3 Major Misconceptions About Fanfiction

So, you watched all 17 seasons of this 2020s top-rated TV show, and let’s face it, it didn’t end exactly how you wanted it to. There were plot holes and storylines that hit a dead end after so much promise. It’s almost too much to bear. In fear that I might start to sound like an infomercial, I have a solution for you. Ever heard of a thing called fanfiction? 

Most people would balk at even the slightest suggestion to read fanfiction — after all, it doesn’t have the best reputation (yes, Fifty Shades and After, I’m looking at you). But, like most things, a few questionable seeds poisons the whole apple. So, with the furious motivation of someone desperate to prove pop tarts are a type of ravioli, let me combat some common misconceptions about fanfiction.

  1. 1. "It's not even real fiction!"

    Woman sits in bed with her phone, a book and a mug.

    I would start by asking what exactly ‘real fiction’ is. Shakespeare turned the ‘elbow’ into a verb and most languages are a mish-mash of other languages. Percy Jackson is arguably Greek Mythology fanfiction, too. The biggest pushback against fanfiction is that it isn’t a real type of fiction. Or that there are too many pieces lost in translation from the source material to the athlete-rivals-to-friends-to-lovers alternate universe sitting at the top of the Archive of Our Own search page. But if that’s the biggest reason not to read fanfiction, I’d say you’re going about it all wrong.

    I would never read a word of Star Trek fiction, fan or not, because the most I know about the universe is that the guy with pointy ears thinks the guy in the yellow shirt is an idiot. Just as someone going to see End Game as their first Marvel movie should know, that’s a really bad idea. Going into fanfiction should be approached like any other genre. Don’t hop in the middle of something you have zero knowledge of; absorb the source material for background and then have some fun.

  2. 2. "All fanfiction is just gay porn."

    New Girl Nick Miller Frustrated GIF

    I hope anyone with this argument can hear me facepalming through the screen. I won’t argue that plenty of fanfictions are rated R, but just like R-rated movies or TV shows, that’s not all fanfiction. I also won’t argue that tons of fanfictions are about LGBTQ+ people, but I implore you to ask why that is. 

    When big-name media distributors fear that their ratings will drop if they add even the slightest sexual diversity, it can leave fans who want that representation feeling frustrated. They turn to other outlets such as editing and fanfiction to explore the relationships or character arcs they never got to see in the original. 

    That’s not to say representation doesn’t exist — it does. Some franchises have done a wonderful job of portraying their LGBTQ+ characters in refreshing and real ways that resonate with large audiences. But, on the flip side, just because there’s representation doesn’t mean it’s good. More often than not minority groups are kept out of the writer’s room; this leaves the narrative lacking. 

    I don’t want any more three-second snippets of LeFou dancing with a man. Or authors pointing out their LGBTQ+ breadcrumbs on Twitter five years after the fact. Or three-episode-long arcs where a character embraces their sexuality and then disappears into the abyss until the series finale. Fanfiction authors give readers an insight into the nuances of relationships that never got the honor to grace our screens or pages. They also create multi-chapter masterpieces — some longer than the source material — where the plot is 10 times better and there’s more representation.

  3. 3. "The writing is just plain bad."

    Woman Wearing Brown Shirt Carrying Black Leather Bag on Front of Library Books

    I'd argue that the same thing could be said about any author. I love to read Shakespeare (yes, in my free time, and no, I’m not crazy), but I know people who reach their limit when asked to read Hamlet. I have no interest in reading Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I've Loved Before, but I can’t get anyone to read Joseph Fink’s Alice Isn't Dead. Some authors are an acquired taste, and some are as popular as it gets. It’s the same thing for fanfiction. 

    And no, I can’t outright deny that there are some questionable writing decisions made in certain stories. But here’s the deal. As a young writer, I got my start on fanfiction websites, similar to many others. It was a good way to set a schedule and write regularly while also getting constructive feedback. Many people do the same thing, and everyone has to start somewhere. The writer with one of the longest recorded fanfictions ever published on fanfiction.net, Christian (AuraChannelerChris), found that writing fanfiction was a “good way to learn English.”

So while these stories aren’t winning a spot on this year’s NYT Bestseller’s list, there are still plenty of reasons to get into fanfiction. Not only is it a fun way to get involved in the fandom of something you already love, but you’ll also be supporting authors who work tirelessly to produce stories. Plus, who doesn’t love a good athlete-rivals-to-friends-to-lovers story?