I’ve always been inclined to ask people what they’re reading, especially if the book cover looks interesting. So when my friend was reading a book during the summer, I naturally asked her what it was. “It’s called After,” she told me. “It’s One Direction fan fiction that was published.” That was certainly not the answer I was expecting. I had heard about published fan fiction before, but this particular fan fiction I had seen just one year prior, published under the username Anna Todd on Wattpad. Now, I was actually staring at the published book.
I am no stranger to fan fiction. I have a Tumblr, and I have accounts on other websites that are more specific to just writing and even just to fan fiction. I’ve read fan fiction on sites like Wattpad, fanfiction.net, or Mibba, and even written my own. I think what surprised me so much was not the fact that she was reading fan fiction, but that it was published. It immediately intrigued me and made me realize how much things on the internet are starting to become a larger part of real life.
I think what added to the shock was this stigma I’ve often heard in reference to fan fiction. I’ve often heard people say that fan fiction is not real writing. I never really understood this argument. I understand that the characters are not original, but the way that the author writes is unique, and a lot of times fan fiction writers will add different elements to their personality that were not present in the original book. This is especially prevalent when fan fiction is about minor characters that aren’t seen as often in the original work. This way the writer has the freedom to expand the character’s world and add their own ideas to it.
Furthermore, there are some fan fictions called alternate universe fan fictions where the writer takes the characters and puts them in a universe different than the one they were originally written in. Katniss from The Hunger Games can end up going to college in the 21st century, and Hiro from Big Hero 6 can end up being a real person (not animated) who becomes a scientist years ago. If it is written the right way, people who read it will never know it’s fan fiction. A writer can change the names of the characters and it seems just like a regular story.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which is now a huge movie franchise (According to US Weekly, “The film brought in a gross of $90.7 million domestically and $158 million internationally, bringing the grand global total to $248.7 million,”) and was originally a popular book series, was originally fan fiction about Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. I often wonder why something like Fifty Shades of Grey can be so popular, and then people can go onto say that fan fiction isn’t real writing.
Seeing things like After get published has started to give me hope that maybe the stigma against fan fiction is starting to disappear. Anna Todd’s fan fiction got close to 1 billion views on Wattpad, and now has been published as a three book series. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “Simon & Schusters’s Gallery Books imprint has acquired After, a three volume novel serialized on the site by Anna Todd, in a mid-six figure deal that includes world and audio rights.” Anna Todd changed the names, just like E.L. James did, so a reader would never even know that it was originally fan fiction. The big difference that stood out to me, though, was that on the cover of After it says “Wattpad sensation Imaginator1D” underneath Anna Todd’s name. The book was outright advertising that this story was originally on the internet.
Maybe with the emergence of books like After, the stigma against fan fiction will start to disappear, and more published works will end up being fan fiction originally. Or maybe it can be taken a step further, and fan fiction will be published one day without the names even being changed. Whatever the future is for published fan fiction in the future, I hope that the stigma against fan fiction not being real writing will be completely removed, so that fan fiction writers can express themselves the way they desire.