I admit I had no idea what fanfiction even was until I was in my early 20s and discovered Doctor Who. Since then, I’ve hovered on the fringes of fanfic, occasionally looking at it, but never reading it much or even considering writing it. I did once get an idea for a Doctor Who fanfic, but it fizzled out pretty quickly.
Recently, however, just for fun, I began writing a SuperWhoLock fanfic (a mash-up of the shows Supernatural, Doctor Who, and BBC’s Sherlock.) What started out as just a fun little side-project, scribbled in when I had an extra few minutes, turned into something I didn’t expect.
It actually taught me something.
Fanfic often gets a bad rap in the writing community. Folks deride it for not being “real” writing, for being prime examples of awful writing, and a thousand other reasons (some of which are really quite valid.) But there’s a good, legit reason for fanfic, in my opinion.
It’s good practice.
Really, it is. Oh, maybe not so much at building story-worlds, or characters. Those are definitely two areas where fanfic does most of the work for you.
But there’s something liberating about being able to take characters that are already fleshed out, plonk them into a world that is predetermined, and work out a plot that has to conform to certain limitations. It leaves you free to focus on the little things.
Things like body language–how a certain character tilts his head to the side when confronted by a new puzzle.
Things like vocal patterns–where a character places the emphasize in his words, and his tone and cadence that makes his voice different than any other voice on the show–and how to translate them to print.
Things like digging deep into what makes characters tick, how they would justify their actions, and why they’re so awesome. Analyzing how the plots and story-worlds work like they do. How the tropes of the genre are used in new ways, or twisted into something new.
I’d only been writing the fanfic for a couple of weeks when I discovered all the benefits to it. Not to say that I’ve mastered any of these–on the contrary, attempting to write something similar to what Kripke, Moffat, and Gatiss have written has only shown me how far I still have to go. But I can at least pinpoint certain things and know that I’ve improved in them and what I need to work on.
Say what you will about fanfiction, but I do think it does have it’s benefits.