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My love-hate (mostly love) relationship with fanfiction

Alright, so I mentioned in my previous post that I would at one point do a blog post about fanfiction. I’ve been a bit MIA with the blogging lately, so thought I’d go ahead and pull out this topic to hopefully get me back in the groove of posting at least once a week. Though after getting into it, I’m thinking there are a couple fanfic-related topics I could write about. But later.

Right, so… fanfiction and my relationship with it.

I’ve found that fanfiction gets a lot of various reactions from people. Some “serious” readers look down on it. You definitely find people who will give weird looks, scoff, and claim that anyone who writes fanfiction can never be taken seriously as a writer. I mean, I think most of us can agree that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was… interesting. But, in my opinion, I think fanfiction and fanfiction writers get a bad rap for no reason.

And no, I’m not just saying that because I, myself, have written a lot of fanfiction over the years. Okay, so maybe that’s part of it, but really, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as some folks make it out to be. There is a lot of really great, well-written fanfiction out there.

And seriously, who are people to dump on fanfic writers pouring their heart and love into what they write when they haven’t even attempted to write a day in their life? My motto is, if it makes you happy, write it. Don’t let anyone shame you for writing fanfiction.

Sorry… back on track. Ahem…

I think fanfiction is a great way for writers to explore their writing styles and learn how to tell a story, develop characters, and do just about everything that goes into being a writer. It can be incredibly daunting to want to tell a story, then sit down and realize you have an entire universe that you have to build. Starting in a universe that has already been established can be a good jumping in point.

For example, I used fanfiction to experiment in genres that I loved to read but never thought I could write. I’m a huge fan of thrillers and crime stories. Been reading them since high school. But I never thought I could write one myself considering all the work and creativity that goes into it. You not only have to come up with an intriguing crime, but also figure out how your perp gets away with it - and make them interesting as well. And then how your MC figures it out before anyone else. It has to be riveting, yet make plausible sense. You need to keep your reader on the edge of their seat, but not give away too much or too little.

Like I said - a lot of work. It was definitely something I was interested in pursuing, but anytime I thought about trying to write a thriller or crime story, I ran far away. Until I dipped my toe in by writing a short Criminal Minds fanfic. It opened the door for me and through that I realized it wasn’t so scary. It laid the groundwork for my original mystery/thriller fiction. While I still - definitely - need a lot more work in that area, I feel more confident. I’m about to start on my third crime story, which - funny enough - is actually based loosely on that Criminal Minds fanfic.

But more about that another day…

And then fanfiction is just fun to read. I’m a big fan of a lot of book series, movies, TV shows, and so on. And love to see other writers pick up where the story left off or fill in gaps with side characters. Or even change the whole damn thing. A lot of my fanfic work also falls in this category. I love to take a side character with minimal development in a series and build an entire story or series around them. Or give a character that’s a one dimensional villain a fully fleshed background and sometimes a redemption arc. One of my favorite stories to write was a silly little fluffy rom-com starring a middle-aged divorced Marcus Flint. (I’d link it, but it needs a bit of editing - yes, I still go back and re-edit/re-write my fanfiction.) It was fun to dive into not only his character, but throw him into a situation that the character likely would have never ended up in and see how he navigated it.

It was a great ride, to say the least. I still like to go back and read it.

And let’s be real, a fair amount of us do like to do a little self-insertion from time to time. What’s life without daydreaming? Fanfiction, a lot of times, can be daydreaming in written form. Hell, even a lot of my original fiction starts out this way - with a daydream starring myself. Though I always make sure to flesh out my MC so that it’s not, well, me. (None of them are, by the way, they are all way more badass than I ever could be.) I’m pretty cool with self-insertion fanfic. I can’t even tell that’s what it is half the time, to be honest.

And fine, I’ll address the cringey fanfiction. It exists. Though I’m not about to tell the person who wrote it to stop writing it. Or to never write it. Or leave a horribly mean comment on it. I’ll just move on to the next story. God knows there are a few mine that are cringey, though most of those stayed in the notebooks they were written in and will never see the light of day.

However, after writing all that, to this day, I still hesitate to mention that I’ve written a lot of fanfiction. I still have a complex that people will shame me or look down on me for writing it. Or for writing as much as I did. Or the fact that a lot of my fanfiction was written from the ages of 30 to 35, though I started somewhere in middle school. It’s still stuck in my head that fanfiction is only for teens. But it’s not.

I found that a lot of people who read (and still read) my stories are adults. They’re my age. And they like reading fanfic written by someone a bit older sometimes. A lot of the other fanfic writers that I’ve connected with over the years were also my age and had been writing for years. I began to wonder why I always had it stuck in my head that you had to “grow out of” fanfiction.

I don’t think you do. If it makes you happy, why stop? I haven’t written any in a long time, but that’s mostly because I’ve been focusing on my original fiction and trying to get into self-publishing. And I haven’t had a lot of fanfic ideas pop up in my head. Lately, I’ve been spending time going back through and editing old stories to re-post on a new fanfic account on Wattpad when I need a break from writing and developing original fiction. I’ve found it to be a great stress relief and palette cleanser.

But I’m certainly not going to hide it anymore. I don’t think anyone should.

Fanfiction is just another form of self-expression. Go with it. Embrace it. And everyone who makes fun of you for it can just ‘eff off.

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