Fanfics: Kill Them All

Derivative storytelling — now there’s a concept that needs to be sent back into the Age of Never Existed. In our “originality crisis,” we find the weak-minded yearning for creation but ignoring the need to make something new.

Is there merit in a new take on a classic story? Mayhaps. But is there room in this world for amateur tales expanding the Twilight universe? Or banal background narratives that explain the unexplored trainer-monster relationships in Pokémon? Or adding another layer of awkward teen romance to the Harry Potter series with fan-created awkward teen romances?

I shouldn’t have to answer this question.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What’s your take on fanfiction? Do you think its [sic] a good idea for writing practice and coming into your own as a writer?

—Kymberlee Lane, Chandler, Ariz.

My take on fanfiction? I usually take it to the garbage, the shredder, or the fireplace. On rare occasions, I take it to the Black & Decker® FireShedder™ Deluxe. It’s a beauty. With just the push of a button, it vivisects sub-subpar writing, reduces the excrement to confetti-like crinkles, and sets the whole thing ablaze. If I had a nickel for every fanfic it handled, then I’d have a lot of nickels.

Outside of feeding a B&D®FS™D, there are only three ways to utilize fanfiction.

1) Don’t.

2) Write meta-fanfiction or fictional fanfiction.

A salvageable option, better suited for theory, in my opinion. If you’re not familiar with meta-narratives, you’ll be forgiven this once, spared from taking a chainsaw to your mouth.

With meta-fictional fanfiction, we add a layer of fictive narrative that makes an uncreative process twice as creative. Take the aforementioned awkward teen romances within the Harry Potter series. We already know they suck, and by extension, we already know that their half-breed, ill-formed fanfiction offspring will continue in the lineage of suck.

But what if you fanfic leech off of a fictitious fiction, like The Sordid Portent of Cornbread Field, Galaxtar Ballactica, or Moonlight: The Werewolf-Zombie Diaries? That fictitious fiction doesn’t exist and doesn’t have to suck. When you write about the bovine romances in Cornbread Field or the secret Pylon invasions in Galaxtar Ballactica, then you’ve removed the hereditary curse that plagues your typical fanfic.

Then again, if it’s not well-written, nothing can save you there.

3) Write literal fanfiction:

“Hunter oscillated gently in the summer heat, his lazy blades doing little to beat back the stifling air. He observed the lovers from his bird’s-eye-view of the spacious bed, teasing them with whatever breeze he could muster. A jealous gesture, to be sure, as he longed for a lover of his own.

He wanted to whirr in annoyance, as that garnered attention every now and then. A yank of his cord, a switch in his speed, sometimes a delicate caress. Perhaps he could hum continually, demanding immediate attention. Maybe his owner, after venting his frustration at the aberration, would understand Hunter’s cry for company, balancing on a step stool to embrace him tenderly, wrapping his arms around his forlorn blades and dated light fixtures.”

(You get the idea. And it’s not even that good an idea.)

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (, followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and chronicled in Brannon Chadman’s new fanfic “Writing All Wrong’s Adventure in Hogwarts.”  

3 thoughts on “Fanfics: Kill Them All

  1. I agree that the majority of fanfics are poorly written, but I disagree with the idea that they shouldn’t be written at all. If you get a job writing for television, you’re going to be writing stories about characters created by someone else in a world created by someone else. If you break into commercial screenwriting and get commissioned to work on a film from a major franchise, same thing. And isn’t historical fiction just a form of fanfiction? Most if not all of Shakespeare’s plays were either completely made-up versions of historical people/events, or retellings of older fictional stories.

  2. There’s a galaxy of difference between screenwriting, writing for television, Shakespeare (and by the same token, Milton), Greek mythology, and Suzie P. Ashermeyer’s “The Untold Encounter of Bella Swan and the Zombie Seducer Azrael Jenkins.”

  3. But is the difference that the latter is an amateur effort based on a pre-existing work, which seems to be the argument of this article, or that it’s just plain bad? Professional writing can be just plain bad, too, whether or not it’s based on pre-existing works. There’s no genre or medium to which Sturgeon’s Law doesn’t apply.

    Btw, I hope to see literal fanfiction emerge as *the* internet trend of this decade.

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