Hi, everyone! I got in touch with teen writer Helen Armstrong when she so graciously took the time to read and comment on my MG manuscript. She mentioned she writes fanfiction, which I knew nothing about. I'm happy to post her article on fanfiction here - it's both enlightening and informative!
Entering a Fake World
By Helen Armstrong
What if Lily Evans had chosen Severus Snape over James Potter?
What if Frodo had taken the Ring into Mordor alone?
What if Juliet hadn’t killed herself?
What if Katniss had chosen Gale?
To find the answers to these questions, you need only to visit fanfiction.net. There are hundreds of thousands of stories in their online database, written by thousands of authors worldwide, all based on questions like these.
Fanfiction is a story based off of characters or settings in a book, movie, TV show, or sometimes celebrities. Fanfiction authors take the characters and put them into different circumstances and write about ‘what would happen if.’ They sometimes create original characters and throw them into the mix, and sometimes they create a cast of completely original characters and put them into the setting of the book/movie/TV show.
I’ve been writing fanfiction for three years, since the age of twelve. I started out writing Twilight fanfiction, which was so bad I want to curl up in a hole and never be seen by humankind again. As I got better at writing in general and writing fanfiction, though, and wrote all kinds of it (fanfiction for Harry Potter, celebrities, other books, etc.) I learned that it can sometimes be tougher to write fanfiction than original stories. The author has to get to know a character that is not their own. The actions and thoughts need to be consistent – the character has to remain In-Character if the author expects any kind of good reviews.
The review part of fanfiction is the part that I really love. I’m a teenage girl, in need of constant gratification, and I love being able to weave a story and watch readers' reactions as I update it chapter by chapter. Sometimes I take reader’s opinions into account, sometimes I just sit back and laugh as they get frustrated over the two main characters dancing around each other for 30 chapters before finally getting together at the very end.
It’s pretty fun to read a book and conceptualize a fanfiction based off of it. I’m one of those people who’s always thinking ‘what if?’ Fanfiction is all just a big ‘what if?’ It’s a fun, harmless way to explore the possibilities.