L I T E R A T U R E – F A N F I C T I O N
Spiderman slowly descends from the red brick wall, long fingers curling the spider silk, dangling. As Shrek halts outside the brewery, coffee almost sloshing out of the warm paper cup, he realises, with an almost certainty upon seeing the real dashing face of the neighbourhood hero, that he’s caught—caught in his enchanting web. It was that smile. That damned smile.
Yes, this is fanfiction. But that’s not all there is.
Fanfiction has long held a bad rep of being gimmicky wish fulfilment, often borderline explicit and delusional fics circulating on Wattpad. (For instance, stories about getting kicked by your family, only to get adopted by One Direction. Gasp.) While those do exist, people who are uninvolved in fandom fail to realise the sheer scope of genres, topics, and qualities of work that gets around.
What would happen in Harry Potter if Hermione Granger was a darker character that gets drafted into Slytherin on account of her ambitious nature? What kind of world would she build as she toes the line of good and bad and fights against the societal discrimination of Slytherins? Would she even be friends with Harry and Ron?
These are the kind of questions that authors on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) and Fanfiction.net like to answer, with a combined count of 1 million+ works and that’s just under the Harry Potter fandom alone. There are categories for almost every book, TV show, movie, and anime—each with boggling amounts of individual works and crossovers.
It’s endless. And endlessly fascinating.
Fanfiction can be ‘good fiction’
I would go so far as to call it a genre of its own. You would not believe the poetic trilling of words, the imagery worth a thousand, the characterisations that spoke, and the emotion I have found within some works. Some, I would say have higher quality than even published books.
As a penniless lover of reading, they were my solace. And while the free aspect might have won me over, the reason fanfiction, or more broadly, fanworks thrive, boils down to wanting more—more of the characters we’d fallen in love with and the world we’d gotten our bearings around.
Imagine you could just read about your favourite character traipsing across town hand in hand with the person you think they’re really meant to be with. You could redo that one annoying scene that completely butchered a plot or character arc for you. You could shower the underrated ones with much-deserved love and character development. That is the essence.
Representation is also part of the appeal. Popular media has gotten better at recognising minorities over the years, though a lot of it is performative. In the fanfic world, LGBTQ+ characters have existed for years. Fans have reimagined their favourite characters as minorities or added in missing details to create relatable stories that are hard to find elsewhere. And because the fics aren’t incentivised with money, they don’t feel like someone is just trying to fill a quota or making tragedy porn; they feel raw.
Fanfiction as writing exercise?
The ease of access and feedback makes it welcoming to budding writers. And while yes, a lot of them might make up the shoddily written fics, that’s where they go to blossom. You might ask what they can learn if they’re not making something original.
Well, fanfiction is a completely different approach to writing. It probably will not teach you the dignity of grammar and techniques. But it will teach you the nuances of style, dialogue, how to extrapolate and make believable plot lines within established worlds, or take characters to new realms to battle intergalactic monsters, and still make them feel like them.
It’s an excellent place to exercise your chops with elements like humour, satire, and angst as well as narrative decisions like character point of views or first person and third person.
Established authors like Neil Gaiman have publicly shown support for the medium. And while enemies of the art form exist, thanks to the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), non-commercialised fanfiction is completely legal. AO3 has even won a Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2019.
But how to find these gems?
Currently, the most popular fanfic site is AO3. The website uses a tagging system, so you can find your favourite tropes, pairings, ratings, etc. in your desired fandom. Usually, filtering by ‘kudos’, the like system, will lead you to a frontpage of erotica galore. However, pro tips are to use the exclude tags section to filter out explicit tags. In Fanfiction.net, sorting by favourites will usually yield novel-length gems.
Examples of Eren x Mikasa completed fics on AO3 and Fanfiction.net. Head over, find your favourite fandom and tinker around for a while. I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it and you can decide whether it’s something worth your while.
Joyita Faruk, a self-proclaimed Bakugou Simp™, is on her miserable, caffeine-addled journey towards being the laziest workaholic she knows. She’s currently preparing herself for the pains of carpal tunnel syndrome because she types 100k word fics on her phone…Send her well wishes at [email protected].