What is Fan Fiction? Definition and Examples

Fans not only love to create their own fiction, but also pieces of art that honor their favorite characters.
Fans not only love to create their own fiction, but also pieces of art that honor their favorite characters. | Source

What is Fan Fiction?

Fan fiction has a pretty broad definition, as it is inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, games, and even real people. Fan fiction is simply made up of stories about characters and/or settings written by the fans of an original work, rather than the creator. Works of fan fiction are rarely authorized or commissioned by the original owner, creator, or publisher and almost never professionally published. This is why they usually include a disclaimer at the beginning that states that the creator of the work of fan fiction is not the owner of the characters used.

Fan fiction is both a part of the fictional universe it is based off of and outside of it. It is intended to be read by fellow fans but also understood that the settings and characters used are not part of the original author's work.

Novelist and journalist Lev Grossman best summarized what fan fiction is when he stated that:

"Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don't do it for money. That's not what it's about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They're fans, but they're not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language."

So, why write fan fiction? It may seem like a strange hobby or genre to fall in love with but some fans just can't help but try to fill in gaps left in the original creator's work. When it all comes down to it, all fans want to do is continue to live in that world and expand it with fan fiction. Furthermore, they take the time to try and work out the kinks and gaps left behind as they share possible plot elements and character development with fellow fans that they believe may have been lacking in the original work.

Fans are also inspired by their favorite television shows, movies, etc. to create original works of art.
Fans are also inspired by their favorite television shows, movies, etc. to create original works of art. | Source

Where Does Fan Fiction Come From?

It may be somewhat surprising to learn that fan fiction has been around a little longer than the internet, although the internet definitely gave it a boost in popularity. The infamous Brontë sisters wrote their own bits of fiction focused on Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, and his two sons, Arthur and Charles. Wellesley was a leading political and military figure in the late 19th century and became popular during the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815).

This early work of the young Brontë's is an example of real person fan fiction. Like its name suggests, this type of fan fiction works to embellish a real person's life, rather than a fictional character or setting. The children's stories made Wellesley a superhero type figure and set him on fantasy adventures.

It wasn't until around 1965 that the term "fan fiction" was used. During that time, original works of fiction by science fiction fans were published in science fiction fanzines. The majority focused on Star Trek, with the first fanzine Spockanalia (1967). These works of fan fiction were either sold at science fiction conventions or mailed to fans. The most interesting fact to note was that, during this time, women dominated the fan fiction arena centered around Star Trek, making up about 83% of the authors.

It wasn't until the invention of the World Wide Web that fan fiction really took off in the world. Some actually estimate that fan fiction takes up about a third of all content that can be found on the internet. With fan discussions, searchable fan fiction archives, electronic mailing lists, and infinite places to publish online, it is no surprise that fan fiction's popularity soared. In 1998, FanFiction.net was created for fans to upload their works for free for others to read and enjoy. By 2010, it had over 2.2 million users and stories in over 30 languages.

Today, the newest buzz in the publishing world comes from Amazon with its creation of Kindle Worlds, a place within the site where fans can now publish their own fan fiction and earn royalties. This new form of self publishing has sparked debate between those who consider fan fiction a form of stealing from original authors and those who see it as a form of fiction that is finally getting its long overdue recognition as a real form of expression.

Fan Fiction: Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the more popular examples of fan fiction out there. It actually outsold Harry Potter!
Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the more popular examples of fan fiction out there. It actually outsold Harry Potter! | Source

Examples of Fan Fiction

From Justin Bieber to Star Wars, examples of fan fiction can be found for almost all genres of fiction, movies, television, and other forms of entertainment. One of the more recent popular examples of fan fiction comes in the form of the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. This erotic romance trilogy is based on Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Originally entitled Master of the Universe, Fifty Shades of Grey first faced controversy for its overly sexual nature on fan fiction sites, forcing the author to move it to her own site prior to publication.

For more examples of fan fiction, check out some of the more popular websites for fans to publish their work. Three such sites include:

Fan Fiction Readers

Do you read fan fiction?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting

Where to Publish Fan Fiction

The same sites listed above are popular places for millions of users to publish fan fiction. Of course, there are many more that can be found all over the internet. FanFiction.net (listed above) continues to be one of the most popular places for fan fiction to be published and read. With Amazon's new program, Kindle Worlds, who knows what the future of publishing holds for fan fiction writers?

For those who have in interest in reading fan fiction or publishing works of there one, here are just a few places where you can achieve just that:

Writers of Fan Fiction

Do you write fan fiction?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting
Anne Rice is one of many authors who oppose fan fiction.
Anne Rice is one of many authors who oppose fan fiction. | Source

Popular Fan Fiction and the Rights of Original Creators

With the popularity of fan fiction ever on the rise, questions concerning the legality of such works or just the moral right fans have to take another's creation and run with it have also come up. While fan fiction is, of course, legal, many are divided as to whether or not fan fiction actually does serve to honor a creator's work or take characters and story lines to places the author would never dream of.

Although there are some that do not believe fan fiction has authorization to use another's work, it is considered a derivative work under the United States copyright law. One example of conflict between an original creator and fan fiction was when Lucasfilms Ltd. sent out letters to fanzine publishers concerning the use of Star Wars characters in pornographic fan fiction. Lucasfilms Ltd. wished to assert their copyright of these characters to protect them and keep them family friendly. Lucasfilms Ltd. will only uphold fan fiction that falls within guidelines that were sent to many fan clubs.

Anne Rice is one of many authors who strongly oppose fan fiction. Her official website, AnneRice.com, features a message to her fans concerning fan fiction that reads:

"I do not allow fan fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes."

Her concern is that her characters would go in a direction that goes against where she would have taken them. For some fans, they applaud her passion for protecting her creations, others, however, feel she has no right to tell them what they can or cannot do when creating their own fiction, even if they are based on her imaginings.

On the other side of the fan fiction debate are authors like J.K. Rowling, who consider fan fiction to be flattering, rather than damaging. Do fans have a right to create pieces of fiction based on their favorite bits of entertainment created by others? Do the authors have the right to put a stop to such "blasphemy?" Please feel free to share your own opinions in the comment section below.

© 2013 LisaKoski

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21 comments

rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

What an insightful and interesting article! I have read some fan fiction but I am not sure how I feel about people popularizing a character. I understand Anne Rice's point of view, but I also agree with J.K. Rowling that it can be quite flattering for an author. I don't know, I am on the fence about it but I am leaning towards the concept of it being flattering. By the way, I read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and now I am waiting for the movie, lol. Great work! Thanks for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose


Kevina Oyatedor profile image

Kevina Oyatedor 3 years ago

I have a fan fiction as well and it is fun to write alternate stories. I understand where Anne Rice is coming from with her stories, but it is just the fans' ideas of the story. Love this and voted up!


mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

I never heard of this, so I just learned something new. I think I agree with Anne Rice that an author's characters should be protected. Good article - voted up, useful, interesting and sharing.


Ericajean profile image

Ericajean 3 years ago

I love this article. Fan fiction is something that can not be helped sometimes. I think it is a form of flattery to an author see others caring so much about the authors' books. I love writing fan fiction. Nothing makes me happier than to continue or remix a world.

On the other hand, some others may see it as Anne Rice does: their characters are unprotected and maybe they feel fan fic writers see something "wrong" with how a story or show ended. But I still see it as a form of flattery- people care about what you've created, enough to write a fan fic on it.

Now, if your writing isn't worth people "remixing", then that is a problem.

This is all my opinion though.

I voted up and interesting...


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 3 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

Well done on being Awarded the Hub of the Day! I just read this and loved it! Going to tweet it to a few thousand followers now!


Sarah Anderson profile image

Sarah Anderson 3 years ago from Wallingford, CT

Kawaii pics of Harry and Spock. Thanks for keeping people informed.


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 3 years ago from California, United States of America

Very interesting subject and I like the fact that fans can have fun creating and reading fan fiction. I'd agree with Rowling, fan fiction seems more helpful and flattering than anything else.


davidlivermore profile image

davidlivermore 3 years ago from Bakersfield, California, United States

I never got into fan fiction. I tried, but I couldn't consider it as canon, then I never took it seriously.

Good article, just not my thing.


rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

I knew this had HOTD written all over it the first time I read it! Congratulations on HOTD, well deserved. Take care! (Voting Up Again) -Rose


J. Biaza profile image

J. Biaza 3 years ago from USA

I really don't understand the reason behind fan fiction. I am not a fan of it, therefore I do not read it. I prefer to read original works. And quite frankly, if someone is taking the time to rewrite an author, surely there must be some talent to create their own works.


hlwar 3 years ago

First off, congratulations on the Hub of the Day award!

As for fan fiction, I write it but don't read much of it. There's just too much fluff and poorly written stories clogging up the websites it's basically become impossible to find GOOD fanfics to read. Granted, my main area is anime and that's swarming with yaoi (male homosexual), yuri (female homosexual), and ecchi (porn) beyond belief - usually pairing up characters for no reason. It's just a turn-off.

But actually, I've looked at other titles, from DC comics to Harry Potter to WWF wrestling, and it seems a trend to fan-write pairings. That's the downside of fan fiction. It's not so much about filling in plot gaps in author's works as it is pairing up favored characters in mediocre slices-of-life scenarios.

It's not what I enjoy reading, and it's not how I write. To quote my FanFiction.net profile: "Since I take writing very seriously, I am somewhat of an elitist when it comes to fanfics. It's my belief that because we are authoring works based on someone else's ideas, plots, and characters, then we should be striving to do the original work justice. I like to adhere to complete canon whenever possible..."

As for copyright issues, it's completely true that these are copyright protected source materials. So the original creators have every right to pull fan fics if they personally don't approve. It may seem like a slap in the face to fans, but if Ann Rice doesn't want her characters messed with it's her prerogative - they are her characters.

Just my two cents.


Zaiden Jace profile image

Zaiden Jace 3 years ago from Oregon

Fantastic article! I have been fond of Fan Fiction for a long time. A lot of it is poorly written and tedious but there are some fan written articles are just as good, if not better than the original authors. I've written a few myself in my spare time. It can be quite amusing.


Nicole S. 3 years ago

Quotev is another good website for fanfics!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

I tend towns toward Anne Rice rather than Rowling when it comes to fan fiction although I have read some really good fan fiction and some of it right here on HP. What I have read has kept with the characters and the flgeneral idea of the original author. Imitation is said to be the highest form of flattery, but I still agree with Rice-the characters are copyrighted. In a sense the characters become 'public figures' as the Star Trek characters have become, but I still think they are best left to the authors who invented them. But, this article is great and you give both perspectives quite well.


Winko 2 years ago

I have been reading a lot of fan fiction, so my judgement tilts to have fan fiction. Some Anne Rice's thoughts, like the story being twisted so much that that is it, in my eyes, rubbish, but I also agree with J.K. Rowling that it can be very flattering for an author that a lot of fans admire her work. In Fanfiction.net there are currently 689000 fanfictions and counting. This is an interesting article and after a bit of thinking, I have sides for Fanfiction.


Ericajean profile image

Ericajean 2 years ago

After reading more comments on here, I do understand that there can be some really silly fanfics out there with outrageous pairings and I am definitely not into Yaoi and Yuri-flat out not interested.

However I have read decent stories that are rated G from InuYasha to Harry Potter to Twilight that were fun and acceptable in my eyes.

Lately I haven't read much fanfic though. Too busy reading nonfiction books and references. Filling my head with knowledge and stuff.


infoweekly profile image

infoweekly 2 years ago from South Africa

I've read some fanfiction that was better than the original stories. I think it's a fun form of writing as long as the writer doesn't try and make money off the stories and characters, just my opinion but to make money off someone elses world and characters isn't right


Kara 23 months ago

Fanfiction isn't about creating money. I use fanfiction as a form of expanding on my own work, had it not be for fanfiction.net then I would never have considered writing as more than a hobby (or even a hobby at all). I agree with many people in the comments section, it is difficult to find 'good' fanfics at the present time as many writers prefer to write for their pairings sake rather than the sake of the story.

My own fanfictions started off as filling in plotlines, and creating characters that I feel fitted into the scenario of the fictional world of pre-published books; now I am creating whole new worlds that co-exist with the original worlds, and focusing mostly on them than the originals. It is what set me on the course of pursuing my own path of being an author.

Loved the article, by the way. Congratulations of winning Hub article of the day. This article really touches on points of concern, like copyright, especially of characters. Anne Rice makes good points, I myself am protective of the characters I create as many a-times my stories/characters have been stolen by other fanfiction writers, but I also agree with J.K.Rowling and, as they say "imitation is the biggest form of flattery".


Chris Antonaros profile image

Chris Antonaros 19 months ago from Athens, Greece

That's a really interesting article. Though I am worried of the fact that fan fiction shortens the ability of the creator to make his own world and characters. In my honest opinion a fan fiction short story before or after we start our story is the better way. Good job though! Thanks for the information!


FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 19 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

For a long time, I never really understood the attraction for writing fan fiction – and to some extent, I still think it’s a bit strange when a writer feels the need to use existing characters rather than creating their own. Having said that, a few years ago, I created my own brand of fan fic in the form of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, who exist in a post-Victorian parallel universe (The Watson Letters blog). I suppose I didn’t realise at the time that I was doing the very thing I claimed to not understand! Anyway, great Hub, voted up.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 18 months ago from New York

Your HOTD is well deserved. You have explained this genre very well. I can see both sides of this controversy. Writing about a work is one thing, using someone else's character is another. I hate to be wishy washy, but I'm not sure where I stand on this issue.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

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