We all know that fanfiction doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the writing world. But the stigma that fanfic bears as frivolous, lowbrow writing obscures the many benefits that the exercise of writing fanfic can offer an aspiring—or even established—writer. It can provide excellent practice and serve as a handy resource when you’re struggling with writer’s block. Here are some of the advantages of writing fanfiction.
Everything you need to get started is already there
Fanfiction is excellent practice for developing writers because it allows them to stretch their writing muscles in an environment that has already been laid out in the “canon” (the original story). It’s easy to get going when you have a whole world full of fleshed-out characters already established. Not worrying about world- and character-building allows you to focus on the actual plot of the story you want to get on the page.
It can teach you character development
Being creative and good with language is only the beginning of what it takes to write a good story. Your characters and fictional universe need to be consistent and well-built in order for the story to be believable to your readers. As mentioned already, since the building is largely done for you before you get there, fanfic provides a great opportunity to keep your characters consistent with how they have been drawn in canon while still telling the story you want to tell. For example, if you want to write an alternate universe (AU) fic in which the characters from Harry Potter are non-magical college students, Harry still has to feel like Harry in order for the fic to make sense. So it’s a great lesson in character drawing where you don’t have to start from scratch.
Your captive audience awaits
This is particularly useful for writers who plan to self-publish. Fanfic already has its target market all set up, so you can put your stuff out there, get it read, and perhaps develop a bit of a following among readers who will be eager to see what you come up with next. This audience will also tend to share your enthusiasm for the characters and the fictional world you’re writing in. This creates a perfect recipe for feedback and discussion, which will help you develop both your skills and your confidence, so you can start putting your original work out there in no time.
It can help tackle writer’s block
If you’re struggling with ideas or you feel like you just can’t write, turning to fanfic can be a really good way of jumpstarting your thought process. You can even just pick up where the canon story left off. This doesn’t take much imaginative strain, but should help to get the cogs turning and help clear your head so you can start working on original ideas as well. On top of it all, writing fanfiction can be a ton of fun, so don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!
Robin Field holds a BA in English and Linguistics from the University of Cape Town where she is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Linguistics with a focus on gender and game studies.