While there’s much for kids to like, even love, about fanfiction (also known as fanfic), there can be a dark side to it as well. My teen daughter has been reading fanfic for several years now; writing it, too. When her tween sister started reading fanfic about Narnia, I took a closer look.
What Is FanFic?
Fanfic is fiction that fans write that’s inspired by a favorite book, movie, celebrity, TV show, comic, etc. Anything with a loyal and dedicated community, or fandom, behind it is fodder for fanfic. Books that have spawned tons of fanfiction include Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Twilight. Movie and TV shows like “The Avengers” and “Stranger Things” are inspiring fanfiction, and even pop star Harry Styles has an enormous fanfic-writing fandom. Who knew?! There’s a fandom for just about everything.
And that can be good news for teens and tweens, particularly those who count themselves as super fans. Writing your own fanfic is a great way for teens and tweens to extend the story, think creatively, and write. Well-known authors Meg Cabot, of The Princess Diaries, and Cassandra Clare, of Mortal Instruments, both started out writing fanfic.
How to Write Your Own Fanfic
- Pick a favorite topic (book, movie, etc.).
- Brainstorm ideas. What will you write about? A minor character? A new problem? An original character? A backstory?
- If you haven’t already, think of a problem for your main character to overcome.
- Map out the plot.
- Pick a point of view. Will you write in first, second, or third person?
- Choose a tense. Will you write in past or present? Stay in that tense throughout the story.
- Start writing. Write (at least a little bit) every day.
- Stay true to the canon, the original story’s foundations. (i.e. Harry Potter and Remus Lupin cannot be the same age and best friends at Hogwarts.)
- Revise and edit. This is SO important! Use spell check.
- Share your story with others.
A Word of Caution
Now about that dark side I mentioned… A lot of fanfic is called “mature” or “smut”— and is not appropriate for kids. After searching “fanfic” on Tumblr and freaking out about what I found, my teenager scolded me. “MOM, you NEVER search #fanfic!” Yeah. So, that’s what I’m telling you, too. Help your kids be careful about searches. My best advice is for kids to read a direct link recommendation or stories from trusted friends. Encourage them to self-censor if they come upon mature material. Delving into the world of fanfic merits important conversations around what’s appropriate and how to stay safe, both virtually and emotionally.
If your kids are writing fanfic, I strongly suggest that only mature teens post on the popular fanfic websites. And that they consider turning off comments. There is little censoring of what people comment, and these comments can be inappropriate and hurtful. If your kids want to share their fanfic writing, consider starting a blog.
The most popular fanfic sites include Tumblr, AO3, WattPad, FanFiction, Figment, and Fiction Alley. Again, proceed with caution. Although these sites have some ability to search by ratings or to ban words, many stories aren’t labeled or aren’t labeled correctly. My teen advises, “Don’t read any fanfic if it’s not labeled.” (I can only guess how she knows this.)
Another thing to be aware of with fanfiction is the overall quality. Many fanfic stories are filled with grammatical errors. Keep that in mind as you read — most of these are not traditionally published stories with editors behind them.
Tips for Reading Fanfic
- Read the warning labels. Decide if it’s right for you.
- Try the first chapter. If you like the story, keep reading. Otherwise, pick a different story.
- Read for overall meaning, ignoring any mistakes as best you can.
- Don’t read the comments. If you decide to comment, say something helpful and kind.
- If you register on a fanfic site, don’t use your real name, age, or location.
- Read like a writer. See what works or doesn’t work. Use that information to inform your own writing.
There’s a lot to like about fanfic. Fans get to immerse themselves in a beloved story. Fanfic reading and writing are filled with wonderful, creative possibilities. And it gives our book-loving kids an opportunity to be part of a community of other book lovers.
Canon: Something that happens in the books. Harry marrying Ginny is Harry Potter canon.
Headcanon: Reader assumed things that are not in the books. Muggles smuggling in cellphones to Hogwarts because there’s no Wi-Fi is Harry Potter headcannon.
Crossover: When you merge two fandoms together. For example, Percy Jackson showing up at Hogwarts.
OC Fics: Fanfics with an original character of the writer’s creation. Aslan’s daughter would be an original character for The Chronicles of Narnia.
OOC: When your canon character is different than in the canon. Hermione as a joke-telling circus clown would be an example. These aren’t very popular with fans.
Reader Inserts: Stories written in second person where you (written as “you”) insert yourself as a character and the love interest of the fandom character.
Drabbles: These are very short fanfics.
Song Fics: Fanfics based on song or that use lyrics throughout the story.
AUs: Fanfics with some canonical information but in an alternative universe, usually an alternative period in time, that would never actually happen in the canon. For example, a story about pre-serum Steve Rogers (Captain America) living in 2017 without any super strength.
Soulmates: Popular fanfic where the love of your life is destined since birth.
Fluff: A super cute, upbeat story.
Angst: A sad or upsetting story.
Smut/NSFW: Sexual content, “Not Safe for Work” because it’s mature content.
A big thanks to my 15-year old daughter for her help with this article!
Know of any great fanfic stories for tweens or teens? Share them with us in the comments below.