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In Defense of Fanfiction

Mass Effect Legendary Edition came out just a few weeks ago and I’ve spent a few days playing through one of my favorite video game series. It was one of the games that helped convince me to write a whole thesis on video game journalism. It was why I created a news segment project in college while getting my broadcasting degree. It was also why I started writing fanfiction.

I didn’t play the games until about 2010, three years after the first game came out and I absolutely loved it. I loved almost everything Bioware was releasing and I wanted more! At the time I wasn’t a fan of fanfiction (ironic). I thought the best creativity was strictly your own: your own characters, your own plots, your own everything. But after playing Mass Effect, after getting involved in the community, after falling in love with the characters, I tried my hand at fanfiction.

And I loved it. Having established characters made it easy to just focus on plot, focus on ways of writing. It had instant feedback from friends and people in the fandom, because they loved these characters too. I gained friends. I gained skills and practice, while also enjoying the instant satisfaction of having people read my work.

I know there are people who were just like me, hating on fanfiction. And I don’t blame them. A lot of cringe worthy works have come out of fanfiction (I’m looking at you 50 Shades and After). But that doesn’t make fanfiction inherently bad.

It’s Great Practice

Practice makes perfect and it’s also something I hate doing. Why write something no one is going to read? Why write something you really don’t care about? It’s hard for me to just do practice challenges sometimes because I like having a goal to them. I take my own writing challenges and try to fit them into current story ideas or…fanfiction. It’s a great practice that you’ll want to read yourself. It was something you felt was needed to be added to the universe of those characters and storylines.

It also forces you to write in character for characters you didn’t create. Trust me when I say people will call you out if something is out of character. If you post on AO3.org (my favorite fanfiction site), the comments will let you know right away. You have to stay in character, having the reactions and actions match what they would normally do in the source content. It’s tricky and a great exercise.

It Can Have Instant Feedback

As I mentioned above, you can post your work online and people may immediately react to it because they’re looking for more content of their favorite novels, movies, games, etc. You’ll be told if they love parts. You’ll be told if they hate parts. And if you’re like me, where feedback is a huge driver for your work, it can keep you going.

One of my favorite places to post is AO3.org, because it has the best tagging system and a huge amount of readers. But there is also fanfiction.net or even tumblr!

It Can Be Super Fun

Fanfiction is just fun! You become part of a community. You write stories for the hell of it. And stories that are just fun. Like coffee shop stories for a game that was a space military story. Commander Shepard doesn’t work as a barista but they can, and you can tell how that would pan out.

You Can Develop a Readership

Before you even have to write your own works, you can develop a readership and following just based on your work and writing. If people like what you’ve written and how you’ve written it, they would be more apt to follow your other works.

Fanfiction can be harmless fun that helps you hone your skill. It gives you a community (especially of other writers) where you can bounce ideas and learn from each other. It’s always been fun for me and, though I haven’t done it in a while, I might jump back into writing fanfiction again.

Let me know in the comments below if you write fanfiction, your opinions on fanfiction, or if you want to try in the future. I can’t wait to read your thoughts.

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