Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Fanfiction

Now, quite a short entry tonight - midnight is approaching, and the person who normally advises on these has disappeared off to Europe.

That having been said, today we are looking at fanfiction.

For those who don't know, fanfictions are stories set involving either preexisting characters or preexisting worlds or a mixture of the two - if you think of the entire Star Wars extended universe, that's published fanfiction.  So is anything written using the characters from Harry Potter, or set at Hogwarts, or in any other kind of fictional world that someone else has created.

Now, there are two camps of thought here: That it's the most terrible thing that ever existed, and that it's a good thing.  I am most definitely in the latter camp.  As a writer, I dream of creating characters that are engaging enough and cared about enough that people are driven to write stories about them and to carry on from where I have left off.  But aside from boosting the original author's ego, why is fanfiction good?

- Chance to get into writing
- Instant feedback
- Ability to develop other people's ideas
- Able to enhance your skills and try new things
- LGBT representation

For many young writers, fanfiction is the first time they've written a long story.  They've been reading for their entire life, and one story interests them enough that it pushes them into writing.  Maybe they aren't happy with how the story ends, or they want different characters to get together.  So they write out their stories based on these other worlds, and begin to work out how to tell stories.

Once these stories have been written, they can be published online, on one of several websites set up for just this purpose.  They can get other people responding, telling them what they liked and didn't, and this helps them to develop their work.  Whilst with original writing it's hard to get a response of what people like, fanfiction will often get quick responses from a range of people.

Developing other people's ideas can help you get better at your own work, and to work on your own concepts.  It gives you a chance to look at other works in greater depth, and to practice writing whilst getting quicker responses than you would on your original work.

A lot of very famous authors started off writing fanfiction, or pastiches, of other people's works.  Most of Shakespeare's plays were based on preexisting stories, and Agatha Christie started to write with works looking at the Sherlock Holmes stories.

One other thing that I like about fanfiction is the fact that it is an LGBT friendly atmosphere.  Whilst most mainstream fiction has little representation of those who aren't cisgender and straight, fanfiction is much more liberal with gay characters particularly common.  For people questioning their own sexuality, fanfiction gives a chance to read about people like you, and that's encouraging.

So there we go - why I think fanfiction is amazing.  I know not everyone will share this view - I once went to a writing group that banned fanfiction from being read there.  But I have found it helpful for my writing process, and I think other people will as well.

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