Welcome to the second part of my spiel on fan fiction and my experiences both reading and writing it. If you made it through the first part, thank you. If not, here is a handy link. Go. Read it. Talking about reading fic was a little alien to me. I mean, I’ve discussed it before with some friends, but putting it out there in the open, alongside a picture of my face and links to all my social media makes me feel incredibly exposed. Anyone who stumbles across this blog, whether a stranger or someone I actually know is now very, very aware of my relationship with fan fiction and that is a little unnerving, especially when they could so easily pass judgement on something I hold very dear in my progression as a reader and, more importantly, as a writer. And now that I’m about to explain exactly why writing fic has been such a positive learning curve for me. Well, that’s even more terrifying, because I think a lot of the negativity surrounding fic is found in those who actually write it, rather than those that simply read it. Because you’re only reading the lame thing, you’re not actually responsible for its very existance. Blah.
A lot of people have preconceptions of what fic is, and thus categorise you as an obsessed, perhaps clinically insane, individual who imposes his or herself into a story in order to get it on with their fave character. Well, here’s the thing: sometimes that is the case. Sometimes fic are awful ‘insert your name here’ paragraphs in which you are the main character and you’re not just undressing Draco Malfoy with your eyes whilst he struts around on screen. Nope, you’re undressing him with your actual hands and it’s all a bit weird and uncomfortable to actually read. Some fic is just that and whilst I will try (emphasis on the try, because I’m not doing very well) never to hate on what ways others find their creative outlet, I will say that not all fic is like that. And neither have I written about undressing Draco (or any other ‘HP’ character). (Although I’ve definitely done it with my eyes…) (Draco is the best!) Fic also isn’t always self indulgent, sometimes borderline problematic erotica, i.e ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.
So what is the fic I’ve read and written? And how does it maybe differ from the assumptions made on fic in general? Well, I will say that I think my fandom and the way fan fiction is written within it can have different properties to fic belonging to other fandoms. Regardless of whether you’re sticking to an Orignal Universe or putting your own twist on things and taking the Alternative Universe route, some fandoms and their fan fiction will still stick to the same characters within that world, regardless of how they bend and break its pre-existing surroundings. For me and the fic I’ve read and written for the most part also involves a completely original main character.
It isn’t simply taking a character/person that already exists and writing about them (although, of course, it is in a lot of cases), but instead formulating your very own three-dimensional character with their own strengths and weaknesses and moulding a story around the aspects you have borrowed from elsewhere. And, the thing is, regardless of the fact it is ultimately fan fiction, I’ve found with a lot of what I’ve read and written that the original main character fic writers create often takes precedence over the fandom world the writer has put them in. The characters from the fandom are, in some cases, merely secondary in what is largely a story arc about the MC’s developments with overcoming various struggles. In that sense, I’ve written about four YA/NA stories that essentially borrow attributes from someone else and which, in the grand scheme of things, only really take small details like appearance and specific traits, like their mannerisms, accent, etc. that make who they are visible to the reader enough that it is fan fic and not simply an original story.
You might then question what the point is if, in some fic cases, it’s not even always explicitly clear what fandom in particular the fic is tied to, and that, for me and many other aspiring writers, is probably the key reason many of us write fan fiction in the first place. By writing for a particular fandom (hopefully one you’re passionate about yourself), you’ve got that immediate connection to other likeminded fans and, in turn, you’ve got yourself an audience. An audience who will read your fic, chapter by chapter and (hopefully) offer up feedback, whether encouraging comments or critique. Sometimes they even send the most in-depth responses analysing your characters that you kind of have to take a minute. I’ve been fortune enough to have reviews and messages that even go far as to say my stories have got my readers through a hard time in their life, or offered up some semblance of reassurance that they’re not alone and things will get better. Sometimes the messages say that they like to re-read their favourite parts, or even the entire 100k+ word thing over and over because they love it that much.
It’s overwhelming and heartwarming and it’s made me believe — realise even — how capable I am as a writer. It’s made me fall back in love with writing again and reignite that dream of mine to be published. It’s also allowed me to experiment in different writing styles and learn what suits me best. And although the kind words from those devoted followers of my work mean the most, it’s pretty astounding to see tens of thousands — and even hundreds of thousands — in stats of those unique views hopping on to read my words; the numbers of reviews ranging from ‘love it’ to great heaping paragraphs of loveliness. And, of course, the word counts wracking up and the little ‘completed’ next to those works I actually managed to wrap up.
Reading and writing fan fic has been a huge deal for me for many reasons. I owe a lot to my community of doting readers and fellow writers for inspiring me and pushing me to keep writing and have faith in my words and the stories I have to tell. So, for all the bad rep fan fic gets (and those who write it), fic for me and many others has played such a significant role, and, in all honesty, deserves a second look. Because it’s not always what you think. A lot of fic holds real meaning and exploration into things you might not altogether understand. It’s just as good, if not (sometimes) better, than those stories actually published.