On Fanfiction As A Tool

In the course of my internet journey this week, I stumbled onto this blog posting by author Seanan McGuire (Mira Grant to you, zombie fans).  In it, she discusses her stance on fanfiction and its merits, as well as her views with respect to her own works as an author.  McGuire’s opinion is one of the healthier ones out there, balanced between recognizing the place and value fanfiction holds while maintaining the boundaries she needs to protect her art.

I share many of her views on the subject, personally.  While I won’t get into the problems and objections I have with regards to pulling fanfiction and publishing it (that would be a rather lengthy essay), I will say that fanfiction is a vital tool that authors can take advantage of.  For burgeoning writers, fanfiction is a way to test out your talents, expand your storytelling capability and receive feedback from people emotionally invested in that fandom.  In my teens, I wrote a rather lengthy X-Files fanfiction, and if nothing else came of it, it was learning the importance of outlining and instilling confidence in my ability to write an extended piece of narrative.  I’d officially broken away from novellas, and haven’t looked back.

For experienced writers facing a block or returning to the craft after a long hiatus, fanfiction is a brilliant way to stretch those proverbial muscles out and limber up.  It’s the boot camp for a professional fighter:  the scenarios are pre-planned, the players handed to you, the world defined by the rules of your trainer.  Your goal is to practice the moves utilizing these handy pieces in order to prepare for the unpredictability and originality of the actual fight – or, in our cases, write a novel.  I fell into a deep drought of ideas in my early 20’s and struggled to put proverbial pen to paper for some time.  What brought me back to life, composing threads of plot, was fanfiction.  I spent two years reviving and refining my craft and, in the midst of that regular schedule of delivering chapters for impatient readers, I suddenly spotted a way to take an abandoned screenplay and transition it into a novel.

Without fanfiction, there would be no Change Of Season, and that would be a shame, as I feel it’s my strongest work to date.

Fanfiction can be silly, lighthearted or serious.  It can stay true to the world in every sense, or venture forth into alternate worlds, bringing the characters along for the ride.  I commend authors who recognize the immersive love that a fandom provides their readers.  It’s a place where a beloved book or series never truly ends.  Isn’t that why we write: to feed the imaginations of others?

Fanfiction works should never be deep, dark secrets – unless they’re very juvenile and dreadful.  But to deny its role in writing on the whole is to not only negate the evolution of tomorrow’s authors, but also dismisses published work that is, by definition, legally sanctioned fanfiction.  Wicked, anyone? It is as great a tool as any guidebook or critique group, one that should be in every writer’s toolbox as a potential resource.

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