SparkNotes Blog

The Problem(s) With Fan Fiction

Fan fiction isn’t good. It ranks right below Greeting Cards and Monopoly Instructions on the list of Worst Types of Literature. And yet every time I make a joke about fan fiction (typically in the Twilight/Harry Potter blogs, and usually accompanied by silly titles of my own fictional fan fiction), more than a few miffed comments and messages come my way from fan fiction enthusiasts and authors. I hear you, and out of respect, I’ll think twice before taking another jab at the fan fiction community. But before I hang up my Mean Bully Helmet, let me explain why fan fiction is worse than free-verse poems about rain.

1. It’s Awful

There might be good fan fiction out there, but I haven’t found it. And I’ve been looking. What I have found is over-written, tedious stories that sound as if a hyper kid who just discovered adverbs got back from his first trip to the zoo and tells you all the details by yelling, “And then….and then…and then!” During the Blogging Twilight experience, I thought it would be fun if my next blogging assignment were “Dan Blogs Fan Fiction.” So I read a bunch of fan fic stories and even drafted a few posts. Before submitting them, I looked at my computer and felt cheap. Critiquing fan fiction is easy. Too easy. It’s like shooting fish in shoe box. (Who puts fish in barrels these days?) The project was abandoned, though it might be resurrected if I feel particularly mean one day—and/or if you all clap your hands four times very fast.

2. It’s Empty
I never felt invested in any of the fan fiction stories because I knew they weren’t real. It’s like seeing a Santa Claus at the mall. We all know he’s not the real Santa. Sure, he looks like Santa and talks like Santa, but he’s just a sad man who will let you sit on him in exchange for money. Fan fiction is like the mall Santa—a mall Santa who dates Final Fantasy characters.

3. Too Much Shipping
Ship. Shippers. Shipping. Shipped. Shippy. Ship-shoops. I hate this. Please stop using various forms of the word “ship” to describe relationships. Saying, “I ship Bella/Marcus,” makes no sense because what you’re actually saying is, “I relationship for Bella/Marcus,” and that makes you sound like a malfunctioning robot or Ukrainian tourist looking love. Why not just say, “I saxophone Bella/Marcus,” or, “I Thursday for Bella/Marcus”? If you don’t think “ship” sounds ridiculous, then you aren’t getting cupcakes.

4. Slash Fiction Is Wrong. (But hilarious!)
I know this is a controversial sub-genre of fan fiction, but let’s never forget that a great deal of fan fic involves homoerotic naked touching and the word “throb.” When reading slash fiction, you go through five stages:

One: Giggles.
Two: Gently whisper “No” to an empty room.
Three: Solemnly shake your head at humanity.
Four: Stare out the window as you try to make sense of it all.
Five: Send links to all of your friends.

5. Fan Fiction Is Small-Minded (Usually)
If you’re going to add or change something, change it in a big, bold, creative way. Works such as A Very Potter Musical and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are much more than just fan fiction. They begin with the established brands and add something unique. The result is an entirely new experience. Adding a new element or changing the medium completely is much more impressive and enjoyable than simply saying Androgynous Spiky-Haired Anime Character A should kiss Androgynous Spiky-Haired Bikini-Clad Anime Character B and they should both have dolphins.

6. Fan Fiction is Misguided Creativity
Proponents of fan fic often say that writing new stories for their favorite characters is nothing but a fun and creative pastime. That’s true. There are far worse things you could be doing with your time, including squirrel mocking. But if all that mental power went into original stories, with original characters, the world would be a better place. Instead of filling the internet with tales of Sonic the Hedgehog’s sex-capades, create new stories about the sex lives of other fast rodents. Writing is good. Keep writing. But make up your own stories instead of placing characters from other stories into fancy new dresses. It will be much more rewarding.

7. Write Your Own Damn Story

This is similar to Point #6, except now I’m using the word “damn,” so you know I’m serious. Some fan fiction wordsmiths have the creativity of a spoon, but a few show real imaginative talents. Too bad they’re stuck writing in a genre that’s less prestigious than writing the word scramble in the newspaper. No one will take you seriously if you write fan fiction. No one. If you’ve got crazy cool ideas for characters and relationships, don’t waste them in someone else’s world. Do you think Suzanne Collins would have been successful if she reworked her Hunger Game stories into works of Rugrats fan fiction?

8. The Party Has To End
A good conclusion makes a story feel complete. Yeah, it’s sad that Harry Potter ended. But it ended brilliantly. Very satisfying. If you go back and revisit that world as you try to squeeze in your own stories, you’re blowing unnecessary air into the story balloon. You might have the best of intentions, hoping to make the story balloon fuller, but instead the balloon becomes misshapen and ugly. And if you don’t think that going back and tinkering with a story can be detrimental, then I have three words for you: Jar Jar Binks.

9. Write Your Own Flippin’ Story!

And make it about giant spiders. Thanks!

Do you agree with Dan?

Related post: How to Write Fiction: 5 Key Rules