There is a common misconception that people who read and write fanfiction are teenage girls who are holed up in their bedrooms with no friends, and who have no sense of maturity. If this is the case, then explain why my Mum has been reading fanfiction since the late 90’s and now, at the age of 46, could probably give you thousands of recommendations.
Social media is potentially the biggest culprit when it comes to the stigma surrounding fanfiction. It’s easy to share links to work, and it’s equally as easy to write negative comments and ridicule people’s hard work and passion.
I know that some fanfiction can be very NSFW but you realise that those parts are pretty much just pornography in written form, right? If you’re willing to watch it, why aren’t you willing to read it?
The biggest difference I guess is that more and more young people are writing this type of content, and people can read it when surrounded by people on the bus or at work or school. In that respect, it makes sense that fanfiction is such a taboo subject but people need to look past that side of things. We’re not all trying to write the next Fifty Shades of Grey, but that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with people who include sexual content in their writing.
When I was thirteen, I began co-writing a fanfiction with someone I’d started talking to online. I told my friends about it, and soon discovered that I was committing social-suicide. Every time I mentioned it or read a fic when I was around people, they would either get uncomfortable or make jokes at my expense.
I found myself feeling ashamed for wanting to write and express my ideas through these characters, when in reality I should’ve been proud that I was getting my work out there.
Don’t get me wrong, I had friends who read fanfiction too and they understood perfectly and supported my own work but it didn’t stop me figuring out why others were being so close-minded.
I searched online for opinions on the matter, and it hit me; they thought that I was stupid for dedicating a whole story to an existing fictional character and investing my time in them, instead of creating a new character and world of my own.
I started to think that they had a point, so I took their advice and it ended up going exactly the way I had suspected it would.
I went from getting hundreds of people reading my work in the first three weeks to getting an audience of ten people in two months. Writing as a fan, for fans, had been providing me with an audience willing to give feedback and get involved in the story and that aspect of writing had never occurred to me.
I’m not saying we all write for an audience, but it helps to motivate you when you know that people are enjoying what you’ve written and are as invested as you are.
Across three main fanfiction websites, we have seemingly unlimited access to stories based on our favourite shows, movies, games and characters. I’ve previously read fanfiction that has the potential to be turned into a best-selling novel or Hollywood film. Something written by a sixteen year old can often be better than something you find in a bookstore that’s been written by someone in their mid-thirties.
While many of us grow as writers and expand our vocabulary as we get older and write more, age does not dictate talent.
There are authors who started out as fanfiction writers before they got published and you certainly won’t see any of them mocking us, so why do people with zero interest or writing experience think they have a right?
“I myself used to write Star Wars fan fiction when I was tween. I think writing fan fiction is a good way for new writers to learn to tell a story.” – Meg Cabot
I’m no longer ashamed to write fanfiction, or to admit that it’s become my main source of reading. I still write non-fanfic stories, but I love the idea that fans have control of characters as well as the paid writers. Your favourite character dies or is given a storyline that doesn’t do them justice? Read a fanfic and pretend that nothing happened.
Let people be passionate and creative without fear of being ridiculed for it, no matter their age.