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January 26, 2009
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Why is Fanfiction Considered "Bad"?

Despite their frustrating nature to many, the fact is that stereotypes almost always have a grain of truth at their center. A stereotype is a generalization, and a generalization would not exist if there wasn't some evidence supporting it. The generalizations about fanfiction is that they're typically unoriginal and poorly-written by pre-teens and teens who can't take criticism and think they're awesome. And while there are many brilliant fanfiction writers out there, the truth is the stereotype has much more evidence than they would like to be taken seriously. There are a lot of very poorly-written and unoriginal fanfics out there.

But the question is, why fanfiction? Why is it that this piece of creative expression in particular finds itself with such a massive portion of rough compared to diamond?

The first is the fact that not everyone takes to writing and creating naturally. Some people do it really well by instinct, creating stories that flow and are interesting, enough that maybe even the occasional cliche and overused concept can pass by without too much comment. Then there are others who struggle with coming up with their own ideas and struggle even more with fitting sentences together so they work well. Some may actually manage to develop their own concepts and get going on them, but suffer from many of the mistakes of amatuer writers, such as awkward syntax, spelling and grammatical errors, cliched plots and poor characterization, among other things. These things reign eternal, something that critics of fanfics often forget. Fanfiction alone does not a bad story make.

However, it does have this downside. Many times, fanfiction can be seen as an "out" to those who are struggling with their own ideas. Instead of making up their own universe for their heros and heroines to struggle through, they can use ones created by J.K. Rowling, George Lucas, The Walt Disney Company, C.S. Lewis, or any of the other sources many fanfiction authors use as inspiration for their work. Instead of working at developing their own characters, some - though not all - decide to take and work with the characters they enjoy watching or reading about. The cliches are still there, but because of their setting, the seem amplified. Poor characterization is immediately noticed by other members of the fandom who know the characters as well as the author.

Another problem that plagues fanfiction is when the universe and characters are overly manipulated to suit the author's desires. If a fan is not satisfied with something in their fandom - such as a relationship they disagree with or dislike or a plot twist that they didn't want to happen - many fans will try to write the story the way they wish it to be. Not always is much care or skill taken in such instances. The author of fanfics such as these may be in such a hurry to change what they disapproved of that they forget that there's more to a good story. Others may neglect to notice or care that the idea of a relationship between two canon characters that they're so fond of would be totally against what each character would normally do (thus the phrase "Out of Character" or "OOC"). Thus, the characterization seems poor. There's also the fact that if one fan has thought of this idea that they wish to change, there are likely several thousand who had the same idea. If just a fraction of those all write fanfiction based on the idea, then what's left is a pile of fiction based on one idea, enough to make it seem overdone.

A variation on this theme is the infamous self-insert, where the author puts either themselves or a character representing them into the story. This idea is associated with bad fanfiction in particular because the idea is so incredibly overused and so often misused to give the author the pure limelight or enact some fantasy the author has had, such as relationships with main characters or villians, or being the hero of the story in question. Oftentimes self-insert characters that are subject to their creator's fantasies will also be subject to Mary-Sueism or Gary-Stuism, given people's general inability to judge how they themselves would act realistically in a given situation. Instead, they revert to their ideal reaction, and thus attain the flat "perfection" that makes Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus so looked down upon.

The culmination of all this is that the few genuinely good fanfiction pieces out there are underappreciated and unknown. They are so outnumbered by poor and mediocre pieces that instead they are unfairly labeled and treated with contempt. What with all of the problems plaguing fanfiction, one would think that the truly great and original pieces of fanfiction are an even bigger achievement than if an author did the same with their own story. The guidelines to being great are tougher, and appreciation harder to come by.

The thing that we as artists must applaud is their determination to take their work so seriously, and to do things that they enjoy despite the negative stigma. They are part of a form of self-expression that is subject to such an unfortunate combination of situations that it is hard to shine. But they do it anyway. And after all, isn't the joy of creating what self-expression is all about?
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:iconghostninjaart:
GhostNinjaART Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I know right
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:iconwhipping-b0y:
WhIppIng-b0y Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014
Interesting read ya got there. I right write fanfiction as well, but never gave thought as to why. Hm.
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:iconaliswonderland101:
Aliswonderland101 Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
Only bad fanfiction is considered bad.
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:iconulathorne201:
ulathorne201 Featured By Owner May 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I've been writing fanfiction for ten years. I recently took a creative writing class and though they didn't say fanfiction was was wrong, I noticed that I had difficulty with some of the projects I had to work on. I was so petrified of delving into a world I created through writing because I spent more time on the worlds other authors created. I met a real author, who actually advised me to try to work on some original fiction because fanfiction can hinder your imagination. Instead of feeling that I could express myself, I was constantly questioning my every move on a level my peers in class found confusing. I don't have anything against fan fiction, but I decided to quit for some time. I think that it is a good way to start, but I believe that there may be a time where you have to start exploring original fiction. 
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:iconreeeeeeeeeee:
Reeeeeeeeeee Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2014
I've found that fanfiction has let me explore genres and different ideas and characters without having to worry about plot and those characters collapsing around me.  I went into fanfiction unable to write humour or romance, and while I still need work with writing those genres for original stories, I found that fanfiction is a great starting point.  

Add in the large community of unique readers?
It's great.  I've had hundreds of people review my stories, and other 100,000 read them. Fanfiction is amazing for continuing to expand my ability for writing.
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:iconseethroughthemist:
SeeThroughtheMist Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2013  Student Writer
I myself am a FanFiction write, and have been for almost a year now. I have to say, maybe it's just in my own fandom (I belong to many, but I usually stay in the Hetalia: Axis Powers fandom) or I just don't take notice of these things, but there is almost no negative feedback. No one flames another. I go to FanFiction.net, and so maybe it's the website you use. All the stories that people come up with have different styles and different ways of capturing your attention, using certain plot lines or characters you especially like to read about. It all boils down to your own preference, because while, yes, there will be some worse off fics, you can easily find one that suits your fancy.
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:iconhaku-chii:
Haku-chii Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2013
Say what you want, but writing and reading it can be as fun as heck! :)
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:iconwisprsinthedrk:
Wisprsinthedrk Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I was reluctant to try my hand at fanfiction for many of the reasons listed above. The idea just seemed like it would make me more pathetic, that it would hinder my writing. After finally committing to starting one, however, I found that it was a great outlet and helped me structure plots (a thing I've always had trouble with). I still mostly avoid checking out most of the fanfiction I see, because I feel the bad writers far outnumber the good ones, but at least I realize the good ones are out there.
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:iconstitchpunk89:
Stitchpunk89 Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Please read my journal entry if you may. :(
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:iconnbbren:
Nbbren Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I myself write crossover fanfiction but I feel as if it I'm pathetic for it. I want to believe fanfiction can be art like what Alan Moore does with LOEG and Lost Girls but I don't really know for myself at the moment.
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