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  • Writer's pictureRachel Paige

Does Fan-fiction Count as Writing?

I came across the quote pictured below recently and it reminded me of a conversation I had with my boyfriend months ago about fan-fiction. He had asked if I considered fan-fiction to be real writing, or more specifically, if I considered fan-fiction writers to be real writers.

I don't see a reason why they aren't.

The main argument against fan-fiction is that the writers are not creating original worlds and characters and are simply borrowing those of other writers. Half the work is being done for them, which makes the writing invalid.

That argument makes no sense to me. It implies that in order to be a "real" writer, all the content of your story must be original. The world, the characters, and the story line. Fan-fiction writers are criticized for only creating one of these things, the story line.

But what about me? All my characters and stories are original, but my world isn't. I primarily write contemporary fiction. My setting is the modern-day world. Two of my novels take place in Indiana and the other takes place in Colorado. I did not create Indiana or Colorado. I didn't even create the city in Colorado. I'm using Fruita, which is very real and not a creation of my mind. The city in Indiana is fictitious, but heavily based, down to the street names, on real cities in the area.

Does that mean I'm not a real writer? According to fan-fiction critics, I'm not. I only have original character and story, but not an original world.

But I've still got 2/3, so maybe I'm okay. Let's try another example.

What about historical fiction? Those writers don't create the world of their story. They don't always create all the characters. They not even required to have an entirely original story line! They can use historical events as the story, real people as the characters, and real places as the world.

None of that is original. They didn't create it. Does that mean they aren't real writers? According to fan-fiction critics, they're not. They have 0/3 elements that I've talked about.

But no one is going to claim that historical fiction isn't real writing. No one is going to claim that contemporary or realistic fiction isn't real writing.

But why? I didn't create Indiana just as much as I didn't create Hogwarts. But if I write a story in Indiana, that's fine. If I write one at Hogwarts, I'm "not a real writer." But what's the difference? Why is it that as soon as the source of inspiration is fictitious, it's no longer a valid source of inspiration?

I have a lot of respect for fantasy writers, because it is not something I am interested in writing nor is it something I would say I'm good at writing. Creating an entirely original world feels overwhelming and impossible to me. It feels that way to many writers. But that doesn't mean fantasy is the only valid form of writing. It just means the rest of us are leaning on preexisting worlds to tell our original story.

The only valid argument against fan-fiction is copyright laws. I understand I can't write a Harry Potter fan-fiction and expect to get it published with no legal repercussions. But that doesn't make what I wrote less real. That doesn't make me less of a writer.

We all have to start somewhere. Even though most fan-fiction can't be published through traditional publishing methods, it is a way for writers to learn. They can practice and grow their skills using elements that already exist the same way I practice and grow my skills using Indiana as a backdrop.

Not all of us are skilled at creating worlds, so we use ones that already exist. Like Indiana. Like 1942 England. Like Hogwarts.

Not all of us are skilled at creating characters, so we use ones who already exist. Like Abraham Lincoln. Like Rapunzel. Like Harry Potter.

Not all of us are skilled at creating large-scale conflict, so we use ones that already exist. Like WWII. Like the Civil War. Like the Second Wizarding War.

Growing every skill at once is overwhelming. Fan-fiction is a great way to practice one area of writing at a time and to dive into a world you already know and love. Writing fan-fiction also requires you to be aware of the original author's writing style and allows fan-fiction writers to learn from the authors.

What matters is not where they got the story or parts of the story from. What matters is what they do with it. How they grow from it. What they learn from it.

Don't look down on fan-fiction and don't look down on it's writers. They are just as valid as you. They are just as committed as you. They are learning and growing and just because their work doesn't meet copyright guidelines, that doesn't mean it's bad. There's fan-fiction out there that's better written than book traditionally published.

Next time you think poorly of fan-fiction, take a look at your own writing. Is your world completely original? Your characters? What about your story line? Is it completely yours, or did you get the idea from a movie, a conversation with a friend, or a newspaper headline? Did you take a character from someone you knew at school? Did you take your setting from your hometown?

Writers steal all the time. I've stolen things. I know you have too. So stop acting all high and mighty. You aren't less of a thief than a fan-fiction writer. Fan-fiction writers just put their thievery out in the open.

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