Fan fiction: Ultimate writing tool or Copyright violation?

July 12, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

There is no doubt that most new writers these days are familiar with the world of fan fiction.  Fan fiction is writing stories using another Authors characters or worlds to create new stories or situations.  I myself began my writing career with a fan fiction and I know many other authors that maintain such a story when they want to experiment or practice writing or simply don’t want the pressure of creating and maintaining a characters personality or world.  Fan fiction is a world in which the writing does not have to be perfect and yet there are millions of people who will search tirelessly for stories creating couples or situations they wished actually happened.

So why is fan fiction such a tricky issue?  Well technically fan fiction is a violation of copyright.  I know the dreaded word that burns the eye and stares many a college student directly in the face from time to time.  I myself have been locked in the library at midnight cursing the laws that meant I had to reference this and that into wee hours of the night.  But as an author it protects out rights, so as restlessly as I say this, they have a point.

 Most authors turn a blind eye to these infringements providing no profit is made from the work.   As a precaution most fan fiction authors will provide a disclaimer showing that they acknowledge the fact that the characters (read setting, plot) are not their own.  This is generally the right way to go about fan fiction, but then there are others.

If there is one thing I must implore fan fiction writers to do, it is to not attempt to get their work published in any shape or form that would result in the work making money.  Just try searching Google and you will see the problems that can be encountered from trying such a thing.  Publishing it, especially if it’s going to make money is not only crossing the line but attacking it with a needle and saying screw you to the author.

But fan fiction is such a widely used phenomenon that there must be a saving grace to the whole exercise.  As an aspiring author I would be flattered that my characters could affect an audience in such a way that they would want to explore their world more.  Many authors turn the other cheek when it comes to fan fiction.  And many aspiring authors either start or have fan fiction that can be credited to their name.

To me fan fiction is the ultimate practice tool for getting into a character’s head.  If you are creating a newly found character it is often hard to figure out what they would do in any given situation.  Enter fan fiction stage right and you have Harry Potter or Bella Swan, characters completely fleshed out and ready for moulding.

But fan fiction is not just useful for practice.  It get’s authors out there without the confidence in their own stories and abilities and it opens up an instant fan base to these authors.  Everybody who wants to write should be able to share their passion with the world.  A fan fiction has the potential to garner thousands of followers if it is written well.  Unfortunately an original fiction published online has a much smaller chance at garnering so much attention if you compare similar mediums. 

I see Fan fiction as just another writing medium.  As long as you respect the fact that the characters or situations you write will never be yours, it is a useful and well used medium for which to practice and expand your writing talents.  But know that the purple prose and long billowing sentences that do not harm fan fiction will certainly hurt anything you plan on submitting.

It isn’t to say that it is a bad thing.  Some of my favourite fan fictions have awful grammar and page long descriptions about a dress colour or fabric.  Fan fiction is the ultimate realm for story tellers.  Forget all the writing mumbo jumbo and just get the story out there.

Fan fiction is no better or worse than original fiction, they are separate from each other in every way.  Remember to respect the wishes of the author you borrow your characters from and I see little harm in exploring their universes.

Writers beware: fan fiction can become so addictive that you find yourself reading pages and pages instead of writing your own.  I have many times stopped and thought “Well I didn’t get any writing done but I did read six hours worth of fan fiction.” 




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  1. Haha that last paragraph is so true! Great post Alyce. I write a lot of fanfiction myself, but I’d never dream of making money off of it. I’d rather make money off my own novels than someone else’s.

    *looks around* Now where’s the author of Russet Noon?

  2. As someone who can get addicted to basically any series, I’ve enjoyed a lot of fanfiction. It continues the stories when the author didn’t, explores options the author couldn’t, and can come in nice long miniseries form (further feeding my addiction to all things serial.)

    I think for a beginning writer that fanfiction does provide a nice comfort. They don’t need to invent the characters or the world, just the story line and some other details they might need. There’s some invention needed but not too much. It’s also a good way for them to get their feet wet at storytelling.

    Still, at the base, the writer is using someone else’s intellectual property. No stealing, otherwise you open the window for people to steal from you later. I think as long as people admit up front that they are borrowing the basics (let’s face it, no one really thinks it’s JK Rowling writing these fanfics) then it should be okay.

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