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Fan-fiction has made a place for itself on the Internet, and few people would be willing to argue otherwise. Websites like FanFiction.net offer a space where fans of any TV show, movie, or book can write and upload their own stories based on their favorite characters. With some stories gaining hundreds of thousands of views, we have to ask: What do the authors think about this?

Some of them are definitely aware of fan-fiction. Authors like Cassandra Clare have a strong presence on Twitter and Tumblr, and there’s no doubt that she’s come across a few fics. This idea is strengthened by the fact that she was once a fan-fiction writer herself.

Other writers specifically endorse fan-fiction, like MTV’s Teen Wolf creator Jeff Davis, who was involved with a contest a few months ago that MTV held in which the author of the winning story got to fly out to California to meet him and visit the show’s writing room.

Not everyone is so approving. Anne Rice and George R.R. Martin are just two of the many examples. These authors consider fan-fiction infringement, and they don’t approve of fans taking their characters, settings, or ideas and using them to create their own stories. While this is completely understandable, we can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the often blatant disregard for and disapproval of fan-fiction.

Authors should be grateful for both the fan-fictions and the writers. After all, this is their fan base – and not just any fan base, but often the most invested and most passionate. These are the people that buy the merchandise, reread the book dozens of times, and dress up like their favorite characters at conventions. These are the people that many authors write for – the ones who understand their works and will be forever faithful for their contributions. They’re so invested in the story that they simply never want it to end. The easy solution is, of course, to create new stories out of the existing canon.

Fan-fiction also creates a sense of community

Fans share their stories with each other in hopes of gaining feedback and an appreciation for what they’re doing. As fans connect across the world through the Internet, their passion for the fandom will grow. It not only encourages re-watches or re-reads, but also a passion for others who share the same interests as they do.

And what about that fateful day when an author possibly recognizes a story that a fan has written about his or her characters?

This gets fans excited when they acknowledge their works, and it connects the author with his or her fan base. One of the reasons why pop singer Lady Gaga’s fans are so dedicated is because she often goes out of her way to talk to and encourage them. An author or creator of a TV show could do the same just as easily, and the fans would soak up the attention.

But the number one reason why any author should be proud to see their characters cropping up in fan-fiction is that it means they’ve inspired others to write – and isn’t that sort of the point? Maybe being an inspiration to others was never part of the game plan, but it’s an awfully nice side-effect. It encourages others to write and practice the craft, and maybe one day they’ll become an author in their own right.

Considering all of this, we have to ask: Is fan-fiction really such a terrible thing to endorse?

  • Brittany

    As a writer and an avid reader of fan-fiction (mostly Harry Potter), I understand why some authors would hate it, I mean some are horrible (look at 50 shades) but some that I have read are beautiful and wonderfully written and it truly shows how much these stories have meant to people since they want to continue the story even after it has ended.

  • http://hypable.com Selina

    Great article Karen, I’m so proud to see this on Hypable! :)

    In some ways I feel like if I hadn’t spent most of my teenage years reading novel-length HP fanfics I’d probably have had more time to read ACTUAL novels (which would probably have been a better boost for my general cultural capital), but at the same time, I was drawn to fanfiction for a reason. It’s the reason I prefer TV series to movies, too: I like following the same characters and settings for continued storylines, not just join them for one adventure and then leave them behind.

    There is a lot of crap out there, and a lot of mindless smut. But there is also some amazing, in-depth works that build on existing universes (and let’s face it, a lot of “legitimate” fiction does that too) but create something new and unique which wouldn’t have been possible without there being a space carved out on the internet for fanfiction. And more importantly, authors like Cassandra Clare and Anne B. Walsh have used fanfiction writing as a training ground and have since made careers as published authors of original fiction.

    I see NOTHING wrong with fanfiction. Some of the stuff that’s out there is 100x better than companion books, even though those are still considered “better.” I think places like Archive Of Our Own and FictionAlley/Checkmated (HP specific) helps filter out the stronger stories from the weaker ones, and there’s hours and hours of literary enjoyment waiting for anyone who actually takes the plunge. Keep writing, everyone! We’ll be reading. :)

  • stargazer

    While I don’t read fan fiction (okay, I’ve read one or two), I think of it as a lot like what I used to do when I was younger–make up (sometimes ridiculous) make-believe games based in the universes of my favorite movies and books. The difference with fan fiction is that it’s in writing, and as a writer I understand the joy of sharing your work, whether or not it’s based off someone else’s universe.

    One of my favorite books to read when I was younger was Star Wars books, and those books, as well as the movies, are where a lot of my playtime fantasies came from. If you think about it, practically all the Star Wars books are fan fiction, only in a legitimized format.

    I think fan fiction is a great way for people to share their fantasies, alternate plots, world-meshing, and whatnot with others and a way to spark creative ideas within and beyond the realm of pre-created worlds

  • Raye

    I love to write, and my bad fan-fiction made me learn how to become a better writer through constructive criticism. I think critiques are good author-builders. It also keeps my creative juices flowing when I’m not in the middle of a story, or in a writer’s block. And, Harry Potter FanFics were the first things I wrote when I was a 10-year-old. They were awful, and the Gryffindor main character was always a tougher version of me, (but I know I’m a Hufflepuff now), and she was always Harry Potter’s best friend, but isn’t that ok?

    Fanfiction is the bridge between childhood imagination and writing novels.

  • http://purplehrdwonder.livejournal.com/ Caitlin Kelly

    I love this piece so much. I’ve been reading and writing fan fiction for years and it has drastically improved my writing. It gives me a place to experiment with technique, language, voice, characterization, world building, etc. and receive feedback on said experiments that I might not otherwise have.

    There are simply fictional words out there that I want more of and characters whose journeys I want to explore further, whether through my own writing or another person’s. And there are some pretty amazing fan fic writers out there. Yes, there is a lot of crap, but when you find the good stuff, it can be downright amazing. AO3 and Livejournal have been two places I’ve been spending more time with my own work and reading others’.

    It helps me connect with my favorite works in a deeper way as well, I think, because it gets me thinking more about motivations and characterization and so on. And that just improves my overall experience with the work, whether it’s a TV show, book, film, or what have you. I also write meta and episode reviews which do the same thing, but there’s something unique about fan fic.

    And there is such an amazing community that can come from fanworks. I went to a Supernatural convention a couple of weeks ago and met up with some people involved in the same corner of fandom I am; it was pretty incredible. I’ve been chatting for years with some of them about our favorite shows/books/whatever and we didn’t miss a beat meeting in person–we already knew each other.

  • ravenclaw1991

    This is really fantastic! I used to think fanfiction was a bit weird. Like why would someone want to write stories using someone else’s characters. I ended up reading a fanfic one day, don’t remember what it was or how long ago, but I started reading more. Eventually I was hit with a sudden idea and I ended up writing it. I avidly read and write it myself now. I mostly only read and write Teen Wolf and Merlin fics though. I do not touch Harry Potter ones. I LOVE Harry Potter, but its just something I can’t do. I personally don’t want to ruin Harry Potter by writing something about it and I don’t really like reading stuff that Jo didn’t write herself. I’m just weird. There’s other fanfics that I don’t read either. I really do only do Teen Wolf and Merlin. Its just a wonderful community. I post on fanfiction.net and everyone is just so nice and they give great reviews. I have an account on archiveofourown and I plan on posting there too eventually.

    Fanfiction is really a great thing. It just lets people reimagine the stories the way they like. Or they can just have something happen that they want to see in the book or show. Personally, with Merlin I’m in love with magic reveals. With Teen Wolf, I love reading about Sheriff Stilinski finding out about the werewolves. People have the most amazing ideas. And it seriously makes me wonder what route these things could possibly take in these shows because I swear I’ve read about every possible situation and part of me hopes the writers on both Merlin and Teen Wolf surprise me.

    I used to be a truly terrible writer. Now I like to think I’m better at it. I get amazing comments and reviews on my stuff and it makes me happy. Someone thinks my stuff is worth reading. I thought it would be terrible. My first fanfic is AWFUL though. Just terrible, If people still didn’t like it for some reason, I would totally remove it.

  • NewGirl

    Really brilliant article. So true as well, fanfiction is something inspired by an author and a connection with a character they’ve created. As long as you leave the proper disclaimers and give credit where it’s due, I think most authors would be flattered that their storylines have struck such a chord within the fans :) Great writing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristin.wilcox.3 Kristin Wilcox

    I rather like author Tamora Pierce’s take on the whole thing actually. She seems to understand that it’s going to happen anyway, and she used to write fanfics herself. But she also knows that she can get her inspiration from anywhere, so she keeps her policy as: “You’re free to write it, and more power to you, but I’m not going to read it, because I’d hate to steal one of your ideas for an actual book someday.”

  • http://seventh-star.net/ Azurite

    I agree with you, as both a fanfic writer and reader, and as an aspiring novelist. For me, writing fanfiction has enabled me to practice writing better, but it’s also helped me make friends and explore other tangential interests, like web and graphic design (fandom is pretty cool that way).

    One thing I’d like to point out is that Cassandra Clare started out as a fanfic writer. Some authors/writers are told by their publisher/agent/editor/whomever that once they become “published” to sever all ties with fanfiction. Some have done that, others have (and will) not.

    The one thing about CC is that she started out as a fanfic writer–but not one with a whole lot of integrity. She made a lot of enemies in fandom by “writing” fic that stole lines from popular shows, movies, and books of the time, without a shred of credit, which is pretty much the Golden Rule of Fanfiction. I’m not too keen on reading her or E.L. James’ stories, if only because they got a lot of attention as being fanfiction writers-turned “real” or “official” published writers, but they’re not very good. Being able to churn out bestsellers doesn’t mean your writing is worthwhile; it just means you can appeal to the masses with “lowest common denominator” entertainment.

    Now, I read things just for entertainment–I don’t mind Dan Brown’s stories, predictable as they are–but at least they’re original. I abhor anyone who takes a fanfiction and simply find-replaces names and calls it “original fiction.” It’s not, and it does a disservice to writers of all kinds (fanfiction writers, readers, supporters, or not) when they do that.

  • BlueBronze

    I definitely agree with you that authors should respect fanfiction. However, I can see from Rice’s and Martin’s point of view too, especially with the recent fanfictions that have been published as their own legitimate novels.

    But then the question should be asked, when does the cross the line between fanfiction and simply being inspired by another’s work? For example, does Gregory Maguire’s Wicked count as fanfiction for the Wizard of Oz?

  • Serah

    99% of fanfiction are shit, but there’s this 1% that is actually great. I think fanfiction is acceptable as long as it’s not extremely AU, OOC and a gross smut.

    • Savanah

      Really? AUs can be extremely interesting, and I’ve found some AUs to be the most creative that I’ve read.

      (but OOCs and random smut are my two biggest pet peeves when it comes to Fanfiction :P)

  • Maren

    What I don’t get about disapproving of fan fiction is that every author EVER has been inspired by someone/something else. Tolkien was inspired by Norse mythology and every fantasy author after that was inspired by him, there’s no denying that. Same goes for Shakespeare or any other great writer. It’s called intertextuality and is a known phenomenon in literature everywhere.

    • http://twitter.com/SarahKHansen S.K.Hansen

      The difference is the result of that inspiration. All authors are inspired by the stories they love, but are they inspired to create something unique? Fanfiction plays around with the characters and worlds that the original author created. This is important for Fans and the Fandom. It is a great way for Fans to create new stories about the characters they love and learn a bit about writing. (I won’t rehash everything that was written in the article.) However, it isn’t the same as say, Suzanne Collins being inspired by greek mythology when she wrote the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games may not be “original”, whatever that word means these days, but it definitely was unique enough. I don’t think authors like GRRM and Anne Rice would mind people being inspired by their stories, but they don’t like the idea of people playing around with their original characters. Author’s like this are a extremely overprotective of their stories. I believe this is a mistake, and I think they greatly misunderstand fan culture, but it is an understandable mistake.

  • http://twitter.com/ILsecretcircle Inez

    I love fanfiction.its one of my many obsessions.i thinks its kinda sad that some writers dont see the positive points in fanfiction writing.They should be happy that they are inspiring people to write and the fanfiction concept helps begginer writers think like an actual writer

  • http://twitter.com/NyNy_x NyNy ♛ ナイナイ

    Great article! And with the amount of people being discovered for writing fanfiction and it being turned into fiction, people are making money from it.

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