Fanfiction Vs. Fiction

Kirk/Spock … fanfiction’s original slash couple?

Fanfiction, or Fanfic: A Definition
Fanfiction is fiction written (duh) by fans in a preexisting universe, with preexisting characters.  I’ve said before that for many emerging writers, fanfic was their training ground.  After an interesting encounter on the web, I want to expand that thought.

One of the worst things about being an author these days is putting yourself out there on the web and meeting — even talking — to other authors.  (Tongue in cheek.  Mostly.)  In an effort to market myself (sigh) I have joined lots and lots of author groups — Facebook groups, message board groups, LiveJournal groups.  Some have worked out great and I’ve learned a lot.  Others — not so much.  I belonged to one group for less than twenty-four hours.  The moderator asked me a question and I responded, in part, by mentioning fanfic.  Another participant asked what fanfic was.  The moderator explained at length in multiple posts that it was (I’m paraphrasing):

  • Juvenile
  • A lazy writer’s way to produce a story without doing any real (conceptual) work
  • A tremendous waste of time
Let me tackle these points one by one.
Fiction runs the gamut.  I have read certified bestsellers by Big Six-published authors that had all the depth, intelligence, and grownup meaning of wet Kleenex.  I have read fanfic that took risks, asked serious questions, and resonated with meaning. To brand all fanfic a juvenile pursuit proves you’ve read little or none of it.
It’s true, some writers have trouble creating believable characters or situations.  If they plan on crafting and selling original works, that’s a problem.  If they are writing and sharing for the love of writing and sharing, how is that lazy? Think of all the TV writers who routinely submit teleplays for this drama or that sitcom.  Think they keep your favorite shows afloat through pure laziness?  They’re doing the same thing fanfic writers do, working within a static framework to add to a particular mythos.
“A Waste of Time”
Now here I could simply point out the obvious — if writing PURELY for the love of it is a waste of time, then everyone (like me) who sells their work is (1) mercenary, (2) an egomaniac, or (3) both.  Yikes.  No fun being summarily judged that way.  And how can writing for the sake of writing ever be bad?

But I’ll go one further.

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of authors discussing their dependence on their editors.  And my goodness, I don’t doubt it.  From what I can gather, some simply type up a manuscript and send it off for that red pen.  They don’t agonize over each phrase. They don’t chop out unnecessary modifiers.  They don’t haul out the dictionary because they KNOW poster #3 will comment, “Um, like your fic but you used ‘torrential’ incorrectly…”

Because fanfic readers are passionate about giving feedback, a writer of fanfic learns not to post until they’ve self-edited to the best of their ability.  Hell of a way to improve your craft — write for the love of it, self-edit obsessively, accept feedback.  What a concept.
I am not down on selling fiction for money (clearly) and I am certainly not down on editors or copy-editors, the most wonderful people in the world!  But I will say this.  I read a lot.  And there are some authors out there whose writing can’t hold a candle to some of the fic writers I’ve sampled.  Maybe because they’re too busy not wasting their time to dare write for the pure love of it.

5 thoughts on “Fanfiction Vs. Fiction

  1. Much fan fiction I've read (and written) is actually better than published fic. My issue is on people who them PUBLISH their fanfic by just changing the names. That's unethical.

  2. @Pavarti Publishing works that began as fanfiction is unethical? Even if it's better than 80-90% of what is currently offered 'officially'? I find that difficult to swallow. Check out any of the big stories, the ones popular right now. Vampires? Done to death (really- and I love vampires!). Medieval fantasy? Been there, bought the scroll. Paranormal romance? If that isn't what Anne Rice was writing all those years then I don't know what it is. Harry Potter? Line that up next to key points in Lord of the Rings and be amazed. We're all inspired by something. Whether it's a novel, a movie, a television show, the newspaper, or just looking out of the window…the reason most of us write is because we see it and think "Now, if I was going to do that it would be like this…."

  3. I think this, as with most of your analytical pieces, is SPOT ON. As a reader and writer (albeit rarely) of fan-fic, I believe in it as a form of self expression, and a way to relieve the frustration from a script writer who doesn't let things turn out the way you know they should have! Fan fiction is as vital, or as lame, as any other sort of fiction. With the amount of self e-publishing going on right now, there is plenty of lame original fiction to choose from, if that's your thing. LOL.

  4. Good way to tackle the put-down, point by point! There are good and bad writers in all areas. Making the effort at all is still better than what might be called, "desk drawer fiction," which good or bad, languishes where no one can ever read it.

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