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How to Write Fan Fiction | Literature & Latte

Fan fiction can be a good testing ground for a would-be writer, and is a fun way to develop the world of existing fictional characters. Find out more in our fanfic writing guide.

Fan fiction is a popular form of writing that involves using the characters, settings, and events of an existing work of fiction, such as a book, a movie, a TV show, or a game, and creating your own stories based on them. Writing fan fiction can be a rewarding way to express your love and appreciation for your favourite fandoms, to explore different scenarios and possibilities, to practice your writing skills, and to connect with other fans who share your interests and passions.

Fan fiction has been around for a long time. You could say that the many Arthurian romances written throughout the Middle Ages were a form of fan fiction based on the earliest such story. Many of Shakespeare's plays could also be seen as fan fiction based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, or other, earlier Elizabethan plays that he saw.

Some writers see writing fan fiction as a training ground for the big leagues of writing original novels. Fantasy author Naomi Novik says, "Fan fiction is a great incubator for writers. The more constraints you have on you at the beginning, the better. It’s why people do writing exercises, or play scales. That kind of constraint forces you to practice certain skills, and then at a certain point you have the control to bring out the whole toolbox.”

Writing fan fiction can be challenging and daunting, especially if you are new to it or want to improve your craft. You may face issues such as staying true to the original work, avoiding clichés and stereotypes, developing your own style and voice, and getting feedback and support from other writers and readers.

Since fan fiction riffs on existing intellectual property, authors of fan fiction cannot publish these works commercially. But writing fan fiction can still be a way of sharing your own storytelling and interacting with the readers who share your fandom.

The most important thing to know when writing great fan fiction

The most important thing to know when writing fan fiction is the canon. This is the term used to describe the official and established facts and details of the original work that you are basing your fan fiction on. You must familiarise yourself with the characters, the plot, the setting, the themes, the tone, and the style of the original work. This helps you to respect and honour the original creator's vision, to avoid making mistakes or creating inconsistencies, and to devise stories that are believable and engaging for the fans of the original work. You can and will deviate from the canon as you write fan fiction because you create your own events in the universe of the canon, but they must be plausible and fit in with what fans know. 

You can write prequels that flesh out the backstories of characters, invent new characters that interact with existing characters, and create spin-off events, as long as they fit in the canon. You can write fan fiction stories about how two characters interact, and even writing shipping fan fiction, about romantic relationships between characters who may not have such relationships in the canon. 

You can create alternate timelines and alternate universes, and you can even transport characters out of their universe to the past, present, or future. But these characters still need to be recognisable to fans of the original works. Fans will appreciate fan fiction that is authentic; they will disdain derivative works that show that the writer doesn't know the canon. 

Fan fiction genres

When writing fan fiction, there are a wide range of genres you can explore for your works. Here are some of them:

- Alternate universe or AU fan fiction is where you take characters from your chosen works and transplant them to different universes. You might or bring Mr. Darcy, from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice into the modern world, for example. 
- Crossover fanfic is where you bring characters from one fandom into another, such as introducing Star Trek characters into the world of Star Wars.
- Fix-it fic consists of stories where writers correct elements of the canon that they dislike or disagree with. Sometimes this patches up plot holes, or changes endings.
- Self-insert fan fiction is where the author themselves enter the fandom world, and these stories are told in the first person.
- Slash fanfic is where two characters are brought together as a couple, in a romantic or sexual relationship.  This genre is named by the **/** character used to indicate the couples, and begin in the 1970s with Kirk/Spock fan fiction written mostly by women.
- Harry Potter fan fiction isn't a genre of its own, but is by far the most popular fandom that people have written fan fiction about. You'll find hundreds of thousands of Harry Potter related stories on the archives mentioned below. 

Fan fiction writing repositories 

There are many online repositories for fan fiction where you can read fan fiction, post your own fanfic, and get comments and critiques of your work. Here are two of the largest:

- Archive of Our Own (AO3) has more than 10 million works around more than 50,000 fandoms. It is one of the largest such repositories, and is a "fan-created, fan-run, nonprofit, noncommercial archive for transformative fanworks, like fanfiction, fanart, fan videos, and podfic."
- is an automated fan fiction archive site, currently with more than 14 million stories and an active user community. 

The importance of beta readers

If you are writing fan fiction in order to improve as an author, it's important to have a beta reader. This is someone who reads your fanfic before you publish it, and who gives you feedback and suggestions on how to improve it. A beta reader can be a friend, a fellow writer, or a fan of the original work, and they can help you spot and fix any errors, inconsistencies, or weaknesses in your fan fiction. They can also give you encouragement and support, and help you to grow and develop as a writer. You can find a beta reader on fan fiction websites, forums, or social media, or in writing groups or clubs. You should choose a beta reader who is honest, constructive, respectful, and reliable, and who shares your vision and goals for your fan fiction. In a good beta reader relationship, you can do the same for the other fanfic author.

How Scrivener can help you write fan fiction

When writing fan fiction, Scrivener is the best tool to keep track of characters, stories, and the canon. You can use character sketches to record the traits of characters, along with other information about them, as you build up your stories. You can store research about your fandom's canon in Scrivener's Research folder. And Scrivener's Binder, the sidebar at the left of the window, allows to to keep all your fanfic stories together, in a single project. 

Scrivener is writing software designed for you to get writing – and keep writing. Scrivener is the go-to program for writers of all genres, with best-selling novels, screenplays, nonfiction books, student essays, academic papers and more being written with it every day. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write; instead, it will give you everything you need to get started and keep writing, letting you mould the app to how you work best. Why not take a look?

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