Every story has an ending; the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after, the bad guy gets defeated and good prevails, or the central character gets killed off. Excluding the Neverending Story, every character is put into place. But sometimes it isn’t so. What do we do when we can’t depart from the story we have been so consumed in, or when we become obsessed with a band so much we think we can write their lives? We do just that, or write the next chapter and put it online for everyone to read in the form of fan fiction.
Fan fiction once described writing science fantasy fiction, but since the internets introduction, it has exploded from writing about our favourite characters from books and television, to bands and musicians. There’s even lingo attached to this genre of amateur writing, as well as rating and content. The story itself is embedded into the culture, and the characters become everyone’s, not just the author’s prized creation. Have you ever imagined replacing Bella Swan as Edward Cullen’s love interest in the Twilight Saga, or wanted to get swept off your feet by your favourite musician? No problem! Just write yourself in! In fan fiction, anything goes.
But I ask, what’s the point of all this and trying to make something survive longer than it has to? Could we just not live with the happy ending? Did we not get enough satisfaction out of the original story? From the research I’ve gathered, fan fiction is predominantly based on romance. The audience ranges from the ages of ten to sixty. But it is clearly dominated by hormone induced teenage girls hungry for more lusty stories after the Mills and Boone effect created by Twilight.
Fan fiction can be seen as a venue of creative expression, but where do we draw the line at appropriate content? Especially with musicians, romance and lust seem to be key themes, and bands are creepily aware of what is being written about them. Some musicians, such as My Chemical Romance members have even gone as far as stating that, although they like the creativity, they steer away from the stories and want fans to stop making them have sexual relations with each other. Yes, they are all married, but in fan fiction, they seem to like each other a little too much. It’s the same with books, with author JK Rowling saying she can’t read the stories because the characters are going in directions she doesn’t see for them. The whole purpose of fan fiction is to be recognized, but doesn’t getting ignored by your chosen musician or author defeat the purpose of the story?
Sometimes some stories are too offensive for everyone. These days, everyone has access to the internet, including young children who could accidentally click onto a page containing material that could offend their innocent eyes. Books are easy to regulate, with adult sections and even shrink wrap, but fan fiction rating has no legal standing, and at what point is fan fiction too offensive, and who decides this?
When does it start to count as plagiarism? Fan fiction writers argue that their works bring “new meaning and messages to the original”, but some authors, such as Vampire Chronicles mastermind Anne Rice don’t agree and have asked fans to stop writing them. Also, could people written about sue for defamation if they are depicted badly? Surely if you don’t want to be written about you can find a way to stop it, or does that invade someone’s right for creative expression and free speech? I’m sure musicians Tegan and Sara don’t want to read about their illegal love for each other, or Paramore singer Hayley Williams doesn’t want to ready how she is pregnant to her recently married guitarist, or how even Metallica (Yes, even Metallica) fall in love with girls in their front row of their shows despite having happy families. This internet phenomenon needs regulations, but until then I’m sure copyright, and peoples dignity, is getting breached, even if the stories aren’t being sold.
On a level I think fan fiction limits our own creativity by giving us the characters and the background. It’s a product of the 21st century mentality of simply making something better instead of making something new. I think it’s time to write an ending and begin your own story, instead of stealing someone else’s and sucking the life out of their hard work.