I’ve debated making this post for a while. I’m about to out myself, which could come with no shortage of embarrassment. This is a secret I’ve carried for years, and only a select few know the truth. But, what the hey, anyone halfway decent in Google fu could track me down anyway.
I write fanfiction.
There. I said it.
I started writing, in general, over 20 years ago. Usually little short stories—single scenes that followed a character’s emotional state. I just goofed around with it for a while. Nothing too impressive.
Then I found myself completely obsessed with a cartoon (yes, I was in my 20s at the time) and started writing stories with my favorite characters. I posted them on Fanfiction.net and hoped for the best. They got some favorable reviews, and gave my ego a bit of a boost, so I kept it up until my obsession fizzled. (As happens.)
Years passed, and I developed a few more obsessions, resulting in more fanfics. Again, favorable reviews, lovely comments from readers, ego boosted.
I never advertised my fanfic author status, except to other fic writers, mostly because of the stigma attached to that particular genre. “It’s not real writing!” some would argue, “It’s just poorly written porn that uses popular characters and fandoms to get the author attention! It’s lazy and a waste of time!”
To that I disagree. And agree. While a lot has changed during my hiatus from writing, and arguably, there are a lot of bad, questionable fics floating around out there, I think this isn’t a black and white issue.
I will say that FF.net, what used to be THE place for fanfiction, seems to have degraded into a mess of poorly written, completely out-of-character sex fics, in which most couplings are implausible, if not completely unrealistic. (Slash and incest are two big coupling categories in these types of fics, which I absolutely do not agree with.)
On the other hand, there are good stories out there. Damn good ones. Ones that take the characters and test their limits, push their boundaries, and explore different aspects of their personalities and motivations. These stories put familiar characters into new situations, and explore how they would react.
And there are good writers out there. Damn good ones. Writing fanfiction isn’t just about making up stories with your favorite characters—to be really good at it, you need to understand the characters and the world they live in. Know how they think, how they talk, how they act, how their universe works. Putting them into new situations, while keeping them and their world familiar and true to their established history, isn’t as easy as some think.
I’ve read some good fics. I’ve also read some that had good potential, but the characters were so out of character (OOC) that it distracted from the story. And then there are the ones that made me want to claw my eyes out.
Just like any other type of fiction, there are good, there are okay, and there are bad. Really, really bad.
It all comes down to the writer’s ability. I’ve seen many fic writers develop their skills through fanfiction, honing in on good story-telling and exceptional dialog and description, and move on to original works. Fanfiction is a great springboard to becoming a better writer, and getting a good grasp on what works and what doesn’t.
Not to be boastful, but I feel this is what happened with me. I read over some of my oldest stuff and cringe. But my more recent pieces are much, much better. All because I had something that inspired me and got me putting words to paper. (Or computer screen, as it were.)
What fandoms did I write for? Hey, Arnold! (really old), Fairly OddParents (not quite as old but still older), and a few for My Little Pony (newest). (Interested in reading them? Check them out on FF.net or AO3.) I’ve technically got a few shorties for How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me floating around on my hard drive, too. Don’t know if I’ll ever post them anywhere, honestly.
What am I working on now? An original novel. I’m trying to plot it out (something that gives me great problems, honestly) and get these separate little scenes in my head pieced together in some sort of order that makes sense. World building is tough, as is creating a whole bunch of original characters that feel real. But I think it’s all slowly falling into place. I’ve got a bit written now that I’m liking.
Is fanfiction a waste of time? Not in my experience. It helped me hone my skills and stretch my creative muscles. It encouraged me to study behavior and understand what motivates a character, and how they think. It taught me to listen to dialog to learn speech patterns and the type of vocabulary that is unique to each character.
It taught me to be a writer. To love to write, and to always strive for improvement.
There are always going to be arguments against fanfics. Some come straight from the original creators within the fandoms, some from other writers. Some are more legitimate (the legalities, or the heavy sexualization of innocent children’s characters, for example), while others are a matter of opinion (“REAL writers don’t write fanfiction!”).
Bottom line is, it’s not “normal” to admit to even reading fanfiction, let alone writing it. You’re perceived as “weird” if you write stories based on other people’s characters. So we fanfic writers keep it secret, and hide away in shame and embarrassment from our families, our friends, our co-workers.
Well I’m coming out.
My name’s Annette, and I write fanfiction.