The term “Fan Fiction” can be a dirty word in fandom circles. It conjured up images of fanboys who had wish fulfillment issues and don’t ever get out of their mom’s basement. It’s always had this stigma that because it’s not “official” it must not be good, or at the very least because it takes place in an established world or with characters do not their own so it must be terrible and why does this exist?
That is also a bunch of crap.
Fan fiction, for those out of the loop, is writings and stories that are done about characters or settings the author did not create. Much bigger ideas, like the Marvel Universe, Anime shows, or anything else. Sometimes about real people, sometimes about fictional characters. All the while it comes from someone who is not the original creator. You can get down to brass tacks about the “fan” part of Fan Fiction but the idea is that someone used characters they themselves did not create and went to town creating something out of it.
I was a fanfic writer for a long time. I still write those although none of it gets “published”. And I’ve heard it all. From fans, authors, and even industry people. Some get it, but most really don’t.
“Why don’t you write something original?”
That’s a line you hear a thousand times as a fanfic author. And there are a lot of reasons why not. To some, this is escapism. Either figuratively or literally taking themselves to another world or setting they are familiar with. The “Mary Sue” aspect of writing yourself into the story. I’ve done it, more than one in the same series. It’s is a way for people with fertile minds to feel in control of their surroundings and how others think of them. They aren’t trying to write a best seller, they are dealing with feelings about themselves and what is around them. It may not read the best or be “professional” but that’s not really the point.
Sometimes the motivation isn’t about themselves. Some people just find things they want to “fix” about a series or show. I’ve seen it a lot with TV Shows, movies, hell as a pro wrestling fan as well. Sometimes it’s just people’s nature to not be satisfied with what they were given. The story wasn’t completed and resolved in a way that some were satisfied with. Everyone has been there with one media or another. It just so happens some people also have a literary mind and a creative way to express that disappointment.
And the thing to remember is that a good number of the fanfic writers out there do not think they “know better” than the sources of the material. That usually isn’t the point. The point is to bring out creativity. That outlet can do a lot for a person, even if they need to borrow some building blocks to build their own universe with.
A case that was brought to me a number of years ago at a Fan Fiction panel I was running at a local anime convention. This person mentioned that they taught children, and as a writing exercise they were allowed to write their own stories base on shows they liked. The characters and settings were all laid out for them, they just needed to focus on the story. They learned writing skills while focusing on the plot, not so much creating characters or reasons for them to do what they do. I was blown away by the idea and kind of wish some of my teachers had done that in my schooling years.
So Fan fiction isn’t this dirty aspect of Fandom only a small group of undesirables do. It’s an outlet for feeling, an outlet for expression, and a tool for learning. Yes, sometimes things can go to the extremes, but most of the time it boils down to a person with an idea and a way to express it.