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15 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Fanfiction Lover

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Okay… Don’t. Freak. Out.

See? Over there? Don’t turn around!! Just…take a little peek out of the corner of your eye. That’s it, nice and easy. There they are. Your best friend, sibling, classmate, whatever. They’re sitting at their laptop, head down, weeping silently.

Slowly, one step at a time, just creep a little closer and check the URL on their browser. Does it say Fanfiction.netArchive of Our Own, or Tumblr? Yes? Relax. They’re not having a nervous breakdown… well, not one that’ll get them legally committed anyway. They may have just read the angst-ridden death scene of their favorite fanfic character. Or they’ve finished reading through the breakup of their one true fanfic pairing. 

You’ve just uncovered the fanfiction lover in your life.

Maybe you knew about their habit all along but just didn’t want to admit how strong it was. Maybe you’ve just been blindsided and don’t want to face it. Are you feeling a fierce need to forcibly drag them away from their computer and outdoors into the sunlight (Hissssssss! It burns, it burns!)? Don’t approach! It’s gonna be aa-aalll right.

Society has evolved. Instead of seeing fanfiction readers or writers as awkward oddballs, with underdeveloped social skills and an unhealthy obsession with their favorite comic, movie, or TV series, fanfiction fans are now seen as a quirky – maybe even disturbingly weird – but still accepted members of society.

Nowadays, it’s okay to be a fanfic fan or someone who loves them. True, ordinary folks still don’t quite get what fanfic is about. There are a lot of misconceptions out there. But you don’t have to hide or hang your head in shame.

However, if you’re still struggling to accept the new reality, you need to know what not to say in order to maintain open, honest, and most of all respectful relations with your fanfiction fan. So, here are

15 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Fanfiction Lover

1. You’re just reading (or writing) porn.

Yes, fanfiction definitely has a lot of explicit material – it’s the most popular among fanfic readers. Fan-created recommendation lists are often sorted into specific kinks. That doesn’t mean fanfiction is just porn. As reported by DailyDot.com, fanfiction, unlike mainstream fic or media, actually takes the time to package its sex scenes with genuine stories and authentic characterizations. In other words, the sexually explicit stories your fanfic fan reads or writes, fanfiction is likely to give you the whole meal rather than just the vegetables or just the meat. Why settle for the crumbs when you can have a whole meal?

2. Why don’t you read (or write) about real issues?

Fanfiction does tackle real issues. Reading or writing fanfiction allows your fanfic fan to work through serious issues such as bullying, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health issues, as well as medical issues, such as cancer, and various forms of abuse. Lately, in the wake of multiple school shootings, young writers have been producing fanfics about this horrific phenomenon.

3. So, you’re too lazy to create your own characters huh?

Your fanfic writer is not being lazy. They’re taking the opportunity to add additional dimensions to the canon creation or explore elements of the original story that were overlooked, underdeveloped, or left unresolved.

4. Shouldn’t you be paying for that?

Fanfic is a community created medium. It’s made by fans for fans, not for profit. In addition, selling fanfic would violate copyright law and take money out of the original creators’ pockets – which true fanfic fans would never do.

5. You’re not reading real fiction.

General level of quality aside, the only difference between pop culture fanfiction featuring Harry Potter, Sherlock and others, and works like author Geraldine Brooks’ “March” (which won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize) is the expiration of copyright.

March is basically fanfiction for the literary classic “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. In the original novel, the March girls’ father is away for much of the story. The book follows the story of their father, his service during the Civil War during which the story is set, and how the war changed him.

“Little Women” was published in 1868 – more than a century ago, which means the copyright has expired. This work is in the public domain and is fair game not only for getting the fanfiction treatment but for an author to actually make money from it – or win prestigious awards.

6. You’re just using it to avoid real life problems – grow up!

Fanfic does help fans grow up. A significant portion of fanfic writers and readers are teenagers. A 2010 survey conducted by FFNet Research reported the median age to be 15. Presumably, writing fanfic allows them to tackle those coming of age issues or simply blow off steam to manage the stress of adolescence. It also allows them to connect with fans who may be wrestling with similar issues like sexual and gender identity or just figuring out what to do with their lives.

7. Aren’t you being disloyal to the original creators?

Fanfic is a tribute to the original creators. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And as long as the fanfic writer is not trying to make money on their fanfic – and thus taking money out of the original creators’ pockets – it can be argued that fanfiction is simply flattery of the highest form.

8. You’re going to become a recluse with no social skills.

Fanfiction writing and reader actually ushers you into multiple online communities and can lead to connections with people across the country and overseas.

9. Fanfiction isn’t diverse.

Fanfiction is by no means pure on this score. Harry Potter paid so little attention to its characters of color that one LiveJournal member created the Harry Potter Diversity Fest to encourage writing stories focused around characters like Dean Thomas (Black) and Padma and Parvati Patil (Indian ancestry). Sadly, this event seems to have gone defunct.

Nevertheless, you’ll find an abundance of fanfic focused on male-male, also known as slash, relationships as well as female-female relationships or femme-slash. A 2014-2015 Tumblr fanfic survey found that 67% of readers enjoy reading slash fanfic, and 50% occasionally like reading explicit/slash/erotic fanfics when they depict a genuine plot.

And now that JK Rowling has stated that Hermione is Black, fanfic fans have a strong incentive to explore how that changes the dynamic of the character and her relationships with Harry, Ron and the wizarding world as a whole.

10. The writing sucks! Plot, characterization, theme, etc.

It’s true that fanfiction frequently suffers from immature writing from authors who have yet to master the literary techniques of plot development, authentic characterization, flashbacks, foreshadowing, metaphors and more.  But fanfiction can also be so rich and full that it’s worthy of being published as a novel.

11. You’re eroding your English skills with this ungrammatical, unpunctuated crap.

Actually, thanks to the practice of beta-ing – in which a fanfic author hands their fic over to another fan to edit before publishing – fanfic lovers have plenty of opportunities to sharpen their knowledge of grammar and punctuation. In addition, feedback from fanfic readers who point out spelling and other errors allows the writer to discover their own blind spots and thus work to improve.

12. You’ll never make any money writing fanfic.

Money is not and never has been the point of fanfiction. Fanfic writers understand that they are playing in someone else’s sandbox and they can’t just snatch the bucket and shovel and run. The general unofficial policy is that as long as fanfic writers aren’t attempting to make money on the original creators’ work, then the copyright owners can turn a blind eye.

This isn’t always the case. One Star Trek fan film actually faced a lawsuit from Paramount and CBS. It was ultimately resolved but it’s a powerful reminder of how much money can be at stake for the original creators and how tricky it can be for fanfic writers to stay on the right side of the original creators.

13. You’ll never learn anything reading fanfic.

Not true. There are some fanfic writers who take the time and care to actually research the issues that appear in their fanfic. The Harry Potter fanfic Alea Iacta Est by ElleEleniel explores how cancer would affect Harry. While no one could consider information in a fanfic to subsitute for genuine clinical information, the author does make an effort to include accurate information.

14. Shouldn’t you be investing your energy in real life?

Reading or writing fanfic is no more frivolous than following sports stats or bird watching. Everyone is entitled to have a hobby.

15. Aren’t you embarrassed to admit to your fanfic habit?

Nope! The days of shame are over. Let your fanfic flag fly!

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

Fanfiction is a huge aspect of many peoples lives. If you're from the Harry Potter Fandom, love Harry Potter fanfiction, Sherlock fanfiction, Avengers fanfiction, whatever your flavour there's plenty to enjoy. HP fanfiction is widely loved, but if you say the wrong thing to a fanfiction fan, you can be in big trouble. Here's 15 things you don't want to say to a fanfiction lover. #Harrypotter #fanfiction #sherlock #hpfanfiction #harrypotterfanfiction

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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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2 thoughts on “15 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Fanfiction Lover”

  1. This is so true for me and all my fanfic loving friends (which is all but one). And she always gets us triggered. Another one could be don’t insult the pairings and don’t say things that are triggering from certain fanfics (i.e. the word T-R-I-G-G-E-R-E-D (Triggered) from The Forest fic, or Hamster from the Hat fic, etc.). Thanks for this I am so sending this to that one friend who triggers all of us into a crying, sobbing, mess in a pile of crazy fangirls.

    1. Excellent points! And I know how you feel. I’ve been slowly coming out of the closet with my fanfic and it’s been a nerve-wracking experience. Good luck! And thanks for sharing! – Terri