For those who don't know, fanfic (or fan-fic) is short for fan fiction--fiction, usually unauthorized, based on already-existing creations written by fans of those creations. Fan fiction isn't intended to be a rip-off, although there are some creators and copyright holders who consider it to be. The purpose of fan fiction is to explore various possibilities of a fictional reality.
Fan fiction can be very close to the original; it could pass for an unpublished part of the canon or an unscreened episode of the series. It can be a little afield of the original, establishing the fan's version of a backstory, or featuring a minor supporting character from a book or show. It can be father afield that that, and just take place in the fictional world created by the originator: a story about students at Star Fleet Academy with no mention of the Star Trek characters, or the adventures of a wizard in the Harry Potter universe with no connection to the Harry Potter characters.
There's a whole range of stories called "slash", which aren't... necessarily... violent--they're intimate-relationship stories, like a romance between , say, Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. That would be Holmes/Adler, and not too strange. Holmes/Watson, on the other hand, would go right out of the park, and I'm sure there have been many written. Please don't tell me. Please. Really.Then there are cross-overs, which are blends of two or more fictional worlds, like the characters in Twilight taking a vacation in Collinsport and meeting the characters of Dark Shadows. Okay, now I'm snorting type 0 out of my nose....
Finally, there's the kind of fanfic that Star Trek fans call "Mary Sue". That's when you insert a character who is a fantasy version of yourself into a fictional world. She (it's sometimes a he, but the stereotypical fanfic writer of this kind of story is female) interacts with the standard characters, is usually fascinating or brilliant or hilariously sarcastic or gorgeous or slapstick-clumsy or otherwise larger than life, and ends up saving everyone from something or other.
I've written a goodly amount of fan fiction, myself. It can seem like a long time between episodes or sequels or stories by the author, and fan IS short for fanatic, you know. I've even written Mary Sue. It's fun.In fact, it's more than fun, if you really try to recreate the world you're exploring. It's like riding a bike with training wheels. It's like learning how to paint by learning how to copy other people's paintings, which is a standard exercise for artists. If you're crazy about a show or a book or a movie, so crazy you can't get enough of it, copying it as nearly as you can is one way to take it apart and find out what's so appealing about it. Writing scenes and dialog for established characters is good practice for everything from pacing to character continuity to each-person-has-a-unique-voice. You can share your results with other fans--and take bigger lumps than an original creator, if you've done a bad job--but you can't market your work. You have creative pressure, but no financial pressure. It's for the love, the way all good writing is, whether you get paid for it or not.
I've heard a fellow professional writer attack fanfic writers as being somehow pathetic. "Why don't you create your own things, instead of stealing somebody else's work?" I had to disagree with him. Fanfic isn't taking anything away from the originators. People who come across a good piece of fan fiction will almost always want to go to the original. Fanfic writers are creating their own stories; they're just using copyrighted raw materials, rather than, say, folk tales. And it's a small step across that line between expanding on someone else's imaginings and beginning to trust totally in your own imagination.
Go on, Grasshopper. Make it so.
Marian Allen was born in Louisville, Kentucky and now lives in rural Indiana. For as long as she can remember, she has loved telling and being told stories. When, at the age of about six, she was informed that somebody got paid for writing all those books and movies and television shows, she abandoned her previous ambition (beachcomber), and became a writer.