As usual, I have gone way over my word limit, but my English teacher is rather used to that now, and she said that as long as the piece is interesting (and she said it was) then I won't lose any marks.
And about the essay itself: this was designed for those people who have no knowledge of fanfiction, whatsoever. Thus, I have simplified a lot of things in a rather dramatic manner,and left a heap out. You might not agree with some of what I have to say, but this is supposed to be my writing, so deal. I also happen to go to a rather posh, very traditional school, so I avoided any mention of slash. Although my school isn't bad about homosexuality (our major Issues assignment was on whether gay marriage should be allowed), I still didn't think it would get a favourable response.
Oh, and I also included a few links in the hopes I could draw in the markers. And there is a Cassie Claire quote to start with, just because I thought it was a good example of fanfic, and would grab some attention.
Exactly How Thousands of People Break Copyright Laws Every Day, or What is Fanfiction?
"Now I’m having an objection," said Draco. "Weasley, keep your oafish hands away from that potion. That’s my soul you’re messing about with, you know. It’s my life essence, it’s my being, it’s—"
"A fabulous new cleaning product!" announced Ron, looking down. Where the potion had fallen, it had eaten a hole right through the rug, and partway into the stone beneath. "I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s completely toxic."
They all stared curiously.
"I refuse to consider this as a reflection on my personality," said Draco, looked at the charred rug.
For anyone familiar with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the characters in the above extract will be immediately familiar. The passage itself, however, is not. This is because although starring Rowling’s much loved characters, Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy, it was not written by her, but rather an author named Cassandra Claire, in a story named “Draco Sinister.” Now before anyone panics and attempts to inform any copywriting authorities claiming plagiarism, this is not simply a cheap fraud, written to cash in on the Harry Potter name. This is fanfiction.
Fanfiction is the name for the huge number of stories written using characters, situations or ideas borrowed from films, television, and books. Fanfiction can be based on almost any source (these sources are commonly known as the “canon”), although there are a few writers who refuse to let their work be used as a source – the most well known being Anne Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire. Overall, most authors tolerate fanfiction, even if they don’t exactly endorse it. When J.K. Rowling announced that she was happy for people to write Harry Potter fanfiction, thousands of people world-side rejoiced. Since for a fanfiction writer, the canon facts are considered Gospel (and the author God), for the fans of Harry Potter, this equated to Divine Approval.
Fanfiction as a writing genre only really started with the Trekkies, the infamously obsessed fans of Star Trek, back in the 1970s. Then, stories were published in fanzines (small, hand made magazines on a specific topic), and were only available through some very select sources. But with the birth of the internet, fanfiction writers sky-rocketed. People could communicate instantly with other fans, and get instant feedback on stories – naturally leading much more interesting stories. Nowadays, there are literally millions of fanfiction stories to be found online, and without a doubt the largest number of these are Harry Potter stories. They are normally categorized by the American movie classifications – from G for any readers, to R recommended for adult audiences and NC-17, which is prohibited for those under 17. A few fanfiction websites are listed in the bibliography, and these are mainly Harry Potter based.
Just like published literature, fanfiction varies hugely in aspects of style, length, and of course, quality. Since anyone can post a story online without the lengthy editing required for published stories, some of the fanfiction (particularly in popular fan domains or “fandoms” like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Buffy) has a distinctly amateurish flavour. Misspellings, gaping plot holes, painful clichés and hideously unoriginal ideas abound. The quality of the story really depends on where you look. Some websites will only accept certain stories which have been selected by the page’s creator, while others will take any story, regardless of mistakes. The more stories a site has, the greater the amount of complete and utter rubbish that can be found – although you can find some true gems among the muck.
One of the most frequent mortal sins of fanfiction is what is known as a “Mary-Sue” (or the male equivalent, a “Gary-Stu.”) These monsters can show up in any fandom, and are original (non-canon) characters, generally beautiful, powerful, lovable, unique, intelligent, insanely popular, gifted with rare (read: not compliant with canon) powers, and so perfect they make you want to scream. These Mary-Sues/Gary-Stus will often have mysterious pasts, be the long-lost sister/cousin/parent/evil twin of someone in the story, become the love interest of the lead character, convert all the bad guys, save the world, and do it all without breaking a fingernail. Needless to say, Mary-Sues are almost universally regarded as the mark of a bad writer. Their authors are generally early teenage girls, writing their first fanfiction, who are using the Mary-Sue as a sort of idealised representative of themselves, acting out how their daydreams. Luckily, most decent authors avoid Mary-Sues like the plague.
Like all writing, fanfiction can come in many different variations. You can read stories ranging from brief, 100 word “drabbles”, to chaptered stories, in some cases longer than the book they are based on. They range from simple script style dialogue, to complex ideas filled with sub-plots, to beautiful metaphors and poetry. Even within a fandom, there tend to be even more sub-genres. Some of the more common ones include “missing” scenes – stories telling us what happened “off-screen” as it were, or Alternate Universe (AU) stories exploring the “what-ifs” of a particular fandom, which can range from what would have happened if someone had chosen to do this instead of that, to exploring what would happen if the characters filled the roles in a Shakespearean play. The most frequent type of stories written, though, are those that explore what happens next – after the movie has finished, after the season finale, or in the case of Harry Potter, what will happen in the sixth book. These stories can be character studies, humour or parodies, dramatic or angst filled “darkfic,” action-filled or quite simply romance.
In a lot of the more popular fandoms, romance and the relationships of characters forms a major source of fanfiction. Everyone has their own ideas of which characters belong together – or don’t belong together, in some stories. These relationships (commonly shortened to “ships”) have spawned their very own vocabulary, and mini fandoms. To support a ship is to “ship” something, and “shipping” (the support of ships) is a major source of debate on many websites. The ship of a story often plays a major part in whether people wish to read it, so it is quite common to see something like “R/Hr” in a story summary (representing Ron/Hermione in Harry Potter, possibly the largest ship online). Romance stories, like all fanfiction, can vary from sweet innocent “fluffy” stories, to graphic sexual descriptions. These graphic stories are banned on many sites, particular Harry Potter, since Rowling has expressed disapproval of this style.
There is a huge variety of fanfiction available to be read on the internet, with something suitable for almost everyone. And the range of people who write fanfiction is just as large. From a small survey I set up on a Harry Potter fanfiction site, I found writers ranging from a 14 year old schoolgirl in the USA, to a 27 year old Swedish PhD student, to 50+ year old grandmother, and many more. People write fanfiction for many different reasons, from wanting to explore their favourite characters, to improving skills in a second language, or even practising their writing skills before they publish The Next Great Novel. Fanfiction may seem like nothing more than frivolous entertainment, but it can pay off – even Terry Pratchett, the best-selling author of more than 40 books, has admitted to writing Lord of the Rings fanfiction in his younger days!
Bibliography, or Some Fanfiction Websites to Take a Look At.
http://www.fanfiction.net – the largest and most popular fanfiction website on the net. There are stories here about absolutely everything, no matter how obscure, although it can take a bit of looking as the sheer number is overwhelming (there are over 100,000 Harry Potter stories alone) This site takes almost all stories rated from G to R, and will accept any story, regardless of quality, as long as it stays within the guidelines. This means there is a huge amount of trash here, so the best way to find a good story is to find an author you like, and look on their favourites page.
-- http://www.fanfiction.net/~drakyndra – my personal page, (drakyndra is the name I write under.) There are only two stories here now, but I will add more when I am less busy. Also, check out my favourites. There are some great stories, but one warning: some are extremely long and time consuming.
http://www.fictionalley.org – one of the biggest and best Harry Potter fanfiction sites around. This site has rather more stringent quality control, so the stories tend to be much better, and again it only takes stories up to an R rating. This site also has a very helpful forum attached, where you can read the latest Harry Potter gossip, see what people’s favourite stories are, find the most popular and recommended stories, or search for a particular sort of fanfiction. It is divided into 4 sections – Astronomy Tower (romance), Riddikulus (humour), Schnoogle (novel-length) and The Dark Arts (basically everything else).
– http://www.thedarkarts.org/authorLinks/Drakyndra/ - my author page here. The exact same stories, just with more comments in the reviews section.
– http://www.schnoogle.org/authorLinks/Cassandra_Claire/ - the author page of Cassandra (or Cassie) Claire, writer of the passage at the start, and probably the most famous fanfiction author (at least in the Harry Potter fandom) Her “Draco” trilogy is truly legendary, and Cassie Claire is known to have converted huge numbers of people into fanfiction readers, myself included.
http://www.lumosdissendium.org/dictionary.html - a great glossary of assorted fanfiction and fandom terms. It is connected to Fiction Alley, so mainly Harry Potter based, but the majority of the definitions still work in other fandoms.
So, what did you think?