Fan fiction. When the word is brought up, most people react with some form of distaste. They recall the terrible rumors they hear about that side of fandom: how it appeals to odd kinks, how it oversexualizes it characters, and how much of a disgrace it is to consume it. Even if someone does not like reading fan fiction like this, they are usually too embarrassed to bring up the fact that they enjoy reading or writing it — probably because most will assume the worst as soon as they do. Yet, in reality, fan fiction just shows the influence of an artists’ original work, and engaging in fan fiction as a fan who aspires to write can bring so much to the table.

The reason most fan fiction is made is because the fan creators can’t get enough of the original work. And since the original artist is not going to be able to cater to their never-ending needs, fans just have to make it themselves.

These fans take to online websites like fanfiction.net, archiveofourown.org or Wattpad to share their stories. There, they find their fandom communities and self-publish free versions of the stories they love — but with a twist. Some take their favorite characters and place them in different universes and imagine how they would act. Some create their own characters and place them in the same setting as the original. Some cross over two different pieces. There are short drabbles, one-shots, long 50-odd chapter books, the list goes on. They place these characters in genres completely different from the original just because they want to. Because it is fun.

It helps that these aspiring writers don’t have to create everything from scratch. Writing a story, however short or long, means one has to make characters, give them personalities and give them a setting to be in. It means one has to come up with themes and genres. One has to think of their audience, their style and how detailed the work they are creating must be. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time to come up with entire worlds that make people gasp for more.

A fan who just wants to write for fun just might not have time to do all that. A fan who wants to write in the future may not even fully grasp what it takes to create like a professional. All they know how to do is be creative. And how to transfer that creativity into words. They have the characters, the setting, the themes, all that just laid out for them in the original work. All they need to do is use it to ignite their creativity.

Of course, this doesn’t mean outright stealing original stories. That would bring a lot of copyright issues into play. But fan fiction writers know that they are borrowing others’ ideas. What they might not know is that this helps them grow as a writer.

Writing about pre-existing characters that others are familiar with means they are bound to be true to the character. If they don’t, they are just betraying their love for the original work and the interest of their readers. This helps these aspiring writers develop consistency in their work. They have to maintain the characters’ personalities and the setting they inhabit. They have to pay attention to the details they add in, making sure it fits the overall premise.

When they manage to figure that part out, fan fiction writers have another issue to worry about — competition. Coming up with creative plots to draw in readers is another skill they can learn by writing these stories. And it helps that they can immediately realize whether what they are doing works or not, seeing as readers are sometimes more than willing to comment anything that comes to mind on fan fiction sites.

Of all the positives of fan fiction writing, however, there is one thing that trumps them all: the way fans can develop their creativity — the very thing needed to sustain their writing. Whether it’s inventing new scenarios for their beloved characters, or exploring more of the world they have fallen in love with, the many different forms of fan fiction are proof of the passion of its creators. These novice writers think about the smallest detail they find in a scene or paragraph and can create an entire story about it. This very attention to the small and big parts of what makes stories tick will take them a long way if they truly wish to follow the path of a writer.

Writing fan fiction can take you on a creative journey to understand how exactly something came to be, and why you and others love engaging with it so much. Sure, there are bad sides to fan fiction, but following that path can lead to a growth one may not expect from something not-so-highly regarded. So next time you wonder about the ruckus fan fiction causes, whether you invest yourself in it or not, think about all it can do for those with potential, and how fandom can lead to creativity beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

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