In Defense of Fan Fiction

I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret:woman-typing-writing-windows

I used to write fan fiction.

Castle fanfic, mainly. There was one where I managed to merge Castle with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was fun to write, but it got lost in the shuffle of life as a full-time worker bee and self-published creative type… I keep telling myself I’ll get back to it, but I haven’t yet.

Now, depending on which corner of the Writer Internet in which I say the words “fan fiction,” there’s no telling the reaction I’d get. In certain circles, fanfic might as well double as one of the late, great George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words. It’s the Thing That Shall Not Be Spoken Of, and people who partake in it might as well wear a scarlet W on their chests.

Acting like fanfic is the second coming of Satan and the director’s cut of Batman v. Superman, all rolled into one.

Now, I don’t begrudge authors who don’t want to see fan fiction of their work. It’s their work, their property, and they’re entitled to not wanting others to play with it. I disagree with that stance (I would flip my shit — in a good way — if I ever found out someone wrote fanfic based on my books), but I’ll never tell another writer how to treat their intellectual property.

And I think some of the anti-fanfic sentiment stems from such works as the Fifty Shades series, which famously started out as Twilight fan fiction before Big Publishing swooped in and left millions of us with a bastardized idea of what BDSM should be (but that’s another blog post for another writer to tackle).

Also worth noting: many of the most active fanfic readers and writers online are female and/or LGBT (and that there’s plenty of adult material in fanfic)… so I can’t help but feel like a good chunk of the anti-fanfic sentiment is society trying, once again, to render things that speak to marginalized people as less than, as The Other.

“You like that?! Ugh, girls and q***rs like that!”

So I write in defense of fan fiction, for several different reasons.

  1. It’s fun! Seriously, people are showing their love for their pop culture property of choice by spending more time in it, by creating their own corner of it. People love Harry Potter so much, for example, that they spend their precious free time creating more of it (without payment). Fanfic, at its essence, is a labor of love.
  2. Fanfic can be great practice, for both novice and experienced writers. When writing fanfic, you’re operating in a fictional universe that already exists. The rules are already there, the characters are at least somewhat fleshed out. In writing fanfic, you can hone your skills when it comes to plotting, dialogue, and characterization. Even if the fanfic in question stems from a belief that the source material erred (i.e., “Kate Beckett would never walk out on Richard Castle like that!”), the basics hold true.
  3. Unless a fanfic writer is profiting off the work, fanfic is, at the end of the day, harmless fun. People are reading and writing stories about worlds and characters they love. They’re harming nobody in doing this, and if a new fanfic chapter is what helps someone get through the day, then it’s worth it.
  4. Not to get meta on everything, but if you really boil down to it, almost anything can be considered fanfic of a sort. This is a variation of the “everything derives from everything” argument. That there are no truly original ideas anymore and that every story, explicitly or otherwise, borrows from several other sources. Many of us become creators because something someone else created inspired us, and we pour that inspiration into our work.

I’m not saying everyone has to partake in fanfic; it’s your prerogative if you don’t. But don’t look down on people who read it, and definitely don’t begrudge people who write it. In a way, fanfic is one of the purest forms of written expression, because it’s done without the expectation of reimbursement.

If I publish a book, it’s in the hope someone buys it, and if they buy it, I get a cut of the money. If I write a fanfic, and someone reads it, I get… the satisfaction of knowing someone read my work.

But fanfic is a legitimate form of writing, a legitimate form of entertainment, and a legitimate form of artistic expression. Without fanfic, I’m not sure if I’m a published author at this point, and fanfic is something that I occasionally long to dabble in once more.

It’s fun, it’s harmless, and it’s really just another way for creatives to show support for the stories and characters they love.

 

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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

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Original Fic Killed My Fanfic Muse

I know fan fiction can sometimes be a hot-button topic among writers, but I’m firmly on the pro-fanfic side of the debate. I love fanfic for a variety of reasons; I read my share of fanfic.

Hell, up until several months ago, I wrote fanfic.Beckett gun

Nothing special, really. I mean, there was a way-out-there Castle/Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic that I was having a ball writing — because somehow, the idea of Detective Kate Beckett as a Slayer had far more legs than I thought it would — but again, nothing special.

If you’re curious, check out my fanfics here. Fair warning: there’s a lot of incomplete stuff there.

If nothing else, fanfic was great practice. It allowed me to continue plying my writing craft — sharpening my sentence structure, my plot pacing, all sorts of technical stuff, while telling stories about characters I loved. There was no pressure to fanfic; it was just writing well-known characters for an audience who loved them as much as I did.

No sales charts. No release dates. No promotional headaches. Just writing.

But the deeper I got into my novel writing — not just the three Jill Andersen novels, but all the other works — I noticed that my fanfic muse was nowhere near as active as it once had been. Maybe it was a case of being overworked, but the longer this whole novel-writing thing went, the more my fanfic faded into the background until the muse just… disappeared.

I keep telling myself that one day, I’ll go back to my fics and finish them. But then I have to be honest with myself and realize that’s probably never going to happen. Not because I don’t love fanfic — I do, and I would probably faint from happiness if I ever discovered fanfic based on my characters — but because I’ve committed myself so fully to novel-writing that I don’t know if fanfic still has a seat at the table.

I just don’t understand authors who are anti-fanfic. I mean, that’s their right. Their properties are important to them, and if they don’t want fanfic based on those properties, then they’re within their rights to say so. I just don’t understand the animosity; it’s not like the vast majority of fanfic writers are looking to make money off of it. Legally, they can’t.

I mean, unless they change names and other identifiers and try selling their fanfic and something original (which is, I believe, how 50 Shades of Grey came to be).

I consider fanfic (and fanart) a form of flattery; someone enjoyed these characters, this universe, enough to create something based on it. AU fics, insertion fics… hell, even fix-it fics… fanfic is a labor of love, and if anyone ever created fanfic or fanart based on my work, it would probably warm my heart more than the world’s greatest sales chart.

Though I’m greedy; I want both.

So consider me pro-fanfic. Vehemently so. I just… can’t seem to write it anymore.