Thursday, December 25, 2008

Essay: Why Fanfiction?

Something I wonder about on occasion is the question “Why Fanfiction?” The Twilight fandom is one of many fandoms available on the Internet. There are House, X-Files, Harry Potter and countless other fandoms out there to suck you in. And suck you in, they do. For myself, my obsession with fandom and more notably, fanfiction, begun shortly after I read the first three books of the Twilighted saga. Breaking Dawn was still months away and I felt empty in anticipation. I resorted to the one thing I could always count on - the Internet.

I started off with Google and a quick search brought me to sites like The Twilight Guy, Twilight Moms and the Lexicon. I read all of their news blurbs and lived off those for about a week, but the fact side of the Twilight Universe only satiated a portion of my ever-burning desire for more. It probably fed it actually. I wanted interaction and discussion, but being an almost thirty year old woman, I wasn't finding many friends, colleagues or family members as taken in by the story as I was.

So I started venturing into various forums. I quickly saw that they were established and I was late to the game. I never felt particularly welcomed, nor did I feel any type of identification with most of the members. Let me say here that I am in no way saying these forums are bad, they just weren't for me.

Finally, I found a thread on fanfiction.

I was familiar with fanfiction, being an active reader in the Harry Potter fandom with a particular affinity for stories set in the future and next generation, but for some reason, I never thought to look up the availability of Twilight stories. Immediately, I ventured to, where I had read most of my HP stuff, and was delighted by the ample selection. This was no small fandom I realized. Immediately, I was drawn to the Alternate Universe/Edward Never Came Back After New Moon genre. I fell in love with Seducing Ms. Swan by Rialle(Twilighted)/DQRC(FF) along with many others. After about two weeks of living on my laptop, thigh burn from the heat of said laptop's processor and a very annoyed husband, I had found a ridiculous amount of stories. I devoured them all. All of a sudden, my selection had dried up.

That's when I realized there was a whole sub-genre of AU-Human. At first I was leery and extremely hesitant. I started off on some fics I will not name and was severely disappointed. I wasn't sure why at first until the thought struck me that the potential for the Human subgenre was huge. I knew I couldn't be the only one out there who saw this. I did another Google search, hoping to find a quality site like the HP fandom had that would feature only high caliber stories. Twilighted popped up and I found heaven in the form of Realize by Goo82. Finally, I felt the need for more Twilight in my life tampered down.

From there, I read every Human story available. At the time, there were maybe only thirty on Twilighted. I decided to try my hand at writing and thus, became more than a reader at Twilighted, eventually joining the forums.

This was something I just did for a long time. It was a hobby and something to fill my time off from work. Not until recently, when I realized I felt such a commitment to the fandom, community and fanfiction, did I ask myself why. I have since come up with a few answers for myself and wanted to share them.

The Twilight saga appeals on more than one front. It is a fantasy and a love story. It's epic in it's romance and traditional in it's delivery. It appeals to young girls' hopes for the sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of way. It appeals to more experienced woman in the sigh we have as we remember those dreams. We are fools for romance, and regardless of my personal issues with the saga itself, it doesn't change how the love story still brings me back to a time where I just knew I would have that one day.

I wanted more of that feeling, delivered with the names Bella and Edward for the main characters in particular. It's why I went on Google searches, but only through my fanfiction missions was I able to fulfill the overwhelming need for more of this love story. Only from the minds of others was my own need to constantly relive that feeling accomplished. I thank whomever came up with the concept of fanfiction everyday as I open up my gmail and read all the lovely updates awaiting my eager eyes and hungry brain.

Not many get why fanfiction is so prevalent in my life. I try to explain and most just shake their heads and call me a dork under their breaths. For some reason, it never bothered me. I was content and I had the in on the best secret ever, free literature featuring my favorite characters! I felt pity for those who didn't understand.

A colleague and fellow Twilight reader of mine once asked me if I felt fanfiction took away from the original story itself. I had to think long and hard on this to answer it from an articulated point of view. At first, I was ready to jump the gun and defend my beloved stories with the might of fifty Gladiators, but I knew that was rash. If I looked at it from an outsider's perspective and was honest I could find viable arguments for both sides of the coin.

It took me some time, but I was finally able to answer the question more for myself, rather than my colleague.

I find fanfiction to be more of an enhancement. Stephenie Meyer and her creation is cited by responsible authors and sites consistently as the number one rule of the fandom. It's kept Twilight in the forefront of our minds, thus perpetuating the economical aspect of the saga (movies, paraphernalia, music and much more). It's not just some nice little series I read awhile back.

Much of the work displayed in fanfiction is of such a high caliber, that they are very original in their own right. The names may be universal here, but each interpretation is it's own. The Human subgenre is particularly noted in this aspect. I can't tell you how many stories I have read that you could slap different names on the characters and I would pay $7.99 for mass market paperback to read.

In contrast, the AU and Canon genres both give us more of the Twilight Universe. You could not sell them as original work, but many give alternative answers to parts of the series we would like and enhance the original work. I recently went back and read Breaking Dawn so I could form an accurate assessment of my personal feelings towards the book. I kept thinking of Minisinoo's Cowboys and Indians while I read. I was looking for when Jasper might have formed his friendship with Leah. My imagination went wild with the possibilities. Jasper's character in canon all of a sudden took on a whole new layer for me. So what if my fic bled into the original? That's what true craft in these genres do. It made me look at the original work with new and more sympathetic eyes, thus endearing it to me more.

To argue for opposition against fanfiction, you could always say we are bastardizing the original work and taking it places Stephenie Meyer never intended and thus we should respect her craft as that. My answer is to look at the author herself. Ms. Meyer has never publicly negated the fandom, nor has she discouraged fanfiction like authors such as J.R.Ward. I like to think she recognizes the economical and sociological value of devotees. It keeps her comfortable and keeps us hooked, thus providing her with a continuous fan base for future work.

Another thing I noticed with fanfiction, most notably on Twilighted, is the aspect of community it provides. Unlike the other forums I visited, I was welcomed with open arms and was encouraged by peers of the realm. I met acquaintances that have now become valued and dear friends. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere my quest for Twilight fulfillment disappeared. It turned into being a part of a community teeming with great minds with such creative capacity that I am constantly reminded how honored I am to stand amongst them. I hold such respect and gratitude for the friendships and assistance I have gotten from fandom in general. I've gained more from this personally than I can ever repay.

The last thing about why fanfiction has reeled me in is the writer themselves. I think that this format allows many to find their own voice, style, technique and practice. It's a community of authors, not just fic writers. Most recently I was struck at the response to the first Twilighted sponsored Original Fiction Contest for Girl Power, Ghouls & Gorgeous Guys. I personally had the worst and best experience writing for it. I felt inept at the constant block I felt while trying to develop an original short story, but I persevered. It became about doing it, not winning. I wanted to prove to myself that I could branch out and accomplish something for me and by me. To say I had no assistance would be ridiculous. Without the friends I had on here, I may not of had the stones to stick to my guns. Luckily they rallied around me at all hours to encourage and keep me sane. It was a contest I started off doing, but in the end, it was a personal milestone I met as an author. The lessons I walked away with from that experience is priceless and I have applied all of it to the work I continue to do in my fanfiction and original work.

So, in the end, I answer the 'Why Fanfiction' question with personal conviction. Because it makes all of our lives a little bit fuller. It brings escapism and purpose. It's a mechanism for aspiring writers to practice their craft. Most importantly, it brings us together under one commonality and that is all the why I need.

smellyia is an administrator for this blog and writes in the AU-Human/angst genres. She is an active member of the Twilighted community and posts her stories Disaffected, When We Drove All Night and Congratulations there, as well as two original shorts. She also has too many dogs, a newly PS3 addicted husband and a pair of Ugg Adirondack Tall Boots in Obsidian.
smellyia on FF
smellyia on Twilighted


  1. you with the eloquence.
    it occurs to me that this response will not be short, because those of you who know me know that i am long-winded.
    here's the thing about incorporating sites like twilighted into the "why fanfiction?" response.
    i can categorically say that i would never have started writing anything without the twilighted community.
    for one thing, ereeen dared me to post my first story. and i never can say "no" to a good dare.
    so there's that.
    but also, while i don't let the things people say (or the ludicrous suggestions in the form of reviews they give me) sway how i'm going to write, i can say that the constant encouragement and voracious appetites of certain people *coughcoughsmellyiawithherINEEDMORESCOTCHcoughcoughcough* makes for serious impetus.
    it has nothing to do with ego stroking, although trust me. that's lovely. but no- the people who are always like, (and i'm one of them) JUST EFFING WRITE. WE LOVE WHATEVER YOU DO. i mean, how can you resist the temptation to put your words out there?
    for anyone reading this, i want you to know that you can do it. and i must quote the sage-like advice of a 90s band we all know and love(?) here-
    fuck the naysayers 'cuz they don't mean a thing
    'cuz this is what style we bring
    yeah, that's right. i just quoted 311.
    we bring style to the fanfiction world, ladies. we just do. we support each other, we encourage. we text random and hilarious things, and we pop up in each other's PMs and chatboxes, politely (or not so much) demanding more quality, more stories. more writing. write. WRITE. enjoy the fanfiction. read it. i wish i had more time to read everyone's stories.
    and while i encourage you to write, i similarly encourage you to support your fellow twilight authors. a completely other topic that i'd love to blog about here is the art of leaving reviews. but seriously, we have some great gals in this here community, my fellow brown included. i wouldn't ask "why fanfiction?" i'd ask "why are you still doing it when the series is over?"
    my short answer: you guys.

  2. So, I just finished reading the WA update and angstgoddess003's shameless plug/link to this blog and decided to come check it out.

    Anytime authors that I consider amazing decide to talk fic, well, I'm all over that. I'm not a big "comments" girl at other forums. I feel the best way to keep my happiness toward something is to avoid accidentally reading comments that will put me in a bad mood. Yeah, I protect myself like that after learning the hard way.

    BUT... I do hear ya... I totally need to step up on the Reviews and comments I leave at FanFiction. The best part there is, I can leave my comment and not see anyone else's if I don't want to. I just get so finicky and come and go so much. I'm not great at my "stick-to-it-tiveness".

    I am so happy though that I've visited the "Faves" lists of authors and tried fics that I normally would not have. (Those descriptions can be deceptive!) I've found some really great stuff. Bits of humour peppered thru fics that make me smile like a big ol' idiot. Smut, Angst, Sarcasm - so much that is so well developed and characters created that just flow like a film in your mind.

    I'm definitely bookmarking this blog and will check it regularly. (Holy Shit, I was one wordy beeyotch!)

    vysed aka Denise3

  3. my dear wtvoc-you will get your moment in the sun on 1/22 to be precise.

    thanks for chexking this out vysed...we will be posting srticles on Thursdays and Recs on Sundays...Guest Blogger recs alternating with Admin recs. I am also hoping to incorporate GB's into the articles...coughwtvocandherinsanereviewsandperspectiveonsuchcough

    Thank You Both for taking the ime to come play on our Blog!

  4. Niccy says:

    The trouble I've had with Twilight fandom is finding a good source of fanfiction recs. Don't get me wrong, in my random searches I've found excellent writing, but they've become few and far between.

    I love reading your suggestions because their coherent. Not just, "this is SOOOOO awesome" and various other inane comments that fail to show why a story is love so much. Even my rule of finding stories because of large amounts of reviews seem to fail me here. Therefore, reading your recs are refreshing. I can't wait to see you suggestions.

  5. i love the way you've articulated your love for fanfic, how that love came to be. i feel like that's my story as well, starting with the insatiable thirst for anything Twilight. i too remember hearing about fanfiction and googling it and finding and then anyway, i found this site because angstgoddess referenced it in one of her WA author's notes. i do love this sense of community. it inspires me, helps keep me reading and writing....

  6. I will try and not get all sappy (and be ready to hear me say this over and over again,) Twilight brought so many things back to life for me. One of the most profound things was bringing me back to writing. It would be a great undertaking for me, and for you to read, to go into the whole, I will spare us. I will say this, life got in the way of my passion for writing. First the reading of Twilight and then subsequently knowing about SM, made me realize that I put limitations on myself that needed not be there. If SM could write this, without formal training, while being a SAHM..well, why the hell can't I?

    I started writing my first chapters of my first book and as expected I had ZERO confidence. Long story short, through my local TwiilightMoms's group, got sucked into the vacuum of Fanfiction. It was one of the best things ever. Not only did show me a range of authors and stories but it gave me a tad more confidence.

    So, I am taking baby steps. I have a few chapters up of my first fic and while I really feel I am just laying a foundation for the REAL story, some have responded already. It has been a amazing feeling. Then I remember when I read the first several chapters of 'Wide Awake' and emailed Angst and told her she made me want to write. I was nervous to send that and feel like a stalker but I realized that it had to be golden to her..or any of us.

    Fanfiction has also showed me that is a obtainable caliber of writing here. We aren't on a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble unable to communicate with the author but we are in more intimate contact. There is a lot of instant gratification in both reading and getting responses to our writing.

    I am NO where near confident yet. In fact, after one of Angst's last chapters I told her I had no business writing along side her! I feel that way about a lot of what I read. However, I am pulling up my big girl pants and am taking it one step at a time.


  7. Thank You ALL! I wanted to share my journey in fandom and I LOVED reading about all of yours!

    All four of us admins have very different stories to tell in our own special ways. This blog is a great vehicle to do that in.

    I hope you enjoy the future articles I have planned and scheduled!


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