Learning how to be a writer can be daunting, because ‘writing’ is not one job. It’s dozens. It’s characters, and world-building, and plot, and pacing, and dialogue, and action, and description, and editing, and the thought of mastering those all at the same time can be really intimidating. I’ve taught hundreds of writing classes and I meet a lot of young people who just don’t know where to start.
But the thing to remember is that nobody starts off writing full novels, or great masterpieces. There are a million tiny steps between your first story and your greatest masterpiece, and for me, the first step was fan fiction.
As a teenager, I wrote Doctor Who fan fiction. I did this mostly for fun because I loved the character of the Doctor, and I found their foes fascinating. What I soon realised, however, is that fan fiction is a perfect tool for teaching yourself writing because when you write in another creator’s world, some of the work is already done. You’re already familiar with the characters and the world, so you get to focus in on teaching yourself plot, or perfecting dialogue. It’s like a collaboration between you and your favourite authors.
Sometimes, you can send the story in directions even the canon hasn’t explored. Maybe you wanted just one more adventure with Amy and Rory; maybe you wondered what a day off looks like for Yaz and Ryan. Whether it’s a new point-of-view, a terrifying new villain, or even team-ups of characters who never met onscreen, fan fiction lets you fill the gaps of the universe you love. I find inspiration for my stories in forgotten villains, or throwaway references, or by striving to find some new spin on the Doctor that hasn’t been done before.
Sometimes, writing can even be revenge. If you’ve ever been annoyed at the ending of a film, or dissected a book with your friends and talked about what you would have done differently, fan fiction can be your way of taking the reins and exploring corners of your favourite stories that even the author hasn’t considered.
All fiction, at its heart, is fan fiction. Every word an author writes is, in some small way, a response to the stories already out there. We see a story we love, and we want to tell our own version. We see a canon and we want to add to it, change it, make it ours – make it fanon! Who knows – it might even become your job.
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