Fan fiction: this is a genre of writing that’s been growing in popularity, but the topic seems to be overlooked by some authors and professional writing blogs.
For those of you unfamiliar with fan fiction, this is a subgenre of writing where people write stories based on the characters from a preexisting work. Fan fictions can be based on novels, movies, television shows, anime, and any other popular narrative form of entertainment.
An example of fan fiction would be a reader of Harry Potter writing a story about Harry and his friends. This is a fan fiction because J.K. Rowling created those characters and their histories.
But it’s also largely known that you can’t publish fan fiction for money due to copyright laws (at least not legally in the United States). After all, you don’t own the characters you’re using, therefore writing fan fiction is largely just a hobby for most people. Only a few lucky writers will get to publish books using characters from popular television shows and whatnot with the blessing of the company that created the universe they’re using.
Some people also criticize fan fiction for being unoriginal due to using other’s characters. They might think, “why even bother with it when you can write your own original, unique story?”
So since people write fan fiction without the intention of making money, sometimes it isn’t looked at as a serious way to practice writing skills. That’s why it’s left out on many lists on how to practice and improve your writing.
But I disagree with the notion that fan fiction should be overlooked as a writing practice tool. In fact, there are ways fan fiction can connect writers in the community together than those who only write original books.
Fan fiction can also help people learn grammar and how to write a story that sells. There’s an audience of every fandom just waiting to explore their favorite characters in new settings and situations.
Here’s how fan fiction helps new and aspiring young writers improve their work over time.
The Process of Writing Fan Fiction
Writing fan fiction is different than writing original fiction. For one, you don’t need to come up with your own characters and universe, so a lot of the world building has already been done for you.
And this is why many English teachers don’t accept students turning projects that are fan fiction – part of the work isn’t original. Teachers want to encourage creativity in the classroom, and they’re pretty adamant about not using preexisting worlds.
However, writing a story with completely new characters can be intimidating for new writers. There’s a lot of process when it comes to building a backstory, a personality, and structuring an overall plot. World building also takes time to learn, especially if the writer is using a fantasy world that doesn’t abide by the same rules as our own universe.
That means the barrier to entry is lower than if you’re writing regular fiction. There’s less “work” to do, so writers can get started with their idea quicker.
What Writers Can Learn Writing Fan Fiction
Fan fiction takes a lot of the work out and has the writer simply focus on the story. This means the writer is working on writing the characters in a way that’s interesting and engaging to their audience.
Here’s a few things writers can learn writing fan fiction.
- The story process. Fan fiction can help these writers master the process of writing a beginning, middle, climax, and ending to their story. This process is incredibly important to learn when writing because it teaches writers to structure their story in a way that makes logical sense.
- Dialogue. Another part of writing fan fiction can teach is dialogue. This is one of the trickiest parts of writing to master, since how characters speak needs to sound natural yet progress the plot forward. A fan fiction with engaging dialogue will likely do better with readers than one where it’s clunky or doesn’t make sense. Readers of fan fiction also may be quick to point out if a character wouldn’t say something that the writer made them.
- How to write consistently. Writing takes time and energy, especially for newer writers who aren’t used to working on stories. Writing fan fiction can help teach writers consistency and motivate them to work on their craft. Besides, doesn’t it sound more fun to write about your favorite characters rather than do a school writing prompt?
- How to work within the chosen universe. The characters you choose to write about in a fan fiction are part of their own universe. That means writers need to learn how to adapt and conform their storytelling to fit that construct. This takes time and a bit of talent, but it can help writers learn how to work within constraints.
- How to develop characters. Even though a fan fiction writer is using preexisting characters, there’s still aspects of character development that can be learned. Some fan fiction writers will add backstory or learn how to develop conflict between the characters, both of which are integral parts of storytelling.
With all this mind, it’s easy to see how fan fiction can have a positive influence on those who write it. Think of fan fiction as a way to exercise different parts of the writing process.
How Fan Fiction can Inspire Creativity
Okay, so we’ve established that there’s parts of fan fiction that aren’t creative: the characters and world.
But there’s still a creative process when it comes to writing. You have to think of the plot and how the characters are going to interact. Making everything sound natural and within the realm of what the characters would actually do takes some thinking and brainstorming.
Some fan fiction writers will also create alternative universes for their characters. This includes turning the characters into vampires, students at school, or sending them back to ancient times.
People will use their creativity and develop their own worlds where the characters live and interact in. And with fan fiction, the possibilities are endless.
Writers can choose to make their fan fictions their own by adding whatever they want to them. This can help them explore different parts of the creative process, and over time they might be interested in writing other types of work.
Some authors have even started their writing journey through fan fiction. They credit it for helping them improve their craft and spark their interest in storytelling.
How Fan Fiction Builds a Community
One advantage to being part of the fan fiction community is there’s already a group of people who like the same stuff as you.
After all, people love talking about their favorite TV shows and books. Fan fiction is essentially just another way to express your interest in different forms of entertainment.
That means it’s easy to connect with people on fan fiction forums who are not only passionate about the same hobbies as you, but also writing. And unlike a mandatory English class, everyone on a fan fiction forum is eager and happy to be sharing their work.
That means fan fiction gives new and aspiring writers the ability to join a welcoming community. People who have the same interests tend to be similar to one another, making it easier to connect.
Feedback in the Fanfiction Community
One of the most interesting parts of being in the fan fiction community is writers will get a lot of feedback.
That’s because people are vocal on these websites about their passion. And not only are they avidly writing fan fiction, they want to read stories that interest them as well!
That means many of these websites and forums allow their users to leave comments. These comments are oftentimes praise or criticism depending on how the reader felt. This gives writers on these websites a glimpse at what’s working, what isn’t, and where they can improve.
The Atlantic cites a study called Writers in the Secret Garden where researchers studied different types of fan fiction sites to test the theory that people are actively teaching one another on them.
The researchers found that the authors will sometimes develop relationships where a more experienced mentor will help a mentee get better at writing fan fiction. They also found that most reviews were positive, with only 1% being unconstructive or unbeneficial to the writer.
That means it can be easier to get feedback on a fan fiction rather than an original story. After all, people know they already like the characters the writer is using, so they might be more interested in trying it out rather than reading something completely new.
Feedback: The good
The good part about receiving feedback consistently on fan fiction means that writers are always able to improve.
Proper spelling, grammar, and writing an interesting plot are all parts of the perfect story recipe. These are all things that the fan fiction community can help someone with.
This can help a writer continue to grow and improve over time, allowing them to become a better storyteller than when they started.
Positive feedback can also reinforce writing and motivate someone to create more work. Sometimes it can be challenging to write without someone reviewing your work, but fan fiction gives writers the ability to instantly share with millions of people.
And if people like it, then the writer will be happy to deliver more. This can help cultivate and develop the writer’s talents over time.
Feedback: The Bad
Even though the study said that there was overwhelming positive feedback, that doesn’t mean that fan fiction writers are completely immune to negative feedback.
Unfortunately, because the feedback largely isn’t filtered on these websites, sometimes critics can be harsh about what they like or don’t.
That means a writer might receive a negative or downright hateful review from time to time. There might even be hurtful comments towards the author if they write a story they didn’t like.
Even with some vocal negative people, writers should still strive to put out the best work they can. Not everyone will love everything, but the ability to filter and take criticism gracefully can help a writer improve in the long run.
Have You Ever Wrote Fan Fiction for Writing Practice?
Now that you know about fan fiction and how it can help you improve your writing, let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried it.
You might find it a new technique to help get your brain going if you need it.
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