American writer Virginia Wolff once said, "Our favorite stories are ones we want to roll around in and not come out for a long, long time." Like Wolff said, the best of stories are ones we want to immerse ourselves in; they’re the stories we’re unable to forget. These are the stories that leave you wide awake at two-o’clock in the morning, dying to figure out what happens next to your absolute favorite hero.So what happens when that series ends, but the raw craving remains?
Well, this is where fanfiction comes in. Fanfiction is the art of writing about previously created characters and settings. With the rise of the internet and other technologies, fanfiction has become a common item in households across the world. The internet gives easy access to hopeful writers and readers who are hungry for more after the end of a story or even in between the endless wait for the next book, movie, or game in a series. With over a million fanfiction stories posted online, it begs the question: Is fanfiction a real genre, comparative to original and historical fiction or as critics say, complete poppycock?
Regardless of criticisms, fanfiction has proven itself a legitimate genre full of rich culture and benefits for twenty-first century fiction writers worldwide. Critics who do not think fanfiction is a real genre will often cling to statements by authors who oppose fanfiction, argue the legality of the product, and even more so the quality of the writing itself. It’s true that some writers do not enjoy fanfiction. American writers Anne Rice and Nora Roberts both find fanfiction tasteless. Rice goes as far as sending cease and desist letters to fanfiction sites.
Yet, even if a few authors disagree with fanfiction just as many- if not more- authors find fanfiction fresh and fun. British author J.K. Rowling supports fanfiction based on or inspired by her best selling series, Harry Potter, which is consistently the most popular fanfiction topic since the year 2000. American author Meg Cabot actually became passionate about writing after starting her own fanfiction stories as a teen.
Another large problem facing fanfiction is legality. Is fanfiction legal? Copyright laws almost single-handedly stand in the way of many talented writers from getting published. Cleverly, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, author Seth Grahame-Smith found a way around the problem by writing fanfiction about stories without a copyright law. Writing fanfiction about Jane Austin stories is perfectly legal because there is no copyright law put in place. In all other cases (except when writers publicly state that they don't want their stories to be used) a disclaimer serves as an easy fix all to posting fanfiction online.
However, some writers are not satisfied with posting their stories online and want to be published such as Swedish author Fredrik Colting who published his sequel to JD Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Even though a copyright law stood in place Fredrik Colting's book can be bought in much of the UK. This shows that even with many laws standing in the way of the average fanfiction writer there is hope for the publication of fanfiction in the future.
One of the most credible problems with fanfiction being a real genre has to be the quality of the work. Usually with fanfiction it's a hit or miss. Spelling, grammar, plot, characters, and description all go into making a superb or horrendous story. With the posting of stories like My Immortal by Tara Gillesbie fanfiction has become a bit of a joke, showing the worst side to the genre. The Harry Potter fanfiction My Immortal became a warning to all fanfiction writers, not all fame is good fame. My Immortal is seen as not only the worst fanfiction story ever written, but some even say it's the worst thing ever written - period.
Even with stories such as My Immortal, fanfiction is still thriving because good fanfiction exists. Wattpad, a very popular creative writing site which states that over 3.2 million stories are posted with another 300,000+ added every month on its site, even dedicates one of their exclusive 'Watty Awards' to fanfiction. I Think I'm In Love With a Malfoy? by Arianaa won 'Most Popular Fanfic Watty Awards 2011.' By winning awards fanfiction shows that it is equal to that of other fiction genres.
"Fanfiction functions a lot like folklore: it is a practice of shifting and filling the boundaries of a certain world to fit the person who is telling it, and of sharing those interpretations with others."
- In Defense of Fanfiction, Becca Schaffner
In every genre there's many benefits to writing it, fanfiction is no different. Fanfiction lets writers become creative, while honing important writing skills which can help them move onto original writing and publication later on. Working on fanfiction allows writers to get messy, try out new ideas, test boundaries, and do something different without having to spend countless hours or even years creating a world to do it in. With fanfiction authors have already created boundaries, characters, plots, and settings which allows a writer to come in and practice describing every day things that hold meaning to the story, or even allows the writer to work on consistency by trying out new things while keeping characters as canon as possible.
Fanfiction as well, helps writers get better at spelling, grammar, and other key parts of writing such as research. Research, which is the key element to writing anything whether it's historical fiction, original fiction, and even more so the dreaded English paper, is one of the most important parts of writing fanfiction, you have to know what you are writing about before you write it. The average fanfiction writer could spend months researching a topic, immersing themselves enough to understand every last cred of information so that their story is reasonably canon.
The large feedback writers get from writing fanfiction allows them to get help with their problems and improve writing ability as a whole. Writers like Geraldine Brooks, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for her fanfiction book March, based off the characters from Little Women, show that a future writing fanfiction does exist. Also writers such as Meg Cabot, Naomi Novik, and Cassandra Clare show that it is possible to start your career writing fanfiction and then become a popular original fiction writer. All of these benefits show how fanfiction can not only be credited as a genre, but as a valuable asset to young writers everywhere.
The rich and sometimes complex culture surrounding fanfiction helps verify it as a legitimate genre with its own unique language, demographic, and history. With the growth of fanfiction and increasing popularity in its writings, so has the need for new words to describe simple things that occur in such writing. The new words easily cause a massive change in dialect that can cause confusion to new followers of the genre. To seasoned writers of fanfiction words like canon, fanon, and Mary-Sue, are common words with easy meanings, yet to a fresh writer all of the new words they have to learn can be a bit frustrating. Each word has a specific meaning and ridicule can fall on a writer who does not know the stander words of fanfiction. Although there's only one letter difference between 'canon' and 'fanon' both words have different meanings. The word 'canon' describes the source material on which fanfiction is based, where as 'fanon' is a generally accepted piece of information not mentioned in sources but extremely popular in fanfiction work. Even the word Mary-Sue does not seem cause for alarm, but in reality this simple name is basically a slaphappy insult thrown around on a quite regulatory basis.
A language of its own gives fanfiction a cultural background helping ordain its credible nature. The demographic of fanfiction is important in unlocking who is the biggest supporters of fanfiction and who are commonly using the language stated above. Fanfiction is mostly written by teenage girls. The stories they are reading/writing range between G-rating all the way up to NC-17. Most of the stories are posted on popular sites such as Mibba, Wattpad, and Fanfiction.net.
Many think that the history of fanfiction really took root after the 1969 cancellation of the original Star-Trek, when in fact fanfiction is much older. In the year 1421, John Lydgate wrote The Siege of Thebes, a sequel of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Then in 1614, an anonymous writer published the sequel to Don Quixote because he/she was annoyed with how long the original writer Miguel De Cervantes was taking writing the next book. It is even said that the Brontë sisters often wrote plays based off the life of Napoleon. Having such historical connections shows that fanfiction is not just a new craze, it has depth and has been around long enough to compete with other genres showing its true worth and reasons behind it being regarded as a bona fide genre on its own. Each part- language, demographic, and history- add a credible layer to the overall effect of fanfiction helping shed a little light into the rich culture surrounding a misunderstood genre.
By having such a rich culture and large range of benefits fanfiction easily fights off accusations made by others, and clearly earns the title of a respectable genre. Fanfiction will continue on only becoming larger as time increases and technology becomes a bigger part of peoples lives, giving the opportunity to the growing number of aspiring writers a place to fit in and explore their more creative side. On a parting note, it's important to remember that at some point the average person has written some form of fanfiction whether it was for pleasure writing, or in English class; rewriting scenes from plays of old, or even adding their own endings to stories presented in class, fanfiction is all around us whether you enjoy it or not fanfiction is here to stay and clawing at the throat for recognition.