Last week I announced that I was going to be reviewing community created content for roleplay games and I intimated that I would write a post about fan fiction given there is a relationship. So, here it is.
Fan fiction is a label that evokes quite a strong response in a lot of people, and in all honesty, it isn’t always a favourable one. It is my belief that a large portion of the reading community is dismissive of Fan Fiction as a genre, or even writing. How hard can it be to come up with a story in a world that already exists with existing characters, after all? It isn’t proper writing if you didn’t invent the characters yourself? Right?
Let us have a look at why people seem to dislike fan fiction and we can answer those questions.
Quality of Writing
There is a perception that fan fiction is the playground of amateurs, and as a result it is poorer quality writing. I have read fan fiction. Some of it is very poor quality. However, I have read other pieces of general or genre fiction that are just as bad. I have also read fan fiction that is of very good quality. The quality of writing is independent of Genre, and entirely dependent on the effort and skill applied by the writer. For this reason I no longer dismiss Fan Fiction as a pool of poor quality prose. (Once upon a time, I did)
It is all about Sexual Fantasy/Wish Fulfillment
No it isn’t. Some of it is. And if it makes a person happy to write about their fantasy and then let other people read it, then where is the harm? (Unless the fantasy itself is harmful, in which case seek expertise from someone other than a blogger who blogs about writing…). Personally, I wouldn’t want to write about and share this material, but then I don’t really understand the selfie phenomenon either(unless the picture tells a story). The point here is that it isn’t all about the writer’s fantasy. Sometimes it is fun to take an existing canon and ask “What if…?”
There is no skill or art involved in writing about pre-established characters
Are you sure about that? Write a couple hundred words about your living room. Did you get good prose on your first draft? (I am presuming not). If you decided to actually spruce the language up a bit, was it easy? (About as easy as any editing?) Just because something is pre-established doesn’t make it easy to write about.
One of the things you need when you are writing is passion for your story, and it is my observation that fan fiction, whilst not always polished, is not lacking in passion for the subject. Is it not just as hard to write a character that already has pre-established ground rules that other fans will challenge if you break?
And to say there is no skill in writing a character that may exist as part of another media is flat out wrong. If you are writing based on a TV series and the character has a trademark style and demeanour, you have to convert something visual into something described. Imagine someone trying to write a fan fiction in response to a video game, or roleplay game. How do they do that? A story is going to appear clumsy and dull if your post apocalyptic hero keeps finding ammo crates and medkits in the wilderness. And how do you portray your RPG character who spent an hour of the game talking to other characters in one room, in no particular order, all of whom patiently waited for you to come talk to them. The writer needs to find a way to make their work more compelling than that. The point here being that sometimes you learn new skills trying to convert one form into your writing. (This has certainly been my experience)
When I started University I was given the impression that my favoured genre, fantasy, would struggle to achieve the same marks as general fiction. I decided I was going to ignore that warning. I wanted to write fantasy and I wanted to write it well. Good writing is good writing regardless of genre (and the opposite is also true). I think the point I am making to the novice (or any) writer is that if Fan Fiction is your thing, then don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t a worthy genre. I would also say that just because some folks look down on it doesn’t mean you should treat it with less care than you would literary fiction. Write your story and edit it to good quality. Don’t give folks free ammunition to shoot you down.
To the readers, I would say, judge a story on the merit of its words and not the category you find it.
The relationship between reader, writer and finished story is built on respect. The writer’s respect for the reader and story by telling it with passion, knowing the source material, and making it the best it can be; and the reader’s respect for story and writer by judging on the merits of the finished product and not the labels with pre-judgements attached.
There is enough negativity in the world already. We writers and readers don’t need to add to it. Let us create good stories worthy of being read, and let us enjoy those stories realising that fan fiction is not a shortcut.
Have you, in your reading or writing, come across any other forms of fiction that are considered sub-par? Share in the comments and let us have a chat.