If you’re in a fandom, odds are you have read, written, or at least know about fanfiction. It can be a powerful tool for people who want to expand an existing story, want to take their favorite characters and change their world, or even just want to see their favorite ship together. No matter what the reasons, millions of people love fanfiction.
While some may discredit the writers of these works, a lot of people don’t realize how much effort can be put into fanfics. The authors will put years of work into them without any pay or recognition for it, and the fact that it’s truly a passion piece every time makes them all the more special. I’ve read ones I’ve loved more than traditionally published books. But a very interesting sub-section of fanfiction is the AU kind. That’s where you take the characters but put them in a completely different world from the story they come from. My own story started that way.
I started writing a fanfiction called Ten, using my favorite characters from my favorite series. I wasn’t so far into it when I began telling my father—who happens to be an author and my writing mentor growing up—about it, and he stopped me and asked how much of the story relies on the fact that it’s a fanfiction. I had to think about it, but I realized that none of it did. These characters really only shared names and appearances with the one’s I’d borrowed, and other than that, they were my own. The story itself was my own. That’s when I had my epiphany. Ten had to be an original book.
Once I knew Ten had real potential, I got a lot more serious about writing. This silly hobby I have could actually become a career someday? That concept baffled me. I was only more encouraged when my wonderful readers told me they loved the story for the story, not for the characters I’d borrowed. But when I got messages telling me I’d changed peoples lives, it just became more clear that this needed a wider audience.
I finished the fanfiction draft of the book, then immediately set to work on my new, original version. The most challenging part at first was having to change my characters and give them new names, but as I went through that process, making them all original became rewarding. They’re finally mine, and I have the creative freedom to do whatever I want with them, instead of feeling pressured to stick to any of their old personality quirks I’d borrowed. This way, I’m really getting to do my story justice.
As a whole, fanfiction has been the greatest starting point for me. It helped me develop a love for the craft—developing my own ideas, finding my voice, getting to have an audience. The best part is that the people you’re reaching are in your fandom, and they’re automatically interested in reading because they care about your characters and/or world already. If you’re good, that’s just a big plus for your readers. Starting out, those crutches help massively. But when going from fanfic to real book, losing that is daunting.
The most popular form of fanfiction has to be the works with a focus on ships. If you want a couple together that isn’t canon, this is the most helpful kind. Ten started as a fanfiction starring two boys that come from a dystopian series that weren’t canonically romantically linked. But, since there are no rules in fanfiction, it turned into a contemporary about mental illness/health, self-acceptance, love, loss, and stigma. The romance part of it was what most likely initially drew my readers in, but the thing that will set you apart is creating something that’ll stick with people. So when being scared of losing that safety net, the best thing to do is to be confident in the story you’ve created. Who knows? Maybe your original work and characters will be even more loved in its new form, with you completely at the helm. Writing fanfiction is basically the same as writing any other book if you’re serious about it. The only difference is that you usually aren’t using original characters, but even then, the character development throughout the story is your own. Sometimes, that’s what makes your character in the first place. When you do enough of that, it starts to become yours. It’s your voice, after all. So I encourage anyone and everyone to use it. If you want to write but starting an original work sounds scary, try writing a fanfiction. It could get the creative juices flowing, or just maybe lead to your best-selling novel!