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The ethics of fanfiction


Graphic by Andrew Mazariegos-Ovalle


Fanfiction is a great source of creativity for many writers. It can be written by anyone with an idea and a way to write it down. I like fanfiction, and I sometimes write fanfiction during my free time, though it’s mainly just for myself. It’s something I can continually add onto and it keeps me writing. I like to write about how characters would interact with each other, or make love stories about them.


To me, fanfiction isn’t plagiarism of the original work — the fan writing the fiction is not stealing the original work from the owner. Fanfiction is just a way to express different ideas and storylines from your favorite TV show, movie, franchise, etc. It is a great way to explore different headcanons of a character or even explore different alternate universes of characters.


I only dislike fanfiction when it involves real people, like those fanfictions of a self-insert — when the reader is addressed as “your name” (Y/N).  find them weird and kind of creepy. A popular trope in those stories is that “Y/N” would be sold by their parents to One Direction, yet they  have a great time.


There is also an overlap between BookTok and fanfiction from what I’ve seen; people like the idea of darker topics such as abuse, romanticized violence, and possessive behavior in relationships. I don’t read that, so I don’t encounter it much, but I know it’s there. I’ve seen BookTok recommendations that have elements of weird and disgusting smut the same way that fanfiction will write about disgusting fetishes on the popular fanfiction website Archive of Our Own (AO3). I just wish there wasn’t such a fervent following to weird fantasies that exist in fanfiction.


I think, eventually, you’ll get curious about fanfiction, look up your favorite TV show, and read a headcanon story about how different characters would treat a significant other if they were sick. Then, later on, you’ll read an interaction between two characters that you like. You might even read a story of how they would treat “Y/N” on a date, then you might want to write your own story and have fun with it.


I think fanfiction is great to read overall, and it gives me inspiration for my own writing. However, I think you have to understand that this writing space has some bad apples, and you should be careful and avoid the same mistakes and troubling topics that some readers and writers encourage.


Louise Skokan is from Minneapolis, Minn. Their major is undecided.