Monday Musings | Why Do We So Easily Discount Fan Fiction?

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For some reason, fan fiction seems to have a bad reputation.

Whether this is true of other people or not (let me know if it is or isn’t!), I’ve often found myself reluctant to describe a book or a piece of writing as fan fiction for fear of it being immediately discredited. Over the years, I’ve wondered why that is.

Is it because one of the most famous works of fan fiction in recent years was E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey where she reimagined Bella and Edward’s relationship in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight? Is it because we don’t believe that fans could write compelling stories? Is it because fan fiction is mainly shared on the internet, and we don’t really take the internet seriously?

When I was growing up and in the height of my Harry Potter obsession, I’ll happily admit that I would peruse fanfiction.net for hours on end. (This was before J.K. Rowling officially paired up Ron and Hermione and I was a Harry/Hermione shipper.) I loved being able to see the things I imagined take a tangible form and it thrilled me to think that someone had such similar visions as I did. Though I never took the step to write fan fiction myself, I loved following the creative process of others and will always have respect for it.

Of course, I think the rise of fan culture is helping alter the public’s perception of fan fiction and other fan-made works quite a bit. Books like Sam Maggs’ The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy have been wonderful for that. Maybe, in a few more years, I won’t be scared to label something as fan fiction.

Do you read fan fiction? Do you ever wonder why so many readers are so quick to dismiss fan fiction? Why do you think that is?

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8 thoughts on “Monday Musings | Why Do We So Easily Discount Fan Fiction?

  1. napoleonsplit says:

    This is a really good article. I used to read fanfiction quite a bit, and was incredibly surprised by the talent on fanfiction.net after hearing such negative things. I think it’s a really wonderful way to start writing- you’re not necessarily creating your own story from scratch, and you get to emphasize what you really love (or hate) about certain characters. The feedback and the community that you gain are really wonderful.

  2. Michelle Lynne says:

    Interesting thoughts! I feel that, like everything on the internet, there is always good in bad and the community, and so much of places like FanFiction.Net is full of young kids who are playing around with ideas that aren’t researched or written properly (spelling/grammar), and people take it that “only 12-year-olds write terrible fan stories”. But I disagree – there are so many people who are talented who write fanfiction, and even if it is a 12-year-old writing a 400-word story that makes no sense to the original story/characters, that’s someone exercising their writing skills. That’s how I learned that I love writing!

    There’s also the idea that people are trying to take the author’s work and change the “canon”. But again, once I’m done a series (books or TV), I love looking up fanfiction to see what other directions the story could have gone. It just stretches the imagination of the world of the story!

  3. cricketmuse says:

    For a time I perused Pride and Prejudice fan fiction and then I tired of the whole “riding on coat tails” idea. Then again, wouldn’t Sargasso Sea by fan fiction for Jane Eyre? There is a blur between inspiration, pastiche, and fan fiction.

  4. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    This is a really thought provoking post! I think everyone could pick up and read fanfiction, and because it’s often inspired by someone else’s idea. I remember the old days when I used to write Neon Genesis fanfiction haha (embarrassing)

  5. Naomi says:

    I have to admit that for a long time I didn’t really know what people meant by fan fiction. I think I get it now, but could it be that it’s a generational thing? Do some people discount it because they don’t really get what it is? From your comments I’m getting the feeling that people who have read fan fiction, like it.

  6. Stormy says:

    I think this is always such an interesting topic when it comes up! I think a lot of the discounting of fanfiction is from people who don’t understand what it is, or the sense of community it can foster. There’s this idea that it’s full of poorly written sexually explicit ramblings, and nothing else(an image I don’t think 50 Shades of Grey helped with at all). Of course, you’ll find that in fanfiction — and in published work. The amount of fanfiction is just a little bigger because anyone can write it and publish it, but there’s also a lot of really well-written, thought-out fanfiction stories floating out there(as you can tell, I am team pro fanfiction). I do think there is starting to be a slight shift where fanfiction is more accepted, for a variety of reasons. One, being passionate about fandoms/”nerdy” is more accepted in general now(sometimes even “cool”), and also recently it seems more authors(particularly in YA) talk about how they started writing by writing fanfiction(like Marissa Meyer).

  7. Milliebot says:

    I read fanfiction from time to time. It’s nice to find a story where someone does something with the characters that’s different then expected from the original author. But…. I’m not sure how I feel about published fanfics. Sure, there are some very talented fic writers…yet, you’re playing with characters and/or worlds someone else thought up. At what point does it become yours? Is it right to profit off someone else’s ideas and hard work? I’m really not sure what I think. ..

  8. Melanie Noell Bernard says:

    Oo! I like this discussion post! *runs to join* ^.^

    Alright. I need to start off with: I’m biased. I have read fanfiction in the past and… and written it. >.> Now, I was in high school at the time. My writing ability was trash. So, I by no means plan to support my fanfiction in any way, shape, or form, but I will use it as part of the discussion.

    As stated, my fanfiction was poorly written. This is argument #1 why fanfiction gets such a bad rep. While authors struggle to write amazing books, which they slave over for months (or years) before sharing with the world, fanfiction writers may whip something up in an hour and toss it on the internet without even proof-reading it. When this is a person’s first taste of Fanfic, it leaves a bad taste.
    Now, I’m not saying all fanfic has horrible grammar and spelling, but there is a LOT of it out there. For every well-written fic you’ll read, there’s probably another 100 that are poorly-written.

    Argument #2 why people don’t like fanfiction: explicit details. I’m guessing you can understand what I mean by this, and ’50 Shades of Grey’ is a fantastic example. People imagine these characters, even pure, innocent YA characters, doing things that are highly inappropriate or just down right gruesome(graphic killing included). Some people enjoy that kind of realism. Others are scarred. And it’s even worse when it’s done horribly, horribly wrong. It can be enough to deter people from ever reading fanfiction again.

    Argument #3 for why people don’t like fanfiction: character/world altering. Character altering is the more screamed-about version of this, but basically the fanfic writer ends up altering the characters personality, knowingly or unknowingly. They write the character reacting in a way that is unlike the character in the book/movie/etc. This infuriates fandoms. They think it’s tarnishing the character and mocking the fandom, when it’s simply one person’s POV on the character vs another.

    Now, in saying all this, I don’t mean to make fanfiction sound bad. I read fanfiction once in a while. It’s really fun to read when you’re shipping an OTP, but the OTP isn’t happening in your show/book/etc. Fanfiction is a great place to see how people think your OTP would happen and interact, which makes lots of people happy. Even so, there are many reasons, and many people, who will dislike fanfiction. Unfortunately, most of those people are deterred because of a single (or few) experiences and, therefore, they tarnish the fanfiction name all over the internet. *sigh*

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