The Argument for Fanfiction

I am a fanfiction writer. There, I said it. To many people, this would seem like some sort of dirty little secret. Not to me. Fan Fiction, in case you’re wondering, is fan-written fiction, or, according to Wikipedia:

“Fan fiction is a broadly-defined term for . . . stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator. Works of fan fiction are rarely commissioned or authorized by the original work’s owner, creator, or publisher; also, they are almost never professionally published. Because of this, many fan fictions written often contain a disclaimer stating that the creator of the work owns none of the characters. Fan fiction, therefore, is defined by being both related to its subject’s canonical fictional universe and simultaneously existing outside the canon of that universe.”

It’s gained popularity and notice in recent years, especially with authors such as JK Rowling, Naomi Novik and Stephanie Meyer being supportive of fanfiction, and with authors such as Anne Rice, Anne McCaffery and George RR Martin against the practice. I’m going to examine the reasons why it’s good, and also the reasons it’s bad to write fanfiction.

Since I’ll make the argument for, I’ll start with the reasons why authors discourage fanfiction and why I think it’s rubbish.

+Copyright Infringement: Many authors argue that fanfiction is a form of copyright infringement. The characters are theirs, the story and plot are theirs, and they do not wish their created story and characters to be distorted. While I understand the protectiveness many authors (myself included) over their characters, I also think it’s a bit silly. I tend to think of my characters as actual thinking entities to some extent, but they are still just that. Characters. Fanfiction authors rarely make any money on their works, and are only doing it for their own entertainment. To me, it’s kind of like a singer getting mad about someone singing their song badly or getting the words wrong.

+”Not a good exercise for aspiring writers”: This reasoning is given most notably by George RR Martin, and I disagree wholeheartedly. Fanfiction writing allows you to practice writing in a manner that you are unfamiliar with. With characters that are not yours, in a world that is not yours. To be a good fanfiction writer, the characters (whether they are canon or an ‘OC’ (Original Character)) have to be believable, the world has to be consistent, and it is actually far harder to keep someone else’s character ‘in-character’ than it is to keep your own character consistent.

Those are the two biggest arguments, and while I do believe they have valid points, I stated why I think they’re silly. Writing fanfiction is fun, easy, and in my opinion, a great exercise. It’s a great way to get fans excited about a story, and a great way to get excited about writing.

I would never have considered myself a writer if it weren’t for fanfiction. The desperately silly mary-sue filled self-inserts from my elementary school years evolved into stories in their own rights, separate from the trappings of someone else’s fictional stories. So much so that many of them you would be hard pressed to find their inspiration. In the same manner that fiction evolves, so do does writing.

I was a terrible writer when I was younger. An avid reader who longed to pen a novel, but all of the times I spent practicing my skill were disappointing, leaving me with a sinking feeling. No one would want to read this, I told myself. So I wrote fanfiction. Stories were it didn’t matter if no one wanted to read them because they were more for me, anyways. I would never get them officially published and at best, they would sit online and get read by the occasional fan, and at worst, they’d get tucked away in my notebook.

Fanfiction writing built my confidence. I published my stories on fanfiction.net, and I was amazed to actually get reviews when it started. Ten years I’ve been writing and sharing my fanfictions, and improving my writing with fanfictions.

In addition to improving my confidence, it has improved my skills. I test out a lot of writing styles, story ideas and specific sort of scenes. I have used fanfiction to figure out different ways to write fight scenes, for example. Story details, character traits and different styles can be toyed with in fanfiction, where details such as the setting, characters or history may already be established enough that you only need to worry about the details that you are trying to work on.

Because, in the end, fanfiction is fun. That’s part of why it’s so much fun to write fanfiction, and why I’ll support the writing of fanfiction when it comes time to publish a novel. Even if they end up butchering my characters.

Novel Info (for fun)

So I mentioned in my last post that I was creating races for one of my novels. Well, first off, I’ll inform you: It’s not just a novel. It’s a world that I intend to have more than one novel set in. Including a series of short stories following around a character named Mairwen.

Mairwen’s story is set some 100 years before the novel I am currently writing. Yes, they tie in, but only marginally. As a matter of fact, these two plots started as vastly different as two fantasy based stories could be.

Mairwen’s story was meant to be a low-magic based fantasy, with her, very cliche’d, as a member of a rare race of magic beings. Focused more on episodic struggles than anything large and epic.

Alyse’s story (the novel), was originally meant to be a send in to Wizards of the Coast for their Forgotten Realms setting. When the landscape of Forgotten Realms changed drastically to tie in with fourth edition, my story ended up being a moot point.

Both stories were put aside for quite some time. Until I got the insane idea of  combining both of them. Yet somehow it’s been falling into place quite nicely. Tying in the stories in a way that makes sense gave me some issues at first, of course. Especially since I didn’t want either main character to be related to any of their party members.

So off to create a world (that currently has no real name) for stories that cater to a variety of characters. With plenty of subtle and overt social commentary and fantastical adventures!

I will be posting bits and pieces of the story’s information on here, as well as short stories that will introduce the characters and the world. Why? For fun.

Issues with Culture Creation

Culture is one of those funny things that never quite goes as planned when you’re busy creating it. There are many ways that you can create a culture, and while many of them will vary from one issue to another, and different methods will work for different people and stories, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Well, I suppose making blatant and obvious stereotype cultures may be considered a wrong way, but in some stories, it could actually work. I guess.

Regardless, the biggest issue with cultural creation is believability.  You can have a lot of leeway with it, of course, because there are already so many diverse and sometimes strange seeming cultures that exist in our world today, but you have to balance the strange with a sense of familiarity. You must make it so that, while some of your readers don’t understand it, they could see it as being an actual culture. At least in your world.

When it comes to fantasy realms, this can get tricky. You may be inclined to create outlandish cultures that, in the end, are entirely ridiculous and unbelievable. Maybe that’s the point? But your readers may not like it, and it may be hard to create a realistic character that comes from that culture.

Especially when you want to play with something that it a touchy topic in our society. The story is a dark fantasy, and I have been determined, thus far, to include realistic magic in the setting. Now, when I say realistic magic, I don’t mean that I am going to try and over explain all of the magic in every instance to cry to the reader “look here! this could happen!” but rather to instill a sense of reality in the fantastic, because I get rather annoyed at the whole “oh it’s magic, anything can happen” hand-waving nonsense that is in so many fantasy novels.

Largely because I like an explanation, so I, personally, know where the limits are for the magic. What can and can’t be done. So when you’re trying to include realistic magic with the purposeful idea that a race does not sexually reproduce, you may hit a snag. I know I did. I am still trying to figure out a mostly realistic reason why this primarily homosexual race will keep on living without delving too much into the fantastic and strange.  I’m still swimming with ideas of how to achieve this without any real conclusion. It doesn’t help that I already know that the idea of a culture that considers heterosexuality a sin to be something that people will at first only see as a badly pieced social commentary.

So excuse me while I figure out how to incorporate social commentary with magic and realism, and prepare for some introductory pictures of the races that I’ll be including in my story. 🙂