Fanfiction doesn’t exactly have a pristine image after writers like E.L. James and Cassandra Claire decided to take their fanfiction stories to a higher level of publishing, and readers started to question whether or not publishing fanfiction for money should be considered a creative outlet or straight up plagiarism. When the backlash began, I was already over my “fanfiction phase” and had moved onto academic writing and writing for creative writing courses, but it made me think about how fanfiction had influenced certain pieces of my writing. There is a certain format to writing fanfiction that makes it easy to read, pleasurable, and to-the-point. Of course, there is the build up and the tension within the story, but there is a particular written structure in fanfiction that is hard to break away from when you’ve written in it for some time. The written structure of fanfiction highly influenced how I wrote in college because it was a challenge to break away from what I was used to. Before I even started critical writing classes in college that would teach me the ‘proper’ form of writing, all I really knew how to write was fanfiction and the occasionally high school essay (which honestly wasn’t that great considering the fact that English curriculum is seriously lacking in schools.)
So, when I finally got to college and had to start writing the ‘correct’ way, it was like being thrown a curve-ball after years of writing according to fanfiction form. It was a challenge to transform myself from fanfiction writer to academic writer and that struggle helped me realize that the challenge of writing was the thing that made me love to do it. I was inspired by how complicated it was to write something good. Granted, there are AMAZING fanfiction writers out there who could write a KILLER novel, but I was not one of those people. My writing wasn’t too awful compared to some of the other writers I’ve seen; it just wasn’t good enough to ever be published on the internet for the world to read. Seriously. I’ve deleted any of the fanfiction I’ve written from every platform. It’s too embarrassing. Even when I was writing fanfiction, I hardly published any of it and it was utter garbage. The amount of times I said “she gulped” and “she took a breath” couldn’t fit on both my hands. It was ludicrous. But, it made me feel a love for writing that is hard to find if you don’t force yourself into the challenge of it. If I didn’t have fanfiction as an outlet for my garbage writing and my trashy plots, than I wouldn’t even have discovered this continual excitement to be better, to do better, and to further assess myself as a writer.
One night I was sitting in my room with a notebook and a pen in hand, and I remembered how that exact moment of torture (writer’s block) was born from the challenge of pushing myself to write even when my brain didn’t want to cooperate. The need for challenge originated from my fanfiction days, when there were too many cliches and I used ‘then’ and ‘than’ wrong. Fanfiction may be controversial and I can understand and see moments of plagiarism in publishing when it comes to fanfiction, but fanfiction helps breed potential future writers that could change the world of literature, and we cannot ignore that fact.