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Fan Fiction compared to regular stories

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by srebak, Mar 31, 2015.

  1. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    This has concerned a few times in the past; how does fan fiction compare to regular original stories?

    For a while now, I've been under the impression that writing a fan fiction story doesn't really compare to actually writing an original novel. That's why whenever I'm watching a movie, TV show or documentary relating to authors like J.K. Rowling or Rick Riordan, or trying to get into the Spirit of Black History Month by writing something to feel like an African-American author, fan fiction never feels like enough.

    Any thoughts on this?
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.

    I guess how I'd frame it is that to a greater or lesser degree, fanfiction is commentary on the original work. It can be as large as "This is what would happen if the villain survived and had to face the consequences of his actions," or as small as "This is how two characters might fall in love." It's a writerly endeavor, but n some ways you could also see it as a readerly approach, comparable to writing reviews or critical essays.
  3. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    I think Feo hits a lot of the important points - fanfiction is both a writerly and readerly occupation, and any individual producing it can fall anywhere on the spectrum of motivations for producing the piece, from "I want to write a thing" to "I want to comment on a piece of this media". However, I think original fiction also has both aspects, inasmuch as we all write within the context of the genre and media as a whole as it exists right now for us. I might think, "There aren't enough women in fantasy right now!" and write a story about a rollicking war party of lady mercenaries - as a response to media, that's sort of fanfiction. Except it's completely original. (...or is it? Is there anything original in the world? :D)

    For me, fanfic was a great way to put in a lot of hours and words on stories that had immediate and responsive readership. I could write a story quickly, because I was building on established character, world and plot, and then I could get it out to an eager audience who would give me their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the piece sometimes within minutes. Sometimes I got hundreds of responses to a story. I'm still getting responses today to stories I wrote years and years ago. And that's a really powerful motivation to write more, write better, write interesting.

    Fanfic cops a lot of stick - sometimes from the authors of the media that's being fanned - for being cheap and not real writing, because of that leverage of established elements. There's a view that you're not really creating. But there is also scope within fanfic for immense creativity, and for learning every aspect of the writer's art - you can put the characters in new situations and scenarios, you can bring in new and original characters, or you can even write "alternate universe" (AU) stories, where the author takes - for instance - the Ghostbusters characters and turns them into a band of down-on-their-luck mercenaries, and writes a story about their adventures. In the process, the author creates a whole new world and a whole new story. In fact, you could probable change the names and publish it as an original story. So where's the lack of creativity?

    But I feel strongly that fanfiction doesn't have to involve a certain percentage of new creativity in order to be "acceptable". People have various motivations for playing with words, and as long as we're all having fun and meeting our own motivations - and as long as no one's intellectual property or income is being infringed - then it's all good.
    Reilith likes this.
  4. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    "There is a degree to which…all literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction. Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us…we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers—should we be lucky enough to find any—some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss."

    ~Michael Chabon
    SM-Dreamer likes this.
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I usually think of fan fiction as more of a practice exercise. It's a good way to isolate something you want to work on because the rest of the creative work is done for you. It's easier to jump in and get started without investing too much into the work.

    Unfortunately, in practice a lot of fan fiction is poor writing done by people who are very interested in the fandom but not very interested in writing as a craft. But truthfully it's all in what you make of it. You can write a phenomenal piece of fan fiction or use it to springboard into something cooler than the original.
  6. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    As a writer whose roots are fanfiction, and as a person who still reads them and occasionally writes them even now I can say a couple of things.
    First I completely agree with cupiscent - whatever people say about fanfiction not being real writing, they are only half right. I've read some pieces of ff that were more involving and had more solid plots than some original books. It is hard to write ff, exactly because of those things people say they are easy - you already have established characters and worlds. But that is the point. It is like a prompt, a boundary, that you must honour so you don't go ooc. It is a difficulty different than the one creating your own world and rules. It is a challenge to keep yourself within those boundaries and still produce something valuable and worthwhile. And then there are AU fics, where you can create or reimagine anything, but still include the character boundary. It is another challenge to tell a compelling story and stay true to source material, or invision the change in characters - how would they react to this or that? It takes a lot of effort to do that without messing up, so it is more uplifting when the community tells you you did a good job. And, ultimatelly people like to see their favourite characters in situations that are impossible in the original work. Whether it is a smutfic featuring two characters getting it on in a one shot installment or a multichapter work involving anime swimmers in a cyberpunk fantasy space setting, if done correctly it is an amazing piece of written fiction, no less valuable than the original written word.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
  7. Antaus

    Antaus Minstrel

    I write both original work and fan fiction and I can at least tell you why I write some of them in my own opinion. It started out as boredom for the most part. I wrote a one off fan fiction because I had nothing better to do and the original character who was the focus of it kinda jumped up and smacked me in the face so to speak. He became really popular with both me and a small fan base of readers. Fan fiction is easier to write in that there is already established material yes, however that's not why I do it. I write a lot of AUs with OCs and so forth because I just like fan fiction. I doubt I'll ever stop writing it completely.

    However I disagree with people who say fan fiction isn't real writing, creating a piece work that people will actually read and not consider crap, or too far out of character compared to the original can sometimes be HARDER than writing an original story because you're working without someone else's characters, ideas, and setting. That's what I saw to people who accuse fan fic writers of not really writing.
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I have read some amazing fan fiction and wouldn't say it's not real writing. It's all in what you make of it.

    But I'm going to repeat what I said about it usually being more of an exercise because, if I want to work on something, I do try and find an exercise that's harder than my main work. Fan fiction does exactly that - it removes some of the work, especially ideation, and lets you focus in on what you want to focus on.
  9. LadyUmbranox

    LadyUmbranox New Member

    Some really great points above.

    Fanfiction falls all over the place in terms of quality. Some are fluff pieces and just for fun, while others are building off the canon piece to continue a storyline or explore something the original didn't, and then others are experimental pieces that use an existing character and world base to create something new. There is some really, really good fanfiction out there (just as there is ffic that may not be as well developed).

    I think in response to your original question, fanfiction is usually an exercise to answer a "what-if" question. You've just finished an amazing TV series, but there's that one character who really grabbed you, so you want to explore his/her future. Fanfiction is a fun way to do this.

    It's also a great writing exercise. With the world already built, you can focus on the prose, and strengthen the writing skills you already have. It can also be a great way to build a fan base for your own work, if you have the time to put into fanfiction as well as your own writing.

    If I want a good quick read, I'll usually check out some fanfiction. I've really fallen in love with some stories I've read over the years, and of course, when I was younger ffic was pure gold to me ;)

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