I was going to title today’s post Creating Story, Fanfic, and Other ‘Stuff’. I was tempted to rant about certain recent series or attempted series. But I’m not going there.
Yes, there are people ‘borrowing’ popular IP and creating ‘new versions’ that are basically their own thing using the old IP’s name. There are also people pulling the name off the IP and calling it their own content. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are abusing someone else’s work for their purposes. So, let’s wag a finger and move on…
What I really want to talk about is almost as controversial: a valid use for fanfic!
Generally, fanfic is fan-created fiction in someone else’s world. We’re not talking about a shared world intended to have multiple authors, or a world who’s creator has died or retired and a faithful successor has picked up the lance and continued the stories (that’s really hard to do (and also another post…)). What we’re talking about today is writing where a fan (somebody who likes a world) attempts the creation of stories in that world even though they’re not an original creator or the ‘heir to the series’ (though, in time, they might get there!).
There’s a lot of bad fanfic out there. I mean poorly written stuff, smutty stuff in a world not meant to be smutty, and stuff written without a decent grounding in the world. But, there’s an actual valid use for fanfic too.
When you’re learning to write, there are a lot of aspects and skills to develop. To get it all right, all at once, requires a tremendous effort and the ability to focus on several things at once (as I’ll discuss next month, the problem only gets worse if you want to write long fiction…).
Two big categories of writing skills are the actual storytelling skills and world building. There’s also an interface that I’ll call world maintenance where you have to keep the world you’re working in consistent (usually) while writing an engaging story. What fanfic buys you is an already created world. It reduces the workload by pulling the world building part out so that the writer can focus on telling a good story and maintaining consistency.
Now, does that mean we should all just write fanfic? No. Not even close.
What it means is that fanfic allows a writer to focus more on one part of the entire array of skills, and then come back to pick up other parts later. If you’re writing fiction, especially speculative fiction, you need to learn world building. But you still need to learn the story telling and consistency aspects. I don’t see fanfic as money making writing. it’s a set of training wheels to help you develop the skills that lead to money making writing.
It’s an echo of things we see elsewhere. In the Asian tradition, painters learn by copying the works of their teachers. Fanfic done right is the same thing with words instead of pictures.
So, yes, there can be a valid place for fanfic. Just put in the effort to learn. Do right by the people whose world(s) you’re using. And don’t pawn off your fan made stuff as cannon.
If you’re at that place, if doing fanfic is helping you learn and develop, that’s ok. The learning and developing is what’s needed. But, eventually, you need to branch out and start building your own voice and your own world. Usually, you end up happier and the fiction community is better off when you do.
That’s it for this one, dear reader. Learn skills, find your voice, and I’ll see you next post.