Writing Fanfiction Made Me A Better Human
Fanfiction, it’s been given an awful name, and yet so many people write it.
Thousand and thousand in fact, if not millions and millions. But, the numbers of people who contribute aren't exactly the point, the stigma is. You know what I'm talking about, the roll of the eye, the 'That's not real writing' comments—yes, I've experienced those—and the snort when you explain you write fanfiction. Those stigma's, the ones that make you wish you could retract a sentence so quickly it could choke you. I've experienced lovely reactions when I tell people, but it's the ones that aren't so lovely that stick with me.
I began writing fanfiction in September 2016–three years ago, damn—and I’ve been so lucky to have been super accepted by the community, made lifelong friends and found a passion I didn’t think was in me. But the shame of talking to people about in person, that's terrifying, because I've had a real mixed bag of responses, some nightmarish, more not so bad, never amazing—except by those super close to me. For some reason, even if the people who look down on it don't even know what it is, they judge you, because they've heard about this evil, distasteful, full-of-lemons-thing that spreads from people to people like a virus.
Which, I won't lie, there are smutty stories, but you can choose to not hunt for them—or even better, not even read them. What I find, and what I wrote, is love stories; compelling tales of the friend to lovers trope, or the enemies to lovers trope. The heart-wrenching feeling of loss or the breakup that left you speechless and breathless.
That is there too, something people fail to realise.
The other side of the coin people seem to forget, is that it gives confidence to those who have had theirs stolen or never had any, to begin with. It builds confidence, it teaches you more about your work and growth in your writing than anything I've ever done. I'm looking at you English GCSE. Hand on heart, I can say with complete confidence that I wouldn’t have thought I had it in me to finish an original draft without it. I managed to create places and characters that lived inside of me, it helped me see that my words and how I wrote them were wanted—and even needed, not to be cocky.
So because of that, and a thousand other reasons, I wanted to take a second to shout out to fanfiction, and the community, and the positive reasons why fanfiction has made me a better human:
Friends I've Met
Several of my best friends I’ve met, and become close with because of fanfiction. Two of them I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of meeting twice, I’m a huge part of one of my friends’ life and her children, and another I’m attending their wedding.
These friendships are not ‘online’ friendships—even if we communicate via online messaging most of the time. They’re real and important; they’re healthy and needed. I would be half a person without all of them, they’ve held my hand—sometimes virtually—when things have become dark, and they’ve been there for some of the joyous occasions too.
Given Me Chance to Pursue A Dream
This one likely seems explanatory, but without writing fanfiction—without pouring hours into chapters and larger works—I wouldn’t have known this is what I wanted. I have always loved writing, but writing hasn’t always loved me.
I struggled in school with the class 'English Language', I still do—like, I overuse or underuse commas to the point all my friends know it—and because of that, I never thought I had it in me. I had my work red marked all the time, hitting me and marking me for my incorrect grammar, but never about the story in which I was telling. But fanfiction, the community that rallied around me and offered me help with things such as grammar; that people reached out and said how much they cried at a particular story. Even how they nominated me for awards in their groups, and some of them still follow me even now, that’s what showed me this dream was real, and reachable if I tried hard enough.
I’d always struggled with what I wanted to do, but a celebrating that first year of writing fanfiction solidified what my dream was. Guess you do always have your dreams inside of you.
The community doesn’t get enough credit. Like all walks of life, there are negatives—and those negatives are made more known than the positives. It’s a fact of today’s world with social media dragging everyone left, right and centre.
But, the community is amazing. They’re wonderful, creative and passionate people who want to talk nothing but their favourite fandom—and what isn’t there to love about that? Nothing.
I loved the community so much, I ran a group to celebrate pairings that got less love, and it was the most fun I’d had in a long time. It is still a wildly successful group and still running now, just by two wonderful pairs of hands, proving the community is an amazing place to be.
Yes, there is 'ship' drama. But isn't there always? I mean, you can go on Twitter and be ripped a new arsehole for not liking something because everyone else does. You can't hold drama against fanfiction, the drama is in all walks of life.
Flexing Writing Muscles
There are so many people I have interacted with, who have said they loved to write and writing fanfiction has brought them so much joy. For others, it’s something just for them to get a second for themselves or something that is theirs entirely.
With fanfiction and the wider community, often have prompt competitions or themed competitions that can provide chances to flex the writing muscles in an amazing way. I’ve participated in some myself, even somewhere the varied choice is so limited I have really needed to step out of my comfort zone—which, I’m now thankful for. Writing in someone else's world seems like a cop-out, but writing that character in a scenario they never faced is hard! I wrote a lot of ‘alternative universes’ and as fun, as it was, it was extremely hard to bring in the world they’re known from into the ‘everyday’ world as we know it.
Not a piece of cake, like lots of people seem to think.
Fanfiction Will Never Die
Fanfiction never has to end. You can write the same scenario over, and over again, and there will be people who will read it. Which is absolutely amazing! There will always be new content to come with each new fandom being born; with each twist in a fandom that makes the audience shake their heads.
Because that is who fanfiction is for, those of you who want to rewrite the story so you're 'ship' can live on. I mean, it's why I joined in the first place. I wasn't ready to give up, to surrender the homeliness my fandom brought me, and fanfiction meant I never needed to.
But also there are sites that are ever-growing and the fandoms that they accommodate is only growing. You have the freedom to hop fandoms, to start in one and begin in another. Fanfiction doesn’t have a start and end date, it is ever-changing and ever-growing as new writers and new ideas come into play, the love for it should never die.
I could keep going, but I’ve tried to limit myself to the top five that jumped out at me. But all in all, the perception fanfiction has isn't right. It's actually unnecessary, and it makes people who write it fear ever telling people, which again, I dislike.
Anything that is creative should be celebrated, because as long as you aren't hurting someone, or a psychopath or doing anything criminal, why shouldn't you get to shout it from the roof? Why can't you say to someone, "I'm a writer of fanfiction", you're no less of a writer, you still create words stitched together that bring happiness to the people.
And that's precisely why I write. To make myself a little happier, and to hopefully make someone else smile, it's the only reason I wanted to create my own world too.
So, it's down to us, as consumers, readers and lovers of fiction to be kinder to those who write or consume fanfiction. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, but it’s also special and some of the most amazing writers share their work for free because they genuinely love their craft.
If that’s not a reason to be kinder, I’m not sure what is, but if that didn’t sell it to you, remember that you never know who began their writing journey with it. Some of your favourite authors could have started writing fanfiction.
So, be kind, be understanding, and check it out—I promise you, you’ll find something you love. I recommend starting on archiveofourown.org, the site is super easy to use and constantly evolving what content they have. This isn't an ad for them, I'm just an avid user of the site is all, but it has the search capability to hide what you really, really don't want to see. So, without further ado, jump on it, explore your favourite characters mixing together in a meet-cute in a different world entirely; delve into some dystopian madness with two characters from a Marvel show.
The fanfiction world is your oyster, and more people need to jump on it.
I have also done a video on my feelings towards fanfiction on my Youtube channel, please consider giving it a listen and subscribe!
This post had originally been posted on my prior blog, josieleareads.com, but has been re-edited and re-uploaded as new information has been given.