Fanfiction: you either love it, or you just don’t get it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a piece of fanfiction is a story written by a fan of the original work, usually featuring the same characters or settings. These stories usually fit under a range of types – including missing scenes, romantic pairings (either obvious or otherwise) and stories in which the plot differs vastly from the original. Some of the entries are relatively tame and stay true to original characters, where as others stray far from the plotline, with stories that break the boundaries of normal imagination (and sometimes sanity) there are stories depicting sexual relations between Jesus and Noah.
To those outside of the world of fanfiction the hobby seems strange; surely the original stories themselves are enough? And why would anyone want to read about the Sorting Hat having a penis? But for some, the original pieces only leave them craving more, with unanswered questions leading them to read, or even write, alternatives or supplements to the originals. To those that the world of fanfiction has captured, it can be an addicting hobby that gives you more from the stories you love.
Fanfiction.net, the largest fanfiction website, hosted over 3.5 million fanfics in 2011. These stories are usually based upon TV shows, books, anime or games, with the most popular categories being Harry Potter followed by Naruto and Twilight. However, fanfiction stories aren’t all based upon fictional characters and places, some are written about real people – from Bear Grylls to Mitt Romney, from Tom Daley to Lance Bass from NSYNC. With such a vast community creating so many different works, it is easy to see how so many are sucked into the world of fanfiction. While many students may never admit that they have read fanfiction, and some genuinely have no idea what it is, it seems to be a more popular hobby than first expected. Following the US, the UK has the second highest number of accounts on fanfiction.net. With 80% of users being between aged 13-17, it is quite possible that your fellow students have read fanfiction, or even still do.
Isabel Travers, 3rd year English student at the University of Nottingham, provided IMPACT with an insight into why many students become fascinated with fanfiction, giving her own personal reasons for indulging in the stories. “If a story had really bitten me and I wanted more material from it, then fanfiction was the way to find this. Fanfiction provides answers to the questions that are planted in your mind whilst reading or watching these stories. If you start asking yourself “what if that pairing were together?”, “what if that scene was written differently?”, or even “what would they have been like 20 years on?”, then inevitably you will turn to fanfiction.”
And of course, many fanfiction readers also choose to write their own stories too. IMPACT heard from two students who had previously written fanfiction, with one averaging at around 10,000 views a month during his peak writing time, and the other receiving 30,000 views for a piece of writing based on Doctor Who. Fanfiction websites provide a platform for writers to develop their style and story telling skill, and a good writer within the community may be given the chance to develop as an author outside of it. For instance, Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot originally wrote Star Wars fanfiction, and the most popular book of 2012 was originally a Twilight fanfiction (yes, I am talking about 50 Shades of Grey).
Isabel is ex-fanfiction writer, writing mostly when she was 15, and further expressed how her adoration for particular fandoms and her own creative instinct led her to write her own fanfiction, comparing the satisfaction of finishing a fanfiction piece to that of any writer; such as a journalist finishing an article or a novelist finishing a book. “Writing fanfiction has definitely altered my writing style – I’ve become smarter with the words I pick”, she states. “I’ve also been told that my stylisation is impressive, which is one of the most important things about fanfiction – if your character sounds different or behaves in a way that is untrue to the original then people will click off your story straight away”.
It seems that perhaps fanfiction authors should be given more credit; after all, a novelist or a screenwriter gets to invent and sculpt their own characters, where as a fanfiction author has to mould these characters into their own without straying too far from the original – a feat that could not be achieved by most. It is this ability to completely change a story, whilst still bearing enough resemblance to the original, which makes many pieces of fanfiction something to admire.
Fanfics that depict relationships between Draco and Harry have been particularly popular, spawning a cult of ‘Drarry’ shippers – with Facebook pages, fan art and many stories all dedicated to the pairing. Some of these stories are sweet, romantic, and believable, whilst others make references to Harry’s ‘throbbing meatstick’ and Draco getting blue balls – images that unfortunately reappear in my mind whilst revisiting the films or books. Of course, Twilight fanfiction is also particularly popular, with one of the most popular stories being centred on an orphaned six-year-old Isabella Swan, who is rescued by Edward and the Cullens – slightly creepy? Perhaps. More recent favourites, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead also attract a large following, suggesting that fanfiction was not just a phase that our teenage selves went through, but still has appeal to today’s young teenagers. After all, fanfiction is nothing if not adaptable – while there are still new novels being published, new films or TV shows being aired and new manga being distributed, there will always be more fanfiction appearing on the internet, waiting to be accessed by anyone who needs a fix beyond the original.
Although reading or writing fanfiction is something that many teenagers grow out of, for the period that a person is fully immersed in the world of fanfiction it is easy to see how they get pleasure out of it. Whether reading sex stories about Justin Bieber for comedic value, exploring an alternate universe where those characters you desperately wanted to be together finally become a couple, or just letting your imagination run wild with missing scenes from your favourite film or novel, fanfiction provides a break from reality and allows us to delve into our favourite imaginary settings. The possibilities that fanfiction exposes us to are endless, which is why fanfiction was not just a hobby for our mid-teenage selves, but will be for generations of curious teenagers to come.