What is fanfiction? Discover the ins and outs of fanfiction in our guide and what you need to know if you want to get started in this up-and-coming genre.
Whether you’re delving into boy band fanfic or working to create a new story based on your favorite fantasy book, fanfiction writers are gaining popularity.
Suppose you’re part of a fan community or deeply invested in a franchise like Star Wars, Star Trek, or Harry Potter. In that case, you may wonder what would have happened if the story continued or what your life would be like if you could live in the same world as your characters. Fan fiction is original work that authors create using characters and universes already developed by other authors. While fanfic ideas are borrowed from others, the storylines and any original characters added into the narrative are unique.
Here, we’ll look at the history of fanfiction, different types of fanfiction, and why fanfic has become so popular in recent years.
The History of Fanfiction
While it’s impossible to tell when the first fanfiction story was written, many people look to the late 1800s for the first example of modern fanfic. In 1895, author Anna M. Richards released A New Alice in the Old Wonderland. The book was based on the Lewis Carroll series Alice in Wonderland, published years prior. Like today’s fanfiction authors, Richards used the environment and characters that Carroll created to develop the setting for her new stories.
In the 1900s, fanfiction continued as fans of Star Trek and Star Wars began to develop storylines that stemmed from the series. Before the internet, fan fiction had to be published as a new work or included in a magazine or other publication for the fandom to enjoy. Thankfully, today, it’s easy for fan communities to get their hands on fanfic that allows them to dive even deeper into their favorite fantasy worlds.
For example, in the 1990s, the Harry Potter series took the world by storm, and many wished they could go further into the world of Hogwartz. The internet allowed Harry Potter fans to share their stories with others and even collaborate to create entirely new works centered around Harry, George, and Hermione’s adventures. While many fandoms are based on books, some are based on movies or TV shows. Currently, popular fandoms include Twilight, the Marvel Multiverse, and Supernatural.
Differences Between Original Fiction and Fanfiction
Fanfiction is a type of writing that’s based on original fiction. Authors who write original fiction develop characters, settings, and plotlines in their minds. Fanfiction uses a work of original fiction as a base, then develops a storyline using the characters, settings, and plot history developed by the original author.
Different Types of Fanfiction
Not all fanfiction is the same. There are many different types of fanfiction. Some authors enjoy writing a particular type of fanfic, while others like writing a variety of fanfiction styles, all centered around the same world or topic.
Different types of fanfiction include:
- Canon fics: A canon fic works to keep its story and plotline as close to the original story as possible. In many canon fics, the author retells the original story through the perspective of a new character, shedding light on what may have been going on in that character’s mind as the story develops. Canon divergence is another type of canon fic that explains how the original story could have been different if the characters had made different choices during the book or movie.
- Crossover fics: In a crossover fic, multiple worlds collide. For example, the vampires from Twilight might run into the vampires from True Blood, and together, the two groups might try to fight off a nemesis. Often, crossover fics form because fans of two different worlds want to see certain characters collide romantically.
- Original characters: Some fanfictions stick with the original setting and storyline of the work but add in a new original character to provide a new perspective. The character may come with an extensive backstory or may exist to provide readers with a new view into the fantasy world. Sometimes, authors make themselves the new character in the world, telling the story from their point of view to the reader. This can be especially fun for megafans, as they have the chance to imagine what it would be like to interact with their favorite characters on their home turf.
- Alternate universe: An alternate universe places characters from one world into a new world. For example, an alternate universe fanfic that involves Marvel superheroes may place all of them in a high school classroom or on vacation together. This type of universe can provide readers and fans with answers about how their favorite characters might act in different situations.
- Slash fiction: This common type of fanfiction involves the author putting two characters together romantically, even though they were not romantically involved in the original story. While this is not considered canon, it can fulfill the hopes of people who have become deeply invested in their favorite characters and want to see them experience romantic happiness. In addition, many slash fanfic writers love reading the comments on their stories to see who readers would like to see their favorite characters romantically involved with next.
Why Is Fanfiction So Popular?
The internet has been the most significant factor in the rise of fanfiction in recent years. Movies and books are accessible to a broader audience, making it easier for large fandoms to form. The internet also creates a place for authors and readers to come together, sharing their ideas and requests for new fanfics involving their favorite characters.
Many people feel that the internet and social media have created a lack of community and connection, and fandoms can be a fun place for people to come together and get to know one another. Starting from the basis of loving the same books or movies can give people a jumping-off point for conversation, and writing and discussing fanfic can make it easier for people to learn more about others’ opinions of their favorite fictional universes and characters. While some authors share their stories directly with their fans through their websites, others depend on fanfic sharing sites to get their stories out to the fandoms that love them.
Websites like fanfiction.net and Wattpad provide a home for fanfic authors to share their stories and get feedback to learn more about what the fandom wants to read next. Many authors who started writing fanfiction have turned their works into media giants, including Fifty Shades of Grey (originally written as Twilight fanfiction) and the After movie series on Netflix (written initially as Harry Styles fanfic).
- The famous novel Wallbanger by Alice Clayton was initially written as Twilight fanfiction. Readers will recognize the intensity of the prose: “You know those moments when everything is exactly the way it was meant to be? When you find yourself and your entire universe aligning in perfect synchronization, and you know you couldn’t possibly be more content? I was inside that very moment, and fully conscious of it.”
- The After series by Anna Todd is known by both fanfic and non-fanfic readers, as it’s been made into a major motion picture by Netflix. Todd’s story was originally Harry Styles fanfiction. Take a look at Todd’s style here: “I think back to what Landon said about heartbreak, that if you don’t love the person, they can’t break your heart. Hardin repeatedly breaks my heart, even when I don’t think there are any more pieces to break. And I love him. I love Hardin.”
FAQs about What is Fanfiction
What is the difference between “fanfic” and a “fanfiction”?
There’s no difference between fanfic and fanfiction. The former is simply a shortened term for the latter.
What are the benefits of reading fanfiction?
Many people feel deeply connected to the universes in which their favorite characters exist, and it can be tough when a story or movie series ends. Fanfiction allows fans to keep the story going, whether they’re reading fanfiction written by someone else or taking the story into their own hands. Fanfiction also allows readers and writers to come together and create a sense of community.
Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best 9 authors of write historical fiction!
Join over 15,000 writers today
Get a FREE book of writing prompts and learn how to make more money from your writing.