Well, as promised, I made my way back! Here I am; bright, bold, bursting…!
Though that might be because I really need the toilet.
And I was thinking, last night, what could I make this post about? It needs to be a bit more than me just rambling on about myself, but this idea came to me pretty early, and it reflects my own philosophy and concerns as a writer. So, as I sit here in my semi-dark room listening to an Aquatic Ruin remix, I’d like to talk to you all about fanfiction.
Fanfiction has earned quite a reputation, it has to be said, amongst internet users in recent years, with writing websites like WattPad and of course, the aptly named Fanfiction.net being full of them. And it has been frequently used as both pejorative term and a snarl word, as most people tend to refer to fanfiction as either unoriginal, amateur, or just plain wrong. It’s not like the proper work that novelists and screenwriters and directors do. It’s just trashy nonsense that’s the product on horny teenage fangirls.
Well, first off, that’s an unfair generalisation. E.L James is middle-aged.
But it may surprise you to know that I am in fact not anti-fanfiction. As it happens, I actually write/have written fanfiction.
No, wait, where are you going? No, come baaaaaaaaaaaaack!!
But seriously, hasn’t everyone? If you’re an aspiring writer who’s been writing since you were a small brat, there’s bound to be a time where you’ve put down your felt tip pens and thought to yourself, ‘Hey, this book/film/show/whatever, whilst pretty good, I think I could do some of myself.’ And so you take it upon yourself to write your own version. For me, it was Horrid Henry, which was actually a series of books before CITV took over and decided to piss us all off. I wrote four stories in the traditional format of a Horrid Henry book and sent it off to the author, whom at this point I pretty much hero-worshipped. She sent me back a reply (or more likely one of her cronies did), telling me how good the stories were (blatant lies) and a few other things. I was estatic. I wish I had kept the stories, they would have been good for a laugh, but I did keep the postcard…
Wow, the lighting really is awful…
So whilst Francesca Simon may have been flattered, no doubt horribly written fanfiction upsets hardcore fans of the series, with all the character defamations and whatnot. And…yeah, I definitely see that argument. And of course, such horribly written work is going to gain a lot of infamy. My Immortal is definitely proof that if you want something to be remembered, making it horrible is an easier way of doing it than being good…
I kind of want those leggings Draco’s sporting there…
Yeah, My Immortal has become infamous among Potter fans and most other people who hear things through the interwebs as being an utterly horrendous mutation of fiction, with only some things in it resembling Harry Potter. But I even remember someone from my university’s HP society (yes, we have one) reacting in almost fear towards it. I don’t think it’s worth being afraid of – it many ways it’s actually a lot of fun. The terrible prose, grammar, story and misspellings may be good enough to give you a little bit of joy in how hilariously bad it is – it’s almost like The Room of fanfiction. And I don’t remember being offended by this story. Believe me, in that regard, there are a lot worse fanfictions out there…
Probably the worst I’ve ever seen was this Glee fanfiction (yes, I’m a Gleek, what of it?) called something like Da Princess in da Glee Club. Paraphrased title, by the way, so that the spelling’s more accurate. It may very well be a troll fic, and, if so…congrats to that troll, they have a strong stomach. The entire story comprises just of an author avatar/Mary Sue/horrible human being who happens to be Kurt’s sister coming into the Glee club and basically banging all of the male characters there, whilst slagging off all the females, and then she also gets raped by Sue Sylvester…what………….?
If you decide to read this story and you desire to lobotomise yourself with a toothbrush (or a toothpick, if that’s how you choose to live your life) then that means you’re still human, hold onto that.
OK, so at this point, you might be thinking, ‘Toby, what’s the deal? You’ve just told us you’re not anti-fanfiction, and you’re literally describing an abomination lurking somewhere on the internet that made you want to dig your brains out with instruments of oral hygiene. What’s the deal?’
Well, first there’s this element – to find this monstrosity, I had to do a lot of digging. TV Tropes (a very useful website that I highly recommend you check out) provides a nice little list of the most horrible fanfictions ever written, but most of them have been banned by popular sites like Fanfiction.net and such. Sure, I’ve seen a lot of bad fanfictions, but ones as bad as that are actually quite hard to come across. Why did I go looking for horrible fanfictions? Because I’m a glutton for punishment, but that’s besides the point. Generalising a form of art based on just some examples is not a good idea – should I also think that all movies are bad because something like Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging is? (You’re judging me, I can tell. Let it be known that I enjoy chick flicks – that one was just horribly morally vapid.)
Maybe it’s not a good comparison – after all, one could argue that fanfiction is just the work of amateurs. Though I think that’s hardly fair to say so – it’s kind of elitist in a way. I believe art is very much a form of personal expression, and so by saying only a few people can do it just goes against the entire concept. And it’s not as though fanfictions have never ascended beyond that realm…
Yeah, well, you all knew this was coming. Once a Twilight fanfiction, this has since become it’s own series, following many of the tropes and conventions of it’s parent. They also made a film…and…even E.L James was surprised at how popular it was. So, there’s hope for all of us! If this trashy smutty fanfiction can be something big, so can whatever the hell you’re writing.
And others have since followed in the footsteps of this – After, a highly popular story on WattPad, by a user called ‘imaginator1D,’ who’s real life name is Anna Todd. The story is from a first-person perspective where the protagonist goes to university and meets Harry Styles. They made a book release where Styles was renamed Hardin Scott. Oh, and film rights were purchased by Paramount Pictures…
OK, so, first of all, I don’t necessarily have a problem with celebrity fics. I myself once wrote a story where Chloe Grace Moretz transferred to my school. And no, you can’t read it, write your own Chloe fantasies. >.<
But I would never – even back then – have thought about posting anywhere, let alone having a bloody film made about it. It’s all about wish fulfilment, and whilst I don’t have a problem with that, it’s something very personal…it just doesn’t make sense to me to have personal fantasies and stories for your own benefit suddenly be out there for everyone else, unless they are erotic, in which case, most people probably can enjoy them.
But by far by biggest problem with this story (yes, I have read some of it. That’s what comes of having too much free time and a limited pool of friends) is that the character portrayed by Styles, who’s meant to be the love interest is utterly HORRIBLE. Almost everything that comes out of his mouth is an insult or callous remark to protagonist, and he seems very much to me like an abusive boyfriend in the making. And it worries me that this is a trend among chick lit these days (mostly from what I’ve seen on WattPad). Like, hey, what does creepy Edward Cullen need? He needs to be into non-consensual BDSM, that’ll make a best-selling story! And the scary thing is…it did.
But I’m going off on a tangent here. This is a topic for another time.
One last complaint people make about fanfiction is that it’s unoriginal. They say that fanfiction authors just don’t have the creativity to create their own stories, so they have to steal other people’s. Really? Taking an existing fictional world and set of characters and doing something new with them isn’t uncreative…if anything, it shows the signs of a healthy creative mind thinking of new ways something they like can be interpreted. In a way, this is essentially what remakes or re-imaginings are in the film industry, or indeed, a different writer from the one that wrote the original taking on a sequel. In a way, all the writers of something like Doctor Who are writing fanfiction. Jurassic World was a fanfiction (although admittedly, this one was bad. Maybe more on that another time). Hell, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were fanfiction.
So, even in the amateur realm of fanfiction, I certainly believe in the potential to get something new out of a franchise. Sometimes, that something new is two under-age boys banging. Umm…OK…you could get arrested if they were real.
But often the results are very inspiring and creative. I have read plenty of fanfiction with decent grammar/spelling and engaging storylines. Hell, even those where the writing style, grammar and spelling haven’t been the best still had engaging stories, ideas and characters. TV Tropes has a whole load of fanfiction recommendations, so if you have the time, go and browse that.
And for me, the fanfiction writing didn’t stop with Horrid Henry. I actually have a Fanfiction account and have recently finished a long project that is posted on it. If you want, take a look and see if anything appeals to you.
As pleased I am with finally finishing my long running fanfiction, I’m now moving onto forms of original fiction, which I am more confident in the quality of because of the feedback I’ve got from the fanfiction I’ve written. Maybe that’s a better way to look at fanfiction – a stepping stone onto better projects.
So, yes, we all know a crappy fanfiction we’ve found somewhere on the web, and we all like to make fun of them mercilessly. But the style itself has probably been around forever, and I’m pleased to say it doesn’t show any signs of slowing. So, don’t pre-judge fanfiction. It’s a nice little medium for those deep into fandoms to express themselves and can be fun to both read and write. For all you know, a backwater crummy fanfiction author could one day release a best-seller and retire a billionaire. It’s a shot in the dark, but as someone once said I’m sure, the one who never plays is the only one guaranteed to lose.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, give me your thoughts, send me onto your friends, and join me next time for…whatever the hell I post next.
All images belong to their respective owners.