Is Fan Fiction Still A Thing?

We Thought Writing Fan Fiction Has Gone Out Of Style So Many Years Ago!

For every young person out there who has written fiction in their life before, they would have known what the phrase means. Writing fan fiction (fanfics for short) was a big thing back in the day. Maybe it isn’t as big now as it was before, but fanfic writers exist even to this day, even in Malaysia.

At one point, young people will take it to fanfic sites to write fanfics of their favorite characters and celebs. Fanfics can be based on characters and storylines from books, movies, TV series, and even games and celebrities.

According to Merriam Webster Online, fan fiction means:

“Fan-fiction are stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans and often posted on the Internet. They are also called fanfics.”

Fan Fiction, Merriam Webster Online

Why Do People Write Fanfics?

Why Do People Write Fanfics
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Because whatever is canon or in the original works – it did not quench their thirst enough. It can be 2 characters diverging from each other. It can be an unhappy ending. Or it can be as damning as our canon characters not getting enough time together in the books and series.

The reasons can be many and diverse. However, is writing fanfics legal in the first place?

The legality of Writing Fanfics

Fanfics are generally considered illegal because it infringes the copyright to the original material. It’s said that fanfic writers can be sued as they are using other people’s material without consent and permission. However, people are still producing fanfics whether if it is legal or not.

The thing is….as long as these authors do not publish and monetize these contents, then it is okay for them to continue what they are doing.

Many authors, movie directors, celebrities, and their managers are very well aware of its existence. Some accept it, while some others are vocally against it. It depends on where these people stand when it comes to fanfics based on their works, characters, and/or their personalities.

The General Argument for Fanfics

The General Argument for Fanfics
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Here’s a quick rundown of the argument between for fanfics and against fanfics.

For fanfics:

  • Fans are allowed to write fanfics as long as it is done in a sensible manner.
  • Fanfics help new and budding writers in world-building, character development, plot development, etc.

Against fanfics:

  • It’s lazy and uncreative writing.
  • It is outright plagiarism and sometimes defamation of the original works and/or personalities involved in the original works.

Those are the common argument points when it comes to fanfic discussions. However, let’s not forget that certain books were once fanfics before they were published and became famous. Hello, 50 Shades of Grey, anyone? 50 Shades was once a Twilight Saga fanfic before it was published.

Fanfics Can Actually Get Published?

You may wonder how fanfics can be published if it involves copyright infringements. I used to have the same question too. However, here is what I found out…

When a fan writes fanfic based on their favorite books, TV shows, or celebrity crushes, they obviously use their own real-life names (or not) PLUS the character/personality. The setting and background may or may not be the same as it is in the TV shows or books.

Yes, I get it. It’s a shameless plug of yourself and gratifying your own wet dreams. But hey, some people got rich and famous from it.

As soon as the fanfic hits plenty of readership numbers, high ratings, and garnered enough publicity, that’s where the book publishers come in. The publishers will publish these fanfics for these writers on several obvious conditions: that the obvious character names and personas be changed, the settings have to be changed, etc. Basically, anything that has obvious links and similarities (not including tropes) to the original works has to be changed. Only then are these works published.

Birth of “New Genres” with Similar Tropes

Here’s the thing when fanfics get published into physical books and get sold very well. It’s given birth to many similar books with similar storylines and tropes. See how when Twilight came out, it’s not just inspired 50 Shades.

It has also inspired many vampires and/or werewolf romance stories. It has further consolidated and inspired love triangle storylines. It has also inspired billionaire love stories including BDSM (and other forbidden love) storylines.

However, keep in mind that there will be times where these “obvious persona copies” be retained during the publishing stage. For example, people can see a parallel between Edward Cullen and Christian Grey. Both male lead characters are mysterious and super handsome. It’s the same with Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele – both are clumsy and just pretty (but not super-hot or super beautiful).

These are called “tropes” that are common themes among certain genres. As long as it is not outright copies of the original works, it gets a pass.

Easy Road To Getting Published?

Easy Road To Getting Published
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This is the same thought that a lot of people have when they learn that 50 Shades was once a Twilight fanfic. It’s mostly because all writers need to do is base their characters on the characters of their favorite books. They don’t need to create a new setting or work on the world-building, since that they are basing it off the original works. When they are about to get published, all they need to do is to change the obvious duplication of characters and world setting.

See why some well-known writers see this as an issue? The fact that newbie authors aren’t putting nearly enough effort into character building and world building is unfair to the ones who work extra hard on it. It’s practically “fast-tracked for publication” when these new authors “practically did nothing much for their works”.

But if this is how it gets new authors to have their works published, then it works for these people. People like you and I don’t necessarily need to like these works. We are not forced to read or purchase the works they have published.

Will Writing Fanfics Go Out Of Style Anytime Soon?

I don’t think so, but this is just my opinion. From what I can see, people will continue writing fanfics to quench their own thirsts. As long as there are fandoms existing, new worlds to be explored, then fanfic writers will run with it.

For some people, it may or may not be the best “phenomenon” that we have witnessed in our lifetimes. But we’ll just let these people live in peace. Whatever rocks their boats, right?

Lydia is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Author: Lydia

A little bit of a dreamer and a foodie, but definitely a geek at heart!