A word about writing fan fiction (or anything else)

People have different views about writing.  Some turn up their noses at certain genres or writing forms (say, perhaps, graphic novels).  Many “serious” writers think fan fiction isn’t worthwhile, and to some extent they are right.

Yes, I know, that’s an odd thing to say coming from someone who primarily writes fan fiction.  The truth is, much of the fan fiction out there isn’t worth reading.  It’s poorly written, and far too many of the authors start stories that they never finish.  If a “serious” writer does that, no one knows but them, but fan fiction authors post chapters as they go along – it’s painfully obvious when they fizzle out and stop writing.  Sometimes there is a valid reason for this:  perhaps writing is a hobby and life gets in the way, but most of the time the person loses interest and just never finishes.  And it isn’t always because their story was bad – I’ve seen several that I wish the author would finish.

Despite that, though, there are true gems out there.  Just as I reread favorite books sitting on my shelf (written by well-known, acclaimed authors), I reread some fan fiction stories because they are so well done.  And, what many don’t realize is that some of those fan fiction writers go on to publish professionally with original works.  They used fan fiction writing to hone their craft first.  I know of at least one New York Times bestselling author who fits in that category, though there are probably others.  I have a friend who self-published on Amazon and her story is excellent (in my opinion), and had a lot of creative ideas.  She was a good writer of fan fiction and she still is now that she is writing original material.

There is, of course, a drawback to writing fan fiction.  Another friend writes for children’s television and animated series.  She is well-known and highly regarded in her profession.  Often fans will want her to look at their fan fiction stories.  While understandable, she can’t do it, even if she wanted to.  She would put herself at risk of accusations of plagiarism if a story she later wrote closely mirrored one of those stories.  Some ‘ideas’ are so general that there is no copyright on them, but if you get too specific in using that idea in the same way that someone else did, you are at risk.

Someone who read one of my fan fic stories, wanted me to read a story she was writing.  I did and as I went along, I grew increasingly concerned – her story closely mirrored one of mine that was already posted in its entirety.  Since I’m not a professional, I wasn’t worried from a copyright standpoint, but I knew that if she posted this story, some of my readers would read it and possibly accuse her of plagiarism.  Fortunately, she eventually veered it off in a different direction, but I saw my story very clearly in hers.

Another writer was concerned that one of her characters had a personality too much like mine (we were both using the same character in our stories, taken from Tolkien’s books).  But our both envisioning this person in the same way didn’t make it plagiarism.  How we used the character might have been, but as I told her, the story she was writing was completely unlike anything I had done.  I did not see my work in her story just because the characters were almost identical in personality.

Why do I mention this?  Perhaps to help other writers understand why some people write fan fiction.  If I’m not going to publish something professionally, why not write something for my own amusement?  And if I enjoy the world that someone else has created and want to play in it, why not?  For the most part, these stories are intended as an homage to the original author and their work – it sparked creativity in someone else.  True, those writers likely would not want to claim the fan fiction works as their own or up to their standards, but it usually is just harmless fan admiration.

But the greater purpose of this post is to make note that every writer has something to contribute, the story only they can tell in a certain way.  Many people can write stories about young witches and wizards attending school somewhere in the British Isles, but none will be written quite the way J. K. Rowling wrote hers.  They might be similar, but unless copied verbatim, there will be differences in the telling of that story by another person.  There are some brilliant ideas being expressed in comic books, graphic novels, fan fiction and even blogs.  Great tomes in the largest libraries of the world are not the only worthwhile reading.

Here’s hoping you share your stories, ideas and creativity via whatever medium best suits you!


One thought on “A word about writing fan fiction (or anything else)

  1. I see your point. Believe it or not, that’s where some writers get their start. And it’s unfair sometimes to write fan fiction off as silly… but at the same it’s understandable. Great post!


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