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Fanfiction (fanfic, fan fiction) n – fiction written using another author/creator’s characters, settings or situations known as the canon (FPF Fictional Person Fanfiction), or using real people as characters within a fictional story (RPF Real Person Fanfiction).
There are many people who look down on fanfiction, seeing it as a second class form of writing that steals from other creative mediums and damages the original material.
I cannot disagree more with this view point.
Types of Fanfiction
Fanfiction comes in all types from a simple drabble (a story of 100 words), through short stories and one-shots, and into mutli-chaptered epics. They can be canon-faithful, or alternative universe (AU), or alternative reality (AR), or a crossover between more than one set of canon. Each format takes a different set of writing skills to achieve. Not all formats require all the skills employed in writing a completely original piece of fiction, but that does not detract from the amazing fiction, the dedication and the abilities of the fanfiction authors.
Skills Required For Writing Fiction
First of all, let’s define a few of the skills a writer needs to possess to be able to capture a reader:
- Story telling – an author has to be able to present their fiction in a manner that pulls the reader in and takes them through a journey.
- Plot creation – if an author doesn’t have a cohesive story to tell it doesn’t matter how it is told, the readers are not going to get much out of it.
- Grammar – not everyone’s grammar is perfect, but an author needs to have the basics down if they want to keep their audience.
- Spelling – some people can forgive a few spelling mistakes, but a lot won’t take an author seriously if they continually make them.
- Vocabulary – in a genre piece no one really wants to think the author has swallowed a dictionary, but language is a fantastic tool and a varied vocabulary is important for, among other things, pace and atmosphere.
- Character creation – characters drive a plot, if the characters are two dimensional an author is not going to hook the reader.
- Universe creation – characters have to be in their own universe, whether that is the housing estate down the road, or a planet far, far away. Another way of putting it is that a story had to have a setting.
- Voice – every author has a voice and it is an author’s voice which puts them firmly in a reader’s mind and calls them back for more.
I’m not suggesting this is a complete list, or that everyone will agree with my definitions, but now I will compare original fiction and the different forms of fanfiction to see what they require.
|Canonical Fanfiction with OCs|
(OC = Original Character)
So when you look at it, fanfiction requires most of the skills required for original fiction. Yes it can be easier to write fanfiction, because you can use existing characters and existing settings, but it is an incredible tool for honing all the other writing skills. In fact there are things about fanfiction which make the best examples of the genre illustrations of skills an original writer does not have to use. The main one of these skills is making people believe the author is actually writing in someone else’s universe.
Consistency With Another’s Canon
For a fanfiction, which uses characters created by another author or real people, to be brilliant, those characters have to be recognisable. Anyone can stick a name on a character and pretend they are writing Harry Potter, but not every author can make the reader believe it. It’s the same with real people. In the story the author is using a public persona of an individual as a character and that person must echo the perceived reality.
This is arguably the hardest in AR where the characters have been entirely taken out of their own setting. The characters could have completely different backgrounds to those in canon, different attitudes to life, but there has to be something underlying it that makes then still the same character, otherwise you’re writing original fiction. I have read AR fanfiction, which to me is not really fanfiction at all, because I feel no connection with the original material. However, I have also read some AR fanfiction which is simply amazing, blending new situations with characters that I already know and love.
The same applies for the use of a canon universe. Just because an author has read it, doesn’t mean they can write it and it is a skill that could be incredibly useful for someone going into TV screen writing.
Before I actually tried this writing-for-money idea, the only work I showed the outside world was fanfiction. Many people asked me why I didn’t write something I could sell and the answer was simple, I didn’t want to. I believe my original fiction is now much better thanks to all the years I spent purely in the fanfiction arena. I have been given the most wonderful advice over my time there and I have been paid a thousand times by the feedback of the communities I have been part of.
Fanfiction is not stealing unless the author tries to make money off of it and that writer is more likely to be slapped down by the rest of fandom than a C&D from the original creator. Fanfiction is usually a sign of love and fannish dedication. Yes sometimes the author is trying to fix something they didn’t like about the original, but so what? We can’t all think everything is wonderful. They had to have been hooked by something in the original work to be that drawn in, in the first place, so it’s still a compliment.
If someone wanted to write fanfiction of my work I’d be over the moon and incredibly flattered. I wouldn’t go within fifty feet of it, but that’s only because of possible legal issues, I’d still be floating on a breeze of happy that it was out there.
Just because someone is writing about a TV show or their favourite actor, don’t dismiss them; you could be missing out on some wonderful fiction.
 AU and AR are sometimes used interchangeably, here AU is where a timeline has been changed, but the setting is the same and AR is where the setting has been completely changed.