Fan-fiction is an interesting topic, many turn their noses up at it while others enjoy it and actively engage in the reading and writing of fan-fiction. Some even argue that fan-fiction constitutes as literature, while the counter argument would say that anything copied from another source cannot possibly be constituted as literature. Literature in itself is even hard to define as some sources cite it to be any body of written work when others state that it must be written work with artistic and lasting merit. Fan-fiction may not as credible as other works, but it does have its redeeming qualities.
I wouldn’t be overly harsh on fan-fiction. I don’t like the idea of discouraging other writers, especially younger ones, regardless of what they are writing. We all start somewhere after all. It would also be awfully hypocritical of me to disregard fan-fiction as the product of hormonal and unimaginative youths. I find myself cringing when I accidently discover a hoard of My Chemical Romance fan-fiction from way back when panda-eyed 15 year old me seemed to write about nothing else. Furthermore, I never saw the harm in people writing about what they love and sharing that with fellow fans. If anything, fan-fiction writers can learn a lot from it. The stories I wrote when I was 14 were littered with grammatical errors, unoriginal plots, and were poorly developed. Yet by the time I was 17 (still having a penchant for tales of My Chemical Romance) the quality had improved drastically simply because of how much and often I was writing. I still have a lot to learn about writing stories but I had actually accumulated quite a readership in the end. People reading the stories offered feedback which could then help me improve, I learned how to write fast but not sacrifice the quality of what I was writing because there were people actually willing to come back and read the updates. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, I’m sure if I dug up the better of my old stories I’d ask myself what possessed me to think it was any good and surely anyone who said they enjoyed it at the time was just humouring me.
Yet there is a dark side to fan-fiction that perhaps taints the name. “Smut” (the more erotic kind of story) was never my forte but it is what most people associate fan-fiction with. This is usually the kind that makes the people these tales are based on uncomfortable. I’ve seen bands ask their fans to stop writing about them having sex with each other in interviews and to stop sending them these stories to read. When it comes to this sub-section of fan-fiction I think it’s best to turn a blind eye and hope you don’t stumble across a story of this nature. Each to their own, I suppose.
Of course there are a lot of low quality stories out there. The Harry Potter fan-fic “My Immortal” is seen as one of the worst out there. I feel bad for the author, but at the same time there was little to no regard to the Harry Potter canon, it was almost illegible, and the main character’s name is even spelled wrong sometimes. For all we know the whole thing could have been a piece of satire, but it’s impossible to know for sure. However, I don’t think one should discourage young and inexperienced writers. They’ll improve in time, or so I hope. There are some absolute gems out there based on the works out others but the stories are nearly of the same quality of published works. Some authors began as fan-fiction writers and established a career for themselves such as: Meg Cabot who began with Star Wars fics and went on to write The Princes Diaries, and the author of Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare. Who could forget E.L. James who turned a story about Twilight into 50 Shades of Grey. Perhaps that one should have stayed on the internet…
I outgrew fan-fiction about two or three years ago, and even if I blush a little, I wont deny that it’s something I used to enjoy. Who knows, maybe a fan-fiction writer will go on to produce something of the same merit as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.
Aisling is a writers based in Limerick City and kindly blogs for Stanzas and also has her own blog here which you should totally check out.