Writing Fan Fiction
by Adam Smith, Editorial Director, Author-me.com
Why does anyone write anything that we are not otherwise compelled to write? Because something moves us to write; touches us in a way that motivates us to use the creative side of our brain and express ourselves. I read a story and fall in love with its character. The love that I feel demands expression. How may I express it? I write, and I put all my effort into that writing, to honor that character and so that others may also be touched by what I saw.
One development is increased popularity of “fan fiction.”
A few months ago, upon publication of a second fan fiction novel by Editorial Director Adam Smith on Author-me, I started researching this new development. Adam’s books, The Legend of Taarna and Once Bitten, were serious works. They both were outgrowths of other works that Adam liked very much. (See his article in this newsletter.)
Next I stopped at my neighborhood Borders bookstore and typed “fan fiction” into the search engine. It came back with a fiction book about a fan!
Undaunted, I searched further and found a fascinating book by Rebecca W. Black entitled “Adolescents and Online Fan Fiction” (NY: Peter Land, 2008). She defines it: “Fan fiction, simply defined, is fiction written by fans about preexisting characters and/or settings from their favorite media.” (Black, 2008:10) Including books, movies, video games, and TV shows.
Black offers a helpful account of the fan phenomenon in fiction. For example, FanFiction.net, and especially the large number of websites and stories in which an admiring reader “fills in the blanks” in popular stories like the Star Wars movies.
The phenomenon has broad implications. First, it legitimizes reader participation in popular stories, opening the interesting possibility that future media will include (or even require?) readers or viewers to make choices which drastically alter the plot lines. Second, and equally important, it moves published works into the burgeoning life of social media. Now, via a Facebook page or other electronic forum, fiction readers can interact with each other in relation to the media they love.
Still more important, fan fiction offers the potential to motivate new readers, especially adolescents, who already face the possibility that they can communicate well via electronic media without ever learning to read in the traditional sense. Rebecca Black summarizes research in this area and presents her own observational research on the topic, underlining the importance of fan fiction in literacy education.
Thus, beginning with what might seem a whimsical and imitative fiction exercise, fan fiction can energize educational efforts for youth, one of the toughest challenges for educators today.
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