By: Emma B.

I have talked about fanfiction many times since I started writing for the Lime Green Giraffe. However, every now and then something very annoying will happen.  
I am asked what I am currently writing and if I say I am writing an article about fanfiction the questioner either rolls their eyes or they are totally confused. Some people even say something like, “Really? You’re doing a fanfiction article? Wow.” Sometimes this is said in a very sarcastic tone.  
I often wonder if readers think that fanfiction is the garbage bin of literature. So this raises a very intriguing question, is fanfiction bad for the writing community? And if not, what purpose could it possibly serve?  
But first, some context. 

A Brief Recap 
For those of you who don’t know, fanfiction is when a fan or group of fans write a story set in the world or focused around the characters from a certain fictional universe that has already been published. This concept has gained immense popularity in the last two decades and millions of stories have been published online under the label of fanfiction. Many fanfiction projects have turned out stories of incredible quality. And once in a blue moon, fanfiction stories are published as real books if they turn out to be extremely popular.  
So, with this knowledge, one might ask “Why does it have such a bad reputation?” Well, despite the fact that many good fan-works that exist, more often than not, there are several bad fan-works out there. This means many readers have protested fanfiction and discouraged some to not write at all. Overall, the fanfiction scene is a highly mixed bag depending on what fandom you’re in and your tolerance for certain issues. 
Furthermore, the world of fanfiction and fandom is practically a sub-culture all its own, with slang terms like “shipping” (romantically pairing two characters together), “crack” (something so improbable it can only be a joke), “OTP”, (one true pairing) or “Whump” (excessive harm of a character for the sake of a plot).  Trying to understand these terms while immersing yourself in fan culture, can be extremely difficult for new-comers. This makes introducing outsiders to the culture difficult.  
Many people assume this kind of writing, really isn’t writing. Rather, it’s just work made by fans who really don’t want to brave the creative thought process.  
All of this only adds to the original debate, is fanfiction bad for the writing community,  brought up at the beginning of this article. 

The Actual Debate 
So this arises the question of the hour, which form of writing is better? Something original or something focused in or around the fan world? There are pros and cons to everything. Yes, the media loves to try and convince us otherwise but that doesn’t make it any less true. 
So, let’s examine the pros, and cons of this debate. 
Fanfiction Pros & Cons 
On the one hand with everything said about fanfiction, it would make sense that readers would try and stay away from fanfictionHowever, just because one side has fault doesn’t mean the other is perfect.   
On the fanfiction end, it would seem to be a one-trick pony. However, many publishers have become more and more drawn to fanfiction as it is something of a viral marketing tool. One of my favorite examples of this is the author, Cassandra Clare and her famous series The Shadowhunter Chronicles. Clare started out as a Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings fanfiction writer. Quickly though, due to her humor and care, she was heralded as one of the greatest fanfiction writers ever. Yes her work was taken off after some controversy involving the story borrowing from an out of print novel, but at the end of the day, her fanfic career helped kick start her writing career. Many of her fans were supportive of her publishing career and bought her books. Plus, she published books and fanfiction under the same name, Cassandra Clare. This only led to increasing her brand even more. 
Furthermore, many authors, including myself, see fanfiction as something of a ground to test the water. I personally started writing some of the dumbest Mario fanfiction you will ever read. However, without fanfiction, I would have never had practice with writing, online marketing as well as interaction with fans of my work. Yes, I’m still working on my air of professionalism but believe or not, fanfiction gave me some incredible practice.  
 Now, the cons of fanfiction are very apparent. For example, in my opinion, fanfiction has a huge censorship problem. Often, fan-works with brutal, even sexualized content will come out of nowhere and be left for the eyes of very young children. This is due to the lack of quality filters on most fanfiction websites which don’t do the greatest job censoring mature content. Since we live in a digital age, many children’s rebellious curiosities get the better of them and they end up reading many things that they might not be ready to read. I’ve even been in this situation a few times, by accident of course.  
Original Writing Pros & Cons 
Original writing has its own pros and cons too. 
I think with editors and publishers the quality of grammar and plot is consistently better in the publishing industry. Especially nowadays when fee-back is so instant, however that doesn’t mean problems don’t exist.  
For example, we all know about Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson, all of which come with rave reviews and lots of happy readers. However, some people will also openly admit that they have read several novels that have made them incredibly angry or frustrated. For example, many people will pick up a book at the store and say it was intriguing then they’ll get to the ending and start screaming at one element or another that turns them off to the whole thing. But maybe this is the fun of reading? 
Due to how the publishing industry works much like movies business editors and publishers can change the artist’s original vision and the author gets all the blame. This doesn’t happen all the time but it does happen more than the industry would like to admit. 
So, the obvious questiong, “Why not just create more original content online where there are no rules or marketing executives?”  
Well, I think this isn’t quite the answer either. 
As much as I’ve praised Wattpad, a fanfiction-writing application in the past, even I have to admit it does suffer from a lack of regulations and people who properly examine quality. Since Wattpad is entirely online with no editors, the grammar is sometimes awful no matter where you seem to go. Plus, the good and bad stories often blend together making good content even harder to find. 
Typically, original writing that has been edited by a publisher usually has far better grammar and is consistently a higher quality, at least on a technical level. Andthere is a fan club type community around a book or a novel that is not the same as fanfiction. This community interest can lead to book clubs, more in-depth analysis of the tropes and plot tools, etc.  
Book club discussions can improve someone own writing or spawn their love of reading. Plus, original works also have more of an advantage since people of all ages respect them and give them the time of day. This leads to a wider audience and more opportunities to spread the message of the book and to make a profit.  
Don’t forgetsometimes the assumed legitimacy of an original writing might lead the publishing industry to manipulate the masses. For example, many marketing companies try to make a book seem hip or like the next Harry Potter. Sometimes this angle doesn’t make sense and the companies only push for a book to be profitable because it holds one trendy element. It doesn’t even have to be the main element. Every now and then the publishing company in question will even lie about certain things in order to try and push something that is just horrible. Something that isn’t very creative at all.  This leads to many books being overly hyped and then for mass disappointment on all fronts. The reverse effect is also true, where great novels get swept under the rug just because they don’t contain what’s popular or considered impactful.  
It’s a double-edged sword, the internet can lead to greater opportunity, but typically, I think, everything runs at a lower quality online. This is partly due to online writers not having big budgets for editing like a traditional publishing company. 

My Take: 
This debate varies differently from person to person. Due to the nature of its existence, many answers depend on one's experiences and personal thoughts. However, that doesn't mean one answer is better or worse than the other. With that, I'd like to present my take. 
I believe both fanfiction and original writing, if done right can both have an impact. I also believe it comes down to the individual person on which side they prefer to write more. For me, due to personal reasons and emotional biases, I have often switched back and forth but both mediums which has given me valuable experience on how to entertain and inform. 
Yes, fanfiction might be seen as less intelligent and less thought-out but if it's used to vent emotion and build skill, is it really all that bad? I also think fanfiction, in some respects, can serve as a vehicle to get more people interested in writing just as much as published novels.  
In the end, everyone’s going to have their own opinions but I believe if we use every writing and read medium at our disposal, only then can we continue to creatively grow. 

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