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The creative benefits of writing fanfiction

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The creative benefits of writing fanfiction

While fanfiction can be awfully self-indulgent, it can benefit aspiring writers.

You might’ve heard of fanfiction. (Hell, you might be cringing right now.) Simply put, it’s fiction that features characters from existing works – such as TV shows, games and films – written by fans who do it for fun. Often these stories contain cringe romance or other explicit stuff *cough cough* That’s the general view, anyway.

Fanfiction is more than that. Some rewrite the plots of original works and actually manage to be better. Others examine characters, brainstorming their possible motivations or all-too tragic backstories.

Yup, fanfiction can be awfully self-indulgent. But it can benefit aspiring writers. Here’s how.

You can bypass the tedious worldbuilding and character creation process

Planning the context of your story takes time, so it helps when those elements already exist. However, this shouldn’t replace the creation process for your own original stories. You can take references for inspiration, but it’s important that you develop an authentic voice. Writing fanfiction helps you experiment.

You are compelled to analyse the original work

As a writer this helps you reflect on the construction of the narrative and how well it actually holds up. People who write fanfiction seriously do this to, for instance, nail a character’s speech patterns — training themselves to write consistently. Or they attempt to explain a character’s motivations that might otherwise have been vague in the original work — training themselves to write analytically. Writing fanfiction helps you reflect on how others have written their own stories.

You can build your confidence as a writer

Through fanfiction communities, there’s a good chance you’ll get feedback. While these might not be constructive, it’s encouraging to know you’ve interested some people. The same people familiar with the original work, and thus know quite well if your story does it justice. Writing fanfiction exposes you to very accessible feedback, which can boost your confidence. Just remember to consider the source of this feedback – some people you should listen to, others you should instablock.

So, where do I begin?

I recommend Fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own (AO3) and possibly Wattpad, though I’ve never used it (I suspect it leans more into cringe territory). Read fanfiction before you write any, and train yourself to sort the trash from the gems. Learn the lingo (here’s a very comprehensive glossary) and above all, respect the original work. Use them as platforms for learning how to write your own original pieces, and remember you’re playing in someone else’s back yard.

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