Friday, May 16, 2014

Fan Fiction: Immortalizing Beloved Stories

Can't believe your favorite series has come to a close? Wish you had the chance to live in that world a little longer? Fan fiction might be just what you're looking for. ♦

We’ve all been there. You finish a book and depression sinks in as you realize that the world you’ve been immersed in for the past days/weeks/months has turned into a memory. Often, the world you close the back cover on is more interesting, more relatable, and more understanding than reality tends to be. So, what do you do now? Do you flip back to page one and begin the adventure again? Do you check for other works from the same author (because let’s face it: he/she just gets you)? Or do you pick up the next title on your “to-read” list?

While all of these are good options, there is an alternative to consider: for decades, scores of devoted fans with exactly this dilemma have turned to fan fiction, which has been pushed into the spotlight, and even the mainstream, within the past few years. Most people are aware that E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey started as a Twilight fan fiction, but fewer know that Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments saga, is also the author of a popular Harry Potter fan fiction trilogy that focuses on Draco Malfoy. Fan fiction has become a phenomenon in storytelling and book culture because it takes a part of the literary world’s dreaded “P” word—plagiarism—and makes it acceptable. Fan fiction, as the name implies, takes an author’s original idea and transforms the basis of a particular story into a completely new—although usually still recognizable—extension of said story. The characters are typically one of the aspects that stays the same, although new characters can be created. The setting can either remain the same or the fan fiction can take place in a completely unrelated location. Certain characters that died in the original work (also referred to as the canon) may or may not be dead in a particular fan fiction story (these kinds of events usually make the fan fiction an “Alternate Universe” work, or AU). The possibilities of fan fiction are endless, even after the last pages of a canonical book or series have been written and published.

So, what are the benefits of reading and writing fan fiction, in addition to reading the canonical work that the fanfic seeks to expand upon?

1. Possibility of alternate storylines

Did the author’s decision to kill off your favorite character make you cry yourself to sleep that night (or for several nights)? Did a character’s decision seem so stupid that you had to throw your book across the room? Did a particular character pairing/relationship make you reconsider finishing that book? All of these things have happened, understandably, in various novels. While it’s great that everyone has a unique perception of a story, this makes it impossible to please everyone. That’s where fan fiction comes in. Sites like make it easy to search for your favorite characters and genres, and if you dislike a certain pairing or subject matter, you don’t have to read about them. With fan fiction, it’s possible to find alternate versions of a work that suit what you were expecting or hoping for, but weren't given with the canon work.

2. Extension of the story’s life

One of the best things about fan fiction is that it can fill the void left by a completed work. The Harry Potter saga, for example, has a staggering 681,000 stories dedicated to it on (making it the most commonly written about on the site), and that number is constantly growing. Through this site, and many others that are devoted solely to fan fiction about the Boy Who Lived, the saga continues to be a presence in the world of readers, even after its conclusion was printed in 2007.

3. Personal Interaction between authors and readers

Unlike trying (usually fruitlessly) to get a response from the author of your favorite book, interaction between the authors and readers of fan fiction is much more common. There is a feeling of community among authors and readers that makes the fanfic world not only one created by fans, but also inspired by them. Authors are constantly encouraging comments on stories and chapters of those stories, and readers are ready and willing to supply them.

4. Alternate story structures and experience levels

One of the main benefits to writing fan fiction is that it gives the author a chance to go through some of the steps that a traditional author goes through when being published, without most of the stress and fear of failure. Beta readers, the editors of the fan fiction world, offer their services to authors for free because they are passionate about their work. And while it isn’t a requirement (even though it probably should be), some fan fiction authors turn to beta readers to offer insight and a second (or third or fourth) set of eyes to make their work as good as it can be. Personally, I’ve read stories on that are more solid, both in content and technical flow, than some of the printed books I’ve read.

Experimentation is also a benefit of writing fan fiction. A popular trend among fanfic writers is to center their story around the lyrics of a song. These stories, fittingly called “songfics,” are just one of the many formats that fan fiction authors use. The ability to stray from conventional story structures is another benefit that fan fiction offers readers and writers.

So, the next time you finish a book and that dark cloud of depression threatens, remember that there are many other avenues to explore with your favorite characters, and at least one of them is specifically suited to you.

  • About the Author
    Serena Stout is currently finishing her senior year as a Creative Writing student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Originally from California, she loves the beach. And reading. And reading at the beach. When she's not stressing out about life after graduation, she likes to write and snuggle with her dog and 2 cats. Visit her at

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