Fact or Fanfiction?

A winding line of open books on top of leaves

When I say “fanfiction,” you don’t say it’s an embarrassment to the world of literature! 

Just like any genre that has unorthodox origins, there are plenty of unfair preconceived notions about fanfiction. One is that fanfiction only serves the obsessive fans who want to nitpick, tear apart or completely change an original story. One of the most degrading claims about fanfiction that turns people off from the genre and makes it laughable is simply that it’s not considered “real” writing. Funny enough, there’s an eclectic collection of current works by acclaimed authors like Neil Gaiman and E L James that directly proves this is a moot point. E L James, author of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” started her hit series originally as a fanfiction of the “Twilight” series. Neil Gaiman’s self-proclaimed “Lovecraft/Holmes fanfiction” story, “A Study in Emerald,” won the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. Magazines like Writer’s Digest cite Archive of Our Own (a fanfiction archive and writing website) as the topmost used writing website to date. 

If you peruse the internet long enough, you can probably find the technical time when fanfiction began. But it has arguably been around probably as long as literature itself, even if sites to read it and write it have not been. This is because fanfiction is defined by consuming a form of media - typically books, though in recent decades it’s come to encompass movies, TV shows and games as well - and following through with your “What if?” questions by writing about them. What if Uncle Ben never died? What if Harry Potter grew up with Draco Malfoy and they were both raised by Sirius Black? What if “The Odyssey” took place in the modern day? What would the similarities be between the original and the fan adaption? What would be different? How would you depict the continuation of character growth? 

Much of fanfic strives to answer these questions quite seriously, but that doesn’t mean all of the genre consists of such heavy changes as the examples I gave. Some stories change nothing more than a single moment from the canon material. Others tell the whole story from a different character’s point of view, similar to what authors like Veronica Roth (author of the “Divergent” series) did with her novel “Four.” No matter how a fanfic is written, new life is being given to an already existing story.

You don’t have to be a crazy fan to want to see something more or something different from one of your favorite stories. But maybe instead of getting stuck in your own daydreams of what Katniss would be like as a parent, you can search for a “Hunger Games” slice of life fanfiction to scratch that imaginative itch. 

To get you started on your journey of asking and answering, I’ve included some fan language. These terms are quite commonly used throughout the literary world, including libraries. Keep them on hand for the next time you’re trying to explain to your local Anythinker what that one niche scene in “The Maze Runner” made you feel to give us a better chance of helping you find more things like it! 

Different Types of Fanfiction

  • POV Change: This is the genre authors like E L James curated in her series “Fifty Shades of Grey” to depict the same story via a different character’s perspective. 
  • Alternate Ending: We’ve all read the disappointing or tragic endings that we just don’t want to accept. And though the original writer wrote that critical character death for a reason, maybe you want to explore what would happen if the plot hadn’t demanded blood. 
  • Various One-Offs: What happened between some of those fade-to-black scenes? What about all those discussions that happened off-screen? And how did those two characters who hated each other in the last book become friends in this one? These one-offs may seem random, but they fill the questioning holes some stories leave out.  
  • Noting the Not-Notable Side Character: This genre is present in both fanfiction and other fiction, one of the best examples (in my opinion) being Madeline Miller’s “Circe.” This book and “The Song of Achilles” tell the classic ancient Greek epics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” from two of the most under-appreciated characters’ perspectives. They become the main characters, similar to a POV change, but focusing more on the underdog character. 
  • Fix-It Fics: *MAZE RUNNER SPOILERS* Remember when Newt died, and we all weren’t sure whether we wanted to riot or sob? Yeah, fix-it fics make sure that never happens. Typically written with the utmost care, supplying us with the circumstances needed to save characters from their fates, these fics act as a soothing balm. 
  • Time Travel Fics: Similar to fix-it fics, time travel fics often have themes of characters sent back in time to change a present or future event. A modern example of this trope is “Back to The Future.” 
  • Alternate Universe (AU) Fics: AU fics are a lot alike the multiverse genre that’s blown up like a phenomenon lately. Unlike multiverse stories though, AU fics can mean a story where the characters of “Lord of the Rings” all run a coffee shop together in a modern world and never had to endure the fellowship of the ring. 

Now that you’re armed with some new language - and hopefully a refreshed perspective to view fanfiction as a genre - you’re ready to start perusing new fics and diving back into some nostalgic (or new!) tales.


Yes!! Stop the fanfiction slander! I love this post so much, thank you for taking the time to write and share it! I think there is also something to be said about the way the story changes once it gets adapted into a movie sometimes, having to change all the characters names (for obvious copy right reasons) some times takes a bit out of it. Though not in the case of something like Twilight which was wildly successful on it's own, sometimes the stories are better left as nostalgic representations of the characters we know rather then a completely new tale..feel free to disagree with me though! P.S. If anyone is looking for good reads, there is a wonderful Hunger Games fanfiction told from Peeta's POV and it is amazing.