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On Writing Fanfiction

Pink Magic Book by Yuri_B (detail)

Fanfiction is amazing. Hard stop. For those readers who don’t know what fanfiction is, basically it’s where fans of an intellectual property use that property as a basis for their writing. (So, the fanfiction writers actually use the copyrighted settings, characters, etc. in whatever they’re writing—poems, one-shots, short stories.) There’s fanfiction for nearly every type of media and so many for fantasy-specific shows: from Final Fantasy and Fruits Basket to Game of Thrones and Dungeons & Dragons.

For readers, fanfiction is an extension of a beloved game, TV show, book, movie, or other fandom property. It’s more content from a variety of different writers and fans of the same intellectual property. It’s a different take on the story, which is always interesting.

For writers, fanfiction gives the writer the chance to jump into worlds they love. Since the world and the characters are already built out, it’s a place to sharpen skills, try out new original characters, and just…have fun! Fanfiction is also the perfect space to incorporate new relationships between favorite characters—mostly queer centered relationships, too.

For me, personally, writing fanfiction was my first foray into writing in general. I was obsessed with Digimon when I was younger, so I randomly decided one day while on vacation I wanted to write some Digimon fanfiction. Renamon was my favorite so, of course, my original character in that fanfiction work had one. I cut my writing teeth on fanfic for years, honing my skills and getting feedback from my readers (and some terrible comments from flamers). I was young, of course, so the writing wasn’t that great, but it was so much fun to inhabit the worlds I loved, the play with the characters gave me such joy, and to plop my own original characters into the mix. I still write fanfiction to this day (mainly Frozen, How to Train Your Dragon, and Firefly), though admittedly not as much as I used to.

AO3 & FanFic (logo)

There are two main fanfiction sites— and Archive of Our Own. FanFiction is the one I originally posted on back when I was a teenager whereas Archive of Our Own (AO3) is newer and more popular. (You may remember AO3 winning a Hugo Award for Best Related Work back in 2019! It’s a really big deal for the world of fanfiction.) Some AO3 and writers have hundreds of thousands of followers and thousands of comments.

But why would people want to write fanfiction instead of writing original fiction? Well, we all know writing is an evolving art form, one that takes years to master. Starting off in another author’s universe is logical. Easier. Fun! It’s a huge weight off the writer’s shoulders to not have to create a whole New Thing. Worldbuilding takes a long time, after all, and skipping that step is kind of magical.

When writing fanfiction, there’s no don’t need to worry about creating a new universe and crafting the rules to go with it. There’s no need to worry about creating all new characters with interesting quirks, since existing characters are already built in. There’s also no need to worry about amassing a lot of plot points, because the writer can literally start anywhere they want to. The story doesn’t have to be long—one shots are pretty common—but they can also be as long as the writer wants. Hell, some fanfiction works have more words than a standard novel. It’s an amazing opportunity to stretch the creative muscles. And finally, perhaps the most important reason why fanfiction writers love it so much is those writers get to play in some amazing worlds—they’re fans so it’s fun to push and pull the original characters into situations they might not have in the original show.

Then sometimes after they get a taste of other people’s universes, some fanfiction writers branch out into original fiction so they can create their own universes too. (Like me!) For me, after a few years of writing fanfiction—playing in so many fabulous universes—I wanted to challenge myself and create my own worlds. My own new characters. New magics. New tech. And I also had stories rattling around in my head I couldn’t quite fit into the already existing worlds. I credit fanfiction writing as a serious stepping-stone on my journey of becoming a fiction writer, and I know it’s the same story for quite a few other writers as well.

Library Lights by StockSnap

Have I sparked your interest? Good! If you haven’t taken an evening to read some fanfiction of your favorite movie, TV show, or game, you should start reading some tonight! And if you’re the writer type, consider penning some fanfiction of your own. It’s a geeky experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

Title image by Yuri_B.


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