An Introduction to Fanfiction

by Hannah Brown, Europe Blogger jaBlog!

Artwork by Journey Meyerhoff


An Introduction to Fanfiction jaBlog!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 ( and 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.

Polly Wants to be a Writer FanfictionEnjoy 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.

Fanfiction Acronyms

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



Hannah Brown

About Hannah Brown

Currently studying at sixth form college, Hannah likes to write pretty much anything. She has written a novella, is currently writing about 5 novels, and writes scripts and short stories on the side. Aside from writing, she enjoys hanging out with her friends, adventuring in the outdoors, and reading.

4 comments on “An Introduction to Fanfiction

  1. […] we’ve previously read and analyzed. If you’re not familiar with the term fan fiction, here is a great introduction. Basically, it’s when a fan of a particular story or writer rewrites […]

  2. attheturnofthetide

    OH MY GOSH. I am NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO WRITES FANFICTION!!!!! (cue excitement) I write Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit fanfiction, usually sticking to the minor characters (Glorfindel, Elrohir, Elladan, Erestor, Lindir, Maglor, Maedhros). I also occasionally read Harry Potter fanfiction. I don’t read slash or smut but I enjoy several pairings. Such as Tenrose. I love Tenrose. Did I mention that?

    I totally agree that fanfiction helps develop a writing style, since you get feedback from fellow writers. My friends give me lots of editing advice, which is helpful in my original writing. But it’s also important not to get completely caught up with fanfiction… since we have our own novels and writing to finish, right? ;)

    By the way, if anyone is planning on writing their own fanfiction, PLEASE visit my profile :) I’ll be happy to talk to you on anything: Daleks, the fall of Gondolin, whether Dramione or Ronmione is better than the other (it’s so hard to choose), whether Merlin should go with Morgana- or not, Will Turner versus Jack Sparrow… let’s just say if you like anything Doctor Who, Merlin, LotR, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Ranger’s Apprentice, Marvel movies, Percy Jackson, Ouran High School Host Club, ETC ETC ETC I will be happy to fangirl with you. For hours.

    (No, I take that back. Years.)

    I forgot to mention, you can search up my name on My username is “attheturnofthetide”. Currently all I write is LotR fanfiction, because I love Middle-Earth, but I read a very large range of fanfiction.

  3. Mahnoor

    I totally agree! I LOVE fanfiction! A lot of mu friends do to. I’ve bedn reading fanfics for over two years now. I recently started writing my own too, only I haven’t had time to write or update, what with school, exams, family etc. But I’ve also know a lot of people who dislike fanfiction (mostly for the same reasons mentioned here). I do’t agree with that (and not just I read it myself). I think it’s a great way to practise writing, especially if you want to be a writer. Also, it’s agreat way to get feedback. Feedback is one thing I LOVE about writing fanfiction. <3

  4. Sierra

    Great article for beginning fanfiction writers! I just started writing my own fanfiction a few months ago, and I’ve been amazed at what a learning experience it’s been. You put so much more effort into work when you know it’s going to be read and reviewed, and it’s extremely encouraging when people express interest and follow your stories. I think you’re completely right about most people hating OCs, but I’ve surprisingly been able to create a few characters that readers have told me is one of their favourites things about the story. I think fanfiction is an opportunity most young writers overlook, so it’s really nice to see some attention given to it. Thanks!

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