by Sara Kiiskila

The first thoughts that go through my mind when I finish a new book, or even a book that I’ve read many times before, are: “Well…. What happens next?”, or “I wish the author had gone into more detail about so-and-so”. The idea that I may never find out when I’ve invested so much time in the story can be disheartening.

However, a solution has been created: fanfiction.

Fanfiction is defined as works written about particular characters or settings by the fans of an original work rather than the original author themselves. With only one noteworthy exception (50 Shades of Grey was originally a Twilight fanfic), fanfiction is not created for money or notability, but simply for the love of the original work. Created to fill in what happens after the original work or to change the direction the original story took, these stories allow fans to revisit their favorite tales.

There are many different styles of fanfiction for any particular work. From those that remain true to the original (or “cannon”), to the AU (or “alternate universe”), and even the crazy not-quite-sure-what-to-make-of-it “crack-fic”; there is a fanfic for every type of fan.

Even though I know that fanfiction has always had a bit of a negative connotation to it, bringing to mind images of socially awkward guys surrounded by way too many action figures, but I love the idea of using fanfiction as a writing exercise for practicing writers. It’s an exercise I use myself when writer’s block has hit me hard. With a set setting and defined characters, a writer can focus on nothing but the plot or the emotional undertones, or anything else they want to practice. The fact that I don’t have to worry about creating entire backstories or histories for every little thing can be very liberating.

I also find myself reading a lot of fanfiction when I don’t want to let go of a particular story just yet, or I’m just bored. The way that some people can create 50,000-word stories from nothing more than the idea that one character should end up with someone different that the cannon pairing strikes me as a sign of a truly creative mind. Even though the writing style is generally not up to par with the original work, the plot twists that some of the more popular fanfic authors can come up with are truly unbelievable. With a few changes to names and locations, a few of the stories could be considered novels under their own right.

I personally would love to have people write fanfiction about my own writing in the future. I’d take it as a sign that people were so into the stories I created, that they couldn’t let go and wanted to play with them themselves. I feel that when fans take that incentive, that’s the greatest compliment that an author can receive.