Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FanFiction...Yay or Nay?

I read this article about fanfiction. It got me thinking, so here is the story of how fanfiction changed my life.

Back in 2005 I was at work saving pictures to my computer for a slideshow screensaver. To add to pictures of family and friends, I also wanted pictures of some of my favorite things. So I searched the internet for pictures of puppies, *awe*, wine and martinis, *yum* and of course of covers of books that I love. It’s when I typed Ron and Hermione into the search engine that I found a horde of fanfiction sites.

As a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this stuff before—a place where people go and write stories based on popular novels and movies and tv shows. Still, at this point I was only looking for pictures to round out my slideshow screensaver.

Eagerly anticipating The Half-Blood Prince I, like many others, wanted something to hold me over. I didn’t know it would be fan fiction, nor did I know I’d like it so much. Admittedly, some of the first stories I read were pretty bad. Lot’s of goofy stories about Ron running around in his boxers, but then I stumbled upon this story called After the End at a site named The Sugar Quill. Wow, that story was amazing! It was super long—I think 1000 pages or something crazy like that—but when you’re getting it chapter by chapter, you’d read a million pages if you loved it enough.

In 2007 I took the leap and wrote my own fanfiction. I don’t know why, but I felt like I should try. I’d written original work before that, tons of it for my own personal enjoyment and some with the hopes of publication. But one thing I can say about writing fanfiction is that I learned a lot about what NOT to do. There are some bad habits that can be picked up in fanfiction. Lots of purple prose, lots of Mary Sue characters and lots of runaway stories—hard to rein yourself in when you have no one tell you, “enough already!”

But I have learned some priceless lessons too. It taught me to take criticism. When you put your story or chapter out there for all to see, people can be brutally honest if not cruel. Fortunately, I never had anyone be nasty, but some were brutal. I used to guard my writing like a fragile antique, all bubbled-wrapped and strapped to my chest. But fanfiction helped me share it with strangers. That there is one lesson I’m SO happy I learned. You can never hope to be a successful writer if you’re terrified to let people read your work. Before fanfiction, I was TERRIFIED!

There is and probably always will be controversy surrounding fanfiction. Some people think it's for losers and I for one was embarassed to tell people how into it I was--I'm not anymore.

Some authors don’t want people writing their characters in different stories/situations that they haven’t created themselves. I understand and I respect it. At the same time, I don’t know that I would care if fans created fiction based on characters from my novels. First, I’d probably be jazzed that my work was popular enough to spawn fanfiction, but if they weren’t profiting from the stories then I don’t think I’d mind.

I can’t really say because I’m not in the shoes of a J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer, or Anne Rice. But looking at it from my point of view…with all the help it’s given me, I seriously doubt that I’d be willing to fight fans looking to write fiction based off my characters. I don’t write fanfiction anymore, haven’t for more than two years. It’s not because I’ve changed my opinion of it, it’s more so because it opened my eyes to the type of writer I want to be, one who writes fantasy for young adults.

So tell me, are you a fan of fanfiction? Has it helped you? Or do you think it’s a rip off of the original author? All opinions are welcome!


Tere Kirkland said...

I don't write fanfiction, but it would be awesome if someone wrote fanfic based on my writing some day.

Interesting post!

Talli Roland said...

Very interesting post. I don't know much about fanfiction, and I've never written it. You make an excellent point: if you're afraid to take criticism, you're never going to get better -- so your writing will never improve. It's a hard lesson to learn, though.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Fanfiction is how I got back into writing fiction. I hadn't writen fiction since high school, back in the 1800's. ;)

I started making little comic strips of Harry Potter and Dr. Who for my kids. Then they became short stories. My teenager said I should put them on fanfiction.net. I did and people actually read them, though they sucked. LOL

But you're so right. You learn a lot from the process.

I'd be flattered if somebody wrote fanfic based on my novel.

Falen said...

i got my start in writing by writing fanfiction in middle school and high school. So many mary sue characters, so little time.
I think fanfiction can be a healthy starting place for many writers.
Also Storm Constantine (whom i love) fully endorses fanfiction of her characters which is awesome in my book.
But yeah, i'm still a bit embarrased by it. Still, i'm glad i got a lot of writing mistakes out of the way on novels that "didn't count" so to speak

Palindrome said...

i had never heard of fanfiction until i met falen many years ago. as long as the stories didn't interrupt with the journey of the characters, I don't think I'd mind. It would be like a movie/tv tie-in novel. Just another story. I don't see the big deal, personally, but I also don't see myself writing a series.

and i love that i can read stories in the "Supernatural" world when the show is off and it's summer. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Years ago, maybe when I was on maternity leave??, I wrote a Star Trek novel - just for me. Just for fun. I wonder what happened to it?? :)

Karen Denise said...

Thanks for the comments, guys! It's cool to see your insight. And Palindrome, I've never read and Supernatural ff, but I love the show, especially the one about the books and the one about the live role play convention-lol.

Sharon Mayhew said...

I haven't written fanfiction before...I did a couple stories on Helium...

Mizzez Melly Mel said...

I will be honest, I don't know anything about fanfiction. Once I read your post, I Googled it to get more info. I must live under a rock somewhere!

It seems to be very interesting. Thanks for introducing me to something new!