Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fanfiction presentation

For my Information Age class I'm doing a Harry Potter fanfiction presentation. I'm pasting my presentation notes here so that you all can see what consumed my life for a good two years as well as made me decide to be a writer.

Just a note: I put my penname as well as the site that I posted to, but don't bother going to look for my stories. I've been red-flagged and they took my stories off the site.


Ah, the lovely world of fanfiction! Can you hear the little clicks of budding writers’ keyboards as they frantically develop their own stories? When it comes to filling the void in between book releases and the completion of the series, Harry Potter (HP) fans have found an alternative outlet for HP fulfillment.

What is Fanfiction?
I think that HollyLime, a The Leaky Cauldron forum member, puts it the best in her fantastic essay “Modern Genre Theory Examines the World of Harry Potter Fanfiction”:

“Fanfiction is the creative product of a distinctive, fan community and is typically posted on sites devoted to fanfiction. Each site organizes its library of fanfiction into very important groupings that act as organizers and labels for the individual stories. These are typically referred to by the users as ‘the genres’. Common examples include romance, humor, angst, crossover, alternative universe or adventure” (HollyLime 2).

If you think back to the beginning of the semester (I know, it feels like it was years ago) you will recall that Henry Jenkins also describes the world of fanfiction in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. He uses it in the context of spoiling Survivor, but the same general theory applies.

“While spoiling tries to anticipate how they will react to the incidents depicted in the series, the fan fiction takes this one step further, trying to imagine how they would respond confronting challenges and dilemmas that they never faced in real life” (Jenkins 39).

To the already reeling imaginations of Potter fans, fanfiction allows obsessive readers to continue their love for the boy wizard as well as to venture into their own fantasies for the adored boy. Scores of people across the globe find that fanfiction is a useful outlet for reliving their glorious Harry filled days. Fanfiction is specific to its personal fandom and cannot be generalized throughout the masses of fanfiction readers. While this is true to the HP community, fanfiction allows readers to constantly have new adventures and romances to follow and enjoy.

As an imagination-developing tool fanfiction is a good way for young and old hopeful writers to try their hands at full-length stories. With the characters already developed, fanfiction poses as a useful tool for writers to start with without the need to develop their own backstory and character descriptions. Of course, this means that readers of fanfiction must be active in the canon of the stories.

The Network in fanfiction

Fanfiction creates a network of people who can relate to one another. The network within the fandom becomes essential in the growth of individual writers. Not only are the writers able to converse with people who have similar interests as they do, they are also receiving positive feedback from their readers. “Writing was seen as a way to have fun, exercise one’s imagination, and avoid boredom. Rhiannon also characterized it as ‘stress relief’. What they were less likely to say explicitly, but what seemed clear to us, was that fanfiction writing also helped to develop and solidify relationships with various friends, online or otherwise” (Chandler-Olcott & Mahar 560). For the average fanfiction writer the fanfic world becomes their haven where they can be part of the “popular” crowd. Hidden by pennames and a computer screen, fanfiction networks feel safe for writers. Scrutiny can be taken at a distance and are taken as constructive pointers.

Playing by the rules
Rules within the fanfiction world apply as if it were a giant workshopping community. Most sites discourage “flaming” or destructive and useless feedback. Many sites will moderate these comments and not post them at all. Although this shields writers from the true feelings of their readers, it helps writers become more confident with themselves and their writing.

Fanfic communities have a stream of resources for aspiring writers. Beta-readers, proofreaders, are one of the most valuable tools to the writing process of fanfic writers. This process of Beta-reading is much like having an invisible writing guardian angel. Readers volunteer to proofread writers’ work to help improve the narratives before they are posted onto the sites. Not only does this help the writer improve their storytelling skills and grammar, it makes the experience better for the writer’s fans. Yes, fans! One of the beauties of fanfiction is that the writers can gain their own following of readers. The encouragement that writer’s fans give motivates the writers to keep writing, even if they feel dry of ideas.
This is an example of one of the reviews I received back in the day:

October 9, 2005: The Struggle
By: Quotewhore7
“This is a wonderful, fantastic story!!! I love it! If you don't mind, I'll point out a few grammar mistakes. When someone says something, you put a comma before 'he said, he screamed, he whispered, etc." and the next word is not capitalized. Example: “Malfoy,” she said. You have the quite a lot, so I thought I'd point it out to you. :D I always try to help as best as I can, I hope you don't get mad. Also, perhaps it would be much easier to read if you spaced paragraphs. Love ya!”
--Football Girl (

There is definitely an extreme amount of fluff, but there are some good tips in this review. All of my stories were written in my pre-creative writing days and I had no idea how to structure my narratives. Football Girl’s tips helped me sort out all of my dialogue mistakes.

Artwork among the community

Out of the millions of stories to read how does fanfic reader know which one to choose? Pretty much all HP fanfiction sites require that the writer give some sort of summary. As a bonus, sometimes writers will create or have someone else create banners for their stories. These banners tend to be very colorful and sometimes have flashing images and scrolling banners. They can be extremely complex. In the writer’s account s/he can see how many times their story has been opened, “hits”, all the way down to which chapters have been read the most. Stories with banners, no matter how poorly made the banner is, get more attention than stories without them.

This is a banner I made for my story “In the Shadows”. You wouldn’t believe how long this little thing took me in Photoshop. I am definitely not a Photoshop guru.

HP Fanfiction sites

Harry Potter Fan Fiction (This is where I used to post to.)
The Sugar Quill
MuggleNet Fan Fiction

To the average person (not a fan) fanfiction can be ve alienating. Without knowing the canon, an outsider rarely has access to the backstory that the writers are building off of. Not only does the outsider not have the basic information of the fanfic, they are also lacking the passion and patience that is required for a fanfiction reader. Since a majority of the stories are written by young writers, the content as well as proper grammar and style can sometimes be messy. Fanfiction is written for small niches of readers who enjoy the expansion of their particular sect of canon. With the passion from the fans comes patience for said faults.

Rowling on fanfiction

In 2004 an article emerged on BBC News about Rowling’s reaction to fan fiction. Her representative, Christopher Little, r that she is flattered by the fan’s reactions, but reminds them that her stories are for kids. “A spokesman for Rowling's literary agent said she was ‘flattered people wanted to write their own stories’ based on her characters… He said ‘The books may be getting older, but they are still aimed at young children.’ ‘If young children were to stumble on Harry Potter in a an x-rated story, that would be a problem’” (Waters 2004).

Unfortunately for me, I was red flagged by because of my rated R fanfic. I was a little hurt and irritated when I first found out, but I had long since fell away from this particular part of fandom so I wasn’t too upset about it. Now that I’m older I’m glad that they did take off my story.

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