Fanfiction (noun): fictional stories based on a popular book, movie, television show, etc.
In the past ten years, as internet use has become close to universal, there has been an explosion in the writing and awareness of Fanfiction. Websites like Fanfiction.net host hundreds of thousands of stories based on the characters and situations in popular media. Some of these are well though out pieces that stay true to both character motivations and author intentions, but others may only have the character names in common. The authors of these pieces are just as different, but many proclaim to have one thing in common: they dream of becoming a published author.
Some people can’t see any positive in allowing fanfiction to continue—some of the strongest opposition points out that it is pure plagiarism. In a way, they’re right—fanfiction utilizes someone else’s characters, rules, villains, places, situations, and ideas, twisting and manipulating them to a different author’s whims. Certainly certain authors have very specific goals and purposes for writing their stories—they wish a scene had gone a different way, for example, and rewrite it, or they want to show the story from the point of view of a different character—but others type out the original book and change very little. While those authors rarely claim their work to be unique, even calling it a variation is somewhat outlandish. Yet even those who write well and devote time, energy, and love to creating a wonderful piece of fiction may be wasting their time.
Fanfiction is, generally, unpublishable. Since the work is not really the author’s creation, they don’t have the right to reproduce it for monetary gain. I’m not claiming that no fanfiction ever gets published—just look at the Star Trek and Buffy series, and even the newest addition to the Godfather series—but these are rare exception that have been licensed by the creators to create. If you have a serious desire to become a published author, get out of fanfiction! Use it as something to practice with, a way to sharpen your storytelling skills, and then put it behind you. Let your favorite characters teach you about plot development, and then leave them to the author who created them. Somewhere along the way, discover your own voice and style, your own characters and stories, and spend your time building them.
Who knows? Maybe, if you do, a young, aspiring author will be writing fanfiction about your characters one day.