Fan fiction: the art of writing fictional stories using another author’s characters, settings, and ideas.
Websites like Fanfiction.net, Wattpad.com, and many more allow users to upload fan fiction. Fan fiction, also called “fanfic,” has even spread to social networking platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and yesterday I saw a fan fiction on YouTube. There are countless forums and websites dedicated to fanfic. Fan fiction allows fans of a TV show, book, movie, and so on to unleash their creativity. “Unleash your imagination” has been Fanfiction.net’s slogan since it launched in 1998. Of course, fan fiction existed long before fanfiction.net and other Internet sites allowed fans to share their work with other fans. The history of fan fiction dates back before the age of the internet.
Now, though, fan fiction seems to be the least talked about type of writing in the offline world. It’s often shunned. Many believe fan fiction writers are “plagiarists” because they’re stealing another writer’s ideas. You could think that way, I guess, but many writers actually encourage fan fiction and support it. J.K. Rowling and Jodi Picoult are two well-known authors who have indicated their support. J.K. Rowling has been quoted saying that she’s okay with fan fiction, as long as it doesn’t include racism or pornography (which excludes quite a bit of the stories that already exist, because, well, this is the Internet).
Fan fiction now exists in all shapes and forms, and in all genres too. In 2002, fanfiction.net banned NC-17 content from its site, but there are still numerous fics that cross the line on the site that have been downgraded to “M” ratings. Though, if these stories are reported, then the site’s webmasters will eventually remove the content. This has led fans to move their stories elsewhere, because as it seems to be, fan fiction writers have very dirty minds; and I’m not talking 50 Shades of Grey dirty, because admittedly, I’ve read fan fiction that’s better written and more descriptive than 50 Shades.
You may or may not be aware of this, but 50 Shades of Grey actually started off as a Twilight fanfic. It was originally titled Master of the Universe, published under the pseudonym “Snowqueen’s Icedragon.” Later, the author changed “Edward Cullen” to “Christian Grey” and “Bella Swan” to “Anastasia Steele.” This is just one example of how a fanfic story made made it into mainstream literature. Personally, I’ll never understand why, because in my opinion, 50 Shades is poorly written, and there’s better smut on the Internet.
The title question: Is fan fiction the lowest for of writing? My short answer: no. Because there is no low form of writing. Writing is writing, regardless to what kind of writing it is. Fan fiction is just another form of FanArt. No, you can’t make any money off it — unless you’re E.L. James and change the characters’ names. However, fan fiction like any other type of writing generates creativity. The only problem, as I’m now discovering, is when your dream is to publish a book and you can’t seem to write anything but fan fiction.
Many young writers are introduced to fan fiction before they start writing their original stories. I, however, was the other way around. When I was young, around nine years old, I started writing original stories. I created my own characters and all of them spoke to me strongly. Now, when I look back at these characters, I realize they’re all different variations of me. They just have different colored eyes. They’re all blonde-haired girls, some blue-eyed, some brown-eyed, and some hazel-eyed. They lack diversity, and I’ve recently realized how essential diversity is to writing. Without diverse characters, it’s difficult to appeal to a diverse set of readers, which is what I want to do. So I find myself writing fan fiction. Right now, I’m stuck on Grey’s Anatomy fanfic because it’s easy. It’s easy because Shonda Rhimes is a creative genius and that’s why her shows are so successful. She’s able to create characters and storylines that appeal to a diverse range of people worldwide. That’s what makes Shondaland such a success, and I want to be able to do that with my own characters. And since I’m struggling with that now, I steal hers and create my own storylines. The vast majority of my Grey’s fanfics are based off storylines I could potentially see happening on the show.
There are a variety of different fanfic stories on the internet. Some of them exist in the same universe as the original story, and some of them don’t. I tend to steer away from stories that are labeled as “AU” or “Alternate Universe.” Personally, I feel that if you’re going to change up a story so much to the point the characters feel entirely out of place, then you should just write original stories. I’m not saying that all AU stories are bad. I’ve read some great AU fics. However, I have a line that I won’t cross. With that said, everyone has their own creative range, and it’s not my place – or any else’s place – to tell someone what to or what not to write.
I think fanfic and fanart are beautiful, and it’s wonderful that we live in a world that currently allows writers and artists to unleash their creativity using someone else’s characters. As a writer, and someone who wants to have the world see my writing one day, I would find it a prestige honor to have someone write fan fiction off my creation. It’s one of the highest honors, in my opinion. Someone cares enough about the characters enough to take time out of their day to write about them. Think about it. All characters start off in someone’s brain as just an idea, and then once those characters are shared with the world, they become alive. And then when others start writing about those characters, it’s like they truly do exist.
It would be a shame to have this opportunity taken away. You may or may not know this, but SOPA – Stop Online Privacy Act – could possibly shut down fan fiction sites, which I believe could be one of the worst things that could happen to fans. Creativity, no matter where it comes from, is a wonderful gift humans have been blessed with. The ability to connect through characters and the written word is a blessing.
Well, there’s my two cents. What are your thoughts?
PS: If you want to check out my fanfics, click here. I’m by no means proud of all my fics, but I enjoyed writing each and every one of them at the time. I think my Law & Order: SVU fics are possibly the worst of all, though. And yes, my fics tend to be a bit on the “darker” side as I’m told. I’m also told I’m “Shonda’s daughter,” which is a title I take with pride.