With internet blogging becoming more accessible and popular, we are seeing the rise of a genre that was previously impractical to produce: fan-fiction. Readers can now engage with their favourite worlds and characters by adding to the story in their own, unofficial way and this type of writing benefits a lot of people. Readers can continue to enjoy their favourite works even once the official story has been concluded, the original author enjoys free publicity and commentary on their work, and the writer of the fan-fiction gets the chance to practice their craft using a premise that they are already enthusiastic about. But as well as the benefits there are a number of challenges that fan-fiction writers must face and I want to go over a few of the pros and cons here, for any of you who are considering taking up the hobby.
When we talk about “canon”, we are referring to a set of facts that are accepted to be true of the fictional universe. For example, it is canon that Harry Potter is a wizard, Hogwarts is in the UK, and that Harry’s parents are dead. These are all things that are set in stone about the story and it would be extremely difficult for a fan-fiction writer to change them without causing some stir with their audience.
The challenge here is that you have less space in which to spread your creative wings. There will be less opportunity for you to practice creating and developing characters or settings and you will also need to have a fairly encyclopaedic knowledge of the fictional world in order to protect yourself from angry, anonymous internet commenters.
One of the biggest arguments in favour of writing fan-fiction is that you will already have an established audience who want to find and read your work – that’s presuming you are building on an already popular property and not The Story of a School Janitor by Eric Gribble. You can use this advantage to promote your original work as well. If people enjoy the style of your prose in your fan-fiction, they are more likely to be open to reading your other works, even if it’s not a topic they are already invested in.
Career and Money
As I mentioned, writing in this genre is a great way to promote yourself as an author, but you will find that there is very little money in the fan-fiction itself. The laws surrounding the legalities of it are complex, to say the least; it is such a new genre that no one can quite make up their minds on how to police it from a copyright perspective. But in short, while many forms of fan-fiction are technically illegal, there are few authors who would actually hunt down the people producing non-commercial works. That said, you would also be very hard-pressed to find a publisher willing to sell this sort of writing. That’s just asking for a lawsuit. So, aside from any advertising fees you may be paid for traffic to your web site, don’t expect to make much, if any money from your fan-fiction.
Another set-back from a career perspective is that the fan-fiction itself is not going to be all that impressive to an agent or publisher, no matter how popular it is. They want to see you producing your own original work that they can make money from, so don’t expect them to fawn over your bulging page-views and commenter feedback. Instead, just see this as a way to win fans who can then be funneled over to your other writing.
I hope this has given you something to think about if you are considering going into fan-fiction. It can be a very rewarding genre to write and many authors love to see well-written tributes to their work. And, if nothing else, it is a great way to practice your writing skills in a fun and familiar way.
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Feature Image by jeffrey james pacres