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14 Common Misconceptions About Fanfiction

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Here we go ’round again.

Every year or two or three – like completing the spring cleaning or cleaning out your closets – we fanfic writers and readers are forced to justify our work, our favorite fanfics, our fanfic reading and writing habits, and, frankly, it often feels like, our existence.

It’s gotta feel good to know that, despite the unprecedented coverage that fanfiction has been getting from the mainstream media in the last few years, the rest of society still seems to look at us as slightly misguided social misfits.

So once again, in an effort to assert our right to be out and proud, here are

14 Common Misconceptions About Fanfiction

1. Fanfiction is just porn in your favorite fantasy flavor – wizards, demon hunters, detectives, etc.

So what if it is? How does that make fanfiction any different from the thousands of erotic romance novels that get published every year? In what way is explicit fanfic – the most popular genre for reading by the way, but not the biggest category of fanfic produced – less artistically valid than the inevitable sex scene in the latest R-rated film? Let’s not even get into the avalanche of good and bad sex that’s saturated cable television series. And have you listened to the latest pop songs?Why do those mediums get to showcase sex? Why can the creators of those books, movies, TV series, and songs get down and dirty but fanfic can’t? Fanfic writers should hardly be required to blush over sexually explicit work when the mainstream media is making a fortune doing the same thing? Although for the record, fanfic is not all porn.

2. Face it, your – and most – fanfiction is just a heaping, stinking pile of bad writing

Intelligent and well-educated people write fanfic. Yes, too many great stories can be marred by horrible punctuation and grammar. But there are still hundreds of fanfics out there where the prose is so smooth you don’t even notice it. You simply fall into the story.

3. Fanfiction is just an excuse to insert yourself into your own self-indulgent fantasy

Yes, fanfic has some truly wild scenarios (Male pregnancy anyone? Sex with…tentacles? …yeah…). That doesn’t mean this is what the writer wants to or has done (especially with regard to those tentacles – eek!).”Game of Thrones” might have one of the highest body counts on TV but no one seriously believes George R.R. James is out there setting up Red Weddings and murdering folk. It’s fiction. And, just like every other writer, he’s come up with a creative premise and built a long and complex narrative around it – just like fanfiction writers do.

4. Your fanfic just rips off the original creators

This is gotcha criticism all fanfic-hostile folk drag out when they want to lower the coup de grace – or maybe guillotine – on fanfiction as a genre. It’s all supposedly just thievery. * shaking my head *Spoken like someone who has never read or written fanfiction. No one can say plagiarism – as despicable as it is – doesn’t happen. And professionally published authors are justly outraged by it, whether it happens to them or another fellow writer. But you wanna know a secret? Fanfic authors won’t do it.

First, they have too much love and respect for the original source material. Second, they know what they’re getting into when they write fanfic, and if they don’t the fanfic community will quickly school them. We are playing in someone else’s sandbox and we don’t own the toys. We’re just borrowing them for a while. We’re not selling tickets to other people who want experience the sandbox and telling them the sandbox is ours. We understand and make no attempt to profit from our fanfics.

Moreover, two of the largest online fanfiction platforms, Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own have policies that require authors to explicitly acknowledge that the fanfic author makes no claims of ownership to the characters and world used to create their stories. FFnet also keeps a running list of published authors who have stated they do not want others to write fanfiction based on their works. Hence, FFnet will not publish related fanfics.

5. Your fanfic habit is probably compensating for some social or emotional defect

Really? So, fanfic writers are weird but the guy who refuses to change his socks for weeks (ewww!) because those were the socks he was wearing when his favorite team made the playoffs and he’s now afraid to jinx their championship chances by taking them off is normal? Come on! If anybody needs a hobby-related psychiatric intervention, it’s this guy!All fanfic readers and writers may do is hole up in their rooms for hours or days at a time, immersed in their favorite fanfic of the moment. How is this any different from your favorite video gamer? Yeah, you stay on your patch and we’ll stay on ours. Thanks.

6. You can’t possibly be as emotionally invested in your fanfic as real writers are in their work

The truth is some people treat fanfic as an enjoyable hobby, while some people treat it as a passion. While neither group is writing for monetary reward, they do value the approbation of their fellow fanfic writers and readers. There are few feelings more satisfying than getting an email (or two, or three, or 10 or 100!) announcing you have a kudo, a comment/review (hopefully positive) or another subscriber (both Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our own allow readers to subscribe to specific fanfic stories).This is especially true if a writer has busted their ass coming up with a creative scenario and then actually doing the research to make it as believable as possible. That’s not just fun or stress relief at work. That’s passion. Fanfic writers can care as much about their work as the pro writers do.

7. It’s not like your fanfic can ever actually be deep or emotionally complex

Like every fiction novel on the shelves, fanfic runs the gamut in quality and depth. No one seriously expects a romance novel to offer the same emotional depth as Toni Morrison’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.On the other hand, I defy you to keep a dry eye as you read the Sherlock fanfic “Alone on the Water” by MadLori in which Sherlock faces a terminal illness as his loved ones helplessly watch. Oh, did you find yourself on the floor weeping? So sorry! Go ahead, get it all out. We’ll wait…

8. You cannot possibly have anything important to say via fanfic

How do you know? Have you read every fanfic out there? Fanfictions tackle a range of challenging or current and controversial subjects such as transgender identity, bullying, racism and more.

9. You fanfic writers are all amateurs

Believe it or not, some professional writers actually admit to having written fanfiction at one point. Neil Gaiman wrote a Sherlock Holmes/Cthulhu crossover fanfic for an anthology in 2003, “Shadows Over Baker Street.”  And before the success of “The Princess Diaries,” author Meg Cabot admitted she once wrote “Star Wars” fanfiction.

10. You’re just a bunch of kids

We’re not. True, some surveys have reported that the median age of fanfic writers is 15-16, but they are by no means the only ones writing. One fanfic author, excessivelyperky, who has since become a published romance author, previously wrangled spreadsheets daily for her day job. Another actually worked as a college professor. Others can be professional writers – or other types of professionals – who just want to blow off some steam. Fanfic ain’t just for kids!

11. You cannot possibly take fanfiction seriously

Au contraire. Some of us take fanfic very seriously indeed. Not to the point of subsuming all aspects of our life to it. Contrary to popular belief, fanfic writers can take their work seriously and still have a full and active life with loads of people and activities outside of fanfic.

12. You’ll never get a publisher’s interest by writing fanfiction

Now we all know that’s not true. More than one author has transitioned from fanfiction to “real” fic. By now most people should know the story – or is it a legend now? – of “Fifty Shades of Grey” author EL James.“Fifty Shades” began as a “Twilight” fanfic that became wildly popular. Then James realized that if she removed all the “Twilight” elements she’d have a story she could call her own and profit from it – which is exactly what she did. The novel’s popularity led to a three-movie contract deal. The first installment debuted in 2015.

13. You fanfic writers can’t come up with an original thought to save your lives

Again, wildly untrue. Broadly speaking, fanfic writers fall into two camps: those who write canon – neither adding nor subtracting new characters or creating new plot premises – and those who diverge from canon, which requires them to develop new characters and new scenarios.Both however, have to exercise considerable creativity either to create something that can match the quality of canon (true, they often miss the mark) or something more original that readers will find plausible. For example, what do the faculty do at during the summer in Harry Potter? Figuring that out in a way that makes sense, is plausible, conforms to canon, yet still keeps readers engaged takes considerable imagination.

On the other hand, creating something as canon divergent as any one of hundreds of Severitus stories – tales in which Severus Snape rather than James Potter is Harry’s biological father – can also take considerable ability. Getting a reader to buy that premise is no mean feat!

14. Fanfiction is just for children

For our final entry on this list we have the thing that all fanfiction readers love to hate, being thrown in as children.

Whatever your belief, fanfiction is enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether you’re sharing it with your kids, slipping in a few chapters while at work or curled up on the sofa enjoying a few moments, never stop reading.

If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock
If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock

If you love fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of common misconceptions around fanfiction. Whether you love Harry Potter Fanfiction, Sherlock Fanfiction or Avengers Fanfiction, you'll know there's a lot of misunderstanding. Jump into this article to enjoy fanfiction ideas around 14 of the most common misconceptions about fanfiction #fanfiction #harrypotter #sherlock

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terri heard fanfiction recommendations writer

Terri Heard

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Terri L. Heard is a web content writer, former TV Guide assignment editor, and committed fanfic (Harry Potter, Sherlock, etc.) reader and writer who lives in Philadelphia, PA. She is currently working on completing her debut romance novel, (working title) Black Ice. She writes as Librasmile or Tenthsun on Archive of Our Own.

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8 thoughts on “14 Common Misconceptions About Fanfiction”

  1. Interesting thoughts. I’ve been writing fanfic for a while, so it kind of shocks me to hear some of these. I personally don’t see an upfront problem with fanfic. The thing that annoys me is when readers (usually a small amount that have to ruin things for everyone) insist that their story is better than the original, or that the original messed something up, or didn’t “get it right”. Seriously?!? How insulting to the creator. Without them, you wouldn’t have this character/world you claim to love so much.

    In light of that, the only one if these I disagree with is #6. If we’re talking about a fanfic writer loving their writing as much as a real author, of course it’s silly to think they wouldn’t love their work as much. They put a lot of heart into it. But as far as loving the world and characters they’re writing about as much as the original author? I think that’s impossible. Why? Because every character is a part of the person who created them – who wrote about them when they were just an idea, when there was no guarantee of publishing, when no one else cared, when they were on draft ten and still the story wasn’t quite right. That author spent years of their life with that world and those characters before anyone else knew they even existed, and they will spend the rest of their lives with them, every waking moment, whether they write another book about them or not. Fans are certainly invested in characters, but they will never love them as much as their author, who may as well be their parent.

    1. Good point. But when see that some really celebrated fanfics can take YEARS to complete, I can’t help but think that fanfic author has as much love for the characters as the original author. After all, the original author CAN publish their work. The fanfic author really never can, not as it stands. They’ll have to remove anything reminiscent of the original work in order to publish their fanfic. That’s take a certain level of dedication with less reward. But as I said you made an excellent point. Thanks for reading and commenting!