A very good post today from Mark Evanier on the dangers of getting too attached to work that isn’t yours. This also got me thinking about my own relationship with fan fiction.
When I was younger I did a lot of fan fiction writing. Not the only thing of course, but it was definitely a stepping stone in my process of becoming a better writer. There is some ease in taking characters that aren’t yours and making them into something that is and putting them through their paces, seeing how they react to situations you come up with. I’m not going to say that fan fiction isn’t real writing, because of course it is.
All my fan fiction was done before the Internet was a big thing, so few people ever saw or read it besides myself. Maybe things would have been different if I’d had a wider audience, or maybe not. My fanfic of choice was Star Trek, and I even had some books of collected stories from Trek magazine. Probably still do.
To me, fan fiction of any stripe lets you be creative with a safety net. You already know these people (or think you do). Sure, you can Mary Sue the heck out of someone (and the term itself comes from Star Trek fan fiction), but you don’t become a good writer if you don’t write a lot of bad stuff along the way. But fanfic lets you write something in a familiar universe and explore it in a way you might not otherwise be able to, and that’s an important part of being creative.