My favourite novel from 2017 was Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, which is about a girl who is obsessed with a fictional world, much like that of Harry Potter, and who writes fan fiction about it which is almost more popular than the author’s books themselves. It reminded me of a time when I honed my own writing skills on Everquest fan fiction. Although I limited myself to the world created for the game, fan fiction writers write about almost anything under the sun, from erotic Twilight spin-offs to alternative Buffy endings and crossovers between Shakespeare and Star Wars.
You may wonder why anyone would spend their days writing about characters and worlds they could never call their own. In my case, I enjoyed documenting and embellishing my adventures in Norrath and the stories serve as a fun reminder of the good times I had playing that game and of the friends I made there. Others like to explore the worlds of their fandoms a little bit more even when the official series has long since been completed or cancelled (oh, Firefly, how we miss you!).
Writing fan fiction is oddly liberating. There is no pressure to write well from anyone but yourself, and the world and characters have already been established, so you only need to take the story further from there. You don’t have to invent something completely new, but can build on the existing lore to explore your fandom further or from a different angle. As long as you stay true to the core of your chosen fandom, you can be as creative as you like. It’s a good way to learn the craft and mechanics of writing without being too serious about it.
Another appealing aspect of writing fan fiction is that you automatically have an engaged audience who love the story (or at least the characters and the world) as much as you do. If you publish your fiction on a reputable fan fiction site, chances are someone will read them and, if you’re lucky, engage with the story and leave comments. That kind of interaction is incredibly rewarding and motivating. You’ll be able to meet and converse with people with the same interest and, perhaps, learn a little more about what makes a good (or bad) story.
If you’re a budding writer with a passion for a particular fandom, or if you’re currently struggling with writer’s block and need a creative boost, or you want some validation from readers, then perhaps you should consider fan fiction. No matter what others may think about the value or quality of the genre, there’s no denying that it can help you hone your writing skills and perhaps even build an audience for your future original work. And hell, it’s fun, and writing should always be fun, or else why bother?
Do you write or read fan fiction? Why? What is your chosen fandom? Feel free to link to some of your fan fiction in the comments below.