Monday, July 19, 2010

Why yes I did use the "F" word...

Okay, so I know not everyone is familiar with fanfiction. I wasn't until a couple of years ago. Basically, fanfiction is when people who like a particular book, TV-show, movie, etc. make up their own stories using an established universe and its characters.

If you've never read a piece of fanfiction, try taking ten minutes to look at a site like for a better idea of how it works. (You'll also get a better idea of how the slushpile looks, btw, because while there are some terrific pieces out there, most of it's garbage with a capital trash.)

Technically a no-no (darn copyright!), it's generally a don't ask/don't tell situation because if the copyright holders were to shut down the fanficcers (<--- Yes, it's a word. Dictionaries don't know everything.), they risk alienating their hardcore fans.

The point of this post isn't to vilify or praise people who write fiction based off other people's work, but more a matter of curiosity to see others' opinions of the practice.

Before I go any further, I'm going to point out - again - that, yes, I've written fanfic. It was for a couple of TV shows I won't mention, and it was fairly popular given the size of the fandoms. (Neither show went more than a season, so they were small fandoms.)

Don't confuse fanfic with licensed tie-in novels for things like Star Wars or Star Trek. Those are professional books that have the permission of the rights holders. They're edited and must adhere to canon.

In a legal sense, it's not even the same as those "mash-up" novels like Pride and Prejudice... and Zombies. The book used in that case was in the public domain, and once again, it was edited.

Fanfic is no holds barred, mix n' match, alternate universe, fix everything you hated about the original story-telling that can be done by anyone old enough to type.

Don't like the fact that an author killed off your favorite character? Fine. Change it.

Think the MC would be better of with another partner? The best friend? The gay friend? Yourself? Have at it (though, self-insert stories are pretty much a joke...)

Absolutely love a minor character with no backstory? Write one for him!

Hate the fact that your favorite show got canceled? Organize a "virtual" season!

That's the essence of fanfic.

You can't sell it because it can't legally be published for profit. And it's very rarely edited. It's also highly addictive because of the almost instantaneous response and the fact that even some of the worst (as in obviously written by 12 year olds with a crush on the actors portraying the characters) pieces out there get praised and encouraged.

Then there's the other side of it.

Everyone who writes fanfiction does so without the permission of the original creator. For most, it's meant as a tribute to characters they liked so much they wanted to keep alive. They at least try to keep them in character as the author wrote them, and as strange as it may sound, most ficcers I know would immediately remove anything they wrote if the original authors asked them to.

My experience is a little different in that it's TV-fic, so there's not one creative person in charge of the whole thing. It's already a joint effort, and in this case, the people involved read and enjoyed the fans' pieces. They even incorporated several of them into the series finale, which was cool.

With a novel, however, you're in a playground built and maintained by one person. They alone know the motivations that never make the page, and they alone know where they want each character to end up. I see a definite difference in the two kinds of fanfic.

I can also sympathize with authors who cringe at the sight of their beloved characters going against type. Way back when, one of my "babies" (okay, so he was a 6"6' Russian, bear of a baby who was more of a brick wall, but that's not the point) that I used in many stories (a character of my own creation, not something from canon) was seized upon by several other writers, declared "fanon", and therefore fair game. He promptly became a pod-person; I hardly recognized him.

The biggest chunk of fanfic is like that. The characters don't play by the original authors' rules. They either don't "sound" right, or they start staring in porn-style stories with no plot other than "One day Hero and Heroine wondered what would happen if they...."

Granted, most writers know better than to read fanfic based on their stuff, but still. It's weird.

I guess I've rambled long enough, so what's your take? Would you be flattered by fanfic of your novel? Horrified? Angry?

Where do you stand?

6 Chiming In:

Cruella Collett said...

I ventured into the world of fanfiction for a while, and I liked it (though I share your sentiment on the majority of it being craptastic), but it wasn't for me. I missed not having my own characters. The only things I wanted to write were "holes" - where I could fit my own stories in (so basically it was another way I was telling myself to get back to my own stuff). But I still consider it a useful experience. If nothing else, it taught me the beauty of sharing my writing.

And I would totally be flattered if anyone ever wrote a fanfic from something I wrote. Even if they messed up the story. Flattered to bits!

RosieC said...

I also dabbled in fanfic, though it's never gone beyond my hard drive and I hope it never does. I took a TV cast and created a 10-yrs later world in which half the characters were completely my own. I didn't do it because I thought it was going anywhere, just because I needed to get my mind off of other things. But it also helped me dust off the old writing pen and get back to business after too many years away (that pen's still pretty dusty, though).

I can hardly think of fanfic based on my work. In that hypothetical dream world, I think I would also be flattered, but I think I would also avoid reading them. I'd be too afraid of getting angry at dedicated fans.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Well, I've never written fanfiction, but I have read a very little bit of it. If I should ever be so lucky that my work is big enough and widespread enough that people wanted to write fanfic about it, I'd probably be flattered. However, for the reasons you stated - it's mostly awful, and the characters become placeholders for someone else's storyline and ideas and fantasy porn - I'd probably be a little horrified if I ever actually came across any of it. Ultimately, the idea of it makes me pretty uncomfortable. I think someone writing it is one thing, but for that person to then go and publish it on a website or blog would feel like crossing the line.

Matthew MacNish said...

Well first of all if I ever got published I would be totally flattered if my story was popular enough to inspire any fanfiction.

My daughter is obsessed with Anime and writes many stories on or whatever it is and also shares them on Deviantart and she is pretty popular. I don't really have a problem with it, as I consider it good creative practice, but I do try to encourage her to, and wish she did more, write her own original pieces. I don't really see the point of fanfic if you want to be a serious writer.

You can't do anything official with it and you're not really flexing your creative muscle all the way if you're borrowing from someone else's vision. That being said I would LOVE to read fanfic about Middle Earth if it was even 75% as good as the original, I'm just not sure I would have the patience to sift through enough of it.

AuroraLee said...

Well, as you know, I write fanfic. Although that should be past tense now as I've officially moved on... I hope.

I liked using fanfic as a way to 'practice' writing. I learned a lot about writing... have gotten some of the 'crap' out of way (though I'm sure not all of it) while writing something that I know can't be published anyway. It helped me learn to develop plots and other things involved in writing. Even characters, to a certain extent, when creating my own. Now it's time for me to take the next step and take off the training wheels. That's how I think of it.

Having been in that 'world', if someone were to write fanfic of one of my worlds I would have no problem with it. 1. it means they're interested enough to do it and 2. I'd be a bit of a hypocrite if I DID have a problem with it. Doesn't mean I'd read it though... not sure if I could do that. If that ever happens, I guess I'll make the decision then!

And as for your charrie that was used by other writers... I don't think I read any of those fics, but I did LOVE that character :P

Myrna Foster said...

I've never written fanfic, but I have friends who do. I'd take it as a compliment, but I wouldn't want to read it.

Post a Comment