Fan fiction. We've all heard about it. Sometimes spoken of proudly, other times spoken of derisively. Many people believe that the fan fiction world is filled with poorly written tripe penned by angsty teenagers who write yaoi sex and practice self insertion when it comes to “original” characters. The truth is that fan fiction is as varied as original fiction, and can be either well written and entertaining...or badly written and plodding.
I admit it. I've been writing fan fiction for almost 30 years. I started when I was around 8 or 9, using my favorite stories and putting characters – who I will admit were based somewhat on me - into them. I didn't even know it was called fan fiction. To me, it was a way to keep enjoying my favorite stories even after I'd finished the books.
I continued writing stories based on my favorite movies, cartoons, and books on top of writing my own original stories as I passed through childhood and up into my teenage years. I will admit to writing some big Mary Sue's into my fan fic. But I was a very lonely young woman and the friends I made inside my head as I adventured with my favorite characters gave me some sense of society.
The first time I heard the term “fan fiction” was when I was in my early twenties. It was then that I realized what I'd been writing for all those years. I also found out I could put it online if I wanted to. I put a few short things online, but for the most part I kept my fan fic to myself. I shared a few pieces with close friends, but that was it.
In my late teens and early twenties, I also engaged in role playing as a form of fan fiction. My best friend and I created original characters and inserted them into many different worlds. We would spend hours together role playing these characters, and loved every minute of it. Even now, we still have occasional inside jokes based on those years of role playing.
I know several authors – both traditionally and self published – who used fan fiction as a way to stretch their creative muscles. The rules were there for them to work with, but they could act freely within those rules. It gave them a way to warm up and get their creative juices flowing so they could pursue their own original stories with an idea of how things worked.
I still write fan fiction. I call it “fluff”. I have probably a dozen stories started based on my favorite movies, books, and anime. None of them are finished. I strongly doubt any of them will ever be finished. I'm certainly not going to try to publish them anywhere. But sometimes, when my own work isn't going anywhere, I'll skim through the fan fic pieces and see if one catches my eye. I'll put in a page or two and then be ready to start fresh on my own original work.
Teenagers aren't the only ones writing fan fiction either. Adults do it too. Sometimes writers in both age groups can come up with some pretty amazing things. In many cases, the things they write are just as good as the author they're basing their work on.
I don't see fan fiction as necessarily a bad thing, so long as the writer has no intention of selling their fan fiction (that is obviously fan fiction) as their own work. The rule of writing fan fiction really is “don't ask for money for stories set in someone else's universe unless you have that person's permission and a legal contract has been drawn up allowing it.”
I personally find nothing wrong with writing fan fiction, as long as it isn't for financial gain. It's a way of continuing the story when it ends. It's another way for fans to express how much they love a piece of fiction – be it a movie, a TV show, or a book.