In theory, I am all for fan fiction. I think it gives people who may go on to be writers the chance to work with fully developed characters, and carry on their adventures after the book, movie, television series has ended. It gives people a chance to start asking that essential question ‘what if’.
Some very popular adaptations over the last few years have asked just this question. ‘What if Vulcan were destroyed in the Star Trek Universe?’ ‘What if Sherlock Holmes lived in the 21st century instead of the 19th?’
There are a lot of unexplored angles to any story or character, and the imagination can create whole worlds exploring these options. ‘What would Granny Weatherwax have been like as a girl?’ ‘What if Scrooge and Belle had married?’ ‘What if Victor Frankenstein had kept his word and created a companion for his Creature?’
My first encounter with fan fiction was in the early 90s. It was some dark alley of the web and I think that the stories I read might have been Highlander fan fiction based on the television series. As it tends to be today, a lot of it was porn, but the ones that explored alternate story lines were fascinating to me, even as a kid who was not fully certain that writing was where her life was headed.
I honestly don’t remember if I wrote any of my own fan fiction back then. I can remember thinking a lot about alternate story lines and where the characters could go and lives they could live, but it never went very far. I have always had difficulty with characters who were not my own. I find that they tend to be more argumentative and stiff.
Even when I was a kid, I tended to pick a couple of personality traits I liked and built my own characters around them. The very first story I can remember writing was about mouse people, but it wasn’t in the world of An American Tale. Those mouse people weren’t my mouse people. They both wore clothes and had their own society, but that is where the similarities ended. I think mine lived in a kingdom in the woods instead of New York (I was six at the time).
These days I do have a couple of ideas for pastiche stories floating around in my head that may or may not ever get written. It will depend on how well my brain and a couple hundred year old characters want to get along.
Fan fiction in general is still something I think of as a place to start. It gets a person thinking like a writer. It lets them step into a world and create a situation or adventure that needs to be followed and recorded. And maybe some created side character catches the writer’s eye and suddenly they want their own story.
There is so much fun to be had in writing. And the wonderful thing about fan fiction is that there is no commercial element to it. Fan fiction is for your own enjoyment and the enjoyment of your friends. Nothing ruins art faster when you’re learning than creating it with the thought that it has to be good enough to sell.
I’m not going to talk about copyright here because I think every other content creator on the planet has already spoken of what is and isn’t legal with regards to intellectual property. And I generally think that most people already get it. For the finer points, there is always Google (a lot of copyright lawyers have written quite in-depth on the subject and provided that information for free).
We learn to do anything by copying what we see others doing. From walking to playing an instrument to drawing to creating a story. And while I tend to look on fan fiction as akin to training wheels, I’m not sure that there is a point where people should feel that they need to stop creating it if it makes them happy.
Would I feel the same way if people were writing alternate stories with characters I had created? I don’t know. I’ll let you know if it ever happens.