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Not Really A Dirty Word: Finding the Right Fanfiction Online

To literature snobs, it’s the ultimate dirty word—a place where people go to alter or continue the storylines of some of their favorite films, books, television series, video games, manga, etc.  But to some of us, it’s just another place to go to read for free.  Some of it includes familiar characters, locations, events, and narratives.  Some of it just takes character names and features and brings us into a whole different universe.  For readers, it’s a place to go in unknown directions.  For authors, it’s a way in which to hone their skills.  And with Teen Tech Week coming up, it’s a great place for teens to Mix and Mash around reading and technology in a creative setting.

I first discovered the Derbyshire Writer’s Guild in Tenth Grade, while doing research on the works of Jane Austen.  Clueless, and having never heard the word “fanfiction” in my life, I entered into the world of hundreds, maybe even thousands of fan-written stories.  I ran to my school librarian the next morning, ecstatic with my find and a little giddy with unrest—I’d stayed up for hours reading the night before.  That continued to be my primary source of Austen material—then my only fandom—until a couple years later when someone on the boards mentioned a story that had been posted on another website, fanfiction.net.

Heaven help me.

From there, I went exploring into countless worlds and fandoms—even ventured into different books so I could read the stories people were discussing on the forum.  But with thousands of stories, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  So I’m going to give you a few starting pointers to navigating this crazy world.

Fanlore is a great place to start if you’re interested in actually learning about fanfiction as a collection.  You can go here to find information about various types of fan work, fandoms, and other interesting tidbits—did you know author Cassandra Clare of Mortal Instrument fame established a strong following in the Harry Potter fandom with a six year endeavor called The Draco Trilogy?  You can also contribute any information you might know that has not yet been added.  The developers of Fanlore have been very good about producing alphabetical lists of just about everything, so both browsing and searching are made easy here.

Fanfiction.net is also a place you can go for lists of lists.  One thing that causes it to surpass fanlore, if you are just looking for a story, is the ability to search by original text category.  From there, you can search by original text name—anything from Twilight to The Wizard of Oz—rating: K-T (Stories are rated for age suitability as K, K+, T, and M–default is set to K->T, and be prepared to verify your age before viewing anything higher)—story type (choose from Action/Adventure, Romance, Hurt/Comfort, Humor, and many more).  You can even choose what characters you want to be in the story. There is a broad range of everything on ffnet, in both writing quality and content.  Reading at the T level can help with that, on occasion.

Every book or series with any kind of following will likely have an online presence—a fandom—especially if said book or series has been turned into films or a television show.  Think Harry Potter.  Think Vampire Diaries.  Think Little House on the Prairie.  You think I’m kidding.  Many of these fandoms collect on overarching websites, and many have branched off into their own communities where they can both discuss the original works—canon—and present their own writing.  There are some fandoms that have produced so much literature that it is sometimes difficult to decipher canon from fanon—things that the readers and authors take for granted (and protest when changed!) that never existed in the originals.  Heaven forbid Colonel Fitzwilliam not be named Richard or Draco Malfoy not have the second highest grades at Hogwarts.   It would be difficult to list all of these dedicated sites; with so many hundreds of individual fandoms, each of which might have more than one website dedicated to it, so I would suggest a brief search on Google.

I know, all of this information can be decidedly hard to rake through.  If you have a fandom in mind, have at it.  Find the section for it on Fanlore or ffnet, or search for it.  Ask for recommendations on the boards.  If you’re still shopping, try fanfiction.net, or fanlore.  They can set you on your path.

So, instead of scratching your head for another book when you hear “I’ve read [Insert Title Here] and I loved it, and I’ve also read [Everything Else Like It], what have you got for me?” Why not suggest fanfiction?  Not only is it a great place to find new worlds and universes (not to mention other fans to squee with), but we can choose what characteristics our favorite characters–and the ones we hate–might have in a world of our choice.  Not only is it a great place for readers, but future writers get a chance to dip their feet into the proverbial pond.

 

–Jessica Pryde, nostalgically rereading Correspondence and Courtship, one of the first complete fanfics she ever read.

6 Comments

  1. Maria Kramer Maria Kramer

    Thank you sooo much for writing about fanfiction! I like to think of fanfiction as the most democratic and liberating form of literature — Don’t like the way the book ended? Change it! Always thought the good guy was kind of a jerk? Re-write from the villain’s perspective! It’s fun to see how little changes can ripple through a whole storyline.

    • Jessica Pryde Jessica Pryde

      It’s very fun to see the little changes, and how different people produce them–I love reading a similar kind of story written by different kinds of readers and seeing just how different they can be.

  2. Anna D. Anna D.

    Shout-out for livejournal.com and dreamwidth.net! I much prefer their fiction communities to fanfiction.net. It seems easier to find groups dedicated to a particular show/book/film and then a pairing or idea within that section of fandom and actually form a sense of community there.

    I discovered fanfiction about halfway through grade nine and have since read tens of thousands of pages and written a bit of my own, in fandoms as widely ranging from Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander (Napoleonic wars naval adventure) to due South (an obscure Canadian 90s police comedy) to Harry Potter and Star Trek (the mainstays of fandom) to superhero comics to Shakespeare.

    Fandom is such a fun way to interact with the media you love!

  3. Kym S. Kym S.

    I’m so sad that there aren’t more comments on this, but kudos to you for actually talking about the benefits of fanfiction! For years growing up I felt like I had to go hide in a corner with my laptop, for fear that someone would ask what I was reading. Not very many people I knew understood my addiction. But hontestly, I don’t know if I would have the passion for reading that I do if I hadn’t found fanfiction in junior high. I fought reading left and right growing up, but once I found that I liked some stories I eventually branched out into the print world. Now, roughly 15 years later, fanfiction is still an active part of my life. It’s always fun and interesting, and one of the best ways to celebrate creativity I think. Thanks again for shining a positive light on an often overlooked option!

    • Jessica Pryde Jessica Pryde

      Thanks for sharing! It’s always great to know there are more of us (who sat in the corner with our backs to the world), and get a slightly different perspective. Recently I was looking at my goodreads history, and noticed there were a few years where I didn’t read that many books. Part of it was chalked up to being in college, but really, I spent all of my free time reading fanfiction. Books took a back seat. I’m trying to make a better balance now, but sometimes I just fall into old habits…

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