In my day, fan fiction was relegated to the nerd world. Fans of Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and comic books clogged up the internet with short stories or full-length novels about their favorite characters. Of course if you've ever taken a gander over at Wattpad, you know it's not just for nerds anymore. Nor is it just for teens. The selection of adult fanfiction is vast and caters to every fandom.
Fan fiction gets a bad wrap and some of the criticism is deserved. But even reading the worst of it is great for any writer. More so than any English class I ever took, the hours upon hours I spent reading fan fiction taught me important writing skills, specifically, creating realistic characters and staying true to the characters you create.
I bring this up because I recently unpacked all of my books and placed them lovingly onto a book shelf in my study. As I unpacked them and categorized them, I came to the realization that the two most beloved books in my collection were X-Men Fatal Attractions (my very first graphic novel) and a printout of the X-men fanfic "Kid Dynamo" by Connie Hirsch.
Connie Hirsch, whoever she may be, created an entirely new character and weaved her seamlessly into the already established characters that comprised the New Mutants in the 1980s (under Magneto's leadership). Her character, Jessica, was not a dreaded Mary-Sue, but rather a complex and authentic young girl who came from difficult circumstances. The well-known character of Magneto was not revamped for the story, although some of his rougher edges were shaved off. In the author's defense, Magneto was a good guy at the time.
So what did those hours and hours of reading fan fiction do for me?
- They formed the basis of my writing style.
- They made me understand what a good character and bad character looked like.
- They helped me realize what real dialogue sounded like versus contrived nonsensical crap.
- They showed me the anger of an author treating me, the reader, like I was an idiot.
These talented writers (and some really awful ones) who loved the X-Men gave me my best education, not school marms who made me diagram sentences. Now that I'm all grown up, my deep emotional connection to the characters in the Marvel universe have helped me create some characters of my own, real ones with hopes and dreams and annoying personality traits. That kind of inspiration didn't come from reading The Scarlet Letter (curse you, Hawthorne). It came from fan fiction.
So if you needed permission to spend your weekend on Wattpad... you have it.