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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

One of my favorite aspects of the internet and the age of social media is the creativity that comes with it. Specifically, I love finding spaces where like-minded people can come together, talk, create, and support each other in their passions. 

For me, that digital dreamland is the world of fanfiction. For those who may not know, fanfiction is “fictional writing written in an amateur capacity by fans, unauthorized by, but based on an existing work of fiction”. By nature, fanfiction has a ton of freedom due to it not being affiliated with the original work. The beauty of it, in my opinion, is that it gives the author total control of the characters. There really aren’t any rules when it comes to fanfic, and because of that, many different types of fanfiction have been created. Let’s take the world of Harry Potter for example, you can write about let’s say Draco and Hermione falling in love secretly at Hogwarts behind everyone’s backs. That would be an example of classic fanfiction. The author uses established characters within their original ‘universe’ but places them into a plotline they weren’t originally a part of. Or, you can plop them into the middle of a zombie apocalypse and have them fall in love there! That would be an Alternate Universe or ‘AU’ fanfic. Fanfiction can quite literally be whatever you want it to be. Some lovers of fanfiction have pointed out that due to the ‘no-rules’ aspect, you can help diversify historically unrepresented groups in mainstream media. Taking it back to the world of Harry Potter, we see this a lot in the vast amount of fans who have chosen to fan-cast Hermione as a Black girl in their fanfictions and fanart. Or, In the world of Supernatural, a popular TV series, there’s a trend setting up two male characters, Dean and Castiel, to fall in love. Fanfiction is a place where your thoughts, opinions, or wildest wishes can come true- so long as you or someone else writes it down. But when it comes to writing about celebrities, things get a little unclear. There is some discourse on whether or not it’s ethical to write real people fanfiction, called RPF for short. One side argues that RPF is disrespectful and intrusive. They find it morally grey to use a real person and ‘manipulate’ them to fit into whatever plot you want. The other side argues that it’s simply fiction, and the use of a celebrity is more to ‘set the mood’ for the story by honing in on the vibe the celebrity gives off. One example of this that sparked controversy in the fanfic world, was a Harry Styles fanfiction that painted Long Hair Harry Styles (the girls that get it, get it)  as a moody, toxic boyfriend with an extremely traumatizing past. The fanfic? After, which is now a published book and movie series. I was an active reader back when this series was being updated weekly on Wattpad, a popular app where authors can self-publish their works which makes it an ideal platform for fanfiction. The storyline we have now, with name changes like Hardin and Zed, shows us a young couple that is somewhat toxic and has an on-again/off-again relationship. Whereas back in its original form, we saw Harry and his friend Zayn bet on the virginity of a naive college freshman, and in the end, Harry falls in love with her. Obviously, for publishing reasons, the author had to alter not only the names of characters but also the essence of the plot- we love not promoting unhealthy relationships to your young and impressionable audience! But fanfiction at its core, originated because the fans wanted different stories for their favorite characters. It all began back in the 60’s with the Star Trek fandom. Young women wrote and published their own stories of Kirk and Spock falling for each other, in fanzines (fan-created magazines) and mailed them out to other members of the fandom. This also means that we owe the beautiful creation of fanfiction to fangirls- my all-time favorite fact! This leads me to my next point about why I love fanfiction so dearly: it’s by the women, for the women. Fanfiction is a mostly female-dominated space, which can make it a safe environment for women to explore their interests and share them with like-minded peers. But the feature that makes fanfic so amazing: it’s free. All the major platforms where you can find fanfic, Wattpad, Archive Of Our Own (more commonly known as AO3), or Tumblr, are all free to use. You can read at your leisure or write a 1,000-page novel from your favorite device- all for free. Accessibility, diversity, understanding, safety, and most importantly, community, are all things you can find when you dive into the world of fanfiction.

So, if you’ve ever finished a book and felt sad that it ended, or gotten sick of watching the same three seasons over and over again, just wishing for something new, I urge you to make an account on AO3 or Wattpad. Go ahead and create, or discover, whatever new world you want with your favorite characters! 

Randi Heth

Illinois State '25

Hey! My name is Randi and I'm a Junior at Illinois State, majoring in Secondary English Education. In my spare time, I like to read romance novels, obsess over Harry Styles, and spend time with the people I love. Follow me on Instagram @ran.della25