I would like to preface that this is an opinion post, and you are free to disagree with either side. Absolutely keep writing whatever it is that your passions drive you to do. The biggest thing here is to create, and create often. Some of us simply prefer different mediums, and that is okay.
I still remember my first fanfiction. I was seven years old, just starting to be introduced to the world of Harry Potter. I was enthralled by the magic and the old-fashioned society, and so I just had to craft my own Original Character and allow this black-haired, wand-wielding heroine to run rampant through the caverns under the Forbidden Forest (they functioned a lot like wormholes). It was a world where Voldemort’s evil and the brilliance that is kid logic mingled in the most concerning ways.
I wrote a few basic original stories in class when I was in elementary school, but it wasn’t until I was thirteen that I finally sat down and started writing short stories that filled entire notebooks. As a high school freshman, my best friend and I would pass our science class by passing notebooks back and forth, writing notes in the margins on how to improve our bare-bones outlines and simplistic shorts. At sixteen, a junior, I finally finished my first full length manuscript, and at 20, having just earned my Associates degree, I released my first novel.
For me, fanfiction was always the launching point. It was my introduction to writing, and it will always have a special place in my heart. That said, I will always see it as just that-a starting place. I find there are significantly more challenges and benefits from creating original works than in borrowing from others.
Original fiction lets me create my own rules.
When I first start writing any story, my first instinct is to ask questions. “What if?” is my most common utterance during the formative stages. I have already written on my planning process, in a separate post, but that is definitely a part of my creation of my own rules. I ask questions. I think critically. I explore.
One of the joys of this process is in finding the flaws. If, halfway through, I realize a rule didn’t work the way I wanted it to, I get to experience the mixed fury and joy that is closing plot holes and finagling a solution. I thrive on the challenge.
For instance, in Nightfall, I came to the conclusion that if there was no way to break the rule surrounding leaving during the daylight hours, Zoey would undoubtedly die. It isn’t in her nature to follow rules, and that has been part of her character since before her death, so it wasn’t something I could change. It forced me to think critically about how to break that trait, and the implications it would have on further novels.
In essence, breaking my own rules is what created sequels. I continue to ask questions, and it keeps giving me chances to write more and more.
I get to deeply explore characters and unearth things about them that surprise me.
When I first started working on Nightfall, I didn’t know some of the things I know now about almost every single one of my characters. I didn’t know about Zoey’s brother or her strained relationship with him. I didn’t know about who Belle would become. I didn’t know about Sam’s tangle of alliances.
Well into the sequel, my characters continue to surprise me. I’m uncovering more and more about the challenges of parenting a child who never knew parents before, the man who struggled with homosexual attraction in a society that would crucify him for it, and the woman who fled from an abusive home straight into death’s embrace. Fanfiction doesn’t allow for that kind of pleasure.
By discovering more and more about my characters, I have the pleasure of diving deep into the depths of emotion. It takes a fair bit of acting to be a good writer. Allowing a character’s scenario to settle into my own emotions helps immensely in crafting their reaction. In that way, it can increase empathy. I may not have lived through the death of a close family member, but I’ve researched the grief process and written that agony in several characters. It’s not as painful to me-I would never try to claim it was-but it does give me a starting point in the attempt to relate.
Fanfiction creates the challenge of writing within a ruleset. The character’s history is set in stone. There is significantly less opportunity to uncover surprises for yourself outside of Alternate Universe scenarios. Writing original fiction is like writing one giant AU all the time-you create everything.
I have freedom to publish my works and experience fanfiction from the other side.
Let me tell you-there is nothing as bewildering as the moment you realize there is fanart done of your works. I’ve published one novel, am actively working on the sequel, and I have fan art hanging on my wall of one of my favorite pairings in Nightfall. I didn’t draw it.
Knowing I can write as I please and release my works without worrying about copyright means I have more freedom than a lot of people I know. I can say what I want. I can create characters from scratch and watch them struggle through scenarios I may have never expected from them. I can make money from my work. For me, the ability to make something from absolutely nothing is an empowering. Knowing that I’ve inspired other people to be creative as well is just the icing on the cake.
Ultimately, I don’t care whether you write original content or fanfiction. All I care about is that you chase after any creative calling that has bitten into you. Don’t let it pass you by. Chase it down. Write. Draw. Dance. Compose. Always remember: art is valuable. Art is human.
Howdy, howdy all! My name is Alex, and I’m here to explain why fanfiction can be a good thing for everyone. I’ve spent a great deal of my life being a frequent contributer to sites like Fanfiction.net and DeviantArt. These sites are thriving communities, and ultimately great places to be. Creating fan content gives you almost everything you need to be successful (excluding, of course, time, patience, and understanding. Those things come with practice no matter which direction you choose). Fanfiction in particular has a few benefits you are unlikely to find elsewhere.
Staying in Character and Working Within Established Rules
While it may be true that writing fanfiction means sacrificing the freedom to make your own rules, there is a hidden benefit in doing just that. When you take someone else’s characters and worlds, you have all the rules laid out before you and have to stay within those. Otherwise, the piece feels off.
For example, let’s take a look at Sam Winters, one of Christy’s characters. Sam is a man who is guarded to the extreme. Outwardly, he appears grumpy, even hostile, but if you manage to crack his exoskeleton, you’ll find a soft hearted man who longs for his family. Knowing this about him, which of the following situations feels more fitting?
“Sam glanced up at Zoey. A flash of- was that adoration?-crossed his face. It was gone as quickly as it showed, though, his face returning to stone just as his eyes returned to his music.”
“Sam paused at the top of the steps of the courthouse. He took a deep breath and gave his brother a smirk before bolting down the stairs. We could see his glowing grin from where we stood as he shook hands with everything with a pulse.”
The first one seemed more natural, right? Because to me the second Sam seems either drunk or determined to impersonate his brother. Fitting into the rules is a challenge because you can’t bend the rules like you could if you had created them, and ultimately, that makes you a better writer.
You Can Afford to Focus More on Setting and Emotion
Odds are, if you write fanfiction it’s going to include background, scenery, and descriptions of clothes and emotion. If you’re like me, you’ve probably also gotten so into it, you have researched nearly everything you possibly can about the character(s) and what they are like, including a variety of minutiae. The nice thing is, more than likely your audience has done the same.
. With an audience as committed as a fandom, the groundwork is already done. Not every scene has to work toward character development. Instead, more energy and focus can be spent on things like scenery, interactions, and emotion. This also opens up the possibility to play with Alternate Universes, commonly known as AUs.
In an AU, the entire point of the piece is to change the universe in some way and let the characters stumble through the changes. It could be something relatively minor, such as changing one or two characters’ ages, genders, or the city in which the story takes place. It could also be something major, such as changing the century the characters live in, a “where everyone lives AU,” or specific situations, some of the more popular ones being coffee shops or high schools. You could also write mashups, where you introduce characters and scenarios from multiple stories into one playground.
Writing fanfiction allows you to dive in deeper to specific parts of the story than you would be able to in original writing, and that is a big part of its draw. That brings me to my next point:
Fanfic is Highly Recognized
Fanfiction is, as defined by Google:
“ Fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular series, TV show, movie, etc”.
As a general rule, if you write fanfiction it will be easier to see the results you want. If you want to publish your fanfiction, there are numerous online ways to do so, such as Fanfiction.net, Wattpad, Deviantart, and other art and writing filesharing sources. It may be free to view, but you’ve published it and are likely getting comments on it.
If you’ve been compelled to write fanfiction, more than likely there are other people just as interested in reading it. Fanfiction is built on the notion of community. It is incredibly social.
On the other hand, if you want to publish your own writing and want to make money off it, this isn’t going to be your route. Copyright laws are a thing. Even if the piece you want to create fanart about has been released long enough to fall under public domain (which is a very long time), it’s difficult to publish. You have several different choices, either putting it on a filesharing site for free view, self publishing-which doesn’t guarantee notice- and looking to go through a publishing house – which is difficult, to put it lightly..
I hope some of this has helped. I want to put a disclaimer here, in the sense that I’m not trying to discourage anyone from writing their own work, or from writing fanfiction. Keep writing, friends!