Fan fiction and fan art sometimes get a bad rap. Some people think they’re worthless just because they’re not totally original. I disagree.
Famous Fan Fiction and Art
Did you know Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Hamlet were all based on older stories? What is Milton’s Paradise Lost, but Biblical fan fiction? We’d lose a lot of Renaissance masterpieces if the artists didn’t have Greek and Roman mythology to draw on.
It’s not just a historical phenomenon, either. There’s a whole fantasy sub-genre of fairy tale novelization. (My favourite is Deerskin by Robin McKinley. A dark story, but so well done.) You can even read the continuing adventures of Sherlock Holmes if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s originals aren’t enough.
Why Not Just Make Original Works?
I think fan fiction and art is a great way to start writing fiction and making art. Starting with a completely original project can be really intimidating. Coming up with new ideas while learning new skills is often frustrating. Sometimes you just want to relax and create something without having to make up all the little details. (And I’ve found that it can help ease the annoyance when a story takes a plot turn I don’t like.)
The Elephant in the Room – Copyright
Obviously, original writing and art is copyrighted (and sometimes trademarked) to its creator these days. If a writer or artist actually see works based on theirs they sometimes have to tell the fan to stop or risk legal trouble later on. This is especially true if the fan work is something similar to what the creator was planning on doing. I don’t think that applies to art based on prose fiction, but I’m not a lawyer.
From what I’ve seen, most creators are fine with fan creations as long as it’s not causing them legal problems. However, if you try to make money off of it, you could find yourself in hot water. There are exceptions even to that.E. L. James started Fifty Shades of Grey as Twilight fan fiction, but without vampires and with a change of names it different enough to publish.
What to do with Your Finished Fan Fiction
You can, of course, keep your creations to yourself, but if you want to share, the Internet’s got you covered. A good place to start posting your writing is fanfiction.net, probably the biggest collection around. The site also has forums where you can connect with fellow fans. For fan art, DeviantArt is a good site to look into, but another option is to look for forums or Facebook groups for your chosen fandom.
So go ahead and act on that great idea you’ve got for your favourite characters! It’s great practice, relaxing and very satisfying.