Why Write Fanfiction?

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Title: Why Write Fanfiction?
Creator: Naomi Prince
Date(s): June 14, 2001
Medium: online
Topic: fanfiction
External Links: the site: The Less Than Legendary Journeys: Guide to Writing in the HtLJ Universe, Archived version, link to the post: The Less Than Legendary Journeys: Why Write Fanfiction? by Naomi Prince, Archived version
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Why Write Fanfiction? is a 2001 essay by Naomi Prince.


Why choose to write pre-existing characters? As with anything, there is more than one way of looking at it. One could say that fanfiction writers are lazy and piggyback on the creative talent of someone else by using their characters, their milieu, rather than invent their own. Or, one could put the opposing argument and say that, by choosing to write within the constraints of an established series or movie, the fanfiction writer is opting for a more rigorous discipline and faces an intriguing challenge. To write good (and that is an important adjective) fiction under someone else's rules is not as simple as it might appear. As a reader yourself, you will doubtless have come across some fiction that is risible in its sheer awfulness and, apart from character names, bears little relation to its supposed origin.

Why write fanfiction at all? Okay, love of the show must be a prime requisite. If it doesn't appeal to you, you will lack both the motivation and the understanding to write about it. I think that's the starting point for most fanfiction writers. Essentially they want more. After all, an hour long show once a week, for example, is simply not enough for many people. And if the show in question has been cancelled - horror! Television is a finite resource, fanfiction needn't be. Current websites exist for shows such as the A-Team and The Man from Uncle - series that ceased production decades ago.

Another reason you mentioned was dislike of the way characters are treated.

This too is true. I know that in the HtLJ fandom, the 5th season was not viewed with approbation by all. Some fanfiction opts to ignore this season altogether, whilst some rewrites it. 'I don't like the way it ended, so I'm saying this happened instead and you're welcome to join me in this alternative vision'. Multiple choice for the discerning reader.

A third, perhaps more selfish, reason is ego. Were I, an amateur, to submit a manuscript of original work to a publisher, how far would it get? In fact, it wouldn't even reach a publisher in the first instance. Unsolicited manuscripts are not welcomed and most publishers will only accept submissions from literary agents. So, the first hurdle is to persuade an agent to read (not accept, just read) a couple of chapters as a taster. If you don't catch their interest with that, it goes no further. Much rejection and heartache ensues. In contrast, web-based fanfiction is open to all. Written something? Post it on a list for like-minded fans to read. Someone may well offer it a home on their site. If not, hell, get your own site and count the number of hits. It's ego boosting time!