So, in various corners of the interwebs there reside reams of derisive references to fanfiction.
What the hell is wrong with fanfiction?
Can you imagine learning how to compose your own music without first studying those who composed before you? Learning to paint without studying the masters? What’s so wrong with taking already developed characters and weaving your own story around them?
Have you read fanfiction? I have. Truckloads of it. And I will be the first to say that there is plenty of fanfic out there that needs work. Work or a delete button, either will do. But, that having been said, I’ve read some genius fanfic. Some fanfic is better than published works. (Here’s looking at you, Chuck Wendig of Aftermath. First person, present tense for a story set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?” What the actual hell were you thinking? I literally cannot read that. I tried. Now, I’m relying on others to tell me what you said. It’s tragic.)
My fanfic fandom is definitely Harry Potter. I adore it. People have written and continue to write hundreds of thousands of stories in this universe. And some of them are just – brilliant. Some stories are 80,000 words, 90,000 words, 400,000 words. Others are quick little scenes of only 100 to 1000 words.
Now, you might ask if an author (and can we agree that anyone who can write a small novel is an author?) can write such long stories, then why wouldn’t they write their own stuff?
I’d say they are writing their own stuff. They are borrowing (and it is borrowing because they aren’t making money off of this) JKR’s own fabulous characters and her world, but they generally are making their own plot within that world. It’s the first stop towards creating your own universe with your own characters.
In the case of JKR, she made a choice that was inexplicable to many readers. She made Ron and Hermione a couple. Let’s look at that couple. They appear to be an ill fit, don’t they? Now, as a reader, I shrugged it off and thought: Meh. Opposites attract. After all, some couples make much more sense in private than they do in public. And JKR very clearly coded Harry and Hermione as a brother/sister relationship. But many folks were not so sanguine. They felt that Hermione’s fate was clearly unjust. So they re-wrote it. ShayaLonnie’s first fanfic was Lost Moments and she wrote Hermione and Ron’s off-screen moments to make the couple make sense. Several other authors have done something similar in giving readers a Hermione/Ron centric story. Scores of other put her with someone else. Draco, Harry, Neville, Pansy, Luna, you name the leading character. Glitterally made a world with Hermione as the wife of two Malfoys.
And it’s brilliant.
For myself, I like her with Harry, and I just ignore JKR’s plan. But that’s okay. And you know what else? Writing two short novel-length stories in that world has given me the confidence to attempt to write my own story in my own world. It wasn’t easy, for the record, writing those stories. And while I’m clearly not the next Hemingway, maybe the next fanfic author is.
So lay off the fanfic authors. They are practicing to be the great authors of tomorrow. And even if they aren’t, storytellers should be valued, no matter where the stories originate.