Fan fiction is a huge part of fandom culture. Whether you write it, read it, or have just “heard about it,” everyone is keenly aware of the urge to express your fandom love in the form of a solid piece of fanfic. But why do we love it so much? Why do so many of us have this strange urge to create our own stories in these universes that we love so much? Ultimately, I think it’s the power of fandom that keeps fan fiction going. The stories from the movies, books, games, and movies are so important to us that they creep into our creative lives. Creating fan fiction gives us a unique opportunity to not only actively participate in our favorite fandoms, but also create something new and entirely special.
For instance, fan fiction is great for those looking to match two character who are not in a relationship (shippers)–especially those shippers whose one true pairing (OTP) aren’t canon or will never become canon. Love this OTP or hate it, it’s tough mention non-canon OTPs and not immediately think of Supernatural‘s most notorious ship, Destiel (Dean Winchester and Castiel). Many Destiel shippers will tell you that the show has all but made that OTP canon, with things like Cas explaining that he and Dean share a “profound bond” and their obvious, intense devotion to one another. Still, the show has never pulled the trigger on making the two an official, canonical couple, and many Destiel shippers doubt .
Or in the Harry Potter universe, there are many out there who think Harry and Hermoine would have been a better match. Even though J.K. Rowling promised us that “all was well” with Harry marrying Ginny and Hermoine marrying Ron, there are still several out there who feel like Harry and Hermoine were meant to be–an OTP that gained even more traction when Rowling herself made a comment about Harry and Hermoine being more suitable partners.
In both cases of Destiel and Harmony shippers, fans have been able to turn to fan fiction to finally put their OTP together. Shippers and fans have been able to see what their favorite universe would look like with their OTP finally enjoying life together. The writers and readers alike get to explore the complex nature of the relationship, and how it would play out in the midst of that particular universe’s unique challenges. Shipping can be a tough game for a fan’s feels, and when your OTP is one that you’re afraid or almost certain will never get together, a good piece of fanfic showing them happy together can be just the thing you need.
Much like seeing your OTP together, fan fiction can also right “wrongs” done on your favorite show. Did a show pair up your NOTP (Not One True Pairing)? Did they kill your favorite character? You can fix that in fan fiction. After the heart-wrenching death of Beth Greene on The Walking Dead, fans everywhere started coming up with theories on how she survived being shot in the head and was totally coming back, and even some crafting fanfic where she simply was never shot at all.
Of course, it’s that ability for larger-than-life, crazy, often unrealistic weirdness that makes fanfic so much fun. You want to write fan fiction where Sam and Dean are not only brothers, but are actually deeply in love? Do it (just don’t tell Dean).
You want to set your fanfic in an entirely different universe? In space? In the past? You get to do that! Fan fiction is the perfect way for you to flex your creative muscles, and try out new and exciting ideas that may be too weird or risky for the actual show runners to attempt. For instance, one fun way to do this is to blend fandoms together. Maybe it would be too much of a logistical nightmare to try to make a SuperWhoLock or WhoLock crossover episode, but fans can give it a go easily. Without having the pressures of studio and investor involvement, fans can flex their creative muscles, meld worlds together, and try crazy things in their favorite fandoms just to see if they’ll work. Whether you want those things to actually become canon or not, those risky fanfic moves are often crazy awesome to see. For instance, my favorite bit of WhoLock fanfic in video form:
Because fans are able to be so creative and take some amazing risks, it’s inevitable for show runners and writers to see the stuff their fandom is creating. While some of it gets noticed and then ignored, sometimes those theories can get noticed–and even used. For instance, in the Sherlock episode “The Empty Hearse”, the writers clearly offer an appreciative nod to the fans and their theories on how Sherlock survived after the episode “The Reichenbach Fall.” Supernatural is notorious for its “metasodes”, and on those episodes we often see mentions of actual popular fan theories, fan fiction, and popular OTPs–the show’s favorite to poke fun at being Wincest. Even better, the show’s 200th episode, aptly titled “Fan Fiction”, even paid tribute to the Supernatural fandom and all of their wonderfully creative (and sometimes crazy) theories and bits of fanfic.
So why do we love fan fiction? We love fan fiction because we love our fandoms, and being able to take an active part in the story makes us feel more connected to it. We can right wrongs, make our favorites fall in love, try new things, and introduce characters from different fandoms to one another. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and that’s certainly true of fan fiction. We create within our favorite universes because we love them, and we want to be a part of the story. Fan fiction is so wonderful because it brings our fandom love right in line with our creativity, and it brings us all a bit closer to the characters, stories, and fandom that we love so much.