A Beginner’s Guide to Fan Fiction
Going through life as a self-proclaimed nerd and fan of several things geeky, I’ve picked up on many different ways fans have shown their appreciation (or worship, depending on the fandom) for a certain show, book, musical, or what have you. A majority of fans are content with buying the merchandise associated with their respective fandoms, from the super-extra-deluxe-special edition of a certain movie (and I believe I’m pointing an accusatory finger at the Watchmen movie for this heinous crime) to toy replicas of either one of the character’s props or one of the characters themselves; I myself have a black Mokona plushie from the animé xxxHolic to call my own (which I jealously guard).
However, there are others — lots of others — who quite literally take their fandoms into their own hands, and renew and reshape them into something unique and somewhat similar to the original products, using their own imaginations and and word processors. They are the authors of a genre of fiction reserved for fans, known simply as fan fiction.
According to Wikipedia, the most reliable source of information on the Internet, fan fiction is “a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.” In other words, it is a way for fans to explore the work that they’ve fawned over. The Wikipedia page links to several places where people write, post and discuss fan fiction, the most notable of which is a site called Fanfiction.net, supposedly the “largest fan fiction gallery on the Internet.” And large it is: a quick glance at the number of published works on the site revealed not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands of stories published in several different languages by fans who have been so inspired by their fandoms that they’ve decided to write their own stories. Readers beware, however, because there is some pretty twisted stuff on this website that has flown under the moderators’ radar, if you know where to look!
But what of the motivation behind the act? I talked to a couple of people who have written fan fiction before, and their answers were thought-provoking. One writer, who works mostly with characters in Final Fantasy VII, replied that they write for the same reasons a lot of fan fiction writers do: they love a character so much that they didn’t want their story to end, and decided to take it upon themselves to continue their story, to re-examine the character, and to delve deeper and develop them. The same writer used Reno as an example, as one of their more popular posts was done in a first-person perspective that helps foster a conscience in a character that has been often portrayed as a stereotypical bad guy with an adulterous streak.
The other writer I talked to had a different motivation: whenever there was a lack of detail or closure in a show — like, in their words, an unsolved problem, an unexplored character, or simply a strange quirk they wanted to expand on — it would bother the writer until they wrote it out. The writer compared it to “exorcising” it from their brain. The writer also told me that they have written some Lord of the Rings fan fiction, then later moved on to other fandoms like Death Note and Naruto, usually creating humorous pieces that expanded on what they would have liked to see in the series. They even admitted to have written slash fiction, a variation of fan fiction that pairs up two same-sex characters in the fandom and places them in romantic situations, but refused to divulge any more details, even after some rigorous pleading. Both writers, however, are connected by a single fact: they are so close to their respective fandoms that they’ve taken it upon themselves to explore it through their own imagination, and their writing utensil of choice.
Not all fans use the pen (or keyboard) to explore their fandoms, though. Some take up their pencils, markers, paintbrushes and Wacom Tablets instead, and make beautiful works of art featuring their favorite characters from their favorite fandoms, bringing them to life on paper or screen. In fact, deviantART.com, one of the largest online art galleries out there, has an entire category for artists who want to display their geekiness through their art, and some of the results are often brilliant. A select few, however, go the extra mile and even make an entire web comic series that distinctly defines itself as a fan fiction comic that features dozens of characters, from Erik from The Phantom of the Opera (that’s his name in the book), to Crowley from Good Omens.
Enter AsheRhyder’s Roommates, a comic on deviantART.com that asks the question, “what would happen if Jareth (from Labyrinth), Norrington (from The Pirates of the Caribbean), Javert (from Les Misérables), and Erik (from The Phantom of the Opera) decided to live together in the same apartment block?” A hilarious, Friends-esque sitcom, this comic is one of the best examples of humorous fan fiction, while remembering its own roots as a tribute to its (many) fandoms. Oh, and fan service, for all those interested in that sort of thing.
One of the best parts of the comic, however, is the spinoff: another deviantART artist named Pika-la-Cynique decided to make another comic that details the lives of the girls living near the guys in the original comic. While not quite canon and not quite otherwise, Girls Next Door is the healthy dose of sitcom hilarity, taking the side of the girls instead of the guys. Keep these comics on your RSS feeds; it’s worth every minute procrastinated.
Inspiration begets inspiration that begets inspiration; the action of taking an idea and remaking it to form something similar, yet somewhat different, is the very basis of creativity. I applaud these proud people (yes, even those who write gory/über-sexualized Twilight fan fiction, simply because “creative” can also be applied to “sickeningly twisted”) who decide to write or draw, because it is through their minds and their work that we could explore our various fandoms in more depth, and thus understand them better.
Do you have a favorite fan-made work of fiction? Do you write fan fiction? If so, tell us in the comments!