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Fanfiction: A Writer’s Best Friend

Explaining fanfiction to those who’ve never heard of it isn’t easy (thanks, stigma), but the good news? Whether you write or read fanfics, you’re taking an important step in improving your own writing skills. Here’s how.

Gray sand dunes. Practice makes perfect.

  1. Fanfiction fosters creativity.

Who hasn’t wished a series didn’t have to end – or ended differently? What about an alternate universe where a main character changed a key decision? How would an original character fit in? Fanfiction offers writers the opportunity to explore any universe with their own spin. It encourages creativity and is a great way to break writer’s block, not to mention a fun prompt for those looking to practice their skills.

The two main websites for fanfiction are fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own, with over two million stories on AO3 alone. That’s a lot of creativity.

  1. Fanfiction helps you identify character issues and plot holes.

Not every fanfiction is perfect. Maybe a few of so-and-so’s lines seemed off, or maybe the character took on an entirely different personality. Sometimes there are contradictions and plot devices that don’t make sense – or simply don’t work.

If you noticed a problem like this in a fanfiction you read, that’s great. Recognizing a problem in someone else’s work means you’re more likely to catch the same mistake in your own.

  1. Fanfics puts less pressure on their writers.
Hand and pen resting on notebook

Image credit: Rebecca

Crafting a full world and an array of well-rounded characters to live in it is a lot of work – but to create a realistic, well-formed plot on top of that? That’s a lot to ask. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when staring at a blank page, knowing you have total control – and responsibility.

More than half the work is already done in fanfiction: the characters and world already exist. All the writer needs to do is form a plot, and that’s a lot less scary than building and fleshing out a full world!

  1. Fanfiction is anonymous.

Art is a tricky; oftentimes, when we share it with our friends, whether it’s a photograph, painting, or a story, our friends tell us they like it. They’re biased towards our work because they know us, and while their hearts are in the right place, writers don’t learn much from feedback like that.

On fanfiction sites, writers operate under a penname. The feedback they receive is more honest – and writers feel free to experiment with their stories because their name isn’t directly tied to their successes or failures. Anonymity provides a safety blanket.

  1. You can stop whenever you want.

Don’t like what you’re reading? Find another. Stories are available for free, so there’s no money lost by not finishing – which isn’t true for a book purchased from a store or online.

Don’t like what you’re writing? Maybe you’ve found plot holes or need to do some serious editing on a story you’re no longer interested in writing. There’s no obligation to finish. You won’t get an F; your account won’t get deleted. You have the power.

Stack of books on table, library shelves in background

Image Credit: CCAC North Library

  1. Most importantly, fanfiction means you’re writing (or reading!).

Any creative writing class will tell you there are two easy ways to improve your writing: read to understand (and feel) others’ successes and failures, and write yourself. The opportunity to make money in fanfiction writing may be low, but if it gets you reading and writing, then you’re practicing your craft – and already reaping the benefits that fanfics have to offer.

Ships and canons -- pirates or fanfics?

Looking for a place to start? Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is one of fanfiction.net’s more famous stories. Hetalia fans may appreciate We’ll Meet Again, a romance set in WWII and part of the Veraverse alternate universe.

About Natalie (31 Articles)
Writer. Editor. Blogger. Rejector of stereotypes. MFA candidate. Currently writing a novel about gender issues and dirt bikes. Home base: www.natalieschriefer.com.

10 Comments on Fanfiction: A Writer’s Best Friend

  1. TheOriginalPhoenix // December 13, 2016 at 12:04 pm //

    I love the Jack Sparrow pic at the bottom 😂 I’ve never actually considered that average people don’t know the meanings of ship and canon

    Like

    • I won’t lie — the first time I heard someone say they shipped something, I thought they meant the post office kind 😂😂 There needs to be a dictionary for people who are new to fanfiction!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I started with fanfiction and got some great encouragement and learning experiences. Plus it easy tons of fun.

    Like

  3. Great post! Interestingly, I’m one of those readers with the “stigma” around fanfic…I simply don’t like it, but I respect those who do and I agree that it helps a writer explore. I mentioned that point in my own post, so it’s nice to see an alternative point of view!

    Like

    • It’s okay to not like it, of course, because we all have different tastes — but respecting others despite those different tastes is the best thing we can do! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, I have to agree with you here. When I did fanfictions and POSTED some there definitely was less pressure than writing a book of your own. Though I don’t post fanfics on the internet anymore, I definitely still write some to cool off.

    What fanfics do you usually write?

    Mine are Avatar: The Last Airbender, Rangers Apprentice, Young Justice, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter… HA lol. I’ve got so many unfinished ones because I get NEW ideas… lol

    Like

    • Same! I’ve written a lot of Harry Potter and Harvest Moon fanfics, though I don’t write them as much anymore 😦 I don’t have as much time now! That’s great that you’ve had such a positive experience writing your own fanfics 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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