I think that Fan Fiction (fanfic for short) is a really intriguing phenomenon. A single author comes up with a truly brilliant idea, and soon the rest of the world has latched on, thinking they can either improve on it or add to it or even make it their own. In all honesty, I would rather have my own good idea to write about instead, but since I apparently missed the originality boat, I’m willing to settle.
I have theories on why people enjoy doing this sort of thing. Here they are:
- Readers love a story or character so much, they can’t bear to see the story end. In this type of fanfic, writers use the author’s original characters to extend stories past the written conclusion, write backstories to predate the original author’s work, or even add things into the author’s version of the story. Search for “Harry Potter Fan Fiction” if you’d like to see how popular this is. It’s nuts.
- Readers find the concept behind a novel or a series truly fascinating, but are disappointed with the actual plot. They feel perhaps they have a plot that is more satisfying. Again, they use the characters created by the original author. Perhaps the story as a whole was okay, but they hated the ending. Rewritten endings seem to be a particularly popular form of fanfic. Misery for those of us who lack the homicidal tendencies of Annie Wilkes.
- Lastly, there are the groups who fall in love with the scenario behind a fictional work, and wish oh-so-badly they could live there themselves. This usually applies to science fiction or fantasy works where the world created is broad and well developed. Go to any local bookstore and check out the Star Wars and Star Trek wall. There is a whole wall, I guarantee it. Star Trek is such a big field of fandom, in fact, that they have conventions, societies, and dress up like Klingons to get married. But what about us folks who are shy? Who have secret passions for nerdy hobbies but don’t want to be seen in public wearing a Ferengi facemask (even if it meant your own mother couldn’t tell who you were)? For us, there is writing. And what more anonymous place than the internet?
The fanfiction I write falls under that last category. Anne McCaffrey developed a beautiful world on a brilliant concept: a creature exists who would choose you out from a crowd, tell you you are better than all those other people, and love you unconditionally for the rest of your life. Oh yeah, and now you get to work together to save the world.
Let me make one thing clear: I think Anne, though brilliant with her ideas, is a mediocre writer. Her plots are good, her characters are rather Twinkie, but her writing itself is a little blah. Not only that, but she created her world as she wrote her stories, a device that would have mortified J. R. R. Tolkien. The result was some serious plot holes, and worse, holes in the world of scientific logic.
But we cope with that. We find bandaids to put over the gaping holes and construct characters and plots that are more satisfying than her originals. (Sssh, don’t tell too many people I said that. I could get mobbed.) And we really enjoy ourselves.
I’m convinced one day, I’ll do like Meg Cabot and launch out of the world of fanfic into a world of top ten best sellers and movie deals. One of the characters I invent will be so intriguing, or some plot so juicy, I’ll be able to pull it out of the world of fandom and make my first million. If I do, I’ll be humble and pay tribute to my fictional origins.
Just not where my adoring new public can see it.