So the other day a friend and I were reminiscing about the book we read as preteens. As we discussed Meg Cabot books, (Princess Diaries or Mediator series anyone?) Amanda showed me Cabot’s website. Aside from being dismayed about the fact she has given in to the teen vampire trend, I noticed this quote in her FAQ section about readers who write fan fiction:
“I loved writing fan fiction too but those characters don’t belong to you. They belong to another writer, such as George Lucas, or me. You can’t publish the stories you are writing about that author’s characters, or you will be sued. Fan fiction is fun, but once you’ve perfected your craft, you’re kind of just wasting your time and talent when you could be making up your own characters in stories you could sell later.”
Meg Cabot, like the author of Why Heather Can Write, views fan fiction as a step on the way to becoming a great writer. Are these analyses valid? I think fan fiction has a different value than your own fiction writing because it’s a way of interacting with a text and making it your own that most readers don’t experience. While fan fiction can help writers to improve their craft and be a step to writing your own fiction, looking at fan fiction as a stepping-stone undermines its value. Fan fiction encourages readers to imagine a different version of the text and explore issues the author left untouched in the original.
The last part of the quote “you could be making up stories in stories you could sell later” also seems to misunderstand the goals of some writers. Many people write as a creative outlet, or as a hobby. Labeling all non-commercially intended writing as “a waste of time” is incredibly close-minded. What do you think of this quote?