Every community has its politics. My experience of a writer community has been mostly positive, mostly supportive.I maybe miss a lot of the politics because I’m trying to do this whole writer thing while also trying to do another seriously time consuming career. But I hear grumblings. And these grumblings stick with me, because they seem to be about something that I don’t understand the point of grumbling about: fanfic.
Some people are really negative about fanfic and the role it plays in the writing world. So I’m going to come out today. I am unapologetically pro-fanfic. In fact, in my personal, non-monetary scheme of measuring success, having a fandom and having people write fanfic of something I have created is the pinnacle. To have inspired people so much or to have created characters that people love so much that they cannot help but create more art around them? I lack words to say how important that is to me.
I think people assume that fanfic is written primarily by teenage girls. I hope so. Teenage girls should be writing and should be creating the kind of media they want to see. So much of mainstream media content boxes in teenage girls into archetypes, and if all fanfic was written by teenage girls, then I would celebrating it as much if not more than I do now because it allows them to tell their own stories and become their own writers. Today’s teenage fanfic writers can become the novelists and poets and screenwriters of tomorrow. And that is good.
But this post isn’t (only) about fanfic on its own as something of value. It’s also about how writing fanfic can benefit us as writers. Fanfic, friends, is an incredible training ground.
I am trying to work on my writing craft while I work a job and work through my WIP. I’m working cubed. Working on craft is difficult, because you need to spend time strengthening and experimenting with the various aspects of it until it becomes natural. I don’t really want to do that with my WIP. As an actor, I would work on my craft through scene study, focusing on what particular aspect or aspects I needed to strengthen or add to my toolbox. While obviously a writer can do that by writing their own scenes, fanfic provides characters and worlds that can be used or discarded as needed.
Let’s say that you want to work on creating settings. You can take the characters from your favorite show, drop them into some new world (an alternate universe, or “AU” for the uninitiated) and practice the craft of staging your scenes. You have ready-made characters that you are familiar with, so you know what they look like and how they react to certain situations. Part of the creating and writing is largely taken care of, so you can experiment and explore and train some aspect of your craft. Fanfic can make your training more efficient.
You can also get feedback by posting your works on fanfic sites and getting comments back from the fandom. They already know the characters well, and you are all starting from – more or less – the same place. You have a built in audience with whom you can test your new crafty skills.
Or maybe you don’t post it. Cool. You write it, you develop your craft, and you move those lessons to your WIP. You do you.
Fanfic is excellent training ground. But even if you think all of the above is bullshit and you have your own way of doing things, cool. But I encourage you not to shit on fanfic. Every iteration of Sherlock, every movie based on the works of Shakespeare, hell, every movie based on a book, all of it is just fanfic. And fanfic is good.