Saturday, 11 April 2015

In Defence - & Offence of Fan Fiction

Crass, naive, filth, derivative, unoriginal, badly-written.... these are some of the many words used to describe a type of writing form, known as fan fiction. 

This (mostly) online medium sees readers and non-professional writers pen stories featuring characters from various popular novels and TV shows. These stories pay tribute to the original stories, characters, plot and source material by acting as side narratives or imagining alternate universes or worlds. 

Fanfic writers proceed from someone else's premises, whereas the end product and effort is purely self-expressionist & creative.  

It is said that only dissatisfied people would spend so much time writing fan fiction. I beg to differ. 

In fan fiction, writers draw on familiar & existing fictional characters established in TV & film as a means of exploring and deconstructing their characterizations, deeper narratives & emotional entanglements, & mostly for the sake of entertainment and non-profit through story- telling and narration. There are some instances where fan fiction, for example, is used to either tie up loose ends to an existing story-line or open ending, address unresolved matters or to simply rewrite the story in a way the author envisages it in their minds. 

The point about the community existing in fan fiction, where a set of people who share the same love and interest in a particular text & their emotional attachment to the characters and their stories, engage with the stories & offering constructive feedback, is accurately true. When you have people reading and commenting on your fics, suggesting ways on improving it, it shows there is not just an audience for them, but these fics target a specific audience in mind: the fans of that text.   

The advantages of fan fiction and story telling is being able to visualize and conceptualize ideas for stories, the enjoyment and fun of writing, the pleasure of knowing what happens next, and the satisfaction in seeing their characters behave and act in ways that they wouldn't normally do in the show. In addition to and in reference to one of my earlier points, I would also add that fan fiction is good in terms of giving closure to an ongoing story line that leaves viewers and fans hanging, asking 'what if this had happened?'. 

''I can't believe this is the direction they are taking this show. Seriously, I have read better fan fiction than this.''

There have been many times this quote has been uttered by people; I even say it myself. 

If your favourite show was cancelled and you were left disappointed & dissatisfied by how the events had unfolded in the last episode, then you would read up on a fanfic that is a conclusion to the final episode & of which has a happy ending. 

There are, however, a few problems about fan fiction: the first is the continuous reliance of sexualisation of fictional works & characters, leading to accusations that fanfiction exists mainly for writers to live out their sexual and (homo) erotic fantasies. With the latter describing what a slash fic is: two heterosexual characters of the same sex (mostly male), who are friends, engage in sexual acts with one another. The amount of R & M-rated fiction stories has been increasing each year and there are no signs that this is going to go away. Not all writers of fan fics fit this description I am about to make, but it just seems as if the vast numbers of them write fan fics, just to have their favourite characters or couple have sex with one another. And their reasons for doing it, doesn't stem from understanding, nor exploring and addressing their deeper emotional feelings. 

The second issue is when characters act completely out of character or say things they wouldn't have said on the show. I read a few fanfics here and there, and I notice that the dialogue would include a curse word or explicit language uttered by him/her - when in the actual TV show, if it's G rated, they wouldn't have said it in the first place. 

Therefore, reading a fanfic story, only to see a curse word, when I know that wouldn't happen on the series, irritates me sometimes. It's out of character and inconsistent. 

At best, fanfiction is harmless & fun entertainment; & at worst it descends into sheer pornographic anarchy, as well as disturbing & badly written dross.  

There are lots of really interesting and well-written stories, and it clearly shows in their attachment and love for the characters and the show. Because clearly, what is the point in writing and publishing fan fiction, if you are not a fan of those characters and of the programme? 

Undoubtedly, fanfiction writers do it because they love to write and/or love the characters they're writing about. They write for people who have the same love and interest towards the show as they do. It's like they act as a second outlet to the TV series. & not all of the fiction written is sex-related. They want to take these characters and develop them in their own way, because they weren't fully explored, nor satisfied with how they'd been treated by the writers and creators . Imagining & coming up with lines they would say. And, because they have a point to make with regards to their interpretation of the canon. 

Lastly, it encourages people to write more. It provides an opportunity for people to express themselves on a prose level that contradicts with the mainstream TV/film industry over what they are supposed to be like; there may be some issues with the structuring of the stories and characters acting out of character, as well as the silly OTT fanfics; but nevertheless, anything that gets and motivates individuals to write stories, irrespective of their level of writing experience, is always a good thing. 

I did attempt at writing fanfiction for a TV show, when I was in my early 20s, but it was for a very brief period and in all honesty, it wasn't that good. But I appreciated that I gave it a go, even if it didn't turn out well. 

Despite a lot of people in Hollywood and the TV and movie industry not liking the idea of fanfics and stories based on TV shows and movies by fans, I just don't see the harm it is doing, if and when a) they are not doing it to make money & turn it into a production, and b) as long as they state in the disclaimer that they do not own the original characters. 

Fanfiction, at the end of the day, is just an interpretation; it may not come to life, but that doesn't prevent him/her from writing it. And as much as there is a lot of dross out there, there are lots of good outweighing the bad. 

With fanfiction, I can give (away) the bad and the awful, and take away the good and wonderful. 

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