The answer is both yes and no.
- No, if that’s the only thing they ever write.
- Yes, if they train themselves to write original works.
For a more detailed response, keep reading.
Since 2000 the fandom that has made fan fiction popular is Harry Potter Fan fiction. There are over 700,000 original works on FanFiction.NET. But there are thousands of other fandoms as well, such as Star Wars, Twilight, Supernatural, Pokemon, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Gilmore Girls, and Doctor Who.
If you don’t already know, fan fiction is a story written by a fan featuring the same characters or world of the original book, film, or TV series.
Fan fiction has lived in the notebooks of budding writers, in the minds of readers, and on the dark recesses of the internet since the beginning of stories — and of course, the beginning of the internet. Since then, some fan fiction writers have become best selling novelists, and most recently have come to the attention of the general public, such as E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy. In books (Fifty Shades) as well as film/TV: CBS’s lawsuit against Axanar, a Star Trek fan film I discovered while reviewing the Trek Fan Film: Horizon (review under the link).
Lots of people write fan fiction, and even if you’ve never written it, you likely have a story somewhere in your head (often called head canon in the fandom) about your favorite book, film, or TV characters.
First off, I’d like to clarify that I DO NOT CONDONE THE STEALING OF OTHER WRITERS’ WORKS AND CLAIMING THE WORLD OR ITS CHARACTERS AS YOUR OWN. THIS IS CALLED PLAGIARISM. Also, when you write and sell this work, it is considered copyright infringement and is enforceable by law to claim another writer’s work as your own, even if you have changed a few people, places, and things. The world remains the same and, therefore, it is not yours, it is borrowed — this is plagiarism. However writing free fan fiction or for a school assignment (if your teacher allows, in that, I find instruction for budding young writers.
I also do not agree with authors such as Robin Hobb who blasted fan fiction and its writers (she did, however, made a clarification statement which I found here. I’ve included the link so you can read at your leisure, if you like). I think fan Fiction is an excellent way to explore one’s own creativity. If a person writing fan fiction is doing it purely for fun, not getting paid for it, I think this is appropriate and for that writer, perhaps, a necessary part of their growth as creative person. Art is inspired by other art, new stories by old stories.
Before you go searching for good fan fiction to read or write, let’s be clear: the majority of fan fiction on the internet is not good. It is not well written, has grammatical and spelling mistakes rampant, and also, some is just plain smut. I don’t find sex in fan fiction, or fiction in general to be taboo, as long as it is appropriate for the story line of the characters and is rated appropriately. Otherwise, I am not too interested in reading your fan fiction. Further, I think readers should know whether there will be explicit situations in the story, and as should their parents so together they can decide what is appropriate for their child to read.
As far as my fictions go, I used to write both original fiction and fan fiction in high school as well as quite a few song fics and stories about dragons. I was one of those writers who wrote PG-13 stories as they contained no graphic sexual scenes. Even if the characters were in a physical relationship the readers learned through their dialogue how their “liasons” improved or ruined their relationship. That’s what was important to me as a writer.
My fan fiction was also not very popular. However, I committed to myself that whatever I wrote, whether it was original or fan fiction, I wanted to write something good, and if that meant that it wasn’t a romance novel, then that’s what I wrote. That doesn’t mean that I think people who write “smut” are “bad” people. I also don’t think they’re inferior writers, unless of course, they write nothing else and never grow. Good writers are always improving their craft and exploring new uncharted oceans of words, new genres, and new territories.
I don’t read a lot of fan fiction because good fan fiction is hard to find, but if I’m writing it, I think it’s only appropriate for me to read what other writers have written before me so as not to produce the same writing over and over again, boring my readers, and frankly, myself. Writing needs to keep me excited, and for me, that means writing something that has never been done before, even if I borrow my favorite author’s characters for a short while. I think, in part, that dedication to write new stories makes me a serious writer.
As a teenager, writing fan fiction taught me how to plot my story, improved my spelling and grammar, and got me to finish my first novel. However, for a writer, the best place to shine, I think, is in writing original fiction. If it takes 5 or 15 years of writing free fan fiction to get there, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. No writer will forgo the hard work it takes for her art to live.
In conclusion, people will continue to write fanfiction until the end of times, in fact, we’ll probably be writing fan fiction beyond the grave. Fanfiction writers are a different species (I think they’re part wizard-part elf). Right now, with all the news about Star Trek: Discovery, and in anticipation of the new show, I am looking for every scrap of information out there on the time period and characters of the new TV show so I can know more about the story. I’m on the edge of my seat! It’s been delayed twice already, from January, to May, to indefinitely, and I want to write some fanfiction of my own so I can begin the story!! But I think I’ll leave it to the brilliant brains of the Star Trek writers, as throughout The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager they never failed to disappoint. And I believe they will give us something great – well, I have high hopes, at least.
So, I have more thoughts on fanfiction, including its origins, its writers, current controversies, and the future of fan fiction, so hold steady until I post part II. If you have any thoughts on what I’ve mentioned above please feel free to leave me your thoughts below. Thanks for reading!
— End of Part I —
For further reading, I enjoyed:
Why I’m Not Going to Read Your Fanfiction – http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/09/22/why-im-not-going-to-read-your-fanfic/
13 Things Fan Fiction Writers are Very Tired of Explaining – http://www.bustle.com/articles/71438-13-things-fan-fiction-writers-are-very-tired-of-explaining