I don’t normally read fanfiction; I generally despise it, as most of it is the most terribly written, hackneyed, typo-ridden dreck ever conceived. Rife with wish-fulfillment and self-inserts, fanfiction attracts the worst the amateur fiction community has to offer.
However, I’ve recently returned to a fanfiction site that I haven’t touched in over three years, and I realized that this genre of amateur literature (and it can occasionally be called that) has several benefits that make for great stories and easy entry into the hobby. Here are several reasons why fanfiction is easy to write and fun to read.
- A pre-established world. Readers of fanfiction don’t require the often-difficult exposition of original works because they’re already familiar with the foundations of the fictional world being used as source material. For example, a Star Wars fanfic doesn’t really need to explain what the Force is or who the Jedi are beyond any changes or additions the author decides to make in his or her story. The reader already knows these things.
- Strong, simple imagery from the source material. For some, making mental pictures of what they’re reading is more difficult than others. Fanfiction has the benefit of (usually) well-written source material, often a television show or movie series, that provides a shortcut for deciding what things look and sound like. This is great for aphantasiacs who might otherwise struggle with reading fiction.
- Pre-defined characters. It’s common for fan stories to be about characters that are already significant parts of the source material. This lets an amateur writer focus on his or her unique ideas without needing to worry about creating interesting people to write about. Professional writers have done the hard part for you!
- Pre-existing fantasy elements. This is one of the hardest parts of worldbuilding to get right, but in fanfiction you don’t have to start from scratch. Returning to our Star Wars example, an amateur writer doesn’t need to figure out what kind of magic system or technology he wants in his story, as that’s already been done. The magic is the Force and the technology is oddly-non-Newtonian spaceships and lightsabers. The writer can direct more of his attention to creating an interesting story, rather than figuring out how to invent a fictitious society.
- Emotional connection to the source material. Readers of fanfiction usually are extremely emotionally attached to the source material, be it Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or My Little Pony. Getting your audience to care can be tough, but if you have an interesting idea for a pre-existing character, you can get a lot of readers without needing to write particularly well or do much of your own character development. This is both a positive and a negative thing because it’s the primary reason so much fanfiction is terrible – placing familiar characters in a new scenario is compelling, and the actual writing doesn’t have to be good for one’s imagination to fill in the potholes.
If you’re interested in writing and sharing it online, fanfiction may be a good place for you to get started. Believe it or not, this genre of amateur fiction is how I started writing, with my story Origins on FimFiction.net. It’s not great and I never finished it, but I’ve learned a lot in the six years since.
Fanfiction is a wonderful and low-risk way to start writing. If you love a media franchise you’re sure to find a website dedicated to sharing fan stories about it, and those communities are often very welcoming to newcomers. And if you find a lot of enjoyment in writing, you might even become a published author someday!
Until next time, Be Well.