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Presented by State Library Victoria

How-to: write fanfiction

What is fanfiction?

To explain what fanfiction is, it is important to note what fanfiction isn’t. Fanfiction is not out to steal the credit or limelight of other works or authors. Instead, it is admiration of other stories/worlds/characters that leads fanfiction writers to start writing about them. Fanfiction is new fiction written by a fan and will feature characters from a particular book, series (or a movie or a TV show). It is, more than anything, a way of expressing your love for that work previously created.

What is fandom?

Fandom refers to the community of people who are fans of that particular book/series/TV show/movie.

What do I write about?

Anything! Or, anything that has a large and devout following – to secure some readers. For example, One Direction has its own fanfiction website. Most fanfiction is something along the lines of an innocent protagonist meets a handsome, roguish star and they go on big adventures that lead to love, sex, kidnapping, death, illness, or any outlandish and dramatic scenario you can think of.

When you set out to write fanfiction, just start writing and don’t worry about coming up with the most original storyline within fandom ever. Fanfiction readers aren’t looking for new and original stories – they are looking for extensions of the worlds, characters, and stories they already love. It is important to make sure you write a universal story within your fandom. For example, a story that relies on specific, extensive or little known Hogwarts history probably won’t work, but an exploration into ‘What if Neville Longbottom’s parents didn’t end up at St Mungo’s’ would. Key changes to the existing story (such as setting it in an alternate universe) can keep audiences interested, and readers will stay with you.

Who are my readers?

As mentioned, fanfiction readers (and writers, for that matter) are ‘fans’ of stories/worlds/characters. The biggest of these fandoms are One Direction, Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. Your readers can make or break your story, so do not underestimate them! They can give you millions of hits or ignore your work completely. Fanfiction readers are very hands on; they can comment, make suggestions as to where stories should go, or suggest stories to other readers.

As a writer, if you want to be read it is important to interact with your readers, as they are they ones who will keep your stories being read. Reply to comments and suggestions, appreciate and give thanks for positive feedback, and update your stories regularly to retain interest! The fanfiction world is a very interactive community so you should put in the effort with your readers.

What are all these terms I keep coming across?

Like any subculture, fanfiction readers and writers have their own words and acronyms, and some of them are only used within the fanfiction community. Here are a few you might have seen:

Headcanon/ Canon: This kind of means ‘official.’ It is used to differentiate between the official storyline (created by the original author) and the storylines of fanfiction.
Ship: This is short for romantic relationship and is specific to fanfiction. It can be used as a noun (‘My ship is Katniss and Gale’) or as a verb (‘I love Katniss and Gale. I totally ship them’).
OTP: Stands for One True Pairing. This is the term used to describe your favourite pairing or couple inside a fandom. OTP can be canon or not. For example, there is a huge section of Harry Potter fandom that ships Harry and Draco Malfoy. DRARRY (as it’s known) is this particular community’s OTP, but it isn’t canon (Harry and Draco are not together inside of the official Harry Potter series). 
Stands for Work-In-Progress. This is a piece of writing that is not finished yet.
Crossover: This is a glorious occasion where a fanfiction writer combines one or more fandoms. For example, Wholockians write fanfiction that incorporates both Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes into the one storyline.
RPF: Stands for Real Person Fiction. This is fanfiction that uses people from real life. It could include celebrities, as well as people who are not famous.
Image result for when otp isn't canon
(This should make sense to you now!)

Okay, I’ve written some fanfiction, where do I post it?

Here, of course! Inside a Dog is a place where we invite writers to share their fanfiction, as well as to comment on the fanfiction of others. However, there are a lot of other websites out there where you can set up a profile and post your work. Here are some of the best:

Fanfiction is one of (if not the) biggest fanfiction archives out there with fandoms based on books, anime, TV, movies, musicals, comics and games.
Wattpad has a monthly audience of over ten million. The fanfiction here is usually driven by celebrities and comics – there are over 100,000 One Direction stories. Zac Efron and Selena Gomez are also popular topics.
Archive of Our Own is a non-profit, non-commercial archive of fanfiction – which includes graphic art, videos and podcasts. Works can be placed in more than one fandom, across more than one category and includes a detailed search function that allows you to narrow your search down to chapters, word count, language, person or character, pairing etc.
Deviant Art is a community site that allows all levels of artists showcase their stuff, and there is a surprising amount of writing and fiction on there, too. Unlike other sites, the site has only six categories of fanfiction – drama, general, horror, humour, romance, science fiction – and it is not uncommon for stories to be accompanied by art and illustrations throughout.
FictionPad is a relatively new site but included in this list for its organisation and smaller-screen friendly specs. Aside from a computer, you can easily read stories on tablets or smartphones without sacrificing your eyes. Stories on the site are put into fandoms, genres, characters and tags. The most popular, unsurprisingly, are Harry Potter and Twilight.

1 comment


Fantastic explanation of all things fanfiction!! I feel like there is lots of confusion and myths surrounding writing fanfiction and what it is meant to be, thanks for clearing these all up!

28th Jan, 18