Last month someone asked Neil Gaiman a few questions about specifics concerning the background of his characters. I thought his answer was beautiful:
“I think that is what fanfiction is for. Go and make it up, and learn.”
For years, many writers have argued about fan fiction. And here it is from one of the (imho) great writers of our time. “Go, make it up… learn”.
There are some great things to be said for fan fiction.
- The world is already created.
- There is a HUGE reader base already, much of the time.
- You get to explore new ideas.
- You get to use you imagination.
- You practice writing.
- You practice getting criticism.
What’s more, Fan Fiction gives the reader a vested interest in the world.
Remember all those little kids pretending to be Jedi, Power Rangers, or Transformers? Maybe you were one. Fan fiction is just the next step. It’s doing something you love, exploring a world you adore, and making it your own.
Legally, fan fiction is okay in most places as long as you don’t try to sell it. Some authors, like Piers Anthony and Gaiman, even actively encourage it. Why? Because they love their fans. And if you actively participate in their world through stories and art of your own you will be more likely to keep investing in it later by buying their books, or watching their (potential) movies.
Those kids that played Jedi in the backyard? They grew up to be adults who flocked to the theaters in droves when Phantom Menace came out. They still dress up sometimes and call it “cosplay“, only now they spend small fortunes to do it. (How much does a Stormtrooper suit cost?)
So, participate in fan-fic. Enjoy it. Read it. Write it. Then encourage it for your own fans. It’s good for the heart, the soul, and even some pocketbooks. But really, it just brings more life to a story, and gets people thrilled to read, and write. What could be bad about that?