Five Reasons Fanfiction is Actually Amazing
If you’ve heard about fanfiction, but don’t read it I’m willing to bet that most of what you’ve heard is either negative, or you’re just plain confused. But as someone who actually really enjoys reading some fanfic, I’m here to clear up some of that confusion and negativity and tell you why fanfiction is valid writing and you shouldn’t feel bad for reading (or maybe even writing) it.
#1 You get to read exactly what you want!
The main reason most people I know read fanfiction is because it fills a gap that the show, movie, or book has left. In many cases this is a realised non-canonical relationship that you’d otherwise never get to read about, in others it’s interesting plotlines, but mostly it’s just an opportunity to read more about characters you really love. Plus you get to do this in thousands of different ways, from simple canon divergence, to alternate universes, to genderbending – whatever you want, I’ll bet it exists!
#2 There’s representation for quite literally everyone!
Have you ever struggled to find a book/movie/TV show that accurately represents ace, trans, or non-binary people? Of course you have, there’s far too little of it, but not in fanfiction. You can see your favourite characters representing marginalised identities and the best thing is that these versions of those characters are often written by people of those identities and sexual orientations. They’re literally creating their own, more accurate, representations and we need so much more of that in our mainstream entertainment media.
#3 Creators don’t mind – and often support it!
There are definitely exceptions to this rule such as Anne Rice, Raymond Feist, and George R. R. Martin who are either explicitly against fanfiction, or just don’t particularly like it. However, most creators don’t mind, because fanfiction authors don’t profit from their writing and often post disclaimers at the beginning of their works, ensuring that the original creators are credited. Some authors – like J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, and Orson Scott Card – have actively spoken out about liking fanfiction written about their works and most TV shows such as Supernatural and Dr. Who seem to have just accepted that fan writing comes along with their massive fanbases.
Plus, authors such as Neil Gaiman have even admitted to writing some themselves:
Source: @neilhimself on Twitter
#4 There are content warnings for everything
Have you ever got halfway through a book and then read a truly shocking scene that you wish you’d known about beforehand? Because I certainly have. While movies have age classifications that are decided in each country that come with brief descriptions as to why they have that rating, and most TV shows that feature any violence etc., this is still very lacking when it comes to books. Sometimes I’d really prefer to not be surprised by a rape scene, or incest – and while that’s just my personal taste, trigger warnings are actually really important for some people. People with PTSD, depression, anxiety, other mental health issues, or who have simply suffered traumatic events in their lives can be really affected by even briefly reading/seeing graphic depictions of violence, sexual assault, or suicide and that’s not them being ‘snowflakes’ when they speak about being triggered. It’s people speaking about devastating effects that can be caused by this. Fanfiction, however, comes with an extensive list of tags that mean you can avoid potential triggers. For example, the website archiveofourown.org features four major descriptions that it asks all its authors to tag if featured in their works: Graphic Depictions of Violence, Rape/Non-con, Major Character Death, and Underage. Additionally, authors can tag all manner of things and thus can help you avoid what you don’t want, or can’t handle reading.
#5 The writing can be really, really good
Look, as an English student I’ve had to read a fair amount of books in my time and I really, really hated some of them (looking at you Vladimir Nabokov) and while people like EL James – who wrote 50 Shades of Grey, which started out as Twilight fanfiction – have given fanfiction a notoriously bad reputation for terrible writing (I mean her’s is genuinely bad writing), you’ll be amazed at how good the prose in many of the works are. Also, before you say that all fanfiction is awful nonsense written by 12 year old girls, please remember that if we’re calling fanfiction writing that is based on previous works and using its characters for a new, or canonically diverging story then John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ is totally fanfiction based on the Bible and yet it’s lauded as one of the greatest pieces of writing ever produced.
Source: Google Images
So what are you waiting for? There are literally thousands of works waiting to be read, some of them in excess of 200.000 words (for comparison, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone only has 76.000) and honestly, if you’re just judging people who read fanfic, instead of doing it yourself, you’re missing out! So go home, pull up a chair and let yourself get lost in a sea of feels!