by Hannah Brown, Europe Blogger jaBlog!
Artwork by Journey Meyerhoff
Fanfiction is a writing style that many writers scoff at. They say it’s childish, you can’t go anywhere with it, and what’s the point of writing about someone else’s characters? Isn’t the whole point of writing to be doing your own thing?
Well… Yes and no.
I started writing, properly, way back in 2011/2012. What did I start writing, you may ask? Why, fanfiction of course!
Fanfiction is when you take someone else’s characters, such as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, but make up your own story. For example, you may have Lily and James Potter surviving the First Wizarding War. It’s a way of writing mainly for your own entertainment, and I find it very relaxing.
Before you start writing fanfiction, make sure you read up on the characters you’re looking at. Let’s stick with Harry Potter. If you’re writing fanfiction about the characters, especially main characters, make sure you’ve read the 7 books and watched the 8 films. Films may offer you a different insight, and this is often how readers will view the appearance of the characters (aside from Harry and Lily’s eye colour, of course).
If you think you’re a bit forgetful, you could make notes throughout about how the main characters look and react to different situations, how they talk, who their friends are and their opinions on other characters. When writing an original piece of work, you have to do this too, but with characters that are already created, you just have to make sure you know the details of that story world!
If you’re writing fanfiction, it’s probably because you love the characters or the story, so reading up on the characters should be easy. You can use other resources as well. If you type in the franchise followed by “wiki” it will come up with a database which is a great resource: so, for example type in “Harry Potter wiki.” Or, if there is something extra (such as Marvel’s Comics, Harry Potter’s Pottermore, or the BBC Doctor Who page), use that!
Once you think you have your characters nailed, it’s time to start working on your plot. Are you going to introduce a new character (see below), the same characters with new feelings (such as Harry Potter falling in love with Hermione Granger), or perhaps just continuing the original story. Maybe you want an alternate ending, or a character that died to come back to life. Whatever you do, make sure your plot is entertaining and likeable. It doesn’t have to be likeable to other people; like with all writing, write fanfiction because you want to, not for anyone else.
Plots can be set in your characters’ time, such as Harry Potter in the 1990s, or in another time––perhaps send the Golden Trio back to medieval times and mix them with Merlin and King Arthur! If your story is set in another universe, this can be known as an alternate universe, so you might see AU on a fanfiction site (see below for more terms).
One thing that a surprising amount of fanfiction readers hate is own characters, or OCs. This is when you invent a character of your own and dump them in the original story’s setting or plot. But, just because people don’t like it, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. (People don’t tend to like them because they have a tendency to be Mary Sue characters, but I think that’s a topic for another discussion.) One of the characters that has stayed with me for years was a character I created for the Harry Potter universe.
Publishing your fanfiction is the next topic. “But isn’t that breaking copyright?” I hear you cry. Well, yes, technically, but there are plenty of sites out there (fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org are two of the biggest) where you can upload your own fanfiction and have other people read and, if you’re lucky, review it, and writers don’t usually seem to mind. These are mostly free (I have never been on a paid one) and you can share your work. If you’re still worried about it, then you can put a disclaimer in your work such as: “Characters belong to original author.” But most writers love that people write fanfiction about their work. I know I certainly would.
And if you think there’s no future for you in commercial publishing, just check out the BBC Doctor Who books, which have been going since 1963. It’s my dream job to write one.
Enjoy writing fanfiction, manipulating the characters and giving them a hard time (or, y’know, being nice). Be brave when sharing your work. The worst someone can do is not like it, and hey, that’s okay: if we all liked the same things, the world would be a boring place. Remember to look at other people’s work––there’s a host of great writing out there, just waiting to be discovered. Maybe your favourite characters who, perhaps, died, come back to life and get married and…sorry, I get distracted.
PS. If you don’t quite know what to start with, why not check out Laura Michelle Thomas’s fanfiction challenge? If you’ve read Polly Wants To Be a Writer, you’ll already know what it is, of course! If you are new to Polly world and the fanfiction challenge, you can find out about it here.
AU = Alternate Universe
OC = Own/original Character
OFC = Own/original Female Character
OMC = Own/original Male Character
OOC = Out of Character (a character not acting like themselves, such as Severus Snape being portrayed as a nice and kind human being).
CC = Canon Character
Canon = Things that actually happen in the original work, e.g. the Second Wizarding War
Headcanon = A short piece of information fans have made up
Fanfiction = Fan-generated fiction, also called ‘fanfic’ or ‘fic’
Fanon = Something that was made by fans, but is so used, it gets confused with the original work (yes, this actually happens!).
Kudos (used on AO3) = Kind of like a vote for a story, but really it’s positive feedback
Slash = Two characters of the same sex in a romantic relationship
Angst = Stories that deal with fear
CD/MCD = Character Death/Main Character Death. Most people on sites like it if you tag this, or notify them before hand!
Crossover/XO = Two different story universes crossing, such as Harry Potter and Doctor Who
Fluff = Light-hearted fanfiction
POV = Point of View
PWP = Plot? What Plot? A story that doesn’t really have a storyline, but revolves around a short scenario. Note for younger readers of fanfiction––PWP is often sexual. Other sexual terms include “smut,” “fluff” and “vanilla,” so I would avoid them if you don’t think you are old enough for this type of content – make sure you check the ratings. These stories normally have a warning at the start.
WIP = Work in Progress