Do You Like Fanfiction?

You know I’ve been meaning to talk a bit about fanfiction for a while now. I was going to touch on the subject when I wrote about copyright and scanslation but honestly the intellectual property issues of fanfiction are fairly complex and a lot of the details are up for interpretation. So I decided against it. But I still wanted to explore the general subject of fanfiction as it is sort of complementary to anime fandom.

Actually, fanfiction is a pretty big part of all fan communities, but I m going to stick to what I know a tiny bit about. Anime…not fanfiction…

watching anime

although anime still often baffles me

I do know more than a few bloggers that were around when I started and have since migrated to archive of our own because their true passion was in crafting their own stories about beloved characters rather than analyzing them. I find that admirable! I am not a creative person so I am impressed by those who are.

And I can clearly see the appeal of fanfiction. It allows authors and readers alike to revisit universes and characters that are dear to them. It also presupposes that the readers are already familiar with all the bases of the story so you can skip over all the exposition groundwork and concentrate on the action. With premade characters an author can simply smooth out rough edges to make them really shine which is easier than crafting a whole person from the ground up and more likely to yield a consistent and well rounded character.

And I know fanfiction has a bit of a spotty reputation. I know why. Let’s just say it’s not always the best examples of the genre that have become widely known. But can we really judge fanfiction by that. We’re ANIME FANS…

Haiyore

I feel like I’ve had the exact conversation illustrated in this screencap a dozen times

For my part I know that a lot of my favourite authors (published, celebrated, award winning ones) have at some point experimented with fanfiction. Although it’s not quite recognized as the same thing, I’m a huge fan of modern retellings of fairy tails and myths. Those types of stories share a lot in common with fanfiction and could even fall in the category.

Point is fanfiction is a perfectly respectable form of fiction that has yielded some great works and nurtured definitive talent. And I don’t read it.

O.k., that’s not entirely true. I have and occasionally I still do. I really enjoy independent and amateur authors. I read a few doujin every day. but when given the chance, I will choose amateur works with original characters and settings. I am not sure why. And I’m curious about it.

I think for me, one aspect is perception. I do a lot of reading between the lines. I think people who read my anime reviews have probably noticed this. It’s just the way I am. My imagination runs free and fills up any narrative holes I can find so that someone else’s interpretation often comes with some dissonance which I find distracting. This often makes me enjoy a story less than I would otherwise.

Index meme

I think another reason is that I’m one of the few people that really enjoys the set up of stories. Often more than the action or conclusion parts and you don’t really get that we pre-established fictional universes much. Because they’re…pre-established. I mean one of the greatest strengths of fanfiction is that you can get right to the core of the story you want to tell because all the world and character building foundations are already in place.

These are not hard set rules though. Talented writers can take a good character and make it great. Use that extra time to add complexity and nuance that wasn’t previously developed for lack of time for instance. They can take a great premise that yielded a bad or boring series and give it the treatment it deserves. They can allow us to have further adventures with our favourites. Really there are a lot of possibilities to fanfiction. It’s not that fundamentally different to a sequel (or prequel). And I’m a staunch defender of sequels. If there is more story to be told, I say go for it.

So while I do know why I am more attracted to original works, I really don’t understand why others would dismiss fanfiction as a concept. You can be weary of the execution but that holds true for original works as well.

anime snob

or is there another reason?

So why am I going on about this. Well I know a couple of fanfiction authors. Some of them are quite talented. Some are imaginative of witty. Some are improving. Basically like all authors. But even they often have a bias against the art. I remember comparing a series to a good fanfiction and the person I was talking to immediately assumed that was an insult. I really wondered why.

I get that the general audience think of fanfiction as weird soft core pornography with questionable writing. I get that. I also understand were this prejudice comes from. But let me repeat myself. We’re ANIME FANS. For years most people thought anime was weird questionably written pornography. Some of them still do. We shouldn’t dismiss a medium based on that.

I guess I wanted to know, do you read fanfiction and if not, why? Is it the amateur status? Have you had bad luck with it. Or is it perception? That’s what held me back for a long time and I’ll admit you got to get through a whole lot of oysters to find a pearl but there are definitely pearls out there and the level keeps increasing.

Rini 2020 (4)

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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82 Responses

  1. foovay says:

    I have to admit I originally thought of fanfic with some scorn. Some of that does have to do with the copyright issues – intellectual property issues. I’m not entirely sure how I’d take it if I were a writer who created a series that was popular enough for someone to write or draw fanfic about. It would be a strange mixture of hurt and resentment (especially if they were making money off it) and pride and compliment and joy that someone loved my work.

    As a writer, I’ve always written original stories in original settings because that’s just how my mind works. As a reader/fan/watcher I’ve always felt like the stories I loved were, well, perfect and thus sacrosanct and how dare anyone write using those characters and setting. It “messed it up” for me, so I didn’t get into reading them.

    Again, anime was my gateway drug. I’m not sure how it happened but I was looking up something about Mushi-shi and ran onto some fanfic. And read it. And loved it. Now this particular series was someone working in the Mushi-shi world, but they did create their own antagonist to replace Ginko. However, it pried open a crack in my mind. I can never resist a rabbit hole…

    So now I am at a point where I can respect a writer who takes on fanfic. who is willing to put in the work to be familiar enough with the setting and characters to then take them and mold them. To be brave enough to risk putting that work out there for others who also love that setting and characters to read and love or hate or critique. I don’t write fanfic because I think I’m too damn lazy to learn another persons world – easier to make up my own. That’s right – I kind of put myself down as “not good enough” to write fanfic!

    I don’t actually read it as much as I’d like. Part of that is time issue. Part of that is a personal problem in that I find it difficult to sit and read from the computer screen for any extended period of time. I need fanfic on my Kindle Paperwhite so I can lay in bed and read myself to sleep without it bugging my eyeballs. Someone has probably figured that out…

    • Irina says:

      I do have to admit, copyright is tricky here. Mind you fanfiction is transformative most of the time but it’s a slippery slope. And authors must feel like they have no recourse these days as going after fanfiction writers is like to severely alienate your audience which could hurt sales. And that’s not a good position we find ourselves in.

      • foovay says:

        I really have mixed feelings on that. As a writer, my characters become MINE, my babies, and I think it would kind of freak me out if people started sending them places without me. And then OTH it’s a compliment, isn’t it, to have fans so passionate they want to immerse themselves in a world you created. So I wouldn’t blame an author who tried to enforce their copyright, but aren’t fanfic writers also writers like us? The Internet has really brought up some interesting new quirks in the grey area of stealing/borrowing/inspired by – just as sampling once did to music. It should be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

  2. Can I suggest a topic for a post? You should write about how to post material that routinely generates 20, 30, or heck, 60 comments.

    I mean, good heavens! This post came out yesterday, and not counting mine, it has 57 comments!

    It’s like the old joke: “Who’s that standing up there on the balcony in St. Peter’s Square?” “Well, I don’t know who the guy in the pointy hat is, but that’s Irina there beside him!”

    Anyway.

    I enjoy fan fiction, when I can make time for it. I would like to write more of it, but again, I run into that time thing again. Maybe when I retire…

    I agree with Dawnstorm in that it’s hard writing for someone else’s characters. But it’s still attractive. I’ve always wanted to write for series, especially Star Trek. I’m still kicking myself for not buying the Deep Space 9 writer’s bible when it came out. Not that it would have mattered, but it would have been cool to have! But the idea of forcing my brain around someone else’s character and world, then producing compelling fiction in that framework seemed like an interesting challenge.

    • Irina says:

      I don’t know how it happens. Honestly it baffles me but I’m super grateful!
      DS9 had such an intricate deep lore. I don’t blame you for wanting to take a crack at it. In fact it makes me want to seel out ds9 fanfics now

  3. My feelings about it, as a writer as well as anime fan, are similar to yours. Fan fiction is a great way for a new writer to get started because while they have the characters and setting, they still have to figure out how to tell a good story. Once they get that, they’re ready for original stories

  4. Lizzo says:

    I’m written fanfiction, never finished of my fics though. 😂😂😂 I’ve read fanfic on and off for a long time. You’re right there are some really good fics and alot of really bad ones. There are also of strange and taboo topics but them you have canon driven stories of fluff fics. There something for everyone. But based on the wildness i’ve come across just scrolling. I get why people might be against it. i’ve gone on long term breaks based on some of the stuff I come across. But to each there own. I’ve read stories that have fixed Canon plot holes. It definitely be hit or miss.

    • Irina says:

      I think I’m starting to get a good eye for amateur works. I can usually tell if I’ll enjoy it whithin a few lines

      • Lizzo says:

        Nice, I can tell by the summary on most cases. I’ll read a badly written fic is the idea is interesting. The story the most important. the one thing I find super hard for to overlook is characters being are out of character.

  5. I used to read fan fiction a fair bit but I don’t tend to now. Honestly, it’s all due to time. There just isn’t enough of it to be able to as allow me to add to my pile.
    I love that out exists though. I know some creators don’t; while she’s softened on it now, Ann Rice used to actively pursue fan fiction writers due to copyright. Personally though, I’d love to see fan fiction for my work. If someone was writing about my characters, that would mean they made a connection with them. That’s a big thing I think, fan fiction as a way to explore a world you love.

    • Irina says:

      Before Potter, fanfics were pretty taboo. I remember watching a youtube video dissencting the history. I did research…even I’m stunned

      • I always figured they were a good way to practise writing, especially if you preferred the idea of writing in a predefined universe to working on your own. I actually missed seeing most of the backlash back when I was reading Digimon fanfics.

  6. crazyidiot78 says:

    I’ve been known to dabble a bit in the fanfiction space, and it can be pretty crazy if you delve into the deeper corners of fanfiction. There is something for everyone and the 90 10 rule in effect as most of it will be mediocre at best. I tend to find that the more I like a particular series the less likely I am to read fanfictions of it. If I am not a huge fan of the original I am more likely to look at fan fics as I want to see if somone can do it better.

  7. I’m probably one of the more vocal people arguing for it when it comes to fanfic and that’s because my discovery of fanfic roughly crosses over with where I really got into anime and manga. I’m aware it’s often amateur in nature, but then again, we see amateur bloggers and writers in our neck of the woods all the time (and sometimes the works said bloggers and writers produce are awesome and sometimes they’re cringeworthy) so it shouldn’t be so daunting to be an amateur fanfic writer, so long as you’re willing to take on feedback and improve while you still have the passion for fanfic as a medium of expression. Likewise, I think the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey (which infamously had its roots as Twilight fanfic) has really coloured people’s perception of fanfic as “pornographic”, but it doesn’t have to be.

    …Then again, I haven’t written a proper fanfic since mid-2016, so what do I know?

  8. Ever since one of my favorite shows ended last year, I’ve delved into the world of fanfiction to fill the void. What I’ve found has been stories that are every bit as good and fun as that of any published book or show. Sometimes better! Yes, there are fanfics that are garbage, but that’s also a matter of perspective. I’ve even started reviewing a lot of these fanfics on my blog, I love them so much!

  9. Dawnstorm says:

    For me, the medium of fiction is paper. I don’t usually read stories on a screen; never got into the habit. So I’m also not really reading fanfaction, in the fandom sense. I do occasionally follow links. I discovered a Highlander (TV series)/Muppets crossover once, which was fun (The Horsemuppets of the Apocalypse). Of course, established authors play in other people’s universes all the time – happened more often before intellectual property laws. I mean the second of Cervantes’ Don Quijote novels calls out the Don of popular fanfictions of the time as an imposter. I think my favourite novel based on someone elses work is Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea. I always thought the “madwoman in the attic” from Jane Eyre deserved her own story.

    Most online fanfiction seems to be a way to creatively engage with the works people love. It’s a bit more elaborate than merely talking about it, but it’s often in the same ballpark. I mean, a lot of what I say about currently airing stuff in the comments here could easily be expanded into an actual story – alternate timelines, for example, or more often parodies. That’s just how people’s minds work.

    I only tried to write fanfiction once. It’s hard to get other people’s characters right, and this actually bothers me, so writing fanfiction is, in the end, not much fun for me. Too much anxiety. Also, if I add my own characters, they’re much easier to write, and then the stories become unbalanced, in the way that other people’s characters (unless I particularly gel with them) are less vivid than my own, when written by me. That’s unfair to the characters.

    So I’m not really into either side of fanfiction, but I appreciate good fanfiction, in the rare cases I come across it.

    • Maica says:

      I had heard of the title, but I didn’t realize that was what “The Wide Sargasso Sea” was about. Mannnn! Adding it to the list of books to read as a reward (after the next book in the Master and Commander series).

      Hmm… one of the best bits of advice I heard about character development (although it was addressing writer’s block) was to write something that you plan to never ever use.
      Take your character and place them in a setting totally different than your story (their home environment) and watch what happens. For instance, if you are writing a horror, place them in a fluffy romance. Or if you are writing a slice-of-life, place them in something like Lord of the Flies. Watch how they react- this will give you a better understanding of your character, and open up a whole different dimension when you continue to write them in your story.

      The same goes for fanfiction. It is true… you really have to know the characters, otherwise, the story just feels too flat. For really good fan fiction, the author has to understand the characters… maybe that’s why it can be really difficult to totally believe in a fan fiction vs original works.

      That is a really good point, Dawnstorm

      • Dawnstorm says:

        That’s good character advice. It works pretty well for my own characters, but other people’s characters? I’m so afraid of getting it wrong that I draw a blank. I get that deer-in-a-headlight stare.

        It’s also fun to do online quizzes for your characters.

    • Irina says:

      I’ve never tried to write it but I guess it might be hard to get into. Like you’re trespassing or borrowing someone else’s shirt. No matter how great it is, it never looks that great on you…

  10. Maica says:

    I haven’t read fanfiction for awhile, because I don’t even have time to prop open a book for fun anymore (I give myself three books as a golden carrot when I catch up with my studies- it probably won’t happen until the summer, unfortunately).
    However, there was a beautiful, golden time when I had read everything I had wanted in our house and in our public library (it was a very small library).
    This was the time that I would get on live-chats and joined storytelling RPGs, and when I dove head-long into fanfiction.

    I also love myths, legends and folk tales- the imagery of faerie tales alone is so intriguing. What is it about curved staircases, mirrors and skeleton keys? This idea that something leads to another world- it is so familiar, yet promises something on the other side…
    Ah, I love stuff like this (probably too much Twilight Zone).

    I haven’t done any story-telling RPGs, or really any RPGs for that matter, since our epic was shut down. I still have no idea why it was shut down- there was nothing over PG-13 in content. My goodness, it was marvelous though- being able to collaborate with so many people to weave a story. Sure, there were people that showed up merely to announce “I’m a level 9 blue-skinned droe elf with level 30 archery skills,” but the ones who stuck around filled the story with mystery, adventure, and total twists to the tale that I would never conjure on my own.

    Yikes! OK, I am rambling… back to fanfiction. During this time I read a lot of fanfiction- namely, Labyrinth fanfiction. There is a very good reason why the general associates fanfiction with soft porn- I do believe that Labyrinth fanfiction is a huge part of that one.
    However, there were also some incredible authors out there (not that there can’t be good writers who write about such things- just that… no, just don’t) that wrote some incredible fiction.
    Most of the ones that I loved used the whole universe to veer off into myths and legends, especially Celtic. Other areas were ones that wrote short stories or poetry based on the occupants of the Labyrinth (like Mr. Worm, Hoggle, the Fireys and that one creature that taught me the word aardvark).
    There were some that were fantastic about Sarah, but the only one that was any good regarding the Goblin King was K.L. Morgan. She may be difficult to find online now, since she was removing her work about the time I stopped read online fiction, but her writing style was immediately accessible and swept you up into another world. Best of all, she seemed to totally understand her characters- not just backstory, but their psyche, their fears, and what drove them to their actions.

    My goodness, I am feeling so nostalgic just writing this. I miss reading, and writing for that matter…. not to mention melodramatically walking in the forest, quoting Edgar Allen Poe to myself- hahahah! Ah, time well-spent.

    So yes, I was at one time a fan-fiction addict. I am curious as to what is being published now. Are there fanfiction awards? It would be so nice to have others do all the difficult work of selecting the gems and placing them all together- regardless of genre.

  11. Le Fenette says:

    My most (probably) beloved franchise is the Fate one, and it basically thrives off of fanfiction. When every person that existed, exists, and has yet to exist is a viable character; creativity is abound. It also helps that Fate has a concept literally called Parallel World Theory which gives room for various fanfictions to take place canonically. Fate/Apocrypha actually stems from what’s pretty much a fanfiction and was animated in 2017.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The Harry Potter fanfic My Immortal is unironically my all time fav fanfic.
    -K (rogueotakugamer)

  13. Do I read fanfiction? Yes, less now but I still read it occasionally from selected author. I also write some, most of the are pwp, but I have a few that actually have a story line.

  14. Pinkie says:

    Of course if dabble with fan fiction myself. I do think you hit the nail on the head when you sayt we look at fanfiction being hentai the same way as normy non anime fans look at anime as hentai. I think there is some great fan fiction out there. However the odds to find one hang somewhere in between finding a good anime in the pool of anime.. and finding a decent chatter on chat roulette.

    I follow a lot of what if stories, fan comics and other similar content but mostly of bigger youtubers or reckomended by them or stuff I rarely delve for stories myself. I prefer people who do more in a specific fandom and who like really are active in a fandom.
    Having fairly low drive in lusty things or overly complicated relationship thingies there is a lot of fan fic that is not for me, still I can fully imagine how fun writing it must be to them.

    I think that is part what fan-fiction is about.. the urge to create your own story with a existing ruleset and feel. If people respect that feeling you can get some amazing works however if it is used to overule the fandom… like changing how Chakra works to insert a mary sue OC.. than I do not like it. Fanfiction that respects it’s world can be amazing by fans on your level which can provide a stronger connection. So I am all for it, but it’s overwhelming so finding fiction you like is quite daunting.

  15. AK says:

    The only fanfiction I grew up knowing about was badly written self-insert wish fulfillment stuff, the kind that should have stayed in the author’s drawer. So for a long time I had a poor opinion of it.

    I can appreciate that good fanfiction is out there, though. And I do read doujins occasionally, and some of those count, right?

  16. I don’t really read a lot of fanfiction, mostly because I barely have enough time to keep up with original works and those are definitely more were my interests lie.

    That being said I can’t just dismiss fanfiction, the very first stories that I wrote in full prose were Doctor Who fanfics. Said stories will never see the light of day because the writing is cringe-inducing, but they were me working out how to do the whole ‘writing’ thing so I can’t be too mad at them. I’m the writer I am today because of them. I still like a lot of the ideas as well.

    • Irina says:

      OH Dr Who fanfics must rock so much!

      • They were certainly a lot of fun to write. There’s very little that you actually need to adhere to, just the facts of the TARDIS and the Doctor’s history. The rest you’re free to make up as you want, If you do a new regeneration you can even mess around with the Doctor’s personality. To me it was a great sandbox to play around in and try out different writing styles and ideas.

        • Irina says:

          The premise is so flexible and the existing cannon is all over the place. It’s such a loose framework that I bet you can really shape it into whatever you want

          • Definitely. Any show that has 3 completely different and unconnected versions of Atlantis and its destruction doesn’t really mind how you shape it.

            Which does make me laugh when I think about all the people worried that the current series arc could potentially introduce some major retcons. This is Doctor Who continuity is something for other shows to worry about.

  17. As an individual who really enjoys writing my own works, I’m always open to reading works from other amateur writers – all for the sake of finding that shiny pearl you would otherwise never know of. 😉

  18. K.A.L.T says:

    I’ll be honest. I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of anime and manga out there that it never really occurred to me to delve into the world of fan-fiction. However, there are probably two other main reasons I’m hesitant to start reading fan-fiction. For one, I’m not good at reading books or even light novels. The only light novel I buy and read is Oregairu because I love the series to death. If there are manga fan-fictions, I would read them. Although, there comes the second reason. The second reason is well, I don’t actually know where to read fan-fiction. My friends have told me they know of some really good ones that expand on characters from certain series but I just never really get down to reading them cause well… I don’t know where to read them and never went through the effort to do a simple google search to find out. And as far as manga fan-fictions go, (not sure if doujins is the correct term), I have no clue if they exist outside the ones that we don’t really want to talk about in public.

    • There are fanfics basd on manga and anime, that’s what some of us anime/manga fans write. Doujins, if they are fanfic, are essentially in a more manga-style format than usual, but typically fanfic is just the writing (so doujins can come in a fanfic variety, but are not always of that variety). You normally find them on Fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own (AO3), although occasionally you find them in other places as well.

      • K.A.L.T says:

        Thanks for taking the time to explain 🙂
        Although I can’t say for sure whether I’ll check them out, I’ll keep them in mind in case I ever feel like trying to read some ^^

    • Irina says:

      doujin is essentially amatur or self-published manga. Some of it is fanfiction some is origina work. Lots of it is x-rated…but not all

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