bigger and better things but still remain friends.

    So there’s definitely worth in fanfiction!

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