It seems like every other week I'm seeing a headline about a new author emerging from the fanfiction 'verse and making a splash on everything from Amazon to the NYT Best-Seller List. I'm sure you can name at least one book - whether you like it or not - that was born in the world of fanfiction. It also seems like people, bloggers especially, are either very anti-fanfiction or very pro with little gray area in between.
I started writing fanfiction before I even knew it was called that. It started off because I would fall in love with a TV show and typically a specific pairing (or ship). If my ship didn't get the storyline I wanted, I gave it to them. Around 2001, I found my way to several online sites (like fanfiction.net) where not only was fanfic the norm, but it was embraced openly. Proudly. But these communities were quiet and not into making waves.
I spent the better part of a decade inside these places - forming lasting friendships and indulging in every creative fantasy I could come up with. I found people, fangirls and fanboys, who I could be myself around. I didn't have to hide that I was a massive TV addict who loved fantasy land more than her nursing classes and studying. I created my own website for my fanfiction where at the peak of it's time had several thousand followers. I could posted a new chapter and within minutes have a dozen reviews. As a writer, this instant feedback was beyond helpful. I can clearly see how my writing quickly evolved because trust me: hell hath no fury like a fandom done wrong. Writing a character out of character (OOC) was the equivalent of failing a final exam.
But slowly I started backing away from fanfiction writing. My interests shifted after a few fandom wars. I mean, you think bloggers have fights? Authors behave badly?You haven't seen online carnage until you've pitted 2 rival ships against each other. I also started reading more and writing less and that evolved into blogging. The more I got into blogging, the more I drifted away from the fanfiction, almost forgetting about it until one book was suddenly everywhere.
Fifty Shades of Gray pulled fanfiction out of the shadows and straight into the spotlight. Suddenly everyone was weighing in on fanfiction and its merits and did author E.L. James even deserve any credit? Shouldn't Stephenie Meyer being calling her army of attorneys and filing a lawsuit? IS THE WORLD IMPLODING AROUND US?! Charlatans are making millions off someone else's work!
Calm down, OK? Calm the frak down.
Here's the Wiki definition of fanfiction:
Fan fiction or fanfiction (also abbreviated to fan fic, fanfic or fic) is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator. It is a popular form of fan labor, particularly since the advent of the internet.
What this doesn't get into are the many facets of fanfiction - because it is NOT one fic fits all. There are more genres of fanfiction than I can count. From AU (alternate universe) to Canon (elements established in the original work) and Original Characters (OC) to Crossovers (merging two or more fandoms and their characters together), fanfic is much more involved than you think. (Definition Source)
So let's take Fifty. This is an example of an AU story. That mean E.L. James took already created characters but put them in a whole new world while maintaining characteristics or original characters - a world she created with new plots, new settings, and new dialogue.
If this is true, then what about retellings? Is it OK to recreate a fairy tale with an updated setting and plot, but still using the same characters? Or is it only OK because the Brothers Grimm aren't around to file a lawsuit?
Isn't JANE by April Lindner (which I love and is amazing) nothing more than Jane Eyre fan fiction? I just finished SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen which was so freaking good, but isn't that also considered Robin Hood fanfiction?
Most recently Anna Todd is catching a lot of flack because her debut, AFTER, is based off fanfiction of a real-life celebrity. People think it's creepy and wrong and shouldn't be published. I haven't read this series yet, but I might.
So, let me ask you this: What do you think historical fiction is? It's taking a real life figure and making a fictional story about them or events they were involved in. Is it only all right because those people are dead?
Fanfiction writers don't have some magic formula where they have an idea and poof - it appears online. They do exactly what other writers do - they sit down and write. And write. And write some more. They edit, they interact with readers and receive positive and negative feedback. I wrote a fic once what took me 6 months to write. It was work.
I guess the point of this is I'm tired of a fanfic hating and people saying that writing fan fiction is inferior to original fiction and that these authors don't deserve credit for the words they've written and hours they've worked.
Maybe you hate fan fiction, maybe you write fan fiction. Maybe you still have no clue what fan fiction is. If S.E. Hinton and Meg Cabot can write fan fiction, why can't I?