Fans Just Wanna Have Fun: The Case for Fanfiction [Fanfic Friday]

“As far as lack of originality goes, fan fiction is the only thing worse than tribute bands.”

“I have a definite idea of who… the characters in my books are and which direction they are heading… and I don’t want somebody else coming along and making them behave in a way that is totally wrong for them.”

“Fan fiction doesn’t allow creativity. I think of it as plagarism [sic], because you’re using someone’s ideas to fuel your own.”

A quick Google search gave me these lovely quotes from a Goodreads forum on the topic of fanfiction. An obligatory definition for those not caught up: fanfiction is a genre of writing where a writer takes stories that already exist and makes new ones with the setting, characters, and/or other story elements. For example, I could write my own story about Harry Potter and some adventure he has in Hogwarts; or some adventure he has in the muggle world; or even some adventure he has in space meeting Spock. There are really no limits to what people write fanfiction about.

You probably fit into one of three categories after hearing this:

  1. Fanfiction is awesome!
  2. Not my thing, but I can’t see why anyone would have a problem with it.
  3. This is incredibly pointless, unoriginal, and/or a copyright violation!

That’s fine. Everyone in the fanfiction-writing realm understands that not everyone likes fanfiction. The only problem comes when you have a problem with it and proceed to vocalize about it. While the quotes above weren’t directed at a specific fanfiction writer, comments like those often are. So whether you’re wondering why people would have an issue with it, looking for arguments against a flamer, or someone adamantly against it yourself, I’d like to explain the reasons why people like fanfiction and why it’s not really your a problem.

There’s actually nothing inherently wrong with fanfiction. This is the most important point through a technical lens. Fanfiction isn’t illegal, infringing on copyright, or doing anything to assault you personally. Most fanfiction authors publish their works with disclaimers reading something like, “I’m not JK Rowling, and I don’t own Harry Potter”, and even these disclaimers aren’t necessary. As long as you’re not selling the fanfiction for a profit, you are not breaking any laws. I repeat: as long as the piece of writing isn’t making you money, you’re not in the wrong. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Additionally, fanfiction isn’t “plagiarism.” Plagiarism means that you’re claiming the work is entirely your own. Again, unless you explicitly say, “I am Arthur Conan Doyle, I hope you like my new Sherlock sequel!” you are doing nothing wrong. Even if an author has expressed their dislike for fanfiction, you aren’t breaking any rules (though in that case it would be best to stick a disclaimer in there to be sure.) From a legal and moral standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with fanfiction being written and posted online.

Fanfiction is never written for personal gain. What I mean by this is that, unlike other forms of writing, no one has ever written fanfiction for any reason other than, “this sounds like a cool idea, and writing it would make me happy.” Fanfiction writers write fanfiction because it makes them happy.

They’re not writing to make money. They’re not writing to be famous. They’re not writing for a project or because they have to. Every fanfiction ever written has been penned because the author simply finds pleasure in the act of doing it. It’s a hobby like any other. You write poetry for fun? You garden? You knit little hats and scarves? Cool–I write fanfiction. Just like you wouldn’t yell at the little old lady that “no one’s ever going to wear your scarves, and also that color combination is copyrighted by Liverpool”, you wouldn’t tell a fanfiction writer that they’ll never make money or do anything productive with their stories. The little old lady didn’t make those scarves just because she wanted people to wear them, and… no, Liverpool isn’t going to stop her from using the same colors they use on their jerseys.

Yes, this mentality can (and has) resulted in some terrible fanfiction that absolutely butchers characters, stories, and human sanity. Is that annoying? Yeah. Is that wrong? Nope. I mean, there’s been worse literature published from real publishing houses over the years. Obviously, to people who don’t want to see their favorite stories tampered with, fanfiction like this can be very upsetting. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about it. There will always be bad writing in the world. The best thing any of us can do is leave a constructive review and move on.

Fanfiction is excellent practice for writers still gaining their footing (and all writers, actually.) This is the coolest part about fanfiction. You’ve probably heard all of the famous authors who got their start in fanfiction: Rainbow Rowell, Neil Gaiman, and even Orson Scott Card. Yours truly wrote a self-insert fanfiction starring Hannah Potter, Harry’s twin sister (who everyone magically loved for some reason.)

The genre of fanfiction is open for anything and everything. It gives you what you need and lets you play around with the rest. Are you bad at developing original characters? Take Sam and Dean Winchester and plop them in a new plot. Need a setting? Write about your own wizard attending Hogwarts with a completely new class. Have you always wanted to see Eragon meet Legolas? Well, you can write about that.

People who call this “copying” or “plagiarism” aren’t getting the point. These words have a negative connotation, and what fanfiction does isn’t negative–it’s incredibly positive. It’s giving the author the tools they need to practice instead shoving them from the nest and saying, “Fly! Be free! Get published!” Many other authors have gotten published without fanfiction for practice, true–but is that really relevant? They still got feedback, used it, and improved: which brings me to my next point.

Fanfiction allows for instant feedback. Once you post a chapter, thousands of readers can read it and tell you what they thought. Writers can be praised, critiqued, given advice, and asked questions all through websites like FanFiction.net and Archive of Our Own. Writers get better because readers tell them how. Every author has gotten advice from someone; fanfiction is a fun, safe way to do it. Let me tell you, my prose has gotten infinitely better since I first started writing.

His hair was a darker brown, and he had an odd light in his eyes, though he looked normal in all other outwardly ways.

… Eugh.  Here’s a line from something I wrote a little more recently than 2011:

He flashed another smile, taking the book from her and turning it over in his hands curiously. “So if you’re not studying, what are you doing, then?”

A faint smile hinting of melancholy graced her face as she replied, “I’m distracting myself, I suppose.”

I’m not trying to promote myself or my writing at all… but I will have you know that the first line was from something original, and the second one was from a piece of fanfiction I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. (It’s between Fred and Hermione.) Fanfiction can be well-written, it can be constructive, and it most certainly will make you better as a writer–all practice does.

All points aside, obviously fanfiction can be horribly written; or you might just not like it. That’s totally fine! I didn’t write this to convince anyone to love the genre. I wrote this because I’m tired of people saying things like, “Fanfiction is a waste of talent” and “using other peoples’ characters is pointless.” In all actuality, it’s a form of writing that lets the writer experiment, get feedback, and have fun.

So this is my plea: the next time someone mentions fanfiction or you stumble across it somewhere, don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, remember its purposes and uses–and remember that it’s not really a big deal anyway. 🙂 In the end, fans just wanna have fun!


Hey, welcome to Fanfic Fridays! Fanfiction is what got me started, and I have a real passion for the genre and helping others get better at it (so that I can read all their great stories once they write them 😉 ). Thus, I decided to make it a weekly feature!

Every Friday, you’ll get an article about fanfic, some cool links and recommendations, or my own personal writing advice related to fanfiction. Just another reason to say TGIF 😉

 

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A Ravenclaw’s Guide to Finals Week

Finally.

The weeks of tea, late nights, frantic note-taking, and falling asleep on random people in the common room is over. I finally finished taking my Sickeningly Awful Testing exam (SATs) and let me tell you–our entire house is beyond relieved. When they say Ravenclaws are intelligent, they’re not lying. But that also means there’s a ton of pressure on everyone to get Es on our exams, since we’re supposedly really clever. Well, clever doesn’t always mean intelligent (I didn’t feel very confident on the Arithmancy sections, but then again I never have excelled in that area), but when everyone around you is studying like their life depends on it, you tend to get some death glares when you’re caught scrolling through Reddit. So I studied too and did fairly well on everything.

However, as one of the Ravenclaws who falls more under the “creative” label of our house rather than “clever,” I didn’t always make the greatest study decisions. I stressed out and ended up cramming a lot during the end instead of preparing well, so as a result I lost sleep and didn’t take care of myself really well. So here’s a reflection to help any exam-takers (whether you’re attending a magic school or a regular public one) the next time you have a big test coming up.


 

1. Start studying as early as possible. We had people in year 7 studying for NEWTs like two months before their tests, and a few of my room mates started cracking open to older sections in textbooks to start reviewing a few weeks later. It’s always, always better to start studying as early as you can. Next year, I’m planning on taking really detailed notes and studying on a regular basis to keep up my memory. (Especially American Muggle Studies… Professor Sasse gives awful tests.)

2. Figure out what actually helps you to study–not what people say will help you study. I grew up taking lame “study skills” classes once a week before I transferred to Hogwarts, and they all tell you the exact same things. “Make flash cards, listen to recordings, watch videos, read the text book, take good notes…” That’s not bad advice, obviously. It’s just advice that literally everyone has heard before. And that’s a problem, because the fantastic truth is that every single person is an individual and studies differently.

What does that look like for me? Well, I study better alone, at a clean desk, with a mug of tea. The way I study to remember the information is usually re-writing the material into detailed notes and making flashcards for things I need to memorize. Others study better with other people to keep them on track, or they might do better re-reading the textbook cover to cover. Some like to make colorful charts or find online videos and songs with the information they need to remember. Experiment a little and find something that makes you feel the most confident and knowledgeable. If you’re walking into tests truly worried about how you’re going to do, you’re doing it wrong.

3. Make a plan. This might be something that mostly helps me, because I’m a very list-oriented person, but making a schedule or list of all the things you need to study is really important. If you just say, “Oh, I need to study for Potions,” and then you sit down at your desk with your book and cauldron, you’re going to have a pretty foggy idea of what studying for Potions actually entails. Pay attention to what you’ve been struggling with in class, and take that list into your study session. Practice and study what you normally forget, and give yourself permission to skip over things you already know pretty well. You can come back to them if you’re still worried, but start with the hard stuff and then move on once you’ve got it down.

4. Actually stick to the plan. Here’s where you have to hold yourself accountable to actually sitting down and using the study methods you know work for you. This step is about getting rid of distractions and actually making time to study.

I tend to be distracted by a lot of internet-related things: Tumblr, Facebook, DeviantArt… In the past, I’ve actually gotten someone to change my passwords for me so that I don’t log in at all. It’s very annoying, but very motivating. Turning off internet or blocking access to certain sites is also really good. I use a Chrome extension called StayFocusd, which will give you a certain number of minutes to browse blocked sites and will then shut you out from them when time’s up.

Additionally, just getting away from the distractions is the best option. Whenever I’m on a computer, distraction is inevitable at some point–I like having my notes on paper so that I can take them somewhere computer-free to study. The best way to get rid of distractions is for me to sprawl out on my bed with a textbook, my notes, and some colorful pens; do whatever you need to to get away from procrastination temptations–which leads me to my next point.

5. Location is key. Some people study best in their room, surrounded by books and other comforts of home. Others like to study at their desk where they usually do homework. Sometimes a simple change of surroundings will get you in the mood–perhaps moving from your desk to your dining room table. Other times, though, you need a drastic change of scenery. Whenever I’m feeling particularly unproductive, I like to grab a few friends and go to Hogsmeade to get a mug of butterbeer and sit down to study. Coffee shops and cafes are perfect study environments.

6. Don’t stress yourself out! I see this all the time when NEWTs roll around–7th years begin having panic attacks in the Ravenclaw common room staring as far back as March. You’re never going to retain information when your body is pumping adrenaline in a fight-or-flight response; if you’ve followed all of these tips (or even if you haven’t) the best way to study is to just relax and just do it. What’s done is done, and there’s no need to stress over what you can’t do when it’s more productive to plan out what you can.


 

I wish you the best of luck in your own revising endeavors! You don’t have to be a Ravenclaw to do well on your exams–you just have to have determination and organization. So what are you waiting for? Pace yourself, get organized, and get studying! Oh, and make a cup of tea while you’re at it. It helps more than you’d think. 😉

Another “New Year” Post! aka What Am I Doing? [Blogging U Day 1]

I created this blog in November of 2014 in a vain attempt to procrastinate writing for NaNoWriMo. So… I started a writing blog to avoid writing.

Since then, I’ve written a total of 19 blog posts, 14 of them in the last year, and it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that hardly any of them are actually about writing. I started this blog intending for it to be a personal author’s blog that posted writing-related things occasionally; and I suppose that’s what it’s turned into. The problem with that is that it doesn’t have a very clear focus. And focus is precisely what a successful and helpful blog needs.

So now this begs the question… what is this blog’s focus? This year, that’s something I’m going to hash out. For now, though, I’m going to lay out the basics and give all my 2016 readers (all 12 of you! Fantastic!) a glimpse of what this blog is and where it’s headed.

Of Wit and Writing, titled in honor of the Sorting Hat’s description of Ravenclaw house, is a blog run by me, Kimberly Horton, originally intended to be a personal blog of sorts. Since no one was actually interested in my personal life, however, I spent most of 2015 putzing around, posting about whatever I felt like. This didn’t really attract much of a readership. The post that I feel really took off and managed to get people to look at my blog, though, was called How to Win NaNoWriMo: An Unofficial Guide. I’d originally written it as a paper for my English class, and we were all asked to create blogs for the assignment. I posted it to my already existing blog here, and my teacher suggested that I start blogging solely about writing—it seemed to get me a larger audience, and so far my blog didn’t really have a specific category.

I’m going to see how that goes for 2016.

I’ll be relegating all personal things to my blog over at kimberlyhorton.wordpress.com, and I’ll be trying to dedicate this blog here to only writing. I’ve signed up for WordPress’s Blogging U 101 course and plan on finishing that before settling to blog at least twice a month (biweekly is the idea.) Those two goals, blog biweekly and blog about writing, are my 2016 blogging resolutions! A pretty short and pretty manageable list, if I do say so myself.

Along the way, I’ll be trying to find my niche in the blogosphere. There are already bajillions of writing advice blogs out there—what can I do to make this one different? That’s the question I’m going to try and answer this year.

Thanks for sticking with me so far—here’s to another year of wit and writing!