The Allure of Fan Fiction
As a writer who is hoping to get published in the near future, I have a constant struggle with the idea of Fan Fiction. Publishers are only going to accept original characters and stories, so what is the point of writing Fan Fiction? Well, there is a point to it, and I’m only gradually beginning to see what that is.
Established Universe and Characters
The biggest allure of fan fiction, for a writer, is the ease of writing in a universe with established characters. You don’t have to worry about character profiles or setting or back story; it’s already been done and it’s sitting in front of you like a pile of Legos. Writer’s block can kill a story and nothing causes writer’s block more than stopping to figure out whether or not your character was picked on in third grade and how it might effect what is happening now. The weight of the framework of an original story is off your shoulders and all you have to do is jump into the action and start writing. So, while these stories can’t be marketed (unless you’ve been commissioned by a publisher to write in an established universe) they are great tools for getting those creative juices flowing and words down on the page.
Something You Can Share Without Fear of Stealing
Another major roadblock of writing online (or in a group of peers) is the fear that someone is going to steal your original stories. It’s a largely over-exaggerated fear; anyone willing to write their own story with your idea is likely too caught up in their ideas to care about yours. And plagiarism, while a reality, isn’t super common for fiction. More likely they want to steal your informative articles. But anyway, whether the fear is warranted or not, it’s still there and fan fiction helps to eliminate that fear. While you can still create good stories in fan fiction that can be taken by others, it doesn’t seem as likely because you’re already taking story elements from something else. It would be like copying a copy. All of the materials you are using are already out there for anyone else to steal, and since you can’t sell it anyway, who cares if it does get stolen?
The Chance to Live in Your Favorite Stories
If you’re a writer and you want to create your own stories, then you no doubt have an appreciation of fiction. These stories that influence you are like your mentors and writing within their universes is like going to a fan convention or having a role in the movie. You’re living the very thing you were idolizing. No, your story isn’t regarded as official lore, but how cool is it to write for such famous characters? It also gives you the ability to explore new aspects of side characters. Maybe there is a character who you feel isn’t done justice by the source material and you’d like to branch them out. Or you can fast forward into the future and explore a character when they are older or the adventures of their offspring. It is a great way to flex your writing muscle because you’re able to look at other aspects of character development, ones that aren’t usually covered in the mainstream narratives.
I wrote about this in another article titled How to Seriously Write for Yourself. In that article, however, I was talking about using genre clichés to really break away from the traditional writing styles. But the same is true of Fan Fiction. You’re writing in a world that already exists and in many cases, is already finished. Star Wars, for example, has already had six movies and countless smaller projects to chronicle the bigger stories. So, chances are, you aren’t going to write a fan fiction story about a jedi with a sith father. So your mind will then start to root out what other stories you could tell. Even though you’re using existing material, the tried-and-true stories have already been told, so you will naturally search for and create stories that are non-traditional. You can afford to take risks because it isn’t your story and you can always abandon it and start a new one without any damage being done to your writing process. I know it sounds kind of crazy to suggest that fan fiction is original, but more accurately it produces original ideas among writers and allows them to fully explore what they can do.
Picking a Universe
I can’t tell you what universe is right for you to write in. If you aren’t sure, you can head over to FanFiction.net and search through their categories. It’s also a good place to post your completed works. For me, I tend to gravitate towards stories that bridge gaps between series installments. The first one I wrote was a Legend of Zelda fan fiction that explained how Hyrule was flooded for the events in Wind Waker. And I am currently working on a Tomb Raider fan fiction that bridges the gap between Legend and Underworld. Sometimes the game developer will render your fan fiction obsolete (they fill in the gaps) but that’s okay. Parallel universe fan fiction is probably more popular anyway. I wrote a Star Wars fan fiction about a smuggler finding Yoda’s lightsaber on Dagobah, but the release of Episode 3 made a lot of what I wrote inaccurate. You’ll experience that a lot with universes that are still active. But when selecting which one to write in, think about what type of story you would like to be able to create that would be original. Then select a universe that is similar that you already like. By writing in it you will gain the necessary experience to write your own story. Or, if you don’t plan on writing your own story, it can be a fun hobby that has a rich community to back it up.