Many times when someone hears the word fanfiction, they just roll their eyes and pass it off as another teenage girl writing a fantasy about some show she likes. And even though that isn’t far off from how many fanfics are written, sometimes there’s a little more depth to it than that.
I know someone people will defend fanfiction to the death, while others just say it’s childish. But no matter which side you fall on – or if you fall in the middle, like me, and say that why should it matter all that much – sometimes a fanfiction can become more than just a simple story. In fact, my debut novel, Loading Life, started out as a fanfiction.
You see it was around the beginning of 2016. I was drowning in my job and needed something to get me out. One night, it just popped into my head: write a book! I used to love writing and sharing stories with others, so why not! There was only one problem though. I didn’t know how to write a book.
I hadn’t read much for pleasure since entering college – too many textbooks. But I did have a small advantage of knowing how to research a topic. I took hours to look up how to write a comprehensible book. From story structure to character development to world building. Though I gained a lot of information – thank you internet and libraries – I still didn’t know how to put everything together.
And then it hit me.
I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a kid. I actually still have some in a couple of folders I was supposed to use for school. And most all of these stories deal with my favorite anime shows at the time. In fact, my first chapter book I ever wrote was a story filled with anime characters from shows like Yu Yu Hakusho, Gundam Wing, and Ronin Warriors, among others. (Though it is truly terrible to read now. And I can see why some people think that nearly all fanfiction is written by teenage girls with romantic ideas.)
Also during college, I had written a few fanfics on fanfiction.net, mainly centered around Yu Yu Hakusho and Hetalia. I loved trying to stick with the YYH characters’ traits while putting them in different situations and exploring the history each country held and how that would affect their personification in the Hetalian world. I had written so many stories, but didn’t even think to dissect them for research. They were just stories that I had created as stress relievers – and to nerd out about my favorite shows. But they had to have something useful for me.
And they did.
After I reread them all, and cringed at my spelling and grammatical errors, I realized something. All those years of writing fanfiction actually helped me develop my own voice. I don’t think I fully developed it by just writing a few stories, but I wasn’t new to writing a certain way that shouted: “This work is done only by E.N. Chaffin!”
With this in mind, I started to construct my world and characters for Loading Life. I had some idea of what I wanted for the plot from weeks of research and brainstorming. In order to get my story off the ground, I started writing the first few chapters as if I was writing a fanfic for Hetalia. I made a chart of all of my characters and the Hetalia characters that would take their place. It was like actors performing as characters in a play. Hero Leander was America. Reut was Japan. Mr. Kirkland was Britain. Caz was Turkey. And Gari and Samson were played by China and Russia respectively. I only wrote the first three chapters out before getting a feel for what I needed to do with the story, so I didn’t write anyone for Annie Mei (though I did think about Liechtenstein, Ukraine, and Belgium as possibilities.)
Because I took some time with writing my debut novel in a comfortable setting, I was able to get my barrings in this foreign world of writers. And I was thankful for it.
In all honesty, just writing fanfiction will not get you anywhere as a published author. Authors have to think about world building, character development, time setting, lingo and language, and many other things. Fanfic writers may think of these concepts, but it is not common. However, you can use it as a way to bridge between writing for pleasure and writing for a career. With research, brainstorming, and dissecting your own writing, you can improve your storytelling, find your voice, and effectively work your way to becoming a published author.
It just takes a little imagination and nerdiness.