Writing Fanfiction: Helpful or Harmful?


There’s been a frenzy sweeping the internet and fandoms everywhere for quite some time now: Fanfiction.

For those of you who don’t know (if you even exist), Fanfiction is when fans of a TV series, book, movie, etc. write their own stories based on the fandom; their own events and ideas, and occasionally one of their own characters is thrown into the mix.

As a massive fangirl who gets way too emotionally invested in TV shows, I spend a lot of time in my head with fictional characters. Lately, said character has been Sam Winchester from Supernatural. I’ve been hooked on this show for ages, and I’ve been binge-watching like crazy. And if I’m not binge-watching, I’m in a daze, imagining my fictional life with Sam & Dean, travelling with them, fighting demons across the globe (Yeah, I’m a dork, I know). I’ve been considering taking this fantasy life of mine and writing it all down, but I’ve never really been one for fanfiction. I’m not sure if it would improve my writing at all, or if it would make it lack luster.

On the other hand, a friend of mine, B, swears by fanfiction. She prefers it to writing original stories, claiming she can never come up with good, three dimensional characters for her own work. With fanfictions, you already know the characters inside and out; you just have to adapt your writing to their personality. I’ve read some of B’s original work, and it’s brilliant. But whenever we talk about fanfiction I can’t help but wonder: Does it help her by exercizing her writing skills? Or is it more likely to keep her from improving her skills writing characters, setting, and the like?

So, without further adieu, here’s The Pros & Cons of Writing Fanfiction, and I’ll leave the decision making up to you.

Pros:

  • Adapting your writing around someone else’s character is a good practice. While I think this can also hold you back (we’ll come back to this in the cons section), it’s a good exercise to get into. When writing your own story, you’ll need to be able to give each character a distinct voice and actions. Practicing this with someone else’s character can be helpful. Write the scene, then go back, highlighting anything they do or say that seems out of character, and fix it.
  • It can make for some great inspiration. Sometimes it’s interesting to take the characters of a show or book series and place them in a different setting, or give them an unusal quirk, etc. Fanfiction writers do this all the time, for example taking characters from a sci-fi or supernatural show and placing them in high school as ordinary people. You can’t claim the characters as your own, but you can take the setting, select events, and apply them to new characters and voila! Your own original story.
  • You get inside a character’s head. Referring back to point one for this one. To write a good fanfiction, you need to think and act like the character. But more than just helping you give them distinct personalities, you can really get inside a character’s head and understand them. Don’t write the character, be the character. Find out what makes them the way they are, what makes them tick. It’ll help you get a better grasp on creating your own characters – you’ll get an idea of what their personality needs to make them go from one dimensional to three.

Cons:

  • When it comes to your own work, you won’t have that starting point anymore. Don’t become too dependent on someone else’s characters and setting. Otherwise, once it’s time to write your own novel, and none of this is mapped out for you, you won’t know where to begin.
  • Another author’s voice might flow into your own. This is my biggest concern about taking up fanfiction. I’m the kind of person who will unconsciously pick up someone’s British accent just after a two minute conversation with them. This is more a problem for fanfictions of book series than television shows. Often times, while writing a fanfiction, you try to make the words flow as though the original author wrote it. You want it to be on point, the characters acting as the author wrote them, the narration being the same as the author’s, etc. The issue is that when it’s time to come to your own work, you might not be able to pick up your own voice again. Worse yet, you might not even realize it.
  • It’s plagiarism in sheep’s clothing. Mind you, I’m iffy on this point. It kind of goes hand in hand with the pro about getting inspiration. People have turned all kinds of fanfictions into best selling novels, making them their own, simply by changing the characters names, settings, etc. Most recently, Fifty Shades of Grey became a top seller, originally a Twilight fanfiction. This is something you need to be careful about though – mind the number of similarities between your fanfiction and the original characters and storyline. If it seems too alike and you’re claiming it as an original, you could wind up with a serious lawsuit on your hands.

Well, that’s my Pros & Cons list. Even after writing all of that out, I’m still on the fence about the whole fanfiction thing. What about you guys? Do you think it helped improve your writing? Let me know in the comments! Now, in the meantime, I think I have time for just a couple of Supernatural episodes before work…

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3 thoughts on “Writing Fanfiction: Helpful or Harmful?

  1. I agree with most of what you shared on this post. As a lover of Korean pop and several T.V shows, I spend my time thinking ‘how would this character have acted in this situation’. I was actually thinking of writing a fanfiction on wattpad. However your post has enlightened me not give up on my original pieces and work harder on them. Awesome post.

    Like

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